Creatures I have known

Trip Start Jul 22, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Monday, October 6, 2008

Before I start I'd like to  make reference to the title of this entry and assure people that the word 'known' refers not to the biblical meaning, but simply those that I have either met, or simply seen. Despite my Welsh heritage that, well that aint my bag, certainly not on weekdays anyway.
This last couple of weeks I've been rushing round trying to get as much as Melbourne and Victoria seen as i leave tomorrow. I'll write more about my plans in a bit, and then hopefully the next entry will be from a whole different part of Australia. 
Firstly, however I'd like to talk about what I've been up to, given the title of the entry I'll start with all the scary and not so scary 'locals' I've now met. No, i'm not referring to Casey's friends and family, but to the country's fauna-
-in the animal sanctuaryA trip to Healesville Sanctuary, which has made a decision to house only native aussie animals was great as i got to meet all the locals. I finally saw a kangaroo, one of which spent about 15 minutes just taking food out of mine and Casey's hands, apparently the ones out in the wild aren't quite so tame however.
I also now have photos of wombats, koalas, echidnas, emus, crocodiles, snakes and dingoes.
-at the Royal Agricultural SnowCasey has a bit of a fascination with pigs. I've still not grasped whether or not to take this as a personal insult, but nonetheless, there were loads of them at the show, so she was happy. I cannot pretend that I wasn't completely excited by the pig racing and diving show, however. Yes, as it says on the tin, pigs racing round a track, and then the finale, they run up a ramp and then dive from a board about 2metres high into a big vat of water. Brilliant. We also managed to catch an alpaca competition (like llamas but woolier) where the head judge was Boris Johnson in a far more suitable role, or perhaps he just looked a lot like him?  Had a free wine appreciation class, tasted loads of free stuff, and came away with a handful of showbags each. These I should probably explain, showbags come in a huge vast array of choices, and are a bit like the luckybags you used to get as a child only much bigger, you know what's in them, and you can choose which one you want. For example i bought a Geelong Cats one, which had a football, wristband, team photo, CD holder, er, keyring; and i got a Cadbury one which had masses of chocolate bars and a travel mug.The show also had big expensive fairground rides, you know the sort, cake competitions, horse dressage etc, etc.
-in the wildI've now seen my first big scarey spider, and it was in my garage! Huntsman Spiders are not particularly venomous, if they bite you it'll sting, you might swell a little, but you'll be fine (like a wasp or bee sting), however, they are bloody enormous! This one was about the size of my fist, however it scuttled away up it's web before i could find my camera. This was quite a defining moment for me - I was fully aware i was in Australia when i saw it.
On my way to work the other day I also caught sight of a number of bull ants waking up now the sun has arrived. Like normal ants but twice the size, red and poisonous. Fabulous. Again, they're never going to kill anyone (unless it's like an attack en masse, like the wasps in My Girl - poor Macaulay Culkin) but you'd certainly know if you were stung by one
A trip to Phillip Island this week saw me meet a number of jelly-fish whilst walking along the beach. I'm now reliably informed that they weren't poisonous ones but at the time I was concentrating very hard on making sure i didn't step on any. To anyone observing me i probably would have looked quite entertaining, a drunk John Wayne if you will.
Now I've got all the fearsome creatures out of the way, I'll stay at Phillip Island, and talk about penguins. Now, before I arrived in Australia, actually right up until around 6:30 pm Saturday I had heard the stories about penguins in Australia, and assumed there was some worldwide conspiracy, probably by the Australian tourism board ("We've got penguins, so where the bloody hell are you")  to try to ensure I got there. I had studied Antarctica in high school, and it was definitely (correct spelling Eliz?) a cold place, sub-zero even, with snow, ice, deadly crevasses, Ranulph Fiennes smothered in goosefat ...and penguins. Now admittedly I've never done any academic work on Australia, however I've seen enough Neighbours, Home and Away and Flying Doctors to know that there is not many glacial shelves in the country, instead endless beaches, sunshine, desert and surfers smothered in sunscreen. Hence, surely, no penguins?!? Was this story not on par with the BBCs discovery last April 1st of flying penguins in the Amazon rainforest?  
Apparently not, there is a number of colonies of little penguins around 9 inches tall and weighing 1kg, imaginatively called Little Penguins (seriously) in Australia, one of them being at Phillip Island. Every night at dusk this colony swims to the beach after a day fishing in the ocean, and waddles in a number of groups of about 10 to their homes in the bushland around the beach. 
Coincidentally there is a Penguin Centre located just at the place where they come out of the ocean, which charges $20+ per person to watch the penguin parade on a custom built boardwalk and auditorium. 
Joking and cynicism aside, after much stick from people about how much of a tourist I was being, i can answer with the statement, when in my life am i going to see a penguin in its natural habitat again? It was so spectacular to be within 2 feet of them and to hear them sneeze, socialise, and well, I'll just say it was mating season, so I heard them do a lot more too, if you catch my drift.
We weren't allowed to take photos of this parade, as the flashes would disturb them, but you can look at the official website here

What else have I done then? Last Monday I drank both at 300 metres up, and 25 degrees below! Starting the day at the Eureka Skydeck, the tallest building in Melbourne, the highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere, the tallest residential building in the world, and quite big! You shoot to the top in an express lift, travelling at the speed of an Olympic sprinter, and then once there you have an amazing view for hundreds of miles, are able to look down on helicopters and skyscrapers, and have the option of The Edge experience. If you imagine a glass cube, sliding out of the side of a building then you're pretty close. We queued for around half an hour to step into a frosted glass cube, wearing what I'm pretty sure were surgical hairnets on our feet and it then sliding out slowly and with much dramatic music. When it reaches its furthest point out, all of the frosting in the glass disappears and you have a full view above, below and to the sides of what it is like to be 3/4 of the way round a running track completely vertically. Initially you're quite wary, holding onto the sides, and conscious of the fact that anyone in Victoria with a decent pair of binoculars can see you, but then as you get more confident the jumping starts, as does the lying down and any other contortionism I could manage in my old age. I bought a photo but have s warn anyone that sees it in the future, my face is a little freaky on it.
From skydeck we went to Young and Jackson's, which is the closest thing i have found to a British pub whilst over here. (except for the Sherlock Holmes - a British pub). It has the novelty of a huge painting of a naked woman that has become an icon and a celebrity in the 99 years she has graced the walls. Chloe, as the website states has "had wine named after her and poems written to her. She has experienced fame and adoration and has won high acclaim from critics...Chloe has kept company with artists, poets, wharfies, Prime Ministers and drunks, soldiers, sailors, celebrities, bushies, labourers and art connoisseurs" Sound like a good night out!
From there we went to the Chill On ice bar, where on arrival you are given an arctic coat, two pairs of gloves and a timer, and then led the way into the bar area, kept at a tropical minus10 degrees and and as cold as minus25 if you stand near the fans! We only stayed there for 20 minutes, long enough to get some good photos and enjoy our cocktails in glasses made of, wait for it, ice.
I know I've missed loads of stuff out of this, and it's been a very descriptive entry rather than perhaps the more personal entries in the past, I hope you can forgive me this one time though, as Im trying to do it as quickly as possible, as I'll now explain.
Tomorrow morning at 8am I catch a train to Adelaide, where I'll stay for one night, before embarking the next morning on a coach tour into the outback, finishing up at Alice Springs a week later. This tour will take me to Kings Canyon, the Flinders mountain ranges, Coober Pedy - a complately underground town, and Ayers Rock. So I'll have another completely different experience of Australia. 
From Alice I'm flying to Perth to stay there for a few months. It'll also be my chance to catch up with Emma and Steve, who beat me over here, and Sue, Laura and Kat, who i beat! Cant wait.
Thats why this entry has perhaps been a bit rushed. I've lots to do today, and i also have very little time to spend with Casey. With that in mind i'm going to go now.
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