Meredith Stephens introduces us to the varied fauna found in South Australia with vivid photographs clicked by her
We seize every opportunity to travel around our home state of South Australia, searching for unexplored towns and dramatic seascapes. These do not disappoint, but the highlights of our trips tend to be unanticipated, such as the flora and fauna that surprise us with their fleeting appearances en route.
We did not necessarily have to leave the house to be surprised by native fauna. Rosellas descended into the garden and perch on the roof to show off their crimson heads, yellow bellies and the blue plumes on their tails. Their visit is especially treasured as it is rare.
Our canine companions’ presence is anything but fleeting. They listen carefully to our instructions, judging our intentions through the direction of our gaze, and the intonation of our voice. If we want them to accompany us in the car, we call them to the garage, open the car door, and urge them to jump in. If we want them to stay in the house when we leave, we tell them so, and they sit with their eyes fixed on us as we go through the door. This eagerness to please is what makes them such easygoing travelling companions.
When we sail to Kangaroo Island, we are frequently accompanied by pods of dolphins. They are curious about the sound of the engine, and swim towards the bow. They swim back and forth in front of the boat, diving in and out of the water and keeping pace with the vessel in a performance for the sailors. They accompany us for about five minutes before disappearing. We hardly have time to feel bereft, because before long another pod approaches and provides the same performance.
Once on Kangaroo Island, we drive to the township of American River, named after American sealers who visited in 1802. No sooner do we park at the wharf, than we spot seals on the rocks. We had thought that we would need to visit Seal Bay and pay an entrance fee to see seals, but here they are lazily resting in the bay in American River.
Once back on the mainland we decide to drive to the distant Eyre Peninsula in order to view the majestic seaside cliffs at Elliston. We enjoy strolling along the top of the cliffs and witness the ocean relentlessly pounding into the shoreline. We are just about satiated, but nevertheless decide to visit nearby Venus Bay. Here we are greeted by pelicans sunning themselves on the beach.
Driving back on the long dusty roads crisscrossing the peninsula we spot sleepy lizards slowly making their way across the roads. Every time we spot one we have to break and gently swerve to avoid them.
Then, as we approach the shore, a Rosenburg’s Monitor rustles in the grass. After detecting our presence, she makes a hasty retreat.
Finally, closer to home, in the undulating hills south of Adelaide, our attention is taken by a Clydesdale horse in a paddock. We stop the car so I can greet him. He walks towards me hoping to be rewarded by a carrot or an apple, but I am empty-handed. His forelock sweeps across one eye and is about the same length as my hair.
We have not had to visit a zoo or an aquarium. The tourist brochures have been helpful but none could have prepared us for the fleeting appearances of rosellas, dolphins, seals, pelicans, sleepy lizards, Rosenberg’s Monitors and a Clydesdale. As Alain de Botton reminds us in The Art of Travel. “Try, before taking off for distant hemispheres to notice what we have already seen.” Due to the pandemic, taking off for distant hemispheres is no longer straightforward. I am forced to pay attention to what I have already seen.
Meredith Stephens is an applied linguist in Japan. Her work has appeared in Transnational Literature, The Blue Nib, The Font – A Literary Journal for Language Teachers, The Journal of Literature in Language Teaching, The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine, Reading in a Foreign Language, and in chapters in anthologies published by Demeter Press, Canada.
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