I’ve had a busy and exciting past few weeks. We are officially moving house in three weeks and I have already started packing. We have been to a few concerts too – I think it’s that time of year. Of note, Grizzly Bear and Radiohead. Grizzly Bear was absolutely phenomenal, as expected. And Radiohead – they put on an amazing spectacle of a show, and it was well worth the long, long wait to finally see them. It was also Alex’s first arena concert. I am very lucky to have been born in this country as we have amazing bands visit regularly (not so much as the States or Europe, but much more so than Costa Rica).
We had a public holiday the other week, called Melbourne Cup. It is a bit of a ridiculous day off, really, as it’s for a horse race and promotes drinking wildly and betting madly. But a day off is a day off, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain. Alex had to work, so I was lucky enough to find a hiking group who were doing a day trip to French Island.
French Island is not far from Melbourne, about a one and a half hour drive. It’s quite an isolated and uninhabited island that no one really travels to or knows much about. It has no government, police, doctors, water or electricity mains, but one school amongst its 100 or so residents. So why do people live there? Predominately French Island is inhabited by farmers, growing… well, I’m not quite sure what to be honest. It’s a very mysterious place.
So why did I want to go? Well, there are a few reasons. To meet new people. To get some good exercise. To enjoy a long hike. To get outdoors. And to see koalas! Yes, French Island is full of the lovelies, and not only that, but the koalas living on French Island are chlamydia-free, unlike the koalas living on the Australian mainland. Australians (well, I speak for myself) still get excited when they spot a kangaroo or koala in the wild.
So up nice and early, I was picked up by a fellow hiker and we travelled to the ferry terminal on Victoria’s mainland. The ferry ride was short, about fifteen minutes. We arrived on French Island and were warned of mosquitos and snakes. We noticed the cars were unregistered and unroadworthy, but I guess things like that don’t really matter when there are no police around. It was an interesting start to our day of exploring this undeveloped part of Victoria.
We bathed ourselves in mosquito repellant and sunscreen and headed into the wild. The first part of our walk was along the shore, which was more or less a swampy mangrove. After a while we entered into the forest and a total change of scenery ensued. The Island has a varied range of habitats.
The mosquitos started biting crazily, and were getting in through our pants and hats. It was going to be a long, itchy day. I eventually learned to spray the repellant over my pants but I think by this stage it was far too late.
We traipsed through flat land, small hills, muddy tracks and bush. We took few stops as we needed to make it back to our starting point before the last ferry back to the mainland. No koalas as of yet, but many brown snakes were spotted (the most dangerous Australian snake, of course). I think it’s amusing that growing up in Australia, you learn all about the world’s most poisonous snakes (our favourite was always the cobra), but we were never taught that the most poisonous snakes in the world reside in Australia. Might be an idea to start teaching this, as to this day I am still pretty cocky when it comes to Australian snakes (“Oh, that’s nothing, he’s more scared of you than you are him”).
Then the storm started. Lucky for us, it rained for only about fifteen minutes. It settled down and we continued walking. The mosquitoes started to keep their distance after the rain.
I then heard the lovely growl of a koala in the distance. Koalas make the most strange snorting noise. I could hear it somewhere in the bush, but I think it was too far in to see. So we kept walking. And finally, we spotted a koala in a nearby tree. It was looking very cute there, munching away. Then the mosquitoes who were busily feasting on the koala found us and started following us again.
We then realised that we were running very, very behind schedule. We had started our walk at 11am. It was now 3pm and we’d walked 20km. But we’d need to walk another 10 or so km to get to the ferry, which left at around 5pm. Luckily, our hiking leader was able to contact a lady on the island who runs an old chicory kiln-cum-cafe, who offered to drive us all to the ferry terminal. We visited the kiln and she had made us all a delightful afternoon tea of scones and homemade jam. She gave us a short tour of the kiln, explaining the uses of chicory and how the chicory trade was once very popular on French Island. She also informed us that French Island used to have a prison. The Australians are good at shipping off criminals to uninhabited islands. We also saw another koala, this one up close and personal. She took us to the ferry terminal, seeing some more koalas on the way and stopping off at the only store on the island.
Muddy and bitten, we had returned to the mainland, much more informed of the mystery that is French Island.