Watch a cat, bunny and kangaroo

Kangaroo in Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park in South Australia.

I’ve been cat- and bunny-sitting for Melissa, a friend of Jared’s, for the last four days. This has been the view from her front door:

Hart Road Wetlands in Aldinga, South Australia. (photo: ulrike.ca)
The Hart Road Wetlands in Aldinga, South Australia.

I’ve also been watching kangaroos. Every day at dusk, I could see them hop in the grasses in the Hart Road Wetland.

Today I took a walk through the adjacent Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park and took a few photos.

I found myself following kangaroo trails instead of park trails (which were grown-over and unmarked anyways). I could quietly stand and watch a kangaroo mum massage her pouch where a young joey might hide.

According to the Friends of Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park page,

“The Aldinga Scrub is one of the few remaining patches of native vegetation characterising the pre-settlement coastal scrubland in the vicinity of what is now greater Adelaide. It is of rare significance and is noted for its unusual association of plants including species characteristic of sclerophyll forest, mallee scrub and coastal sands.”

Stump at Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park in South Australia.
Gum tree stump at Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park in South Australia.
Lichen Coral trail in Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park in South Australia.
Lichen Coral trail in Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park in South Australia.

For me as a visitor, it was a nice contrast to the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden which I’d visited with Jared and his family the previous day.

Picture frame in Mount Lofty Botanic Garden near Adelaide, Australia.
Picture frame in Mount Lofty Botanic Garden near Adelaide, Australia.
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Walk the Heysen Trail

Boardwalk on Heysen Trail near Newland Head Conservation Park in South Australia.

“Let’s go for a walk,” announced Jared on Boxing Day morning. “I want to show you one of the most beautiful coastlines in South Australia.”

I’ve been in Australia for six weeks and in that time my host has shown me plenty of gorgeous coastlines. I had no doubt this would be another.

We stopped for a savoury pie and ice coffee in Victor Harbour and then followed the twists and turns of Highway B37 into Newland Head Conservation Park. Jared steered the Toyota hatchback onto Waitpinga Road and then into a campground.

The Heysen walking trail

At 1,200 kilometres, the Heysen Trail is Australia’s longest walking trail. It starts in Cape Jervis (the ferry pier for Kangaroo Island) and stretches east and then north towards the Flinders Ranges, ending in the Parachilna Gorge east of Lake Torrens. It’s named after Hans Heysen, a German-born Australian artist.

(Here’s a map of the Heysen Trail on Google Maps.)

Jared led me onto a boardwalk trail over sand dunes. We walked and talked about how plants and traditions were both different and similar in Canada’s and Australia’s indigenous cultures.

At the crest of a hill, we paused and looked out. The sea sparkled and the rounded slopes of the land seemed to melt into the blue. The edge of the Great Australian Bight began just west of where we stood.

According to The Wilderness Society, the Bight is threatened by BP (British Petroleum). The multi-national wants to drill for oil and gas in these waters as they did in the Gulf of Mexico. That installation in the southern USA caused a devastating oil spill disaster in 2010.

“C’mon,” Jared beckoned. “I want to you show you another section of the trail in Deep Creek, a bit further to the west.”

Later that day, the Toyota wagon would lead us to more of an adventure than we anticipated.

Heysen Trail near Deep Creek Conservation Park in South Australia.
Heysen Trail in Deep Creek Conservation Park in South Australia.

 

Squeeze some brown balls at the beach

Brown grassy balls on Middleton Beach in South Australia.

Now I know why so many Aussies in Canada play hacky sack. It’s their brown balls.

That is, it’s the brown balls of fibrous material that litter beaches in South Australia. They look like naked hacky sack balls, ready to bounce off your ankle.

I recently visited Middleton Beach with my friend Jared. While he sought waves on the water, I scanned the beach for artifacts.

Along with round stones and shards of surf board, there were millions of hairy balls that I affectionately called “beach potatoes.” They were generally smooth, matted spheres that had some heft when you gave them a gentle squeeze.

I did an image search on Google and it led me to a page on Wikipedia for Posidonia oceanica. If the balls I saw on the beach are the same, they are a very common type of sea plant called Neptune Grass.

“It forms large underwater meadows that are an important part of the ecosystem. The fruit is free floating and known in Italy as “the olive of the sea.” Balls of fibrous material from its foliage, known as egagropili, wash up to nearby shorelines.”

And further down in the Wikipedia entry, it says,

“This species is found only in the Mediterranean Sea where it is in decline, occupying an area of only about 3 per cent of the basin.”

The Mediterranean Sea? So either these mysterious beach potatoes are not Neptune Grass; or they are Neptune Grass and have escaped the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal. They then floated their little brown butts down to south Australia.

All I know is I think these little brown balls are cute—and they probably make awesome hacky sacks.

Brown grassy balls on Middleton Beach in South Australia.
What are these brown, grassy balls on Middleton Beach in South Australia? Are they Posidonia oceanica (Neptune grass) or naked hacky sacks?