A Travellerspoint blog

August 2013

Having a whale of a time!


I have been temping at Save The Children for a few months now and when I heard they were struggling to find a volunteer to drive some stock from Melbourne to their op shop in Ararat (charity shops are known as op shops here), I put our hands up. It was a perfect opportunity as Dan had been saying how he wanted to do a road trip and to be able to explore more of Victoria for free was an added bonus. As a thank you for giving up our time on a Saturday we would also be able to use the van to detour south to Warrnambool on the coast to hopefully spot some whales! :)

Ararat is a 2 and half hour drive west out of the city and so it was a 6.30am wake up call for us in order to pick up the van and get there by 10am.


We were so lucky with the weather and got a gorgeous day for the trip, a far cry from the recent horizontal rain and gale force winds we'd been having!

ROADTRIP!!! Woop Woop!


It was great to head out of the city and go on an adventure!



Despite all the signs along the road and keeping an eye out for any hopping in the fields we didn't spot any kangaroos (well not a live one anyway :( )


What a view!


We pulled off the highway into Ararat and found the shop, bang on 10 o'clock!


The op shop in Ararat is run by a lovely couple in their 80s called Brian and Dot. They set up the shop 16 years ago and have a great passion for what they do and a great sense of humour with it too.


As Dot put the kettle on, we unloaded the van and helped Brian to find space for it all in stock room of the shop.


It was a lot quicker taking everything out of the van than it had been trying to pack it all in! Even with someone horsing around!


As we were unpacking a shout came down from Dot asking if there were any playpens as a customer had come in asking for one, not for their child but because it was lambing season and they needed as many pens as they could find for all the lambs. When we got back upstairs Dot was washing chickens eggs that had been freshly dropped off from a local farm. We were definitely out of the city and in the countryside!

After good chat over a cuppa tea and some chocolate biscuits it was time for us to wave goodbye to Dot and Brian and start heading towards the coast. Dot had heard on the radio that whales had been spotted that week and advised us that sightings were best before midday...it would take an hour to get there so we needed to get a move on!

We'd been given directions to just turn left at the junction and then keep going straight to get to the coast, boy the road was straight!


Within minutes we were surrounded by fields again with sheep and cattle everywhere (other than in this pic).


...and for a moment I thought we were in Hobbiton!


I didn't spot any of these either!


This is Shadwell Hill. Brian's mate had told us too keep an eye out for it and that local students get a kick out of changing the "d" to a "g" on the signs.


We were heading to Logan's Point in Warrnambool which is a bay that is famous as one of the few places were you can stand on the beach and spot Southern Right Whales. Each year between May-October whales come to the bay from Sub-Arctic waters to have their calves and nurse them in the warm shallow water. In 1806 whaling began in Southern Australia and as the whales came into the bays they were easy to hunt. Over the years 26,000 were killed and by the 1920s they were on the brink of extinction with only an estimated 300 left in Australian waters and only 60 of those were female. Despite being protected since 1935 the population numbers have increased slowly and there may only be a few thousand left world wide. It would be a privilege to see one and so we joined the other whale watchers on the raised platform above the beach, binoculars at the ready...


Everyone was on the lookout!


It wasn't long before we spotted a puff of spray come out of the water...




Southern Right Whales are smooth backed whales with no dorsal fins so we knew they were rolling around in the water when their other fins and tail tips come out of the water. Although we didn't see any jumping (breaching) it was still exciting and for Dan who had never seen a whale before it was a special moment "They are so big!!"


It was awesome to see them but even if you didnt get a sighting, Logan's Point itself is pretty spectacular.


It was time to hit the road again in hunt for a sausage roll and to start the mission back to Melbourne.

All the sea air must have got to me as I slept most of the way back. Sleepy eyed I gazed out the window and I was so amazed at what I saw that I sat bolt upright scrambling for the camera whilst excitedly exclaiming to Dan that there was a duck and some chickens waiting to cross the road!! How amazing is that!


It was only as he started laughing at me I realised that they were just garden ornaments! Clearly going a bit quakers!


When we pulled over at a service station for Dan to have a break I thought my eyes had gone funny again, as not 1...2... but 8 cats came out of the bushes. They were in the middle of nowhere at a service station...random! They were wary of people so assume they were strays who had formed a gang that were doing well off all the food from passing motorists.


Strays here look very different to those we had come across in Asia!


We approached the city as the sun started to go down and it was a welcome sight for Dan who had done all the driving!


What a day!! :)


Posted by doyledan 16:14 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Million Beats!!

In one of our first blogs in Australia we mentioned meeting Tanya and finding out about her charity Hearts4Heart, a not for profit organisation who support adolescents and adults living with heart disease. Knowing we would be in Melbourne for a while we had told her to let us know if she ever needed any volunteers to help out and this is how we became involved with the launch of their Million Beats campaign.

Big thanks to Marz (Marlene Habib) for letting us use her photos of the campaign in our blog!


The idea behind the Million Beats campaign is to get people to donate their heartbeats, by getting their hearts pumping through exercise and sponsoring each heartbeat. At 1 cent per beat the goal is for an individual or team to raise one million beats in a month, raising funds for Hearts4heart to continue helping young people with heart disease while promoting a healthy lifestyle.

It was an early start and we proudly donned out Hearts4heart t-shirts and headed out as the sun was rising over Melbourne to make our way to WaterMarc Leisure Centre which was about 40mins out of town. As the charity operates on a volunteer basis it was great to see that so many had come together to support Tanya and the campaign and we soon were set to task blowing up balloons, fixing the stage, putting up signs and making sure everything was in place. We already looked like a team with our matching t-shirts but something was missing

We needed some more pizzazz to help us stand out in the crowd....


... And you can't go wrong with a glittery hat!

We were briefed by Tanya about how the morning was going to run, with a variety of class demonstrations such as Zumba and Body Attack happening throughout the morning and performances from Emmy Bryce, a singer/songwriter from Melbourne.


Tanya also reminded us of some of the key facts that we would need to get across when encouraging people to support the charity and sign up to the campaign including...

  • Over the past 30 years heart disease has been the leading cause of death in Australia.
  • Heart disease does not just affect the elderly and is one of the leading causes of premature death.
  • It kills one Australian every 11 minutes and affects two in three families.
  • Hearts4heart supports, educate and empowers adults living with heart disease, prevent hospitalisations and save lives!
  • Hearts4heart provide services and direct support to cardiac patients, their families and friends via one on one support and online forums/virtual communities.

During the briefing we were introduced to the compare for the day Jeff Waters from the ABC who got involved with the charity following his own personal experience with heart disease.


Armed with our info, loads of enthusiasm and now wearing feather boas too we were tasked, along with Paul and Sarah, to head upstairs to the gym to see if we could encourage people to sign up.


Not wanting to harass people as they pounded the treadmill we decided on the tactic of talking to people in the locker area before and after their work outs letting them know about the event in reception and how they could get involved. We soon had our patter down and learnt to play to our strengths. Paul had a way with talking to the older ladies sitting them down on the sofa for a chat, Dan took on going into the exercise studios talking to a captive audience before their lesson began and I ended up having the hard task for chatting to muscly guys... It was a tough morning :)

We headed back downstairs to help out there and saw that the demonstrations classes were in full swing and the boys were doing a great job showing everyone how it was done.


With music pumping and everyone jumping around like loons a crowd soon formed with cute kids hardly being able to contain themselves bouncing along to the beats and trying to copy the classes. It was a great atmosphere and as people watched on we mingled with the crowd giving them info on why we were here and how they could get involved.

As Emmy Bryce took to the stage to perform some songs the boys took a much needed breather!


Somehow I ended up being pulled up into one of the demonstrations. My co ordination is seriously lacking but it was really fun and we soon had a group of kids come and join in.


It was a great morning and we're looking forward to finding out how all the participants get on with their month of fundraising.


To celebrate a morning well spent Dan took me out to Healesville for a well earned lunch and one of these!!



Posted by doyledan 02:38 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Who wants to plant some trees?

National Tree Day

One morning a copy of the Yarra City Council newsletter landed on my desk and as I was glancing through it I spotted an article that mentioned that National Tree Day was coming up and volunteers were needed to help plant trees in Yarra Bend Park.

Always looking out for different things for us to get involved in I put a shout out to our friends about this conservation project and soon had a good group of mates who were happy to give up a Sunday morning to do their bit. It was great that so many wanted to be involved and I am sure that the prospect of a free BBQ afterwards was only a small contributing factor!

I hadn't actually looked up the logistics of how to get there and it was fortunate that we had cars to get there as public transport was not an option. Ria impressed us all by cycling there and after a few "I'm lost" phone calls managed to meet up with us.


The council had set up an information tent about the conservation in the local area and the plants we would be planting.


You could also find out about the creatures that live in the local creek and they were getting the kids excited about searching for critters.


They also had a petting area with farm animals.


We signed in and after a briefing on the idiots guide on how to take a plant out of its pot and put it in the ground we were ready to roll...and no Amy the diagram doesn't mean water the plants with your tears! :)


There were hundreds of plants that needed to be planted and we joined the other volunteers and got stuck in. I think someone mentioned that for every 100 planted only 30 would survive! The holes had already been dug and the plants laid out, all we needed to do was plant them. Although in some cases it was easier than others, I think I struggled for a good 5 mins trying to get one of the plants out without damaging it as it had got stuck.


First plant in :)



We made our way from one section of planting to the next and soon each had our own planting techniques mastered. Mary had bought along chocolate cake supplies for a mid morning break which was well received.



By midday all the plants were in and we were definitely appreciative of the BBQ!


I want one of these!


Thanks to Amy, Mary, Stefano, Ria, Noreen and Phil who missioned it out to Yarra Bend park to be part of the planting fun :)

We need to all reunite in 20 years and see how big our trees have got!


Posted by doyledan 05:17 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The Shrine of Remembrance

The Shrine of Remembrance is Victoria's largest war memorial. It was originally built to commemorate those who had served in World War I and was a place that Victorians could come to to pay their respects to those who had fallen and were now buried oversea. It now seen as a place to remember all servicemen and women that have served over the years.


This is definitely the most impressive aspect of the Shrine of Remembrance. Framed by trees which have each been planted in memory of a battalion creating an alluring perspective that beckons you towards the shrine.


The courtyard of the shrine is actually shaped to represent a cross and was created as the World War II memorial along with the Eternal Flame and the Cenotaph. This form really takes shape when you climb to the top of the shrine and look out over the courtyard.


We were also able to spot our flat from this vantage point too (helped by a good zoom). Its the one in the middle and we live on the top floor :)


The Eternal flame has burned continuously since 1954 when it was lit by Queen Elizabeth and sits in a bronze bowl beneath the Cenotaph.


The Cenotaph itself notes all the countries that Australians served in during the Second World War and the statue on top represents 2 soldiers, 2 sailors and 2 airmen who are carrying a dead comrade whose body is draped with the national flag.


At the other end of the arm of the cross are 3 flag poles flying the flags of Australia, Victoria and the third flag represents one of the forces which is rotated. When we were there it was representing the airforce.


Before we went into the shrine the guide told us the significance of the gardens that surround it. The trees have been carefully selected as memorial trees that are each dedicated to Victorian units. Veterans, family and friends congregate at these trees to pay their respects and remember them. Round the side of the shrine is what our guide referred to as the 'forgotten garden' which represents more recent wars that Australia has fought in, with plants from these countries plated here next to a fountain.


The Shrine itself was actually built by veterans of the First World War and was a way to provide returning soldiers with employment. This not only gave them a purpose and direction when they returned to Victoria, but also allowed them to express their loss and commemorate those who had once stood beside them.

The architecture and craftsmanship of this building is a marvel. We were amazed when we were told about the Ray of Light Ceremony where once a year on Remembrance day exactly at 11am on 11th November a ray of light shines down on to the Stone of Remembrance to mark the end of World War I. I believe it takes 15 minutes for the light to travel across the Stone of Remembrance lighting up the words 'Love' in the saying that is engraved there.


If I remember rightly our guide told us it took 110 pages of calculations for them to work out exactly how to build the shrine for this phenomenon to take place!

If you look closely in the top left hand corner of this picture you will see the mirror that has been so strategically placed to make this happen.


When you visit the Shrine you can experience a reenactment of the Ray of Light Ceremony every half hour and we participated in a minutes silence and had a moment of reflection.

Imposing black marble pillars surround the Sanctuary supporting the conical roof and the friezes that have been expertly carved in situ to represent different aspects of life for those serving during the Frist World War.


These depictions varied from life in the trenches and the use of radios to the first attempts to use aviation in war. The detail in the carving even went down to the wrapping that the soldiers would strap to their legs before they went 'over the top' to help combat against the sea of barbed wire that was waiting to ensnare them. It also acknowledges the work that women did as nurses putting their lives in danger to help the wounded.


It was great having the guide with us to point out these intricacies and tell us more about the history and life for people during this time. She even pointed out that if you look closely at the marble pillars that you can see fossils.


The Shrine of Remembrance should be high on the list of places to visit whilst in Melbourne and worth having someone who know the history to bring to life what this represents and the significance of not only the past but the learnings we must take for the future.




Posted by doyledan 03:46 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

St Kilda

sunny 12 °C

When the sun is shining in Melbourne do what the cool kids do and hang out in St Kilda.


Just a short drive/tram ride out of the city centre you find yourself at this seaside town, an up and coming area which apparently has a bit of a seedy past. Previously known as the red light district of Melbourne, St Kilda is now known for its bohemian atmosphere, street cafes, festivals in the summer and cakes!


We joined the weekend visitors leisurely walking up Acland Street, lingering at all the baked delights in the shop windows. If you have a macaroon, meringue, cupcake, slice, doughnut or cake craving this is the place to come to, and if you re lucky you ll find a free table outside to watch the world go by.


Still not found any Battenberg Cake though :(

Struggling to fight off the sweet tooth we popped into a local ice cream parlour and cheekily just had a couple of tasters to satisfy the urge before continuing on to check out the beach.


I hadn't been too impressed with the beach when I had visited in 2005 as there was a lot of rubbish but it looks like things have been spruced up since then and we had a nice walk along the promenade, wishing that we could keep a couple of the dogs that we met there.


It definitely is somewhere we would want to come back and check out once the summer gets here and serveral cool bars line the beach. Looking forward to having a sundowner at one of them with views over the sea....


.... Although maybe not at this bar!


We live over here next to this building (Eureka Tower)


Although it was a sunny day it is still winter here and so we were surprised when we saw a couple burst out of a building in their bathers and run down the beach, jumping into the water with a few squeals and gasps as the cold hit them. It turns out they had come from the famous St Kilda Sea Baths. Sea water is used in the baths that has been heated, a practice started due to the therapeutic and medicinal benefits that bathing in sea water is meant to have. Back in the 19th century you weren't allowed to bathe in the sea during the day so people had to stay within the baths, now a days this restriction doesn't apply but people still come here to swim in the warm water of the baths before plunging into the sea!

Next to the beach is Luna Park with creepy Mr Moons giant mouth looming over you, which is meant to welcome people in!


If I was a kid I would be petrified to go in...ok maybe it still scares me a bit today but the boys braved the choppers for this pic!


We didn't go in to check out the rides but from what we could see from the outside they were pretty old school. The amusement park opened back in 1912 and its roller coaster is the oldest operating one in the world! The speed of it is controlled by a man standing in the middle of the carriages who manually pulls on the brake lever to slow down... Not sure how much I trust this system.


Further along the palm tree lined boardwalk stalls had been set up so we checked these out. Not in the market to buy anything and getting hungry we decided to head back to Acland Street to see if we could nab one of the seats in the sun.


On the way we spotted this sign...


Intrigued we took a quick detour checking out the quirky plots with different themes, some had prayer flags and random statues whilst others had signs and mosaics.


What surprised us was that this community space had a large outdoor kitchen with a huge dining table so that people could come together to have a big picnic/BBQ and it was free to use for all, such a nice idea.

I would also be surprised if this fatty can fly!


It was time for some delicious Melbourne grub. We weren't able to find a table outside as everywhere was busy but that didn't matter as the food was amazing. One thing we have noticed since we have been here is that the Melburnians know how to do great food! And boy were we loving that!


On the way back to the car we noticed that the next road over from where we had parked had been cornered off by police. We would find out when we watched the news that evening that a sex worker had been found dead in the back of a van that afternoon. It seems that St Kilda has not fully moved away from its past and was shocking to think that whilst we had been enjoying a carefree Sunday afternoon that a woman's life had just been discarded a few roads away from where we had been, a sobering thought.


Posted by doyledan 18:16 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

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