Tazzie Fun

August 31, 2013

Bicheno, Tasmania- In order to post this blog I am sitting outside the reception area of our accommodations, using our 30 minutes of free Internet access. Hopefully it will work!

We have had a fabulous first day in Tasmania! Jim rallied the troops early because there was so much we could do today. We were on the road up Mt. Wellington shortly after 7 AM. This was a bit of a challenge for the boys who were out until after 1 AM, but they did not complain!

It was a clear morning and our view from Mt. Wellington (1291 m) was spectacular, plus we had the place to ourselves! We didn’t linger because it was a windy 3 degrees C. We took our photos and headed down the mountain.

Our next destination was the Salamanca Market. Jim and I just missed it the first time we were in Hobart and Liz had done some Tasmania reading before arriving and this was on her list of Things To Do. We arrived just as it was officially opening and we spent 90 minutes looking at over 300 vendor stalls! Everything from apples to zucchini and everything in between, with food and non-food items. Most vendors proudly promoted the fact that their wares were locally grown or made. We ate brekky there and we bought a few souvenirs. It was a great day to wander this wonderful market! But it was time to move on.

Jim and I were excited to take the kids to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) a museum we so enjoyed when we were first in Hobart. We tried not to be too excited about this place, but that was difficult because we had such an incredible experience here. Well, we didn’t need to worry. The kids were hooked after about 10 minutes in the place! We were amazed, disconcerted, grossed-out, awed, confused, surprised and delighted by what we saw. Jim and I were surprised to find that some of the art installations that we remembered from our first visit had been replaced with something new! I was a bit sad that my favorite water wall was now idle while a trampoline with bells attached to it took its place! The kids enjoyed jumping on the trampoline trying to get the biggest bell to ring! One of the most unusual art installations was the excrement machine. A series of 7 suspended glass vessels re-created the digestive process, resulting with poop being excreted at the last vessel! This installation needs to be feed daily and there is a slightly nasty aroma associated with this art project!

Once we finished viewing the exhibits, we ate lunch at cafe at the museum, choosing to eat outside, overlooking the harbor area. We were entertained by 3 chickens and a rooster roaming the outside eating area, when a male peacock showed up. He paraded around the grassy area, ending up by the glass windows near the gift shop. Before too long the female peacock arrived and the show started. The male raised and spread his beautiful feathers and strutted around for the lady. He made all his mating moves and she did not give him the time of day! All of us having lunch outside stopped eating to watch this amazing mating ritual. Even the wait staff was grabbing their cameras to document this event! We watched until the female jumped up onto wall and took the wind out of the male’s sails! It was amazing!

Once again it was time to move on! After a stop at the Cellar Door at MONA to purchase some wine and beer that is made on site, we started our journey north to the town of Bicheno. We stopped a couple of times to stretch our legs and arrived here about 5 PM. After carrying all of our luggage into our 3-bedroom bungalow, we took a walk down by the ocean where we found a great rock formation which caused a great wave splash when the waves rolled in!

Our reason for spending the night in Becheno was to see the Little Penguins come in from the ocean to their nests for the night. These are the same type of penguins that we saw at Phillip Island, but on a much smaller scale. We saw about 15 penguins, but we were part of a small group of people on this tour which let us get very close to the little penguins. The 2 guides shared lots of information and it was a delightful experience!

So that was our day. We did so many wonderful things and had great weather in which to do them. The high temps hit 19 degrees!

Tomorrow is another day full of potential things to do so we hope to get another early start. We’ll see how long the kids do these early mornings before revolting!

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Tazzie!

First off, Liz arrived this morning, about 24 hours later than originally planned, but better late than never!

We decided to give her a good intro to Melbourne by walking along the river to the CBD. Today is Melbourne’s 178 birthday and I found a flyer that highlighted some special offers that were available today in celebration of Melbourne Day, one of which was a coupon for Buy One Get One Free entry to the Eureka Skydeck. I’ve taken some other visitors to the 88th floor of the Eureka building for a 360 degree view of the city and a sunny day and a coupon made this the perfect destination. Our walk along the river gave Liz a chance to get acquainted with this city and then looking down on it from the 88th floor, I was able to point out some landmarks. However, Corey and Mike were with us and you may remember that neither of them do well with heights! They once again rose above their fears and were glad to get this perspective of the city.

From the Skydeck we walked to the hub of the CBD and had lunch at a restaurant that featured beers from some small craft breweries. The lunch menu featured kangaroo sliders so we ordered that as an entree (appetizer) and enjoyed that Aussie treat! We needed to keep our eye on the clock as we had to leave for the airport at 3:30 PM, so we boarded the #8 tram to take us back to the apartment.

Jim got home from work around 3 and we squeezed all of our luggage and 5 bodies into the car for a tight ride to the airport. The traffic was much heavier than we thought it would be, but we made it with a bit of spare time. As you might imagine, Liz was thrilled to be getting back on an airplane! The Melbourne airport has some wine tasting tables set up in the gate areas, but they have always been closed when we were there~until tonight! Liz and I each sampled a nice white wine and then headed for our gate.

It takes just over an hour to fly from Melbourne to Hobart, Tasmania. We collected our luggage, picked up the rental car, and were at our hotel by the waterfront around 8:30 PM. Corey and Mike sat next to a guy on the plane who was from Hobart and he gave a suggestion of a restaurant where we could get a good fish and chips dinner and watch the footy game. The restaurant was around the corner from the hotel and we had a good meal.

A quick walk around the harbor area after dinner finished the evening for some of us. When we pulled up to our hotel, we noticed a jumping restaurant/ bar right across the street. The boys are there now and we can hear the live music here in our room! Great!

We have a full day planned for tomorrow, but you may have to wait to read about it because we are going to very small towns or remote areas for the next 4 nights and probably won’t have Internet access. So don’t worry about us if it is a while until a new blog entry appears.

Cheers!

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Critters and Beer

Today was another adventure with Corey and Mike. We drove away from Melbourne shortly after 9 AM and headed towards the Yarra River Valley. We made a quick stop in the Visitor Information Center in Upper Fern Gully and learned that the hike I hoped to take was closed for bridge repairs. We read the literature and checked the map and got a new hike in mind. We found a car park near a trail that went to a waterfall so we parked and headed to Olinda Falls. Many times I have been overwhelmed with the quality and workmanship in the trail construction but today I was under-welmed! The trail was very over grown and quite muddy and rough. As we approached the trail, I  realized that there was a picnic area nearby so everyone must drive to the falls, they don’t hike, hence the trail being so overgrown!

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Destination-Olinda Falls.

We took a little detour on the trail and found a large mountain ash tree near a gravel road that had shredding bark hanging down within arms reach. After testing out the strength of the bark, the boys had fun swinging back and forth like Tarzan on a vine.

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Mike on the bark swing.

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Corey’s turn!

The falls was bigger than we were lead to believe it would be and we enjoyed our time at the falls platform. The hike out was a gentle uphill for 2k and by the time we returned to the car we were ready for lunch.

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Olinda Falls

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Moss-coated bridge on the trail.

Our plan today included 2 stops at local breweries to sample the local brews. We went to the Hargreaves Hill Brewery, which also had a good reputation as a lunch spot. The boys ordered a flight of their beer which they enjoyed with a delicious lunch.

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The flights are right on time!

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Then lunch arrived.

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Two full, happy hikers!

Our next destination was the Healesville Sanctuary to see some Aussie animals up close. We saw a fabulous raptor show and were amazed when a wild wedge-tailed eagle showed up to defend his territory when the resident wedge-tailed eagle came out! At the end of the show, we talked to one of the bird handlers and he said they have seen the wild eagle a few times before, but he had never swooped so low to try to get the resident eagle to move on! WOW~this was exciting!

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The resident wedge-tailed eagle.

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The approach of the wild wedge-tailed eagle.

We saw emus, dingos, wombats, tasmanian devils, koalas, a lyrebird, and kangaroos. The boys had an opportunity to feed the kangaroos like Jim and I did early in our stay here, and they loved the chance to interact with roos. After a great couple of hours at the Sanctuary, we drove to the second brewery for the day, the White Rabbit Brewery.

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Corey with a kangaroo.

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Mike and a kangaroo.

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This emu welcomed us to the Sanctuary.

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The rare lyrebird.

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One of the koalas in the Healesville Sanctuary.

At the White Rabbit we were greeted by an enthusiastic bar keeper who gave us a fun tasting and talk of his beers. After tasting 4 of their creations, the boys each ordered a pint of their favorite and we sat on the deck in the sunshine reviewing the fun we had all day. 

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Learning about the White Rabbit Brewery.

We ran out time to visit a winery, but that was OK, we were quite satisfied with our day. We encountered quite a bit of traffic for the last 8k of our drive home and the rain started as we approached our apartment. 

Mike has been on a quest to find an American cup of coffee and everyday seems to bring him a bit closer. We are not coffee drinkers so we are no help to him when comes to what to order, so he has been working his way through the coffee options at some of the local cafes. The short black wasn’t right, neither was an expresso. The waitress in Port Campbell worked with him to try to get it right and came closer and this morning’s purchase was pretty good. I think he really wants a pot of drip coffee made, but they don’t do that here! The search will continue!

Liz is on a plane headed to AU and for all her trouble she was upgraded to business class so we are hoping she is able to get a good night’s sleep on the place. She is due to arrive here at 10:00 tomorrow (Friday) morning, a day late. We are then heading back to the airport late in the afternoon for our 6 PM flight to Hobart, Tasmania! She is a good traveler, so we are confident that she will handle all this travel with a smile! 

Oops, almost forgot the weather update. It has been warm here! Yesterday and today the 20 C. barrier was broken, that is 68 F. The fruit trees, the wattle and fields of canola are all in bloom and it is beautiful!

G’Day Mates!

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Wallabies and Whales!

First off, I have edited yesterday’s blog to include some photos, so you may want to revisit that entry to get the whole picture of our day!

Today’s blog is brought to you by the letter “W” for wallaby and whale! We had an exciting start to our day when we were driving away from Port Campbell and a very large wallaby hopped across the road about 50 meters in front of us! I think it was a wallaby and not a kangaroo because it was very dark in color, like a wallaby. But if it was indeed a wallaby, it was the largest wallaby I’ve seen! No photos, I was driving and it all happened too fast for Corey to get his camera in position.

We still had a few more attractions along the GOR to see this morning, so we made 4 stops: The Arch, London Bridge, The Grotto and Bay of Islands. It was a beautiful morning to be along the coast and we enjoyed the low morning sun on the rock formations. Bay of Islands was a new stop for me and it was one more awesome spot. Many of the large rock islands were home to lots of seabirds, which made it an interesting spot.

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Stunning London Bridge in the morning sun.

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The Grotto

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Bay of Islands

I decided to take a chance that the whales would still be in Warrnambool, so we drove the 40 minutes west to Logan’s Beach and we were in for a treat! Just as we arrived one whale was in close and flipping her tail out of the water and then we realized that there were lots of whales in the area. We watched as a pod of 2 mothers and 2 calves circled around and around. Other singles and pairs made themselves known by surfacing or spouting from their blow hole! We must have seen 10 different whales. And then the surfers showed up! We had a hard time trying to decide whether to watch the surfers or the whales, both were so entertaining!

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Synchronized spouting!

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Surfer in the foreground, whale in the middle.

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Four whales playing in the currents.

As noon approached we returned to the car and decided to go to the Otway TreeTop Walk, something new for me, but certainly something I’ve seen advertised a good bit. This drive took us through lots of lush, green, rolling farmland with a variety of cattle dotting the hillsides.

We ate a quick lunch at the cafe at the TreeTop walk and then headed into the rainforest. A trail on the forest floor took us to a side trail that was a “prehistoric” trail, with good-sized dinosaur replicas tucked into the forest. It made for fun photos but we moved through it pretty quickly, anxious to get to the TreeTop walk. This walk is a 600 meter steel walkway that is 30 meters above the forest floor, in the canopy of the very tall eucalyptus trees. Now I knew that heights have never been Corey’s thing, but I didn’t know that Mike had these same feelings about heights. They both were very brave and walked the whole walk, including the outside, spiral staircase to a viewing tower. It was rather entertaining for me to watch these 2 hold on for dear life and mostly refuse to look over the edge to the forest floor! Neither of them let their fears and apprehensions get in the way of trying something new, but both were mighty happy when they had 2 feet firmly planted on the ground once again! It was a great walk!

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A dinosaur peeking around a tree!

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Corey and Mike heading out on the TreeTop walk.

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Approaching the dreaded tower climb!

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Hanging on for dear life at the top of the tower.

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Maybe one peek over the edge won’t hurt!

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Corey and Mike on the homestretch leg of the TreeTop walk.

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Beautiful fern trees, one of my favorites, on the forest floor.

After the TreeTop walk, both boys were exhausted so we loaded back into the car and they napped for a bit while I drove home!

We have had a terrific 2 days along the southern coast of Victoria and look forward to more new adventures with the boys. Our friend, Liz, was supposed to arrive tomorrow morning, but after several delays and “on the plane, off the plane” episodes, her flight from LA to AU was cancelled and she will try again tomorrow for a Friday morning arrival. How frustrating!

Cheers!

Fabulous Fun on the GOR

Edited to add photos on Aug. 28.

One might think that that I would be bored on my 5th trip on the Great Ocean Road (GOR), but that is not the case at all! Each time is a little bit different because I am with different people and the weather and tide conditions change. And there is usually something new to me each trip.

Corey, Mike and I left Melbourne shortly after 7 AM, heading east, when most of the rush hour traffic was heading west. After an hour’s drive we stopped to the Angelsea Golf Club because Corey had a report that there were quite a few kangaroos that hung out on the course, and his report was spot on! We saw lots of Roos hanging out in the shade of the trees and hopping across the fairways! So we can check off kangaroos on Corey and Mike’s Aussie list!

Kangaroos on the right side of the fairway.

Kangaroos on the right side of the fairway.

We then started our drive along the coast and the boys were immediately enthralled with the ocean! We stopped to see the Split Rock Lighthouse, to check out some overlooks and to walk along the beach near Apollo Bay. We walked the rainforest walk at Mait’s Rest and discovered a huge tree had blown across the trail, probably with in the last 4 or 5 days, which required us to climb over, under and through the trunk and branches to continue on the trail!

Large tree across the trail at the Mait's Rest.

Large tree across the trail at the Mait’s Rest.

After Mait’s Rest, the next stop was Cape Otway and we got to see lots of koala’s on the drive in, one up close! We ate a nice lunch of Vegetable Soup and bread at the lighthouse cafe before touring the lighthouse. One of the impressive facts about this lighthouse is that the hand-carved stone blocks which make up the lighthouse use no mortar or cement to hold them together. They have some fancy interlocking system!

Mike with a koala, Cape Otway.

Mike with a koala, Cape Otway.

The boys took a bit of a nap in the car during the hour it took to drive from the Cape Otway lighthouse to the Gibson Steps near the Twelve Apostles! The first full day here in AU can be a killer, but the nap revived them both and they were raring to go when we started down the Steps to the beach.

The Gibson Steps are the only beach access in the Twelve Apostles area and to be on the water level with 2 of the Apostles, while waves are crashing into the rock formations and the beach is truly an amazing experience. We spent a good bit of time here, taking photos, in spite of the fact that the tide was coming in quickly!

Beach at Gibsons Steps.

Beach at Gibsons Steps.

Fun at the beach!

Fun at the beach!

Group photo near the first Apostle.

Group photo near the first Apostle.

Once we climbed back up the Gibson Steps we continued on to the Twelve Apostles car park and walked to the viewing platforms. Once again the first view you have of these massive rocks is most impressive. Today there were more people on the GOR than I have ever seen and the Twelve Apostles viewing platforms and walkways were crowded so we took our photos and moved on to Loch Ard Gorge. The crashing waves at the various overlooks and the gorge beach captivated us for a good long time. As I was trying to figure out how to use our last couple of daylight hours, I realized that the tide had just reached its high point and we really needed to to the walk to Sherbrooke River estuary.

One more photo of the Apostles.

One more photo of the Apostles.

Crashing waves!

Crashing waves!

Loch Ard Gorge

Loch Ard Gorge

The ocean and Sherbrooke River meet in a spectacular location, where you can walk out on some low, rocky cliffs and feel the power of the waves as they come rolling in. Plus there is nothing to break up the wave trains before they enter this small bay area so the waves are huge. We took lots of photos and then the sun started to set and we took more photos! It was hard to leave, but darkness was closing in and the temperature dropped as the sun dropped! This Sherbrooke River hike has been a favorite of everyone I’ve brought here and today I added two more fans!

Fun with the crashing surf, high above the water level!

Fun with the crashing surf, high above the water level!

Surprise!

Surprise!

Sunset at Sherbrooke River estuary. Life is good!

Sunset at Sherbrooke River estuary. Life is good!

By now we were cold and hungry so we drove the last 6 miles to Port Campbell, checked into the Loch Ard Motor Inn and then walked across the street to the Twelve Rocks restaurant for dinner.

We earned our dinner tonight~20,000-plus steps!

We earned our dinner tonight~20,000-plus steps!

As I sit here in the motel room writing this blog, both boys are fast asleep! Everyday will get easier!

The temps soared to almost 20 C. today with the promise of more warmth tomorrow!

After trying for 15 minutes to get some photos to upload and not being successful, the photos will have to wait until tomorrow. Sorry ’bout that. The Internet at this motel is weak. (Edited to add photos on Aug. 28.)

Cheers!

The Boys Have Arrived!

Right on schedule, the boys, Corey and Mike, came through the security doors at the airport as planned! For those of you who don’t know my family, Corey is our youngest son and Mike is his friend and former college roommate. We are thrilled that they are here!

Because they arrived when they were supposed to (9:45 AM), we made a stop at the apartment before starting to be tourists. I drove them to the Brighton Beach Boxes and we enjoyed a very calm, quiet day along the shore of the bay, picking out our favorite boxes and marveling at the gaggle (?) of pelicans that was just off shore. The bay was full of big ships and we had a nice clear view back to the city skyline.

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Pelicans!

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Corey and Mike testing out the bay water! It was cool!

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The Brighton Beach Boxes.

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Corey and Mike are in Australia!

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Corey’s newest boxing partner.

We continued on to meet up with Jim for lunch at a pub near his work location. Lots of laughs there!

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Three burgers with the works-a burger, lettuce, tomato, bacon, a fried egg and a slice of beet, which was promptly removed by the 3 guys!

I made the boys walk a lot after lunch because I could see the jet lag fatigue in their eyes. We walked to and through the Botanical Gardens, onto the Shrine of Remembrance, up into the CBD on St. Kilda Road, across a couple of Yarra River pedestrian bridges and then home along the Yarra River trail. 15,000 steps in all and they did great!

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Corey and Mike along the Yarra River in the Melbourne CBD.

Jim got home and we enjoyed drinks and a cheese plate on the patio, catching up on the news from home. This was a warm day here (19 C., 66 F.) and mostly sunny, perfect for working out the jet lag.

Drinks on the veranda!

Drinks on the veranda!

Tomorrow is the day I head out the Great Ocean Road with Corey and Mike. Brace yourself for more crashing wave photos!

Corey brought me a box of Snyder’s pretzels, just as we finished up the pretzels that Tucker and Alison and the Tomasso’s gave us!

G’Day Mates!

Whale of a Weekend

This blog’s title pretty much summarizes this weekend! We saw more whales than we dared to hope for when we planned our weekend getaway. 

We left Portland under drizzly skies and drove to the Cape Bridgewater Bay area. Wind turbines were once again standing tall, guarding this beautiful coastline. We found an empty car park at the end of the road, which was fine with us. Our first walk was to an area called the Petrified Forest.

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Cape Bridgewater limestone moonscape.

 

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Petrified forest.

This wasn’t really a petrified forest but the rock formations gave the impression of a forest of tree stumps. These rock shelves are believed to have formed when acidic water seeped through the limestone, leaving these tree trunk like shells.

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Shadow fun!

We then hiked to two different ocean overlooks and once again I was transfixed by the waves and rocks and what happens when one meets the other! While walking on the cliff edge trail, we spotted 3 different whales (a mother, a calf and a individual one) swimming and spouting along the shoreline. We also spotted a kangaroo in the distance and we wondered why s/he decided to live in this mostly barren limestone landscape. We had to keep moving because we had other stops to make and still get back to Melbourne before dark.

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Crashing waves!

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The back of one whale is visible on the right side of this photo.

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One more crashing waves photo!

Our next stop was the trail to the Seal Colony along Bridgewater Bay. We read that there are up to 600 seals living on/in the rocks and caves along the headland of the bay,  and that there was a trail to an overlook of these rocks, so off we went. Rain threatened and we watched the showers move across the bay, but we remained dry, but quite wind-blown! Places along the hike reminded us of the first day of hiking on our England hike last summer. We were walking on lovely green, grass slopes as we moved up the headland with the ocean on one side of the trail and sheep and cows on the other. 

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An interesting fact as we hiked along!

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We didn’t get rained on, but enjoyed the benefit of rain in the area.

The seals were not as advertised and we saw 3 or 4 seals and one of those sightings may have been seaweed! We could not see into the caves as we were standing on the cliffs over the caves so that must be where they were all hiding! No walk is ever wasted and we enjoyed our time along the coast. 

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Our best seal sighting, just off the upper left corner of the rock!

Once back in the car we made quick stops to walk on the Bridgewater Beach and to check out the Portland Lighthouse, which included a wonderful view of the wharf area of Portland. This port exports huge amounts of wood chips and aluminum! We saw mountains of wood chips and I may have to find out what the back story is on that!

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Jim taking a photo down Bridgewater Beach.

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Portland Lighthouse

Our last stop was back at Logan’s Beach in Warrnambool to have one last look for whales and we got lucky once again. We saw at least 6! A mother and calf were in fairly close and doing lots of rolls so we saw lots of fins waving at us! It was like they knew they were putting on a show for the big crowd that was gathered on what had become a mostly sunny afternoon! 

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Fins from a mother and her calf.

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A big fin wave as we were leaving!

We got serious about driving home after bidding farewell to the whales and arrived in Melbourne shortly after 5 PM. 

Now our mission is to get the laundry done and some things moved around so we are ready for Corey and Mike’s arrival tomorrow morning! Guess who’s excited!!!

Cheers!

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Celebrating our hike to the ocean overlook!