I woke up early on December 31, the day after our shark diving trip, and quietly slipped on my running clothes–an old race shirt from a past marathon, a pair of short black shorts, and my flashy new running shoes. I grabbed a hat, phone, and water bottle and snuck out of our room in the hostel while Rusty and Jessica kept on sleeping. In the kitchen, I was tapping my foot, waiting for the coffee pot to finish brewing, when a guy walked in wearing nearly the exact same outfit, also carrying a hat, phone, and water bottle. We laughed, nodded, and continued waiting for the coffee to brew in silence.
Sometimes I feel like we runners belong to a secret, early-morning exercise cult. We can pick each other out of a crowd in seconds, but others don’t even know that the cult exists. Honestly, it’s comforting.
After slamming back a couple cups of coffee, I headed out on my mission. Rusty, Jessica, and I had rented a car for the day, but I had to pick up the car at the airport, which was about ten miles north of the hostel. Luckily, there was a coastal trail that ran nearly the entire distance from the city of Port Lincoln to the Port Lincoln Airport, so I had gorgeous, gorgeous scenery the whole way there. The run was silent and serene, and it was exactly what I needed after a few days of high-stress, high-energy traveling and adventuring.
Our hostel sat next to the end of the train track, where it dead-ended into a grain elevator. The first thing I saw in the morning was a flock of pink parrots (galahs), hanging out on the power line, occasionally dropping down to eat spilled grain.
I ran through a sleeping town.
The water was gorgeous.
The trail was peaceful.
I got to the airport, picked up the car, and drove back to Port Lincoln to wake up Rusty and Jessica. I thought sitting on the right side of the car and driving on the left side of the road would be difficult, but it actually wasn’t that bad. The only task that I could not seem to master was using the turn signal, which is on the opposite side of the steering wheel in Australian cars than it is in American cars. Every time I wanted to signal to turn, I flicked on the windshield wipers instead. Oops!
We piled in the car and headed to Port Lincoln National Park. We were on the hunt for kangaroos, emus, and the endemic Port Lincoln parrot.
Our first stop was a beach on the edge of the park. We spent some time looking at the water, of course.
Rusty assumed driving responsibilities, and we headed deeper into the park.
Our next stop was a dry lake bed. It was desert like I hadn’t seen desert before. Hot, hot, hot, and dry, dry, dry.
As we stood in the center of the dry lake bed, we watched two emus run across the far end of it together and disappear into the bush. There was something about it that felt prehistoric. Rusty commented that it was as close as he’s ever felt to dinosaur times.
Things we found in and around the dry lake bed: 0 kangaroos, 2 emus, 0 parrots, many bones.
We decided to push on to less stark locales.
Because we were there during midday, we gave up on the possibility of seeing any roos. They are not the biggest fans of blisteringly high temperatures, and neither were we. We headed to the beach again, this one deeper into the park than the last. It was pristine and empty, and the water was perfectly clear.
We looked at the water for awhile, of course.
We left the park slightly defeated after not seeing a kangaroo or a Port Lincoln parrot, but we had another plan. There was an area of land a bit down the road from the national park called Mikkira Station where we could see koalas and have another chance to find the Port Lincoln parrot. Off we went.
Mikkira Station is in the middle of nowhere. It’s not even on Google Maps. And, yes, that is my definition of “middle of nowhere.” If you’re not on Google Maps, you pretty much don’t exist.
Mikkira Station is a old homestead with a crop of manna gum trees, which are the favorite food of koalas. The koalas in Mikkira Station are the only wild koalas in South Australia. Mikkira Station is also a home of the endemic Port Lincoln parrot that we were still trying to hunt down.
Koalas? Cutest animals ever.
And we saw the parrot, too!
After an excellent, long, exhausting day, we headed back to town to dig up some dinner and take some well-deserved showers. Despite it being New Year’s Eve, we couldn’t quite summon the energy to celebrate any more than we did that day. We ate take-away Chinese food and supermarket cookies while we watched The Hunger Games in the hostel’s lounge.
Best New Year’s Eve I’ve had in awhile!