In Melbourne I'm staying with the Teh's, good family friends. The house is lovely, with large glass windows and my room has a double bed and electric blankets! don't laugh...the dogs called Freddie and Archie are adorable, and things are so chilled out here it reminds me a lot of being at home. This morning Sally and I set off to Phillip Island, where the penguins parade happens at sunset. Phillip Island is also home to some world reknowned surf beaches and we saw some proper surfer dudes with dreadlocks and everything! We went to Churchill Island first, with baby goats, sheep and cute calves in a nursery and then to the koala sanctuary. The boardwalks were raised up so yo get closer to them although they were all sleeping and no where near as active in Brisbane! Possibly because they look like a different breed - larger and browner so probably the Southern Koala. At the tip ofthe island is a place called the Nobbies where the seals are meant to be; unfrtunately they were all in the water so we didn't see much but it was all made up for by the seriously yummy cakes!
On the way back to the car we heard some wierd cooing sound coming from a nearby bush..thanks goodness we didn't ket the dogs out coz it turned out to be some baby penguins!
The penguin parade was v popular, but we got some good seats at the front. There was nothing between us and the fairy penguins apart from a piece of rope. After a little wait the sun set and we waited expectantly for the stars! One by one I saw a few little white heads bobbing around in the surf, and finally the braver ones rode up onto the shore. They were tiny! Only about 30cm tall, and so cute! A few more arrived and they all waited until a pack of about 20 got together to process up the beach in the moonlight to their nesting grounds - they waddled along swaying from side to side on their ickle feet and looked very comical. Gradually more and more came along and proceeded to pass us in groups of 10, 20, 30 and sometimes even 40! Sometimes they would pop out of the water, just to dive back in and reappear later - some of them made such a palava out of it for some reason I was reminded of Ursula Andres coming out of the water in Dr No! bear in mind the penguins have white tummies and flick their heads from side to side!
As we moved back from the beach we could hear all the baby penguins calling to their mothers for feeding in the same cooing tones as we had heard earlier. It was great to get closer to them, especially when one started grooming itself beneath us and others fed each other( I originally thought they were kissing but they actually puke into each others' mouths-nice!)
Mummy the whole thing was amazing and you would have loved it!
We stayed the night at the Teh's usmmer house in Sumers, where there are frequently koalas and possums in the gardens. Sally told me that they have even had some invade the house and one unusual guest they once had was an echidna! It looked out onto a lovely beach, so we took the dogs for a walk along that. Then we went to see Horry (Horace) at the stables. He is a beautiful bay horse, used for dressage. I tottered about on him and then reallly got to grips with it after a lesson- even getting up to a gallop for a few seconds. It's actually harder than it looks to get everything perfect, but great fun!
Jonathon and I set off to the Healesville Sanctuary outside of Melbourne today, and I got to see my first platypuses! They are not remotely purple, much to my surprise! And although they have a reputation for being really timid all of the ones here were v active and friendly. They actually just look like floating logs when viewed from above but really fascinating to see them swim! The sanctuary also had (more) koalas, some kangaroos and wallabies, dingoes, (ugly) emus and loads of different birds. The reptile house was impressive and we got to stroke the bearded dragon and another big iguana looking thing. Around the place most of the enclosures were open so I got really close to the animals, and we even saw a 'Jacky' lizard!
Pip and her boyfriend Bill came round for dinner, which was entertaining - they send their love to all the family (and hope to see us all soon...so I just have to come back!)
Since I hadn't yet seen the main city of Melbourne Sally and I went in to look around the sights today. Like other Australian cities it's not full of high rise buildings, and actually quite pretty even if most of the architecture is still juvenile compared to England. We went through federation square and had a peek at some aboriginal art in the Ian Potter centre -I don't understand mcu habout it but it looks quite cool nonetheless. We went for lunch in the Bourke Street mall which is chic; one shop there called Koko Black serves whole meals made out of chocolate! We went to the State Library to check out a joint exhibition of mediaval books from New Zealand and Cambridge before checking out Chinatown, the Parliament building, the Old Treasury and down Collins Street where all the high fashion brands like Gucci and Ferragamo have their stores.