Monday, November 10, 2014

9 Nov 14 – Day 3 (Phillip Island)

I got up at 7:45am today since I didn't have to get to the pickup point for today’s day trip until 12 noon. Washed up, boiled water for coffee, ate one muffin with the jam I bought yesterday and did some packing before going over to Queen Victoria Market for a quick browse. Went back to the hotel by 10am and rested till 11am before heading out to the pickup point in front of St Paul’s Cathedral. Went to the reception counter to check on the trams to take and was told that any tram in front of the hotel would get me to Federation Square which is just next to St Paul’s Cathedral and that I would need to alight at the Flinders Street Station.

Checked out St Paul’s Cathedral and found out that one has to pay A$5 for license to take photos inside the cathedral and in any case, there was a Sunday mass in progress. I went inside to have a look, stood for a while before going out to check out the surroundings. Federation Square was very lively with many locals and tourists of all ages and there were performances too. I took photos of the exterior of St Paul’s Cathedral and its surroundings, Flinders Street Railway Station and Federation Square before waiting in front of St Paul’s Cathedral for the pickup by ATWAD close to 12 noon. It was a 12-seater mini-van and we were a group of 11 including the driver. There were already six members in the van when it arrived and initially I wanted to take the seat just behind the driver but was told to move to the back because an elderly lady named Judy, from Gold Coast, was going to sit there. The back row was a 4-seater but a group of 3 from US split themselves into 2-1 and I had to sit in between them. Felt very awkward especially when the two ladies (one of them is Chinese) flanking my left and right tried to talk to each other. There were another two guys of Indian nationality who sat in the two front seats with the driver.

The driver, Brian, was the one that corresponded with me on my day trips bookings. I thought he is going to be a young man but turned out to be an elderly man. He’s very knowledgeable and told us a lot of information about Melbourne. For example, there are a lot of street names that start with “Little”. For instance, there’s a Collins Street and there’s a Little Collins Street. The reason for most of the main street to have a little street is because in the olden days, horses were used to clear the buckets of manure every night and it wasn't nice to let the horses walk on the main streets with the smelly buckets of manure so these little streets were created for them to use. There were many other trivial that he shared with us but now I couldn't recall.

Brian drove to Berwick where he relished his role of the driver and tour guide and his wife, Grace, took over the role for the day. She gave us a rundown of the programs and it was then I realised that we wouldn't be having lunch. I should have read the program carefully beforehand and ate something before the trip. Our first stop was to a winery called “The Gurdies Winery”. Got there and we were given a wine glass each to taste the reds and whites. I tasted almost all the whites such as Verdelho-Chardonnay, Riesling (off-dry) and Pinot Noir rose (off-dry) but didn't taste the reds because I could feel my face heating up. While the rest continued with the reds, Grace was preparing the table with different types of cheese, bread and biscuits for the group. I was so happy at the sight of food because I was getting hungry. Joined the three Singaporeans at their table and chit-chatted while the others were happily chit-chatting in their group.

We left around 2:30pm to go to the Philip Island Chocolate Factory. The staff did a quick introduction on the making of chocolate and then left us to play the games in Penny’s Amazing World of Chocolate. Took some photos of the place and moved on to the retail shop where I bought some chocolates that were on my shopping list. I didn't have enough time to really look at each type of chocolates that were on display.

The next stop was to the Phillip Island Wildlife Park and all the members, except Judy and I, went into the park. Grace took our dinner orders and then gave the group 1-hour in the park before driving the rest to Cowes Jetty where Judy and I walked around to take photos. It was really windy and cold. Before Grace left, she showed us the location of the restaurant, The Fat Seagull, where we would have dinner and told us the time to be there. Soon it was 5:15pm and we made our way to the restaurant and waited for the rest to arrive. I had grilled fish & chips and I almost finished my food because I was hungry.

We left the restaurant around 6:30pm to make our way to The Nobbies for some photo-taking before hurrying to Phillip Island Nature Park for the Penguin Parade. Grace distributed blankets to everyone to use during the Penguin Parade and told us where to sit so as to get the best view. I was the only one with the Penguin Plus package which entitled me to a cup of hot drink and front seat. While Grace led the group to the viewing platform, I made my way further down to another platform that was at a corner nearer to the shore. Sat down and used the free wifi to message little big sis. The place was so windy and cold that I wished I had brought along the fleece jacket as well. I took a quick photo of the shoreline using my phone before sitting patiently to wait for the penguins to arrive. Grace came by for a while to make sure I was alright and even offered to collect the hot drink for me but I declined. The platform filled up slowly and as the sky darkened around 8:15pm, we could barely make out the little dots along the shoreline.

The little penguins were playing along the shoreline according to the Wildlife Marshall and then slowly, we could see little dots waddling up the beach and over the rocks. Soon they were in front of us, standing there for a while, preening their feathers before proceeding to their different burrows. They were so cute! Before Grace left us, she told us to gather at the van in the parking lot at 9:15pm where she would have hot drinks ready for us and after that we would make our way back to Melbourne City. So I had to move off from the platform around 8:45pm to make my way back to the visitor centre and along the way made a quick toilet stop. Reached the visitor centre, queued up to collect the hot chocolate, drank it quickly and did a quick browse at the gift shop where I bought a gold souvenir coin and a postcard.

Hurried to the meeting place, returned the blanket and Grace informed us that she had forgotten to bring the flask with the hot water when she took over the mini-van this morning so instead she offered us Tim Tam. The Chinese young lady from US was separated from her two friends and came back to the van alone. I started a friendly chat with her. Soon everyone came back and we began our 2-hour journey back. Grace managed to drop everyone off smoothly and I was the only one left. Grace had problem finding my hotel and after a few wrong turns, she finally found it and by then it was already 12 midnight. Quickly thanked her, went back to the hotel, showered, blogged, set the alarm for next day at 8:30am and slept around 1:30am.

Thought: Tour was ok, Grace was very helpful and thoughtful, she made sure that we were all well-taken care of. The downside of the tour is that for those who hardly drink wine, a visit to the winery will be a waste of time. Due to the long journey back to the city, we had to cut short our stay for the penguin parade. We only get to see about 30-45 minutes of the little penguins. No wonder people told me that it would be better to stay overnight at Phillip Island, at least we can stay longer and no need to worry about the journey back. While walking back to the visitor centre, I could see little penguins waddling along the boardwalk, some even waddled way up near to the visitor centre which was quite far from the shore. Guess this is the closest I can ever get to little penguins without the glass panel.

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