Off the Grid

Our single full day in Forrest was as close to perfection as you can get. We spent the morning and afternoon filming the majority of our Wes Anderson-style film, with a single break in the afternoon to venture into town.

We realized that, if we had continued on past Cemetery Road, we would find the paved road into Forrest a mere 2-3 minutes away. From there, we pulled onto the main street and found ourselves among a cluster of cafes, bars, and inns.

The Forrest Brewery was a cozy, low building with BREWERY printed across its roof. They offered flights of beer, all different but super tasty, along with bottles for sale. We hoped to purchase coozies, but they were all out.

“Coozies? You mean stubby holders?” the bartender asked. “We’re out of those.”

We ate hot soup and sandwiches, polished off a few flights, then explored the cafe in search of meat pies to bring back to the cabin for dinner.

It was too cold to stand at the lake and grill on our private dock, but we did manage a glimpse at the stars. It was brief, and featured two bright shooting stars, before clouds rolled in and obscured all but the moon.

Blair had gone for a run that morning and come across a number of different awesome animals, so I tried to get up “early” on our last day there and have a walk of my own. Early for me was 7:50, and upon turning out of the driveway and heading up the hill, I immediately came across a wallaby in the yard.

As far as wildlife, that was all I got. I guess the nocturnal animals were fast asleep by then.

Still, there were dozens of brightly-colored birds flitting across my path and few magpies – which made me relieved, as it’s magpie breeding season and they’re known to swoop at people’s heads when they’re mating. Ouch.

It was a frosty morning with clear blue skies, dewy grass, and leftover rain shaking off tree leaves when a breeze blew through. I couldn’t have been happier. The sun was cold and bright and dappled through tree leaves on the path ahead. The only sound was birds chirping and the strange song of the kookaburra, and the crunch of leaves under my shoes. The views reminded me of the Cotswolds – open countryside, grassy hills, our flat, blue lake.

It is amazing how 30 minutes alone in nature can restore you. This is the thing I miss about living in the Philippines. A walk in the woods can heal the soul. I need more of that in my life.

We ate the last of our eggs and halloumi that morning and filmed the final scene in our movie, complete with an old-tyme dress-up photo using the clothes we’d found around the ranch house.

I was sad to leave our lonely little cabin, but excited to check out one last piece of Melbourne before flying back to Manila.

St. Kilda is a small beach town that feels more like Long Beach Island than a section of Melbourne. I loved it a lot more than I loved Carlton, the first place we’d stayed. The roads were more open – a joy with the van – and the breeze carried the salty scent of the sea.

We settled into our quaint, perfect little Air BnB, had a few beers, then headed for an early dinner at Abbey Road, Melbourne’s take on the Hard Rock Cafe a mere block from our apartment. It was cold – at least to 6 people used to Manila heat. We didn’t feel like walking too far in search of food.

Dinner was okay, with Wild Yak beer to warm us and good conversation. Rosie’s friend Caro met up with us again there.

“If you want to explore the beach after this, I can show you where you can find penguins,” she told us.

Alicia had been stoked to see penguins in the wild, but we’d done little research about where they could be found. Now, Caro was saying that they congregated at sundown at a little pier on the sea.

Enthralled, we headed down toward the water, the wind whipping our hair. We passed a carnival/amusement park with a towering roller coaster, then headed down to where the sand met the Southern Ocean.

We all stuck a hand in the water to say we’d touched it, and felt pretty proud of ourselves on such a cold day – until we spotted a man in his swimming trunks emerging from a nearby spa and wading slowly into the water, completely unfazed about the temperature.

We passed the time before sunset with beers at a restaurant on the promenade with views of the sea. When it looked as if the sun had nearly set, we set out again and headed for the pier, which seemed longer in the cold.

Already, people were clustered around the end of it, pointing at the rocks below. Holly and I were too cold to wait around, so we ran down the pier and joined the excited throngs of people watching tiny penguins swim out of the water and waddle around on the rocks. With the lack of light and the dark colors, they blended right in.

“That’s a swimming rat,” Carl said, pointing to a large thing paddling around in the water. “Apparently people think they’re penguins, but there’s lots of water rats around here.”

On that note, we headed back up to the pier where Holly and I ran back to the shore again. From there, we all headed back into town to a bar called Vineyard. As we walked, we passed the amusement park, which had opened its doors in the time we’d spent on the pier.

The roller coaster was tempting. Alicia and I decided we’d ride it, so we went in and paid $11 each to get on.

A roller coaster had not been on my list of things to do in Australia, but suddenly it seemed right. It felt less chilly sitting in the front car as we pulled out onto the track beneath a clear night sky and a full, bright moon. It was a fitting way to end our trip.

After, we met the others at Vineyard for one more beer before heading back to the flat. To think we’d only explored one tiny corner of Australia. If anything, this trip has only made me want to come back again.

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