How Green Was My Valley?

Trip Start Dec 18, 2011
Trip End Sep 15, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Saturday, September 7, 2013

"I am packing my belongings in the shawl my mother used to wear when she went to the market. And I'm going from my valley. And this time, I shall never return."        ---How Green Was My Valley
Sea cliffs, sea stacks, little penguins, wild surf, and green, green hillsides shouldn't remind me of a sad old film, but the nostalgia we are all already feeling about leaving Australia is similar to the boy in the film, driven from his beautiful home in Wales. After all, we may have the chance to return.
And our imminent move caused us to visit Melbourne, Phillip Island, and the Great Ocean Road in advance of our planned trip next year. Some highlights of the road trip:
Liam racing toward the Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet: "It's the Twists' lighthouse! The Twists are here!"
He was right. After wishing that every lighthouse we saw was the Twists' home, he finally found the real deal. We arrived just as the woman who provides tours of the lighthouse was leaving for the day, but when she saw Liam's enthusiasm she allowed him to go inside and up the stairs. She told us some history of the lighthouse and the filming. Turns out the Twists weren't allowed to use the lighthouse because it's a national treasure, so they constructed a faux entrance one-third of the way around from the real entrance up against the lighthouse wall. The Twist characters "entered" the lighthouse and then the interiors were filmed on a set.
If you don't live in Australia and aren't more than 25 years old, you are asking "Who are the Twists?" When we first arrived and were living in the Quest apartment in Singleton, we visited the nearby library almost every day. The librarians recommended the DVDs of the Round the Twist series from the 1990s as a good TV introduction to Australian kid/teen culture. Right, if you have supernatural powers, a widowed surfer dude for a dad, and live in a lighthouse. Just like all the Australians we know!
The boys enjoyed watching the shows, learning the slang, but mostly singing the songs. Behind every good TV show for kids is a catchy theme song:
"Have you ever, ever felt like this,
When strange things happen,
Are you going round the twist?

Have you ever, ever felt like this,
When strange things happen,
Are you going round the twist?

Well have you heard the word about the bird and the spider?
It wiggled and wiggled and jiggled inside her.

Have you ever, ever felt like this,
When strange things happen,
Are you going round the twist?

Have you ever, ever felt like this,
When strange things happen,
Are you going? Are you going round the twist?

Photo: You just sang that...... Didn't you

One of the most special things we did along the south coast of Australia doesn't allow photography. We revisited the Phillip Island little penguin colony to watch the sunset march out of the sea that Chris and I remembered fondly from more than two decades ago. I don't remember watching and listening to the penguins in the sand dunes after they crossed the beach and climbed the dunes, but I recall that it was raining, so I'm sure we hurried off to the car. This time we watched and listened to the penguins courting and fighting. The biggest surprise? How many people tried to sneak and take photos. The primary technique: squat on the boardwalk, unzip the backpack, use your body and the backpack to shield the camera from view. But you can't shield the flash!
Apollo Bay tops my list of gorgeous places in Victoria, which boasts more green hills than the rest of the country has eucalyptus trees. Imagine a sweeping arc of sand, a small stone boat harbour, and vivid green hills, one behind another, rising to the clouds. And in the center, a small town with a huge grassy foreshore with shade trees, playground equipment, and a massive skate park.
Other great things: climbing hundreds of stairs up and down the cliffs to the beaches along the Great Ocean Road coast, watching the sea spit foam high into the air along the cliff faces and arches, visiting with Libby and Bruce in a Melbourne suburb, and crossing Port Phillip Bay from Sorrento to Queenscliff on the ferry, which reminds me of an enduring mystery. Harold Holt was prime minister in 1967 when he disappeared while swimming in the Southern Ocean on a December day. Searchers looked for several days, and that was that. He had simply disappeared.
And speaking of prime ministers, we've now had the privilege of residing in Australia during the reign of three different prime ministers. First Julia Gillard was in office as the first female prime minister, then she was overthrown in a palace coup by Kevin Rudd, who the boys think looks like a koala, and finally Tony Abbott won the election (and the boys think he looks like either a snake or a rat). Andy had the privilege of studying parliament in class all this year, so he has learned about the roles of a governing party and an opposition party. His favorite role: Hansard, which is the person who wrote down everything said in parliament. His reason: It was more interesting than when he was minister for communication or minister for health.

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Mary satina on

Your family is so fortunate to have experienced life in a beautiful country. Even thought your time was cut short, you have spent the time you had in a way that created wonderful memories you will always treasure. Have a safe trip back to the states and we will probably see you at some point when we are passing through. Send us your new info. when you get established.

Cami Bair on

Apollo Bay is gorgeous. The song about the Twists is as silly as anything I've ever heard - no wonder you wrote it down, so that our amusement could last ad perpetuum. The boys look great. I hope they bring lots of southern hemisphere whimsy to your new neck 'o the woods - Carlsbad? - Cami

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