Return to 2006 Australia Trip


Sunday, November 12, 2006 – 5 PM

Werribee, Victoria (near Melbourne)


OK, time for an update. There isn’t that much to tell, but two days have passed, so I will write an update, before it all gets so long ago that I forget it.  Mostly it is going to be the logistics of traveling, though.


On Saturday morning, I got all my stuff packed into my four bags (two checked and two carry-on), and checked out of the Mayfair Motel or Motel Mayfair, or whatever it was called.  It had been a fine place to camp for a couple of nights, and having a phone in my room was a treat, of course.  Ice cubes, too.  Must have been a great place, with both internet access from my room and ice cubes.


My sort of vague plan was to drive around and sightsee for the day, as my plane wasn’t scheduled to leave until 4:50 PM.  I wanted to turn in the car and be checking in at the airport by 3, so I had about 5 hours to “spend”.  I drove south along the coast, though a place called Sandy Bay.  Nice looking neighborhood, as so many in Hobart seemed to be.  I did see apartment buildings along the water, so they do have them in Hobart.


It turns out that the casino in Hobart is along that road, so I stopped in to see what the deal was.  I have only been to one casino in Australia before, and I won several hundred dollars that time, on my first trip, in 2002.  Each of the largest cities has one casino, it seems.  Hobart’s is at a place called Wrest Point, and that seems to be the name of the casino as well.  It is a high rise building, and I guess they offer lodging as well as gambling and bars and restaurants.  I was prepared to risk some of my Aussie cash, but the casino doesn’t open until 2 PM, and it was only about 11 AM.  Hobart is not Las Vegas, I guess.  So, I missed my chance to win again in an Aussie casino.  Maybe I’ll visit the one in Melbourne this week.


I drove on down the coast, stopping from time to time to enjoy the scenery and see if there were any shore birds to look at.  No birds, but lots of nice scenery.  I watched a bunch of sailboats, presumably in a race or a regatta or something, turning around a buoy, and that was interesting.  I should have gotten some pictures, but I was too lazy to go back to the car for the camera.  It was interesting to see how they battled each other for position, to go around the buoy.  I watched them through my binoculars, and they weren’t that far offshore, so I had good views of the crews frantically doing various things, including changing sails, after they rounded the buoy and started back downwind.


As the day went on, I kept thinking about the Scrubtit, the Tassie endemic I had missed.  Fern Tree, which is the most popular place to look for them, was not far away at all.  I kept saying, no, I had missed the Scrubtit, and I wasn’t going to go try again, but the thought kept coming back to me.


Well, you have guessed it – I took the back, scenic way into Fern Tree, and I walked up into the rainforest again, looking for this little elusive bird.  I spent a good hour walking the trails this time.  At one point, I had a small bird quite close to me, and I would get glimpses of it from time to time, but never for very long.  I saw nothing that eliminated it as a Scrubtit, but in 15 or 20 minutes of catching glimpses of it, I never got a good enough look to actually call the bird.  This was the third time I had been to Fern Tree to look for the Scrubtit, and I missed again.  Three strikes and I was definitely out.  I think I probably saw one, but I couldn’t count it.  My scorecard ended up with 11 of the 12 endemics, and I was quite pleased with that.


After that, I made my way back across Hobart to the airport and turned the car in about 2:30 or so.  I hung around the airport and caught my flight to Melbourne.  It was a pretty full 737, and I had an aisle seat, with someone next to me.  I asked for a seat belt extender, as I usually have to do in economy, and that called me to the flight attendant’s attention.  She came back in a couple of minutes and said there were two seats open at the back of the plane, an aisle and a middle seat, and she invited me to come back there after the plane took off.  That was very considerate of her, and I did it, and enjoyed having two seats to spread my bulk over, for the hour long flight.


When I got to Melbourne, I called the motel, and they had their shuttle bus pick me up and take me to the motel.  It was a Best Western motel, right next to the airport, and it worked out fine.  I not only had a phone in my room, there was an additional line, with a phone jack over the desk area, to plug the computer into, to get online.  Nice feature – two phone lines in the room.  To top it off, there was an ice tray in the little refrigerator, and it was full of medium sized ice cubes!  Internet access from my room and ice cubes.  I had hit the jackpot!


They had a bar/bistro, which served dinner, but also did “snacks”,  I went down and got a toasted ham, cheese, and tomato sandwich and a bowl of fries, and took them back up to my room.  I had the foresight to also ask for a glass of ice cubes, so I had plenty for my drinkies, with my dinner.


In the morning, they offered a continental breakfast in the bar/bistro, included in the price of my room, and I paid Au$7 extra to get a couple of eggs on toast and a couple of sausages, as well.  It made a fine breakfast, as I got juice and fruit from the continental breakfast buffet.


I had a rental car reserved at Budget, back at the airport, for this morning, so I took the motel shuttle bus back to the airport, got the car, and drove back to the motel to pick up my bags and check out.  That way I didn’t have to carry my four bags with me when I got the car.  It all went smoothly, and I was headed toward Werribee by about 10:30.


There was another complication I was dealing with through all of this, too.  I had been exchanging emails with Marlene, an Aussie birder who had taken me out for a great day of birding in 2004.  She now lived about 2 hours away from Werribee, but she had offered to come down and take me out for more birding on this trip.  Her husband recently had major surgery, though, and she was finding it difficult to find a time when she could be gone for a full day.  As it turned out, she was going to be in Werribee on Sunday (today) for something else, and we had been trying to arrange things so we could meet for at least a little while.  I ended up getting her on her cell phone just before I left the motel, and she said she would try to call me this afternoon, at my B&B in Werribee.


So, I drove toward Werribee, but it was much too early to try to check into my B&B, so I went to Point Cook, a coastal park near Werribee, to see if I could see any birds.  Budget gave me a great map book that covers the whole Melbourne area, so it was easy to navigate around.  Point Cook was really sad.  I knew they have been having a drought here, but I had no idea it was this bad.  It was totally brown – like Southern California at the end of a hot summer.  This is late spring.  I hate to even think about how bad it is going to look by the end of this summer.  The lake at Point Cook that is normally used by spring migrants was completely dry, and looked like it had been so for many months.  I saw a few birds, but nothing interesting for my lists.


The day was hot and humid.  Yahoo says the high today in Melbourne was 77, but with the humidity, and when you were in the sun, it sure seemed hotter.  I had gotten used to decent weather in Tasmania, I guess, with highs in the 50’s and 60’s.  Even worse than the heat and humidity, I was back in the land of the flies.  At least they were only the little ones who go for your eyes and mouth, looking for moisture, and not the big ones who go for your legs and bite you, to draw blood.


I made my way along the coast the short distance to Werribee, and I drove by my B&B, to know exactly where it was.  Then I scouted the neighborhood, to see what I could walk to for dinner.  It should be ok, but I would prefer to have cooking facilities and do my own cooking.  I stopped at a Safeway and stocked up on necessities (rum and nuts and mango juice this time), then I checked into my new home away from home.  I counted in my mind that it is the 24th time I have had to unpack my stuff and move into a place, in the last 6 weeks.  I will be very, very glad not to have to do that again.  One more pack up, and then it is the long trip home.


Oh yes, on my way down the coast, I did pick up one trip bird, the Whiskered Tern.  It was one of those easy ones I was bound to get here, but a trip bird is still a trip bird, and I got one today.  Last night in the motel, I went through my field guide, and I made a list of birds that I thought I could possibly see here in this area.  I was quite surprised how long it was.  It was over forty species.  Now, some of those won’t be here at this time of year, and some will not really be in this specific area, but it was encouraging.  I should easily get the 7 species I had set as my goal yesterday, to bring me to 250 species for the trip.  Having the list will help local birders tell me where to go, or better yet, show me the actual birds. 


I think I mentioned that I am set up with Richard on Wednesday, and overnight I set up an appointment to bird with another local birder, Shirley, on Tuesday morning.  Both Shirley and Richard have access to “the Farm”, which is the premier birding site in the Melbourne area, and it is located here in Werribee (hence the reason I am staying here).  It is actually a huge sewage treatment plant (called the Western Treatment Plant, or WTP), and I went there with Richard in 2004.  I should get a number of birds for my trip list there.  You need a key to get into the area, and that is why it is so important to set it up with a local birder, in addition to the normal fact that being with a local birder allows you to see and identify so many more birds.


This place, Jellicoe B&B, is very nice.  I think I might be the only guest at this point, and they have four rooms they rent out.  Last night they were full, which is why I stayed at the airport motel, rather than coming out here last night.  My room is small, but is very nice.  There is a guest lounge downstairs with a big TV and a DVD player and lots of DVD’s.  My room has its own TV and DVD player, as well.  I have my own “ensuite” bathroom with a large stall shower.  Queen size bed.  A little refrigerator in my room.  There is a guest breakfast room with a bigger refrigerator and a microwave, but I don’t know if guests are supposed to be able to cook their own meals there and eat there.  I don’t know what they might have in the way of dishes or utensils.  I’ll eventually ask, and maybe I can fix humble meals there, but tonight I will walk over to town and see what I can get on a Sunday night. 


When I moved in, I looked in the little refrigerator and there was no ice tray.  I asked the owner, and she not only didn’t have any ice cubes, she doesn’t have an ice tray.  Can you imagine an upscale, very nicely decorated American home without an ice tray or ice cubes?  It is unimaginable. Cultural differences – one of the joys of traveling is to observe the cultural differences.  Ice is one of them, it seems.  Obviously, I should have bought an ice tray at the start of my trip.  I might still do so tomorrow, as I am here for four more nights after tonight.


As I was settling in to my new little home, unpacking things and actually putting things in drawers (something I had only done once before on the trip), because I was going to be staying here for five nights and the room isn’t big enough to just leave my bags around and live out of them, there was a knock on my door, and it was Marlene, the Aussie birder I mentioned several paragraphs ago.  As I said, she was in Werribee today anyway, and she had a spare hour in her schedule, so she dropped by.  It doesn’t look like we are going to be able to bird together this trip, but she gave me lots of great advice about where to go, and we caught up with each other’s lives a little, sitting out in the nice patio area in the back yard.


After Marlene left, I decided to write this Ramblings, and I set up my computer on a little table in my room, because it is pretty cool in here, from the central air conditioning.  I hadn’t asked about internet access after I got here, but when I booked the place, I had asked about using a phone line, and the woman had said they had “internet access” I could use.  I assumed I would have to use their phone line, which works fine, but always feels a bit awkward and intrusive, when I tie up their line with my internet access.


Well, when I turned on my computer to write this, up popped the message that there were wireless networks within range.  I clicked on the message, and there was a network called Jellicoe, the name of the B&B.  This was exciting!  Sure enough, they have a wireless network and what I presume is a high speed internet connection.  I asked the owner about it, and after some fooling around (he knew less about wireless networking than I do, and that is not very much), I actually got connected.  So, now I have that Nirvana-like condition, high speed internet access from my room!  Suddenly this place seemed like a wonderful place, despite the lack of ice and the need to walk to get my dinner.  So, whatever else happens this week, at least it appears that I will be “connected”.  I would much rather have high speed internet access in my room than have ice.


So, tomorrow is supposed to be much cooler – only a high of 60 is forecast, with showers.  Showers were forecast for today, too, but there weren’t any where I was, except overnight at the airport.  I plan to drive south to the Bellarine Peninsula, stopping at some potential birding sites, but mainly for the sightseeing.  Marlene gave me a number of places to check out.  Then Tuesday morning with Shirley at the Farm, then Wednesday with Richard, wherever we decide to go (I sent him my potential Victorian bird list that I generated last night).  Thursday is open at this point.  Friday I pack up one last time and head homeward, on the long, long journey.  My last five days in Australia this year.


So, I’ll see if I can get this up to the website now, then I’ll go out looking for dinner.  Life rolls on, and what a life it is!


Barry Downunder a little longer