(Part 1)By Bernadette Lunas
On a recent flight from Melbourne to Sydney, it took me more than enough time to put my bag in the overhead cabin thus causing a short line of passengers on the aisle. I apologized profusely over the delay I’ve caused. A man, with an Australian accent, smiled reassuringly and said, “No worries.” I felt less flustered and self-conscious.
It wasn’t the only time I heard that expression during my recent visit in Australia, specifically in Melbourne. It’s the locals’ response to “thank you,” it’s their way to tell you everything’s all right, it’s how they reassure others not to worry too much and to take it easy and to be optimistic.
Unlike hurried big cities where people seem to be always catching the last trip of the train and there appears to be no time to stop and smell the roses, Melbourne doesn’t mind slowing down.
There is a certain relaxed and friendly vibe in this city; it’s as if time stops and there really is nothing to worry about.
Sleep like a koala
You see if there is any creature living in Melbourne, Australia that will prove to you of the slow-paced, relaxed living in the city that would be koalas.
The six adorable marsupials our tour group spotted at the Koala Conservation Centre on Phillip Island were peacefully sleeping while perched on eucalyptus trees. With their low-energy diet, made up mostly of eucalyptus leaves, they are sedentary and sleep up to 20 hours a day.
This eco-tourism attraction, located 90 minutes from Melbourne, lets visitors see these sleepy creatures in their natural habitat up close; humans stroll through eucalypt woodlands on elevated boardwalks. Free-roaming wallabies, possums, and echidnas, among other Australian wildlife, sometimes make a surprise appearance in the conservation centre, too.
Koalas do their thing, while people do theirs—quietly and without disturbing the animals.
Aside from providing a place for the Australian icons and other wildlife to thrive and for people to see them living as they would in the wild, the Koala Conservation Centre is also committed to conservation efforts, public awareness, and long-term research of koalas.
Live like little penguins
We arrived about an hour before sunset at Summerland Beach on Phillip Island to watch a parade.
Sitting on tiered bleachers, wet and shivering from the winter rain, we awaited the arrival of the little penguins, the world’s smallest specie of penguin, which only grows to an average of 33 centimeters tall and a kilo in weight.
As the water receded, one penguin leapt out of sea and waddled onto the beach to check things out. Confirming everything’s swell he then called the others to follow him.
These creatures, all cute and tiny, come ashore in groups of four to eight and waddle on to the grassy areas to go to their respective homes—those sand dune burrows—after a day of fishing at sea.
This activity, which happens daily, is called the Penguin Parade, one of Australia’s most popular attractions.
According to rangers, Phillip Island is home to more than 10,000 breeding adult little penguins, which are often called fairy penguins because of their small size.
It’s quite a sight, honestly. As, although audience can hardly see them coming ashore since the “parade” is only lit by moonlight and a few lamps, spectators can “walk” with them on the boardwalks which are strategically built near the penguins’ path and burrows.
Photography is, thankfully, not allowed to avoid disrupting the penguins’ routine. And should you try to take a snap, and, God forbid, use flash, rangers and other concerned visitors will call you out. See, this natural attraction is better to be experienced with your eyes, not through the screen of your device.
According to the Phillip Island Nature Parks, revenues raised through its eco-tourism activities are invested in research environment and education programs. “We’re not-for-profit and all for conservation.”
Experience farm life
Off the coast of Phillip Island is Churchill Island Heritage Farm, where the public can enjoy a relaxing stroll through the fragrant cottage gardens and lawns, visit farmhouses, and get up-close with horses and cows and chickens and ducks.
Churchill Island holds an important place in history being the site of the first European agricultural pursuits in Victoria. According to its website, the island has been farmed since the 1850s.
Visitors can experience cow milking and learn lassoing. The sheep shearing show, particularly, is a fun way to learn more about the humble farm life. Sheep are sheared in gentle precision, in a little over a minute. The record shearing speed is 49 seconds or 620 sheep sheared in eight hours.
Audience members are invited to touch the freshly sheared wool, which is greasy due to its lanolin that are actually used as moisturizer, which is effective in keeping skin supple during winter. Those looking for lanolin moisturizer can hoard it in Australia.
Aside from close encounters with wildlife and scenic walks in the countryside, the heritage farm also serves a sumptuous and authentically Aussie lunch composed of sandwiches, garden salad, stuffed mushrooms, grilled shrimps, chips, and brownies. Pair it with a glass of chilled chardonnay, and you’re all set.
Walk around the city
Koalas, penguins, sheep, and other wildlife thrive in Melbourne, offering a glimpse into the life in Victoria’s capital. But it’s just one side of it.
In the city, the same calm and relaxed vibe emanates. Streets are wide and lined with greens, modern structures stand beside Victorian buildings, and the population—which is notably diverse—goes about their day in a peaceful rush, so to speak. They walk with a purpose but they won’t intentionally bump into you in case you forget which way you’re headed. “No worries,” they’ll say.
The thing is Melburnians have a lightness in them, they don’t hurry too much. And our amiable tour guide/bus driver, Nigel, told us why.
“We sleep, we eat, and we go to work. We don’t have too much nightlife,” he said.
True enough, malls and outlet stores close early. At 6:00 p.m. Supermarkets close at 8:00 p.m. Even restaurants and bars are lights off at much earlier time than what we’re used to. This gives employees more time for other pursuits, or for relaxation. No wonder they seem calm, relaxed, and unhurried.
“You know why we often say ‘No worries’?” asked Nigel. “Because we don’t worry too much. It’s a good life here.”
No wonder, Melbourne was voted the “World’s Most Livable City” by the Economist Intelligence Unit for seven straight years. Sure, Vienna got the crown this year, but you still have to go to this Australian city to experience living with no worries.
* * *
Cebu Pacific now flies non-stop from Manila to Melbourne on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 6:00 a.m. and from Melbourne to Manila on the same days at 5:00 p.m. Melbourne is Cebu Pacific’s second Australian destination, after Sydney. For inquiries and reservations, call Cebu Pacific’s hotline at (02) 702-0888 or log on to www.cebupacificair.com.
Photos by Rosemarie Razon
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.