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Touring the Great Alpine Road and the Bogong High Plains Road

17 Jun

After our excursion to Raymond Island, we embarked up the Great Alpine Road, starting in Bairnsdale. The Great Alpine Road was the main reason for our weekend away and touring that area was something we had both wanted to do for a while.

We had actually intended to do it over summer, but due to the bushfires near Harrietville, we didn’t go, as it’s not really safe to go driving through a bushfire and of course, parts of the road were closed. Unfortunately, the road is still sometimes closed while they work to repair it (if you’re going up that way, check VicRoads for the latest road closure information). Even though it is not closed on weekends, it is down to one lane and we decided that we would drive the Great Alpine Road as far as Omeo, detour to our bed & breakfast for the night, and the continue our trip along the Bogong High Plains Road to avoid the construction.

Now, Australia doesn’t really have true mountains, being such a geologically old landmass. But the Great Dividing Range is as good as you’re going to get in this country and there are some snow covered peaks up there. I love mountains, so I was excited to see it.

Don’t ask me why they call it “Alpine”. You’d think they could have come up with a more creative name instead of using one that was already taken. It doesn’t really look anything like the real Alps, but it is still very beautiful. I was so busy just enjoying the scenery that I didn’t take a ton of pictures, but I have a few that I would like to share with you.

One of my favourite kind of mountain or wilderness landscapes is the kind with a beautiful blue river and lots of trees.

One of my favourite kind of mountain or wilderness landscapes is the kind with a beautiful blue river and lots of trees.

Be prepared for lots of windy roads!

Be prepared for lots of windy roads! Our SUV got a great workout on this drive. I recommend trading drivers now and then, as it is challenging driving and it’s hard to enjoy the scenery when you are concentrating on the road.

The landscapes along the Great Alpine Road seem ever changing, from quiet woodland to rocky outcroppings to rolling hills and farmland.

The landscapes along the Great Alpine Road seem ever changing, from quiet woodland to rocky outcroppings to rolling hills and farmland.

We found a rest area and lookout point here. It's called Conner's Hill and is the first glimpse of real mountainous terrain.

We found a rest area and lookout point here. It’s called Conner’s Hill and is the first glimpse of real mountainous terrain.

One of the stopping points along the Great Alpine Road is a town called Omeo. I thought it would be bigger than it was, but it was a tiny, sleepy town with not much going on. We arrived there at about 4pm. Our bed & breakfast hosts had told us that for dinner, we could either bring our own food and cook it there, eat at the Blue Duck Inn “in town”, which we assumed was Omeo, or they could cook for us. We had figured on eating at the Blue Duck Inn, but couldn’t find it anywhere.

So we stopped at the cuckoo clock shop to look around while we decided what to do. My phone hadn’t had signal since leaving Bairnsdale, so my GPS wasn’t working and we weren’t even 100% sure how to get to our bed & breakfast.

The cuckoo clock shop was run by a sweet little old lady who told us all her clock were imported from Bavaria. She had SO many of them! They were all gorgeous and I would have loved to have gotten one, but as our budget for the weekend was a measly $500, we had to pass. We learned later that she had bought the shop as a business for her daughter to run, as she wanted her daughter to stay in Omeo, but the girl had met a man in Melbourne and moved there, leaving the shop for her mother to take care of. She sells maybe two or three clocks a year and the shop is propped up by the hardware store in town, which is run by her husband. How sad is that? We did buy some Christmas ornaments from her, though, since last Christmas I was very sad that we had left all our ornaments in America and didn’t have anything to decorate a tree with.

We then went to the Foodworks grocery store, which was one of the saddest grocery stores I’ve ever been to, and the lady working there told us that the Blue Duck Inn was actually in a town called Anglers Rest. She then proceeded to tell what a great restaurant it was and that she’d even had a customer that day who had eaten lunch there. Another customer chimed in that she knew someone who had eaten dinner there the night before. (Having grown up in a town not much bigger than Omeo, I can appreciate this sort of conversation.) With all the rave reviews from locals, we decided we’d try to find it and off we went.

It is here that we diverged from the Great Alpine Road and headed up Omeo Highway, which is even windier than the Great Alpine Road. I was glad we still had some daylight to drive that road.

We arrived at the Blue Duck Inn around 5pm, only to find they didn’t open for dinner until 6pm. So with a sigh, we continued to drive on to our bed & breakfast.

Now I’m going to take a commercial break to tell you about this bed & breakfast, because it is the worst accommodation I have ever stayed in. I’ve stayed in some $30 a night roach motels and some 5-star luxury hotels and everything in between, so I’ve pretty much seen it all, but this place takes the cake.

It’s called Payne’s Hut and it’s near Shannonvale, but really it’s in the middle of nowhere, which is why we picked it. If you’re going to get away from the city, you might as well go all the way and get as far away as you can.

I’ll start with the good bits to take the sting out of the rest of what I’m going to write. Our hosts had actually prepared supper for us. I had forgotten to call ahead and tell them our dinner plans, so they graciously cooked us a wonderful three course meal. (Yes, there is an extra charge for that!) They are very, very good cooks! And really, they are quite nice people, so I feel a bit mean talking bad about their place, especially because they built it themselves and are very proud of it.

But the fact that they built it themselves sort of shows. The entire place is off the grid and powered by solar panels and generators. We were staying in the hut and, as it turns out, the hut isn’t connected to the generator. We were asked not to use the lights because they hadn’t had much sunlight in a while. The room had about four single watt light bulbs and it was so dark in there that it was hard to find anything in our suitcase. There was also no place for us to put our suitcase, except on the lone chair we were provided. We were told there was a flashlight in the room… and there was. But it didn’t work!

It was FREEZING cold inside. There was a gas heater in the corner and even turned on full blast, it could not heat the space. All night long, we shivered, despite being dressed in layers and the blankets piled high. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep.

But the real sticking point for me was our inability to have a shower. The water appears to be gravity fed, which means there is no water pressure. Might be okay for someone with short hair, but when you have long hair, you can’t rinse anything out of your hair without water pressure. And because it was so cold, there was no hot water. Who wants to have a cold shower when you’re already freezing cold? No one!

Then there was the issue of the power outlets. THERE WERE NO POWER OUTLETS! Not a one. So even if I had showered, I still would have died of hypothermia from being stuck with wet hair and unable to use a blow dryer.

We hoped that maybe a nice, hot breakfast would make up for it and had high hopes, given our lovely dinner the night before. But it was not to be. Breakfast was bread and jam and there was not even a real toaster. To toast the bread, you had to do it over a flame. A flame has two settings: off and on. Hope you like burnt toast!

For the privilege of staying in accommodations that were the equivalent of if we had slept in a tent in the wilderness for free, they charged us $230. I wasn’t expecting the Hilton, for Pete’s sake, but even a roach motel comes with power outlets! We left there in a terrible mood, feeling ripped off and like they had grossly misrepresented their property on their website.

Anyway… on to a happier subject. From there, we went up the Bogong High Plains Road. And for the first time since coming to Australia, I saw SNOW!!!! Yay!!!!

Yay, snow!

Yay, snow!

So beautiful!

So beautiful!

Partway through our drive along the Bogong High Plains Road, we came upon a town called Bogong. And there was a sign saying there was a hydroelectric plant there with an information center. H said he just HAD to go see this. I thought it would be boring, but it was actually very interesting.

The power plant is owned by AGL and is part of the Kiewa Hydroelectric Scheme. The water in the photos above is part of the first reservoir in the system of damns. The Bogong plant is about halfway through it and has two huge turbines that are powered by what looks like a rather small creek outside. What I thought was neat is that they have a system whereby they pump water back up to the top and reuse it again.

This creek produces massive amounts of electricity.

This creek produces massive amounts of electricity.

The lady working there told us how they worked and we had a long chat with her about renewable energy sources and such. She told us the plant actually didn’t run on Sundays because Victoria generates more electricity than it needs. With the shrinking of the manufacturing industry, there is far less need for electricity. And as for solar panels, it’s great if you want to use them to generate your own electricity, but they don’t really want you feeding it back into the grid because they already have too much. It was very informative and if you are ever in the area, it’s worth stopping in for a visit.

From there, we drove to the town of Mount Beauty, which lies beneath Mount Bogong, the one of the highest peaks in Australia.

Mount Bogong

Mount Bogong- I love the ring of clouds around the peak.

Mount Beauty is the town down below the mountain. I bet it's a really nice place to live!

Mount Beauty is the town down below the mountain. I bet it’s a really nice place to live!

From Mount Beauty, the drive to Wangaratta- the end (or start, if you come from the other direction) of the Great Alpine Road- it is not too far. We stopped and bought some HUE chestnuts from a roadside stand on the way.

As our long weekend away came to a close, we drove back to Melbourne feeling sad to leave it all behind.

I know I criticise Australia a lot, but mostly I criticise the people and the cities. When it comes to Australia’s natural beauty, it’s hard to think of any other place that could beat it.

Getting out of the city and away from stupid city people and city traffic and city noise reminded me how much I do like this country. It made me realise that I should stop trying to make myself like city living and just start working towards building a future where we will be able to move away from big cities. As a city, Melbourne has some good things going for it, but it’s just not for me. I’d much rather be living on Raymond Island or up in the mountains- somewhere small, quiet, and peaceful. And Australia has plenty of amazing places like that. I hope that soon we can go discover more of them.

Healesville Sanctuary

3 Jun

For months, I have been dying to go to Healesville Sanctuary, a small zoo in the Dandenong Ranges which has all the characteristic animals of Australia and even offers opportunities to get up close and personal with some of them.

Finally, two weeks ago, after seeing all the cool pictures of the animals posted on Stumble Down Under, I made it a point to go and spend a whole day there, and now I’m finally getting around to posting some of my pictures (which are admittedly not as good).

Previously, their Magic Moments close encounters were $35 per person, which I always thought was just too much, but now that is off-peak season, they have dropped their priced down to $10 per person. As much as I love koalas (they are, without question, my favourite Aussie animal), spending $10 just to get a photograph with one that a handler is holding seemed like kind of a rip off. You’re not allowed to touch them at all because it stresses them out. So I opted for a Magic Moment with my second favourite animal, a kangaroo, where you get to pet and feed them. More on that in a minute.

First things first.

Upon walking through the gates, you immediately come to the emu enclosure. I’ve seen them at a distance in the wild at Wilsons Promontory, but up close, they are a lot more impressive.

emu

Next was the koala enclosure, where trees have been cut into Y shapes to give them sleeping spots.

sleepingkoala

Of course, some koalas turn up their noses at the manmade beds and prefer to sleep on branches as thin as dental floss. You would think this little guy would be uncomfortable, but apparently, koalas have hard pads on their bums that enable them to sit and sleep comfortably on even the thinnest branches.

koalasleeping

Next, we went to the kangaroo enclosure, where they have wallabies, grey kangaroos, and red kangaroos. The red kangaroos are the ones that can grow up to six feet tall, but only the males are ginger in colour, whereas the females are a bit smaller and are a blueish-grey. The grey kangaroos are a bit smaller than the red kangaroos, but the males can be twice as big as the females.

kangaroo

On our way through the park, we passed by some brolgas. Brolgas are also known as Australian Cranes and they are known for their intricate mating dances. They also have a very modernised take on gender roles, with both the male and female helping to build the nest, and incubating and guarding the young chicks.

We passed by the wombats on our way to the Tasmanian Devil enclosure. I adore wombats. They are so cute and cuddly looking, although I’ve read they can be aggressive when threatened and have actually caused severe injury to people. I got pretty up close and personal with one at Wilsons Promontory, who didn’t seem to mind my company, but had I known then that wombats can and will maul people, I would have probably not gotten so close. In any case, this pair seemed pretty calm and they were polite enough to pose together for me for a picture.

wombatpair

Although I find Tasmanian devils very ugly, I was keen to see one because it (along with the platypus, of which I could not get a good photo) was one of the few iconic Australian animals that I had not yet seen anywhere. The Tasmanian devils have suffered a few hard knocks, first becoming extinct on the mainlaind, probably due to the introduction of dingoes, and are now threatened by a contagious cancer called ‘devil facial tumour disease‘ which they transmit through biting each other and which causes tumours to form around the mouth. The tumours eventually interefer with feeding and the afflicted devil then starves to death. Poor things!

tasmanian devil

We made a stop in the reptile area. I didn’t get any pictures because the lighting was dim and they were all behind glass, obviously. They had Australia’s 10 deadliest snakes. Number two was the eastern brown snake and number one was the inland taipan. I have a problem with this, because while the taipan is more venomous than the brown, no known fatalities have ever been attributed to the taipan, as it doesn’t come in contact with humans that often, whereas the brown is attributed the most human fatalities, being found in populated areas and being very fast and aggressive. The taipans are fairly docile and only attack if provoked, whereas brown snakes need very little provocation at all and will even chase a person down. If the list is going to be called the “deadliest” snakes, then the brown should be number one. The taipan should only be number one if the list is called “most venomous” snakes. Very misleading!!!

Anyway, reptiles disgust me, especially snakes, so onto more pleasant animals!

One of my favourite things about Australia is all the unique and colourful bird life. I especially love all the varieties of parrots, so when I heard that you could actually feed and hold them in the parrot enclosure, I went straight there. After getting some nectar from the keeper, I ended up with two green lorikeets in my hand. I didn’t even get pooped on! Here are some of the awesome birds in the parrot enclosure.

A red-tailed black cockatoo, who was very friendly and very interested in the girl sitting below him with a shiny cell phone. Apparently, these birds are very well suited to aviculture, but can be very expensive. In the US, they are rare to have as pets and to get a hand-raised bird, you’d be looking at paying five figures for one.

blackcockatoo

This pretty cockatiel (also a popular pet bird) posed for a picture. My family had a cockatiel once when I was a kid. I remember I hated that bird because he would sit on my shoulder and bite my ear really hard and pull my hair. I was also deeply disappointed that he was too dumb to talk and all he could do was whistle “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. I guess I prefer them better in the wild!

cockatiel

The birds I got to feed were scaly-breasted lorikeets, so named for their yellow breast feathers which look like scales in contrast to the surrounding green feathers. These are EXTREMELY noisy birds and they are constantly screeching to one another. They are very playful and the first bird I attracted was more interested in showing off its acrobatics that coming to sit in my hand like a good bird to get its dinner. It only came and sat in my hand when another lorikeet landed on me and had a better position to get at the nectar.

Also in the enclosure were a pair of Ecletus parrots. They are the most sexually dimorphic of all parrot species, having completely different plumages. The males are green, while the females are red. For a long time, they were thought to be two distinct species of bird. The females are very defensive of their nesting sites and will fight off other females, even to the death, although as pets they are very calm.

ecletus

Following my close encounters with parrots of all kinds, we proceed to the bird show, which was pretty cool.

As we sat waiting, an ibis came around, pecking up all the crumbs people had left behind. The ibises roam free around the park, cleaning up after people.

Included in the bird show were several species of cockatoos (I love them!!!), including my favourite, the sulphur-crested cockatoo, of which I couldn’t get a good photo (it’s not uncommon to see flocks of them in the city, so maybe another time!), as well as a Major Mitchell cockatoo, which I had never see before. They have a pretty pale pink plumage with a crest that is bright red and yellow when fully displayed.

majormitchellcockatoo

Another interesting bird was the black-breasted buzzard (or kite), which is known for slamming stones onto large eggs to break them open in order to open them up and eat the contents.

buzzard

H loved the wedge-tailed eagle, which is his favourite bird. He had a huge grin on his face the whole time the eagle was flying around, especially when it landed right in front of him.The wedge-tailed eagle is the largest bird of prey in Australia and also one of the largest in the world, with a wingspan of up to 227cm.

wedgetailedeagle

After the bird show, it was Magic Moments time, so we went back to the kangaroos so I could pet and feed and love them. I was so excited! We got to feed the female Kangaroo Island kangaroos. The males can be a bit aggressive, so we weren’t allowed to feed or pet them. I fed a 15-year-old female named Josie, who was mostly blind. That’s pretty old for a kangaroo! She was very sedate and ate slowly and didn’t mind being petted at all. At one point, a second kangaroo came over to partake in the handouts, so I had two to pet for a while. From a distance, their fur looks quite coarse, but it is actually extremely soft and plush. I just wanted to bury my face in it and take them home and use them for pillows! It definitely the coolest part of the day.

The only things left to see at that point were the dingoes and the wetlands track.

The dingoes at Healesville Sanctuary are treated awfully well. Let me tell you, they are living the high life. Not only are all their needs provided for, but they also get a lot of perks that other animals don’t get, including walks around the park and massages! Heck, they live better than most people!

Dingoes are descended from the Asian grey wolf and have only been in Australia for about 4000-5000 years. Only about 75% of dingoes are ginger coloured. The rest are black, white, or tan. Unfortunately, true dingoes are threatened because of interbreeding with domestic dogs.

Lastly, we took a stroll through the wetlands track, which is a marshy area with all different kinds of Australian wetlands birds. Very pretty and peaceful, and as it was only an hour before closing, we were the only ones there. It was a nice change from the crowds earlier and it was pleasant to end the day on a quiet note of solitude.

Wilsons Promontory

14 Mar

Over the Labour Day weekend, we took a trip down to Wilsons Promontory, the southernmost point of mainland Australia, which is also a national park.

It’s about a two and a half hour drive from Melbourne, through mostly scenic countryside and a few small towns.

promcountry

Prom Country

We opted to stay at a B&B in Yanakie. It was a little more expensive than the last one we stayed at on the Great Ocean Road and the owners didn’t seem as friendly. The rooms were extremely small, but fortunately there was a large great room stocked with reading material and games, so we weren’t forced to stay in our cramped room.

When we arrived at the Prom, we were given a park map and were disappointed to see that, due to fire and flood damage, a good 80-90% of the park was closed. Maybe that’s why entry was free? Unfortunately, that included the entire southern half of park, most of the east side and some of the west side. Must-see places like Whiskey Bay and Mt. Oberon were inaccessible. The trail along the Tidal River had been washed away and not yet rebuilt. Even more disappointing was that we discovered people are not allowed to feed the parrots anymore, which I had really been looking forward to. H had told me that you used to be able to get bird seed and if you held out your hand, the parrots would just flock to you and you’d have both arms covered in parrots. I would have loved to do that because I really quite like parrots.

wilsonspromontory

Still recovering from the 2009 brush fires

parrot

One of the parrots that I would have loved to feed!

galah

Two cute galahs. I love cockatoos!

So… what to do? We went to Squeaky Beach and walked along there for a bit. It’s called that because the sand is made up of very rounded granite crystals and squeak when you walk on them. Being a holiday weekend, it was packed with families, despite the cool weather. We then walked down to Norman Bay and saw part of the Tidal River, but that too was very crowded. We also attempted part of the Lilly Pilly Gully walk, but it started to get too dark and we decided we should head back because we didn’t have any flashlights and it’s not really safe to hike in the dark on an unfamiliar trail.

lillypillygully

In the Lilly Pilly Gully. All the trees are still blackened from the fires, but the undergrowth has regenerated nicely.

On our way out of the park, as dusk was settling in, we noticed the animals becoming more active and started seeing a lot of wallabies on the side of the road. At one point, we drove past a clearing and saw about six or seven kangaroos and two emus. Finally! I’ve been here for two months and I’ve finally gotten to see a kangaroo in the wild!

wallaby

Wallaby along the side of the road

A bit further down the road, I saw a kangaroo and two wombats and was able to walk right up close to them and get some pictures with them. They appeared unphased by my presence, probably very used to humans. It almost made up for not getting to feed the parrots.

kangarooandwombat

A kangaroo and one of the wombats enjoying their dinner.

The next day, we decided we’d hike up Mt Bishop. We had seen signs for it near Lilly Pilly Gully and were told it was about two hours one way. It wasn’t a huge mountain, only 320 meters or so, but we were told by other hikers that it offered a great view at the top from both sides, so we figured we’d give it a go. It was a pretty easy hike up there and back and the view was spectacular. And after that, we decided to head home, knowing we’d be facing heavy traffic with all the holidaymakers returning from their weekend away.

mtbishopsummit

View from one side of the summit of Mt Bishop

mtbishopsummit

The view from the other side of the summit of Mt Bishop

On the whole, though, the Prom is nothing compared to the Great Ocean Road in terms of natural beauty, but I may be judging it too harshly, since I haven’t gotten to see any of the really good attractions there. I’d go back again when they reopen more of the park and give it another chance.

Why I’m opposed to reusable shopping bags

29 Feb

As promised, here is my rant about reusable shopping bags.

When H and I were discussing our budget problem with the grocery bill (see preceding post), he suggested I do all the shopping at Aldi. Aside from the fact that Aldi isn’t anywhere nearby or convenient, they make you bring your own shopping bags. I didn’t shop at Aldi in America for this reason and they are no more endearing to me here in Australia.

When I explained to him my aversion to Aldi, he went into Typical Australian mode and started lecturing me about the environment. We’ve had similar discussions before. The last one was about the usefulness of recycling paper (ask me about that one later!) and now it’s about plastic bags.

Australians have, perhaps rightfully, earned a reputation for being environmentally conscious. Americans, on the other hand, are known for being, well… not.

It’s possible that while I do actually care a great deal about the environment, I may reaffirm this stereotype anyway with the politically incorrect stuff I’m about to say, as I don’t buy into all the latest “green” trends, especially ones promoted by the government or by corporations.

So when someone, even my darling, beloved H, tells me I should purchase and use reusable shopping bags, my answer is usually, “Screw the environment!”

(Just not in the way you probably think I mean.)

I happen to reuse those plastic shopping for a wide variety of different purposes. If I spend money at a store, I demand to be given a token shopping bag that costs a fraction of a cent in which to carry my purchases to my car and then into my home. I notice that there are several chains in Australia that do not provide shopping bags (like Officeworks and Bunnings) and I refuse to patronise those businesses. I believe that it is not unreasonable to expect a business to provide that sort of common courtesy to me, The Customer, and I don’t like shopping at places that refuse to show me any gratitude for spending my money there by offering me cheap plastic sacks.

I realise I may now have to bite the bullet and shop at Aldi now and then just to get the grocery bill down. I figure if I buy enough stuff at Woolworth’s, then I can take my carefully gathered stash of plastic bags to Aldi to reuse them there and if I am very careful not to rip them, I could possibly get a second use out of some of them, though probably not all of them.

But there is also the problem that I will actually have to remember to take them with me, which is asking a lot, because I am extremely forgetful and often forget even more important things, like the credit card or coupons or the shopping list. I think the chances are high that I will frequently forget to bring my own bags to Aldi.

So before anybody starts going on about how reusable bags are so much better for the environment, it’s worth pointing out a few things.

Aldi sells bags for “customer convenience”, but it’s neither convenient nor green. It’s just a money maker.

First, if I drive all the way to Aldi (and I have to drive, as I can’t carry a week’s worth of groceries with me on the tram) and I arrive and find I have to go all the way back home to get my own shopping bags, I would imagine I’m leaving a much bigger carbon footprint than I would if Aldi just provided me with plastic shopping bags like a normal grocery store should.

Secondly, I hate China. I’ll probably get around to making a post about how much I hate China someday, but for now, I’ll just say that I hate that almost everything we buy is made in China. This includes reusable shopping bags. I don’t know how much the Chinese are polluting the planet with their reusable shopping bag factories, what with their lax regulations on pollution, but I bet it’s a hell of a lot more than I pollute the earth with my plastic shopping bags that I reuse until they break.

A polypropylene factory

Even if they are not made in China, no matter what type of bag you choose, it does have an impact on the environment. The environmental impacts of farming cotton, even organic cotton, are well known and you’d have to use that cotton tote 171 times just to break even on the environmental damage done by its production. Creating polyester is a very energy intensive process and polypropylene bags are made from fossil fuels, just as plastic bags are.

Thirdly, plastic bags do end up in landfills and they will continue to end up in landfills regardless. I mainly reuse plastic shopping bags as rubbish bin liners. This saves me money (which I obviously need to be doing), as buying bin liners is sort of expensive. And no matter whether I buy a bin liner or reuse a shopping bag, the trash still goes into a plastic bag of some sort which ends up in a landfill. Everybody out there using reusable shopping bags is still throwing an awful lot of plastic away every year. And when your reusable bags wear out… well, they end up in a landfill as well.

I also have some health concerns about reusable bags. I don’t buy a lot of meat, but when I do, I tend not to save the bags that the raw meat came home in. Packages of meat do leak and they are covered with germs that can make people very sick. I throw those bags away for a very good reason. With a reusable bag, who knows what germs are hanging around in that bag? You might use it for raw meat one week and end up putting raw produce in there next week. I know I’m a bit of a germophobe, but I’d rather just not take the risk. And frankly, I have enough laundry to do already without adding a load of shopping bags to the mix. (Nevermind the extra water, detergent, and electricity that uses.)

And a lot of the bags made in China have also been found to contain lead (Big surprise! Doesn’t everything in China contain lead?) That’s not something I want touching my food.

Everyone loves a good fashion statement

Reusable shopping bags are more of a trend than anything truly helpful to the environment. They are just another product for stores to sell, conveniently imprinted with their logo. And people buy it because “green” is in and they want to make a statement about how enlightened they are about the environment. What a load of crap.

If you want to help the environment, you should definitely reuse where you can, but that doesn’t mean going out and buying a new product which has to be manufactured through filthy industrial practices that pollute just as much or worse than regular plastic bags. Reuse your plastic shopping bags and don’t take more than you need. It’s that simple. And if that makes me an American who doesn’t care about the environment, so be it.

Phillip Island and the Penguin Parade

31 Jan

The second Saturday after arriving in Australia, H took me to Phillip Island to see the Penguin Parade.

Phillip Island is home to a large colony of Fairy Penguins and every evening at sunset, they come ashore en masse with their day’s catch to take back to their rookeries to feed their young.

We arrived early and went first to the Nobbies, which has spectacular scenery and we even saw a few penguins in their holes peering out at all the visitors.

The Penguin Parade is when all the penguins come in. Most people go to the main viewing area where literally thousands of penguins can be seen coming up the beach. We went on the ultimate tour, which was a small group of eight plus two tour guides, and went to a smaller beach on the other side of the island. We were equipped with night vision goggles and sat there watching the little penguins coming up the beach. It was really quite something! We saw probably about a hundred. One penguin even waddled right up next to H!

We then walked back to the nature center, passing the rookeries along the way and seeing penguins waddling all over the place. They didn’t mind our presence at all. We also saw quite a few wallabies, which were so adorable I seriously considered capturing one to take home with me!

This was probably one of the coolest touristy things I have ever done in all my travels. I’d like to go back and see it again and also make time during the day to visit the Koala Conservatory. (I want to take one of those home, too!)