13. Prospect Hill
LIFE ON KANGAROO ISLAND.
(By Ethel A. Bates.)
A few months ago a party, consisting of eight or ten young people, myself included, left the "crowded city of Penneshaw" to breathe a little much-needed fresh country air. Our object was also to satisfy the craving of many years and view for ourselves the height and splendor of the celebrated Mount Thisby, where we decided to picnic.
Having aroused the maids and coach men extra early, we were soon traversing the distance—some 20 miles—between Penneshaw and our destination. It was a superb day, late in spring, and our ponies seemed embued with pleasurable delight at the prospect before them, so they trotted bravely off. Mount Thisby was reached about 11-o'clock. Here horses were unharnessed and hobbled, and then followed a hue-and-cry to climb the hill.
The gentlemen very obligingly seized lunch-baskets, &c., and bravely faced the height of the hill, together with perils innumerable. Here a wild cat hissed, then swiftly disappeared. There we were horrified on noticing the trail of Mr. Snake; nearby a thud startled us, and very soon it was apparent to us that Mr. Kangaroo resented our presence in his domain. However, after gazing at us impudently, he, too, decided to leave us in possession.
The hill is composed of sand; this makes climbing a very difficult and tedious matter. However, it has also a growth of small bushes, and with the aid of these we pulled ourselves up. Being, unfortunately, not of the thin wiry build, I found myself exhausted when about half up, and avowed my intention of not proceeding a step further. I was politely reminded that I could stay where I was, and the remainder of the party continued the ascent. I lay back and rested, admiring the beautiful panorama spread before me.
However, having failed to enlist my companions' sympathies on my behalf, I had no inclination to spend the day by myself, so I once more started the climb, and fortunately before many minutes had reached the scene of the revelry. My mates had already "boiled the billy." (We thought we would prefer him boiled; next time we propose to try him steamed.) The young ladies of the party had laid the cloth and displayed the tempting repast, so we were soon doing the viands justice.
After lunch, not having had the pleasure of surveying the spot previously, I determined to reconnoitre. Prospect Hill runs up to a distinct point, the top being only a few chains in diameter, from which the sides descend rather precipitously. The scenery as viewed from its summit, is really superb; from its height one has an extensive view on all sides. Some beautiful pictures of both sea and land are visible.
Here it is that the belt of water known as American River, "The Anglers' Paradise," almost divides the island, leaving only about half a mile of dividing land. Mount Thisby or Prospect Hill, stands between the river and the Southern Ocean, so one can easily imagine the beauty of the scenery. On one side the ocean is so close that one can almost feel the spray it stretches away in a broad expanse, the breakers roll in with an ominous crash, dashing themselves to pieces on the rocks, which at this spot are of chalk-like appearance, being beautifully honey combed.
On the day of our visit the ocean looked wild and treacherous, and had assumed a dull green color owing to the reflection of the clouds which were gathering up apparently for a thunderstorm, its treacherous look made me shiver, and I turned away, as my thoughts wandered back to the many heartrending shipwrecks which have occurred on this inhospitable coast.
The scene on the opposite side is equally, or, perhaps, even more beautiful; the contrast between the two striking one most sharply. Here in place of the turbulent ocean, one sees the calm, tranquil waters of the river, with occasional ripples and sunbeams dancing on its surface. It is charming in its quiet splendor; the ocean appears to demand one's tolerance, but the still waters of the river plead for one's approbation; that is always how it appeals to me. Standing on Prospect Hill one can trace the windings and turnings of the river; in places it widens to a distance of some miles, then it closes in, leaving little islands, prettily covered with stately trees and tall grass.
The bushes on the edge of the "Anglers' Paradise" overhang the banks, seemingly sipping from its salty depths, the seabirds swimming majestically about, and the numerous other little feathered friends fluttering near its banks, makes it a rustic little spot hard to surpass. On each side of the mount grass and herbage grows very luxuriantly, but only for a short distance, however, as it soon gives way to an apparently endless amount of scrub and undergrowth, which stretches for miles in either direction.
Not far from this spot, situated in a western direction, is the farm of Messrs. Wiadrowski Bros., in whose systematic farming operations great interest is taken, owing to the country they are cultivating being hitherto looked upon as useless by the old islander. Mr. H. Wiadrowski has recently married a comrade of the pen [Emily Mary Heynen] , at one time holding the position of vice-president in the Adelaide S.O.T.P. Literary Society. I feel sure I am voicing your sentiments as well as my own when I say I wish them long life and happiness, and trust that both ventures, their Kangaroo Island farming life and matrimony alike, may prove successful.
In the eastern direction lies what is marked on our maps as Sapphire Town, but unfortunately, as far as I know, one can, see no sign of either a town or sapphires. Anyway no buildings mark the site of this progressive township. The country hereabouts is splendidly adapted to the fruit-growing industry, as will be testified by an inspection of an orchard owned by the well-known old pioneer, Mr. Buick.
Having fully admired the beauty presented to my vision, I determined to seek fresh woods and pastures new. After a little conference with the members of our party, it was arranged that we should walk to Pennington Bay, which is only a short distance from Prospect Hill. This is a picturesque little bay, named after a young gentleman, Joseph Pennington, who lost his life near this spot many years ago, after striving to cross the island. He was unsuccessful in his attempt, and failing to find a place of human habitation he, being inexperienced, died of starvation.
In a short space of time, we had reached the beach and were soon scampering over the heavy sand. We hoped to collect some shells, but with the exception of a few common kinds we found the place devoid of them, and excepting several pieces or old wreckage, nothing rewarded our endeavors. Before leaving, however, we carved our names, &c., in the white rock. The rain commenced to fall, so we hastily partook of afternoon tea, and in due course once more readied "home, sweet home."
Kangaroo Islanders deplore the fact, secretly, that they possess no hills, mounts, or rivers of any size or beauty. The country in many places is hilly—indeed, it is mostly so—but nowhere does it develop into hills of much height. The fact is, however, seldom admitted by Islanders; therefore, many in consequence of enlarged and disordered imagination draw themselves up and speak proudly of "Mount Thisby."
Strangers are doubtless of opinion that this is a mountain of equal size to some of the glacier peaks of Switzerland, but on consulting the maps are somewhat surprised to find that someone, who certainly had not considered the feelings of the islanders, had merely marked it "Prospect Hill." Speaking of this reminds me of an amusing bit of conversation I overheard recently, and which will serve to prove the truth of the above statements. A young fellow some short time ago did an overland trip from, Kingscote to Penneshaw. Speaking of his exciting experiences and thrilling adventures on the road, he remarked:—"My word, that Mount Thisby is a great big hill. I saw a hawk sitting half-way up it, too."
Even now, after months of careful consideration, I fail to see why the hawk and the hill were spoken of jointly. Some near by, who also heard the remark, are still marvelling whether it was intended was passed to illustrate the smallness of the hill when a hawk could be seen resting half-way up or whether he wished to imply the enormous and extraordinary size of the hawk, or, as some secretly concluded, the eagle. Those of us who have inherited the mania for magnifying the size of Prospect Hill feel called upon to uphold our laurels, and believe that it was owing to the unusual proportions of the bird.