Ocean Drive

The anniversary of my 4th decade on the earth gave the old girl an excuse to fly out for a visit. Fancy man in tow. My end of the bargain was to assume the role of tour-guide-slash-driver for a road trip round Victoria.

#1 Phillip Island and the Mornington Peninsula

The locals bang on about the penguins at Phillip Island. So we head down there. The beach-side grandstand at sunset is our vantage point. A November chill whistles round my April. While the over-hyped tourist guff has me expecting Dunkirk penguin style!

A partially incubated farmer Gile later and my patience is on the wane. When the curious little fellas eventually turn up, they’re apprehensive – unsurprising with a few hundred mince pies staring back at them. After more waiting, they grow the balls for a waddle up the beach towards us.

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At 30 cm high, these are “little penguins”. So they take a bit of squinting at distance. Thankfully the floodlight boardwalks provide a close-up. They were worth the wait.

#2 The Great Ocean Road

Before hitting the Great Ocean Road its breakfast at Narana (near Geelong) and our first taste of aboriginal culture. From there it was a leisurely drive along the coast stopping anywhere with a bit of life. For Australia’s most densely populated state there weren’t many people about.

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As coastlines go I can’t knock it – it’s up there with the English Riviera.

#3 the Grampians & Ballarat

Not sure how they measure up to the real Grampians, but the views were pleasant enough.

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The Brambuk Cultural Centre (in Halls Gap) gives us more on the indigenous way of life and how it was ripped apart when the white man arrived – Christianisation, the stolen generation, forced interbreeding. My ancestral comrades have a lot to answer for.

The road back to Melbourne took us to Ballarat (& Sovereign Hill), where in the 1850s gold was discovered. The indigenous people (who’d been sitting on a goldmine for 50,000 years) were swept aside, as the world’s gold diggers descended on the place.

They found so much of the stuff that 2% of the UK population joined the gold rush and the population of Victoria went through the roof. The penny soon dropped – sending convicts out here was no longer a punishment, so they knocked it on the head.


It was a congenial couple of weeks – coffee chats and countryside. Away from daily distractions, the conversation flows from family – and stories of sibling eccentricities, to philosophy – and a pensioners propensity to play Pascal’s wager. They call this sort of thing quality time. You can’t put a price on it!

Some words of relevance:

“Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good.” – Mary Schmich (her letter was put to music by Baz Luhrmann)

“The mother and child reunion is only a motion away.” – Paul Simon*

*Interesting fact: While in a Chinese restaurant Paul [Simon] noticed a dish of chicken and eggs on the menu. The English translation was “mother and child reunion”, and he said to himself, “I gotta use that one”.

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