Monday 7th October was the start of 3 weeks of annual leave for me. And the start of 1 week of annual leave for Rebecca. As I had 2 more weeks of holidays after this week, this week of holidays to Phillip Island was, technically, “her” holiday.
Phillip Island is about 20km x 10km in size, in Westernport Bay, about 2 hours drive by car from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. It is mostly rural with farmland, most urban development in a few places on the north and northwest coast, and along the south east coast. The south coast has plentiful surf beaches and rugged cliff faces and the north coast is a lot less rugged and the beaches are sheltered from the open ocean and generally have very calm waters.
From where we live in southern New South Wales, Phillip Island is about 5 hours drive away.
We arrived mid-afternoon Sunday 6th October. The next day, after I went for a decent length (6+ km) morning walk, we set off on our activities for the day. First stop was ‘Amaze-N-Things’, a tourist destination with many strange things like a billiard table where the balls roll uphill, a kitchen sink where the water overflows up hill, a time machine, mirrors that multiply, shrink and stretch you, and various other attractions. It also includes a maze with four flags that have to be reached. I managed to get to 3 of the flags by keeping the unbroken maze wall on my left. The fourth flag was a little harder to get to and required my finding my way to a raised section, then doing an ‘overhead’ survey of the maze between the raise section and the last flag. After doing that I managed to reach the fourth flag. Rebecca and Eliana only managed 3 flags.
After that we travelled about 20 minutes beyond Phillip Island to Maru Wildlife park at Grantville. I had seen Koalas a fair distance away in trees before, but the Koalas at Maru Wildlife park were much closer. There was also enclosures with possums in one, snakes in another. The possum one was particularly interesting – I have never seem them moving around so much as they did in that enclosure.
Before we returned back to our accommodation for the evening, we decided to travel to The Nobbies on the western edge of the island. At The Nobbies there are views out to Bass Strait and Seal Rocks where there is a large colony of seals – I guess that’s how it got it’s name. We also visited Pyramid Rock, a rock that is pyramid shaped that sits just off-shore a few kms from The Nobbies. A lot of the south coast of Phillip Island is home to seabirds including Fairy Penguins and Cape Barren Geese. Near The Nobbies we saw some Cape Barren Geese with little chicks. Pretty cool!
Tuesday dawned with the possibility of rain – a 90% likelihood according to the weather people. Our plan for the day was to visit the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory. It opened at 10am, and I decided that to get some good exercise I would walk from our accommodation to the Chocolate Factory, a distance of approximately 14.5kms which I managed to complete in just over 2 hours. The Chocolate Factory was a very interesting place with lots of information about the process of chocolate making. One of the displays I found particularly interesting was a working model railway where the scenery was all made of chocolate. It was interesting to read about the process of making chocolate, from the raw cocoa pods right through to the end product. Some of the steps include:
Growing the pods. This can only happen in the heat of an equitorial forest, within 10 degrees of the equator.
After harvesting the fresh pods are covered with banana leaves to ferment in the sun.
The wet pulp containing the cocoa beans is removed from the pods then the beans and pulp are left to ferment for about 5 days in the sun.
Then the beans are left to dry for 6 days, often spread out on bamboo rack to aid airflow.
The dried cocoa beans are roasted. The roasting time and temperature affect how the finished product will taste. This is done in huge industrial ovens.
The beans are crushed to reveal the nibs inside.
After the nibs and shells are crushed they need to be winnowed to separate the lightweight shells from the heavier nibs.
The nibs are then ground in huge grinders at chocolate processing plants. Because the nibs contain so much oil the grinding turns the nibs to paste, which is called cocoa liquor.
Some of the cocoa liquor is then pressed to separate the oil, the result is called cocoa butter which is used in the next step for making chocolate. The solids left behind by this process cocoa cake which is them ground into cocoa powder.
This is followed by Mixing, Refinihs and Conching. This is where the cocoa butter is mixed with sugar, lecithin, and milk powder (if making milk chocolate). This process can take days to complete.
The chocolate is then tempered so that it has a shiny surface and ‘cracks’ when broken – this is what defines good chocolate.
The chocolate factory also had some advice and life rules, sometimes of somewhat dubious scientific value, suhc as :
Put “eat chocolate” at the top of your list of things to do for the fay. That way at least you will get one thing done.
I could give up chocolate, but I’m not a quitter.
The weather was a bit inclement when we finished at the Chocolate Factory, but we still managed to explore the Cape Woolamai area at bit. Cape Woolamai is on the south coast of the island and has quite dramatic cliffs, high sand dunes, and energetic surf waves.
Later in the day we went for a bit of a walk to the jetty at Cowes on the north side of the island and spotted an oil rig (I think) and some ships that were connected with the rig somehow. Then it was off to The Fat Seagull, an eatery in Cowes near the jetty for our evening meal. Wow! The meals were awesome, and the service was very friendly.
The following day, Eliana was tired and not feeling well, so Rebecca and I did some exploring of the the island while leaving Eliana at our accommodation to rest. We started our explore with a walk in the Conservation Hill / Rhyll Inlet nature reserve, reaching Rhyll township where Rebecca asked me to walk back and pick up the car as she was tired. Rhyll township is very different to how I remember it, 25+ years ago, where it was a small un-remarkable seemingly neglected hamlet. Now it has a lot of houses with some beautiful gardens, and pleasant parkland, although the waterfront is more or less how I remember it. As we were getting close to the Rhyll foreshore we experienced the malicious fervour of a nesting Plover as it swooped enthusiastically at us. Obviously it had a nest of young plover/s nearby that it felt we were threatening. We also saw other birds, such as blue wrens, yellow-tailed black cockatoos, and some other types I couldn’t identify. The mangroves showed very obviously where the tide reached – something I hadn’t realised until this walk as interpretive signage distinctly identified the tidal zone as where the mangroves reached to.
One thing that has struck me during this holiday is how hilly Phillip Island is. I remember it being quite flat, but after exploring the island I realised that it is actually quite hilly and undulating and the hills can be quite steep although the island is by no means mountainous. The hilliness is more obvious when walking or (I assume) cycling as extra effort is required on a number of paths and tracks. The hilliness is in stark contrast to where we live in the mainland interior of New South Wales, where the ‘hills’ are generally more gradual and very often unremarkable.
After walking the Conservation Hill / Rhyll Inlet we drove to San Remo on the mainland, where the only road bridge connecting the island to mainland is located. There we watched the daily pelican (I asume the Australian Pelican, Pelecanus conspicillatus) feeding, with about 100 or so other people. The pelican feeding has been happening for years, with one regular pelican and various other non-regular pelicans taking advantage of the free meal. Rebecca said “I love pelicans, they are so graceful”. I can’t disagree with that! But they are also quite large birds – not to be messed with. Apparently, younger pelicans have brown on their wings and as they get older the wings go black. It was interesting to notice too that many pelicans in the group being fed had dark patches on their necks and heads. I’m not sure what that means.
The following day, Thursday, Eliana was well rested so we started the day off by taking her (at her request) to the ‘Clip-N-Climb’ at Cowes. A ‘Clip-N-Climb’ has various artificial walls and rock faces that can be climbed while clipped into an automatic safety cable – hence the name. The various walls require various levels of technical and physical ability. Eliana really enjoyed trying the different walls, and it was fun watching her scaling up the walls and then gracefully descending to the floor on the automatic safety cable.
After Eliana had given her muscles a good workout at the Clip-N-Climb, we explored further afield. We had found out about the Wonthaggi State Coal Mine earlier in the week, and decided to visit it. I find historical industrial sites very interesting, and the State Coal Mine was no different. It was interesting to see the various elements of coal mining, how miners and their families lived, the mechanics of coal extraction and transport. The Wonthaggi township had a number of coal mines, the coal extracted being used for fuel for steam engines for the state’s railways. As diesel locomotion replaced steam, the need for coal for steam engines become less and less and by the end of 1968 all the coal mines in the Wonthaggi area had closed. Today it is still possible to see old machinery and buildings once associated with a once thriving coal mining industry in various places around Wonthaggi. The State Coal Mine park we visited was in the East Area.
Following our visit to the State Coal Mine, we decided to explore the coast. Starting at Cape Paterson, we travelled through to Inverloch exploring various beaches along the way. About 10 years ago, we lived within about 20km of the coast, but the coast where we lived was no-where as dramatic as the coastline we saw on this trip. The rocky crags, curvacious sandy beaches, sea caves, and inlets provided plenty of eye candy and more than a little serenity for the mind. We realised how much we missed being close to the coast.
That evening saw us eating our last evening meal for the holiday, at a Tex- Mex Cantina in Cowes. And then we retired to our accommodation. The next day we travelled back home, via my parents house for lunch and a visit.