a summertime christmas carol adapted for a kangaroo island holiday
merry christmas from the little town of penneshaw, south australia, (population: a few). penneshaw is the ferry port of kangaroo island, where three wise men in front of st. columba’s church are breaking out their surfboards to catch a quick wave before depositing frankincense and myrrh (no gold, it’s too expensive) before baby jesus lying in the manger. st. columba’s has anglican services twice a month, catholic mass once a month, and apparently nothing on christmas.
wetsuits are required for surfing, however. even though it’s high summer, the yuletide temperature peaked at 23 degrees celsius, which is more or less 76 fahrenheit, and the water temp is a bracing 65 fahrenheit, or between 18 and 19 centipede.
kangaroo island is either australia’s third or fourth largest island by area, depending on how you measure. most people count the main island as a continent, but among the locals, that’s referred to as the north island. it’s about 30 minutes away by ferry. officially, kangaroo island is third, after tasmania and melville island.
we ferried over on christmas eve after a pleasant two day drive from canberra. we overnighted in a town called mildura. stayed at the best western motel and dined at the motel restaurant, where the woman who waited on us (definitely not a waitress), assured us that the chef had worked at michelin starred restaurants in europe. in this time of covid, every chef is just lucky to have a job.
the food was indeed quite good, and the presentation well done, but we made the mistake of trying a local specialty, the salt bush salad, and were ravaged by thirst the rest of the evening.
we made several other stops along the way, including at a covid testing facility on the border between the states of victoria and south australia. since we had passed through the state of new south wales on the way over, we were required to have the test entering SA. thankfully we both tested negative, though we have to have another test on day five.
we stopped for lunch (pernille’s open faced danish sandwiches and hard boiled eggs) under a tree in a sweet blink-of-an-eye town called karoonda. this is rich farming country, and karoonda brought me back to the 1950s in el paso’s lower valley along the rio grande river before housing subdivisions displaced pecan orchards and cotton fields. oh, sweet memories of being a five-year old playing in the dry bed of an irrigation ditch behind escobar’s dairy.
we arrived on kangaroo island five hours early. our reservation was for the 9p.m. ferry but we were there before four, and they loadmaster squeezed us on. apparently the recent outbreak of covid in sydney had forced some cancellations, so we made it in time for dinner and a sunset drive.
the western half of kangaroo island was hit hard by the bush fires that ravaged parts of australia last summer. we plan to check that out but first we check in at our island beach b&b, the adagio. our hosts, pierre and branka gregor, know every inch of the island’s 4374 square kilometers. pierre, we learn, is chairman of the tourism commission, so we’re in good hands.
the aussie sense of humor never ceases to amaze. on a hill overlooking penneshaw we encounter a ‘photo stop’ where a clever sculptor has placed a cutout of a kangaroo appearing to serve up a slab of the north island. i’ll have mine medium rare, thank you.
they say you never get a second chance to make a good first impression, and this island’s teal and turquoise coastal waters are an inviting introduction. the lichen-crusted rocks along penneshaw’s seafront serve as a fitting contrast. not exactly traditional christmas colors, but hey…
…..more to come. the western part of the island beckons.
Dear Peter, I can tell that you are enjoying yourself. I hope you have a wonderful time. You make everyone jealous. I love you. Mom