Couple finds bliss in island life

THEY once called Leongatha home, but the serenity and natural beauty of King Island called Charles and Ros Pearce for a second stint.

Five years on from relocating to the Bass Strait island, spanning 70km long by 26km wide, they are in no hurry to come home to South Gippsland.

“We first came here in 1992 as dairy farmers and stayed until 1995. We fell in love with the island then, loving the close knit community, the lifestyle, the freedom to be able to explore hidden places and also the climate,” Charles said.

These days, he works at the famous King Island Dairy cheese factory as safety, wellbeing and environmental advisor, and Ros is working several part time jobs: personal assistant to a local writer, and in administration for the community house and a local natural resource management group.

“If you want to be able to go to a mega shopping centre every weekend, you will not be able to unless you own a plane,” Charles said.

“If you want cheap cost of living, think again, however you can grow some amazing crops in the garden thanks to the climate. We have a banana tree in the backyard that is three years old now and not in a green house or shelter shed.”

Fishing is wonderful and often the couple walks along the beach at night, walking their dogs.

“Some people who come here find the isolation gets to them and they just have to leave,” Charles said.

“Personally I don’t really care about the isolation. Yes, it can get frustrating waiting for goods to arrive on the weekly supply ship, but that just takes a bit of additional planning.

“Ros says it’s a bit like Leongatha used to be when she was growing up. The pace of life is slower than on the mainland. There’s no need to hurry as the island is only 70km long. Rushing does not get you anywhere much more rapidly.

“I drive 30km to work each day and most days I do not see another car. I might see up to 100 wallabies, but not many cars.”
Despite being in the middle of Bass Strait, where the wind meets the first land east of South Africa, the island has a pleasant climate.

“Yes, we get some winds here, but in reality they are often the same gales and storms that batter the coast of South Gippsland,” Charles said.

“The summers are cooler than Gippsland. I think we might have hit 40 degrees once recently. Furthermore the winters are warmer, frosts are very rare, and then only zero or minus one degrees in low lying areas.”

Apart from the weather, the Pearces love the atmosphere, the community spirit and the freedom to explore.

“Kelp harvesting roads have been developed to give access to much of the west coast, and what a place to go on a warm still summer’s evening to fish the waters of Bass Strait, dive for abalone and crayfish, or just watch the sun set into the sea,” Charles said.

“Alternatively, drive along that same stretch of kelp track in the middle of a howling gale, dodging the wave surges up the beach, and just watching the power and majesty of the Southern Ocean in all its glory.

“I am not a surfer yet, but we have some really spectacular beaches and breaks. If it’s no good at one beach, it’s not far to jump in the four wheel drive and travel across the island to see what’s happening at another beach.”

Nature-lovers will be enthralled by the wildlife, from sea eagles and penguins to the amazing short tailed shearwater, seabirds and shorebirds, plus swans, ducks, herons and other waders, song birds and tiny wrens.

There are species unique to the island, such as the King Island Currawong.

“We have no foxes, no rabbits or hares and no wombats, but what we lack there we make up for in wallabies and possums,” Charles said.

“The landscape of the island is surprisingly varied; no mountainous areas such as you can see on Flinders Island, but we do have a couple of respectable gorges where rivers flow off to the sea and lots of gently undulating areas with tall tea tree and native gum trees.

“The coastal areas are often covered in scrub or open grasslands. There are many freshwater lagoons along the western side of the island where the tall coastal sandhills prevent free flowing access for rivers and creeks to the sea.”

The amazing coastline has recently attracted two consortiums that have developed world class golf courses; the course at Cape Wickham is now sitting at number 24 in the world and is rated among Australia’s best.

Like many remote, rural communities, King Island survives on volunteers. Many people have two or three jobs.

“You bump into someone working in the post office who might serve you dinner in a restaurant later that night,” Charles said.

“There is a really quaint custom here where all drivers wave, or more correctly raise a finger in salute when passing another car. It’s really obvious when you pass a tourist who doesn`t wave.

“It also gets embarrassing when you leave King Island and try to salute every car you meet on the road in Victoria or Tasmania! I love the community here.”

The community is self sufficient, with neighbour often helping neighbours in need.

Three years ago, the Pearces bought a 10 acre property near the township of Grassy towards the island’s south and are now establishing a lavender farm, with a view to adding a cafe and establishing a tourism business.

“We now have just over 600 lavender plants planted in the rows. These are English, or culinary lavender and the plan is to harvest and use in cooking and also to extract essential oils. At some stage in the future we will open a cafe on the property selling foods infused with lavender,” Charles said.

“We also have some French and Italian lavender varieties. These are not suitable for use in cooking, but will yield flowers for drying and putting into lavender bags.”

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=19694

Posted by on Sep 27 2016. Filed under Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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