Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  ,
Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The weekend gave everyone more time and saw us out on the road bright and early for a memorable day out, a kind of Aussie induction if you like, into Victoria and its hive of local treasures.

We pushed towards the southern boundaries of the Great Dividing Range which took us along an interesting twist of hilly forest roads. Many of them are dangerous (all too often fatal) and as a result have been placed under the Australian government's 'Black Spot Program', a huge campaign designed to re-jig things here and there in an attempt to minimise the risk. It's a huge problem apparently and motorcyclists, naturally, are in the code red bracket. That said, the actual route through this vast sprawl of lush native forest is nothing short of stunning and makes for an immensely pleasurable ride out, especially when the sun's poking through the trees like a thousand lasers. We followed its elegant weaving right through the Yarra Ranges National Park and over to Healesville, to 'The Sanctuary' - where it all happened..

The Sanctuary

It's a pleasant enough setup and specialises in native Australian animals. It's also one of the very few places to have successfully bred a platypus. All good. Lee knew long ago of my soppy unnatural fear and mental hurdle regarding Aussie's deadly species, so when I found myself in the dark corners of the snake shed standing nose to nose with a Taipan, my mind started to skim over the potential motive of this innocent little ride out.

Amazingly though it was a good thing. Every bit of it. I learned what appeared to be the truth - at least the truth that I wanted to hear - which is that common sense 'can' actually reduce some of the risk. You'll still suffer a violent and unspeakable death if they get you, but as long as you keep your eyes peeled and don't necessarily antagonise them (that means look at them) there's still a slight chance you could make it out alive after coming to within an inch of your sorry life.

This was all great to hear but the visit also revealed some other truths. Truths I wasn't aware of. Like the tiger snake. No one had told me about the tiger snake. So let me tell you. It doesn't take much to get on the wrong side of this little princess, and when you finally do she'll rise up tall, in a manner of fiery confrontation before chasing you (chasing you) right up your own arse. And they're swift so you'd better be quick. I was absolutely disgusted by this. But they insist we shouldn't worry. According to the guy at the sanctuary they haven't got bags of stamina, so it's inevitable that they'll give up after a while. This seemed to comfort the others.

What was more outrageous was learning about those small, attractively patterned cone shells that are found in abundance along much of the Australian coast. The kind any innocent beach-goer would naturally stoop down to pick up and admire. Try it. Inside there is a small nugget of spite reared up and ready to go, probably rubbing its filthy little hands in anticipation of your innocent stupidity. Know this: it loathes you. One tiny nip from this little menace and you'll be void of your nervous system. In a matter of seconds you'll find yourself in a groaning heap, twitching. Less than a minute and you'll be a fond memory. And this is just one example..

But still, even considering all of this unfairness, I still managed to bring myself to approach the huge lumbering python at the front. It was near the keeper, twisting itself lazily and deliberately around the metal safety barrier. He invited us to touch it. I touched it. I actually touched the bloody thing. Then walked away, grimacing. I have nothing more to say about this.

We visited finished the experience with a picnic in the park. Lee and Mark busied themselves opening tubs and pouring wine as I scanned the grass.

The last stop was Marysville, an exceedingly pleasant countryside village teeming with charm and character. Lee wants to live there. She studied the real estate window with purpose as Mark looked on in concern. It's also home to the Steavenson Falls, a tall three-tiered breaker encased in more of that lush earthy rainforest that these parts characterise. The trees are magnificent. They rocket right up into the skies and sit proud with conviction, protecting and nurturing everything at ground level, which is thick with lush greens and deep earthy smells. It's heaven, much like the meat pie we wolfed down before heading home..
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