This is the place I grew up. This is the place I will always call home. During school holidays I would play with the kids in my street in the scrub that surrounded my house. That scrub's all gone now. It's been replaced with houses.
On my first day back on KI after a year I shake my head at the "progress". All chasing the tourist dollar. They thought it was alright to tear down a century-old house to make way for hideous up-market apartments that look like a bunch of cardboard boxes all jammed together. They forget that amongst the nature is a rich history carved out by many characters and that if it wasn't for them KI wouldn't be what it is today.
A few local artists are doing their best to revive some of the old stories that have shaped the main street. KI's most renowned artist, Jenny Clapson, has painted a mural depicting the Cook family. It took her a years research to create the depiction of the antics, adventures and milestones of the Cooks (they were the first people on KI to own a television). It takes pride of place inside the Fine Art Gallery, of one of the new galleries which was once the family's residence.
Jenny Clapson's daughter was featured in this weeks local newspaper. She says "When you grow up in a place you tend to take it for granted". I couldn't have said it better myself. I've only just begun to appreciate what I was constantly surrounded with 12 years ago.
Dad and I drove out to Emu Ridge Eucalyptus. My only intention before arriving was to purchase a large bottle of Eucalyptus Oil for a friend. I ended up spending $75 on a whole bunch of other Eucalyptus orientated stuff as well. Then I had the thought "Oh, while we are out here can we go to the Honey Farm?" So off we went so I could mung out on honey ice cream at Cliffords Honey Farm. I bought some jars of the different kinds of honey* and some gifts for a friend who is about to have a baby.
But here's another bit of the "Chase of the Tourist" dollar. The Cliffords have been plying their trade to tourists and locals alike for as long as I can remember but someone else doesn't mind cutting their grass. They've created a new establishment on the edge of town selling similar honey products but without the charm. They aren't surrounded by nature and hives, just bitumen and the relocated rural agency. Yet with a main road exposure I wonder how many tourists actually bother to go out to the Cliffords anymore?
The next stop was Island Pure, the Sheep Milk Dairy. Dad had suggested we buy some Haloumi for Christmas Day and the lady gave us some samples to try so I also bought a block of Manchego too. Can't drive all that way just for one type of cheese!
But my touristy day didn't stop there. Dad also drove me out to Reeves Point** to see the new boat ramp (which users now have to pay for but I wonder how many actually do) and the new playground, toilets and revamped picnic area. On the way back up the hill towards town some locals were scavenging in the low tide for crabs and perriwinkles. Some men had obviously been diving for their catch whatever it may be, dripping with water in thier wetsuits while carrying tubs of seafood. Summers of my childhood were spent doing the same thing. We'd sit on the big rocks by the wharf picking off perriwinkles to eat. We'd go down to one of the beaches to look for crabs under the small rocks that had been smoothed out by years of waves crashing against them. The crabs we left alone. We just liked to find them and watch them scuttle for cover after we'd exposed them.
Dad drove past the town pool. It's a tidal man-made rock pool that had 5 year olds petrified of swimming in it. We would get told horror stories of Blue-Ringed Octupus' grabbing hold of our legs while we swam and grabbing hold of a rock and not letting go till we drowned and no one would find us at the bottom of the murky pool. Then the shark eggs would hatch and we'd get eaten by a Great White and get digested into shark poo. All these stories from the older kids would get told to us, of course, right before compulsary swimming lessons began at the start of the school year. I wonder if that has something to do with the fact that I never learnt to swim properly, too scared a Blue-Ring might get me?
Christmas was spent at my sisters. My eldest brother came with his girlfriend. I'd never met her before and I hadn't seen him in 3 years either. My brother-in-law's younger brother was there too. We spent Christmas Eve at my sisters place and finished it off at the pub. Last drinks were called when we arrived at the first pub. Couldn't even bribe the bar staff for a drink! Caught up with a couple of old school friends though. So then as one pub closed we headed to the other where I caught up with more friends till Wayne started whinging that he smelt like lavender and his shoulder hurt. Well that's what you get for jumping in a lavender bush and completely missing it. He blames me for daring him!
I got to spend the day with my sister on the Wednesday. She works for Natural Resource Management and it's her job to help along rare and endangered plant species. I invited myself along to work with her and we drove out to Macgillivray to pick seeds off the side of the road. Her love for native plants had her wrapping stocking socks all over one plant determined to get every seed that bush produced. And then picking random seeds quite simply because she liked them.
Once she showed herself some restraint from seed picking we went out to Cygnet River where she worked to store the new seeds and transplant 250 seedlings of two different species. It was kind of relaxing picking seeds and transplanting seedlings and I can see why my sister enjoys it so much.
Thursday night of my week home we once again invaded my sister's place. My brother didn't want to miss out on pizza night so it got moved from the regular Friday night to Thursday night. I was glad because otherwise I would have missed it too. And then 10 minutes before 6pm my step-sister rang up my sister to invite herself around for dinner.
My last day was the Friday. I was so not interested in leaving. Dad and I drove out to Vivonne Bay so I could go to just one more gallery and then we went around and checked out the bay itself. Dad showed me where we used to camp. It's been fenced off now so no one can camp there anymore. I enjoyed the sea spray at Point Ellen as the waves crashed against the big rocks. We had a quick walk down the beach*** where a dog and his human friend enjoyed the water. We had lunch from the general store and a sticky beak around the township where we got to see everyones shacks had been replaced with fancy pants holiday houses. A quick nip into Little Sahara where the tourists enjoyed sandboarding on their hired boards where back in the day we used whatever we coud find. An esky lid perhaps? I am not one for walking far especially in dry sand so I made sure we didn't stay too long. Then back into town we went so I could slowly and miserably pack my bags to go back to the mainland again.
I swear it was so much harder this time than most times I've left as an adult. There's something drawing me back. Is it the sea? Is it my Dad and sister and her family? Is it the environment? Or is it just because I call the place home?
Halfway to the airport I realised I had forgotten my phone charger so after Dad dropped me off he raced back home to get it. But before he even could get back they announced the boarding of my flight. I missed out on saying goodbye to my Dad all because I had left my charger in the kitchen. I was nearly in tears.
My landing on the mainland had me crying too as a distraught message was left by my mother on my message bank. I rang her back and before she would tell me what was wrong she insisted I catch up with my brother while we were both in Adelaide. Then finally she told me. Our precious Tina Puppy had to be put down after it was discovered that she had advanced liver cancer. Mum had had to say goodbye to her four-legged daughter. What a way to end the year.
I got to spend that night and the next day with my mother-in-law (Mandy) and father-in-law and see Lacey's eldest daughter, Ethel, all grown up. I got to meet Mandy's horse, Jasper, and even to got have a walk around on him. He was so quiet and kind natured and willing to please. And he was very cuddly too, a big sook!
My brother and his girlfriend picked me up in the afternoon so I got to catch up with them and my nephew and we went round to my Uncle Garry's and Aunty Shirley's. I haven't had a proper catch up with them for nearly 6 years. Slack me! So it was very good to see them again. And I got to see my cousins Stacey and Josh at the same time.
But after a week of enjoying being back in SA it was time to go back to the NT and back to reality. I really felt like "missing" the plane. I really felt like going to my mum's to be there for her but that little bit of "sensible" in the back of my brain told me to get my butt on the plane and save up to come home another time. Bloody adult reasoning!
*[Ligurian Bees produce different flavours of honey depending on where they are getting their pollen from. David places hives around certain native trees which in turn affects the products taste eg: Hives around a Sugar Gum will create a very saccharine taste. There is also Stringy Bark flavour and Mallee Gum flavour available at Cliffords Honey Farm. The bee is originally Italian but now KI has the only pure strain of the Ligurian Bee in the world. They are also quite a docile bee and less inclined to sting.]
**[Reeves Point was the place of South Australia's official landing and first settlement in 1836. A Mulberry Tree was planted to commemorate the occassion which still grows to this day 175 years later. It still produces Mulberries too and they're picked each year to produce jam. Never been lucky enough to try the jam myself!]
***[Vivonne Bay was voted Australia's Best Beach by Sydney University's Professor Andrew Short in 2003 after evaluating 10,000 beaches nationwide.]