In May 2008, I went travelling on my own for the first time and was out of England for a month. Along the way I took in Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand before coming home. I kept a journal of my time on the road, so here’s a day by day account of my trials and tribulations that has the undeserved title of Dave’s Odyssey.
Day 18 – Melbourne – Philip Island
I had a free morning before the penguin parade tour so headed for the city for an hour or so. It was a cold morning in Melbourne and the streets weren’t as packed as the previous day, which suited me. I stopped off at the Yarrow River on my way back to the hotel and was interrupted by some students doing a survey. I can’t recall now what half the questions were about. I just ticked whatever so I could be on my way.
The coach trip to Philip Island began just after noon. A handful from my group were going including the sisters – Pamela and Valerie – who had by now adopted me as their grandson. Least I wouldn’t be short of sweets and chocolate. We had a quick tour of Melbourne before pressing on for our first stop at Warrook Cattle Farm.
Warrook wasn’t just host to cattle, there was an assortment of animals on show. The enclosure we entered had rabbits, kangaroos, ducks, etc all roaming free. Unfortunately, I found the bane of the average, inconsiderate tourist rearing its ugly head. Back in New Zealand my tour group singled out the Japanese as rude and inconsiderate. I’d like to extend that criticism to tourists in general.
I have no photos from Warrook for the simple reason there was always a tourist in the way no matter how long you waited. The best example was a dozing kangaroo that was being petted by a mother and daughter while the father filmed the whole thing. That was fine and I stood nearby, politely waiting my turn for a photo but in a split second half a dozen more tourists raced past me and surrounded the kangaroo. Realising I’d find no joy here I moved on. The remaining kangaroos were off-limits too, surrounded by tourists feeding them.
In the end I found solace in the café where they served a slice of chocolate cake that you could have used as a doorstop. That made me feel better about the inconsiderate tourists. If everyone was patient and polite then all of us would get the time and opportunity to get great photos. Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way.
We reached Philip Island not long after that. A bridge had been built some years before connecting the island to Australia. It’s a popular holiday resort and it’s easy to see why. Aside from the unique wildlife there’s a Grand Prix circuit for Moto GP, surfing, golf, forest walks etc. Our group stopped off at the Koala Centre, which turned out to be less stressful than Warrook.
The koalas were pretty selfish when it came to photo opportunities. High up in their trees, sleeping most of the day, they weren’t remotely interested in us. Taking pictures when you did spot them proved difficult but I came away with a couple of snaps.
Before the penguin parade we drove along the coast and were surprised to see dozens of wallabies in the high grass. You’d be driving along and suddenly a head or pair of ears would appear. One was a bit of a showman, standing perfectly still for photos before turning his back and bouncing along out of sight. The high grass was also home to dozens of burrows, home to the little penguins.
At the penguin parade we had the usual warnings of no photos and also to remain seated which only a handful of people managed to do. It was a cold night and not long after darkness the first penguins appeared. You anticipate a mass procession but it’s only very tiny groups that brave the beach and begin that long march to their burrows.
After about five minutes viewing most people were too cold and began abandoning the parade. Walkways leading back to the main centre were ideal for viewing the penguins as well so most found solace there. I spent a good hour at the beach watching and waiting for the penguins to leave the ocean. By the time I left there must have been ten people remaining. It seemed a shame but it was really cold.
On the way back to the main centre I strolled along the walkways and saw numerous penguins who had worked their way inland. Most were making quite a racket but it was comical rather than annoying. It’s amazing to think that every day they leave their burrows, swim and feed in the ocean all day, then return home at night when it’s safer. Ideally, I would have liked to see more of the penguins but you can’t predict what nature will do. I feel privileged to have seen the parade. It’s been one of the tour highlights for sure.
The journey back to Melbourne was aided by a DVD our coach driver put on for us – Surf’s Up. This one was an animation like Shrek or Finding Nemo but focusing on surfing penguins. It was okay to pass the time before we reached the city. We had a few hotels to visit to drop people off and typically the Travelodge was one of the last. Still, we saw Melbourne lit up against the night sky, which was really something to behold.
Tomorrow would be a 5.30 a.m. wake-up call! It was an early flight out to Alice Springs in the heart of Australia. At one time it seemed there was a long way to go on this tour. Tomorrow would be day 19 and already the finishing line was looming on the horizon. For me, it was all going by far too quickly!
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