Travelling Australia - Journal 2010
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8-13 April - Port Fairy
By this time of the year the weather is expected to be moving into winter and this was the case while we were at Port Fairy; weather conditions were a major factor in deciding what we would do on any day. For at least one day we stayed in the van listening to the rain on the roof and the wind moving the awning around. Other days were either free of rain, but not really sunny; or rain came in brief, heavy showers which were tolerable when we were ready for them with suitable wet weather clothing.

Port Fairy is a small place (permanent population 2,500) which was once a major sea-port and fishing port but is now primarily a tourist destination. Many residential and commercial buildings are about 150 years old, but well preserved, and mature Norfolk Island pines line the river and most residential streets. The shopping area contains a large number of restaurants, cafes and take-aways; even with the weather verging on unpleasant the outdoor coffee tables were full on Sunday morning. This was the last week of school holidays in Victoria and the number of visitors in Port Fairy declined as the week progressed with fairly poor holiday weather.

One day we drove to Tower Hill Reserve. This is a prominent volcano which was denuded of vegetation because of neglect in the past but has been restored to a pleasant reserve with koalas, wallabies and emus in abundance. Several walks have been prepared and well put together but signs concentrate on the work done in re-vegetating the reserve and generally ignore the interesting volcanic past of the crater; many opportunities to point out features of the volcano are neglected.

On another day I drove 55 kilometres to Mt Eccles which is another extinct volcano. This reserve also has several prepared walks but the signs along the way concentrate on the volcanic history of the site explaining how scoria and lava were distributed and pointing out features of the crater lake. A cave formed by a lava tube was easy to get into and nearby was a lava channel several kilometres long formed when molten lava running in a narrow channel flowed away to leave basalt and scoria sides and bottom open to the sky.

Griffiths Island, near Port Fairy, is mostly a rookery for Short-tailed Shearwaters, or Mutton Birds, which nest in underground burrows. They spend the day fishing at sea returning to their burrows at dusk. I went to the viewing platform one evening hoping to see the Mutton Birds returning to their nests but nothing arrived; I did not go back again.

The caravan park we stayed at is called Gum Tree Park, probably because of the Blue Gums growing around the park. The place could just as well have been called Magpie Park because of the large number of magpies living there; they prowled the grass in groups of eight or ten digging up grubs and spent a lot of time carolling in the trees. They pretty well ignored people but they also left their droppings over the caravan and awning; when I folded the awning on the evening before departure the job took much longer than usual because of the time taken wiping bird droppings off the awning.

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