8. Holiday adventures
LIFE OF KANGAROO ISLAND.
(By Ethel A. Bates.)
The islander, in the freedom of his life, has many opportunities of meeting with some rather unusual experiences. Although my life hitherto has been devoid of any startlingly thrilling adventures, yet the one which I am about to re-count, is, to say the least, unusual in the extreme.
A few years ago I was spending a holiday, during the summer months with my aunt at Nepean Bay. The homestead was situated about five or six chains from the sandy beach, which, at this spot, extends for some miles along the coastline. It is strewn with pretty shells, and is probably the longest stretch of sea beach on the island.
One bright morning, soon after my arrival, I awoke rather early, and determined to have a sea bath and a stroll along the beach before breakfast. Passing through a back verandah I was surprised to notice what I at first took to be a sheep lying there. I walked up to it, but quickly sprang back in dismay; it certainly was the size of a very large sheep, but equally certainly it was not a sheep. I stood rooted to the spot, gazing stupidly at the object. At length, breaking the spell, I hastily ran inside, and awoke my uncle and the other members of the family.
For a time they thought it a joke on my part when I hurriedly assured them that a queer animal had taken possession of the back verandah. However, I prevailed upon them to come and look, and we discovered to our surprise that a large seal had assumed command of the back premises. My uncle brought his gun, and soon I was examining the only seal I had seen out of the gardens. It was an immense grey one. The skins of these are, however, of little monetary value, but for the seal to creep up and sleep on a verandah some distance from the shore was, I am sure, you will agree, a most striking and unusual occurrence.
During the spring the wild flowers bloom in profusion, and, judging by the beautiful blending of color, confusion as well. Here we have a varied assortment, and these little blossoms booming richly in the many little nooks and valleys, present a charming plcture, tended alone by Nature. These flowers are, in my opinion, prettier, better, and sweeter than all the rarest specimens of horticulture. In me they have a true lover and admirer.
With the idea of collecting a bunch for an Adelaide friend, my sister and I mounted our ponies one day and rode to a spot where we knew the flowers grew in abundance. This chanced to be some 10 miles from home and was also many miles from any other habitation. Arriving there we tied up our horses and ventured into the bush for our spoil.
We wandered some distance, plucking choice blooms as we proceeded, until at length my sister suggested that we should have lunch and a rest. I willingly acquiesced, and we cast about to find a suitable spot. We decided on resting under some stunted eucalyptus trees near by. We threw our-selves down and commenced lunch.
Presently I was startled by my sister declaring she could hear some sound near by. All sorts of terrible things at once flashed across my mind. I thought of tigers, wild cats, jaguars, panthers, and all the horrifying animals of which I delighted to read in books of adventure. I listened, and had to admit that I too, believed something to be near.
We jumped up immediately, each seizing weapons of defence in the shape of formidable-looking sticks. We held a consultation, pulled our courage together, and decided to try to discover the whereabouts of our disturber. On exploring a few yards we came across a large black and white dog, lying stretched out, snarling viciously. Our alarm somewhat abated when we found that he was caught in a snare, which had, I suppose, been set for wallabies, by some enthusiastic trappers.
Finding the dog moderately tame and not a wild one, as we at first supposed, my sister pluckily advanced to release him. The poor creature was very hungry and had doubtless been snared for several days. However, we gave him a good share of our lunch, and then I wrote, 'Lost, stolen, or strayed' on a piece of paper, fastened this around his neck, and sent him away.
After this experience we thought it better to re-trace our steps. Our nerves were very unsteady after the fright we had received, quite an eerie feeling had taken possession of me. About half way back to our horses I remarked to my sister, 'You know we should really be more careful of snakes; we are tramping along as if no such venomous reptiles were in existence.' 'Oh, well,' she replied, 'let us keep a good look out.'
We had not proceeded more than a couple of yards when I almost stepped upon one. We screamed and ran away as fast as we could, my sister frantically pulling me along by the arm. When we had run some distance I suggested that we should return and have another look at the reptile but my sister would not entertain the proposal. So freshly alarmed we once more started running for our horses, jumped on, and soon put a respectable distance between ourselves and the cause of our terror.