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Published January 11th 2017
One of Australia's Great Walks
The call comes out from the rear of our group, "Does anyone know exactly where we are ?" A wry smile appears on the faces of the the rest of the walking group who know full well that this comment means we have achieved the goal we set ourselves at the beginning, and that was to escape our man-made city lives to a life of wilderness.
We are on Day Four of Australia's latest Great Walks, the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail, and we are buried beneath a canopy of native grasses, wild mallee, stunted eucalypts and stunning wildflowers. But we are not alone, as the potholed trail provides ample evidence of the foraging Kangaroo Island Echidnas and Heath Goannas.
The Trail itself commences at the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre where our safety induction alerts us to the possibilities that exist when contemplating a 5 day, 4 night 66km trek through some of Australia's most natural and untouched environments. Backpacks on, we set forth along the well marked path passing the Platypus Ponds and ultimately following the Rocky River as it meanders from its inland catchment towards the sea.
12km in, and having escaped from reality (or perhaps just from mobile phone reception), we turn a corner and see a sign that states "KIWT guests only". Again, another cause for reflection as we approach this oasis of a campsite laying waiting amongst sheltering trees and overlooking grasslands where the native Kangaroo Island Kangaroo appears for its daily dusk grazing. Are we guests of National Parks SA or are we all actually guests on this rarely seen piece of planet earth ?
The camping facilities at each of the dedicated campsites are second to none. Designed to accommodate individuals who elect to carry their own tent and food, or tour groups who carry day packs, the facilities include the latest in eco-friendly toilets, numerous rain water tanks, running water and solar powered lighting in the kitchen shelter, and 24 camping sites each connected with a defined path, but each separated by plantings of trees, bushes and shrubs, a number of which are in flower.
But it is the remoteness and wilderness of the trail itself which is the highlight of this adventure, with each of the five days offering a unique and different perspective of Australia's great wild isle. The creek and river crossings on Day One are quickly followed by a walk along the cliffs and beaches of Maupertuis Bay where the wind and ocean provide ample evidence to conclude that the nearest landform south is Antarctica.
The tourist sights are not forgotten either with spur trails taking hikers to Weirs Cove, Cape du Couedic Lighthouse, Admirals Arch and Remarkable Rocks where opportunities are available to see these sights before or after the masses of tousist buses arrive.
On Days Three and Four the trail heads east but you wouldn't necessarily know that unless your compass was visible. The dense mallee and stunted eucalypts provide a canopy and a sunscreen for walkers while providing protection and shelter for an ever increasing range of wildflowers, native bushes and grasses, and the ever popular and unique Xanthorrhoea.
The trail is well marked and easily walkable, which makes it ideal for walkers of all ages and experience. But be prepared to share the trail with the local wildlife who also use it as a means of access, with frequent sightings of the Tamar Wallaby and Kangaroo Island Kangaroo common.
The often sandy and covered path is also a haven for bugs, grubs and ants, whose desire for a peaceful lifestyle is not only interrupted by the heels of walking boots but by the active golden Kangaroo Island Echidna and the Heath Goanna, both of whom leave potholes in the path that rival some of Adelaide's worst roads.
The final day of the trail departs the Tea Tree Campground in amongst the historic Grassdale plains where the Kangaroos gather at dusk and dawn for their daily treats and we visitors surround them in awe with our cameras whirring to catch the perfect moment.
A couple more corners and the trail ends at the Kelly Hill Caves where we bump in to civilisation, vibrating phones and busy lifestyles, causing us to think about turning around and heading back into the wilderness for more of this serene, rarely seen and peaceful part of the world.
The Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail is managed by the team at National Parks SA. Bookings are necessary to ensure the trail is not overloaded and the environment remains wild for the majority to enjoy. And for those people not wishing to carry their own backpacks, a number of tour companies are currently planning day trips so that the experience can be enjoyed by more. For further details, refer to the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail website.
Wow! Steve, what an incredible article - superb photos as usual. Me thinks you might have to attempt the Great Walks in every state - make for a great list article! Very energetic of you, well done, a well-deserved Gold!
Brilliant article and hats off to you for starting and completing the trail. I drove past it last week! That's about as close as I'll get to being a trailblazer, lol. Great photos too - you really deserved the Gold for this article!