Parade of the Penguins

The stunning scenery and abundant fresh air of Wilson’s Prom inspired us to climb another mountain today. Our climb began with a stroll through Lilly Pully Gully which was a forest walk with a little bit of rainforest boardwalk action thrown in for good measure. Then began the energetic climb up to Mt Bishop…. the rewarding views at the top absolutely stunning.
With our legs feeling like we couldn’t possibly walk anymore we set off for Philip Island, home of the parade of the penguins. This experience was one of the highlights of my previous visit to Oz so I was looking forward to repeating it. Southern Australia is home to huge colonies of the very cute Little or Fairy Penguins (which proves to the geography buffs that this continent was at one stage, albeit millions of years ago, joined to the Antartic). Every night, shortly after sunset, these little guys waddle in from the sea and make their way to their burrows. It is magical to watch the first few rock up, they seem a bit dazed and confused as if they have got the time wrong or something, but then hundreds of their friends begin to emerge from the sea beside them. And when there is a large enough group for them to feel brave enough to make that treacherous journey across the beach, past the nasty seagulls, they begin their comical stop start waddle. Whilst they are lovely to watch, even more special is watching the chicks emerge from their burrows to wait for their parents to arrive home. You get a sense of the hunger these little guys must be feeling from the squawking racket they make. Not to mention the accosting of every adult penguin that goes past. But it is only when an adult penguin is certain that the demanding chick does actually belong to them that they surrender their catch of fish. The whole “Penguin Parade” set up may be terribly commerical but that doesn’t detract from the magic of watching these little guys. I’m looking forward to seeing more later as we drive along the Great Ocean road.

Mount Oberon


A search for my family legacy in Wilsons Prom proved fruitless – a fence that sis Mel built a few years back has either been replaced or is very overgrown.
It did give us the chance to stock up on energy bars for our climb of the day up to the granite peak of Mount Oberon that looms over the campsite, and promised views of much of the Prom. Suffice it to say, our preparations of all weather gear and food for the day were a bit over the top, as were my expectations of a peaceful vista of the unspoilt countryside. Once we’d passed the phone masts (the link with Tasmania, so I guess our blogs will be flying through here soon!) we were given tantalising glimpses of the landscape, as the low morning clouds drifted by. We didn’t have to wait long before the clouds burned off, and the impressive landscape presented it’s true glory. The park is quite different to the Australia we’ve seen so far, with its huge granite outcrops sticking out of green forests there is more than a passing resemblance to Yosemite – albeit with less threatening wildlife in the form of Wombats!

Wilsons Promontory

Having a wind turbine near the campsite was the only excuse I needed to take a bike ride and have a look, not thinking that they tend to put them at the top of big, and in this case steep hills. At least it got the blood flowing, and we were on our way to Wilsons Prom.
The peninsula is famed for the number of wombats, and on our first walk to the beach we weren’t disappointed, as turning a corner a blonder than expected wombat was making it’s way across the path. They’re funny short stumpy creatures, a bit like a brown stocky badger, and for Aussie wildlife, they’re quite timid when they realise you are there.
The beach had some cool sandstone cliffs, with what looked like sand falls where the sand tries to fall down off the cliff, but during it’s descent is blown back up by the wind to the top again. A couple more beaches later and we were ready to soak up a sunset, with Wilsons Prom being the only place East Aussies can see it set over the sea. I also discovered a sunset cheat mode on my new camera that turns the vaguest orange hue into the most glorious sunset imaginable… er, actually they’re all real, honest! 😉

Den of Nargun

The legend of the Aboriginal Nargun tells of a beast who lived in a cave near a pool who would grab any person who came too close. A good story, especially if you want to keep other tribes away from your sacred site. The den is a cave behind a pretty waterfall, with stalagtites nearby (Jenolan Caves education proved useful!), and reflections of the water on the rocks above. If you ask me, the murky brown water looked more dangerous than a monster in a cave, but the Aboriginals do know how to pick their sacred sites.
Passing through the villages, there’s a distinct difference in Victoria compared to New South Wales – it has an older more permenant feel than the outback pioneer feel of New South Wales. That might be due to the convenient discovery of gold 9 days after Victoria became a state, and with more gold found than in California, they must have had a fair bit of cash floating around!

Minging Waters

We woke up this morning full of good intentions to climb a mountain today (despite our 13K walk yesterday). But alas, when we arrived at the turn off for Genoa Peak, the road was closed, again. Instead we had to make do with a coastal walk around Cape Conran. It promised seals but they proved elusive today, at least it did actually involve some coast and a bit of rock climbing.
We failed in our attempts to experience some white water rafting when a rather rude woman informed Si that they were “chock o’ block” with kids!? A further phone call did not prove much more enlightening but we have deduced that it is not the right time of year and so there is not enough water in the river. Hopefully, an activity to look forward to in New Zealand.
Our thoughts turned instead to the daily task of finding just the right place to set up camp for the night. A tempting ad had caught our eye: Mingling Waters promised a waterside location, a tranquil setting, good food and interesting walks. Unfortunately, the campsite did not quite live up to expectations largely due to a pungent sulphor smell emitting from the nearby river. It was this continuous and overpowering smell which prompted us to rename the place Minging Waters!

A Walk in the Woods

We’d spotted Croajingalong (sounds like “cruisin’ a long”) on the map, but with Pete’s promise of secluded wilderness, there was no question of a visit. Picking a walk literally in the wilderness area (and this is Australia, so it must be real wilderness), we took to the gravel roads, having found that if you go faster, the ride is smoother. Anyway, rounding about the fifth corner, a big yellow sign informed us that the road was closed! As a consolation walk, we went along the old coastal path, expecting beautiful sea views, but alas it was mostly through dense forest with tantalising sounds of waves crashing against rocks.
We were making good progress, then Caroline suddenly stopped and jumped back, having nearly stood on these two snakes, having some form of wrestling competition in the middle of the path. Now the warning signs say to just back away from snakes if you see them, which we did, but the snakes didn’t read their part of the sign where they also slither off into the undergrowth. With us making lots of noise, and even chucking things near, (and accidentally on, which got them understandably irate and us fleeing) they didn’t budge. After we took a muffin break, they finally moved on, leaving us to finish our walk with a wary eye at each tree root that crossed the path. I’m sure the snakes we saw weren’t poisonous, but Australia has something like 8 out of the world’s 10 most poisonous snakes, which in my mind translates to 8 out of 10 snakes are poisonous, who said fear was logical?
So, we managed to finish the walk, getting to where we would have started our intended walk, so I’m sure it was stupendously beautiful just over the hill…


Another day another few hundred Kms. The difference today being that we actually had the satisfaction of crossing a state line so we were able to park up the van and relax with that acomplishment under our belts.
The journey to Victoria did see us making an expensive shopping stop at Merimbula where I bought some flip flops, and Simon got a new camera – I wonder who got the better deal there!
We also stopped off at a wee town called Eden which boasts an illustrious whaling history. A strange past to be proud of you may say but this town has two unique tales to tell, which we learned of in the Killer Whale Museum. The first tale is about Old Tom, a killer whale who with a couple of his mates used to lead the human whalers to a poor unsuspecting whale victim. After the whalers had harpooned the whale, the killer whales were allowed to eat the whale’s tongue and lips! (I didn’t say it was a nice story!) The skeleton of Old Tom is on display in the museum, and you can even see his worn down teeth from where he pulled the harpoon rope (you have to look very closely at the picture to see that!)
If left feeling a little upset by that story you may feel a sense of whale justice from this next story. Whaling was a dangerous job and a couple of men were once knocked out of their boat by a thrashing whale never to be seen again. Or so everyone thought… Unfortunately the whale didn’t escape. After he was killed and brought ashore, when they began to cut him open they found one of the missing men. He had been inside the whale for about 15 hours and was still alive. Just. His skin had turned a very pale white, along with his hair. He was blind and unconscious for a while but he lived to tell the tale for a few more years.
One last strange morsel of whale info to leave you with; apparently people with rhuematic problems used to sit inside a hole cut into a whale carcass for up to two hours because of the healing benefits of this. Yuck!

Hobart Beach

I guess we’re suckers for campsites with “beach” in the name, and Hobart Beach is the third in a row of national park campsites – no children, no power, plenty of wildlife, and where the presence of *hot* showers is a major selling point! It’s a much more relaxing way to camp though, and with that feeling you’re in the wilderness too (phone reception was only 1 bar!).
The drive to Hobart Beach was nice, especially as we saw a joey poking out of his mum’s pouch! Most of the journey was on gravel roads, which we are braving more often as we haven’t had any screws fall out for a while. We have also noticed another pleasing reward from all the bumps – the dvd/ cd player seem to have suddenly started working. Bonza!

Depot Beach

Awaking to a landscape surprisingly devoid of kangaroos and possums, we took a short walk around the headland where we found the roos enjoying a bit of shade in the forest, yet still munching on grass – I guess they are the native Australian sheep!
The crystal clear waters of Pretty Beach called, so the bodyboard was dusted down for the first time in a few weeks so that we could ride some waves once again. Pretty beach was a truely magical spot and as we headed down the coast to Depot beach in the same national park we were hoping for more. I made do with snorkelling in the shallow (about 30cm!) warm water, spotting wee crabs hiding away as I brushed past. Making an early exit from the beach in search of the loo made us realise that a camper with a toilet may be a good idea next time, either we’re getting looser with the wallets, or we’re just not made for real camping!

Camping with the Roos

Our wee van has done a fair number of kilometres, 419,000 in fact, although we’re only responsible for 5,500 of them. Either way, it needed a few repairs so we had some more time to kill in Jervis Bay. Kitting myself out with a snorkel, I went in search of the marine wildlife, and found some in the form of stingrays, some other bottom dwelling fish and a fair bit of seaweed (which scares the bejesus out of you). The sea was a tad murky, but now I’ve got my own gear I’ll be looking in the sea at any given opportunity!
With van fixed, the journey was back on, with camp for the night at Pretty Beach, which to be fair is actually quite pretty. We’re in a national park, and the wildlife abounds, with the obiligatory Kookaburras, and a possum that appears to have decided it would like to try a curry. The best bit, however, is the herd(?) of grey kangaroos that are happily chewing their way through the campsite grass. There’s so many, and they are so unperturbed by humans that I just about tripped over a little one on the way to the kitchen. It’s a pretty cool feeling to know that if you open your door, chances are there’ll be a couple of kangaroos outside, how much more Australian can you get?
Update: Either the possum is a practical joker, or there’s a clumsy roo out there as something pulled the power cable out!