Phillip Island

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I woke up, extremely bleary eyed, at 9.30am. I had been riveted to the TV until 4am as the cricket was amazing, and even though the result didn't go our way, I'm glad I stayed up for it. I was watching the action unfold with another English guy, and needless to say, there were numerous expletives shouted at the screen in the final overs!

All of this meant that I was pretty tired the next morning, but nothing a burger and fries couldn't fix! I was looking forward to my trip to Phillip Island, primarily to see the penguins, and I soon overcame my dreariness...especially when I saw it was a glorious day outside.

Just after 12.30pm, the coach picked me up outside the hostel, and we made our way into town. Once there, the coach soon filled up with (mainly Japanese) tourists, as well as the odd backpacker, and we were ready to go.

An hour or so passed before we reached Warrook Cattle Farm, which basically consisted of an enclosed lake that was surrounded by kangaroos, geese and wombats. Colin, our guide, had advised us on how to win over a kangaroo - scratch underneath its neck! So I strolled over to one of the extremely chilled out kangaroos who was enjoying the sunshine, and started tickling his neck area - he seemed to appreciate it! One of the other kangaroos was less welcoming and went bouncing off in the opposite direction when I tried to approach it! So I reluctantly left the 'roos in peace, and I went to the cafe for my complimentary coffee and scones.

We watched an interesting video on the coach about Phillip Island, and on the wildlife that inhabits it. It lasted for about 20 minutes, and passed the time until we reached the long bridge that was the gateway to the Island.

Our first stop was at the scenic Woolamai Beach, with its golden sand and huge surf. Not surprisingly, it gets really busy in summer, but it was fairly quiet on this occasion. It was only a short stop for everyone to get a couple of good photographs, and before long we were making the short journey to the Koala Conservation Centre.

The Conservation Centre was interesting for its facts on koalas. For example, I didn't know that the koala sleeps for 20 hours a day! So it's not surprising that the one at the zoo wasn't very active. Indeed, as we strolled around the bush-setting, the majority of the koalas were motionless, leading to questions about whether they were real! But finally, we witnessed one chomping away on its favourite food...gum leaves. Another takes 10 days for a koala to digest a single leaf. Anyone reading this journal for the first time will surely be blown away by its informative nature!

Our next destination was a lookout that provided great views of the Nobbies, a group of rocks that rise from the sea. We passed lots of wallabies, which are similar to kangaroos but a bit smaller, and seeing them bounce around on the horizon as the sun began to set was a great sight.

I'd briefly got talking to a Canadian girl called Kim at the Koala place, and we hung around together at the Penguin Parade. We browsed the souvenir shops, and I bought a couple of postcards and photographs, as we had been repeatedly told that cameras weren't allowed down at the beach. I suppose it's fair enough, as if 500 people take pictures of the penguins every day, sooner or later they are going to go somewhere more peaceful.

As sunset approached, Kim and I made our way down to the viewing areas on Summerland Beach. Basically, every evening the penguins (which are the smallest in the world) emerge from the sea just after sunset, and waddle up the beach to their nests. The numbers range from hundreds to thousands, depending on the time of year. The previous days count had been around the 300 mark, so we were expecting more of the same.

We sat on the second row of the concrete ampitheatre, and waited for over half an hour before anything happened. The expectation levels reminded me of when you're waiting for a band to come onstage at a gig, and it was a joy when we spotted a lone penguin waddle onto the beach. He quickly turned around though, and went straight back into the sea, as if surprised by all the faces that were gawping at him!

A few minutes later, a group of about 10 penguins emerged and walked towards the viewing areas, almost oblivious to the onlookers. Further groups of 10 appeared at different points along the beach, usually with a look out to make sure the coast was clear! The fact that it had been such a nice day meant that the penguins were more hesitant, as it wasn't as dark and so more predators could be hanging around.

When there was a gap in proceedings, we left the viewing area and returned to the boardwalks, which turned out to be a lot better. Little groups of penguins walked and squalked just inches below us, and they made such a noise as they returned to their nests. I was tempted to take a quick photo, but I resisted as I didn't want to set a bad example to the kids around me (such a good lad!).

At 7.15pm, I returned to the coach and compared penguin sighting stories with Kim - we'd somehow lost eachother in the quest for a good position!

The main township of Phillip Island is a place called Cowes, and we had over an hour there to get some dinner. For some reason, the place was over flowing with Italian restaurants, which suited me down to the ground. Colin recommended one particular one, so Kim and me went there and overfaced ourselves with huge medium sized ham and pineapple pizzas! Kim was leaving Australia on Saturday, as it was only a short trip for her, and she admitted to being a little homesick. She was a very nice girl, and we watched Finding Nemo together back on the coach...until the video started playing up, causing us to miss the end!

Luckily, I was the second person to be dropped off, which meant I could get some sleep at last! It was 10.30pm and the coach was picking me up again the following day at 7.40am for my trip along the Great Ocean Road, the spectacular coastal route that I've heard so much about...

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