CHAPTER 8 – VICTORIA 2
(Bert) What are the odds?
I awake when I notice the ship is no longer moving, although I can still feel engine vibrations. I get up and shower and head to the forward lounge since it is still only about 5 AM. I start reading a new novel and I am a half-dozen pages into it when something on the Today Show catches my ear. Matt Lauer is awarding prizes to the best support operations, $100,000 to the top winner and $50,000 to the runners up, when he says “surf camp” and just at the moment they run a taped interview with John. I’ve met John and his family when they visited his parents and our good friends Bill and Ginny, names you may recognize if you have been reading our travel journals for several years. In spite of the fact that John has spent his whole life without a foot and part of his leg, he is extremely athletic, a championship swimmer, an excellent surfer and surfing trainer and when I met him he was using a skate board. A strong motivator, John runs a surf camp for people with disabilities, including soldiers who have lost limbs in combat. So what are the odds for me, who has not watched 30 min. of TV since May and none broadcast from the U.S., to see John on TV while aboard a ferry from Tasmania?
After consulting with the onboard travel assistant we change our route to avoid extreme flooding conditions in northern Victoria and, instead, head to the far southeast corner of the state. Wilsons Promontory National Park is a huge park and we drive a half hour through the park before reaching the campground. In route we stop once for an Emu and a few other photo ops of the varied scenery. The campground is nicely situated beside Tidal River and within earshot of Bass Strait, the channel separating mainland Australia from Tasmania. We hike along the river and then up a mountain slope. Usually I photograph birds, but this time I become intrigued with the plants, many in bloom. I am attracted to the symmetry of the spines of a strange plant I learn is a grasstree. Hundreds of narrow green sharp spines form a nearly spherical porcupine that catches light in mesmerizing symmetry. The older ones are mounted on thick black stumps and many are in a sort of bloom state as they have erected a stout wooden pole surrounded by tiny brown blossoms and silky red threads, somewhat like a century cactus or a mullein. A signpost tells me fires are necessary to initiate grown of grasstrees, as well as other shrubs such as Coast Teatree and White Kunzea.
(Shari) Departing the ferry at 6:30 makes driving through Melbourne a snap. We stop at McDonalds for breakfast and free Internet access. But paying over $14 for two Egg MacMuffins, an orange juice and a mocha makes me think we also paid for Internet. Last night we heard that north of Melbourne is flooded and rivers have breached their banks and inundated streets with water. We go to Plan B and drive south to Wilson’s Promontory Point. The day is 11 out of 10 as one could not ask for better weather and it seems to be unseasonably warm with blue skies and nary a cloud. After setting up at the national park and eating lunch we hike one of the trails. It seems so special with views that we alone can enjoy since not many people are here on this workday. We have Happy Hour outside, something we have been unable to do for weeks because of cold or rain. We even have guests when one rosella comes to visit. After giving it one of Bert’s precious peanuts, all the rosella’s friends show up and climb on the table, on my lap, on my feet, on my head, and on my shoulder. I put the peanuts under my arm and tell the birds the food is all gone. Finally they leave. What a sight! Wait till you see the pictures.
(Bert) When we are about to drive to the start of a hiking trail, rain dampens our plans. I ask Shari, “Do you want to wait here or at the trail head?” She opts for the trail. Just as we reach the parking lot, rains have flushed the atmosphere and sea winds pull away the sheath of dark clouds, revealing blue skies. Walking the path, first thorough thin woods, then dense, it is a good morning for robins and I find one Flame, two Pink and a half dozen Yellow. Eastern Whipbirds play crack-the-whip. Shari and I see a new bird hunting along tree trunks and she later looks it up in the book, deciding it is White-throated Treecreeper. As is usual, she gets ahead of me on the trail as I dawdle while studying flowers and trees and the hard-to-identify “little brown jobs”, this time concluding they are a mixture of White-browed Scrubwrens, Brown Thornbills and Buff-rumped Thornbills. I hear a loud raucous in the canopy and see two agitated Sulphur-crested Cockatoos take flight. Their irritant soars above them, a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles. When I finally return to the RV where Shari waits, she wonders where I have been for that past half-hour.
(Bert) Rain buckets pound the campervan roof above where I rest, washing sleep from my ears. I arise to hear Shari comment on the weather, always taking the negative side of weather prognoses. I say it will clear up. I quick-step to the bathrooms in moderate rain, and next pull RV electrical hook-up attachments in light rain, and then refill our fresh water tank as a few hesitant drops conclude the last of the precipitation. By the time we have traversed half the length of the national park the skies welcome exploring. Amazingly, we encounter 41 Emus as a pair, a herd of 30, and family groups of five and three, culminating with a surprise. I am returning from my hike from the sea beyond Cotters Lake, the lake status currently a wet marshland. Traversing a section with 10 ft. trees submerged in five inches of water, I hear a loud cry of fright as if a naughty kid pulled a donkey’s tail. One fright induces another and I cry back in shock. That sends the hidden Emu loudly plopping through the marsh, one big foot after another. I’ve never heard a bird run as loud as an Emu.
(Shari) Our campervan has 15 drawers or cabinets that close with a push button type latch and 12 overhead cabinets that shut by pulling them down on a hinge. (Yes it is very roomy). The problem occurs with the push buttons. We have been living in this camper now for three months and neither one of us can seem to close all the buttons before we drive off. So as soon as we round our first corner, out slams a drawer and either I or Bert has to crawl through the front seats to the back, balance ourselves in a moving vehicle and latch the offending drawer. Do you think this forgetfulness is age related? We have tried to remind each other to check the latches but sometime during the day one or more are left open. We have tried to shut them as soon as we got the needed item but that is a pain since we enter them frequently once we stop and by the next morning we have them all open for one reason or another. Our next move is to put a note on the door to remind ourselves to close the latches. We have never had this happen on any of the motor homes we owned as the drawers there latch as soon as the drawer is closed. I think someone here should take notice. As you can see this has been a slow news day when all I can write about are some dumb drawers. The daily weather thermometer rates a 1 or 2 in my book and that makes me depressed.
(Shari) Australians do not make it easy for visitors to find and attend a local church. I find a flyer at the campground that list four churches for Lakes Entrance: Catholic, Baptist, Uniting and Anglican. Times are listed as well. However addresses are vague. The Baptist Church is on Church Street. The Uniting Church is on the Esplanade next to Bellevue, the Catholic Church is the only one with an address and that is some distance away. The Anglican Church is on the Princes Highway which is several thousand miles long. The manager of the campground does not know where the churches are, nor does she seem to care. All she wants to do is get me checked in and out of her hair, I guess. She does not even have a map of the town. We decide to visit the Uniting Church, whatever that is. We have seen the name before, but have no idea what denomination it is, though the earlier time of 9:15 suits us. So we drive down the 3-mi. Esplanade looking for a church. About halfway I notice it set back a bit from the road and next to the Bellevue Motel. Now I though Bellevue was a street. We are greeted warmly by numerous people and learn this Uniting is a combination of Methodist and Presbyterian. In this particular instance the two churches combined in 1977. Therefore we are right at home as we have visited numerous churches of each denomination and attend a Presbyterian church regularly while we stay in Rockport, Texas. The pews contain about 36 people, 10 of whom are visitors. When we introduce ourselves we get applause, I assume because we came so far. The good news is that two teenagers from different families are in attendance and the teenage boy runs the control for the computer projector. The music is great and familiar and my husband signs loudly. So loudly in fact that the woman in front of him comments on how she enjoyed his singing. This happens a lot I might add. The sermon is delivered by a man I take to be a lay person. The sermon could have been gotten off the web but nevertheless it has a good message on the parables of The Lost Sheep and The Lost Coin. After service we are invited for “a cuppa”. We take them up on their offer and have nice chats with some folks. Mostly we talk with another visiting couple who tell us of places to visit on our way north.
My guidebook tells me that this town is the place to get Fish and Chips. I read of a floating restaurant and we are in luck when they manage to serve Bert a breakfast and me the fish and chips. We then drive for a few hours and stop at Pambula Beach, one of the places we learned of this morning. It is a lovely park right on the beach and has dozens of kangaroos grazing the sites. They keep the grass pretty short. I snap lots of pictures and find one baby sticking its head out of the pouch while momma nibbles grass. The baby cannot quite reach the grass to nibble on its own. Pretty cute! We sit outside again tonight but go in early as it is a bit chilly. If the weather holds, we may stay here another day as there are numerous walking tracks in the area and an appealing oyster farm with restaurant attached.
(Bert) Finally a friendly church with multiple age groups, active in outreach, good location, nice facilities and all the other components to position it for growth and longevity. In our travels we have been seeing buildings identified as Uniting Church in Australia, not knowing what their affiliation is. So, this morning we choose this one so we can find out. We are told Uniting Church combines former Anglican, Presbyterian and Congregational churches. After a good service that includes lots of easy-to-sing songs we stay for coffee, tea and cookies and talk to church members, but mostly we end up talking with a couple who, ironically, are camped a few spots removed from ours. They live north of here in New South Wales and are heading south. I ask for suggestions of what to see as we head north and they recommend a campground where we can see kangaroos. That is where we head and at about 3 PM we park at Pambula Beach. They weren’t mistaken about the kangaroos, as we see about 20 at the park entrance and another 20 scattered across the campground. I doubt anyone cuts the vast lawns at the campground, as the kangaroo lawnmowers are nibbling it to quarter-inch height.
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