Friday, September 4, 2015

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that cost a heck of a lot more money.

Or if you don't care for Robert Frost, there's always Robert Burns:

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley.

We've been ganging agley big time in Australia this week.

We knew when we arrived in Melbourne that things would be dicey as Rob's cold blossomed into a full blown ear infection with the pressure changes on landing.  With the aid of Advil and pseudofed, we propped him up for our long awaited trip to see the Little Penguins of Phillip Island.  These 12 inch high penguins are the world's smallest, and used to be called fairy penguins or blue peguins, but are now referred to officially as "Little Penguins." Their nightly parade back to their burrows at sunset has become a major tourist attraction.  You pretty much have to be part of a tour group to see them so we once again boarded a tour bus and headed out for parts unknown.

I always wondered what a Wombat looked like...

Along the way we fed kangaroos and wallabies (I want one!), cuddled with koalas and met dingos, wombats, and other local beasties.  We also watched a champion sheep shearer ply his trade and, always a treat, watched the working sheep dogs. At last, it was dark enough and we took our seats in the sand to watch the little penguins emerge from the sea. It really is dark, which means you can't see much, and there are strict rules that there is absolutely no photography.  So, as I'm sitting in the cold sand straining my eyes to glimpse the blue and white blurs, imagine my surprise when Rob whispers, "Mom, I'm getting some great footage here."

“Ro-ob," I chide him quietly, "You know that's forbidden."

"Oh Mom," he murmurs with the supreme confidence of anyone under twenty,  "You know that's just because the idiots don't know how to stop using their flash.  I just darkened my screen and put it on manual.”

So here you have it, illicit footage of the Little Penguins of Phillip Island.  They can probably arrest you just for watching it.

Our plans the next day called for us to rent a car in Melbourne, visit the Melbourne Temple, and continue on to drive the Great Ocean Road over a period of 3 days, spending nights in Warrnambool and Mount Gambier on our way to Adelaide, where we were to spend 2 days before catching the train to Darwin.

PLEASE NOTE that this entire plan hinges on being able to drive a rental car in Australia.   In the words of a cab driver  I met once, "The left side is the right side and the right side is suicide."  I knew, of course, that I am already a menace driving on the right side of the road. However, we thought that Rob, an excellent driver with a young and flexible brain, could handle it.  We failed to count on two things: 1. Rob's flexible brain being on the brink of expiration, and 2. The Melbourne insanity they call traffic.  (Not only are the streets narrow with all kinds of busses, trams, and pedestrians to keep up with, but they have invented this insane piece of devilry called the Melbourne hook turn, wherein you turn right from the far left lane, crossing all the traffic on a yellow light. Why there aren't dismembered Aussie bodies on every street corner is a complete mystery to me.)

I have no idea why people say it's not so bad. It's awful!!! Remembering to keep left is only the beginning. You have NO IDEA where the other side of the car is, have to look over the wrong shoulder, turn signals on the other side. The works! To top it off, Rob was still half dead from his plane-acquired ear infection, gurgling incoherently and given to random attacks of piteous moaning.   I had a panic attack before we left the tight underground parking garage to drive onto the streets of one of the busiest cities in the world. We signaled by turning on  the windshield wipers, clipped a bus as we passed and crunched into a curb 3 blocks out. We parked the car and walked back to the car rental, tails between our legs.  The girl behind the Avis counter looked over her cat eye glasses at the pathetic luggage toting Yanks stumbling back through the same door they had last entered 25 minutes  prior.  Clearly, she'd seen this before.  "Where's the car? Any damage?"  We waited in silence while they grabbed their jackets and went to retrieve the object of our humiliation.  She returned at length and handed me a receipt with brisk efficiency, " You rented the car for 6 days.  You had it for less than 2 hours but I'm not authorized to give you a refund since you used a travel agent.  The left hubcap looks like you hit the curb. We'll put the repairs on your credit card. Have a nice day.”

We returned to our Melbourne hotel to take a smaller room at twice the price while we licked our wounds and decided what to do now. Rob immediately collapsed into exhausted invalid slumber, leaving me to be the adult. (If Craig had been here, I could have collapsed into a sodden puddle of hysteria but noooooo, I had to be calm and figure a way out of this mess.) Our lovely host in Warrnambool would have been delighted to chauffeur us around and was already making plans to take us sightseeing with a picnic lunch but there was a problem..  Once we were in Warrnambool, there was no way to get us on to Adelaide- neither by bus, nor train, nor plane. The only way was to return to Melbourne, a 3 hour ride and, if we did that- we would not be in time to catch a ride to Adelaide. The one train this week to Adelaide left that morning, short notice flights are ridiculously expensive and Rob shouldn't fly with his ear infection anyway, sooooo we decided to leave Melbourne the next evening by bus.

We made the best of our extra day in Melbourne, getting a late checkout so Rob could have some extra bed time, then leaving our luggage at the front desk so we could visit the Melbourne aquarium and go to the top of the Eureka Skydeck 88 (88 floors up with lovely views- reminded me of the Space Needle back home.

Atop the Skydeck
Aquarium Penguins

Aussie Jaws

Fluffy Emperor Penguin chick

Rob And The Ray


With still more time to kill before our 8:30 pm bus ride, we went to a cinema (never ask for a theatre in Australia- that only nets you a venue for stage productions; a cinema shows movies.)  We saw Mission Impossible, but only after about 40 minutes of advertising. (Very annoying, if you think movie commercials are bad back home, let me tell you, we have it easy.)  This put us behind the curve, so we had to hurry to get back to our hotel to pick up our luggage.

Proving that weathermen down under are no more proficient than their right side up cousins, it began to rain.  18 blocks later (uphill) we arrived, panting and sopping, to pick up our luggage.  Enough with the happy tourist stuff.  I hailed a cab for the 4 additional blocks to the Southern Cross station.  I switched my soaked jacket for Rob's dirty but dry sweatshirt and, smelling faintly of teenage boy, boarded the Firefly Sleeper Coach (a bus by any other name still a bus), and headed for Adelaide.

 Random Ramblings:

It's not just the cars on the wrong side. It's the forks too. 

It's still like pulling teeth to get any ice around here!

This always looks to me like I should be careful, as the toilet will be easily offended. 

And anything made with kangaroo fur is just plain cool

Everything is really expensive but really fresh and good. Especially the salads- which always are served in a balsamic vinaigrette 
And have lots of interesting additions like mushrooms and quinoa and beets

**Spencer in Melbourne - He joined us for one breakfast, and had a great time on the tour and and at the coast!**


  1. You crazy girl! Looks like the trip of a lifetime!

  2. I am giggling still about the car. I'm glad you found an alternative mode of transportation... Have fun! Hope Rob is feeling more human!

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    1. Sounds like my daily drive :) Gosh, I hope Spencer isn't going to start joining us for lunch! Lol Poor Rob! Still tormented that I am missing out on Hello Kitty tiramisu! Can't wait to hear more!