The anniversary of my 4th decade on the earth gave the old girl an excuse to fly out for a visit. Fancy man in tow. My end of the bargain was to assume the role of tour-guide-slash-driver for a road trip round Victoria.
#1 Phillip Island and the Mornington Peninsula
The locals bang on about the penguins at Phillip Island. So we head down there. The beach-side grandstand at sunset is our vantage point. A November chill whistles round my April. While the over-hyped tourist guff has me expecting Dunkirk penguin style!
A partially incubated farmer Gile later and my patience is on the wane. When the curious little fellas eventually turn up, they’re apprehensive – unsurprising with a few hundred mince pies staring back at them. After more waiting, they grow the balls for a waddle up the beach towards us.
At 30 cm high, these are “little penguins”. So they take a bit of squinting at distance. Thankfully the floodlight boardwalks provide a close-up. They were worth the wait.
#2 The Great Ocean Road
Before hitting the Great Ocean Road its breakfast at Narana (near Geelong) and our first taste of aboriginal culture. From there it was a leisurely drive along the coast stopping anywhere with a bit of life. For Australia’s most densely populated state there weren’t many people about.
As coastlines go I can’t knock it – it’s up there with the English Riviera.
#3 the Grampians & Ballarat
Not sure how they measure up to the real Grampians, but the views were pleasant enough.
The Brambuk Cultural Centre (in Halls Gap) gives us more on the indigenous way of life and how it was ripped apart when the white man arrived – Christianisation, the stolen generation, forced interbreeding. My ancestral comrades have a lot to answer for.
The road back to Melbourne took us to Ballarat (& Sovereign Hill), where in the 1850s gold was discovered. The indigenous people (who’d been sitting on a goldmine for 50,000 years) were swept aside, as the world’s gold diggers descended on the place.
They found so much of the stuff that 2% of the UK population joined the gold rush and the population of Victoria went through the roof. The penny soon dropped – sending convicts out here was no longer a punishment, so they knocked it on the head.
It was a congenial couple of weeks – coffee chats and countryside. Away from daily distractions, the conversation flows from family – and stories of sibling eccentricities, to philosophy – and a pensioners propensity to play Pascal’s wager. They call this sort of thing quality time. You can’t put a price on it!
Some words of relevance:
“Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good.” – Mary Schmich (her letter was put to music by Baz Luhrmann)
“The mother and child reunion is only a motion away.” – Paul Simon*
*Interesting fact: While in a Chinese restaurant Paul [Simon] noticed a dish of chicken and eggs on the menu. The English translation was “mother and child reunion”, and he said to himself, “I gotta use that one”.