|Oh Dear, another 2 weeks has flashed by. Where has the time gone? Where have we been? It's all a bit of a blur but I've refreshed my memory with some photos and a quick reading of Guy's log. On leaving Jindabyne we headed for the beautiful coastal town of Merimbula. We spent a lovely 4 days there at a wonderful caravan park with 3 heated swimming pools and some water slides. The kids, of course, had a lot of fun in the pools and wore themselves out going up and down the slides. In between times we went to the beach, rode our bikes, walked and we visited the Bega cheese factory.
We then drove south over the border into Victoria and stopped at another beautiful coastal town called Mallacoota. It is only a small town surrounded by heavily forested National Park on 3 sides and a rugged coastline on the other. We enjoyed several walks in the forest and even spotted a few koalas up a tree. We also spent many hours fossicking in the rock pools and hunting for crabs. One afternoon we hired a small runabout boat and set off to explore the inlet. Unfortunately, the boat had a top speed of about 3 knots so by the time we navigated our way through the channels it was about time to turn around and return home. Still, we had fun. By this time the presence of the serious bushfires in the Gippsland were starting to be noticed by the smoke haze in the air and the peculiar red colour of the sun especially at dawn and dusk. We thought we would have to change our travel plans to avoid the fires but luckily for us, we were assured that the area we had planned on visiting was not affected.
So we headed inland again to a place called Traralgon which we used as a base to visit Walhalla. On the way we had a strange experience of the day becoming so dark it was almost like night. This was due to the combination of a brewing thunderstorm and the smoke haze. When it did eventually rain, it was very dirty due to all the ash in the air. Our car still bears the signs! Sadly, we were shocked again at the dryness of the whole area. There is very little green anywhere and the stock were showing signs of being underfed. Water restrictions are a major issue and signs are everywhere to remind us to restrict showers to 3 mins and not to wash the car or waste any water. But back to Walhalla - it is an old goldmining town, home to the richest goldmine in the history of Victoria. The town is built in the middle of some very steep, lush hills with many beautifully restored buildings. It's current population is 15, down from about 4500 at its peak. We had a very peaceful day there with only one other tourist car spotted. We explored the town and then had a go at panning for gold. Much to the girl's disappointment we only managed to find a few pieces of fool's gold. Not enough to pay for another 6 months of travelling.
Then it was south to Wilson's Promontory on the very south tip of Victoria. What a spectacular coastline! We camped in the National Park opposite another family of 5 girls (very happy with that) and again spent our days walking and beaching. Unfortunately some of the views were not quite as spectacular as they would have been due to the smoke haze. We saw lots of wombat holes during the day so one night the girls stayed up late and, armed with torches, we set off to find some wombats. It was very, very dark and a bit scary but finally we had success with a big, fat wombat who let us get very close to him before shuffling off into the bush.
Next stop on the itinerary was Phillip Island, mainly to see the little penguins. Their nightly parade up the beach has become a major tourist attraction so is very carefully managed. It cost us $52 to go and sit on the beach in a confined area to watch. That night they had about 1000 people which increases to 3000 over the summer holidays. Anyway, we rugged up in our very warmest thermals and jackets to ward off the bitterly cold winds (good old Victorian summer) and arrived by 8pm to wait for the penguins. They don't come out of the water until after dark which, at this time of the year is not until after 9pm. Apparently the dash up the beach is a very dangerous time for them so they go in a group and it takes a lot of courage for them to actually make their dash. They were very, very cute especially as they tried to make up their minds whether to go or not. A few would finally come out of the water and wait for a few more then they would all change their minds and waddle back into the water again. Sometimes they would make it halfway up the beach when one at the back would just turn around and run back to the water which would set the whole group running back. They would do this 4 or 5 times before finally making their way up the beach - very funny. Afterwards we spent another hour or so on the boardwalks watching them make their way to their young in their burrows. The waiting chicks were very vocal in letting their parents know of their hunger. Just like some other youngsters we could name!
Anyway, the next day we packed up and managed to navigate our way into Melbourne which is where we are now.