Dirty old town (bah-humbug!)

Let’s not beat about the bush – we don’t much care for Melbourne.  Or, to be brutally honest, and in the spirit of never calling a spade a spade when in reality it’s a bloody shovel, we find the place crowded, chaotic, noisy and dirty.

OK, I admit we’re not in a positive frame of mind.  We stayed the night in a city centre apartment where our sleep was disturbed by the sounds of drunken revelry in the street outside.  Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than the sound of every other bugger in the neighbourhood having a great time at a party to which you’re not invited.

Of course, we prefer places that boast more trees than people, more critters than cars, more bird species than burger joints.  Melbourne fails on all counts.  To make matters worse, after more than a month in Tasmania we’re highly sensitised to the people-to-trees ratio and similar indicators of rural tranquillity, and can’t help looking back wistfully.

Moreover, following the long march prompted by our car breakdown on Flinders we can hardly move thanks to the combined effects of tweaked muscles, inflamed joints and lactic acid overload.  In short we are feeling irritable and out of sorts, and ill-prepared for the urban jungle that is Melbourne.

We are also, I will confess, suffering from a severe case of bah-humbuggery.  Christmas is fast approaching, and signs of it are everywhere.  This evening we sit in a street-side Starbucks, drinking mocha and watching the world go by while we rest our aching limbs.  The streets are rammed with folk getting into the festive spirit, giggling girls in Santa hats, half-cut guys in the full Father Christmas gear, green-uniformed elves roaming the street like gangs of unpaid extras from a Lord of the Rings movie, and screaming kids, all kitted out in reindeer antlers, presumably auditioning for a walk-on part as Santa’s Little Yelper.

I find this all rather distasteful.  This trip to Oz was about getting away from it all, and the last thing I need is to have the modern world in general and Christmas in particular thrust into my face, to be reminded so brutally that the big day is just a fortnight away and I still haven’t got Julie a present.  And anyway, it’s unnatural: the lead up to Christmas is meant to be cold, dank, gloomy and miserable, yet here we are sitting in warm late afternoon sunshine witnessing scantily-clad festive shenanigans all around us.

Of course, the fact that it’s a warm early-summer’s day and the locals are having a good time isn’t strictly Melbourne’s fault, but someone has to be held accountable.  Bah-humbug!

To be fair, Melbourne has two saving graces.  The first is its grand historic buildings, from banks to shopping arcades, which suggest that in its earlier days this was a city of real style and elegance, a place to be reckoned with. The ANZ bank, for example, is imposing from the outside …

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… and stylish inside:

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Here’s an interior from 336 Collins Street:

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And here’s a detail from one of the shopping arcades:

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Even the station is impressive:

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The second thing in Melbourne’s favour is the Royal Botanic Gardens, which are an ocean of calm amidst a sea of chaos.  We take the hop-on-hop-off bus, though in our case hobble-on-hobble-hobble-off might be more accurate, and soon lose ourselves amongst the flowers:

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The lake is a focal point of the gardens:

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The gardens also give us a chance to do some last-minute birding.  The lake sports an old friend from Tasmania, the Pacific Duck:

melbourne-royal-botanic-gardens-pacific-duck-2016

We enjoy watching as a Yellow-wattle Bird raids blossoms for nectar …

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… and listening to the ringing call of the Bell Miner, which is sometimes referred to locally as the Bellbird:

melbourne-royal-botanic-gardens-bell-miner-2016

Even butterflies are here in force:

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We spend a happy afternoon wandering the paths of the Royal Botanic Gardens, exploring its grounds and immersing ourselves in its tranquillity.  We really like this place, and probably what we like most of all is that while you’re here you can forget you’re in Melbourne altogether.  I guess that just about says it all.

[10 December]

Bird of the week (5) Bonus Birds

Platypus Pandemonium has been proud to feature Bird of the Week.  Sadly we’ve run out of weeks, though not of birds.  So here are just a few birds I’d like to have featured.  Enjoy!

 The Forty-spotted Pardalote is a must-see species for birders visiting Bruny Island, and we were not disappointed: tasmania-bruny-40-spotted-pardalote-2016-16

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Also on Bruny we got spectacular views of another local rarity, the Swift Parrot: tasmania-bruny-swift-parrot-2016-15

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We often caught glimpses of the Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike: tasmania-black-faced-cuckoo-shrike-2016-6

In the grounds of the Bonorong Sanctuary we were pleased to see an Australian Wood Duck … tasmania-bonorong-australian-wood-duck-2016-2

… and some Eastern Rosella:tasmania-bonorong-eastern-rosella-2016-1

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Honeyeaters were a regular feature of the trip.  Here’s a gang of Black-headed Honeyeaters on Bruny: tasmania-bruny-black-headed-honeyeater-2016-5

The last post

This is my last ever post on Platypus Pandemonium.  The story of our 4,500km trip through Tasmania has been told, and it’s time to move on.

To anyone who has been following this blog over the weeks I’d like to say a big “thank you,” particularly those of you who sent comments or messages of support.  I hope you enjoyed the ride.

To anyone hankering after more photos of Tassie, Julie is gradually posting the best on Flickr.  You can log on to her album of our trip to Tasmania here.

To anyone who stumbles across Platypus Pandemonium in the future and fancies a trip to Tasmania I offer you free, gratis, and for nothing two pieces of advice:

  1. Go for it. You won’t be disappointed, I promise you.
  2. Get in touch with Susie at Tasmanian Odyssey. Susie helped us put together a great trip and I’m sure she’d be pleased to do the same for anyone else who wants to sample the joys of Tassie.

And as for the blogging itself, towards the start of our trip I spoke over dinner one night with a Tasmanian blogger who’s made of bit of a name for herself online.  She talked about the challenges inherent in a decent blog, of honing her technique and “finding [her] voice.”  It didn’t mean too much at the time, but looking back today I can see it all makes sense.  Blogging has been a challenge but also a lot of fun.  and as I scroll back through 83 posts written over a period of around 18 weeks I’m pleased with the results.  I hope you liked them too.

I’m fairly confident that I’ll have another go at blogging, possibly about other travels to foreign parts (Newfoundland is beckoning), or maybe exploring the trials and tribulations of retirement, or … who knows, let’s see how the fancy takes me.

Meanwhile, with all good wishes for the New Year 2017, it’s a cheery au revoir from the venerable Platypus Man.

Burdick 201, N25.9
The venerable Platypus Man

8 January 2017

FOLLOW the Platypus Man to New Zealand … and beyond!

Almost three years after his epic journey to Tasmania the Platypus Man will set off in October on his greatest adventure, and quite possibly his last great adventure, a trip of around 51 days to New Zealand.

There’s loads to see and do in New Zealand:  We will marvel at its volcanic landscapes and geothermal wonders, and be inspired by its magnificent mountain and coastal scenery.  We will explore the charms of small-town New Zealand, and learn about Maori culture. We will enjoy brilliant views of whales, dolphins and exotic birds.  We will see lots of sheep and drink lots of wine. We will fly business class for the only time in our lives.  

But we definitely won’t go bungee jumping!

My New Zealand blog is already live on the Internet.  You can sign up to receive every post, illustrated by Mrs P’s wonderful photos, sent direct to your email account as soon as it’s published online.  Click here to visit the blog, then click on the link that invites you to Follow Blog via Email.

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And that’s not all.  I have another blog for you to savour!  Now I’m 64 is a random collection of pieces about the natural world, as well as stuff that has caught my attention, events and experiences that have fired me up or made me chuckle, places that have inspired me and people I’ve been pleased to know. 

I’ve scheduled weekly posts during our visit to New Zealand covering topics as varied as memories of my time at Cambridge University, unwelcome milestones on the road to decrepitude, birding versus twitching, the British Birdwatching Fair, the joy of NHS health checks, blogging, knocking down walls, and building museums for the future.

Oh, I nearly forgot, there will also be posts on “The curse of Glastonbury” and “Keeping the zombies in.”

Go on, admit it, you’re intrigued aren’t you?  Especially by the zombies! So visit Now I’m 64 right now, click on the lined symbol on the top right of the banner photograph and sign up to Follow Blog via Email.

If you don’t I’ll send the zombies round to get you!