Thursday, April 21, 2011

Grampians, Flights, Pets, and Victoria

1. Hoped that everyone has a nice Easter-weekend.  Even if you don't celebrate Jesus, you can still celebrate chocolate and animals with big ears.

Last night I had plans to give up chocolate temporarily; not for ethical reasons, but for health reasons.  I got it into my head that I was allergic.  But this morning I did some research online, and found that chocolate allergies are incredibly rare.  When people think they're allergic (or intolerant) to chocolate, it's usually not cocoa they're allergic to, but something else inside the candy.  

I'm going to keep eating chocolate.

2. Realized a part of me doesn't want to return to Australia after 2012.  Why?  There's too much I want to see; so it's overwhelming.  If we do come back, I would like it to be at a time where we can stay 3-6 months.  I think that would be great.

3. Watched a bilby porno film in honor of Easter in Australia.

4.  Looked at the Visit Victoria's page about the Grampians.  I think we're going to stop there for a sleep on our way back to Melbourne from Adelaide.  

5. Watched a Woolworth's commercial for Easter.   The guy on the commercial talks about having five days to enjoy Easter and Anzac Day.  Enjoying a memorial day for dead soldiers?  That sounds like our American way of doing things.  For most of us in America, Memorial Day is synonymous with long weekend.  I'm sure there are exceptions.—such as people who lost loved ones in the war. 

6. Learned that the Grampians are known for wine.  I didn't know that.  I wonder if Tim has ever had wine from there.  

I don't like wine, but I might like vineyards.  Well, I like seeing photos of them, at least. I think they're beautiful.

7. Looked at a Flickr photo of a vineyard in the Grampians. I love the colors. 

8. Looked at Steel Wool's Grampians photo set.  Steel Wool went to a restaurant called Brambuk.   They serve bush tucker. It looks pretty cool.

I don't think this dog is very safe. That looks a bit dangerous.   

9. Looked at the website for Brambuk.  It's not just a restaurant, but rather a whole cultural center.   Maybe we'll stop there.

10. Read article about how the Australian dollar is effecting tourism.   It's a good time for Australians to visit America. It's not really a good time for Americans to visit Australia.

We'll see how things go in the next few months. We might end up having to move our trip up to 2013. I hope not.

On the bright side, it will give me more time to plan and change plans.  If I have two years, I'll probably create and delete about fifty different itineraries.   

11. Thought about our first trip to Australia.  We left in the beginning of December, and we bought our plane tickets in mid August.  With the next trip, we bought the plane tickets 9 months ahead.

I think it's probably fine to wait a bit to buy the tickets. That way we have time to see if things get better...or worse.  November would be a good time to buy the tickets, because that's my birthday.

12. Learned that there's a lot of Aboriginal art and history in the Grampians. Brambuk, the place I looked at before, is Aboriginal owned.  We should definitely go there.

13. Looked at prices on Jetstar.   It's really depressing.   The total is about $4000 for all of us.  It's not horrible; but that's just from Hawaii to Melbourne.  We still need to get to Hawaii.   Hopefully we'll have points or something for that.  Jetstar keeps telling me the return flights are sold out.  I hope that's not true.   I'm guessing it's more a matter of you can't book that far ahead.

14. Looked at Virgin Blue, but it turns out they don't have flights from Hawaii to Australia.  

15. Looked at Hawaii Airlines, and started freaking out because they don't have open days in mid-March either.  Again though....I think they won't let you book that far in advance.

Hawaii Airlines would cost the three of us about $3500.  

16. Talked to Tim about flying to Australia.  He thinks it will work out, but we might need to forgo Hawaii  and choose a different route.  We might even go for the crazy direct flight.

Qantas would cost about $3500.  We would save money because we wouldn't need to pay for a hotel in Hawaii.   However, the flight from DFW to Sydney is 19 hours.  I don't know if I could survive that.    And I just checked.   It costs much more if you break up the flight by stopping in Los Angeles.     

17. Watched a video editorial about Australian animals as pets.   I think Cyrius01 has a compelling argument.  He talks about how it's illegal for Australians to keep native animals as pets. Those animals are protected, and he says pet ownership is seen as "kidnapping".  But he thinks this is preferable to bringing in exotic animals such as cats and dogs.  Cats and dogs become feral at times, and kill native animals.

Would it be better if Australians no longer had cats and dogs; and instead had kangaroos, wallabies, bilbies, etc?  I'd say probably yes. We could argue that they're dangerous.   Kangaroos can cause great harm.  But so can dogs!   

18. Looked at website about feral animals in Australia.  They define feral animals as a non-native animal that has escaped from captivity and established a self-sustaining population independent of humans.  Well, this is the official definition.  But for their site, they also include non-native animals that were deliberately released into the wild.  This would be like the rabbits in Australia. They weren't originally kept as pets. They were released for the purpose of hunting.

19. Read some comments for Cyrius01's video. Someone argues that it is NOT illegal to keep native animals as pets in Australia.

20. Read this website about the arguments for and against native pets.  They also talk about a biologist who has first hand knowledge of native animals as pets.   One of the animals he recommends is the flying fox.  He says they're smelly but affectionate. He does not recommend hairy-nosed wombats.  They bite and dig up the carpet.  Some cats and dogs do the same.

21. Read an editorial about native-pets.   The author argues against Animal Liberation's belief that native animals shouldn't be kept, because some humans would treat them as status symbols and not provide adequate care.   The author says,  It would be quite right to say that if native animals were allowed as pets, some would be neglected and abused. Just like cats and dogs, some would be dumped, starved, beaten and treated in a cruel manner. Nevertheless, saying none of us should keep them as pets because some would be abused would be like saying we should all be sterilised because some parents neglect, abuse, rape or kill their children. Likewise, just because a handicapped child needs special care is no reason to remove the child and make him or her a ward of the state. Good policy rewards good behaviour and tries to correct the bad. It doesn't forbid everything just because there is a risk of something bad happening.

I find it hard to disagree with all that. Also, that argument can be applied to other subjects, such as euthanasia.  

22. Learned about Ararat Victoria. It has a strong Chinese heritage.  In 1857, Chinese miners arrived and caused a population explosion.

There's a Chinese heritage centre in Ararat. 

There's also a prison for the criminally insane; J Ward.  Well, now it's a museum.   That would probably be interesting, in an eerie way.  They have guided tours, which I don't usually like.

23. Looked to see if there were any websites about J Ward being haunted. To my not-surprise, there are plenty of them. Here's one article. Is it possible to have an old prison or mental hospital that isn't rumored to be haunted?   I think not.

24. Wanted to admit that I'm finding myself more attracted to the Grampians route than I am with the Port Fairy and Mt. Gambier route.  Now it COULD be that the Visit Victoria is better at selling places to me. So to be fair, I'm going to read what they say about south-west Victoria.  

25. Tempted to forget South Australia, and just spend two weeks in Victoria.  It's funny because in the past Victoria was probably the Australian state that was the least attractive to me. I think somehow it has captured my heart.

26. Decided to go quickly through every town listed on the the Visit Victoria site.  I'll list the ones that sound awesome to me.  If there're many, maybe we'll just stick to Victoria.

Okay.  Here's the thing.   I was excited about Adelaide initially because of Lionel Logue and The King's Speech.   I'm a bit way over that now.  The only reason I'm actually still interested in driving to Adelaide is the Cleland Wildlife Park.   I think it looks so awesome.   But maybe there's a park just as nice somewhere in Victoria?

I really hope I'm not offending anyone reading this who happens to live in South Australia.   It's not that I don't love South Australia.  I love every state in Australia.   I want to go to all of them.   I'd love to visit every town and every city.   The problem is the more places you visit, the less time you have in each place.  I hate doing one night here and one night there trips.   We do that on our road trips in America and I don't feel we get much out of it.   I like it though....just for the fact that we don't have to do the airplane and airport thing.

27. Remembered my plan to list places in Victoria that look awesome to me.   I keep getting sidetracked.

In the Grampians, I like Ararat and Halls Gap.  Those are about 40 minutes from one another.   We could spend two nights in one of them, and drive to the other as a day trip.

Now for the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges area.  That's where the Healesville Sanctuary is located.   I looked at their website again.   It doesn't look as awesome as Cleland.   I don't think they provide casual animal encounters.   It looks like they have only the prostitution for a pat kind of thing.  I don't usually like that. 

28. Found a photo on Flickr of a guy feeding a kangaroo or wallaby at Healesville. I wonder if it's a casual thing, or a pay-extra type thing?  

Looked more closely.   It's a pay-extra type thing.   They're called Magic Moments.  I don't like these things, because they're artificial.   The animal is pretty much forced to interact with you.   We did it with a dolphin in Mexico.  He had to go around and shake our hands—or maybe kiss us?  I can't remember. 

I get more excited about being in the ocean and having tiny fish brush against my legs.   Or there was the time a cockatoo landed on my head in Sydney.  I love when animals reach out to say hello, and they do it by THEIR choice.  The shark dive in Sydney was pretty cool. We were with the sharks, rays, and turtles; but it was their choice to come near us or swim away.

From the photos I saw in Cleland, it looks like the animals had a pretty big space. You could go up and try to feed them, but it seemed like they had the choice to stay there or jump away.

Now we did do a zoo encounter thing in Canberra.   It involved forced artificial encounters, but it was still pretty cool because they had  things like lions, tigers, and bears.  I wouldn't want a casual encounter with one of those.  We just handed food to the animals and then went on our way.  There were no exchanges of affection.  

29. Looked a the Cleland Wildlife Park site again. This line here just totally wins me over. Wander at your leisure among kangaroos, wallabies, emus and waterfowl. Many of the animals in the park are free to roam the open spaces. The animals are accustomed to people, meaning you can pat and feed them.

I love that.

30. Looked at page about Mornington Peninsula.   It would be great if I could fall in love with this place.  I think it's really close to Melbourne.  We'd really save on gas if we just went here.

Holy crap!  My wish might come true.   The Mornington Peninsula has a park that sounds like Cleland!  It's called the Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park.   Their website is a bit messed up.   Is that a bad omen?

I think I still prefer least from what I can see on their websites.

31. Watched a promotional video for Sorrento.  It didn't sing to me.  You know...I think the problem is it reminds me too much of Florida beaches.  And that's nice.  But we just went to the beach in Florida a few months ago.  It's very easy for us to drive to Florida and spend some time at the beach.  So I wouldn't really want to go all the way to Australia to do it.  

I think there's also the fact that the video promotes a lifestyle that doesn't interest me.  It's one of shoe shopping, jewelry shopping, wine, elegant food, and massages.  Those aren't my things.   I think my thing is ice-cream, candy, animals, walking barefoot in the sand, used bookstores, and hot chips.   That is MY type of beach town.  For the most part, I think Tim's the same. He'd probably add running and beer to the mix, and subtract the bookstores.

32. Looked at the Visit Victoria site for Daylesford and Macedon Ranges.  I have no idea where that is.    

Ah...okay.   It's near the airport.  If it looks exciting to me, I'll look for it on Google Maps.

Clunes sounds nice to me.  They mention a used bookstore. See..yeah...that's enough to win me over.  They also have a bottle museum.

I watched their promotional video. It showed someone looking at books; and it showed candy.   Clunes has captured my heart. Let me find it on a map.'s perfect.  It's on the way to Ararat. We could spend a few nights there, and a few nights in Ararat. 

I still need a good animal park though.    I suppose we could just stick with the Melbourne Zoo, and then do the Darling Harbour animal tourist traps.  It's not essential that we fondle a kangaroo. If we really need to, we can take a day trip out to Featherdale when we're in Sydney.  

33. Learned that Woodend is the home of Hanging Rock. I think that's near Clunes.

I am LOVING this road trip in my head.    We leave Melbourne.  We drive an hour out to Hanging Rock.  We hum the pan flute songs (I'll need to practice that).  Maybe we'll eat lunch there too.

We drive an hour or so more and get to Clunes.  We stay there.  Then we go to Ararat. Stay there, and then go back to Melbourne.   But there might be more for me to add.

34. Looked at Phillip Island page.  I'm not big into penguins, but maybe there's other stuff there?   Don't get me wrong.  I'm not anti-penguin.  They just don't rock my boat. 

35. Reached the Great Ocean Road page.  This could make me go back to the original plans.  We shall see.   

36. Thought the Tower Hill State Game Reserve looked kind of nice.   I don't think it's a place where we can pat and feed kangaroos.   But we can see them being their wild free selves.    Jack's not a big fan of these types of places, because when we went to the one near Canberra it was hot and there were a lot of fire ants.  But it's going to be March when we go.  Hopefully, the autumn will make things a bit cooler. 

Hopefully there won't be mass floods and all that.  

37. Reached the Goldfields page of Visit Victoria.  

Ballarat has a wildlife park.  I wouldn't mind going to Ballarat anyway. We can find gold. If they have a nice animal park, that's a double win.  

Well, it doesn't look as good as the Cleland park, but it does look more exciting than the Melbourne Zoo.

38. Looked at the page for High Country, but now I'm kind of speeding through.  It's starting to get late.  

39. Decided to quit for awhile.  And I think if we do Victoria, we'll just stick to the west  If I drag the east into this, it's going to get way too complicated.

40. Excited...super excited...about my new plans.   We'll be seeing two states instead of three.   But I think there'll still be a great amount of variety.