Page 128: Phillip Island
     
  A little hiccup  
 

Our next destination on leaving Bendigo was to be Phillip Island. We did our usual research, decided upon a caravan park and phoned ahead to book ourselves a site. There was no site available until Tuesday - Melbourne Cup Day - which left us with two days to kill. We decided to break our journey and spend that couple of days at a place called Lilydale. Pam mentioned this in her journal and we quickly received an email from Wendy, a lady whom we have never met but who keeps in touch with us. Wendy lives in the Lilydale area and advised us of a better caravan park at Badger Creek, near Healesville. She also advised us of the best route from Bendigo avoiding unsuitable roads for which I am most grateful. Thanks Wendy.

So, Sunday morning saw us hit the road with the caravan behind, heading for Healesville. This entailed heading back towards Bendigo city initially, and on this stretch a loud knocking began emanating from the car. We pulled off the main road and tried to ascertain what was wrong. It quickly became apparent that, despite its resemblance to a big end failure, the noise was from the transmission in the area of the front differential.

What to do? Continuing was not an option and since it was the Sabbath, everywhere was closed. We'd noticed a caravan park just before the car played up so we headed there and booked in for two days. With the caravan disconnected I jacked up the front of the car and removed the left wheel to get a good look at the area from which the noise had been coming. Everything looked normal.

Next morning we drove to the Bendigo Mitsubishi dealership and, naturally, there wasn't a hint of the knocking noise from the car. I explained the problem to a very obliging Service Manager who assigned the first available mechanic to check the car out and run the computer diagnostics. They found nothing wrong but made some sensible suggestions on what to do, should the problem recur. Not only did they give us prompt and friendly service but they declined to charge us for their time. Thank you, Mitsubishi Bendigo.

Tomorrow we will set forth again. Having used up our spare days we will head directly to Phillip Island as long as the car is behaving. Perhaps we'll have another opportunity to visit Badger Creek in the future. Such busy lives!

 
     
  Phillip Island  
 

We made it after an uneventful journey, the car behaving perfectly. I swear I noticed a "Who? Me?" expression on its grill once or twice.

The island is named after the first Governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip, who was also a British naval admiral and who founded the site which is now Sydney. Not content with one Phillip Island, Arthur has another Phillip Island (Norfolk Island) named after him.

The first afternoon we visited an area called The Nobbies on the south west tip of Phillips Island.

 
     
The little hill in the centre of the picture, with its surrounding rocks, is The Nobbies. The flat rock further out and to the left is Seal Rock,
home to one of Australia's largest Fur Seal colonies. Through telescopes at the lookout points we could just make out seal activity.
On the horizon to the right of the picture is Mornington Peninsula and the water is part of Bass Strait.
     
   
  Looking east from The Nobbies the coastline is very hostile.  
     
 

The headland at The Nobbies is a breeding ground for Silver Gulls. There are thousands of them wherever you look. Boardwalks allow visitors to tour the area without damaging the flora or disturbing the fauna too much. If the sitting gulls got upset by us passing, well it's their own fault for nesting so close to the boardwalks.

 
     

There was a strong updraft which made photographing soaring gulls easy as they were practically motionless.

     
 

While at The Nobbies we enquired about watching the penguins come ashore after dark. There are various places you are allowed to watch them and various prices they charge you for the privilege. These range from $22 for rabble like us to stand and watch with the rest of the proletariat, to $75 to join a small group and a ranger with drinks included. BUT . . . whichever group you join, you are not allowed to use a camera! No flash, yes, that I can understand, but good digital cameras these days can photograph in very low light situations. Mind you, I don't have one that good. Yet.

It seems that penguin pictures are unnecessary anyway. An email from one of my brothers in the U.K. pleads:

Now don’t bore us with Phillip Island penguins. We’ve just had a 5 week series, narrated by Rolf Harris, on the penguins and the Japanese tourists watching them. I know them all by name, Yamamoto, Hirohima, Tojo..........and the penguins as well.

As it happens, we are watching the same series in Australia on the ABC, so anyone who likes penguins has probably had enough. We do feel obliged to go and look, though, since we're here.

 
     
Left: Mother and very well camouflaged chick. Can you see it?                                                 Right: "Come on Mum, just a bit more fish, I'm hungry."
     
   
  Late starters or second time around? Come on you two, get a room!  
     
 

We called for a coffee in Cowes which would rank as the capital of Phillip Island. Situated in the centre of the north coast it has quite a lot of shops including a Coles and IGA. Most establishments seem to be food outlets of one sort or another and while it is quiet in early November, I can easily imagine it around Christmas and I wouldn't want to be here. We found it a very pleasant little town with lots of atmosphere. We asked why so many of the shops were closed at 3:30 in the afternoon and were told, "Many shops close between three and five. We're a sleepy little town."

 
     
   
  Looking down Thompsons Avenue towards The Esplanade in Cowes.  
     
 

The caravan park is different to any we've stayed at before. It's mostly cabins with an apron of grass on a slope in front of the office on which there is room for about ten 'vans. Out of sight behind the office are many 'on site' caravans, mostly empty at this time of the season. They let us spread across two sites because the place is almost empty. (A long holiday weekend has just rounded off with the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.) The park staff are all very friendly here. Being in the centre of a fairly small island, the park provides easy access to everything the island has to offer including the racing circuit. Phillip Island is home to the International Motorcycle Grand Prix, World Championship Superbikes and Australian Touring Car Championships.

 
     
  Cape Barren Geese on Churchill Island  
  Churchill Island is small and connected to Phillip Island by a bridge. Apart from a farm and an old homestead it is all pasture. We saw many wild Cape Barren Geese on both islands. The Parks and Wildlife Service of Tasmania describes these birds as "handsome". How about drab or even ugly? Certainly not the most attractive birds in the world, they were near extinction in the 1950s but are no longer in danger. However they remain one of the rarest of the world's geese.  
     
   
  Cape Barren Geese were especially plentiful on Churchill Island.  
     
   
  Looking back at Phillip Island from Churchill Island and . . . more geese.  
     
   
  Overhead, a 'V' formation of what appeared to be Ibises.  
     
  Up close and a little too personal with an echidna  
 

We were driving on Phillip Island when a small animal walked across the road a short way ahead. We stopped to see what it was and discovered an echidna. What is an echidna? It's an Australian native animal that resembles a hedgehog. It is infuriatingly frustrating to photograph because it reacts to the click of a camera faster than the camera shutter does. It withdraws its head and rolls into a ball so fast that every picture suffers from motion blur.

 
     
   
  See what I mean? The grass is crisp and clear, the echidna blurs as it rolls into a ball.  
     
 

The critter was heading into longer grass so I dodged round a tree and ducked down, camera poised, waiting for it to appear. Not only did it appear but it came directly towards me, its little eyes shining and its long, grey snout preceding it. I couldn't believe my luck but every 'perfect' photo came out blurred because the little monster reacted so fast.

 
     
   
  Too fast for me again but I caught its nose and eye as it rolled up!  
     
 

What I didn't realise was that the echidna had spotted a nice shady place to hide . . . beneath my groin as I crouched on one knee. Those spines are very sharp, as I discovered. Even when I was looking vertically down on it and clicked the shutter, the little bugger was too fast.

 
     
   
  The picture shows the spines up against my left knee. Ouch!  
     
 

I decided that having an echidna nestling under my bum wasn't the best idea in the world so I retreated, somewhat less than gracefully, back to the car. Photographer nil, echidna one.

 
     
  Pam Gets some hours up in a wheelchair Simulator.  
     
 

Before we left Phillip Island we thought we might as well have a look at the A Maze 'N Things theme park next door to the park in which we were staying. It was quite good once we'd knocked down the entrance fee by using our voucher from the caravan park and my pension card. No point in getting old if you can't cash in on it, is there?

The picture shows Pam negotiating a maze of corridors and obstructions in a two storey hospital in order to exit the building. A large screen in front of her displayed what she could 'see' from the wheelchair and she had to manipulate the wheels to avoid collisions. It was fun but neither of us was any good at it, which could bode ill for the future. The very far distant future, that is.

We entered a maze of mirrors which was quite scary as it was almost impossible to tell what was a gap that you could walk through and what was an angled mirror. Whichever way I looked I could see Pam facing in various directions and at various distances. I saw her facing me and really thought it was her. When I spoke she replied but her voice came from somewhere else.

There was a huge model railway with two trains that were projected onto the tracks and you could control their speed and forward and reverse motion from two levers at opposite ends of the layout. There were ten full size levers for you to change the points but to reach the levers you had to dash round the table from whichever train controller you were operating. The aim was to cause a head on collision between the two trains and a notice informed us that the designer stated it was impossible to do. Well, the designer was wrong because, after a lot of shunting and manoeuvering, we smashed them head on. They exploded in a very gratifying flash and a loud bang. I could have played with it all day.

I could go on for ages about the amusements in the place but I'd only bore you so I'll finish this page with a picture of Today's Special taken in the same park.

 
     
   
  Today's Special