Werribee Zoo

Our arrival at Werribee Open Range Zoo timed perfectly with the start of a safari bus tour.

1.Safari Bus

Fortunately, the new bus is a lot more reliable and rhino proof.

2.Safari Bus

The 225 hectare zoo, originally agistment land for Melbourne Zoo, opened in 1983 and is home to many African and Australian species. Werribee is more than just a zoo, with breeding and recovery programmes and a commitment to conservation of wildlife, the future of these precious animals is in good hands. Setting off toward the open plains, it wasn’t long before the familiar silhouette of a bison came into view. His companion, the Addax, is critically endangered with less than 300 remaining in the wild.

We witnessed the results of the breeding programmes that have brought the Mongolian Wild Horses back from the brink of extinction. Named after the Russian explorer who first described them, Przewalski’s Horses have recently been reintroduced to reserves in Mongolia.

Crossing a waterway,

7.waterway

we were surprised to see Texan Longhorn cattle.

Apparently, they look similar to cattle found in Africa and the context became clear as we passed a replica African village.

10.African Village11.African Village

The tour was momentarily held up by a group of young Scimitar-horned Oryx cavorting around the bus.

12.Scimitar-horned Oryx

It was wonderful to see wild animals roaming freely together across the savannah. Eland grazed sedately

13.Eland grazing

alongside majestic giraffes

16.giraffe

and zebra, all able to relax and enjoy the sunshine without threat of predators.

A herd of Southern White rhinoceros, the largest of the rhino species, share the same pasture.

24.rhinoceros

A nearby waterhole gives them the chance to wallow in the mud but the only resident this day was a lone Cape Barren goose.

25.Cape Barren goose

As the tour drew to a close, the last animal in our sights, the dromedary camel, was first imported in the mid 1800s and Australia now has the world’s largest population of wild camels.

26.camel

We lunched at the Meerkat Bistro, presumably named because the meerkat enclosure abuts a full length window along one side of the café. The heat lamps took the chill off the winter air, I could watch these gorgeous little creatures for hours.

Once sated, we set off to explore the African Trail, a leisurely 1km stroll with many more animals to discover.

31.Kniphofia

The Vervet monkey was well camouflaged within the branches, seemingly deep in thought.

It was lunch time for the African Wild Dogs with their unique ‘painted’ coats. Numbers in the wild are dwindling, yet again thanks to humans.

Along with the lions, habitat destruction, trophy hunting and the killing by farmers to protect livestock are threatening their existence. These peaceful pussy cats certainly didn’t appear menacing.

43.lions

Moored at the edge of the hippopotamus enclosure

sat the African river boat, Kuba Queen.

50.Kuba Queen

Hippos have long been my favourite animal

53.hippo

and I was very excited to capture one as it seemed to test the water before deciding on a swim.

Three Western Lowland gorillas live at Werribee, a magnificent silverback, Motaba and his two sons, Yakini and Ganyeka. I don’t know which one this is but isn’t he handsome?

The fastest mammal on earth was taking it easy this afternoon,

62.cheetah

my day was complete with a wink from the Cheetah.

Highfield House

I know I’ve said it before but Stanley really is one of our favourite places and having guests from interstate is always a great excuse to return. The drive up the hill to Highfield House and the views as we descend back to the beach are quite spectacular. A few years have passed since we took the time to visit Highfield House so we welcomed the opportunity on a recent expedition. The Van Diemen’s Land Company was formed in 1826  by a group of London based businessmen to establish a wool growing venture on the island. Edward Curr, the chief agent of the VDL Company, arrived at Circular Head in the remote northwest with his family in November 1827. They lived in a small cottage until his new homestead, with twenty four rooms, was completed in 1835.

1.Highfield House

The garden is immaculate

and the house impressive even on an inclement day.

4.Highfield House

Through the front door, down the main hallway

5.hall

we entered the gallery where guests would be welcomed. Portraits and stories of those who lived and worked in the house and around the estate adorn the walls.

6.gallery

Storyboards in each room relate a different part of life at Highfield House, the history of the VDL Company and the settlement of Circular Head. First impressions of the settlers to the wild, rugged northwest are shared in the adjacent drawing room,

7.drawing room

while the failure of the planned fine wool enterprise and hefty financial losses are described in the study.

Across the hall, the china closet displays remnants of crockery that were found during restoration of the house

and parts of the original ceiling and walls have been exposed.

Henry Hellyer travelled to Van Diemen’s Land in 1826 as architect and surveyor for the VDL company. His explorations and mapping of the remote northwest opened up the area to settlement. In 1831, he began designing Highfield House but, sadly, he committed suicide in September 1832 and never saw his plans come to fruition. His adventures are told in the room set up as a nursery.

Beneath the staircase, two cellars provide ample storage for the plethora of goods imported on the Company ships. Detailed inventories indicate the residents of the house wanted for nothing.

Places are set at the dining room table and snippets of conversation are written on the cloth. The clinking of glasses and cutlery accompany the gossip of the day.

22.dining room

25.dining room

Upstairs,

the master bedroom is set out beautifully, though it is shrouded in sadness with the sound of a woman sobbing. Presumably, Elizabeth Curr is mourning the death of her two year old daughter, Julia, in a tragic accident.

28.master bedroom

Conversely, there is a calm ambience with stunning garments laid out

and a surprisingly comfortable ensuite.

32.ensuite

Down the hall, the children’s bedroom seems a bit on the small side for fifteen children, nine sons and six daughters. Apparently, all were sent back to England for schooling around the age of four.

33.children's bedroom

The guest room has a spectacular view of the Nut, the ancient volcanic plug around which the town of Stanley has grown. Suitcases half packed (or unpacked) give the impression of visitors in residence.

Returning to the ground floor, through the Butler’s Pantry (which is now the Reception Office) there is another hall

36.hall

that leads past the larder and pantry ( with more exposed original ceiling)

to the kitchen.

40.kitchen

A collection of not-so-modern appliances make us aware of how arduous the simplest of tasks were at that time.

The kitchen leads to a rear courtyard

46.rear courtyard

and we set off to explore the various outbuildings on the estate. A small stone building houses a chapel on the ground floor

and schoolhouse above.

51.chapel:schoolhouse

There are stables

52.stables

and a large barn that was divided up for separate uses.

56.barns

Through the straw barn

57.straw barn

there is a separate section that houses some old implements including a rather striking woolpress.

At the other end, on a mezzanine level, the original threshing barn is now a popular venue for weddings and functions.

65.threshing barn

Following Curr’s dismissal in 1842, Highfield House has had several owners until 1982 when the State Government acquired the estate. If you are planning on a visit to Stanley, be sure to take the time to explore Highfield House.

66.Highfield House & The Nut

Monterosso

A short boat trip along the coast from Vernazza brought us to the next village of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso.

1.Monterosso

Dating back to Roman times, the oldest and most populated of the Cinque Terre villages is divided into two parts. The old, medieval village

2.Monterosso Vecchio

and the new, modern area known as Fegina

3.Fegina

are separated by San Cristoforo hill.

4.San Cristoforo hill

A strong defence system was built on the hill in the 16th century with only three of the thirteen towers still standing. One of those is the Aurora Tower, with pride of place on the promontory it is now a private residence.

5.Torre Aurora

Ancient lookout turrets and fortress walls adorn the hillside.

Dominating the headland, the Convent of the Capuchin Friars has had a turbulent history since construction in 1619. Closed for the Napoleonic laws in 1816 and again for the Savoy laws in 1867, it has been used as a hospital and warehouse and eventually returned to the friars in 2006.

8.Convento Frati Cappuccini

Across the bay on the other side of the old town, the Hotel Porto Roca clings to the rocky foundations of Punta Corone.

9.Hotel Porto Roca

In 1960, Giacinto Jacazzi, a fashion creator from Milan, fell in love with the village and bought the land. Rather than a family home, he decided to build a hotel so more people could enjoy it. Workers had to construct roads to the isolated site and fearless excavator drivers manoeuvred their machines on the edge of sheer cliffs.

10.Hotel Porto Roca

Three years later, the dream came true. I will definitely be staying here if we are lucky enough to return one day.

11.Hotel Porto Roca

The boat tied up in the harbour of Monterosso Vecchio,

12.Monterosso vecchio

we climbed some stairs and walked along the path to the new part of town. Fegina Beach is the biggest sand covered beach in the Cinque Terre and is a popular destination for tourists.

15.Fegina Beach14.Fegina Beach13.Fegina Beach

We enjoyed a seafood lunch overlooking the bay and then, armed with gelati, wandered along Via Fegina where majestic hotels and apartments afforded uninterrupted views of the coastline.

16.Via Fegina

Returning to the boat, we farewelled Monterosso for a sedate cruise back to Riomaggiore in time for aperitivo.

17.Monterosso Vecchio

Kangaroo Ground

On a crisp, clear winters morning, we left Healesville after another delicious breakfast at Cherry Tree Cafe to fortify us for the drive to Werribee. We had only been driving for half an hour when we passed a sign announcing Kangaroo Ground Memorial Lookout Tower. Executing a U-turn, we went to investigate. Kangaroo Ground is a tiny town about 26km from Melbourne and the tower is located on the highest hill in the area. Unveiled on 11th November 1926, the 12 metre tall edifice was erected in memory of local men killed in action in World War I.

1.memorial tower

The memorial now commemorates those who also lost their lives in World War II. A large bronze plaque above the doorway lists 107 names of the fallen. In 1974, the rather unattractive box on top was added for the purpose of fire watching and is still in use during the summer months.

2.memorial tower

We didn’t climb the tower to take in the 360 degree views across Melbourne, the north eastern suburbs and the Dandenong and Kinglake Ranges. We were quite happy with the ones we had from ground level.

3.panorama4.panorama5.Melbourne city6.panorama7.panorama

A single pine tree near the tower, succumbing slightly to the prevailing winds, drew our attention. Planted as a sapling on 11th November 2005, it is a direct descendent of the original Lone Pine from Gallipoli.

8.lone pine9.lone pine plaque

Christmas creativity

Whether we like it or not, there is a certain obligation to decorate our workplace for Christmas. Each year, the boxes of tinsel and baubles are dragged out of storage along with the increasingly dilapidated tree. To add a new dimension this year, we were each issued a challenge to decorate a door in the department. Everyone dug deep into their creative souls with astounding results. There are a few elves

3.elf

and a couple of Santas, one of which has decided to go for a swim.

6.Santa's gone to the beach

An enthusiastic llama

7.fa la la llama

is inspired by the mischievous and musical reindeer down the hall.

8.reindeer stable

There is a happy snowman, a couple of Olafs and a penguin that looks as though he has had one too many egg nogs.

I think this wins first prize for imagination.

15.Frosty's first photo

A chocolate advent calendar is a must for counting down the days.

16.advent calendar

Some excelled with colourful creations.

17.gingerbread house18.fireplace

Christmas trees and gifts featured

21.gift

along with baubles

and a quirky, original night sky (sorry about the quality, looks like I had one too many egg nogs!)

24.night sky

Of course, not everyone feels the joy of Christmas.

25.grumpy cat26.Grinch

Wishing you all a very happy and safe Christmas and everything you hope for in 2020.