Saturday, March 2, 2013

My First Australian Bush Walk!!!

March 3, 2013

Yesterday I travelled south along the edge of the Melbourne harbour to Sandringham, to meet up with my dad's colleague and his wife.  Lovely people who I met eons ago when they visited us in Washington.  Anyway, my dad and Eric have collaborated on a number of publications on coastal geomorphology (how beaches are made), and have known each other for years.  Eric and his wife Juliet, a geography prof, are "Fellows" at the University of Melbourne, which I think is equivalent to the US status of "professor emeritus."

So of course, with the common thread of coastal geomorphology, we visited a few beaches.  But what was cool (for me, as the art person) was that this area of Melbourne was once home to a group of artists, in the mid-to-late 1800s and early 1900s; the current community has reproduced a number of  paintings by those artists to display along the beach edge.  It was interesting to see the various styles - some obviously Impressionistic, some almost Fauvist - as well as seeing the changes in the landscape as both humans and the sea have impacted the shoreline.  And of course there's always the amusement of seeing what people wore to the beach in Victorian times!
There was also an old metal Navy ship that was deliberately sunk as a breakwater, rusting away by the beach - and looking very strange.

We also went on a bush walk - I'm not sure where we drove to, other than obviously inland - but we went to a reserve where the farmland has been allowed to return to native plants.  Oh, and the shore is backed by sandstone bluffs and dunes, which over the last 15,000 years (or so) have been eroded and the sand blown north across much of the continent, creating the sand deserts one finds over much of Australia.  (This is why one goes hiking with coastal geomorphologists and geographers.)  Anyway, we were hiking on sand, covered in bush - eucalyptus trees (but no koala), gum trees (but no kookaburras), and all kinds of low scrub and scratchy plants and things that are totally unfamiliar to those of us from other continents.  The sun was warm, the sky bright blue, the breeze brisk enough to keep things from getting hot, and it was a perfect day for a hike.  Gorgeous colors and scenery with a definite wild edge to it.

But alas, the only sign that there are wallabies in the bush was one set of little wallaby footprints in the sand.  We also saw the trail of a lizard.  And a bunch of small birds.  No big exciting animals, nothing one would hope to see (and nothing one would hope to not see, like a poisonous snake or giant spider or something).

It was fun, it was exciting to be on the lookout for animals even if they didn't cooperate.  And we crushed eucalyptus and gum leaves which smell wonderful!

Then I headed back to Melbourne to meet up with Richard, who had a guy day with a friend.  Football was in the plan.  Oh, a bit of trivia:  Australian rules football (which is unique to, obviously, Australia) was actually developed to keep cricket players in shape over the winter, when cricket season was out and players had a break.  Really.  I read that on a billboard from the train, sponsored by the newspaper.  Just thought you'd like to know.

So that was my first bush walk in Australia!!!

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