Port Fairy to Melbourne (“Jangle bird”)

“Rob – are you awake?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you hear that cool bird?”

“What bird?”

“That cool jangly one!”

“… That’s a windchime.”

“Are you sure…?”

“…Yes.”

[10 minutes later]

“There! That one!”

“… Still a windchime.”

 

In my defence… Ok, there isn’t really any defence for that. We even saw the windchime  when we left, and I’m still not 100% convinced it wasn’t a bird.

We started early doors as we had a lot of km to cover to get back to Melbourne! We were taking the inland route rather than retracing our steps (this is the itinerary we followed and it was ace!) but it was still a good 250+km. First though we went back to Rebecca’s Café for our last brunch in Aussie land. It was 8am on a Monday morning but already bustling – it’s obviously a real community place as the lady on the till seemed to know everyone by name. I hope I can find a café like that in Welly!

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We really liked Port Fairy; it had a lovely community atmosphere with things like a free book swap, lots of signs for Parkrun (they were advertising it in Lorne too – sob!), neighbours chatting, lots of arty/makers’ shops. A strange thing we noticed about suburban Australia is that the houses were mostly bungalows – if anyone knows why, let us know!

The other thing about Australia? IT’S MASSIVE. Massive! There is so much SPACE. I hadn’t really grasped how big it is. We basically drove the equivalent of Cardiff to Reading without going past a single town – we hardly went past another car! We were driving past field after field after field, which could all well have been the same farm, but the farmhouse is absolutely nowhere to be seen. There would be a “road sign” at the end of what was basically a dirt track. R commented that it would be a terrible place to be a postman – can you imagine walking half an hour to the end of your “road” to get your post?!

There was definitely a stretch of the drive where I was starting to get a teeeeeeny bit nervous about fuel. NZ has signs reminding you it’s the last petrol station for the next X km, but Aus doesn’t remind you you’re about to leave civilisation for a bit! Thankfully we did find one with about a quarter of a tank left, but seriously, if we had conked out or broken down… what would you do!? And while I completely trust R, he did admit when we’d filled up that he was “confident outside, nervous inside”…

We rejoined civilisation the Freeway at Geelong and enjoyed some fab views of the Melbourne skyline as we made our way back to drop the hire car off. Thankfully we could get a Skybus from the airport all the way down to St Kilda, rather than going back into the city with all our bags. It took about 35 mins and dropped us a couple of streets away from our apartment.

One thing I am endlessly fascinated by in this part of the world is the wildlife. We have pigeons, Aus has these gorgeous bright green and orange parakeets flashing around above you. They make quite a racket but I forgive them because they’re so pretty. I am constantly on the look out for things to add to the list of “Why Aus/NZ Is Better Than The UK” and the pigeon alternatives are up there.

After all morning cooped up in the car, and confronted with the most beautiful stretch of sandy, empty beach, we got our trainers on and went for a run. St Kilda is one of the things that makes Melbourne so fantastic – a big, buzzing, vibrant city, with this gorgeous beach just a few minutes away. We headed up the promenade towards the docks and back. Rob peeled off to grab a shower but I wanted to do a bit more (I am supposed to be training after all!). I was hoping to do 10km but ran out of boardwalk at 8! I’m a bit nervous that it’s only 6 weeks to go til the Half (sponsor me here wooooo) but I’m trying not to be too hard on myself; this is my holiday after all, I could easily have had the week off! And fingers crossed it won’t be too crazy hilly in Welly and I’ll be able to get the miles in again!

That said – my back is really starting to complain about lugging these bags around – if someone could post me a foam roller that would be v much appreciated! (If I am ever on Desert Island Discs I may revise my one luxury item from “Hugh Jackman calendar” to “foam roller”… ha!).

We had jogged past some really cool bars on the boardwalk – honestly, if someone had told me I was in California I’d have believed them – so headed back that way for some sunset beers. We were waiting for the sun to go down because a) the sunsets in St Kilda are mind-blowing and b) that’s when the penguins come out!

Yep, St Kilda has its own colony of Little Blue Penguins, and they nest on the breakwater; one of only two known penguin colonies in the world to nest on a man-made structure. We’d been told that the best time to see them was just after sunset as they come home for the night, so we wandered over.

The sunset definitely did not disappoint. You have an incredible view back over the CBD from the breakwater; the masts of the boats in front and the skyscrapers behind! I can 100% see why people say Melbourne is such a fantastic place to live. I’d potentially say I liked it even more than Sydney (which as those who know me will attest is huge!) – but I’d probably have to go back to Sydney to confirm that (any excuse!).

The penguin colony however was a bit of a let down. Not the birds themselves, more the atmosphere. By the time we got there there were easily 50-60 people clustered along the viewing area, and more arriving every few minutes. They were all clinging on to cameras, iphones, selfie sticks – it felt a bit… uncomfortable. It should have raised a red flag when the receptionist at our apartment asked us not to “poke them with a selfie stick” (we thought she was joking) and when we saw all the signs saying “please no flash photography” – penguins’ eyesight is on a different end of the colour spectrum to ours, so bright lights can really distress them.

R and I love wildlife and have been lucky enough to have some incredible wild animal experiences on our travels, but we also make a lot of effort to make sure we’re going with responsible and ethical companies; we’ve always done our research and often paid over the average to do so. But it’s important to us: that way, you know you’re not threatening or impacting on the animal you’re there to appreciate. This just felt a bit like one giant photo op.

There were easily 100 people there by the time we decided to leave (this is the off season, remember). One poor little penguin was already nesting behind a few rocks and there was a big crowd of people (well, of iphones) trying to get a picture – the atmosphere just felt a bit off.

There were volunteers there in high-vis vests, and plenty of signage encouraging the right behaviour, but the responsibility is on the individual to act appropriately, and sadly, some people just care about getting “that” photo for their Instagram.

Anyway – it wasn’t a total bummer; like I said, there were volunteers there to watch out for the animals’ safety, and it was worth the walk for the sunset alone! If you’re heading to St Kilda anytime soon, I’d just encourage you to act appropriately ❤

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There was definitely more to St Kilda than we realised when we came on Sunday afternoon; I’m glad we had a whole afternoon here! We went back to the apartment for dinner and got an early night – we’re finally flying to Welly in the morning!!

Slang of the day – Stoush (a fight or a row)

 

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