Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Next up on the Australian adventure was something that C had been telling me about since the beginning of our relationship... So it was something that even though naturally I would be excited for, all the hype really got me ready. C had been telling me about a place called Phillip Island ever since he learned of my obsession with any and all animals. At sunset, you can go to a specific beach on Phillip Island and witness the local species of penguins come out of the water, on to the shore and make the treck to their burrows for their nightly rest. So, obviously, this is something I had to witness.
Last Thursday, we decided would be the day, so we set the alarm got out of bed before noon (shocking) and headed off. Phillip Island is about a few hour drive from C's house, but because the penguins don't arrive until sunset, we planned on visiting C's grandmother on the way. C's grandma was in the hospital for a surgery she had the week before and was in the mood for some cheering up, I could only assume. So armed with a box of flowers, we entered the hospital, so I could meet even more of C's family. Now besides animals, I have a strange love of old people. Their distinct personalities and frank comments make visits quite enjoyable; and this one was no different. 'Nanna' was a real ball-buster and couldn't have been more enjoyable. Talking about the zoo, Mali, and stories from the past - the time at the hospital flew by. It only got uncomfortable when C dropped his pants to reveal his thigh tattoo to his grandmother... only for her to say the blond in the tat looked like me (coincidence? no.). As if that wasn't uncomfortable enough, Nanna then turned to me and asked if I had any tattoos of my own. I, being the loyal human being I am, could not lie. I then showed her my Carpe Diem and my peace sign and she lovingly rolled her eyes and quickly changed the subject... distinct and frank, I was not let down. After getting queasy when talk turned to surgery and post-ops, C and I decided to head to the penguins.

When we arrived at the Penguin Parade, things had change quite a bit from what I had expected and what C remembered from when he went as a kid. The quiet little beach I envisioned myself sitting on surrounded by baby penguins (one of which would choose me and come home quietly in my purse) had changed to a massive tourist attraction that charged forty dollars a head to sit in stands on the beach. Ugh.
After paying, C and I wandered around until the sun was getting close to setting. At sunset we headed down the boardwalk to take our seats. Upon arriving at the stands, C and I spotted a penguin sleeping in his burrow - he had not made the trip out to sea for the day because he was molting. Precious baby, Cooper - you have some competition.

Fed up with my indecision to choose a seat, C plopped down at the closest bench and waited for the 'show' to start. We had MP3 players that told the history of the penguins; smallest species of penguins in the world; called Little Penguins, yet known as Ferry Penguins; it was in season for them to be molting, case in point penguin #1, so they will be a bit plump. Finally, I hear lots of commotion from the gaggle of Asian tourists behind me, so I look up to see what they are pointing at. It was Penguin #2 !!! A lone little penguin coming out of the water and waddling up the beach. When he arrived at the first lamp, near the corner of the stands, he stopped and hung out for a bit... Just enough of the tourists to ooh and aah over, then moved on to his burrow. About thirty minutes after Penguin #2, I really heard the commotion. I then, looked up, and saw it. It looked like a tidal wave of white on the beach. What I saw were hundred of white bellies coming out of the water and heading up the beach. Hundreds and hundreds of precious mini penguins waddling up towards us. It was the most amazing natural experience I have ever witnessed. We weren't in a zoo, they were pets, this was their habit and it was naturally happening. It really was incredible. After waddling up the beach, they would then hang out for a big right in front of us before, like Penguin #2, heading off to their burrows. I am not exaggerating when I say hundreds. There seemed to be millions, yet the Ranger said the population was around 60,000. When we had enough of watching them come up the beach, we could tail along and walk the boardwalk and follow the rest of their journey home. Which we did. We may have been the last people there, it was hard to tear myself away without a precious waddler in my purse... but i did.

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