Living in a Marsupial World
 
Picture
Our serious holiday adventures began with a trip down the Great Ocean Road, a long drive along Victoria’s stunning southern coastline through quaint surfing towns and national parks. Inspired by the coastal highways of California, the road was a kind of Australian WPA project to provide employment for returning soldiers from the First World War. Our first day mainly featured driving and the weather was a bit rainy, but our first views of the Southern Ocean and rounded seaside cliffs were glorious nonetheless. We spent our first night in Apollo Bay, a small surfing and fishing town right next to the water. To celebrate the official beginning of our holiday road trip, we had some wine that we had bought in the Barossa Valley and ate at the local fish n’ chips shop for dinner. This was the first opportunity we had to introduce Nancy the Ketchup Addict to sweet chili sauce, an Australian phenomenon. This fateful introduction resulted in her purchasing roughly 2 liters of sweet chili sauce to bring back home (despite our insistence that you can easily get this sauce in the states). 


Picture
Our first koala!! He didn't seem to share our enthusiasm.
On our second day along the Great Ocean Road, we had our first taste of Nancy and Charlie’s “animal magnetism,” which would become increasingly evident as the days progressed. Seven months, six states, and over 22,000 kilometers had passed since the two of us had arrived in Australia and neither of us had even caught a glimpse of a damn koala bear. We were beginning to think they were a myth, a ploy of the Australian tourism industry, which probably planted animatronic koalas in zoos and in the wild for episodes of Jack Hannah’s Animal Adventures. As we drove through patches of gum trees toward Cape Otway, we noticed a few cars pulled over and some tourists looking up into the trees – a good indication of wildlife about. We quickly spotted a fat ball of grey fur, dozing lazily and a bit precariously on a limb directly over the roadway. YES! We couldn’t have been more excited, a real living, breathing, squishy KOALA in the WILD! 


Picture
As we were giddily taking photos of this unconscious little dude, we realized that we were surrounded. We paced up and down the road looking through all the eucalypts around us, spotting little furry snoozeballs everywhere! Within a few hundred meters of where we stood, we took note of at least 30 koala bears in the trees. In the words of the late Mitch Hedberg, “Cutest infestation EVER.” This place was the koala Mecca we waited seven months to stumble upon. I say this not only because of the sheer number of koalas, but also because of how closely we were able to observe them. We walked down the road towards the cape and off to our left we found ourselves five feet away from a momma koala and her baby! They were positioned on a tree branch just above our heads and the two of them seemed quite unaffected by our presence, therefore giving us plenty of time to take close to 500 photos of slightly different poses...we get a little trigger happy with the ol' camera sometimes.  


Picture
Sometimes koalas just need to break out into song...*Tonight, tonight, there's only you tonight*
Picture
Picture
Koalas: the stoner slackers of the marsupial world
For those who don’t already know, koalas really don’t do anything but sleep, mainly because they are constantly dehydrated and the oil in the eucalyptus they eat drugs them out pretty hard. So, when the sun came out from behind the clouds and woke a few of them up, they began to move around a bit and you would have thought the sky had begun to rain kittens. It’s too funny how humans react to furry things doing the most mundane crap, but we’ll be honest, we were right there with everyone:

“Oh my god look, look, it’s scratching itself”

“WOW, that’s soooo awesome, he’s yawning”

“Aw cuuuute, look at that one, it’s passing out again”

People are ridiculous, but we had a blast. 


Picture
NC and Chenness with the Cape Otway lighthouse in view
Picture
Walking along Cape Otway
Picture
Nancy and Ben's Hair soak in the ocean view
Picture
Why I do declare Mr. Beauregard, are those gum tree leaves for me?
Our luck seemed to improve even more as the day progressed. That afternoon, as we were driving back from a lovely walk along the vegetated dunes of Cape Otway, we spotted another koala, awake and munching away, this time right at eye-level next to the path. This little dude proved to be quite content with us right next to him, as long as he still had a branch of eucalyptus to devour. NC actually got to feed him when he ran out of leaves, handing him a huge branch of eucalyptus, which he eagerly snatched. Koala-tastic!

Picture
Just in case you were wondering what koala balls look like
Picture
Close up of koala talons - this is why you don't wake up koala bears
Picture
Post koala-feeding delight for NC and bear!
Picture
On several occasions we took a few hikes through Otway National Park and some beautiful rainforests. Like many places in Australia, these walks felt like a step back in time and you half-expected little dinosaurs and minivan-sized insects to burst through the ferns and giant gum trees. The epiphytes and mosses alone were a spectacle, with so many varieties, all of which looked so soft and inviting, you just had to stop and pet each tree affectionately. The waterfalls, as you might expect, were all lovely and every once in a while we came across some rusted, moss-covered logging equipment from the 1800’s, which was a bit eerie. 


Picture
Looks like Snuffleupagus has extended his leg to be caressed.
Picture
Picture
Picture
An old steam boiler from the logging days
Picture
Picture
Twelve Apostles in stormy seas
We continued westward on the Great Ocean Road along what is known as the “Shipwreck Coast.” Stretching for about 130kms, this bit of coastline with its striking limestone cliffs and rock formations, thick fogs, and rough seas has claimed over 700 vessels since the 19th Century. The limestone pillars and platforms provide for some incredible scenery, one of the most popular sites being the Twelve Apostles, where twelve enormous pillars of rock stand free along the coast. On our way to Port Campbell, we stopped at the Twelve Apostles just after sunset and watched as fairy penguins waddled quickly in a large cluster out of the ocean and into the brush for the night. We were pretty high up on the top of the ridge and the light was very faint, but the scuttling tuxedo-clad dots were adorable nonetheless. 


Picture
We returned the next morning to view everything in the daylight and, while it was blustery and cold and packed with tourists, the sunlit coast was gorgeous. The limestone columns stood like sentinels in the churning shallows.  After Twelve Apostles we hit up a few more sites including Lord Ard Gorge (site of a famous shipwreck), London Bridge (which, ironically, fell down recently), and Bay of Martyrs. The Lord Ard Gorge site in particular had a bunch of nooks and crannies to explore including an awesome cave. 


Picture
Picture
Ben's now-sentient hair is attempting to suck out my brains. Brrraaaiiiinnnsss....
Picture
Lord Ard Gorge site
Picture
The cave at Lord Ard Gorge!
Picture
My mom's noise for this jump was an adorable little 'rawr' - imagine young Simba from the Lion King
Picture
Picture
The painful and potentially deadly bluebottle jellyfish (a small Portuguese man-o-war)
Picture
Picture
Cheese, Tea, Scones, and Mother-Daughter Bonding
Hitting the end of the Great Ocean Road, we turned back towards Melbourne, but made a small detour at Timboon Farmhouse Cheesery for some free cheese tasting and Devonshire Tea. They make a “non-traditional” feta cheese here that we particularly enjoyed, soaked in oil with herbs and spices. It’s non-traditional because they make it with cow’s milk instead of goat/sheep (and it did taste a bit more like mozzarella than feta), but it was delicious. Many places in Australia advertise Devonshire Tea, which is usually a cup of tea served with scones (more like American biscuits), cream, and jam. After a day of wind-battered sightseeing, a relaxed session of Devonshire Tea in an English-style garden was just the ticket.

Picture
A beautiful little male fairy wren joined us for tea
Picture
Aimee
6/2/2011

Aw, guys, how awesome! I love reading your blog, it's so beautiful and engaging. You've single-handedly (duel-handedly?) turned Australia from somewhere nice to visit to somewhere I have to go, preferably soon. Keep it up!

Reply

Your comment will be posted after it is approved.


Leave a Reply.