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  • S Whitehead

My how time flies

Today marks the third anniversary of us officially taking ownership of 19 Murray Street, Kingscote … and the second anniversary of my first blog LOL!! I had fully intended that the story I published two years ago would be the first of many, but life on the Island has been slightly more hectic than either of us had anticipated!

So much has happened in the two years since the last post. On a personal level both of us have each lost one of our parents, as well as our beautiful dog, Little Boy, making 2018 quite a challenging year for us. Bruno’s mum passed at the beginning of the year, Little Boy crossed the Rainbow Bridge in July, and my Dad died just a week before Christmas.

Not everything was so glum in 2018. It was the year that I turned 50 - I had a wonderful time with most of my family (including some cousins) popping down for a visit, plus two very special surprise guests. (Not to mention the handful of gate crashers as the night progressed!) Just prior to my birthday the Swedish Boomerang made the first of her two return visits for 2018. Her frequent traveller points have earned her the honour of having a dolphin named after her by the KI Dolphin Watch Group, something that we know she treasures very much. Around the same time, we also had three very helpful young men from Germany staying with us, helping us finish off some small jobs around the place (it was around this time that we discovered the merits of freezing your Tim Tams!).

At the end of a frantic season we travelled to New Caledonia to visit the fabulously fun guests who stayed with us during our first summer on the Island. We came home via Sydney just before Vivid lit up the Harbour (literally just before … our flight took off as the lights were being switched on – argghh!!). We returned to Adelaide in time for my daughter’s 21st Birthday party, and a few other family dramas, before settling back into Island Life and preparing for more renovations and the coming tourism season.

Our plan over winter was to complete as many of the 27 walks on KI as we could, but this had to be scaled back to achieving just one of them. We chose well - Ravine de Casoars is a very special place. We were delighted to share this wonderful experience with our beautiful friends Gail and Steve from Sea Dragon Lodge (luxury accommodation found at the eastern end of the island, next door to the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse). Before we knew it, winter was over and it was time to reopen our doors, so the other walks were put on hold (sadly, we did not get to do any of them this past winter either!!).

We barely had time to get used to life without Little Boy before we welcomed a new furry family member. Lucy was missing Little Boy, but at the same time secretly enjoyed all of the attention she was receiving from us. She got a bit of a rude shock when Benji moved in. When the local dog groomer told us that she knew of a dog that needed a new home due to his parents leaving the Island, we couldn't resist. He soon wormed his way into our hearts, although we are still not convinced that Lucy fully accepted him - they were both used to being "only children" so were extremely competitive with one another. His time with us was very brief, as he passed away after approximately seven months with us. So Lucy is back to being an only child again.

As the second anniversary of our arrival on KI approached, we were becoming aware that my Dad’s health was not good and on 29 November we received the devastating news that he only had 1-3 months to live. Fortunately I was able to squeeze in two quick trips back to the mainland to visit him, as he stayed with us only three weeks after the diagnosis.

I was worried that the timing of Dad’s passing would require us to return to the mainland between Christmas and New Year for his funeral. Without doubt the busiest time on the island, so this outcome would potentially result in us not being able to get off the Island to attend his funeral. In the end my father’s funeral was held two days after Christmas, but, someone was definitely watching over us. We were extremely grateful that our friend Martin was available to come back here to host our guests, and that we were able to get him and his vehicle on the ferry on Boxing Day at short notice (with thanks to Evelyn from Kingscote Travel). Miraculously, we scored flights for ourselves to get off and back on the Island again within a short time frame.

We returned home the day before New Year’s Eve to a house full of fabulously fun people from all over the world – they helped us ring in the New Year, bringing much needed warmth, laughter and cheer to the Guesthouse. Not long afterwards, our dear friends Karina and Chris arrived from Queensland, and Martin made a return visit to the Island to help celebrate Bruno’s birthday. Martin picked up my friend Kath on the way, so we had a lovely celebration for Bruno. He had once informed me that he had never had a birthday party as a child, so I set about preparing a kid’s party for him – more like a 5th birthday than a 65th :) We had party hats and whistles, a farmyard birthday cake complete with plastic animals, and a pass the parcel (with an adult twist that may or may not have involved shots in line with the Cowboy theme). Earlier that day he had enjoyed a wonderful day out on an Emu Bay Fishing Charter and their catch was prepared for dinner.

It was an unusual summer, somewhat hampered by the development in the back yard of our outdoor area that had sadly dragged on into the busy period. Somewhat problematic not just for our guests, but for our fabulously talented stonemason Graeme, who meticulously built the limestone wall that forms part of the outdoor area in the heat of summer. Bruno was his lackey, and together they completed this work on the last day in January in a scorching 46 degrees! The blood, sweat and tears was all worth it – we love how this area has turned out and look forward to the weather warming up again so that our guests can enjoy lounging around in this space after they have spent the day sightseeing on this beautiful island that we call home.

We value all of our guests, but special mention goes to a select few – we certainly had some unique groups pop in to visit us this year! In early April we were honoured to host a group of trainee pilots who made their way across South Australia from New South Wales. We rounded off that month welcoming a Flamenco dance troupe that gave a dynamic and passionate performance to an enthralled crowd in the Kingscote Town Hall. My cajon, which usually languishes in the corner of the lounge room, finally received the attention and skilful playing that it deserves. Unfortunately, the group’s singer spent an additional night on the island at our wonderful hospital after coming off of a horse. She was airlifted to Adelaide the following day, and later found out that she had fractured her coccyx. In late May we were invaded by a posse of minions here to celebrate a birthday – there were reported sightings at Remarkable Rocks, Seal Bay, KI Brewery, Emu Bay Lavender Farm and KI Spirits. Despite the cold weather, four of them stripped down to their bathing suits and jumped into the tidal pool at the end of Murray Street. A more recent group we hosted was a lovely bunch of Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail walkers from Sydney, who topped and tailed their five-day trek with a night at the Guesthouse. We were pretty chuffed when they said that they felt like they were “coming home”, when making their way back to the Guesthouse at the completion of their adventure.

There were many wonderful and memorable guests in between, but some of our favourite moments include:

1) Meeting the delightful Dan from Adelaide (via China) who arrived on our doorstep in April 2018 with her mate Yue. They travelled to Kingscote on the Sealink bus, and like quite a few of our guests, did not have a car (not realising that Remarkable Rocks is a two hour drive from Kingscote). This came as a bit of a shock to them - they had not budgeted for a tour. Fortunately for them, we had planned to take a trip to the other end of the island the following day ourselves, so they were able to join us. Dan loved it here so much that she wrote a blog about her stay, recommended us to some of her university mates (who came to visit), and later in the year returned with her lovely mother who had travelled from China to visit her daughter. We were extremely fortunate to be treated to a demonstration on how to make dumplings (despite this, we still have no idea how to do it ourselves, but it was truly fascinating to watch) and of course, we got to eat them all. (We have had so many wonderful foodie experiences that we will be sharing them in a separate blog.)

2) Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with some beautiful people from Mexico in May this year. A few months earlier their son had made an unplanned stopover in Kingscote (the same night we had returned to the Island after my Dad’s funeral); he and his girlfriend had been involved in a car accident that afternoon, and he contacted us from the hospital looking for a bed for the night. The couple live in Sydney, so when his parents came to Australia later in the year, he made a point of bringing them back to the Island to show them his favourite places and to meet us. Let’s just say there was a little bit of tequila consumed that night – I made a few litres of Margarita by accident. There may have also been a bit of dancing to some wonderful Mexican music that we found on YouTube. I had warned the son not to expect the party atmosphere he had encountered in summer, but I don’t think I needed to worry about that!

3) Welcoming three extra special guests from Germany. My niece, her husband and their five-month-old son took three days out of their recent short stay in Adelaide to come down to see us - we felt very privileged. Coincidentally, they had already stayed at 19 Murray Street back in 2016, several months before we had even considered a move to Kangaroo Island. They were excited to see the renovations and alterations that we had made - they struggled to recognise the place! Of course it was their adorable son’s very first visit, but hopefully not the last. (In my first blog I mention that Martin came to look after our place while we returned to Adelaide for a wedding - that was theirs).

Christmas is just around the corner, and despite it being a busy time for tourists on Kangaroo Island, Bruno and I have decided that we will not be open during this time. We found last Christmas so emotionally draining after our crazy year that we made a pact that we would take this Christmas off to enjoy our family, whether they come to see us, or we go to see them. As it turns out, some of my family will be coming here. I am especially looking forward to hosting my Mum again and, despite the fact that it is not the optimal time to spot an echidna, I really hope I manage to find one in the wild for her, as she has yet to see this. I guess if we do not succeed, she will just have to come back to visit us when the weather cools down again.

We hope that all of our family, friends and guests have a wonderful and joyous Christmas and Festive Season. We are really looking forward to meeting many other people from around the globe this summer … we have already had some beautiful experiences.

It is a fascinating and sometimes magical process – the transition from “just a name on a piece of paper” to a remarkable and special memory. We feel very blessed.

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