Sunday, June 04, 2006

(Prince) Phillip Island

Yesterday I woke up at an ungodly hour for a Sunday after that Saturday, and it is an unprecedented two beautiful days in a row. I know that my plan to veg in front of the TV is in vain, and after my toast (I really need to go to the grocery store) and a long look at a map, I am off. Destination: Phillip Island, the southwestern bit of the next bay over. (Melbourne is on Port Phillip.) An hour and a half later, I arrive.

First stop, the nobbies. The nobbies are actually little bits of island, made of wave-enduring basalt. I didn't actually see anything about the geology of the area (imagine leaving that out!) so I can only suspect that they are from lava flows and not actual cone remnants. In any case, they are beautiful.

Seen in the bottom right corner of this photo is the "blowhole". The blowhole is actually a cave/tunnel cut by wave action into the side of the cliff. No actual water spout, more like a woosh and splash as water hits the back wall.

These are both parts of Point Grant, the very tippy-tip of Phillip Island.

Here is a view up the western coast:

Next I headed mid-island (but still on the beach) to Smith's Beach. Here were surfers, all decked out in wetsuits (the water was warmer than the couple times I've been in the Pacific in CA- but I sure didn't stay in the water there long either) and taking turns wiping out on the waves. The tide was coming in pretty fast at this point, I even had to up and run out of the way to avoid a wave (I was still in socks and sneakers) that stopped a full 10 feet further than I expected. I also found the surf shop that will give you lessons. We'll save that for another time.

Next I'm off to find Pyramid Rock. Pyramid Rock is a formation of columnar basalt, or what is left of it anyway, off of Pyramid Beach. (Do you think they could maybe come up with a couple more names?) So, I parked at the top and took the unpaved, un-maintained "locals only" track to another bluff to check it our. The thing about maintenance is that it keeps the slightly steep, definitely slippery bits at bay. I managed to stay vertical, but had to do some creative footwork to keep from taking an Indiana Jones/Goonies type slide through the bluffs. The gift of balance (I'd say grace, but who am I kidding?) was handy, as this was my view:

Back towards the west again, and here's a little sampling of what takes up the rest of the island. Cows. And grass. Cows and grass. Oh, and a Grand Prix race track. Huh? I decided to pass that up and went on to more BEACH!

I've just arrived at Flynn Beach, and it is almost sunset. There are still a few surfers, but there are definitely fewer good waves on this side, as I'm closer to the actual bay (Western Port- why it's called Port and not Bay, I don't know) and now protected from the full force of the ocean. I sit and contemplate for a while until I start to shiver and it's time to get back to the warmth of my car and head to the Penguin Parade.

The Penguin Parade is the complete commercialization of a natural phenomenon. Fairy Penguins (aka Little Penguins- how scientific!) live on this beach on Phillip Island, and every evening they come back to their roosts to sleep. On this particular beach they (the people) have built grandstands (!) where for a sum, you can sit and watch the penguins make it home. (No photography allowed, even though they have stadium lights and some very well-lit photos available for purchase at the gift shop).

The penguins wait and gather together at the water break before running as a group across the beach to the bushes. The tide was still coming in at this point, so it was pretty funny to watch as they surfed onto the shore, stood up together to gather courage only to be washed back out to see with the undertow of the next wave. Once they've got enough courage to start the waddle/run to the bush, they will sneak a look behind to make sure that they are covered by the crowd and not alone. On the off chance that they are, the will turn back and scurry to the group. The group, upon seeing another running, will inevitably run back into the ocean only to start the process yet again.

(In the meantime, the people in the stands are oohing and ahhing and begin to resemble the penguins themselves. Cold people started getting up out of their seats, and waddling to the back, only to have people from further back scurry up to take their seats in order to get a better look.)

Once they make it to their roost, they will stand in mated pairs (17% divorce rate! What is the wild kingdom coming to?) outside their "doors" and call out to the neighbors. I don't know what happens after that. It was late, I was cold, and I went home. After that is a summertime question. :)

1 comment:

Trina said...

All those beautiful photos and NONE of the penguins!!??? That was what I have been looking forward for WEEKS!! I have never seen a wild penguin, let alone known anyone that has seen wild penguins and you couldn't even take pictures of them!? I cannot believe this! Ok, I'm sorry. I know it's not your fault. I'm just disappointed. I can't believe they wouldn't let you take pictures! Well, at least you got to see them, and the explanation was great soooo, I guess it could be worse. From this day forward just remember, if you ever do see wild penguins while you're there - take a picture - I'll bail you out of jail if necessary! = )