10.02.2011 - 15.02.2011 25 °C
From Sydney it was a 12 hour overnight Greyhound Australia bus to Melbourne. Not an enjoyable experience, largely due to a couple of guys
behind me making so much noise all through the night. It also began to rain very heavily once we crossed into Victoria, a reminder of the
floods and how widespread the problem was.
Once in Melbourne I met my Mum's Godmother Sonya in the National Gallery of Victoria where we lunched and had a wander through the
gallery. Again, it was great to be with (practically) family again. Traveling alone is brilliant but it gives me a real boost to see a
familiar face once in a while.
That afternoon we visited the Australian Centre for the Moving Image which had a traveling exhibit on Walt Disney, featuring
some of his original sketches and videos showing how the first animated cartoons were made. It's amazing how much they managed to accomplish with such basic technology.
My time at Sonya's place in Balnarring, on the Mornington Peninsula, south of the State capital, was an ideal opportunity to take things
easy and for rest and recovery. We walked along Balnarring beach one day and had the place to ourselves, except for a couple of dog walkers and a group of friends playing cricket on the sand. It was very peaceful, and a good chance for reflection.
We went to visit Jim and Val, old friends of Sonya's since she moved to Australia. They live in a lovely house surrounded by 100 acres of land, mainly forest, in the hills, just outside the village of Gembrook.
I'd heard many stories of the numerous parrots we'd almost certainly see on their terrace, however these frequent visitors decided not to show up when I was there, despite a liberal scattering of seeds. There was plenty of birdcall coming from the forest though, and frogs making 'knocking' sounds. Walking through their vast property, Jim showed me a tree that had recently fallen down, after many hundreds of years growth. It was huge!
Over the years, Jim had cut tracks through the jungley undergrowth and, for the most part, we stuck to these. However, once we went seriously 'off piste' and (whilst not 'piste off' - sorry, couldn't stop myself) ended up scratched to bits. And with several lovely leaches to pick off.
We stayed the night there and, in the evening, it was decided that we should go out for a drive to look for wildlife. Not sure how good an idea that was, given the amount of beer and wine that had been consumed with dinner! Again, on the wildlife front we were disappointed. No wombats (the main focus of the venture), just a single kangaroo - which hopped off into the bushes as soon as it heard the V8 engine and saw headlights - and a dark, scurrying, possum-like object.
However, once back at the house, there was a huntsman spider on one of the cars. Big and scary looking, but relatively harmless.
The next morning Jim and I got up very early, before dawn, and went out again in the car looking for kangaroos. After a while of not seeing anything, and sunrise, accompanied by a noisy, laughing kookaburra (very Aussie), we saw some 'roos in the distance.
As it got lighter more arrived, one deciding to stand in the middle of the road.
The steep driveway back down to the house.
Later, we decided to go to a wildlife sanctuary, where they breed and take care of native species. The drive to this place, through the hills, was very scenic.
One of the most noticably different features of Australia is the trees. Gum trees give the place a very distinctive feel.
Sonya, Jim and me.
The message: Use recycled toilet paper!
The sanctuary had every species of native animal imaginable, including an excellent birds of prey display.
Lyrebird (so called because of the shape of the tail feathers); Val said one of these likes to scratch up her garden at home.
Platypus. This is the first place to have successfully bred platypusses (platypi?) in captivity.
Because Australian wildlife (and plantlife) is so unique, there is a great movement to conserve native species. Many introduced species threaten the native ones (as happens in New Zealand) and habitat destruction is another threat.
Back at Gembrook.