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EPISODE FOUR: MELBUN, NOT MELBOURNE


Phillp Island Little Blue Penguins
Phillip Island Little Blue Penguins

Our on-time flight arrived in Melbourne at 8:00 a.m. with all our dirty clothes in our suitcases. We were looking forward to the washer and dryer in our Air B&B on the 25th floor of a high-rise downtown (CBD or Central Business District). However, it’s only 10:00 a.m. The previous occupants checked out, but the cleaner hasn’t arrived. Author’s Note: We opted for no car in Melbourne because parking is nearly impossible and we booked full day tours for the next two days. We are encumbered by our luggage until we can drop it in the apartment, so we just needed to wait. We scooted in behind a resident to camp out in the lobby until the apartment was ready. When I booked, I had no idea it was on the 25th floor. The view was awesome! And yes, that is the Marvel Stadium, like the comics.

We had no plans for the day except procure provisions and do laundry. We were in Korean Restaurant heaven so we picked one for a monster seafood platter and bibimbap.

Next morning we walked five minutes to the Atlantis Hotel to join a group traveling to Phillip Island to see the little blue penguins. Our first stop was at the Brighton Beach Bathing Boxes.

Author’s Note: These small structures were built so Victorian ladies could change at the beach. It is forbidden to install toilets or add electric, but they can be decorated as the owner sees fit - with approval from the council. They can’t be owned by anyone but a Brighton Beach resident. Ownership is a status symbol as they rarely are available on the open market. According to our driver, Jess, the most recent sale was for over $425,000 AU. Next stop: Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park. We saw every Australian animal in captivity from Cape Barren geese to wombats. Author’s Note: As we rounded the corner in search of the Tasmanian Devil, we heard screaming and the blood curdling sound of pain. We thought they were surely killing each other, but no, they were just fighting over possession of a soup bone. And neither occupant of the pen looked the worse for wear, although the winner of the bone looked a lot happier than its mate.

At our rest stop we saw hundreds of seagulls nesting in the grassy mound next to the parking lot. Author’s Note: It was surprising how little the chicks looked like their parents: nature’s camouflage to protect them. Finally we arrived at the Phillips Island Nature Park. Although there are bleachers set up on the beach for people to watch the penguins come ashore, the park service has tried to make human intervention as minimal as possible. Author’s Note: What this means is there is no photography of any kind, but especially flash photography. They say it can blind the penguin as it tries to make its way to shore. So the photos I have are from those available on their website. You can read more about the little blue penguins here: I didn’t read anywhere how much fun it is to watch the world’s smallest penguin come ashore. It’s almost impossible to not anthropomorphize the adorable little creatures. They gather in groups off shore, then one brave soul heads for the beach and the others follow, some closely and others more slowly and hesitantly. Most of them may arrive fully on the beach, when a wave hits the feet of one little guy in the back. He panics, turns tail, flops on his belly and flippers fast back into the water. The leader looks back as his crew does the same to rapidly disappear into the waves. I felt as though I could see him shrug and trudge back into the water after them. This would happen over and over until finally they finally felt safe enough to stay ashore for the march over the beach to their nests which are burrows in the ground. The penguins seemed quite oblivious to the humans watching from above them on boardwalks. They are also highly vocal creatures, chirping, cooing, tweeting and more as they waddle along.

I believe this link will take you to a Facebook video of the little blue penguins as they trot across the beach.You can hear the delightful sounds they make. Be sure your sound is on!

I have no control over what appears under the video of the penguins.

Author’s Note:At the end of the evening it was pitch dark. Tom and I were both grateful we didn’t have to drive the several hours back to our hotel drop off.

Pole house

Next day: rinse and repeat. We walked five minutes to the Atlantis Hotel to join a group traveling the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles Rocks and the Loch Ard Gorge. We drove past the Pole House. Author’s Note: Allegedly the owner wanted to make sure no one would ever block his view. Now the council has made sure no one will ever build another. We stopped at the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. Servicemen returning from WWI were employed to build the Great Ocean Road. They dedicated the arch to all who served and especially to those who did not return.

At every turn there were fantastic ocean vistas.

At the next stop wild birds flocked to eat bread from tourists.

Author’s Note: Our group went off in search of a koalas, but we didn’t see any. We did see sulphur-crested cockatoos and Australian king parrots, both male and female. And they saw us, even though we weren’t handing out bread.

The walk at Maits Rest Rainforest was a beautiful downhill trail. We saw the carnivorous Otway Black Snail. He's a little hard to see, but apparently it eats other snails. Author’s Note: You can’t fool me. A downhill trail means the walk back is uphill. My foot started aching, so we turned back. We stopped in the town of Apollo for lunch and had the best fish and chips yet! Author’s Note: We ordered a large fry to share. We should have ordered a small. They came stacked on a seven inch by ten inch tray. The Twelve Apostles rock formations are indeed impressive.

Author’s Note: Actually, there never were twelve rocks. There were nine and then one crumbled. Someone thought the name Twelve Apostles would attract more tourists as opposed to the original name of Sow and Piglets. Seriously. I’m not joking. Lock Ard Gorge was our last stop. This is the site of a romantic story - if you can call a shipwreck and a near drowning romantic. The driver said if I didn’t walk down to the beach he wouldn’t let me back on the bus.

Author’s Note: He really said if anyone didn’t walk down to the beach he wouldn’t let them back on the bus, but I knew he meant me. He was right. The beach was beautiful. The Lock Arch Gorge was the epitome of what I think as ruggedly beautiful Australia. The pictures above tell the story better than I can. Author’s Note: As we climbed back on the bus, once more Tom and I were grateful that the responsibility of driving back to Melbourne lay on the shoulders of our driver. When we got back the Melbourne, Tom’s Scubaboard.com internet friend Nath picked us up. Tom and Nath have chatted for years but never met until today. We enjoyed dumplings in Chinatown then went back to our 25th floor apartment (after hunting what seemed like forever for a parking space).

Author’s Note: The visit was too short, but there’s nothing like a face to face meeting to stitch together details that elude online chat. Next morning we discovered that Virgin Australia was just a little stricter about their carryon rules. Nonetheless a quick flight dropped us in Adelaide at 10:00 a.m. Author’s Note: Our Air B&B “granny flat” as different as it could be from our Melbourne 25th floor condo. Although inside Adelaide, it was on the lower side of a wooded lot.

Our rear deck looked out into the woods and we could hear the calls of animals and birds.

Author’s Note: It may have just been the place where we ate it, but based on that experience, I don’t need to try abalone again. As we drove toward Flinders Chase National Park we watched as the road unrolled before us. It seemed to go on.....

and on.....

We walked the path toward Admiral’s Arch. The waves in the strait were spectacular. You could see currents flowing from two directions as they crashed the shore.

We proceeded down a set of stairs and came to dark brown seals sunning themselves. Author’s Note: Now play a game with me. How many sea lions can you spot in this picture? I’ll give you a hint: they get lighter as they dry and you can only see part of some of them.

We looked at the stairs leading down to the arch and nearly turned back, but it was well worth the extra effort to see the arch.

Next we headed to the Remarkable Rocks, which lived up to the name. They were formed centuries ago by molten lava which solidified into granite when it cooled. Sand and wind erosion, coupled with rain percolating through the rock caused it to break into boulders. Over time these elements have chiseled out the strange shapes we see today. The golden-red algae make them even more eerie.

Author’s Note: It’s said the best time to see the rocks is at sunrise or sunset. Unfortunately we couldn’t work either one into our schedule.

We turned toward Kingscote and our lodgings for the night. Author’s Note: When I booked our room on Air B&B I didn’t realize it was a room in a motel. I also didn’t realize I could have preordered breakfast and dinner in the Indian restaurant inside the reception area. Our room was large with two recliners. We put down our luggage and reclined. Hunger eventually overtook us, so we headed to Kangaroo Island Brewery. They offered a limited pizza menu along with a selection of beers from their brewery. The best part was the dining hall was outside where you could watch the visiting dogs frolic and occasionally get a little puppy love. Author’s Note: We booked a dolphin encounter for the next day which canceled. We were actually grateful. We needed a little down time.

Next morning we stopped for a breakfast snack at Cactus Café. We both spotted the almond-orange coffee cake at the same time. Next we visited Island Beehive.

Author’s Note: While we tasted honey we learned that the first settlers the area wanted to farm, but discovered there were no pollinators. They imported Ligurian Italian bees as a solution. Today the Kangaroo Island Ligurian Bees are more purely Italian than the Italian bees in Italy because they are isolated on Kangaroo Island and have not cross bred with other bees. The second honey store, Clifford’s Honey Farm, was located down several dirt roads, making me wonder how many visitors gave up before they reached the farm. Author’s Note: I picked some honey to ship to America, but discovered it was impossible. Apparently if a bee tracks foreign honey into the hive, it can kill the entire hive. Australia does not even let Eastern honey travel to Western Australia for this precise reason.

Finally we mapped to Bay of Shoals Winery. We booked a tasting of six wines accompanied by a smoked board of local smoked salmon, Spencer Gulf Kingfish, mussels, a fish pate and crackers. We relaxed and enjoyed our smorgasbord, narrowing the field to pick a bottle of wine to take home. Author’s Note: This seemed like such a good idea until I packed and unpacked that bottle of wine over and over and over. We saw a silo with a giant kangaroo painted

on the side. It is part of the Australian Silo Art Trail (which also includes water towers and buildings) to boost the economy of smaller rural areas with tourism. You can read more about it here: www.australiansiloarttrail.com

We tried to board the Ferry early, but the mid-afternoon ferry didn't run. To waste a little time before the 5:00 p.m. Sealink Ferry, we stopped for coffee at Millie Mae’s Pantry, because, well the coffee around here is just so good! It was there I saw the beautiful Superb Fairy Wren. And while I’m at it here are the other two animals we saw in the wilds of Kangaroo Island: a Kangaroo Island Possum and an Echidna. Author’s Note: The only way I know it’s an Echidna is that it ran across the road in front of us and I followed it into the brush.

We reboard Sealink Ferry at the Penneshaw Jetty, head to the airport and turn in our car. Our Uber easily finds our Air B&B at 60 South Terrace. It was just as bright a lovely as in the pictures: a bright open concept living room and kitchen with two bedrooms and an additional small office space. It was nearly 8:00 p.m., late for dinner reservations, but a call to Press Restaurant got us a table. There we met Callum, our waiter for the evening. He guided our choices for a fabulous meal. Author’s Note: Callum has a master’s degree in viticulture (wine) and his own wine business. He’s traveled all over the world - including the U.S. tasting wine. We were so engrossed in our conversation with Callum and appreciating what we were eating that I completely forgot to take even a single picture. I remember we had flank steak (rare), which is apparently the only way to eat flank steak, mashed potatoes and I believe roasted Brussels sprouts. The best take away from the evening was Callum’s card with four recommendations for restaurants in Sydney where he worked in the past.

Next day we ate breakfast at a sidewalk café then walked to Chinatown. We hopped on the Victoria Square Tram, rode it to the end and then rode it back again. We walked back through Chinatown and ate…you guessed, right? Dumplings. Good night Adelaide. See you tomorrow Sydney!


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