Edit Blog Post
Published: February 26th 2010
Sleeping in the tree on a warm afternoon
In Africa, happy safari-goers don khakis and pith helmets and head out into the desert and deltas in search of The Big Five - the five animals without photos of which their trip will not be complete and certainly not as impressive to relatives and coworkers back home. The Big Five of Africa are: the lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and cape buffalo.
There doesn't seem to be an equivalent list for adventure-seekers in the Australian bush. Possibly because the typical Australian wildlife aren't as large or imposing (although, as we've heard many times over, they are certainly more than capable of doing quite a lot of damage to any unlucky human that might get in their way). We imagine it would be a very different feeling to be charged by, say, an irritated kangaroo vs. an angry African elephant. Still, Australian wildlife are quite extraordinary and we left the safety of Melbourne today to venture out in search of some beautiful scenery and perhaps an animal or two.
We suppose that, if pressed to put together a Top Five list for Australia (and not including the phenomenally beautiful underwater inhabitants of the Great Barrier Reef), it would go something
Who's the pretty bird?
- Kangaroo (or the look-alike wallaby)
- Dingo (sort of like a wild dog)
- Wombat (another marsupial, like the kangaroo, but much cuter)
Tied for fifth might be the hugely popular "saltie" and the Tasmanian devil (yet another marsupial but not as cute as the wombat - in fact, carnivorous and often stinky).
An actual safari-type experience wasn't on offer so we signed up for a tour of the "Great Ocean Road", which promised a chance of seeing one or more of the animals on our list (although, notably, not Tasmanian devils because they are, duh, found only in Tasmania).
The Great Ocean Road is Australia's version of the U.S.'s Pacific Coast Highway. It twists along the southern coast of the mainland in the state of Victoria for 243 km (150 miles), connecting a string of small towns in the area roughly between Melbourne and Adelaide.
We typically don't do group tours, prefering to explore on our own, but given the amount of driving that would be necessary to reach the most impressive points of interest on the Great Ocean road, we felt it better to be in the hands of
Some of the apostles
And so at 7:30am this morning we boarded a large bus with about 20 other tourists for a tiny taste of rural Australia.
The first few stops were beach towns, several quite famous surf spots. The golden sands and blue waters were beautiful but the waves were rough and the water cold. We decided to stay on the beach and look for kangaroos. Alas, roos may swim but they don't surf and it looked unpromising . . . that is, until we rounded a bend in the bus with a view of extensive farmland and a whole groups of kangaroos in the distance! The bus screeched to a halt and we all poured out, cameras at the ready. Unfortunately, the roos were rapidly hopping off into a far-away patch of trees and we didn't get a good shot but we were able to check it off our list.
By the way, kangaroos don't seem to be especially well-liked by their human countrymen. We heard many stories of drivers rounding a corner at dusk only to see a dopey (or possibly suicidal) roo standing right in the middle of the road, just watching the car hurtling
Rock formations on the Great Ocean Road.
toward it. They are a common and expensive cause of vehicular damage every year. Not surprisingly, "roo burger" is often seen on restaurant menus.
Late in the morning, we pulled into Kennett River, a large motorhome park filled with eucalyptus trees and a thriving community of KOALAS!! It's relatively rare to see koalas in the wild and yet there they were, hanging out in the trees above the motorhomes and shower blocks. They are super-adorable and furry with cute little black noses. Most were snuggled up around a high branch, safely out of reach of the camera-wielding humans below. A large number of colorful parrots also reside in Kennett River.
The koalas were clearly the highlight of the day and, sadly, our last animal sighting, aside from ubiquitous sea gulls and neurotic black flies that tried to fly up our noses.
Another fun part of the day was walking through an ancient rainforest along a raised wooden platform. The trees were beautiful and it was both shady and peaceful under their canopy.
The views from the Great Ocean road are quite beautiful and we stopped by several dramatic rock formations including a grouping called "The 12
Cooling off our feet on a hot day.
Apostles" (not because of a likeness to the Last Supper guests but instead because there used to be 12, until Peter and Paul were washed away in a bad storm).
We also went by the "London Arch", formally called the "London Bridge". It was a long bridge-like rock formation that extended out into the ocean. In January 1990, a large piece of it collapsed unexpectedly stranding a couple out in the ocean on a piece of rock. It was a slow news day and the media went crazy with coverage as a helicopter rescued them. Interestingly, (so the story goes) the couple was a man - and his mistress - out for a bit of fun in the sun. The man's wife caught it all on the local news.
The afternoon was a bit rough with the black flies and the hot sun; the temperature climbed into the 90s F and perhaps even broke 100F. The A/C on the bus was barely working and the three-hour drive back to Melbourne felt very long.
We got back to Melbourne at 8pm, showered and changed, and then went out in search of food. The nearby Victoria Market was having their holiday night market and was packed with food stalls and live bands. Perfect! We grabbed some food and beer and listened to the local talent. Not exactly AC/DC but pretty good.
Today is December 23rd; tomorrow we head back to Sydney for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It will be strange to spend the holiday away from family and friends.
Tot: 2.342s; Tpl: 0.06s; cc: 10; qc: 52; dbt: 0.0423s; 2; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 4;
; mem: 1.5mb