THE OUTBACK AND SO FORTH – Saturday, 17 March

We break our fast with Adelaide’s banana bread, which is better the second day, and French press coffee. As I’m dumping the coffee grounds out, the glass insert slips into the sink and shatters. Shit. I leave $30 under a pile of the remains. We’re ready to go in jiffy. Alice, though, is profoundly grumpy, no – fixated. Her sleep was disrupted by the discovery of a ‘fist-sized’ spider on the wall on her way to the bathroom. Australia’s poisonous spiders are small, but the big ones will give you a coronary. Perhaps to distract her, I remind her of our commitment to the Naracoorte Caves. I hear they have serious bats. Bats: mammals that fly. We subsequently enroll our bunny-asses on the 11:30 Bat Cave tour. The bats are not actually visitable: repeated human intrusion would bring a quick end to the bat habitat. However, there’s a constant video feed from their cave, so our tour can view the critters remotely in black-and-white while the ranger talks animatedly. Confirmed – bats are really strange and Batman jokes are lame.

From here, a rickety staircase leads down into the bats’ winter palace. It’s only perhaps thirty feet underground; sunlight penetrates, nevertheless the bats love it. On the ‘off season’ you can even get married in this cave. Most of the cave formations have been knocked off and purloined. The most interesting theft, however, was that of the partly calcified body of an aboriginal stolen by a sideshow impresario in the 19th century, returned, then re-stolen and never recovered. Periodically, paleontologists dig through the deep strata in the various caves here, uncovering hundreds of thousands of years of the fossil record to reveal skeletons of extinct megafauna, like the giant short-faced kangaroo and the marsupial lion, as well as countless smaller species.

Eastward Ho. Outside the town of Mount Gambier, is Blue Lake, a crater lake that turns an unearthly blue for five months of the year before reverting to steel gray. Yup, sure is weirdly blue, especially since we’ve got leaden overcast above us. We roll into Port Fairy in the late afternoon, acclimate to tonight’s digs, then stroll up the main street of this seasonal tourist town. For tonight’s meal, I hear Coffin Sally’s has good pizza.

Back at the hotel, I try to bring this thing up to date, but weariness prevails. Outside, however, some gents, not dudes, gents are having an animated and prolonged late-night chinwag. Fuck ‘em. Let the rain begin! Weather to sleep by.

 

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