Sunday, March 18, 2018

Hot Air Ballooning

On a recent Sunday, we decided to wake up early to catch the sunrise at Seaholme. We parked our car at a spot where there is a good view of Melbourne CBD. I thought we were early but there were people already there - someone with a tripod set up as well as a father sitting on the retaining wall overlooking the rocky beach, with a toddler girl on his lap.

Though the sun had not yet popped out of the water, it had already illuminated the sky considerably. As I gazed towards the east in the direction of the city, something caught my attention.

A spherical vesicle-like object emerged from behind the city skyscrapers, detached from the horizon and launched itself into the sky. Immediately after the first vesicle, the second surfaced and too propelled itself into the sky. This was followed in rapid succession by the third, the fourth and finally the fifth vesicle.

While we were enchanted by this scene, a pair of swans graced the placid waters of Port Phillip Bay, completely unflustered by this peculiarity.

My memories flashed back to December 2015 when we returned from a memorable trip to Tasmania. As the Spirit of Tasmania pulled into Port Melbourne at about 6 A.M. and we were preparing to disembark, we were greeted by the sight of hot air balloons rising high above the city skyscrapers.

Before that, I am not aware that Melbourne has this specialty tourism experience. I don't think many cosmospolitan cities would permit this type of activity as this would require considerable technical expertise to navigate the balloons above a densely-populated urban area.

As I watched the balloons intently, I imagined myself swapping role one day - standing inside the gondola of a hot air balloon and waving to someone taking photographs from the beautiful coast of Altona far beneath .....

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Flames of Altona

A benefit of living in Altona is its location by the sea. It only takes two minutes to reach the beach from our home by car. This means we can just take a spin along the Esplanade whenever we fancy it. Have we lived somewhere further inland, we may consider twice whether it is worth the effort just to take a look or whether we should set out earlier and spend at least an hour or two at Altona Beach.

My wife read that it may be possible to see Aurora Australis (the southern lights) tonight. Hence, we decided to try our luck and at the same time, to replenish our stock of bread and milk at the Coles supermarket on Pier Street.

With absolutely no clue of where, when and how to see Aurora Australis, we did not manage to catch any glimpse of what we have set out for. However, we were rewarded with the sight of a spectacular sunset. Stretching from my eyes to the horizon where the sun had set was a blanket of thick crimson clouds, so dense that it was puntuated by blue skies at only a few spots. The sun before retiring for the day had cast its last rays and lit up the dusk sky like burning flames which would soon be extinguished with descent of darkness.

The winds were icy-cold. No wonder there were hardly any people on the beach. Without further ado, we quickly made our way back to the car, fully contented with these new additions to our photo collections, which are way more concrete than the illusive southern lights.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Bird Flocking

Blessed with an abundance in bird life, Altona is a haunt for bird lovers and avid photographers. Last Sunday, we were on the trail just north of the car bridge crossing the Laverton Creek.

I have never seen so many birds flocking together. Apparently, this area including the mouth of the Laverton Creek and its sand spit, is a signifcant habitat for many bird species. There must be a plentiful supply of food that attracts birds to forage and roost here.

There is a special term used to describe birds flocking together, if the bird species in question are starlings. This is called murmuration. In Australia, starlings are only found in the northern region. Hence, we will not be able to see this amazing phenomenon of murmuration in Melbourne.

We were at Laverton Creek at about 8 A.M. I am not sure whether you will see so many birds everyday or we are simply lucky. I will make another visit to ascertain whether this flocking is a regular ritual or an occasional event.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Close Encounter with the Lions

When I visited Werribee Open Range Zoo recently, I did not expect it to be any different to the numerous visits we had before. The Safari will still be the star attraction and our most favourite activity.

We were in for a surprise when we went to the aptly-named "Lions on the Edge" exhibit area, where a clear plastic/glass partition separated visitors from the lions basking in their parched savannah landscape. There is a safari jeep strategically placed such that its boot jutted through the partition into the territory of the lions.

The lions love to jump onto the boot and frolick with each other, merely inches from the fascinated onlookers. They appear to be completely oblivious to the presence of its human spectators, which makes me wonder whether the partition is only see-through in one direction. Otherwise, how would you explain the contrast between our excitements and their nonchalance?

A zookeeper told me there are currently 11 lions. From my online research, there are 2 male cubs (Alto, Lwazi) and 2 female cubs (Asali, Itola) born on 12th August 2017. They are siblings to four cubs (Ndidi, Aziza, Zuberi and Kibibi) born in 2016 to the same mother Nilo and father Johari. Another 3 lions (Kashka, Kubwa and Kito) tnat were born at Werribee Open Range Zoo in October 2015 were transferred to Melbourne Zoo, following the deaths of three adult lions at Melbourne Zoo.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sunflower Fields of Bellarine

A few years ago, when I read about the "Get Sunflowered" project in Morwell and other places in the Latrobe Valley, I was enticed to pay a visit to the mesmerizing fields of gold.

However, I could not justify driving for 3 hours one-way just to see these flowers.

When I learnt from an article published in The Age yesterday of a sunflower farm drawing flocks of visitors to Barwon Heads, I decided not to miss the opportunity of admiring these huge, gorgeous flowers before they wilt. 

Hence, this afternoon I drove for about an hour from Altona to Geelong, then Bellarine Peninsula.

The sunflower farm is located at the intersection of Barwon Heads Road and Boundary Road. You will drive past a railway track, a signage of Marshall Train Station after the boom gate and not long after, the farm appears on the opposite side of the road on the right.

When we arrived there, there were already many cars parked outside the fence of the farm on Boundary Road. Many people are busy snapping photos. As this is private property, please show courtesy to the farm owners by not intruding into the property and staying outside the fences.