Posted by: M.J. Bolstad | October 16, 2014

Adventures on the Other Side of the World #6

A rainbow over the crashing seas at the lookout area on Phillip Island.

A rainbow over the crashing seas at the lookout area on Phillip Island.

I usually write and post my blog at the end of each day, but last night’s adventure didn’t end until midnight and today my big plans include not much more than laundry and reading in the park, so it seemed fitting to cobble two days worth into one post. (I’m pretty sure none of you wants to read my poetic waxings on the difference between Australian and North American laundry days, but if I’m dead wrong, do comment.)

Yesterday was my adventure out to Phillip Island, to see the penguin parade. I booked the tour via Viator, which I’ve used before when I went to Greece. The tour was run through AAT Kings, and started off at one o’clock at Federation Square, which I am now very confident at finding. I even helped other tourists figure out their Myki cards on the tram, which makes me feel a bit proud.  There are a lot of tourists around, in large part because there is a Jehovah’s Witness Convention here in Melbourne, and so you are bound to bump into some of the 60,000 participants in the touristy areas.  They are fairly easy to identify as they all wear lanyards with their convention passes.

Hanging out with Des at Maru.

Hanging out with Des at Maru.

Anyway, I grabbed a coffee and a pastry in Federation Square while I waited for my bus to arrive (I came early just in case) and I climbed on for the ride without problems despite my accidentally booking myself as a “Mr.” instead of a “Ms.” thanks to my poor drop down menu skills. It was about an hour and a half drive to our first stop, a little koala and animal park called Maru in Grantville on Phillip Island.  I’ll admit that I didn’t catch too much of the scenery on the way there, as I might have found myself napping on and off. In any case, we arrived at the park, and I chose to not only buy two packs of the animal feed, but to pay for a koala encounter (which comes with a professional photo they print for you, as well as photos they’ll take on your digital camera).  I got to get up close to Des (short for Desmond) and feed him Eucalyptus while he barely noticed me, content to munch away at his leaves.  His fur is interesting; it’s a bit wiry, less downy then you might expect.  It’s kind of like petting a warm brillo pad in a way.

Is it any wonder I did not want my fingers anywhere near these dudes?

Is it any wonder I did not want my fingers anywhere near these dudes?

After my time with Des, I got to wander the animal park, where you get to hand out up close with the wallabies, kangaroos, and peacocks who wander freely, and check out some of the other animals who are separate from you by a fence.  I spent a lot of time with the wallabies, because they are just too adorable. There are a couple of albino animals, a wallaby named Luna and even a white kangaroo (whose name I did not catch). There were sleeping wombats (most Australia wildlife is nocturnal), dingo puppies playing chase and tumble, Alpacas, a donkey, a horse, and even emus.  The feed you can buy is good for all of the animals to eat, but I refrained from hand-feeding the emus.  I’ll admit I was a bit scared they wouldn’t know how to be gentle taking the food (and the reaction of the gentleman ahead of me who was braver cemented my misgivings) so just put some feed up for them then danced away backward as fast as I could.

Wallabies like Sienna are so soft. And these ones are friendly - that is, they will be your friend if you feed them!

Wallabies like Sienna are so soft. And these ones are friendly – that is, they will be your friend if you feed them!

I’ll admit that my favourite part was not the kangaroos sleeping lazily in the sun, but feeding the wallabies. I even went back into their enclosure just to give them more food.  I got lots of pictures, in part because when you share the feed you bought with others who didn’t buy any (and I had lots!), you not only get to make their day, but they want to take your picture for you – you don’t even have to ask.  I was particularly partial to one wallaby, a dainty looking swamp wallaby named Sienna whose delicate claws curved around my fingers belied the greedy way she tucked back the feed. I could have spent much more time there, but of course we needed to make our way back to the penguins. (Extra thanks to the keepers, who kept that part of the park open a little longer so I could give the wallabies more feed.)

After that, we took the bus past the grounds where the Motorcycle Grand Prix is ongoing, then into a little town called Cowes for an early dinner.  At the driver’s recommendation, I chose a place called Isola de Capri, since I was feeling like Italian, and had a buffalo pizza (buffalo mozzarella with prosciutto and fresh basil), which was very much like the pizza I ate in Rome. I am fairly certain the owner is Italian, and the food was very authentic. They are also attached to a gelato shop, and so I got to have a delicious cup of honeycomb gelato and chocolate, honey and nougat gelato as dessert while I wandered up the beach slowly on the way back to the bus.

After that, it was to the end of Phillip Island proper, to check out a lookout before heading to the Penguin Parade. The penguins

This is the kind of thing you get to see when you go to a Penguin Parade on Phillip Island.  Photo courtesy of Penguin Parade.

Fairy penguin. Photo courtesy of Penguin Parade.

in Australia are just little (called Fairy Penguins or Little Penguins, in fact), standing approximately one adorable foot tall. I’d upgraded myself to the Penguin Plus boardwalk, which is where a lot of the penguins come in from the ocean at sunset. It was a bit chilly in the wind but so worth going.  The penguins come in from the waves in droves, and stop to rest right in front of where you are sitting. You can’t take photos, unfortunately; it can disturb and disorient the penguins, but instead there is an app you can get for free with photos, or you can download them free from the website (an acceptable solution). After the penguins are done resting, they start to waddle their way up to their burrows (where you can hear their chicks squeaking greedily for food). I waddled my way up toward the visitor centre with them, and you can get super close. At one point, one of the wee little Fairy Penguins and I were matching pace about a foot from each other, with just a fence between us.  I wish I could take one home with me, but had to content myself with buying souvenirs for the Adorable Nephew.

After that, I grabbed a complimentary hot chocolate (free with my upgrade to Platform Plus) to warm up, then went back on the bus for the drive home. The bus driver put on an Australian movie called Red Dog for the drive back, but between the dark and curling up to warm up, I fell asleep for most of the drive back.  Then AAT Kings dropped me kindly back off at Alexander’s place, so I didn’t have to brave the tram alone at midnight or pay for a cab. It was straight to bed after that, of course, and now I’m about ready to leave it and try to see if I can detangle my hair.  I have another day long adventure tomorrow, out to a hot springs, and I am very much looking forward to that!

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