Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Victoria Trip

We're back from our driving trip through Victoria with my lab, and we had a fantastic time! We left Saturday morning after the conference ended, and took a train/bus/cab to the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens, which are south of Melbourne. There was an orchid workshop there that a few people went to, and we all met up at the Garden, which was lovely. They had an extensive selection of Eucalypts, the definitive Australian tree genus which contains about 800 species. We explored the Gardens for a while before heading first to a koala conservation center where we observed the cuties in their natural habitat, then on to a boardwalk through coastal mangroves, and then on to Penguins on Parade, which is just as adorable as it sounds. Photos from the garden, koalas, and mangroves are in another Facebook album. No photos are allowed at Penguins on Parade because of the risk of disturbing the birds, but you can read about them and get a feel for the cute factor here.

After watching the penguins come ashore and make their way up the hillsides to their burrows, we piled back into the cars and drove north to Healsville, which is northeast of Melbourne. We arrived late after a long drive, and settled into a motel that was pulled directly out of 1950s American suburbia. It was very surreal. The next morning we got up early, stopped for a big breakfast, and then drove to Marysville, the epicenter of the devastating and horrendous wildfires in 2009 that killed 175 people, cooked 400,000 hectares of Victoria to a crisp, and killed untold amounts of wildlife. Tom (my advisor) had visited the area two weeks before the fires, and every single place he ate at or stayed in burned down. The day before the fires started, in January, it reached 46.4 degrees C in Melbourne, which is 115.5 Fahrenheit, and they were in the midst of a severe 10-year drought, which all contributed to the severity of the fires. The forest has obviously begun to regenerate, but you can still see evidence of the burning in some of the photos from the second day of the trip, which are linked below. We spent the whole day driving through the mountains and through various types of eucalypt habitats. Highlights included disregarding a Road Closed sign on a back mountain road when one of our vehicles was not 4WD, because to go around would have meant many hours and kilometers lost, and a spectacular waterfall with a view over the Goulburn Valley. We ended the day driving down out of the mountains and through extensive rangeland for sheep farming, which was actually quite lovely. We ended the day in the city of Bendigo.

Finally, on the last day of the trip, we headed west on a four hour drive to the very edge of Victoria, where it abuts Southern Australia, to a place called the Little Desert National Park. We explored for a few hours before heading back to Melbourne, where we arrived late and tired, but happy to have seen a little of the Australian bush!

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