Report No. 33. Friday, November 21 thru Sunday, November 23. French Dining. Mallacoota. Into New South Wales.


Friday, November 21, 2003. Day 100 of 118. Back on the Mainland. French Dining.

Being old hands at the Tasmania Ferry, we wake up in our cabin, get ready for the day, then take all our gear down to the motorhome when the announcement comes for the drivers to go down to their vehicles. {This time we remember to mark where our RV is so that we can find it in the morning}

At 630 am, we are in our motorhome, surrounded by huge semi-trailers. We have the highlighted map in front of us, telling us how to get back to the Big 4 Caravan Park north of Melbourne.

The doors open, and we all get ready to exit. You leave your engine off till either a) told to start it, or b) the vehicle in front of you starts moving out. The trailer in front of us finally starts moving, and we follow him out.

I stop because on the way over, I had to turn in our barbecue propane bottle, which was loaded onto a safety truck. This truck finally shows up, and after retrieving our bottle, we exit the dock area, parking in the nearest Safeway a little before 8 am.

By 9 am, we have our groceries packed away, and head on up to the caravan park, where Sharon starts the laundry.

We talk to the office people, and they say do NOT drive ourselves down to where Jean-Paul's France-Soir restaurant is. Call a taxi by all means, they say, and it will cost about $30 each way.

We decide it's worth it, so we ask the caravan park to call us a taxi for 630 pm, since they say it'll be about a half-hour to get down there. The taxi driver shows up, and we give him the address of the restaurant. We have reservations for 7 pm.

He gets us there, and we are boggled at the thought of us trying to drive into this whirlwind of Friday night traffic. If we had tried this, I'm sure we would have turned right around, come home and called in with apologies.

We go in, and it's a very nice, small restaurant and bar. We go to the bar, where they ask for our name. I tell them and they search all over for it, but can't find it. "Who took your reservation?" they ask me, but I don't know his name. Sharon tells them that we're friends with Jean-Paul, and they ask, in astonishment, "The Boss?"

Another person comes over, and points out our name, the Witmans. They say Jean-Paul isn't in yet, but he's on his way. Then they give us an excellent seat, right next to a big picture on the wall of Jean-Paul, standing between Ron Wood and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, with his arms around their shoulders. They are clowning around a little, and it's an impressive photo, if you like things like that. Which we do.

They take our orders. I have steak bernaise and Sharon orders the half-duck with cherries. Plus a salad for Sharon and french (get it?) onion soup for me. Sharon's order comes with french (get it now?) fries. Before we sit down I give her a kiss (American) on the cheek. Sharon orders a tonic water and I order a gin and tonic.

Jean-Paul comes in, dressed casually, and greets people personally at several tables, also stopping at ours and asking us about our time since we last met, in Queensland ages ago. But he gets called to make some decisions, and our food comes. His girlfriend Jo comes in and she is dressed up something fierce, in the stunning sense. They both go off to a corner where she has dinner before some kind of evening appointment she has.

Our food comes, and it's so delicious, it's probably illegal. My steak is scrumptious du no fromage. I have a bite of Sharon's duck, and I win for a change, on the who-has-the-best-dinner contest we always run. {Lucky me, I think I got the best meal so we both "win"}

When Jo finishes her meal, they both come over, then Jean-Paul leaves us. We tell Jo that we have guessed she's in the entertainment industry - maybe a singer. She laughs and says that she's in charge of the food presentation (something more management-oriented than that) for tonight's Australia Film Awards show, which is, as you might guess pretty easily, in Melbourne. So she will be rubbing elbows with the Australian Rich and Famous, we imagine.

She finally has to leave, and we finish what we can of our dinners. Sharon orders profiteroles for dessert, and when informed that their ice cream machine or whatever is currently out of order, Sharon convinces me to order a creme brulete. These are wonderfully delicious, and it's a good thing we don't eat like this all the time.

Jean-Paul comes over and asks if we can stay for a drink with him or do we have to go. We stay for a drink. I ask for a black russian, and he asks, "What's that?" Sharon says, "Equal parts kahlua and vodka." He yells over to the bartender something in bar-tend, and in a french moment, I get my black russian and Sharon gets her "long black" coffee.

He tells us the story of the Rolling Stones party which came to his restaurant a few months ago, and how they wrote all over the mirrors on the walls. He erased everything except the Ron Wood and Keith Richards autographs, covered them with plastic and taped over that. He says someday, he'll figure out how to preserve this. {The specials every night are written on the mirrored walls with white crayon and he said all the people with the Rolling Stones were having fun writing on them too.}

We swap stories of world places we've been to and others we want to go to. Finally, it's time to go, and he calls us a taxi. He takes our photo in front of his store, and then we're off. Great experience, great dinner, GREAT decision to take the taxi down and back.

We get home about midnight or so, and go to sleep knowing we're out of here tomorrow. Although we've enjoyed our short stay in Melbourne, I am happy to be getting out of the congestion.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 0
For the Trip: 400.

Trip Birds Today: 0.
For the Trip: 467.

Bird Upgrades Today: 0
For the Trip: 8

Active Bird Nests (with adults or chicks or both) Today: 0
For the Trip: 14

Snakes Seen Today: 0.
For the Trip: 11.

Sleep in: Melbourne Big 4 Holiday Park, Coburg, north of Melbourne, Victoria


Saturday, November 22, 2003. Day 101 of 118. Forty Years after JFK's Assassination.

We eat the ten dollar amenities key deposit so we can get away early. It's not as good as steak bernaise. Sharon puts her post cards into a post box on Bell Street. By 730 am, we are working our way out of the Melbourne area.

We enter the M1 motorway a bit before 8 am. We start reviewing what some of our favorite experiences of this trip have been.

Sharon: the casts on the walking trails of Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandanong Ranges east of Melbourne, that turn out to have been left by the famous giant worms of Australia.

Bob: the can of "Start Ya Bastard", which we used for three days while waiting for our appointment to have the engine repaired northwest of Melbourne.

Sharon: the Painted Buttonquail sticking her head cautiously from behind the tree, responding to the "other" female calling, which was Phil Maher's tape, south of Deniliquin.

Bob: suddenly seeing the Plainswanderer after Phil Maher had us arcing through that 800 acres of paddock for an hour and a half or so, back and forth, back and forth, north of Deniliquin.

Sharon: Feeding the Macleay's Honeyeater her jelly in Ivy Cottages Tea Garden in Paluma, Queensland

Bob: Seeing the Flame Robin suddenly pop up on North Bruny Island, Tasmania

Sharon: having an Australian Bustard suddenly show up while we had just finished driving around the Tablelands, near Kingfisher Caravan Park, looking for bustards.

Bob: All the special trips and guides - Bamaga and northern Cape York, Tasmania, Melaleuca, Greg Anderson, Bob Forsyth, George Swann, Frank O'Connor, Phil Maher.

Sharon: thought we saw just about the right number of snakes, shinglebacks, legless lizards.

Bob: In Sherbrooke Forest, hiding while we watched a solitary Superb Lyrebird walking and scratching, all the time softly talking to itself in all those wonderful lyrebird phrases, clicks and sounds.

Sharon: How Bob was able to sacrifice himself to the motion-sickness gods two extra flights in order to get us into Melaleuca to see the special birds there.

Bob: FINALLY getting the Southern Emu-wren in Melaleuca on Tasmania.

We break for breakfast in Gumbiya, next to a private aviary which contains, of all things, a pair of Golden Pheasants. A giant colorful golden pheasant statue announced this locality as we drove in.

We refuel, then change drivers in Morwell. I have unwittingly chosen a freeway exit where we can't get right back on. I ask directions back in the Mobil station, and Sharon drives us through the six stoplights indicated, and we are back on the freeway.

I can't tell you what happens for the next 45 minutes or so, but Sharon does her usual great job of driving us on down the road. It has turned into a rainy, rainy day.

It's good travelin' weather. We pass through Bairnsdale about noon, and Lakes Entrance about 1230 pm. We finish our lunch stop a little before 2 pm. That was Lunch Number 100 or 101 or somewhere in there.

Taking off again, we start to see signs for the Snowy River area, and it makes us think of the movie, "The Man From Snowy River."

We switch drivers again, Sharon taking the 230 pm to 330 pm shift, when we stop for refueling again. You know what we do all day when we stop twice in one day for fuel.

We pass through Cann River at 330 pm, and make the Malacoota-Gipsy turnoff about 4 pm. We drive past the Gipsy Lodge turnoff and drive down to the Malacoota docks, hoping to see Fairy Terns there. We see lots of rain, no Fairy Terns, but we do get a giant surprise.

A man comes over to our motorhome. I recognize him as Kieren, the fellow who turned us away from trying to see the Helmeted Honeyeater back in the Dandenongs and the person who suggested we visit Malacoota. I roll down the window, and he asks, "Do you remember me?" We remember him, but not his name immediately. He tells us his name, and then says, pointing to us one at a time, "Sharon, and ...?" So I tell him, "Bob." "That's right," he says.

We swap stories of what we've been doing. He has a house here, it turns out, and he's here for the weekend with his wife and friends of theirs, a couple from Denmark. He keeps them waiting in their car, while he talks to us.

"Did you see the Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters anywhere yet?" he asks. "No, not yet," we tell him. Then he asks what other birds we're looking for. We start ticking them off, and he gives us instructions for locating Ground Parrots, Glossy Black-cockatoos, Black-faced Monarchs and a couple of feuding male koalas. He describes some really good trails that are in the area, and we decide to check into the caravan park near a point on the area's walking trail loop.

We thank him, and he goes back to his wife and their guests, and we move up and check into the Shady Gully Caravan Park. After we set up, we get Kookaburra, White-winged Chough, Wonga Pigeon, Crimson Rosella and some lorikeet flying over.

We head out to try to find the trail, getting Sacred Kingfisher and Eastern Spinebill, but can't seem to find the walking track. I look over all the things he told us, plus the map that Robyn gave us at the caravan park. It turns out that she mis-marked the location of the caravan park on the map. It's a couple of kilometers from here to the nearest point on the walking track, so we drive down there, park, and head into the bush.

We get Common Bronzewing, maybe a Leaden Flycatcher, Eastern Whipbird, then the sound of Shining Bronze-cuckoo. Luckily, I have that bird's call, so I play it, and the bird comes right in, trading calls with my minidisc. We get great looks as we hear another one coming in. This is a great upgrade for us - a much better look than the first one we got, months ago. Months? Do I mean months?

We get Golden Whistler and a thornbill, then we drive over to where the heath track starts. After not finding the path for a while, we finally locate it, and head in. It's getting darker now at 825 pm, and we're in the middle of the heath. It's windy, but not currently raining. We play the Ground Parrot's call, but get no response.

We use flashlights to make our way back to the car, and just as we are about to drive out, we get a couple of baby foxes crossing the road, hanging around a little. They are cute, but undesirables. There are poison baiting programs all over Australia to kill the introduced predators that are killing the area's natural animals.

We go home, with plans to get up tomorrow really early and try for a look at Ground Parrot, then Black-faced Monarch.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 0
For the Trip: 400.

Trip Birds Today: 0.
For the Trip: 467.

Bird Upgrades Today: 1 (Shining Bronze-cuckoo)
For the Trip: 9

Active Bird Nests (with adults or chicks or both) Today: 0
For the Trip: 14

Snakes Seen Today: 0.
For the Trip: 11.

Sleep in: Shady Gully Caravan Park, Malacoota, SE Victoria


Sunday, November 23, 2003. Day 102 of 118. Mallacoota and New South Wales.

The alarm is off a little before 5 am, and we are down at the beginning of the heath walk by quarter till six. It's an overcast day, and we hope it will be clearing soon. A Whistling Kite flies over and a Black Swan does a flyby, showing us the beautiful white on its wings.

We get a Grey Fantail and an Eastern Whipbird calling about six am. We play the Ground Parrot tape in a few locations, but get no response whatsoever. We turn around and head back out, getting the sharp calls of a bird we finally identify as Grey Shrike-thrush.

This is a recurring problem for each of us. We get a bird call down pat, then we hear a hundred other birds, then the bird call we thought we had memorized comes along again, and neither one of us recognizes it.

We are almost back to the car when Sharon sees or hears (we can't remember which now) a big dark bird flying. We both get on the black-cockatoo, which we immediately assume is Glossy Black-cockatoo, because that's the one Kieren said was here. The problem is, he didn't say this is the ONLY species of black-cockatoo that's here, and it might be Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo.

We'll have to email Kieren and ask him if they have Yellow-tails here too. Now this is a great illustration of whether we get to add a new species to our list or not. I do not care one whit what he says. If he says yes, that's great, and if he says no, that's ok too. It just means we still have that bird to look forward to. We didn't see it all that well anyway, but we'll count it if it's certain.

We get back to the car, and head for the rainforest walk where Kieren saw Black-faced Monarch. It's 640 am, and I love how the morning unfolds when we get up so early. There's so MUCH of it.

We drive over to Double Creek, park the motorhome, and head down to the start of the rainforest loop walk. Suddenly, we hear this sound, like a lion's roar, across the road. This must be one of the male koalas, advertising his presence. We look all over, but can't find the koala, even though he calls a couple of more times.

We give up, and go back over to the rainforest walk start again, getting a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets flying over, three Kookaburras way, WAY up in a tree, a Yellow Robin, and a Silvereye.

Sharon starts walking up the steps to begin the walk, but I say, "Wait a minute. Let me play the tape first." Sharon stops and I walk over near her, then start the tape.

I say "tape," and the original WAS on tape, but I've copied the tapes onto minidiscs. I still call it a tape though, because it's simpler to say than "minidisc."

I play the tape once, and we get an immediate response, but it's a Silvereye. I play it again, and when it ends, Sharon excitedly, but quietly points up the trail. "That's him," she says as we hear the call. The BLACK-FACED MONARCH* flies in and lands right over our heads. Chestnutty underparts and a black throat, wonderfully colored bird. We get great looks as he moves around, searching for the source of the call.

We let him go and head back out. Sharon stops, scans a tree, points up and says, "And there's your koala." I look up and see this ball, first thinking it's a termite colony, then I move around to the other side of the tree, where I can see its face and ears. The not-so-little koala is snoozing away, forty feet up.

Sharon points out that we just got another bird on the cover of our Morcombe's book - the Black-faced Monarch. That leaves only one of the six birds that we don't have, and won't get, since we won't be back in the Orange Chat's range again. When we began the trip, we didn't have any of the 'big six.'

Based on the map that Robyn gave us, from the caravan park, we drive out to a carpark near the end of the heath walking track, and play the tape of the bird we're after. We get an immediate response from an EASTERN BRISTLEBIRD*, and go into a one-hour series of almost seeing the bird, but not quite. We chase it to the golf course, and it makes it across the fairway before we can get it. Or maybe it turned right before it got to the green grass.

We take a break, have breakfast, then try again, with exactly the same results.

We decide that we've done all we can do here, so we go back to the caravan park, and Robyn refunds our second night's fee.

We're off to New South Wales, and into our favorite thing - new territory. At 10 am, we're out on the highway again, and we change drivers. I stay awake long enough to take a photo of the "Welcome to New South Wales" sign, and then I'm outa there while Sharon drives us into the state where we began and where we'll end our trip.

We drive past Ben Boyd, take a bathroom break at the Yellow Pinch Dam, and then have lunch near Tilba Tilba Creek. I write these things down because I want to see if I can remember the small things I remember about them, a year from now.

We continue the drive north, passing the turnoff to where we will come back tomorrow, and check into the Rest Point Caravan Park a little before 5 pm.

It has rained almost all day.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 2 (Black-faced Monarch, Eastern Bristlebird - heard only)
For the Trip: 402.

Trip Birds Today: 2 (The lifers).
For the Trip: 469.

Bird Upgrades Today: 0
For the Trip: 9

Active Bird Nests (with adults or chicks or both) Today: 0
For the Trip: 14

Snakes Seen Today: 0.
For the Trip: 11.

Sleep in: Rest Point Caravan Park, Nowra, NSW. John let me use internet.

Say goodbye to Report 33.

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