Age 14, With Parents and Brother, 1974-1975

Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand

Cape Kidnappers

We called the Hawke’s Bay Motor Co., who said, “No go.” The roads were too muddy.  It was impossible to see the gannets today. We called the Pony Safari place. No ponies now, but they told us to inquire about organized walks out to the Cape—five miles each way…  While waiting for low tide, we drove up to the botanical gardens at Napier and found Mr. K.E. Francis, the kiwi expert. He led us to a pen and brought out Te Ariki, the brown kiwi. This kiwi is world-famous, a TV star worth an estimated $10,000 because it was the first kiwi ever successfully hatched and raised in captivity, so its exact age is known. The kiwi was sleepy-looking, brown, hair-like feathers, strong claws, long bill and small beady eyes. Mr. Francis held it right there for pictures, and gave us a very interesting talk on kiwis and New Zealand wildlife in general. … He gave us a kiwi feather to keep. …

We packed a brown bag in preparation for our long hike. The deal was to drive as far as Clifton then walk the rest along the beach at low tide. … Strenuous, but we wanted those gannets. We made it to Clifton, all right, and began walking. It was sunny and clear in front of us, but a menacing storm was approaching from the rear. The beach was brown, slightly rocky. The ocean had good-sized breakers and was blue-green. The cliffs were tall, steep, and multicolored. The walk, in short, was lovely. We could see our destination far ahead, a long way off. The beach curved to make it longer. Because of the storm, everyone walked pretty fast. We saw a herd of black wild goats on the way, observed many black-backed gulls, a few Caspian terns and black shags.  Far ahead, the gannets were visible with binoculars as a pink mass. Over boulders, under cliffs, on sand, we marched bravely on and on. ‘Twas pretty walking, but we were all very glad to draw near to the gannets’ colonies at Black Nef, the smallest, nearest of colonies. …There were several immense brown boulders strewn around the shore, and on the flat tops, the gannets were massed. They were big birds, a 5-foot wingspan, mostly white except for black tips on wings. The necks were medium in length, and the top of the head was a light orange. The bill was yellowish, thick and sturdy, the skin around the eye and eyelids blue, and the black feet and legs had light green markings. Altogether, they were very comical yet dignified birds alone, and en masse—quite a sight. Each bird sat in its own territory, on a little mound. In here under the parents, either flat lifeless-looking gray gannetlings lay or brown eggs. The babies came in all shapes and sizes, but all were still confined to the nest. The birds, of course, had not the slightest fear of us. I climbed a ladder to a ledge level with some 100 gannets or so. I never got tired of looking at them, and photographing them was a joy. …

We returned to the brown sand and walked past the gannets. They didn’t deign to move a feather at our closest approaches. We continued past about a dozen such large, flat populated boulders, and it was hard to believe that these were the small colonies. The brown, wide smooth beach continued, and gray, high cliffs and a tiny ranger’s cottage were now visible…The trail soon headed up into the grassy hills. … The view was stupendous. The storm seemed safely out of the way.  I went down one hill, up the side of another after crossing a stream, and into the territory of a few cows. At a fence the ranger and another hiker were talking, so I just hung around and listened, caught my breath and waited for the others to catch up. We then proceeded over the grassy hills, overrun by sheep, and up a steep and difficult path.

Australasian gannet greeting mate.

At last, we came to the Plateau Gannet Colony. We sat down to view the sight. Around 2,000 or more large Australian gannets were sitting on their nests 10 feet from our benches. It was quite a sight! Beyond them stretched the Pacific Ocean. There was so much to see! Baby gannets, all sizes, being fed by stretching their whole heads into their parents’ mouths. Gannets ponderously waddling down a runway, getting in the air and graceful, then landing with an undignified thump, sometimes right on their noses. After they did that, did they look humiliated! Their faces had wonderful expressions. When excited, the gannets crossed their wingtips behind them, and bent their bodies up and down, up and down, all the while waggling their heads. Two birds would come face to face, twine their heads and twist their necks then settle to pruning each other.  Just before taking off, the gannet would run out and stick its bill straight up in the air, like a signal.  If two birds accidentally hit each other, tempers would flare and beaks snap.  They were wonderful to watch. … The sound was an undesirable array of honking and quacking noises.

At the ranger’s advice, I walked to the lighthouse and saw stretched far away the main colony, also populated by wild goats and sheep. Back at the Plateau, we still watched more, despite the many goats, and walked around to see the marvelous cliffs, sea and feeding gannets. The green inland valley was filled with sheep.

At last, we tore ourselves away from the fascinating birds.  We talked a little more with the young ranger, then began our long walk back. The sun came out, and pictures flowed.  The walk was downhill, and we proceeded merrily, stopping for refreshments at the small Hut.  We took off our shoes and had the delightfully wet, sandy beach to wriggle our toes in. …The walk along the beach was at first playful as we collected shells; but the miles began to tell, feet lagged as we struggled on the last few miles. … Muscles ached, but at long last, the cliffs were at an end and we sank thankfully into the car. A ten-mile walk, most of it in bare feet, is nothing to sneeze at.


Milford Sound, New Zealand  (Milford Hotel)
 I awoke early to look outside. It was still cloudy, gloomy and depressing as all the mountains were still invisible. I went back to sleep, and when the phone rang to wake us up for breakfast, a storm had moved in—it was raining and looked even worse.  Naturally, we were all depressed at breakfast. Despite the downpour, we went ahead and got tickets for the 9:45 a.m. launch trip through Milford Sound, and prepared by putting on every warm thing we had, with ponchos over that. The mini-bus driver who took us down to the wharf clearly didn’t believe why we would want to go on a boat trip in this cold, wet, yucky weather, and the boat skipper knew we were crazy. The poor guy had no choice but to make the trip, even though we were the only four passengers. We had the entire boat to ourselves! A first, we started out sitting in the inside deck, watching the spectacular Bowen Falls and the innumerable other waterfalls. We soon got wise when the ship went steaming through the sound and got onto the outside deck—colder and wetter, but much better views. The fjord was wide, deep and dark. It went between high, sheer, gray, enormous cliffs on each side. Down the cliffs ran hundreds of white ribbons of waterfalls, all sizes, one about every 100 feet. The vegetation along the cliffs was green and lush, mostly bushes.  As we plowed past the magnificent Sterling Falls, the clouds lifted somewhat and revealed the craggy, white-powdered mountains rising straight up from the water.

Milford Sound 

The boat churned past Mitre Peak, even if the peak was invisible. The many waterfalls were all the more spectacular from the volume of recent rainwater going through them.  A few spots of blue sky appeared ahead, and the sun was trying to shine, which made things much more encouraging. Soon the sound widened and we came to the slow rolling waves of the Tasman Sea. Here our boat, which by the way was the Tutoho, turned around and we headed back to the sound.  We spotted many flocks of sooty shearwaters, or muttonbirds, and also black-billed grebes. We went right next to the spray of Sterling Falls and by a 3,000-foot sheer straight-up cliff. Now the mountains around the sound were much more visible, and pictures flew. The snowy top of The Lion, Mitre Peak, and other mountains became visible, and the sun actually shone for some minutes, although it remained very cold. Our skipper spotted a tiny seal on the rocks. We drifted by Bowen Falls and into the harbor with a magnificent view of most of Milford Sound!

Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Eastern Australia Coast
We learned that our helicopter to Heron Island was going to take off ahead of schedule…We were weighed, and all luggage was checked through. Then we were led to the tiny copter. The pilot made us put on life jackets and gave us emergency instructions before we could board the copter. It could hold only 4 passengers; some of our luggage went on another copter leaving at the same time, with the rest of the passengers. All in and windows open, the helicopter roared a minute, then suddenly zoomed up and out, skimming over the airstrip. … It was really smooth, a wonderfully smooth flight altogether. We proceeded over Gladstone, then headed straight out over the deep blue, unbroken sea. We saw almost no boats in the water. … Ahead, we began seeing some coral reefs. The first one we came to was not Heron Island, as expected; it was Masthead Island and uninhabited. The next reef had a tiny, also uninhabited island called Erskine Island.  The following reef was huge but had no island on it. This was Wistari Reef and part of the National Park. Right beyond this was Heron Island. The Heron Reef from above looked this way: in the middle of the deep, blue, rough waters, the water changed color slowly, becoming lighter and lighter blue, until the light green of the shallow parts of the reef were visible, with brown patches of coral amidst the light green water. The island rose out of the light green, on the lee side of the reef.  Rather small, it was heavily wooded on the interior and fringed with a white beach all around. We could see the harbor and several boats, and an interesting shipwreck serving as a breakwater. We landed promptly and stepped out onto white sand of Heron Island. A short woman in a white summer outfit introduced herself as Yvette, the hostess of the island. She helped us out of our life-jackets, directed us to the office where we checked in, and showed us our room. …

Heron Island

Since the tide was too low to go skin-diving, we decided that the first thing was to walk around the island and reconnoiter the situation. We first greased up with suntan lotion in self-defense. The foremost thing we noticed when we first arrived on the island was the enormous number of nesting White-capped Noddy Terns. These attractive terms were entirely dull, dark brown, except their white caps fading to grayish on the back of the neck, and their white, forever blinking eyelids. Hordes of the terns, 15,000 on this island alone, squawking, chortling and flying. The pisonia trees were simply laden with nests and brown bodies. The noddies were quite tame and waddled fearlessly around in the sand, with this most comical, endearing expression on their faces, similar in expression to the comic face of the gannet. We were in constant danger of being bombed; they were everywhere. Also, we noticed the beauty and clarity of the ocean water.  It was all beautifully clean. Its colors ranged from light green to light blue, azure, royal, navy, indigo and about everything in between. It was similar in many respects to the turquoise water of the Caribbean. We began walking on parts of a dead exposed reef. I learned the hard way why not to do this when I slipped on a thin layer of mud and landed flat on my dignity. From then on, I walked on the white sand. Dead fragments of coral and several kinds of shells were scattered everywhere on the beach. Just above the high-water mark on the beach was a thick growth of jungle, which included pisonia trees. The island, only 42 acres big, didn’t take very long for us to walk all the way around…Donning bathing suits and old tennis shoes, my brother and I set out walking resolutely, at the far-off edge of the reef shoal. At first, we sloshed through a section of dead coral then we came to a live coral section. The coral was mostly brown, though sometimes bright green or yellow or purple. The common types were: the familiar pronged staghorn coral; the purple, lumpy masses of brain coral; the yellow, wavy brain coral that looked like sponges; and some papery-like things, which didn’t look like coral at all. Also growing was the green, moss-like turtle weed and on the shallow bottom of sand lay the sea cucumber or beche-le-mer. These things, sometimes over a foot long, resembled huge slugs and came in black, gray-spotted or black-and-pink kinds. They weighed little when I prodded with my stick, in comparison to the heavy, rocklike coral. A bit further out, the coral masses grew higher and bigger. Now clams, big 8- to 10-inch ones appeared. Some were lined with black, some velvety purple, some a brilliant turquoise-green; and I found one that was lined with a light blue color. When prodded with a stick, the clam began to close its mouth.

Now, it was getting harder to maneuver in the deep patches of coral. I scraped my ankle slightly when trying to scramble, but decided to just let it bleed, and not worry about the legends about coral cuts. We had to abandon walking on the sand bottom and found it much easier to walk on the corals themselves. Clams became numerous. More brightly colored bits of coral were found, such as green, red, blue, purple patches. Then, suddenly, we were out of the inner live part and on to the dead, outer part that protected the inner part. Soon across this way, walking shallowly, we reached the outermost edge of the reef flat. Beyond, there was much deeper water and surf. There was not much to do or see here, and we could go no further, so we turned and headed back for the far-away island.  I picked up a seemingly empty shell but found it contained a hermit crab, so I replaced it.  Back in the live part, again the coral was interesting and bright. … One coral had soft flowing waves of light bright green coral and was extremely beautiful. I found on the rocks a 5-armed sea star or starfish. We continued in freestyle back onto the land…

I found that the dove hiding around the island was the Bar-shouldered Dove, and those scampering little rails were Banded Land Rails. … (During the night), we kept hearing strange, loud wailings nearby that sounded like a baby crying. We did not know then that it was the muttonbirds howling their strange call.

I awoke excited at the prospect of snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef!  We went to the Dive Shop to rent snorkeling equipment: snorkel, mask and flippers. We then proceeded to the harbor, ready to go. … We found about 10 more people waiting to go, most of whom were scuba-divers. The dinghy soon roared up, and the diving equipment loaded on first, then the people. Out 50 yards in the harbor, we were transferred to a slightly larger motorboat and were ready to go.  The boat headed around to the northern side of the island, then headed east. The weather was beautiful—clear, sunny, warm, windy with some waves.  The water was the same clear, beautiful aqua-turquoise-blue.  The boat, guided by Kathy and Tony, our two dive-guides, soon came to the Blue Pools area, where the shallow reef flat-ended and the deeper coral formations began. The anchor was dropped and secured, and everyone began donning equipment. The water was invitingly clear and blue—even if it wasn’t very hot, and I lost no time in hopping into the water. Once there, looking down, the upper world vanished; and the cold, silent, blue, beautiful, immensely interesting and varied world of the Great Barrier Reef began.

We began in water perhaps 40 to 60 feet deep, thus the bottom was blue and poorly visible.  Coral cliffs rose from the sandy bottom to within 20 to 30 feet of the surface, and here the marine life of the reef seemed to be concentrated. The corals lining the bottom were much the same as the ones seen on yesterday’s reef walk. The big difference was the fish. The fish! Literally one thousand species on this reef alone! There were fish everywhere, it is impossible to describe the sight. Big blue and green parrot-fish, with two purpling-golden side fins and golden tails, chasing one another. … Brightly patterned orange, black, white and yellow clownfish…Flat, paper-thin yellow, white and black anglerfish. Big brown catfish. Striped tiger fish. A strange fish whose front half was white, the back half brown or black. Big brown normal trout. Tiny, colorless minnows.  Small, gem-like blue iridescent fish. In droves. Big pink or reddish fish. Brightly marked, distinctive triggerfish. If my memory were better, I could go on and on. The infinite variety and beauty took my breath away. Here were these fish, some of which I had seen in aquariums, but somehow had never believed that they could exist. I wandered quite far, to the edge of the shallower reef flat, but this was comparatively uninteresting, so I returned to the deeper part. The shell coral growing out of the cliffs was amazing for its size—some 5 feet in diameter. Several times I spotted a scuba diver far below me

I soon headed to the boat to adjust my mask. A big-eyed young snorkeler in her twenties came up and asked Kathy about sharks, saying she had seen one. Kathy was not reassuring, saying sure, it was a reef shark, very common, and supposedly harmless if you didn’t panic and treated it like another fish. This made me a bit apprehensive, but I re-entered the water. Soon my mask began filling up more, and I returned to the boat. A woman there lent me her mask. … I tried again and cruised around for a while. The fishes were absolutely fascinating, especially the parrot-fish. The parrot-fish was aptly named – both for its bright green parrot-like colors and its method of moving, by flapping its two golden fins simultaneously, much the way a bird flies. … I decided to return to the boat, looked back to the colony of brown batfish. … My feelings were pretty much indescribable when this big, gray, unmistakable shape swished toward the batfish beneath. At first, there was surprise then shock—a real shark! Though it was hard to tell, I reckoned the shark to be no less than 6 feet long. … Actually, my principal emotion as I watched the shark disappear, apart from relief, was elation! It is no small thing to say you saw a shark while skin-diving alone, and I felt tremendously lucky to see it. Still, I have to admit I headed for the nearby boat with some speed.

….At 10 PM  (high tide), we began walking on the beach near the helicopter pad. We hadn’t gone 10 yards before Mom spotted the first turtle. We crept behind her, out of her sight so as not to disturb her. Slowly, she shuffled in the sand using her flippers.  It looked like very hard work, and every few feet she had to stop and rest before going on.  We followed and observed her by starlight as she went up and under a low, shrubby tree.  Here she began digging, her flippers sending sand flying, but she kept whacking boards and roots and was having all kinds of trouble. This also was very hard work; we counted she made 11 “digs” before having to rest. As we could not turn the light on her until she had finished digging, we decided to head on down the beach and try to find some more turtles that had already begun laying…For a while, we tried following their distinct tracks to them, but we couldn’t find any this way. Some 100 feet down the beach, however, we found turtles everywhere. It must have been a favorite place; there were about a dozen big turtles here—an enormous green turtle, about 4-and-a-half feet long and around 300 pounds. To my delight, we found a loggerhead turtle, the rare kind with a proportionally bigger head than a green turtle, though smaller in total size. It was brownish in color and had big dark eyes. One green turtle had already finished and was making her way back into the sea. When she got to the water, she was at home, and could swim smoothly out to sea—her job finished.  The loggerhead was laying, and very quiet. I took the opportunity to pat her hard, huge shell. …

We were amazed at the stars in the sky. … Truly, it seemed every star in the galaxy was visible. The whole gray expanse of the Milky Way, the two Magellanic Clouds, Orion’s Belt and many other brilliant stars were shining. From all around came the sound of digging and flying sand. We watched one green turtle use her back flippers to scoop out a neat little hole for the eggs. At last, full of turtles, we returned to our room by way of the muttonbirds, a last look. Now that I knew what was making that awful noise, I was sure I could sleep better tonight. After a cup of tea, I went to bed on one of the best days of my life.

Ayers Rock, Central Australia
We got up very early (in Alice Springs) and skipped breakfast. It was overcast and cloudy when we set out for the airport. While waiting, I found two new birds outside the door: a funny willie wagtail and some fairy marlins. The Conair plane we boarded was the same 14-passenger job that we had been on before. It was too early in the morning for thermals, so we all managed to survive the trip. We flew over the MacDonnell Ranges, the Waterhouse Range, and the Finke River on our way to Ayers Rock. Because of the clouds, we flew at only 4,000 feet. After an age, I at least saw the Olgas out my window, and as we circled, saw Ayers Rock (the Rock) as we landed.

The “airport” was a pre-fab shell. A stocky British fellow took all of us passengers on a bus to the inland motel. On the way, we all kept staring at the Rock; it was well worth staring at!  The world’s largest monolith, 5-and-a-half miles in circumference, a half-mile wide—one rock forming a whole range, sticking out in the middle of the flat outback.  For sheer size and strangeness, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. A dull red in color, it is almost all sandstone. It rises over 1,100 feet from the surrounding flatland….

Ayers Rock (Uluru)

We decided to climb up the Rock first, while it was cloudy and cool. Driving around to the other side, we got a bit of an idea of how enormous the rock really is. …The trail went straight up the Rock, no fooling around with switchbacks. We were soon panting and were forced to stop and rest often. The car got farther and farther away, and we could see the Olgas 20 miles away quite well. A chain set into the rock helped somewhat on the steeper parts. … It was so steep, we began to wonder just how we were going to get down.  We, at last, got up the highest point visible from the ground; but the white line went on and on.  In a few pockets where sand and water had collected, we found some dry grass and even a few flowers. In other places, there were small pools of green water. We now were traveling along the top of the Rock. (I mean up and down, up and down.) We had a magnificent, if hazy, view of the surrounding country. It seemed that the white line would never end, but at last, we arrived at the highest point and the cairn. The cairn had a medal pointing out the landmarks in the various areas. From here, we had an all-around, 360-degree vista, and could see our motel far away. We signed the book in the cairn, to let the world know we had climbed Ayers Rock!

We took some pictures and rested before beginning to go down. I found the way to do this was to gallop—faster and easier. … The last few feet were the steepest and we began to wonder how we ever climbed this thing in the first place. However, at last, I ran onto the ground, the rest close behind. …

(After lunch, in a rental new car), we began our expedition to the Olgas. We were a trifle apprehensive because the bus driver had said the roads were muddy, and if it rained, we’d get stuck. However, provisioned with soft drinks, we set out anyway. We proceeded west and kept looking back at the Rock, resplendent in the sun. The Olgas peeped over and under the horizon. We found many birds here and there, including flocks of budgerigars.  We also found a cute 3-foot yellow lizard by the road. Otherwise, we “skimmed” right along the red washboard sand road, and soon approached the rounded purple domes of the Olgas. We never did really figure out which one was Mt. Olga, as they all looked about the same height. We followed our road around the southern edge, winding valleys and mountains, all very unusual looking. We followed a sign leading to the Mt. Olga Gorge where the road split, and saw—to our amazement—the road sign, “Kalgoorlie, 964.” If that dirt road really did lead to Kalgoorlie, what a journey that would be!

Soon we pulled into a parking area for the gorge. It was more like a red rock valley than a gorge as it was fairly wide for its length, and having a good-sized stream for here— isolated puddles—running down from a spring above, thus making a strip of the lush green of willows and vegetation amongst the dark red. We drank our pop and began to climb over the slopes of the rock. This rock was not the same at all as the red sandstone of Ayers Rock. This rock had separate stones, boulders and pebbles cemented together with silica to form one rock. This valley was really immense. Its walls were absolutely pitted with many hollowed-out caves, which appeared small from below but were actually enormous.

Several wedge-tailed eagles screamed at us from their cliffs. There were several trails, all heading up towards the foot of the spring and the end of the gorge. My trail ended abruptly in a willow tree, so I climbed the steep slope as far as I dared toward a small cave, and sat down. Echoes, naturally, were quite large. Following my family up the spring-stream, at one spot I could hear their every whisper and footstep. … There were still some pretty wildflowers here.

We returned to the car, via some circular spirals painted onto the rocky ground by the aboriginals. Back in the car, we proceeded, with the idea of going all the way around the Olgas in a loop. Soon our dirt road turned into a rocky track, unfit for sale driving, so we reluctantly turned around and headed back the way we came.  It now began to rain off and on, mostly on. We drove with few stops away from the Olgas. … Ayers Rock in the distance was now a bluish-purple mauve. A couple of pretty mulga parrots posed in a tree for us, and a crested bellbird sat on an exposed perch and sang his bell-like, monotonous song. …

At the base of the climb (at Ayers Rock), we stopped to read the three plaques set into the Rock as a memorial to the three people who had died while climbing the Rock. There was no plaque up yet for a Japanese man who had been killed a couple of months ago. …

After breakfast (the next day), we began an around-the-Rock expedition and soon stopped to get out, a walk down a trail to a big hollowed-out, weirdly shaped cave. All these eroded caves had strange forms. This one was twisted and honeycombed. Back on the Rock, we noticed an almost flattened “little rock” to our left, made out of the same kind of rock in the Olgas. … Soon we found another trail to explore that led to several large caves. On the walls, we found our first aboriginal rock paintings: a very fat man, snakes, feet, skinny men, crosses, animal tracks and circles were among the petrographs here.  They were all in red or white. The caves, although they looked small from the road in proportion to the Rock, were quite large. Above us on a cliff, one enormous face was eroded—honeycombed into the strangest ledges and caves, black against the redness of the surrounding smooth sandstone. A bloodwood gum by the path bore the scar of an early blazing mark dating back to the 1880s. The caves were eroded as to have strange “stalactites” hanging from their ceilings.

Back in the car, we continued around, past the Kangaroo Trail, and over to the Climb, past it to Maggie Springs. This was an area full of caves, broken off boulders and most of all, rocks full of aboriginal paintings. The smooth faces were smeared with petrographs done in yellow, orange, red and a purplish-gray. They included human faces, tracks (big and little), human figures, boomerangs, snakes, lizards, circles, which looked like segmented worms and spirals. All were massed together and piled on top of each other.… A rivulet ran black down the rock valley to our muddy pool, which continued along downstream.  After viewing the paintings once more, and attempting a climb to the “Fertility Cave,” we returned to the motel… Later, we drove around the Rock a final time in the opposite direction. … and sadly said farewell to Ayers Rock.

Phillip Island and Healesville Sanctuary, near Melbourne
At Summerland Beach (on Phillip Island), we walked to the bleachers, where there were already a number of people. Knowing that it would be a long time before it was even close that the penguins would show, I got up and took a look at a stretch of black rock exposed by low tide. This slippery, slimy area abounded in colorful pink, yellow and brown seaweed and many barnacles. …I returned to the beach and observed the openings in the mesh wire around the grassy area, where the little penguins, I supposed, would scramble through to their burrows.  Sitting back in the bleachers, I saw a lot more people had arrived, so I took myself and cameras down to a place along a rope and sat down to have a good view of the penguins when they came. I was soon glad I had made my move early, because as 9:15 p.m. approached, more and more people were standing behind me six rows deep…With the aid of my binoculars, I was one of the first to spot a little fairy penguin floating about 10 yards offshore. Soon there was a cluster of about a dozen. You could almost hear then debating the issue and giving each other moral support for the scramble up the beach. At last, the group timidly left the water and, huddled together in a tight cluster, began the long walk to the burrows. About 40 yards from the water, courage broke and they fled back to the sea—all except one brave soul, who kept on waddling doggedly in the glare of the lights. He reached some small pools of water about halfway there and then stopped to wait for his comrades, who soon tried again to catch up with him, before continuing. As they got closer to the burrow holes, the penguins flattened out in a pell-mell run, and you had to feel a bit sorry for them—that they had to put up with the lights and crowd and noise. More groups now gathered in the sea and came up so that it was a fairly continuous parade of penguins. … To my surprise, after waiting patiently for over two hours, the rest of the people began to leave after four or five groups of penguins had gone by. This was fine with us, for we could now see the penguins, still coming thick and fast, much better.

Fairy Penguin Parade

Mom took us back to a place where an official was showing a few people with a strong light some penguins in the burrows up close, and even a muttonbird. The muttonbirds (short-tailed shearwaters) were now flying everywhere above us, visible as darting brown shadows. The penguins looked a bit bewildered but not upset when the strong light revealed their glossy blue coat, white front, shiny flippers and webbed feet. A more droll bird is hard to imagine. We left these little penguins and proceeded back to a now nearly deserted penguin parade route, yet there were more penguins coming in than ever.  We could now enjoy the strange birds close-up. At last, when the people began taking down the ropes and turning off the lights, we left the penguin place. On our walk back, strong lamps showed us more close-up penguins and burrows, including some fuzzy brown babies.

Our last full day in Australia, we got up and packed and set off fairly early. First thing, we drove down the short dirt road to Pyramid Rock, an unusual black rock formation, with a splendid view of the coastline on either side in the morning sun. It was hard to believe Antarctica was somewhere over the horizon. It was a long haul now to Healesville, our next and final stop. … We found the Healesville Sanctuary, entered and began by walking through a few bird cages. In the ceiling of one cage, we saw a little possum with big eyes and a long tail curled up between the wire and the ceiling. Emus were walking around asking for handouts. Next, we saw the platypussary. A recorded voice told about the platypus while one little creature swam about in her aquarium.  She seemed to have a set pattern of behaviors, which was repeated over and over. Such a strange and funny animal…We found a big lyrebird enclosure, but the lyrebirds were hard to see; a tree kangaroo in his box, several species of kangaroos and wallabies, a big and colorful cassowary, some hard-to-see koalas, funny monitor lizards, and our first spiny anteater, or echidna, looking like a cross between a mole and a porcupine. … We found cages full of cockatoos and kookaburras. … At last, we were sure we’d seen everything, and left Healesville to begin the drive back to Melbourne.

I will surely say, what a well-rounded and enjoyable trip this was!