Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Crossing into Victoria (Apr. 21/09 - Mallacoota, Australia, mileage 192km)

The sun was out this morning as we continued south down the scenic coastal road. The headland behind our campground was impressive, with wildly folded metamorphic rocks, crashing blue waves, and deep enclosed tide pools refreshed by big waves that you could swim in on a hot day. At the town of Merimbula, we pulled in to find a bookstore since we needed to pick up a guidebook for Fiji - must start reading up since we'll be there in a week! We also stopped at the town of Eden for a beachside lunch stop and to see the place we had read stories about crazy encounters with whales. Apparently, the local Aboriginal people considered orcas to be ancestral beings, so when orcas would use the town's bay to herd and trap migrating humpback whales in the shallows, the people would beg the orcas to share their bounty by performing rites on the beach. Amazingly, the orcas would oblige, eating only the lips and tongue of the victim and leaving the rest behind. In the 1800s after the local whaling station was developed, orcas would approach the wharf to alert the whalers of nearby humpbacks, who would follow the orcas out and harpoon the humpback. As the deal went, they would anchor the carcass for the orcas overnight, returning the next morning to find only the lips and tongue missing, as the rest was for them. It seems like an unbelievable story, but it just might be true! Regardless, this is supposedly one of the best places to spot whales during their annual migration to and from Antarctica, as they round the southeastern tip of Australia here as they come from or head up the east coast. Too bad we're here at the wrong time of the year for that!

After an hour or so south on the highway, we passed a big sign welcoming us to Victoria - our third Australian state! With the day running out, we turned off toward the inlet town of Mallacoota, at the southeastern corner of Australia, where pelicans roamed and ours was pretty much the only campsite without a boat. This area is packed with National Parks, so tomorrow we'll make time to check a few of them out en route to points west. For now, we'll huddle around our camp stove like we do every night, cook some chicken and asparagus, and sprint back to the van after a hot shower to keep the cold fall night air outside. Brrrrrr - bring on Fiji!

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