2011 March 8 – 10 – Days 62 – 64 – Cowes, Phillip Island, Australia

Our last three days on Phillip Island were spent seeing the three things we had purchased the bulk tickets for on the Sunday we had driven out to the Nobbies.

Each morning was spent doing laundry and sorting photos and reading.  On the 8th we got some groceries in the afternoon and checked maps and toll roads for our drive to Adelaide.  In the evening we drove back to the Nobbies to see the Penguin Parade.  No photos are allowed and it was dark anyway but I took photos of four post cards I bought so you can get an idea.

We sat at the very top of the bleachers at the end and when the penguins came out of the water and about 60% of them waddled right past us on their way up the bank to their burrows.About 8,000 mating pairs of Fairy Penguins live on Phillip Island. Every night a few hundred to a few thousand will leave the ocean and walk up to their burrows for the night.  The night we were there about 300 of them went past our seats.  At sunrise they will make their way back to the ocean and feed for the day, or for several days.  Penguins molt and while they are losing their feathers and growing new ones they are not waterproof and can’t go swimming for dinner.  Consequently when they are due to molt they will gorge themselves and eat as much as they can, getting very fat in the process, so they can live off the stored fat for the three weeks it takes to have new waterproof feathers.The penquins are only about 6-7 inches high and weigh 2-3 pounds.  They have very short walking strides but it only takes them 20-30 minutes to climb the steep sand bank to their burrows.  Some of them had chicks that had not fledged yet that they were bring food to, other very fat ones were heading for home to molt, and the rest were just getting out of the water for the night.  We were told to check under our cars before we left as some of them will go as far as the Visitor’s Center or the carpark.

On the 9th, after our usual morning activities, the loop drive we had planned to do was cancelled due to a thick fog on the mainland. We turned around, crossed the bridge to Phillip Island again and visited the Churchill Island Heritage Farm.

I had a nice long visit with Sophie the Clydesdale and her 5 month-old foal.

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Scottish Highland Cattle.

We wandered through the house and two cottages and the gardens before going to the barn.  We met another horse and watched a sheep dog demonstration before heading back to the cabin for dinner and the night. The afternoon of March 10 was spent at the Koala Conservation Center.  There are 35 koalas in this protected habitat where a breeding program is maintained.  Raised boardwalks put you a little closer to the adorable critters high up in the eucalyptus trees.  Usually koala almost never leave the treetops but most of Australia had suffered a drought for the past 10 years which meant many koalas came to the ground to find water.  Unfortunately this meant that many were hit by cars and killed.  Usually koalas get all the moisture they need from the eucalyptus leaves but there was no extra water in them due to the dry conditions. We saw 17 of the 35 koalas on our walk.  Near the end of the boardwalk we saw a momma and her joey sitting on a branch just above a railing on the walkway.  She was wide awake, holding her baby with one arm and pulling down eucalyptus leaves with the other.  I did not wish to startle her so I left my camera alone, hard as that was for me to do.After we left the Koala Conservation Center we drove to the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit.  This course is on the motorcycle grand prix circuit and is also used for many car races.  They have a 1/5 scale replica of the track that you can run go-karts on.  John did a ten minute run and managed 11 full laps with an average speed of 47.2 kmh.  Fastest lap was 51.8 seconds with an average speed on the lap of 52.8 kmh.  He would have liked to do the hot laps on the full track in a GP Porsche with a professional driver (who, we were told, will do his best to scare you silly) but there were no available slots until two days later.  We had to check out the next day so he couldn’t do it.  That saved us $295.00.  He would have enjoyed it though.  Still, it was a fun end to our week on Phillip Island.

 

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