Melbourne, Australia 15th May ~ 21st May 2009 Part 2 of 3

18th May 2009 ~ Great Ocean Road

Today is the Great Ocean Road tour. We book a tour with A Tour with A Difference. Grace arrived on time at 0730hrs and we are the first to be pick up. The mini van can seat up to 10 passengers and the van is fully loaded after picking up the last passenger.

We are blessed with good weather today. Blue sky and windy but not too cold. Passing by Geelong and our first stop is Bells Beach. Bells Beach is a coastal locality of Victoria, Australia in Surf Coast Shire and an internationally famous surf beach, located 100 km south-west of Melbourne, on the Great Ocean Road near the towns of Torquay and Jan Juc.

There we have a little morning tea. Grace actually prepared tea for us and she tried to prepare it in a pretty primitive way. After adding hot water to the tea, she tried to swing the tin filled with tea to mix it. Some biscuits and cakes are available for us. There are something called Vegemite there and I really wonder what is it. It smell like Bovril and I heard it is quite saltish. I do not dare to try it.

I can see some surfers on the beach. I am amazed by their resilience to cold weather. Though they may have a wet suit but it is still cold out there!

Next stop is the Split Point Light Station. Nothing much there except for a light house. However, this is the first time in my life that I come so close to a light house!

Next stop is the entrance of the Great Ocean Road. We stay there just for some photo taking.

Grace then brought us to spot some koalas. However, we can’t find any! She said that this is the first time in 8 years that she cannot find a single koala in the area. We then proceed to feed some parrots. This is again my first experience and I really like it when the birds fly and stay at your hand to feed on the seeds.

We then drove then trying our luck and we did spot some koalas high up.

Next stop is Cape Patton Lookout which is another photo taking session.

We then have lunch at Apollo Bay. We were given some choices and I choose chicken and my wife fish & chips. To my surprise, they have a dish called Singapore Noodles. I have never heard about this noodle as a citizen of that country! In the end, the chicken does not taste good but my wife’s dish seems better.

Our next stop is Maits Rest Rainforest Walk. When we are outside the rainforest the temperature is still comfortable. However, once inside the rainforest for just a few seconds, we can feel the the temperature drop. It is a huge difference. It is pretty cold in the rainforest. The walk took about 20mins to complete. Well, we actually speed up without waiting for Grace.

On the way to the next stop, we pass by the country side and we saw animals like sheep, cows and maybe goat. It is refreshing for us who stay in a city country.

Our next stop is Gibson Steps. To me, this is one of the climax of the whole trip. We walk down the steps and able to see the stones close up. The wave and wind is strong there and the view is awesome.

Next stop is the 12 Apostles. The view is pretty cool too and this is also the second climax of the trip. Unfortunately, now it left with eight only.

The final two stops are Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge. Grace told us an interesting story about the London Bridge but I believe since all of you have heard about it, I will not repeat here.

We then proceed to Port Campbell for dinner. It is fish and chips again. We also ordered hot chocolate but it does not turn out to be hot at all. It is actually warm only.

After dinner, it is all the way back to the city. On the way back, I am delighted to see one of the most beautiful view. When I raise my head, I saw the sky glittered with stars. With the dark surroundings without any street light and a cloud-less sky, the stars look even more captivating.

We ended our trip at 2130hrs.

My thoughts about the tour operator, A Tour with A Difference is that they are pretty good. There is another mini van that is driven by Grace husband Brian and we met sometimes at some destinations. They are down to earth and do not short change the customers. It is a family run business so there is more of a personal touch between the customer and them. Imagine they only charge AUD$115 per pax that includes morning tea, lunch (a big one and not a hot dog like some operators) and dinner! I can’t find another tour operator that offer this kind of value. Go West offer a similar tour at AUD$120 without any meals!

Grace has mentioned that they are going to raise the price soon to cover some of the extra cost, maybe about AUD$10. But I still find it worthwhile despite the increase.

Unfortunately that they do not do Philips Island tour else I would have book with them too.

19th May 2009 ~ Philips Island

Today is the Philips Island tour and we have book with Go West. They have changed the pick up time to 1030hrs and we were not even informed. Fortunately I called them in the morning to confirm the time. Since they is going to pick us up at only 1030hrs, I went out to explore Swanston street by myself.

I noticed that tram system in the city added much character to the city. It is unique and it make the city feel special.

We went down to the lift lobby at 1030hrs but could not find anyone.

We approach the hotel reception to request for late check out as the checkout time of the hotel is 1100hrs. I hope to secure a late check out of 1 pm. To my disappointment, they can only give us till 1130hrs. What 30mins can it make? It is just like your boss has decided to give you an increment but it is only a dollar! Furthermore, they wanted us to confirm it again on the day we check out.

I then received a call that the bus will be about 10mins late as they are looking for some missing passengers. When the bus arrived, we are the first couple to board.

Our guide is called Phil and he gave me a feeling of sunshine. He is polite and cheerful. We then pick up another Singaporean couple from Causeway Hotel and Phil introduced him to us as Mr and Mrs Smiley as they are always smiling.

Since Phil has to look for the other “late” passengers, he arrange us to have a little brekky at Novotel Hotel at the expense of Go West. A little bonus for us!

After Phil manage to gather the rest of the passengers, we start the trip.

The first stop is the Royal Botanic Garden of Cranbourne. Phil is an avid gardener. He often mentions about his gardening at home. You can feel that he speak with passion about the plants and his knowledge about the different plants in the garden is astonishing.

We have lunch at the Botanic Garden and after looking at the price, we decide to skip.

Our next stop is actually a chocolate factory in Philips Island. I do not know that Philips Island is link by a bridge with the mainland as I could not find this bridge in Google earth.

We walk around (unguided) the so-called factory and try to understand how chocolate is made. It is actually quite an interesting tour. I like the skiing game where we can get free chocolates. I ended up buying some chocolates. Since they are not so industralised, I believe the chocolates might taste better.

Our next stop is the Koala Conservation Center. Since we did not manage to spot many koala yesterday, Phil guarantee us that we definitely can see koalas there. The only challenge is to spot a moving koalas as they sleep 22 hours a day!

We did manage to spot some koalas and they are easier to spot there. Walking further into the center, we even spotted some Wallabies. They are so cute! We even manage to get a good close up on one of the Wallabies.

Our next stop is the Nobbies. The view is there is spectacular. I really like it especially if you travel to the end of the pavement. The scene there is more magnificent than the one you see right in front of the car park.

After the Nobbies, is the climax of the day, the Penguin Parade. We paid an extra AUD$15 per person for the Penguin Plus. We are seated at one end of the beach and Phil says that it is worthwhile during winter time as the number of Penguins coming ashore is fewer compared to summer. Phil also told us to sit at the extreme right of the stand so we can get the best and closest view of the penguins.

We are blessed with good weather again. Internet users and friends have warned me about the unforgiving winds in Philips Island. But it turn out to be fine; it is windy and cold but not extreme cold.

We waited patiently for the penguins. I then saw one penguin on the beach. As the waves rush to the shore, more penguins appear and they started to walk up to the beach. True to what Phil says, the penguins march pass us and since we are at the highest position, we can see the penguins from the beach all the way inland.

The penguins are really so cute and adorable. I really wish I could hug them. Unfortunately photos are not allowed.

After the penguin parade, we board the bus and head back to the hotel.

As for dinner, we decided to try the fast food here; KFC and McDonald’s. It cost me about AUD$18 for 2 chicken pieces from KFC, 1 chicken burger meal and 1 chicken burger. I can get this at about 3/4 price in Singapore. Well, for an experience, it is ok.

The McDonald’s burger does not taste nice. I can even say it taste terrible. The KFC chicken fare slightly better.

As for the tour operator Go West, I would say that the guide Phil is good. Whether do one enjoy the tour heavily depends on the guide and not the company that operates it. Phil is good and knowledgeable. He even offer to answer any questions that concerns our trip in Melbourne even if it is not related to Go West.

As you can see that unlike A Tour With a Difference, we have to pay for our meals. This is the downside but overall, the tour is enjoyable.

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