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Atdahl

First Trip To Australia: Tasmania and Victoria

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Atdahl

DSC_7792_edited-1-L.jpg

 

What's the best way to forget an exhausting and somewhat disappointing trip?  Well, you plan another one of course.  At least, that was what I kept telling myself as the motivation for more travel eluded me.  But, if truth be told, the planning for this first trip to Australia started months before our previous trip to Madagascar so we were pretty much locked into going.

 

It's a good thing too because we had a great trip that was made even better since we were joined by @monalisa and @CheetahFan twice in our travels and were able to spend a day with @Treepol as well.

 

Now I just need to finish writing the reports so I can start posting them :).

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TonyQ

@Atdahl well you have certainly posted an attention grabbing first photo. Wonderful!

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roseclaw

Looking forward to this! I have a Tasmanian roadtrip planned for Oct 2021.

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Atdahl

@roseclaw, Tasmania is the perfect road trip location.  Hopefully, this report helps you.  Feel free to ask any questions you might have.

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Atdahl

Victoria Day 1 - Travel and The Dandenong Ranges

 

The timing and location of our trip to Australia revolved entirely around using airline miles.  The airlines make it soooo hard to actually use your miles.  It took me weeks of daily checks to finally find some viable flights.  And, of course, we could only use miles for one ticket so we had to pay for the 2nd one which wasn't cheap since we were flying business class on Quantas for the international leg.  All other legs were booked separately which was a bit of a nightmare when it came to luggage and other logistics but we managed it all just fine.  Once we booked the international air travel, everything else had to fit in around that.

 

Anyway, things started to fall in place nicely and we ended up with the following itinerary:

 

Day 1: Arrive Melbourne, travel to the Dandenong Ranges - Clarendon Cottages

Day 2: Dandenong Ranges to the Otways - Bimbi Park Cabins

Day 3: Great Ocean Road - Bimbi Park Cabins

Day 4: Great Ocean Road to Melbourne - Melbourne Airport Motel

Day 5: Fly MEL to Hobart. Bruny Island - Inala Cottage

Day 6: Bruny Island - Inala Cottage

Day 7: Bruny Island - Inala Cottage

Day 8: Bruny Island to Hobart, Mt Field NP - Hamlet Downs

Day 9: Mt Field NP - Hamlet Downs

Day 10: Mt Field to Cradle Mountain - Peppers CM Lodge

Day 11: Cradle Mountain area - Peppers CM Lodge

Day 12: Cradle Mountain area - Peppers CM Lodge

Day 13: Cradle Mountain to Port Sorell - Roosters Rest

Day 14: Narawntapu NP, Warrawee Forest Reserve - Roosters Rest

Day 15: Deloraine area - Derby Forest Cabins

Day 16: Quoll Patrol tour - Derby Forest Cabins

Day 17: Bay of Fires, Freycinet NP - Freycinet Lodge

Day 18: Maria Island - Mason's Cottages

Day 19: Tasman Peninsula - Mason's Cottages

Day 20: Fly home

 

In hindsight, this schedule ended up working out really well.  If I had to do it all over again I might remove the two nights in Derby and add a night at the Dandenongs in Victoria and another at Freycinet.  But, that's only because the arranged tour we had in Derby wasn't what we expected.  More on that later.

 

One of the goals of this trip was to take things easier than we normally do and we accomplished that goal.  I think we only set an alarm a couple times the whole trip!  It was nice not having to keep to a rigid schedule and get up butt early everyday.

 

The leisurely pace of the trip started on day 1 since our first flight didn't leave until 3PM in the afternoon.   So, we could sleep in, "relax pack" (what a concept), and saunter to the airport when we were ready.  All told, the door to door time from our house to landing in Melbourne was around 24 hours which isn't bad at all and far less than some of our past trips.

 

I do have to say that traveling through the San Francisco airport was a bit spooky on Feb 26th.  Due to the coronavirus scare, all travel from Asia was shut down so the airport was really empty.  Of course, we would find out later on our return visit that "empty" is very relative.

 

Anyway, we arrived in Melbourne at 6:30AM and had a whole day ahead of us so it was good that we got some sleep on the long flight (thanks Quantas!).  

 

When we first planned this trip, we contacted our Aussie friends Tim and Andrea to see if they wanted to join us for any of it.  They accepted the invite and ended up joining us for two separate long weekends.  The first was the initial 4 days in Victoria and then they also came down to Tasmania later in the trip.

 

Since their flight was arriving pretty quickly after ours, we hustled through immigration and customs and then I bought an Optus SIM card for my phone since they had a kiosk at the airport. We then ventured over to the Hertz counter where we met up with Tim and Andrea.

 

For the first time ever, we would be renting a car on one of our international trips and, of course, we had to do it in a country that drives on the opposite side of the road.  So, to ease into this transition, Tim drove the whole first weekend so that I could get used to the idea and ask all sorts of questions about weird road signs.  For instance, I was surprised to learn that a sign next to the curb saying "1P" didn't mean that only one person could pee at a time on the sidewalk.  It had something to do with 1 hour parking...who knew?

 

Anyway, with the luggage safely tucked away and Tim behind the wheel, we set off from Melbourne towards Yarra Bend Park which would be our first stop.  Based on research I had done, there was a large colony of grey-headed flying foxes here.

 

Finding the park wasn't too difficult and finding the foxes was down right easy.  Once we got out of the car, we could hear them chattering away and it didn't take long to walk down to the river and see thousands of them hanging from the trees all around.

 

Huge Grey-headed Flying Fox Colony

 

 

Grey-headed Flying Foxes

 

We also got our first indication that we should watch where we walk due to snakes:

Watch where you walk

 

The flying foxes themselves were bigger than I thought they would be and very cute especially for bats.  We also saw some interesting behavior.

 

Time for a nap:

Just Hanging Around...

 

You are never too old to nurse:

Nursing Grey-headed Flying Fox

 

Because he can:

Grey-headed Flying Fox

 

Maybe the lion shouldn't be called "The King of the Jungle" after all...:

Ahem...

 

Yeah, that's right, it's only day 1 and the animal genitalia pictures are already flowing.  But, in my defense, I didn't zero in on the one to two bats "displaying" themselves.  Many of them were very "relaxed" in the late afternoon sun so it was hard NOT to get a photo with a penis in it.

 

If you haven't already, feel free to flip your monitor upside down to look at these bat photos.

 

Grey-headed Flying Fox Close-up

 

Besides the flying foxes, we also had some new birds at the park but the bats were certainly the star of the show around there.  After an hour or two we continued on towards the Dandenong Ranges.  We stopped for a nice lunch (Eggs Benedict, yum) and then headed over to Clarendon Cottages where we would be spending the night.

 

The grounds around the cottages were very nice.  A little too nice for Karen because instead of paying attention to the stairs as she walked she was searching the trees for critters.  This resulted in her missing a step and wiping out.  Her back and ankle took the brunt of the fall.  Luckily, her back was just bruised and her ankle (while painful to walk on) ended up being OK and only slowed her down a bit for the first few days.

 

For those keeping score at home when it comes to trip wipe outs it's Karen - 2 and Alan - 1.

 

The cottage we had for the night was really nice.

Clarendon Cottages

 

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After checking in, we headed out into the forest for a hike.  The scenery was really pretty:

 

Dandedong Forest

 

More Dandenong Forest

 

And some of the trees were huge:

Walking Among Giants

 

During the hike, we saw our very first macropods.  This was super exciting for us.

 

Black Wallaby (AKA "Swampy"):

Black Wallaby (

 

We also got some great looks at one of the many colorful birds that call Australia home.

 

Crimson Rosella:

Crimson Rosella

 

Crimson Rosella

 

Juvenile:

Juvenile Crimson Rosella

 

Another Juvenile Crimson Rosella

 

One of the great things about a first trip to Australia is that not only is it a new country for us but also a new continent.  So, just about everything that moved would be a new species for us.  In fact, we saw only a few non-lifers the whole trip.

 

One of our favorite lifer birds had to be the laughing kookaburra.  It has a call that ranks right at the top of bird calls for me and it was nice that we found one right off that bat:

 

Laughing Kookaburra

 

After a nice dinner at a local pub (The Kilkenny beer was a winner), we headed out for a combination night drive and walk.  We know that many of Australia's interesting critters come out at night, so we were really looking forward to the night activities on this trip.  Unfortunately, we completely struck out on this night.  We saw absolutely nothing walking around the forest.  Although, at one point we were surprised by a female jogger running alone with only a head lamp (Well, she was clothed too).  The trail wasn't paved and you certainly wouldn't catch me running on it at night...let alone by myself.

 

When we returned to Clarendon Cottages I scanned some of the nearby trees and finally saw some eye shine.  It was a brush-tailed possum which we would later learn is just called a "Brushy" by the locals.

Brush-tailed Possum (

 

Then, I got another hit in a nearby tree.  This time it was a ring-tailed possum (Interestingly enough, the Aussies don't call this a "Ringie").

 

Ring-tailed Possum

 

So, while the hike in the forest was a bust, it was great that the grounds of the cottages were not.  So, we were able to end our first day on a high note.

 

As I got changed for bed, I noticed a trickle of blood running down my shin.  That's when I realized that I got "leeched" at some point during the day.  We certainly didn't see any leeches but somehow one found me.  Luckily, two trips to Borneo have pretty much desensitized us to leeches so I just slapped a band-aid on it and went to bed.

 

 

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janzin

oh great start, looking forward to following along. We just loved our Australia trip but didn't get to the areas you are covering, so reading with great interest!

 

Gotta love a place where almost all the birds are new!

 

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Atravelynn

Your "rebound trip" looks like a success already.

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Zubbie15

Your itinerary sounds a lot like what I had been planning for a return trip to Australia. But now our oldest is about to start school, meaning an extended trip during the time that probably makes sense for this type of trip won't really be possible for the next 15 years, so I'll follow this with interest. Certainly a great start. 

 

You may answer this later on, but did the fire damage impact you at all? 

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Atdahl

Thanks @janzin, @Atravelynn, @Zubbie15.

 

@Zubbie15, to answer your question, no the fires didn't impact us at all and we actually didn't really see any fire damage.  In hindsight, we got really fortunate because the timing of our trip was such that we arrived after the fires around Melbourne were out and before the pandemic struck full force.  A few weeks either way and the trip would have been much different or wouldn't have happened at all.

 

Alan

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Atdahl

Australia Day 2 - Exploring Victoria

 

We actually slept until 7AM today since the jet lag caught up to us a little bit.  But, overall it was the most rested we had ever felt after long travel days at the beginning of a trip, which was nice.

 

Our cottage had a continental breakfast in the kitchen which we enjoyed before heading out for a quick final walk in the Dandenongs.  The goal of our walk was to find a superb lyrebird.  If you don't know why the lyrebird is special, just search YouTube for "lyrebird call" and prepare to be amazed.

 

Andrea decided to rest a bit so just the 3 of us ventured back out into the forest.  If this sign was any indication, we were in the right spot:

Realm of the Lyrebird

 

The forest was pretty thick in places and we did hear lots of different sounds that could have been a lyrebird. After all, they can imitate anything.  Then, we heard some rustling in the bushes so we stopped.  After a few seconds, Tim spotted some movement and up popped a lyrebird onto a log.

 

Unfortunately, it was blocked by lots of branches and constantly on the move so I didn't get much better than a proof shot:

Superb Lyrebird

 

But, our first mission of the trip was a success!

 

Next we headed southwest out of the Dandenong Ranges towards the Great Ocean Road.  This route took us through Melbourne so we got a chance to soak up some city life along the way.  It looked like a pretty nice place as cities go.

 

Before reaching the coast, we made a planned stop at You Yangs Regional Park.  This park was supposed to be a good place for echidna and finding one of those was another mission this trip.

 

You Yangs is a much dryer forest than the Dandenong Ranges but is still very pretty.

 

You Yangs Eucalyptus Forest

 

You Yangs Regional Park

 

You Yangs Trees

 

We hiked the "Big Rock" trail that led us right to, unsurprisingly, a big granite rock.  While we didn't spot an echidna on this hike, we did find our first reptile.

 

Jacky Lizard:

Jacky Lizard

 

Back in the car, it wasn't long before we reached the Great Ocean Road.  I must say that sometimes roads don't have the most appropriate name but the Great Ocean Road certainly lives up to its name in my book.  The scenery along this road is spectacular.

 

Our first stop along the road was at Kennett River.  Grey River Rd in Kennett River is known to be a koala hot spot so we naturally had to check it out.  Not 5 minutes after parking and leaving the car, we found our first koala:

 

Our 1st Koala, hiding...

 

Of course, it was doing what koalas do best which is sleeping and hiding and there were quite a few tourists under it.  So, we decided to walk a bit further up the road to see if we could find any more and to get away from the people.  We did find more including one that was actually being active.

 

Big reach...

DSC_6253_edited-1-L.jpg

 

Got it!

DSC_6258_edited-1-L.jpg

 

Adorable

Adorable...

 

Here is another one doing the 3rd thing that Koalas like to do in our brief experience:

DSC_6311_edited-1-L.jpg

 

Scratching:

DSC_6345_edited-1-L.jpg

 

Here is the view that the koalas had, not too bad:

View from Grey River Rd (The Koala Highway)

 

As we were walking up the road, Tim warned us about the sub species of koala called the dropbear.  For anyone that doesn't know about the dropbear, check out this video:

 

 

I had kind of heard about this before so Tim didn't take the story as far as the folks in the video did but I still decided not to walk right underneath any of the koalas. 😀

 

This one was just waking up:

Look who just woke up.

 

Back at the parking lot, Andrea found a beautiful superb fairy-wren that was doing a bit of displaying:

Superb Fairywren

 

We ended up seeing 8 different koalas which was really exciting and seeing some being active was even better.  Another mission accomplished.  We were 2 for 3 today which wasn't bad.

 

Next, we headed off to Cape Otway to find our sleeping arrangements for the night at Bimbi Park.  On the way, we encountered our first kangaroos just after the sun set.  Eastern grey kangaroos to be precise:

Eastern Grey Kangaroo

 

Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Joey

 

That last one was the only joey in a pouch we saw the whole trip for any marsupial. But, we were traveling in late summer so we didn't expect to see any.  Therefore, this was a bonus.  There was also a koala in a small tree watching the roos with us.

 

We found Bimbi Park which has a cornucopia of sleeping options.  They have everything from tent camping, to RV spaces, to cabins with running water. Of course, we opted for the latter.

 

Great Place to Stay at The Otways

 

Our

 

All the comforts of home

 

The cabin wasn't fancy but had everything we needed.  In fact, the cereal summed up our feelings about the place... it was "Just Right".

 

Since we only brought breakfast fixings with us, we headed out to Apollo Bay for dinner where we had one of the few average meals of the trip at George's Pizza (sorry George).  But, there was a koala in the trees across the street which was cool.  That made 10 for the day.

 

Back at Bimbi, we took a night walk around the grounds and along the road.  Right away we found a "brushy" out for a stroll:

DSC_6422_edited-1-L.jpg

 

We also spotted 4 more koalas (14 total now), 3 more brush-tailed possums, a grey roo, and a scorpion.  But, the highlight of the night was when we spotted a sugar glider.  It didn't stick around very long but I managed to get a proof photo before it glided away out of sight.

 

Sugar Glider

 

So, contrary to last night, tonight's night walk was very eventful and was a great way to end a very successful second day down under.  In fact, the only "downer" for the day was that at some point, I realized the band aid from last night was no longer attached.  It must have fallen off while I was sleeping.  Sorry Clarendon Cottages for the surprise when you go to change the sheets...

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michael-ibk

Really enjoyable report, looking forward to this. Woukd love to get to Australia one day, like you say the prospect of "everything new" is exciting.

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Patty

Great Tassie itinerary! Looking forward to more.

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Treepol

Great report Alan, wow your first 2 days were certainly rich in wild sightings. Fourteen wild koalas and a lyrebird is impressive!

 

 

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Atdahl

Yes, @michael-ibk, you can pretty much take a picture of everything that moves and know that it's a "lifer".  :)

 

Thanks @Patty.  Would you be surprised to hear that your name came up in conversation during our trip?

 

@Treepol, 14 and counting... ;)

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Atdahl

Australia Day 3 - Still Exploring Victoria

 

We actually set an alarm today so that we could go on a relatively early walk on the roads and trails around Bimbi before setting off on the Great Ocean Road (GOR) again.

 

Right off the bat we found a koala but it appeared that it failed to set an alarm:

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

 

The next one we found was wide awake though and we got a really nice view of it...

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As it scratched every inch of its body:

DSC_6536_edited-1-L.jpg

 

We ended up seeing 4 koalas and since we went a different direction than the night before we counted all of them as new which made 14 total for the trip so far.

 

After the walk, we climbed into the car and ventured down the GOR again to check out some scenery.  Along the way, we met some other creatures out "cruising":

Lazy gulls

 

I took that last picture in the parking area for The 12 Apostles which is a must see area along the GOR. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty overcast which didn't make for great pictures but we made the best of it and the scenery was still pretty dramatic.

 

The 12 Apostles

 

A different perspective

 

Looking the other direction:

More Apostles

 

Despite signs like these, The 12 Apostles stop was VERY popular:

We were looking everywhere...

 

But NOT down there...

 

If they had a sign up that said "No Selfies Allowed" most of the people we saw wouldn't have known what to do with themselves.  That's a human behavior that I just don't understand...

 

We made some additional stops along the GOR to see more of the beautiful coastline.

 

The Razorback:

The Razorback

 

Loch Ard Gorge:

Loch Ard Gorge

 

We made it along the GOR as far as Port Campbell.  We planned to have a late lunch there and spent way too much time debating between the empty restaurant with the better menu or the popular restaurant with the more limited menu.  The latter had .2 better rating on Google so we choose it because we needed a tie breaker.  But, that ended up being a mistake.  I think we all felt that our lunch was the worst of the trip at the "popular" place.  To cleanse our palates, we got ice cream afterwards and that made it all better.

 

We made it back to Bimbi in the late afternoon and took a short walk around the grounds which really paid off since in some light rain we found one of the rarer cockatoos.

 

Gang Gang Cockatoo:

Male Gang Gang Cockatoo

 

Female:

Female Gang Gang Cockatoo

 

We also had a great look at a cooperative kookaburra:

Laughing Kookaburra

 

We had dinner in Apollo Bay again and returned with plans to do another night walk.  The walk started out nicely with this brushy:

Another

 

But, soon after that the rain started to fall and we rushed back to our respective cabins and called it a night which was smart since the rain didn't stop for a while after that.

 

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Treepol

I am sooooo jealous of your Gang-gang sighting, beautiful photo of this highly sought and difficult species.

 

Oh, so many koalas, the cuteness continues.

 

 

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mtanenbaum

Thanks for this great trip report. Looking forward to more! I love your wonderful koala pictures!

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xelas

Another great trip report in making! Birdlife is oh so colourful! What month was your trip, @Atdahl?

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Patty
20 hours ago, Atdahl said:

Thanks @Patty.  Would you be surprised to hear that your name came up in conversation during our trip?

 

So I've heard :D

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Atdahl

Thanks all!

 

@xelas, our trip was late Feb to mid March of this year.  It was the perfect time to be in Australia.  We had a little bit of rain a couple days but otherwise the weather was just about perfect.

 

@Patty.  Ah, I see word gets around :).

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monalisa
On 4/28/2020 at 12:16 PM, Treepol said:

I am sooooo jealous of your Gang-gang sighting, beautiful photo of this highly sought and difficult species.

 

 

Oh yes, the gang bang cockatoos! I'm an Aussie and had no idea these even existed. It was very cool to get to see a new cockatoo type, and very close as well! It was only after looking in the bird book later that we realised how small the range was for this species.

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monalisa

Amazing photos as always @Atdahl! We should always go on trips together. Then I never have to bother with photo processing ever again! Haha! I'll have a look and check if any of my photos are post-worthy/non-dupes. Perhaps I'll wait for the Maria Island wombies. I have only about 13,298,520,935,093,230,985 photos of them to share :D 

 

I also want to say that I am especially thankful for your telephoto zoom. It came in very handy for those bat photos! Detail is so important :D

 

 

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Caracal

Really enjoying your report @Atdahl - excellent lyrebird sighting and photo (I recall taking much much longer to get my first lyrebird sighting) and aren't those sugar gliders great to see.

We normally get the Gang Gangs passing through to the hills in our Spring hearing those creaking door calls before we see them. But last Spring we had six staying locally for about three months. Maybe due to the bushfires they stayed put.

As you say you timed it well arriving soon after those horrendous fires and before the virus really impacted.

Looking forward to seeing Tassie thru' your eyes and photos.

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Atdahl

@monalisa, yes a cropped sensor and 500mm lens really gets you in close for the bat willie shots.  Glad you like them ;).  I am sure you have tons of great shots to add so feel free.  Looking back, I didn't end up taking/saving many photos from the "Quoll Patrol" day so I am sure you will have many to add.  Also, you can NEVER have too many wombat photos :).

 

@Caracal, thanks!  We had a great time on this trip and hopefully my report does Tassie justice.

 

Alan

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Atdahl

Australia Day 4 - Last Day in Victoria

 

We had wind and rain much of the night but it had let up by the time we met around 8AM for a final walk around the Bimbi grounds.  This time, we walked down the main road which was a new area for us.  It didn't take long to find a wet koala:

 

After a night of rain...

 

We also found a few more new birds.

 

Red Wattlebird:

Red Wattlebird

 

White-eared Honeyeater:

White-eared Honeyeater

 

We found a bunch more koalas on this walk:

 

Still adorable...

 

Koala close-up

 

They can sleep anywhere

 

Some still hadn't woken up.

 

Balancing act

 

Another Koala

 

After the walk, we still had some time before we had to check out so we decided to do some road cruising looking for echidna.  However, after an hour or so with no luck we headed back to Bimbi to pack up.

 

We checked out of Bimbi Park and headed to Apollo Bay for one last meal there.  It was here that I tried my first scallop pie and...

 

I LOVED it!  The US just hasn't adopted the whole meat pie thing but I loved all of the ones we had on the trip.

 

After lunch, we stopped for ice cream again but this time it was Tiny Dots.  It's something we had never heard of but was quite good. I guess it originated in the US but since we don't get out much the craze must have passed us by.

 

After lunch, we made a stop at Kennett River to look for more koala because you can NEVER see too many koala.  We drove up Grey River Rd this time and went farther up that we had walked previously.  Tim parked the car and we walked up the road looking for more koala.  As I was walking up ahead of everyone else I heard some chewing which I thought was from something on the ground.  It look me a minute or two to pinpoint the origin of the sound which turned out to be a koala on a pretty bare tree.  It was eating at first then started to climb.  It was the most photogenic koala of the trip.

 

DSC_6811_edited-1-L.jpg

 

DSC_6825_edited-1-L.jpg

 

DSC_6829_edited-1-L.jpg

 

That was the last of 7 more koalas we saw on this walk which added up to 37 total koalas seen.  We were pretty careful to count only ones we saw in new areas so as not to have any repeat sightings. But, even if we are off by a few that is still an impressive number.

 

Our last stop was back at You Yangs Regional Park.  Since we were passing by why not stop again and look for echidna here, right?  So, that is what we did.  However, we struck out on echidna there again.  But, we did see our last "swampy" of the trip:

Last

 

We also got good looks at some Galahs:

Galah

 

With that, Tim drove us back to the airport where they needed to catch a flight home and we needed to check into our airport hotel for the night.  We got to the motel around 6:30PM and said some temporary goodbyes since we would meet up again soon.

 

We really enjoyed our 4 days in Victoria.  There is some great wildlife and scenery there and I think we saw a lot in the little time that we spent there.  It was definitely a great way to start the trip.

 

Plus, it was great traveling with Tim and Andrea again.  We enjoyed their company a lot and Tim was in top form for this portion of the trip.  Since I have some extra writing room for today, here are a few "Tim-isms" I thought I would share:

 

- First off, he casually mentioned early on that the word "echidna" meant "bad fart" in the aboriginal language.  We should have known better but we had a whole conversation around this and he did convince us.

 

- Later, he said that the word "kangaroo" meant "wet fart" and that's when we realized that he was messing with us the whole time.  If he hadn't pushed his luck, we might have repeated the meaning of "echidna" to others during the trip so in hindsight I guess we were lucky he pushed the envelope.

 

- We spent a lot of time looking for echidna and as an incentive Tim said that the first one to find one gets a big hug.  Later, after we hadn't found one, he "sweetened" the reward by saying the first one to find two gets a big hug...from behind.

 

- Tim would also whisper some street signs that we regularly saw along the roads.  So, every now and then I would hear "soft edges" or "concealed entrances" whispered to my right.  It was funny every time I heard it.

 

- If Tim had a mantra it would be "keep your eyes peeled".  He constantly said this as we drove around and would check on each of us occasionally to be sure our eyes were actually peeled.

 

Ah, good times 😁

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