March of the Birthday Penguins!

After a mammoth driving session the day before it would just be a short jaunt down the A3 Coastal Highway to our next stop and more importantly the site of Karen’s 30th Birthday celebrations – Bicheno.

But first up it was time for Karen to open up her cards and presents. Karen always aspired to be somewhere special when she woke up on her 30th Birthday. They don’t come more memorable than this – a hi-ace van on a patch of grass in a caravan park with her family singing happy birthday over facetime! Karen was presented with a very special present from John,an electronic book full of birthday messages, funny stories and photos from family and friends all over the world.

Arriving in Bicheno we parked outside the tourist information office and began planning Karen’s Day. There would be enough local landmarks to satisfy the daytime before the main attraction that night – a Penguin Tour out near Diamond Island.

We had lucked out in Bicheno and managed to get the last small site for campervans and as this was situated in the middle of town we were laughing. A quick turnaround complete with picnic assembly and we were ready to explore.

Bicheno has a great coastal walk so we followed that and it brought us around headlands with great ocean views. The waves were high today so they crashed over the rusty looking rocks and made for some great photos – especially when we reached the blow-hole. John almost got caught by the waves.

Where there are lots of fish you will always find a fishing fleet. And where you find one of those you find a LOT of seagulls – waiting for the scraps!

We were blessed with some great sunshine so we finished up on the beach – again!

Before the Penguin Tour we went for dinner in one of the few decent restaurants in the area – Pasini’s Cafe. It was a really great Italian restaurant/cafe that reminded us of the Moonlight Cafe in Seminyak. It also had a whole selection of Gluten Free cakes for Karen too so she was really chuffed!

As it was Karen’s 30th Birthday meal from John he wanted it to be extra special. Unbeknownst to Karen she would get a cake with candles for dessert. The staff members brought it out and sang Happy Birthday up until the point where they didn’t know Karen’s name and then awkwardly looked at one another before John saved their blushes by whispering “Karen”!

The only thing left to do in Bicheno was to go see some penguins. We were lucky as a bunch of locals had created a sanctuary nearby and have over the last few years brought the population back up from a decimated 40 to over 600 Adult penguins.

We boarded the bus and under a dark sky drove the short distance to the Penguin Rookery. We would be unable to bring torches and cameras so as not to frighten the Penguins away.

And they were quite easy to frighten, as the penguins here are the smallest species you can get – Fairy/Blue Penguins. To give you a sense of scale they are about as tall as a barbie doll. The guides used white light torches to show us around 30 Penguins coming ashore to feed their young and with no fences or barriers to separate man from bird some of them ran through our legs.

It was quite a special experience up their amongst the Red Pandas of Chengdu.

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