Wildlife Weekender at Phillip Island - Part Two

Trip Start Nov 29, 2012
Trip End May 10, 2015

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Sunday, February 24, 2013

I was in two minds about what to do for my last and final day of my Phillip Island weekend. It was another gorgeous sunny day and I was torn between topping up my suntan at Smith's beach or going on a road trip. After deciding I didn't really want to resemble a lobster beacon again, I chose the latter and after consulting a rubbish tourist map, decided to go and explore Churchill Island. It's an island of only 125 acres attached to Phillip Island by a single track bridge and home to a heritage farm, an orchard and even a country home. A lot of things for such a small place!

The views on the drive were really spectacular, I drove through wetlands and saw an array of wild birds. I then hit a dusty gravel track which snaked up to the farm, it was like stepping back in time, coming towards me was an antiquated tractor pulling a wagon. And in front of that was a herd of cattle crossing the road. And not just any cattle either, they just happened to be Highland Cows! It was still quite early in the morning and I just had to pull over and take a photo from my car window, like the shameless tourist that I am.

I arrived to be greeted by a very modern tourist centre with a lovely interactive feature about the history of Churchill Island. It was the first point for European settlers in the state of Victoria and was bought by a former mayor of Melbourne, Samuel Amess, who originally hailed from Fife no less!

No doubt a tad of an oddball then...!

It turned out that the Heritage farm had an itinerary of events going on all day including sheep shearing and a blacksmith's demonstration! I was going to be for a teuchter for the day! How exciting! But before all that, it was off to the cow milking in the stables. There were two farmer blokes who looked like they'd spent their whole lives in the Outback with huge wide brimmed hats and who looked a bit rugged round the edges. And with them was a MASSIVE Jersey cow who they milked by hand which was pretty impressive.

Being a farm park, it was packed to the gunnels with little kids, there was even a 'Lads and Dads weekend.' in full swing when I arrived. Two little girls were offered the chance to have a chance to milk the cow but they looked positively petrified and clung to their mum for dear life! So one of the farmer blokes turned to me and said, 'Do you want a go?' And I said, 'ME?!' incredulously, not thinking he was actually talking to me. I surprised myself in not even hesitating before I said yes. So they sat me on a stool and got me to milk this cow. Well, it was very odd, I was convinced I was hurting the poor thing or she was going to give me a swift roundhouse kick in the face. But it wasn't actually as scary as I thought it would be. I can see myself as one of those jillaroos on a cattle station yet I tell ye!

So after my milking experience, I went for meander round the farm to look at the house and gardens which were very quaint and saw some more animals including a massive shire horse called Sidney and some sheep and ducklings. Not only did I have the heat to contend with but the flies were there in thousands, I was COVERED in the damn things! As there was a gap between some of the farm events, I decided to go for a walk round the island for an hour or so. Unfortunately for me however, the flies were EVEN WORSE and I spent my whole time swatting them off me, they were EVERYWHERE! Even then, naively I thought that they were just flies and couldn't really inflict a lot of damage.

Oh how wrong I was. Turns out that these are what Australians call 'Sandflies' and the little buggers BITE! At the time of writing, I am currently sporting no less than TWENTY sandfly bites on my legs and feet and they are driving me completely and utterly crackers!

But enough of my wingeing. The walk around the island was lovely (despite the insect warfare) and I got back just in time for a 'wagon ride' I'd had high hopes for this event thinking we would go for a wee jaunt down the dust track and see the highland cows up close. But instead we literally went round the block in a clapped out piece of crap of a tractor and trailer and it lasted a grand total of five minutes at the very most. The distinct sense of disappointment was evident amongst us all as we got unceremoniously booted off to make space for the next bunch of unsuspecting tourists...Hrrrrmph!

I decided to go and investigate the cafe that was adjoined to the visitor centre. Everything was obscenely overpriced and I decided to forego lunch and have a pot of tea instead. I waited a good fifteen minutes and when it arrived I was given a big pot of hot water and a tea bag in a cup! It was the most scaffy English breakfast I'd ever seen in my life and I seriously considered complaining but the kid who served me looked about fifteen and I thought he might flick his emo fringe at me in protest so decided I would just get on with it.

Somewhat refreshed from my rather watery tea, I headed back to the farmyard for the next event, the blacksmith's where one of the farmer blokes was making a horseshoe which was pretty impressive. By this time, some more tourists had arrived, who were mostly Japanese, two of whom were merrily munching on some Maccie Ds while watching the demonstration. Where on earth they'd found that was a complete mystery to me considering we were pretty much in the middle of heehaw nowhere. I'd had no idea beforehand how horseshoes were made and found it really interesting, although it was slightly annoying that the other spectators talked to each other all the way through it and were completely ignorant and rude. The blacksmith guy at the end even gave me my own horseshoe as a souvenir which was very cool. :)

It was all nonstop after that. It then off to see the sheepdogs at work who were SO cute and smart and then the highlight of the day for me, watching the sheep shearing. I'd never seen a sheep being sheared before and it was incredible. Sadly though, I was competing with a whole gaggle of wretched tourists with their Ipads for a decent view due to the fact I am severely vertically challenged but eventually managed to push my way to the front and finally got to see the guy at work with the clippers. He told me afterwards he'd been doing it for over twenty years and had been kicked a few times by rowdy sheep!

All the events I went to were presented by the same two guys, one of whom was an older gent and the other, a slightly younger looking guy with really nice blue eyes. He was the one who gave me the horseshoe, asked if I wanted to milk the cow and told me all about the sheep shearing. I had great admiration for them both who were literally Aussie farmers. The farm at Churchill Island is remains a working farm to this day and I think they both worked on it for a living. I take my hat off to them for being able to tolerate ignorant and rude tourists day in/day out I must admit. I really enjoyed chatting to them both about life on the farm and their time spent working in the Outback in 40 odd degree heat.

The highlight was at the end of the day when there was boomerang throwing and whipcracking. I had a punt at throwing a boomerang for the first time and I'm not going to beat around the bush here, I was utterly cack at it. And at whipcracking. But watching the farmer bloke with the nice blue eyes cracking that whip...well dear reader, I did feel myself swoon a bit. I'm not sure if it was just the searing heat but I did feel a tad lightheaded. Especially when he insisted that I had a go and took my hand to guide me.... :D

The final straw was when at the end of the day when he turned to me in a gruff, thick Aussie accent and went 'GERROF MY FARM' that I admit I did feel a little bit weak at the knees and scarpered off back to Felicity with a stupid grin on my face. Oh dear. I think Felicity might have a contender for my affections after all...!

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