Snail Massacre of Phillip Island - Awww Penguins!

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
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Trip End Jan 04, 2012


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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Monday, November 7, 2011

Key in ignition. Car into 'D' (stands for 'Drive' apparently). And turn key...
Shummdddddddddidddddddd grrrrrrrrrrr pffffft.
Try again...
pfffft.
and again...
pfffft.

Damnit. We've been given a duffer. The car is refusing to start. Panic begins and Kate starts berating Budget. "They've given us a crap car,we've got to get round there now and sort it, get our money back" etc etc. A man offers to see if it's that the battery is flat by checking it with his booster. Seconds later the little Getz sparks into life. The battery was flat. After some discussion the conclusion was made that the map light had not been turned off correctly.

The drive down to Phillip Island was a vast improvement. I felt more comfortable at the wheel, didn't need to brake anywhere near as often which was good and the roads were simply a pleasure to drive. Barely a soul on them. Kate had popped out earlyish to pick up a map and a cable to allow us to play the ipod through the stereo and so we were well prepped. Very quickly though the map wasn't needed and the two hour drive was as straight forward as they come. The weather was a surprising hot and sunny day after we had been predicted overcast and rain.

Now, the benefits of car hire.A) You go where you want to go. B) You go when you want to go. C) It's cheaper. Disadvantages. A) You have to drive. When you like driving though, this isn't a disadvantage - so four pluses.
We got to the island, met a nice old couple who sold us a poppy bracelet for remembrance day, went to the heritage farm, found out the farm displays weren't until a little later, drove to an indicated walking spot on the island, had an awesome 8km walk taking in views that tour groups would never see, spotted an Echidna (very rare little hedgehog type creature), and stood in awe of the coves and cliffs that the island had to offer.

"Whats all the glistening trails along the floor?" Kate asks as we walk along a path which is half sandstone, half covered in tufty grass.
"I think they are snail trails" I reply from a few steps ahead. Through spending a lot of time together it is usual for Kate to walk a few steps behind and then catch up. Essentially Kate struggles to walk and look at things at the same time and so stops very often to avoid falling over something.
"Whats this crunching sound?" She says as she stomps to catch up. It sounds a little like bubble wrap popping as she steps onto the tufty grass.
"Errrr...... Snails? As I said?"
"Urgghhhh!" She hops a little in disgust and then realises the floor is covered. The sandstone is not sandstone but a path of crushed shells on rock. The care she takes doesn't last long as we are falling behind and may miss the dog display. She soon forgets the poor innocent snails and just stomps along crunching them under every step. As the snails are so small, you take out about 5 under a foot placement.
We find the Echidna staring into a small bush. His hide is sitting out into the path but his head is buried away. He can't see us anymore. He's a little stupid, thinks that if he can't see us, we can't see him. Childishly and regretfully I throw a small twig in his direction to stir any movement. He doesn't move (the twig didn't hit him before I get letters) and I get told off for essentially tormenting a dumb animal. My head held in shame, we both head back to the car.

The Heritage Farm could be found along a small gravelly track which I am pretty sure the Getz shouldn't have been taken along. There were some large strange grey birds Kate has since determined are a Baron goose or something. The Farm is in a ye olde stylie and they do demonstrations throughout the day. We watched a demo for a working dog called Tonka in which the seemingly alarmed dog controlled a load of sheep with great ease (The dog seemed slightly terrified of it's owner, but it seemed to be the case that he was just a brilliant working dog). The Sheep Shearer who owned the dog then gave a display of shearing of a poor unfortunate sheep. It was pretty impressive except where he nicked the sheep somewhere near his nether regions causing the sheep to leak blood all over the shearer. I would not have been a happy sheep. "It's just a little nick, yeah, he'll stop bleeding soon, ye-ah". Well that's good news anyways.

We saw a happy Horse and a heritage house and then went on our way to our second paid stop on our 'three parks pass'.

The second park was a little Koala conservation area (not that little but because we only stayed for 30 minutes it seemed small) in which we saw several Koalas in the trees up above our heads and I got slightly annoyed by some tourists who felt the need to try and catch the Koalas attention by making a strange growling type of noise. The park ranger told them off. Good man.

We drove around a little, found the friendship twin town for Cowes on the Isle of Wight, (It's also called Cowes on Phillip Island) and then drove to the Nobbies which are some rock formation islands on the far west of Phillip. Home to seemingly several thousand pesky Seagulls, it was a little like a firing alley trying to avoid the poop. The views were fantastic though and we found a little penguin in a hole waiting for it's parents to come home. On getting back to the car I tried to stare out a one legged Seagull who was standing atop the Getz. I scared him off but the sheer terror of the confrontation with me must have made him a little nervy; he managed to empty his bowels before he left over the roof of the car.

And to the highlight of the day. Or the massively built up moment of the day. Built up to such a point it could never live up to the hype?

You arrive at the Penguin Parade and are told that you cannot take photos of any sort as the Penguins get scared, but reasonable priced photos are available in the shop. What a gip. The Penguins are due to arrive at 8.04pm (it is now 6.50pm, and therefore a long wait) as they arrived at 8.09pm yesterday. It is amazing how they can use such accurate numbers to predict the arrival time of an animal that knows of only four things, eat, sleep, swim, mate. I didn't believe it, but apparently it's to do with the sunset and what not.

We got in early and so had some front row seats to the parade. And then we waited. the rangers gave a little talk about the penguins explaining what they will do when they arrive. And then we waited. Kate went to get our raincoats and a blanket because it was cold. And then we waited. A group that had paid $20 each to sit just in front of us on the sand with some earphones and binoculars then turned up. And then we waited. 8.02pm. Nothing. 8.03pm. Nothing and then at 8.04pm as if by a miracle...absolutely nothing happened. 
In fact the little buggers didn't turn up for another 30 minutes. If I was a penguin and knew what time I was expected, I wouldn't bloody turn up on time either. They must have poked their heads out of the water and gone "Big crowd tonight boys and girls, lets keep em waiting a little longer - that'll keep us amused", "Teach em to put a big ol'grandstand on our beach and watch us go to bed", "I know, there were 1309 of us last night and we all went just past the grandstand- lets confuse em and just send a few of us through the middle - the rest can run round the side...what about right down the end of the beach where they'll barely be able to see us?". And so the little buggers did.
A few of them shuffled up the beach in amusing style - these 'Little Penguins' are the smallest of 17 different types of penguins in the world and they are tiny. And so the fact they turned up late when it was getting dark anyway made it all the more difficult to see them. To the far right of the beach, hundreds of them seemed to be moving up, barely in sight. Good for them. It was a good experience just to see the few shuffle up the beach though.
After we had sat and waited for about 30 minutes, we looked around and were some of the last still sitting down. Most had left. The ranger came up to those that remained and explained we might want to look at the penguins from the boardwalk where they are continuing their journey.

Now that was ace. They were everywhere, and you were right above them. They shuffled along to their homes and made some bloody loud, cat being strangled, noises to locate their families. they were very funny to watch. I tried taking a photo with no flash and it didn't work. I then decided, this was our thing and I wouldn't try again. I recommend you make the trip if you ever get a chance - it was worth it.
On the way out I berated a teenage child for trying to scare a penguin. It pissed me off that the family were just standing there letting him do it. I watched him as they left to make sure he didn't do it again. Martin - Hero of the Penguins.

 The journey was without any problems, barely a car on the road. I didn't see any for 40 minutes.  Every now and again Kate would pipe up, "Are you OK? Tired?". "I'm fine thanks" I would respond feeling it a little.
Kate selected some Robbie and then some Take That. I knew she was sleeping for most of the journey but she tried. Her head flops from side to side as the driving never seems to affect her. For the start of the journey she was singing along with me, and then she went quiet and that was the sign she had gone.

But then without any warning her head would straighten up, she would sing a line of the song and then fall straight back to sleep. It was magical to behold. I have never seen anyone achieve it.

"........Said it All...Nothing to say at all...Nothing to say that happens........................(and gone)"

and a few minutes later

"......Julie...Whats's your problem? Won't you tell me whats going on?....(gone)"

this continued with Kate singing pretty much one line in every track but managing to sleep through 90% of the journey. She tried.

Shattered, we pulled into the Hostel at about midnight.
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