Puffing Billy and Healesville Sanctuary!

This week was pretty much the same: classes and homework. We did go to the last night market on Wednesday, which was fun. I got sweet potato fries that had a sugar plum spice on them. It was unusual, but good, a little tangy, salty, and sweet. I also go to know a few of the people going on the Alice Springs trip a little better so that was cool.

Today Steph and I went on yet another day tour. This particular day tour was a little different from the ones we’ve been on in the past. We booked through Last Minute Day Tours, as we have before, but we were on AATKings Tours instead of Autopia Tours. When they picked us up, they picked up everyone in the same local regardless of tour, and then dropped us off at Fed Square to find our tour bus. It was a large charter bus and Steph and I were the youngest passengers by far. I think this was partly due to the fact that for this tour in the afternoon there was a choice of either going to the Healesville Sanctuary or the Yarra Valley Wineries. Any how, we found our bus without a problem. Our tour guides name was Adrian, and he was from Austria, but has been living in Melbourne for a very long time now. He was a very sweet older gentleman and he was very knowledgable. The first place we went was to Belgrave, where Puffing Billy is located. But before we rode the train, we had tea. It was delicious and accompanied by Lamington, which is sponge cake covered in a thin layer of chocolate then coated in coconut. It’s so good! The place we has teas was called Grant’s and it was in the middle of the forest. It was foggy and misty and wonderful and if gave the forest with its HUGE trees an air of mystery. There were a lot of cockatoos that you could feed if you wanted, we didn’t.

Then we drove though Belgrave (all two blocks of it, but it was the cutest, most charming little town ever) to get to the Puffing Billy Station. Puffing Billy is “Australia’s Favorite Steam Train”. It’s the lone survivor of the four original steam lines along the Dandenong Mountains, and is now purely a tourist attraction. They have special cars for things like weddings and dinners and they even have a murder mystery dinner car. It was so fun to ride. And to goes slow enough that they let you sit on the edge of the car with your legs hanging out (as Steph demonstrated). And I have to say that it actually went pretty fast, Steph and I were surprised, and at one point it got really close to the plants and Steph was attacked. It was a really beautiful ride and perfect weather. I wish we could have ridden it all day, but the 20 minutes we were on it was pretty good. Then when we arrived at the next stop (where we had to get off) they let us take pictures all over the train. We even got to take pictures with the conductor! And all of the workers there were dressed in period costume, almost like Disneyland. It was awesome.

After Puffing Billy, we drove through the Dandenong Mountains to the Yarra Valley. There we went to Rochford Winery. (Steph and I were very unprepared for this part of the tour, as it wasn’t listed on the website, but it was still cool.) This winery also doubles as a rock concert venue for about 10,000 people, where millions of dollars of wine are sold a year (pretty smart if you ask me). This was our lunch stop. And it was expensive. So we got the cheapest thing on the menu: french fries and milk shakes. At a winery. We’re adults, I swear, our drivers licences say so… The food was delicious by the way. Then we wandered around the gorgeous winery, trying not to knock over the expensive wine bottles.

Then those of us that were going to Healesville Sanctuary were dropped off (there was about half of us surprisingly) and the rest went to do wine tastings in the Yarra Valley. We were met by two wonderful tour guides at the Sanctuary who made sure we saw the animals we wanted and gave us some very interesting info. The Healesville Sanctuary has only australian animals, and it’s know for its work with platypuses, or is it platypi? Any way, it was really nice, and all of the habitats are natural habitats (it was one of the first places to that back in the day). We didn’t have time to see the whole place, but I felt like we got our moneys worth, and saw what we wanted to. They took us to see Koalas, Echidnas (which where super close!), Wallabies, Wombats, Dingos, Platypuses, the usual.They had a Red Kangaroo (which are the ones that everyone says look like Arnold Schwarzenegger). Those things are deceptively massive. They crouch down, lay around a lot. Kangaroos as a whole are deceptive. They just lounge around looking all cute and cuddly and then they get up. And even when they’re still they look fairly docile. But the instant they begin to move, it’s quickly apparent that they are ALL muscle. And their tails. That is one appendage you do not want to get in the way of. Steph go a video of the Red Kangaroo walking (they use their feet and tail like people use their feet and crutches) and then she got it hopping away as well. It’s something to witness that makes you realize how weak humans are as a species, it could take you out in flash if it felt like it. Seriously though, Kangaroos are a majestic force not to mess with.  There was also this bird show that was super cool. You sit in a bleacher situation, and the bird trainers stand up front and these birds just fly in and out of the arena so to speak. There were two trainers and they would have the bird fly back and forth across the audience, the kicker is that the birds were so not afraid of the people and would get so close that their feathers brushed them. I had to dodge both and owl and an eagle. It was crazy cool though. Also, some of the interesting info we gained is as follows: So there are these berries called Kangaroo Apples, and they start out green, then yellow-orange, then red, and when they’re red you can eat them. The tour guides were telling us that the aboriginals used to eat them back in the day, and that they worked as natural contraceptives. To which Steph said that she was going to start eating those as her new form of contraceptives. To which I responded, “An apple a day keeps the baby away.” Do with that what you will (Steph and I thought we were so funny, probably obnoxiously so. Damn Americans) The second tidbit of info that we acquired was that Wombats carry most of their weight/muscle in their rear ends. This is so that if they are being chased or need to protect their young, they can run into their burrows and when the predator sticks their nose in the wombats can can smash the predator’s skull by basically sitting down on the predator’s face. How’s that for having a killer butt. Just thought I would share with y’all.

After our Healesville adventure, we got back on the bus and went to pick up the alcoholics (bus driver’s words, not mine). We got a scenic driving tour of the Yarra Valley and then headed back to Melbourne in time for dinner.

It was another great and successful day tour. These day tours are such a cool way to see the farther out places in Australia, especially as a tourist with out a car, cause let’s face it that’s what we are. The same company that Steph and I keep booking with does tours out of Sydney as well, so of course were doing one while were there.

The rest of my weekend will consist of homework and more homework (surprise, surprise), sprinkled with some procrastination I’m sure.

Also, I started a new gallery for the pictures because the old one was getting to massive that it was hard to manage.

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