Saturday, February 18, 2006

Australia ~ Phillip Island ... No, wait, that's not right!

Shane and Fiona have to get started pretty early, but Shane has arranged to take a break and drive us to the pier at 8 am to catch the Ferry to Phillip Island. So, we're all packed up, and ready to be tourists on a touristy island when Shane picks us up. We make it to the pier just in time, and Gregg runs to get tickets while I hold the ferry. Perfect timing. There aren't very many people on the ferry, which isn't a huge surprise to us. We'd already figured out that with the ferry schedule from Stony Point (the peninsula) to Cowes (Phillip Island) being what it is, and the fact that there's a bridge on the other side of the island, most people come over on bus tours or by driving their own car.

The ferry trip is really pretty short ... maybe 20 minutes or so. When we get off the ferry we're a little surprised to see dirt roads and only one building off in the distance. We'd already been told that there was really nothing much on the island, but we have to be honest ... we expected a little more than the nothing we were seeing. Anyway, we figure it's a little walk to town, so we get to walking. Almost simultaneously, Gregg sees a sign, and I see an address on the side of a vehicle ... we're on French Island! Where's that ferry now?! We realized pretty quickly that we were stuck until the next ferry arrived ... at 4:30 pm.

You may notice that the population of the city of Cowes on Phillip Island is about 4,000, while the population of the entire French Island is closer to 70 people. It's a 3 km walk (with our luggage) from the ferry terminal to the General Store, where we finally sat down, had a cup of coffee, mailed off a postcard (that postmark is a gem, Bethany ... hope you get it), and spent some time talking to Denny, a German guy we met up with. The woman at the General Store let us leave our luggage behind the counter. Since we had a day to kill, and there's nothing on the island but hiking trails, we wanted to take advantage of the moment. Denny had already gotten some advice on a good path, so we followed along after him. It was actually a really enjoyable day, after the initial trauma of course. We saw two koalas "in the bush". Much better than seeing them at a zoo or wildlife park. And the island is very pretty.

By the end of the day though, my "touristing" shoes weren't holding up well with the hiking we'd been doing, and I had massive blood blisters on both heels. And another horrible rash on my legs. I'm clearly allergic to something here. Apparently, in Australia at least, I'm meant to be more of an urban person than a country person. I've spent half the vacation with various bites and rashes. Hasn't prevented me from having a great time, and usually I can manage to just ignore it, but it's a puzzle to me.

Anyway, when the evening ferry came Gregg explained to the nice ferry guy that we'd gotten off too early (apparently in the morning the ferry went from Stony Point to French Island to Phillip Island). He very kindly let us get to Phillip Island (this time it was French Island to Stony Point to Phillip Island). Just to add to the confusion a little, on the return trip the next morning we went from Phillip Island to French Island to Stony Point. So, in our defense, the printed schedule indicates that the ferry goes from Stony Point to Phillip Island, and doesn't indicate that it also stops (sometimes first) at French Island. There is no sign once you land on French Island telling you where you are, which seems the least they could do. And the route itself is a little inconsistent from morning to evening, and day to day. I think that the only people who take the ferry are locals, so they figure that anybody on the ferry already knows where they're going, and they don't need to bother with details like signage. Anyway, he didn't make us buy another ticket. Very nice of him.

We got to Phillip Island later in the day, around 6 pm I think, and walked up the hill to our lodgings at Amaroo Park. We knew the general direction of the place, but about halfway there we stopped in at a little bakery to ask for details on finding the park. We recognized one of the patrons from the ferry, and when he saw us he said, "You're looking for Amaroo Park" ... lucky guess? ... when we asked how he knew where we were going he said "Everybody with a backpack is looking for Amaroo Park". We were lucky to get a cabin to ourselves, with our own bathroom and kitchen. After crashing on the bed for a few minutes to catch our breath, we took showers and got ready to catch a taxi to the Penguin Parade.

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