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.

Mount Gnomon Farm

We had been wanting to visit Mount Gnomon Farm for years but the timing was always wrong. Finally, last Sunday we drove the short ten minutes from Penguin along winding roads, through beautiful countryside, to experience the recently re-opened restaurant. The rustic simplicity of the exterior

1.restaurant

continues once inside.

2.interior

From quirky door handles and unique light fittings

to walls adorned with animal hides and ‘family’ photos, the ambience is warm and inviting.

A colourful palette of wildflowers is framed by the dining room window.

8.view from dining room

The front verandah overlooks fields of grazing sheep,

9.view from front door

a charcoal spit and bespoke fire pits await the next big event.

10.spit

Resident pooches Cyril and Winston eagerly welcomed us, happy to accept attention without demanding it.

Agricultural scientist, Guy Robertson purchased this magnificent parcel of land ten years ago, principally to raise free range pigs and promote the end product of premium free range pork. Nestled against the forest reserve of the Dial Range, they certainly have no problem with neighbours.

19.Dial Range20.Wild garden & Dial Range

The estate has become much more than a pig farm but I’ll get to that after lunch. Unfortunately for Guy, but fortuitously for us, last minute cancellations meant the three of us were the only guests. Perusing the menu, it was difficult to make a choice, we wanted to try everything. With a little encouragement from Guy and his team, that’s exactly what we did. French chef, Madjid, specialises in charcuterie and so, at the top of the menu, we started with the impressive French Charcuterie shared plate. Ham hock terrine, wallaby terrine, pepperberry cured pork fillet, saucisson sec, saucisson a l’ail, smoked ham, apple puree, garden pickles and sourdough bread.

21.French Charcuterie shared plate

Mount Gnomon smoked chorizo with pumpkin puree & sage, Mount Gnomon smoked bratwurst with house sauerkraut & German mustard and a salad of borlotti beans, celery, fennel & orange followed.

24.salad

The roasted suckling pig leg with sausage stuffing, carrots, garlic crumb & jus convinced us of the superior quality and flavour of Mount Gnomon free range pork.

25.suckling pig

Next came free range chicken served with spinach, roasted pumpkin, burnt butter, lemon & toasted pine nuts.

26.free range chicken

Crispy Kennebec potato with smoked paprika mayo and local green vegetables with a herb dressing, Coal River Farm fetta, preserved lemon & mint completed the feast. (I missed a photo of the greens, trust me, they were incredible).

27.potatoes

I should point out, these dishes were shared between us, we hadn’t really succumbed to an attack of gluttony. The menu changes every week depending on the fresh farm produce available, what a great excuse to return and sample more. Local beers and ciders are also on offer, along with superb Ghost Rock wines. We were confident we could manage the one dessert on the menu with a pause for digestion and so, embarked on a Guy guided tour of the farm. A new lamb had joined the flock of Shropshire sheep that morning, I’m sure he grew more cute each time I looked at him (actually, not sure if he is a he).

The other lambs had a head start and for some, the grass was definitely greener the other side of the fence.

Across the paddock to the west, the traditional Dairy Shorthorn cattle enjoy far reaching views as well as luscious green pasture.

34.views to the west

To the north, the young apple trees of the cider orchard align with the pristine waters of Bass Strait.

37.view to the north

A wild edible garden

38.wild garden

occupies the space between the restaurant kitchen and the most spectacular raised vegetable garden I have ever seen.

39.vegetable patch

My hopes of cuddling a piglet were dashed when we learned the hundreds of Wessex Saddleback pigs that usually reside here had been relocated to enable regeneration of the pastures.

40.pig pastures

I’m sure they will be eager to return to their home beneath Mount Gnomon.

41.pig pastures

For the few that remain, the rich, red soil was irresistible for a spot of wallowing.

I imagine this would be a soothing respite

47.pig in mud48.pig in mud

from suckling twelve large offspring.

49.piggies

Back at the restaurant, I entered the inner sanctum to witness the cured meats awaiting their turn on the charcuterie board.

50.charcuterie

The exercise and fresh air had primed us for the delicious peanut butter chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis & crunchy topping.

51.mousse

If you can’t make it to Mount Gnomon Farm, you can find their products on menus around Australia as well as at farmers markets and festivals across Tasmania. If you can make it to the farm, next Sunday would be the perfect opportunity with a big day planned for the launch of Mount Gnomon Farms very own cider.

52.event

cani di Lucca

The Lucchese love their dogs. It’s not unusual to see them joining their humans for a meal,

1.breakfast in lucca

though they don’t often have a seat at the table.

1a.lunch

Caffetteria Turandot, in Piazza San Michele, is the perfect location to enjoy a beverage and watch the parade of four-legged lovelies.

2.cane in Lucca

Some are content to wait patiently until their bipedal companions are ready to move on.

4.Golden Retriever3.Piazza San Michele

Others are somewhat reluctant and need a bit of coaxing

5.Italian greyhound

but most are happy to just go where life leads them.

9.Piazza San Michele

12.Piazza San Michele

Being on a leash doesn’t mean you can’t have fun when you meet a friend.

13.boxer & friend

This gentleman was unaware of my subject matter and stopped to pose for the camera, he certainly made me smile.

20.friendly local

Foreshore Fiesta

Last Saturday marked the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove. Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the eleven convict ships and first Governor of New South Wales, raised the Union Jack on 26th January 1788. Since then, Australia Day has been celebrated across the land with citizenship ceremonies, concerts and various community festivities, along with barbecues and beer. The Aboriginal people, however, refer to the day as ‘Invasion Day’ and see it as a day of mourning rather than a reason to celebrate. There has been much controversy surrounding the appropriateness of the date, with protests as far back as 1938 during the sesquicentenary celebrations in Sydney. A recent poll found the majority of Australians weren’t too fussed about the date, as long as there is a national day of celebration. Perhaps Australia Day should be a celebration of Australia and the multicultural country it is today, not tied to any historical moment?

There is a plethora of festivities to choose from here on the northwest coast of Tassie. The Rotary Club Foreshore Fiesta at Somerset was our obvious choice as Michael had been invited to join Tarkine Strings , a classical string ensemble who , this time, were entertaining the crowd with innovative blues renditions. We arrived early on a warm, sunny day (though a little windy).

1.Foreshore Fiesta

The makeshift stage on the back of a DeBruyn’s truck was perfect for the occasion

2.Tarkine Strings on stage

and before long, the upbeat blues tones were issuing forth to compete with nature’s gusts.

Away from the stage, there was more than enough to keep the youngsters occupied. A gorgeous Benscroft Miniature Hereford calf won hearts just doing what calves do

and Yolla District High School brought along animals for the petting zoo.

I’m pretty sure the alpaca winked at me before nonchalantly turning away.

For those who appreciate the piquancy of diesel as much as I do, the Historical Machinery Club of Tasmania had a rather impressive collection of old engines and farm implements as well as some model train carriages.

There were a few stalls selling various goods

24.stalls

and no shortage of amusements for the kids.

It was good to see one fire engine not needed to fight the terrible bushfires, although I’m sure she has earned her retirement.

There were a few options for sustenance but we couldn’t go past the good old Aussie barbecue for lunch. With a choice of sausage sandwich, hamburger or steak sandwich (onions optional but highly recommended), tomato or barbecue sauce what more could we want?

34.barbecue

Tarkine Strings returned for a second set before handing over the stage to the next band.

35.Tarkine Strings

Unfortunately, we had other obligations and had to leave but I have it on good authority that the day was a success with all proceeds going toward the purchase of a wheelchair equipped bus for the Burnie School of Special Education. For a musician’s perspective, have a look at Michael’s post on Tiger Dreaming

monkey business

The last thing you expect to find in a city park is a troop of Japanese macaques. Launceston City Park has been home to a few different beasts over the years, from thylacines to brown bear and deer. It was home to a group of Rhesus monkeys from the late 1800s until the last one died in 1979. The council wanted to continue the monkey tradition and, after much research, decided the Japanese macaque is best suited to the Tasmanian climate. A fitting choice, as Ikeda City in Japan became a sister city with Launceston in 1965. The enclosure reflects the natural environment of the monkeys with plenty to keep them occupied as well as a much loved swimming pool.

1.enclosure

Time slipped away as we watched, mesmerised, these gorgeous creatures and their antics. Some sat quietly, contemplating

2.thinking

while others were in the mood to play.

3.let's play

Japanese macaques are omnivorous, although their diet here is quite different to that in the wild. Their menu includes barbecue chicken, scrambled eggs and honey sandwiches as well as fruit and vegetables. Some were intently picking through the mulch, probably looking for treats of dog biscuits and bird seed that had been hidden there.

There was much grooming going on, a way of maintaining social bonds

but it wasn’t going to interrupt breakfast for this youngster.

The babies are adorable,

some stayed close to mum.

Relaxing peacefully in the sunshine was enough for others on this beautiful Sunday morning.

26.contemplation

29.how shall i spend the day?

I wonder whether the monkeys wait each day for the human exhibit to arrive?