Today was Saturday, which meant I was able to explore a bit further afield with my cousin as he was off work. This did mean stepping back into the orange Honda Jazz, but I decided to sacrifice any street cred that existed in the first place to go exploring with him.
For another night, I slept restlessly, falling asleep at 10pm and waking up at 4am, but I had to be up around 6ish anyway, so it could have been worse. The reason for this early start was that we had to take my cousin’s wife to the start of her cycle ride. As mentioned previously, they are both complete cycle nuts. I’m talking the whole lycra hog as well, not just a helmet and couple of lights from Halfords. I’ve recently heard my other cousin is getting into the sport too. Maybe I too will contract the velocipede disease in my more venerable years.
I vaguely recalled having a dream about an exploding boat (don’t ask me why), grabbed a banana and took my seat in the Jazz. We were headed into the Yarra Valley, which is the region just outside of Melbourne. Famous for its wine, the landscape is dry rolling hills dotted with vineyards, but also the occasional scar of forest fire. Forest fires are a serious problem in Victoria, and I’ll come back to this issue later on at the Great Ocean Road.
We stopped for breakfast after swinging by the start of the cycle race, and then made our way to Healesville Sanctuary. This is a wildlife sanctuary which contains a huge variety of animals, including the generic Ozzie top 40 chart line up of kangaroos and koalas. I was looking forward to this change of scenery, and fact that we got there very early meant there were few other people around. Also, animals don’t talk back, so my introvert side would not be drained as much as a day in the city. The sanctuary was not only a wildlife sanctuary, but also an introvert sanctuary.
So the animal line up verdict:
Koalas – These lazy furballs just sit in their trees munching their fancy eucalyptus leaves, occasionally casting a beady eye over passers by. Usually quite high up in the tree, it’s hard to get a good look at them. Activities include napping 24/7 and dropping down from their trees to gnaw on Pom’s faces. 4/10.
Dingos – Real life doges. Infamous for eating babies, but apparently it wasn’t feeding time when I was there. 5/10.
Wombats – Being very familiar with the band named after them, I was curious to see what a wombat actually is. Turns out they’re like fluffy pigs, waddling around their habitats. Apparently my cousin had one run out in front of his bike once, which is very dangerous because these fellas are funky and chunky. 7/10.
Tasmanian devils – These are rather terrifying looking creatures. About the size of a dog with a rat like face. Would not want to encounter on a dark night. Interesting to watch from a distance though. 6/10
Kangaroos – The flagship of the Australian animal fleet, kangas are what you come to Oz to see. And unlike koalas, they really live up to the hype. I witnessed two having a bit of a boxing match, and I can tell you what, I would not like to get on the wrong side of them. For an extra fee, you can have them eat out of your hand. If they haven’t already beaten your face in with their mighty paws. 8/10.
Wallabies – Essentially the Tesco Value kangaroo. 4/10.
As well as the aforementioned creatures, there were also a number of bird areas which had very Jurassic Park vibes. I was half expecting a pack of velociraptors to come blundering through the foliage. Given the fact that I was in Australia, this would not have been a huge surprise. I had heard tales of the vicious creatures that resided there, so I was constantly on a guard which I did not relax until I got to New Zealand.
Healesville was all in all well worth the money. It was nice to see animals in a sanctuary wandering around relatively free rather than behind a zoo cage, and it was good to tick off kangaroos from the bucket list. It was indeed a very Australian place, and to seal the deal I heard something that only an Aussie could say whilst I was walking out.
*child trips and falls headfirst into the floor in play park*
*starts crying and runs to dad*
(read in best ‘matter of fact’ Aussie accent)
Dad: ‘You stepped short, that’s why ya faceplanted’
As if an explanation of the trip would soothe the child’s pain. Only in Australia.
So much had happened, as this is much more interesting that yesterday’s entry already, and it wasn’t even the afternoon yet. Now it was time to head out to the Dandenong Ranges, which are a mountain range also not far from Melbourne . It was amazing to see the variety of environments in the province of Victoria. Sub-tropical rainforests, farmland, beaches, scrubland, urban landscapes, it had it all.
Our destination was a place called Sky High, which, as its name suggests, is atop a high mountain near the sky. On days when the weather is clear, you can see many miles into the distance, but naturally because I had showed up the weather had decided to mug me off. Nevertheless, I soaked up what view I could before we headed back down through the ranges to pick up my cousin’s wife.
Before returning to the start of the cycle race, we stopped in a town called Yarra Glen for some refreshment. Now there is very little in Yarra Glen. In fact, there seemed to be very little in many of the towns we drove through. They were simply one road towns, with a few places on each side, giving them a wild west feel. I was half expecting cowboys riding kangaroos to come bounding out of saloons, one hand one their hips, ready to draw their boomerangs in a deadly one versus one quickdraw showdown. The nearby Yering Station is probably the highlight of the surrounding area, where we sampled several tasters of wine for free. Until it became clear that we had zero intention of actually purchasing any.
Arriving at the finish of the local park to a number of sweaty looking lycra coated people, we met up with my cousin’s wife and the friends she had been riding with. One of them was called Conan, which isn’t exactly the most friendly name in the world.
‘So dear, have you got any names in mind?’
‘How about Edward? James?”
‘Are you sure about that?’
‘THE BARBARIAN JR’
Anyhow, as Conan was handing out watermelon and cheese, he did not live up to the implications that his name suggested.
(The featured image is the rear end of a wombat)
Track of Day 5 – ∆ (alt-J) // Dissolve Me