Monday, November 11, 2013

Australia road trip day 4 - MCG tour, Collingwood Children's Farm and Penguin Parade

For cricket fans like Viv and Appa, no trip to Melbourne can be complete without a tour of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I flatly refused to go for the tour. So I fixed up a meeting with an ex-colleague of mine who had moved from Singapore to Melbourne. She has two adorable little girls, and we decided we would take the three girls to Collingwood children's farm to see the animals.

Viv dropped Xena and me off at the farm and they proceeded for their MCG tour. They didn't have coins to pay for parking so they asked a passer-by for change for a note. He didn't have so many coins, so he just gave Viv the amount needed and refused to take the note. That was so nice of him that Viv ran to the car and found a new pack of Mentos, ran after the guy, tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Here's something for your change." The guy was amused but accepted it.

Xena was singing to keep herself occupied during the car ride to the farm. 

I had a coupon for 50% off the admission price of a family ticket at Collingwood, and they had indicated family as two adults and upto four children. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to use the coupon as it was pretty obvious that this group with two Indians and three Chinese wasn't exactly a family. I decided to try my luck anyway, and they accepted the coupon without any qualms. Perhaps they thought it was an inter-racial lesbian couple with three kids and didn't want to question it?

The farm is actually quite small but they had pretty much all the farm animals you could think of -- sheep, peacocks, goats, ducks, hens, roosters, lambs, horses, etc. The kids had a blast walking around and looking at the animals. Xena was taking her steps with caution and warning the others, "Don't step on the bird poop!"    

Xena spots some ducks... or are they geese?

Bravely walks towards them...

And says, "Want to touch it!"

"Want to touch that duck!"

So I took her a little closer but told her she still couldn't touch it. 

She was happy with the close encounter. 

My little chick with some hens

We saw this strange bird that looked like a cross between a duck and a hen!

She spotted a peacock but it had its back to her at first. She asked me what to do and I told her to say, "Peacock, please turn around." She said that and the peacock immediately turned around!

Here, she's saying, "Mummy no bola tha turn ho jaayega!"

The three little girls watching the horse with fascination

Xena immediately wanted to ride the horse, but this horse was not for riding. She watched it as it pooped, and said, "Horse poop is just like Xena's poop!"

It was starting to drizzle just as we completed the tour, so we headed to the cafe inside the farm (simple called The Farm Cafe) where we had lunch and waited for Viv to get us. The kids also exchanged gifts. Xena received this totally awesome Hello Kitty boxed toy, which came with a story book, a chart and 12 Hello Kitty figurines. They had a real blast playing with it. 

The guys, meanwhile, were having a blast at the MCG. 

I'll let Viv write and explain this photo...

And this...

Finally, they came and picked us up. We went home to rest for a while and then set off for the Penguin Parade in the evening. The Penguin Parade is one of the biggest attractions of Philip Island, where one can view hundreds of penguins returning ashore after a long day of fishing. 

The weather had been very windy, rainy and cold, and not exactly suitable for the Penguin Parade, but the forecast didn't show it to get any better the next day, so we decided to wing it and go. The drive from Melbourne to Philip Island was about a hour and a half long. There was a sign saying that the penguins were expected to arrive at 8:21 pm (wow, so precise!) and we had plenty of time. We went through the displays in the visitor centre, which included life-size models of emperor penguins and king penguins. There was a section where you could actually look right into penguins' burrows through tiny, circular glass doors. Some penguins were missing, and there were signs explaining where they had gone and when they were expected to be back. If you looked out of the main windows into the bushes outside the visitor centre, you could see kangaroos jumping around. After an early dinner at the cafe in the visitor centre, we hung around waiting for the gates to the boardwalk to open. It was terribly windy and rainy and we bought raincoats from the gift shop. They did not have any kid-sized ones, so we had to literally wrap a big one around Xena, making her look very much like a penguin herself!

Finally, the gates opened and we set off towards the viewing platform. It was only about 7:45 pm or so, so there was plenty of time for the penguins to come. We decided to set up camp in a covered section of the boardwalk. Luckily, we had an umbrella with us so we were somewhat protected from the wind and rain. But before long, the chilly wind and lashing rain made it very hard to stand there. I ventured further to the main viewing platform, but it was simply unbearable there, and for an instant I was almost blown away by the wind. I scurried back to our shelter and reported the situation. The main viewing platform had tiered seating, but absolutely no protection. We did not want to wait there, especially with Xena. Viv decided to go back to the visitor centre with her, and asked us to give him a call when the action happened. 

Appa and I waited for a long long time in the freezing cold. Luckily, we had layers on, and the raincoats also provided some insulation. Several groups were huddled together in such shelters along the boardwalk. There was even a guy standing there and selling muffins and hot drinks! Finally, we saw people rushing towards the main viewing platform and called Viv. He came with Xena but by then, there was no need to go to the platform because we could already see the penguins from the boardwalks! There they were, these cute tiny beings, waddling along in their black and white suits, heading home after a tiring day, and looking somewhat confused at the large crowds of people watching them. Photography was strictly prohibited to protect the penguins' sensitive eyes, and it was absolutely infuriating that people were still not only taking photos, but using FLASH! Oh my goodness, I wanted to go and slap these people and throw their cameras overboard. And true to what I had read on Tripadvisor, every single one of these violators was an Asian. 

Viv pointed out the penguins to a very fascinated (and kind of freezing) Xena. It really was very cold and we decided to head back. Suddenly, Viv turned and asked me if I wanted to go to the main viewing platform. Gosh, I was dying to! So he decided to take her inside, while I bravely ventured out in the lashing wind and rain towards the platform. My torturous trip was totally rewarding when I got there. Even though most people had left by then, what I saw was really amazing. One moment there were just waves, and the very next moment, little groups of penguins suddenly emerged from the waves and confidently marched off towards their burrows. Spectacular. I almost forgot to feel cold thinking of them splashing about in the icy cold water. 

I followed a few of the penguins along the boardwalk. I was literally walking a few cm away from them! Some of them would walk, then spot the people, hesitate, wait for their friends to join them, and then walk again. It was amazing. Soon, I had my fill and headed back to find my own little penguin in the very blue crowd. In fact, almost everyone was wearing the visitor centre raincoats, and at one point, Appa even started talking to some random people, thinking it was us! The guy was holding up a bundled kid just as Viv was, and it was really hard to distinguish anyone. We had a good laugh over it, and then headed home after a long tiring day. Just like the penguins!



  • I wanted to read Viv's whiteboard writing but clicking on the picture shows a message that this Gmail id does not have permission to view. Anything you can do for that?

    People are really insensitive in places where photography/flash photography is prohibited.

    By Blogger Sudeep, at 9:14 AM  

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