- little penguins
- Ricky Ponting
Apparently the biggest threats to the above species are foxes, chlamydia and swinging balls and I will let you decide which is which.
On the 27th we cashed in the Christmas present from the Barley family to spend the day at Phillip Island (about a 90 minute drive from Melbourne or a good naps length in Minda's car journey timings). The day started out with morning tea and a look around the Churchill Heritage Farm which was pretty average both in terms of the number and quality of animals and not as good as a number of the open farms we have visited in the UK.
From there however we moved onto the Koala Conservation Centre and spent an hour walking through the eucalyptus woods koala spotting - helped occasionally by signs put out by the staff pointing to koalas. Given that they generally sleep 20 hours a day they tended to be just a ball of fur in a tree but if they were facing the right way or were moving I have to admit they were pretty cute to look at.
From there it was to the penguin parade and a behind the scenes eco-tour with Thomas the Ranger . The tour felt like something out of a kids TV programme - maybe because the participants were about 4 adults and 12 kids and maybe because Thomas was leaping around like Pat Sharpe in the Fun House (without the twins). The one big advantage of the tour however was that Thomas let us go straight to the viewing area rather than return to the centre and that meant we were the first there and could have our pick of the prime viewing locations. The downside to that was that we got to our seats about 6.50 and the penguins were not due until 9.00. We passed the time chatting to a family sitting next to us who had been at the cricket the previous day and watching everyone arriving and putting on multiple layers, blankets, hats, gloves etc while I was happy enough in my shorts. Anyway after a couple of hours the penguins arrived and it was worth the wait as hundreds of the 30cm high birds walked across the beach and gathered for a while literally 6 feet in front of us. They then set off again walking to their nests and we were able to follow a number of them up the paths back to the visitors centre, were you are advised to check under your car for penguins before leaving. There are no photos of real life penguins as all photography is forbidden. Penguins don't like cameras apparently.
We had seats up on the second level of a mightily impressive stadium (68,000 in on day 3) and sat in a mixed area of English and Aussie fans that created a good atmosphere. I had the pleasure of sitting next to an Aussie chap who appeared to be drunk when he arrived, had a vocabulary that included using the F-word at least twice in a sentence and got himself thrown out mid-afternoon for lighting a cigarette in a no smoking stadium. When asked to put it out, he did so on the back of the bloke sitting in front of him. Anyway the cricket was interesting without being edge of the seat stuff - no captains arguing with umpires and no really controversial decisions. There was a quality half hour when Tim Bresnan, the big fella from Yorkshire, knocked over three wickets in quick succession including Ponting, bowled of an inside edge, and Mike 'Mr Cricket' Hussey for a duck.
Towards the end of the day England were looking to take the extra wicket that would let them claim an extra half hour and I have never seen so many close catchers - I think we had 2 slips, 2 gulleys and 4 short extra covers (2 on each side of the pitch). It was to no avail however and the game was to go into day 4.
We decided over a drink in the sunshine after the days play that we had no real option but to go back on day 4 to see us wrap it up and on arriving at the ground it was apparent that many other England fans had reached the same conclusion. Three quarters of the stadium was virtually empty and the other quarter was full of the Barmy Army and other England fans, with a small smattering of loyal Aussies. The Army decided that they probably only had an hour to get through there full repertoire of songs so got straight into it - the particular favourite being 'He bowls it to the left, He bowls it to the right, oooooh Mitchell Johnson, your bowling is sh**e'.
In the end it took about an hour and a half as Haddin and Siddle put up a bit of resistance but Tim Bresnan took the final wicket and the England fans erupted. I have to say that during the presentation ceremony the Army and other fans did show an appropriate level of respect - having booed Ponting to and from the wicket each time he batted they listened to him and clapped when he made decent points in the post game comments. Following the presentations the England team did a lap of honour finishing with a choreographed dance move in front of the fans (that I am sure will be on You Tube).
It was a quality atmosphere inside the ground on both days and it is not very often that you get to say that you were at the MCG to watch England win the Ashes so that was a fantastic experience. I am now looking foward to going to watch the Aussie Rules there when the stadium is full of 60,000 Melburnians.
Of the three endangered species I reckon I know which will be extinct first.