Australia - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 333 (143)


Friday 4th February (2005)

We had decided yesterday evening to spend a couple of nights here in Willunga so that we wouldn’t have to spend another five hours in the car again on the heels of several days of intense travelling. Accordingly, we had no real reason to get up very early this morning. Even so, when Sandy nudged me this morning to tell me that it was nearly noon, I was quite surprised and even a bit annoyed at being allowed to sleep in quite so long (I’ve long since given up on the concept of the time of day but Sandy is still in tune with this for the most part). It didn’t stop me from rolling over and falling to sleep for another hour and a half, but then again, that’s the luxury of independent travel for you. When I opened my eyes again, Sandy was now telling me that it was only ten o’clock or thereabouts. She swears that she never told me it was noon to begin with. These little miscommunications seem to happening more often now and I’m not sure if it’s me that needs to get my ears syringed of her that needs to swallow a reality pill.

I woofed down a bowl of cornflakes with the bottle of milk that we were handed when we checked in last night. I’m not altogether sure why we were given a bottle of milk. This has never happened to us before. We think it has to do with the fact that tea and coffee making paraphernalia is in the kitchen and perhaps free with the room. Whatever the reason, at least we didn’t have to venture out this morning to get our own. Sandy was peckish for a bread roll, a bottle of water and an apple (don’t ask) so we walked across the street to the one supermarket in the village to see what we could find. They had no rolls, no apples and the only water they had was a one and a half litre bottle of mineral water for AU$3,50 (€2.15). I never ceases to amaze me that the most abundant and freely available substance on earth (water) can be inexpensively tapped into cheap plastic containers from any of thousands of springs all over the planet and yet is sold in shops for over twice the cost of refined petroleum, which costs a fortune to locate, collect, refine and distribute using extremely specialised industrial processes. Call me grumpy but I didn’t buy any! This supermarket coincidentally had the one and only ATM in the whole village but it was out of order. Here we go again – it’s yesterday all over again!

Our every friendly pub proprietor suggested we wander around the village to ‘admire it’ and then told us how to get to Victor Harbour down by the coast. We walked around the block looking for the buildings with interesting architecture or something and eventually arrived back to where we started from but nary an interesting anything was seen. Some of the buildings were a little older than usual, perhaps, and I dare say this is considered interesting or quaint to Australians (and perhaps Americans) who live in a country with just a couple of hundred years of developed history but for someone who grew up in a country where eighteenth century buildings aren’t even considered very old, it wasn’t quite so eye opening.

So, we took of down towards the coast to try to find out what it was about the region that excited our pub owners. I think what might be affecting my perspective on and enjoyment of this part of the country is the fact that the weather here is quite chilly, overcast and grey with a blustery wind which seems intent on giving us both an extremely bad hair day. It’s almost like England – but without the interesting architecture. Apparently, this weather is not the norm for this time of the year and it’s supposed to clear up in the next day or two. The one feature of Victor Harbour that attracted our attention from the outset, after the half hour drive to get there, was a small island just a couple hundred metres off the coast called Granite Island. A two hundred metre jetty walkway that links the island to the mainland is traversed every half an hour or so by a horse-drawn trolley bus. Apparently, the island plays host to a colony of penguins and we were keen to see for ourselves so we popped into the local tourist information office to ask all about it. There are also penguins to be seen on Philip Island near Melbourne but it annoys me no end that you are forced to pay someone top dollar for the opportunity to see them – as if someone actually ‘owns’ and ‘manages’ the penguins! It seems that anywhere in Australia that there are any interesting animals to be seen, someone soon decides it necessary to exploit the poor creatures by forcing people to pay for the privilege of simply having a look. We asked the guy at the information office about seeing these penguins and were told that we could see them only on a guided tour. What! According to him this was the only way to see the penguins since they only come ashore during the evening and although you can freely walk back and forth to the island during the day, access thereafter is restricted unless you are a paying customer on a guided tour. Bastards! I had to bite my lip and really restrain myself, which I did by pulling a disdainful look and walking away from the desk in disgust.

Anyway, we decided to walk across the long jetty to the island after all to see what we could see. It didn’t seem like too far to walk and I wasn’t particularly in the mood to pay AU$5 (€3,03) each for the privilege of sitting on the horse-drawn tram. We set off across the bridge at the same time the trolley did, as it happens. Since it was travelling at the same speed that we were walking, we walked alongside it for the duration to shield ourselves from the wind. The trolley was empty save for the driver. The island is very small at probably not more than a Kilometre or two across but sits fairly high out of the water with large boulders down one side. We wandered around the side of the island with the boulders and could clearly see all the penguin nests nestled in between and beneath them. A few of the burrows had chicks hidden away that we were just about able to photograph by holding the camera at the right angle, so we did at least get to see penguins after all – and for free!

The wind was blowing fiercely all the time we were on the island so we stayed just long enough not to freeze to death and, after a brief rest, made our way back to the mainland to find a café that sold hot chocolate for Sandy before moving on down the coast to a place called Goolwa. This was another one of our pub owner’s recommendations. Apparently, there are some paddleboats there and the small harbour is supposed to be very picturesque. Somehow, I was not holding my breath. As we drove farther down the coast, I kept wondering to myself whether or not we’d have been better off not staying to explore this part of the country but to instead head straight down towards Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road. The problem is that we’ve since learned just exactly where the Great Ocean Road is and the real good stuff is really close to Melbourne. We might very well have been better off flying from Perth direct to Melbourne instead of Adelaide. It’s starting to look like we would have saved ourselves an awful lot of driving by doing so. Oh well. Perhaps things will get better.

Our high hopes of finding something interesting to see in Goolwa were just about shattered when we arrived and asked ourselves ‘What now?’ On the face of it, there really didn’t seem like very much at all so we popped into the nearby information office and chatted with the man behind the counter. He turned out to be a really nice guy who lifted our spirits quite a bit. For one thing, he gave us some maps that are very much better than the rental car agency’s and he even gave us some ideas about where to stop along the long route down towards the Great Ocean Road. On top of this, he called some of the other information offices that lie in our path as we will move down the coast and asked about accommodation options for us. We are thinking we will make Mt. Gambier our final destination for tomorrow’s five-hour stretch of driving and he was able to confirm for us that there are plenty of budget options there, including no less than four backpacker’s hostels. Finding a reasonably priced place to stay has been a bit of a sore point for us over the past week or so and so this news was very comforting for me in particular. The nice man gave us some information on what we could do and see in the local area and we left there much happier than we were when we went in. In the end, however, we stayed only long enough to take a few snaps of the one half-refurbished paddleboat that there was in the harbour before heading back to our pub in Willunga for a nice pub meal. Unfortunately, the nice pub meal was not to be since the kitchens only had a very narrow window of opening times, contrary to what we thought we were initially told at check-in. Instead, we had to drive out to the next town to find a fish and chip shop. Oh well. At least we saved a bit of money that way. Incidentally, the fish and chip shop charged more for their bottled water than did the supermarket across the road here. I didn’t buy any!

Our mid-afternoon meal sent us into a sleepy stupor and we napped for an hour or so. For the bulk of the remainder of the day, we sat in our room reading more from our pregnancy books together. It has to be said that we’re both really starting to get into this whole pregnancy and parenthood thing – in very good way. We both feel very much like we are in this together and I’d have to say that we’ve grown much closer to each other also. It’s almost like we’ve falling in love all over again.

Later in the evening, we spent half an hour down in the pub playing on the slot machines. It was quite fun and we even managed to come away with AU$10 (€6,10) more than what we started with. Bonus! After a while, however, I really started to notice the smoky atmosphere and I wasn’t happy about letting Sandy inhale in it for too long so we took our meagre winnings and went outside for a stroll in the fresh evening air. We went to bed soon thereafter. Tomorrow morning promises an early start to a five-hour or more journey that should shave off almost half the distance between hear and Melbourne and bring us within striking distance of the Great Ocean Road.