Victoria in drought. One drop of water
Our plan: to see the Penguins March.
For us to get to Phillip Island
from Port Campbell we needed to get an early start. We managed to leave the hotel by 8am. We headed back towards Lavers hill as we had plans to visit the Otway fly tree top walk. We managed to get there for 9am, there were a few early buses but the place was pretty deserted at this time of the morning. The woman at the desk was really friendly and offered us a concession price of $19.50 instead of the usual $22. The lady gave us a map and an estimated time of an hour and a half to walk the track. The path was wet from all the rain from the previous evening and the air was still really cold.
The Otway fly tree top walk
The sun couldn't pass through the clouds and as a result we were shivering. Luckily we had a fair bot of a walk so we managed to build up our body heat but my fingers were ready to drop off. The path has numbered points of interest like the old tree stump, boomerang tree and the prehistoric path. The prehistoric path is filled with model dinosaurs that used to walk the path, there are information plaques under each dinosaur. The entrance to the walkway can be found at point 6. The metal framed bridges allow you to walk above the tree tops, seeing the trees grow through, watching the birds swoop low and trying to spot wildlife lurking in the trees. The bridge feels a bit wobbly when there are lots of people travelling on it at the same time.
Time to walk
We walk towards the tower, eager to climb the spiral staircase to the top. I was concentrating on getting to the top that I didn't even realise how high I was going until I hot the 47m at the top. Standing at the top gives you a good view of the national park. With the wind speeding through at high speed I did feel like the tower was ready to topple at any minute.
At the top of the tower with us was an elderly lady, she looked about 60yrs old and very active looking. She almost put us to shame as she scurried down the stairs with light limber feet. We started to see more people on the path coming in the opposite direction to us, they seemed to be in a hurry, I guess they had a bus to catch. The noises of some of the birds were quite overwhelming in some parts as the stillness of the park at that time of morning is ripped apart.
We left the park at 11am after a big hot cooked breakfast at the cafe. Back in the driving seat and full speed ahead to Colac
. I was worried about petrol because we were starting to run low and the towns that we were running through seemed to be completely deserted. The first pump we reached cost $1.47 a litre, I guess when you are here you kinda don't have a choice. I wanted to at least put $10 on to keep us going for fear that we had plenty of abandoned road to travel. Once we hot Colac the price dropped to $1.27, better but not great. The prices fluctuate upwards during the weekend as people head out in their cars. We reached Geelong before we swapped the driving.
More and more to walk
We headed to Queens Cliff to catch the ferry over to Sorrento. We got to the port in good time about 1.40pm, which meant we could catch the 2pm boat. It cost $63 dollars for the one way journey per car, pretty cheap if you have a full car. You drive in and queue up in lanes. They tend to make the big cars go in the front and the smaller cars towards the back. The boat pulls up we watch all the cars pile off and them we pile in. The lanes get a bit messy as the other drivers have no concept of staying within the lanes. We park up and run up onto the top deck. The hot sun was beaming down onto the deck but we kept our jackets and scarves handy for take off. The wind picks up as the boat ploughs ahead.
Checking the floor below
The crossing takes just under an hour, maybe about 50 mins long. When we get to Sorrento the cars pile off quickly and not any traffic at all. We head for Phillip Island. At this point I fall asleep and the next time I wake up we are actually parked up outside the Amaroo park YHA in Cowes. We check into a four bed room, the rooms are like mobile homes. They have two bunk beds, a 4 door locker and a bathroom and toilet. The size was pretty good for the two of us but had there been another two people in the room it would have been too squishy. The only problem I found was that you can hear everything going on outside and next door.
We drove out to the Penguin parade and purchased our tickets $20.
50 for the normal viewing platform, costs more if you want the closer platform. We are advised that the parade starts at about 8pm when the sky gets dark and the doors open at 7pm. As we have plenty of time before the show we decide to head out to the nobbies. On our way we see a huge wollaby road kill. The nobbies are a bunch of rocks that are like hill tops. Behind the lie the seal rocks, we are told that the seals usually come and lay here. I didn't see any. We walked along the board walk that is filled with seagull and their poo. They literally nest here, hundreds of them. They are really threatening as they sit there and stare at you and when they fly they swoop past your head at low range. I wrapped by scarf around my head to a) keep warm and b) to protect my head from poo.
We ran back to the penguin parade as we wanted the front row seats. We take a walk around the centre to stock up on postcards and souvenirs. They advertise that if you send a postcard from here you get a personalised Phillip Island postal stamp. We took a walk around the penguin world exihibition and stock up on our knowledge of penguins. At the end of the exihibition there are a few glass panels where you can actually see tiny little penguins resting in there. It was really smelly so bring a napkin to breathe into. At 7pm everyone is queuing in lanes at the main doors waiting to dash through to get the best seats. The doors open at about 7.10pm and the rush of the crowd nearly knocked me off my feet. The board walk leads you down into the main viewing platform and if you have purchased special viewing seats, that goes off to one side.
There are signs all over the place warning people not to take photos or video recordings as the penguins get frightened of the flash. Personally I think its unfair that they don't let people take photos with no flash. Technically if there is no flash the penguins can't get frightened by it? I think its a massive scam so that tourists would have to buy pictures and postcards as souvenirs. The seats are like giant steps in a graduated positioning so that people at the back will still have a chance to see. We ran for front row seats and suffered the freezing cold breeze that whipped through us. We used our scarves to wrap around our heads to keep the warmth from evaporating and to protect our ears from falling off. I took by socks off and used them as gloves, coats and cardies buttoned right up to the top.
The Queenscliff ferry
We waited and waited and watched as the viewing are got busier and busier. By the looks of it bus loads of people were arriving and filling up all the available seats. The flood lights came on at 7.50pm and the rangers came out and started their patrol. The lead ranger took the mic and told us a bit about the penguins habits. They told us that the penguins like to wait till dark especially in low tide to avoid predators on land. They travel in groups and they have some sort of follow the leader the system and a few at the back I guess to watch out for dangers from behind. We waited eagerly and the crowd started to get quite restless and frozen cold.
It was about 8.15pm before we spotted the the first lot of penguins coming our way.
Taking off at the port
We crowd screamed with joy and relief that we were finally seeing some action. The first group had about 4 or 5 penguins a small group, I guess being cautious to start. They waddle slowly from the sea waves and onto the first lap of rocks. They waited and watched here a while accessing the level of danger ahead of them. More groups started to slowly emerge from the sea too. As there are two sides of the viewing platform all the action was happening on the right hand side, which was where we were sat. More and more people were rushing over from the left hand side to see and completely blocking our view. The rangers were there to stop the crowds from flowing over into our area and also to warn them to sit low so that they don't block everyone else.
The beach at Queenscliff
I got a bit annoyed about that as the people were obviously not listening to the rangers and continued to selfishly stand in the way. The penguins are tiny and in the dark all you see is the alternated white and black of the colours of the penguin. When they were in bigger groups it was easier to see and they were entertaining to watch. There was some groups that made it half way but then turned around and ran back, assuming that there was some kind of danger ahead. We watched them as they reached the grassland where they actually live. They took a bit of effort to all jump up onto the higher group but they had a system that worked well for them. We watched for about 1/2 and hour before we headed out onto the board walk.
Entering Phillip Island
When we got to the board walk we could see that some of the groups had made their way right up into the barrows. We were literally arms length from them. From here some of them gathered in groups and socialised with each other and others just went straight home. They are capable of waddling along very quickly, they are tiny and cute and you just want to pick them up and cuddle them.
By about 9.30pm we came back into Cowes and wanted dinner. I was craving fish and chips, a large portion. We went in search of it. We headed down the main high street and found two fish and chip shops... both closed. We spotted a pub but not serving any food. A hotel bar again not serving food. There were a couple of other places, so we checked out the menu and spotted fish and chips.
We settled here. The problem with this place is that its so quiet so you could easily pass a place and not even realise they were open. Lucky for us we didn't miss this place. The portion was huge and the food very good. There was only a few other diners in the restaurant but only one waitress, she also had to run the bar awell so the service was a little slow. We ate and were satisfied and ready for our beds.
We got back to the hostel and no one else had checked into our room - perfect.