Thursday, May 24, 2012

Melbourne - Part 1, Day 3

Brian had a leadership conference to attend this week in Melbourne.  At almost the last minute, we decided to make the weekend before the conference a short holiday.  We quickly purchased airline tickets, booked a hotel, and filled out the paperwork to pull the boys out of school for two days.  I'm so glad we went - I absolutely loved Melbourne.  It is just a lovely city for many reasons, not least of which is wonderful coffee! 

I know it seems weird to start on day three, but I dumped my pictures on to Brian's work computer with every intention of putting them on our external drive to edit at home.  I didn't dump the last day of pictures, figuring they would be fine to take home.  To my surprise, I couldn't open up the external drive on Bri's computer.  At that point he remembered his computer would only open up secure external drives - in other words, one that was given to him by his company.  So we are starting at the end of our trip.

After doing some research on Melbourne, I decided one of the absolute musts was to visit Philip Island.  We looked at several tour options, but decided to rent a car and drive ourselves.  Besides being cheaper by quite a bit, we weren't stuck just seeing one specific thing.  It was only a 90 minute drive, so we were off decently early that morning.

Philip Island was positively gorgeous.  Our first stop was lunch at the Nobbies, so named after the nob rising from the ocean in the picture.  The green space in front of the Nobby is on the path of a penguin migration.  The small islands in the background are the home to the largest population of seals in Australia.

Inside the visitor's center at the Nobbies  are monitors hooked up to a camera on the edge of Seal Rock.  It was amazing - the rocks were carpeted with seals.  For a small fee we were able to drive the camera around four minutes and capture a few pictures, which we could buy for another small fee.  Since it's a nonprofit organization we were happy to help out.

After letting the boys find out more about the South Sea - incidentally, the info was very well done and interactive - we headed out for a walk around the boardwalk.  It is a boardwalk to protect the nesting birds that are all over the island, including the Little, or Fairy, Penguin.  There were several nesting boxes built around, so I was hoping to see at least one penguin on it's own.  Almost immediately we saw people staring at a white spot on that first green island.  I whipped out my telephoto lens and was able to capture this.

He's the little white guy in the middle of the craggy part

I was very excited.  Penguins are by far my favourite animal and the main reason I wanted to visit the island, but a better explanation on that later.

Following are some shots of the coastline looking out into the Bass Strait.  It made me think of what I assume Ireland looks like - beautiful green, craggy coasts, and a wild sea.

The Blowhole

Yea for a tripod!

I loved the shade of aqua

After walking around for a bit we decided to head back so I could wander around some of the boutique shops.  On our way up we found this little guy in his nesting box.  Sorry there's not much detail, it's dark in the box!

So the main reason we visited Philip Island was to see the Penguin Parade.  Every sunset at the beach sees a lot of penguins emerge from the sea to find their homes on the island.  And when I say lots, there were 2,008 that arrived on the night we were there.  We opted to spend $20 more and have fewer people sitting where we would be.  The other upside was that approximately 70% of the penguins went by us.  It was absolutely brilliant!  They come out of the ocean in groups called rafts.  We watched them come in for about 45 minutes.  Apparently they are a bit confused in the fall.  Because the water is still fairly warm and the nights aren't very cool, they believe it's time to mate. 

I was also unaware of how loud they are when defending their homes!  They go back to the same house every time and become quite defensive if another penguin tries to infringe on their turf.  Funny side story - the ranger gave a short talk and took questions for the half four prior to sunset.  One of the questions was how the penguins knew which house was there house.  Cheekily, the ranger answered that penguins were very smart and were able to read the numbers on the man-made nesting boxes.  The woman sitting next to me, let out a gasp, and started nudging her partner, saying that it was amazing that penguins could read!  It took all I had not to laugh out loud!

Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures of the penguins.  Their eyes are very sensitive to light, so flashes are very bad for them.   It probably wasn't bad that I was forced to sit and take it all in without my camera.  I did link to their website above so you can get an idea of what we saw.

While we were waiting, we started to chat with the couple behind us.  We quickly realized they didn't have Aussie accents, so I asked where they were from.  Turns out, you can be halfway around the world and run into somebody who live fairly close to you, because they were from Cleveland!  After some good natured sport related teasing, we asked why they were in Australia.  He works for Goodyear and was visiting their headquarters in Melbourne.  His wife decided to take off for some time and they were beginning to travel around Australia.  Like us, they absolutely love it here!  We all got a good chuckle out of everybody wrapped up in their winter coats, gloves, and scarves when it was approximately 50 F out.

We headed off the island back to our hotel to get ready for the boys and me to depart for home the next day.  I was glad the boys are fairly experienced travellers at this point - it made my life much easier.  Poor Nathan had some issues with his ears on our descent into Newie and began crying, but a few lollies helped.  I felt awful for him, that does hurt incredibly bad.  Luckily the jelly beans he had had the same effect as gum and his ears popped.  The boys were glad to be back home, but I'm certain we'll be back to visit Melbourne again - there's too many things I still want to see!

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