(Better known as Phillip Island.)
30/3/16. Cowes is a busy, touristy little town and very pleasant. Wednesday morning was spent doing not very much in particular (laundry, shopping, a wander down to the jetty, etc.) In the tourist information office we found that the only way of getting to the place where the penguins do their thing, in the absence of a car, was by taxi. Cycling was DEFINITELY not recommended as it is a dark, busy, dangerous road.
So we decided to walk there and, for the return journey, try hitching or, failing that, ring for a taxi, or, as a last resort, walk.
Well. It was a flippin’ long way to walk! Over 12 km as it turned out. We know. We should have checked before setting out, but it didn’t look that far on the map! We were mighty glad of the sit down and refreshment when we got to the café.
The penguins come ashore at dusk after 2 or 3 days out at sea feeding and have to cross a 20-30 metre wide sandy beach to get to their burrows. They gather on the edge of the water in groups of 5 to 10 before making the dash to avoid the raptors and larger gulls which prey on these small birds. (They are the smallest species of penguin and are about a foot tall and weigh about 1 kg.)
To be perfectly honest it was a little underwhelming because, understandably, they waited until it was pretty dark before emerging from the water and, again understandably, we were not that close. So our ageing eyes were struggling to make out too much. Between the beach and the car parks there are boardwalks from which you can see the little charmers around their burrows, but we were too focused on getting to the road to start hitching to look very much! (Neither of us fancied the walk!)
It is a very popular attraction. Christine had read that they could take up to 3,800 people each evening (at $25 a pop!) and there must have been close to that when we were there.
We had seen several hitchhikers in both NZ and Australia and seen 2 or 3 being picked up so it looked as though it was much more “accepted” thing to do than it is in the UK these days so we were hopeful that a friendly Aussie would take pity on a couple of oldies!
After 20 or 30 cars drove past the pessimistic accountant mindset was kicking in. Of course we both knew it was early days but you can’t fight nature! And then a car stopped. Three youngsters, Erin, Bella and Jack, said they were going to somewhere close to Cowes and moved “stuff” off the backseat into the boot to make room for us. We had a very pleasant natter about what we are doing and how come they were in Victoria (Erin is from Brisbane and the others from Perth) before they dropped us right by the campsite. We are really grateful to them for their kindness because the walk would have been most unpleasant.
(By the way, no photography is allowed after sunset to avoid frightening the penguins so the reason the photos are of a higher than normal standard is because we downloaded them!)