portland was the first european settlement in victoria. ok melbourne, we got this out of the way quickly, we are here at the birth place of victoria, and there is one more reason melbourne was never fit to be the capital of australia.
the legacy of european settlement can be felt all the way on our trip along the south coast. take warrnambool for example. about 15 minutes from the town center is a beach they call the whale nursery. southern right whales come there to calf and spend the winter months. the plaques around the beach are illuminating: the reason the name ‘right whales’ was chosen has to do with the fact that they were seen to be the right whales to hunt. they were big, slow and floated on the surface when they were killed, making it easier to get them to shore. consequently they were almost hunted to extinction, from an estimated 100.000 animals to a few thousand. even today, after being protected since the 1930ies numbers are only recovering slowly, (no) thanks to several countries actually breaching the moratorium.
or take the moonah forests that used to cover most of the coastal areas. now there is a small spot on cape nelson just south of portland called the enchanted forest, a small surviving patch of those trees. most of them were cut down to provide firewood, or to be used in kilns.
seals did not fare much better. still, here in portland is one of only two seal colonies remaining on the mainland. we took the local seal tour operating from what i would not even call a shack 15 minutes walk from cape bridgewater. the tour is really nice and small and the tour operator is very careful and respectful in how he approaches the animals. natalie was excited that there were many seal cups.
in the past there was even an opportunity to get in the water with them, well not with them actually. there used to be a cage separating the predators from the seals, however, that got smashed in a storm a while ago and not replaced.
the water was 15 degrees, i am not sure any amount of neoprene would have made me comfortable.
these guys don’t mind. the good news is the colony, inhabited by long nose and australian fur seals, seems to be expanding.
the guys have chosen a seriously cool living room. the rocks above them have that rad pre-crumpled look going and there are a bunch of caves to get out of the wind in.
cape bridgewater and the surrounding area have been formed by a large volcano. the bay of cape bridgewater is actually part of the rim of the caldera. i was hoping to be able to shoot pics with our drone but the weather just did not allow it.
the limestone caves near bridgewater. they look like the hill is trying to open its mouth.
on the western part of the peninsula there are blowholes and the so called petrified forest. what looks like tree trunks here are actually limestone pillars that have been hollowed out by rainwater over millions of years, but it is way more romantic to think about this as a walk through a prehistoric forest.
i think wind is a constant feature of this landscape. this tree looks like if it had legs it would walk off. no wonder there is also a major wind farm on the cape.
very windy, but sunny. shall we go for a walk or just huddle in the caravan?
we were told by the girl in the lighthouse that blue whales, right whales and even orcas could be seen frequently form the shore. we didn’t see any … sadly.
only yet another lighthouse.
portland even has a tram! the one in front probably gets more use in winter, the one in the back in summer. one of the stops (there are five) is the powerhouse.
it’s the garage of the local car enthusiasts club. of course we had to visit. they don’t have a single 911 but a few other interesting pre-ww2 vehicles. it must be a nightmare to restore those, where would you even start looking for parts?
portland did not feature anywhere on our itinerary but we are glad we stopped here.