Day 12 - Warrnambool & local area

Trip Start Apr 17, 2012
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12
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Trip End May 27, 2012


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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Saturday, April 28, 2012

Due to the fact that there was so much to do in Warrnambool, we made the decision to stay an extra night so today we packed up our campsite and went exploring while the sun was still out (it was getting quite rare in this neck of the woods). Our first stop was the Hopkins River lookout which overlooked the beach where the Hopkins River met the ocean. Like so many rivers facing the bight, the swells create large sandhills which block the mouth of the river. Only when the rivers flood does it break through. Unfortunately there wasn't enough rain to cause it to flood. 

From here it wasn't far to Point Richie, in fact it was just at the end of the scenic drive we were already on to view the Hopkins River. 

We then went to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum as I had read about the shipwreck displays and the multi-million dollar "sound & light spectacular" which ran each evening. I was trying to convince Julie that it would be a worthy sight. We had a look around and when she saw that some items salvaged from the Loch Ard were in the museum she was sold, then when she saw that the nightly show - 'Shipwrecked' was all about the Loch Ard shipwreck she was almost as excited as I was. We bought our tickets to the 7pm show that night....can't wait!

Another big attraction in Warrnambool is Cheeseworld (I can hear Dave Hughes's excitement already). It wasn't too far out of town and we knew they had a cafe there so since we were starving we headed out there. We had some toasted sandwiches and coffee and checked when the guided tour started, we had 20 mins to spare to we looked at the museum which had all sorts of historic farm machinery used for dairy farming. We found it interesting - most others probably wouldn't. When we went back inside for the tour, we realised that we must have missed it so we bought some cheeses and got out of there. For the record, the cheese was delicious.

Once we got back into Warrnambool we followed the Warrnambool beach & coastline 1 - 2km westwards until another vantage point called Thunder Point. This was at the other end of Warrnambool's main beach with another river mouth exiting in Stingray Bay which is the Merri River. This time it wasn't blocked by a sand-bar. From here there are several vantage points to allow you to view the Warrnambool shoreline, bay and islands. Due to the craziness of the ocean they have built a series of breakwalls in an effort to build a safe harbour. You can also view Griffith's Island which has a population of Shearwaters (Muttonbirds) as well as the adjacent Middle Island which has a population of Little Penguins. Remarkably, this colony is guarded by a pair of Maremma Sheepdogs (http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2010/s2933996.htm), these dogs are extremely protective of the penguins and will kill a fox or other predator if need be, but are also gentle and caring towards the penguins. 

The wind and drizzle seemed to get a bit nasty as the afternoon wore on but occasionally we'd see sunny gaps before more drizzle. Looking out to the ocean it wasn't hard to understand why so many ships were wrecked around here. All it took was a broken compass, rudder or sail rigging and a ship could become out of control, not to mention sea-sickness and human error. Navigators would see a lighthouse and then have to work out which light it was using charts, sextants, compasses and protractors. Having a large ballast of iron on board had the potential to throw a compass out of action. No wonder so many ships were lost. As it was getting cold and we were hungry we headed back to our campsite to warm up and get dressed for our show.

Having mains power at the campsite meant we could run the heater while we relaxed and got changed which was nice as it was getting close to 10 degrees with wind & rain outside. We watched some TV and decided that we would walk into town just before the show to have kebabs for dinner so we rugged up with thermals, waterproof fleeces and beanies and headed into town. There was an above-average looking burger/kebab shop beside The Loft which is a pretty cranking live venue so we got our food there and ate it on the street - exciting! After our highly nutritous dinner we walked the 3-4 blocks to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum. By now we were warm & toasty from walking and the food.

At the museum we waited until our guides came (you could choose to walk the cobblestone village with handheld lanterns or be taken down on a mini bus). We had chosen the cobblestone and lantern option so we were ushered into a small theatre and watched a short movie on the museum and the area. Julie and I were pretty excited to see the Loch Ard Peacock on the way down there. The Loch Ard Peacock is a large decorative porcelain peacock made by Minton in England, intended to be displayed in the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880. The peacock was recovered completely intact (floating in a crate not far from Loch Ard Gorge) and was eventually able to be displayed a century later for the Victoria Pavilion at the Brisbane 1988 World Exposition. It is now on display at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in Warrnambool, along with a number of other relics of the wreck. Julie and I love the peacock so we bought a small version of it as a souvenir.

This is what is looks like -> http://www.coastalstays.com/portcampbell/img/lochard2.jpg 

Once we got down the bottom of the Flagstaff Hill complex we were seated in a semi-indoor grandstand overlooking a mini historic seaside port with a boat harbour and authentic blacksmith's shop, baker and all the other buildings you'd expect in a period re-creation. The show was quite amazing, rather than have a video screen they projected the visuals onto a water screen which produced an almost 3d effect. This was synchronised with smart lighting and lasers throughout the complex which came on and changed colour automatically in time with the audio and video. The Loch Ard story was re-enacted in front of us complete with dodgy Irish accents for the captain - Captain George Gibbs, Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael. The show was quite amazing and we walked out exhilarated and fascinated. We had almost felt like we had been survivors of the shipwreck.

The full Loch Ard story can be read here -> http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/heritage/maritime/shipwrecks/victorian-shipwreck-dive-sites/loch-ard-shipwreck 

The walk back to the camper was only 10 minutes, in fact the Surfside Holiday Park (where we were staying) was immediately adjacent to Flagstaff Hill and the theatre was probably only 100m to the van, but there was a high barbed wire fence separating the two so you had to walk 2kms around the boundaries of both. Flagstaff Hill overlooked the holiday park's land which is located on the Warrnambool Foreshore Trust Grounds. The walk back was most enjoyable with us feeling like we had been back in time and survived a shipwreck.

Back at the camper we got warm, relaxed, showered and crashed out.



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