August 25, 1999 - Cowe, Victoria, Australia

I started the day being very tired. It had been a long previous few days. We headed off down the street to a 'greesy spoon' we saw last night when walking around. It was a small snack shop that served various fast food. I had a breakfast of bacon, eggs, (on) toast, and sausage (which we think was made of lamb). Mother had a simple breakfast of raison toast and coffee (this coffee was very strong as most coffee she has had since we arrived – including the one from McDonalds we picked up as we left Melbourne).

We began the day by visiting a local Koala Conservation Centre which seemed to be the least tourist-y attraction of it's kind, by that I mean, it had the least amount of a commercial nature about it. We paid a moderate entrance fee, reading through the small display before proceeding into the enclosure (which was really just an area of local forest circled by a plastic, and smooth service fence about 5 feet high. I think that the koalas cannot climb the fence to get out.

Koala in a Tree (squint and you can see it)

We wandered around not seeing much until we went into the 'close viewing' area where we walked along a wood path suspended above the floor of the forest area in areas about 30 feet. We saw a few in trees about 5 feet away, with small babies (one had a set of very rare twins). In one tree we found about 5 of them. We got quite good at spotting them (from the ground, essentially lumps on the branches of the trees, fairly high up). Many of them were so high the trees swayed a great deal and we were wondering how they stayed up there. It was good to see so many of them. We walked around the whole area, even along some not- so-well-used paths. There were also a fair number of very brightly coloured birds which looked to us like parrots though they were so far away it was hard to tell. We saw a fair number of koalas, all told, there were a total of 24 koalas in the compound and we had to have seen at least 16 of them. They are very cute, looking at them, and very quiet since they are nocturnal, sleeping during the day (they looked very bored with the whole situation).

Koala - "Who are you?"

We then headed to the far west side of the island to 'Seal Rocks' or 'The Nobbies' where there was a large, new, exhibition building. Really, we were interesting in walking along the cliffs to see what we could of both the cliff, rocks, and, hopefully, seals that live in the area. It was not terribly clear whether or not entrance to the walkways along the cliffs so we headed away down a small one-way road to a lookout area which had a spectacular view back towards the Nobbies. After taking a few pictures we headed back to the building and found the entrance to the walkway on the far side of the building (free), so we walked along it and looked at all of the different looking seagulls (with red feet, beak and around the edge of their eyes). The seals were too far away on a small island a way out in the ocean. It was very windy and we had a bit of trouble walking around. It looked a lot like a small version of Land's End in Cornwall (England), with the rock cliffs and crashing waves. Very nice. Sitting down to look a bunch of young tourists came, as a group, looking around for two minutes and then walked off (after taking their pictures).

Seal Rock Pathway (and Mother)

We grabbed a drink and a few fresh-cooked doughnuts before heading off down the one-way road we had walked previously, turning up right near the Penguin Parade. We passed the area and drove down the Killy Miller Road to go for a walk to the wreck of the S.S. Speke, along a beach with sand and, a small distance down the beach, rocks. We walked along and looked for seashells (which mother says she puts in jars at home, from various locations). We saw a few small crabs under rocks as well as a lot of snails and barnacles. It was a bit of a tricky walk but we eventually came to the wreck. It was very strange to see it on the beach – noticeably contrasted against the black, volcanic, rocks was the rich rust of the wreck. Quite striking the distance it reached into the air.

Wreck of the S. S. Speke

We headed back down the beach, attempting to see if we could get closer to a few seals we (thought we) had seen in the other direction. They were not seals or the seals had vanished. It was beginning to rain, the tide was coming in and the wind was pretty severe.

By this point we had to get to the Penguin Parade which we had picked up tickets for at the Koala Sanctuary. We parked in the very ample parking area and headed into the exhibit area. It was interesting, with lots of information including an audio-visual production and computers. We headed down along a well-constructed wood pathway suspended about 3 feet above the ground that passed many burrows to the beach. The beach area had a large seating stand with a commentator box in the middle at the top. We took a seat on the last step just before the sand. We were a bit early so we huddled together in the rain, talking. Just before the show was about to begin a bunch of kids arrived sitting on the beach in front of us (being very noisy also).

After a brief announcement about what we were going to see (repeated in Japanese and Mandarin, we believe) the penguins started to emerge from the ocean. At first they grouped out a ways from the shore then they emerged right on the shore. Nervous, it took them some time to get up enough courage to cross the sand. It was very amusing to see them. A few times a group would be too nervous and head back into the ocean only to emerge again a few minutes later. To see them running across the beach was very funny as they waddled with their heads swinging back and forth and running as quickly as they could. They were very small, much smaller than many I had seen in zoos, only about a foot high (perhaps even smaller). They only do this at sun-down, returning to their nesting areas after eating at sea all day.

As they left the beach, we walked back along the pathway to see them running along the ground beside the walkway. They made a lot of noise (it is the mating season) and we watched for a bit of time. There were quite a number of them. We were not allowed to take flash pictures of them and the light was very dim since their eyes are very sensitive.

In the display building the souvenir shop was crammed with Japanese tourists. Evidently there are a great number of them that visit this area, coming in coaches (buses) to visit. Even in Cowes, they tend to be there all the time.

We headed back to Cowes and had something to eat at a little café. It was very good, with a fireplace and a good crowd. Nice bit of seafood. It was nice to sit and talk for a bit, I was getting a bit tired and it was good to eat.

A very good day, we did a fair amount and did not have too much time to ourself. Let's hope this continues…

⇒ Continue to August 26, 1999 - Lakes Entrance, Victoria, Australia