Hanging Out with the Locals

Friday, 03-10-2014. Day 44.

Cool Lava, Hot Dinner

Today we met up with a local Melbournian (Melbournite?) by the name of Gillian who had read about our family adventure on Boing Boing and wanted to treat us to a day of sightseeing around Melbourne and a home-cooked meal (as well as  the use of her washing machine). In exchange, she wanted to hear stories from our trip. All in all, a very generous offer. Naturally, we agreed.

So after coordinating a loose agenda over email, she picked us up at noon and took us to the Organ Pipes National Park, which is just a short drive from the heart of Melbourne. The central feature at the park is, as one would expect, the Organ Pipes, a formation of hexagonal, columnar basalt that resulted from a cooling lava flow millions of years ago.

Organ pipes: columnar basalt.

Organ pipes: columnar basalt.

This type of formation can be found in a few places throughout the world. In California, there's a similar formation called the Devil's Postpile that I walked by when I hiked the John Muir Trail in 2012.

Rosette Rock.

Rosette Rock.

The park had some other interesting formations as well, like the tessellated pavement and the rosette rock, also formed from cooling lava flow.

Tesellated Pavement

Tesellated Pavement

We were hoping to see some kangaroos that are said to frequent the park, but schools in the Melbourne area (and other parts of Australia) were on the last week of school holiday, so there were quite a few kids frolicking around the park. This, apparently, has a tendency to keep interesting wildlife from making an appearance.

Speaking of wildlife, a rare sighting of all four members of the roaming North American family.

Speaking of wildlife, a rare sighting of all four members of the roaming North American family.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch in the park with Gillian where we talked about many things, ranging from geology to Melbourne history to education to politics to Dungeons & Dragons to dessert. That's when she introduced us to Tim Tams. Each of these little snack cookies is made of two chocolate-covered malted biscuits with chocolate cream filling, and they are apparently the holy grail of Australian cookies. We'd seen the signs for them all over the place, but, until this moment, those signs held no meaning for us. Now, any time we visit a grocery store, traveling down the biscuit aisle is a dangerous affair.

Tim Tam. The original.

Tim Tam. The original.

She also introduced us to lamingtons, little coconut-covered chocolate sponge cakes, which were also quite delicious.

The tricky thing about visiting the Organ Pipes is that they're at the bottom of a pretty steep hill, so walking back up was a lot more of a challenge than walking down. But once we climbed up, we drove to a nearby park to feed some swans and ducks and then turned the kids loose on the playground.

Another country, another playground.

Another country, another playground.

Frankie decided she was going to climb one of the trees in the park at all costs, and, after she piled up nearly every wood chip in the park to make a small hill next to the tree trunk, she made it.

frankie-in-a-tree.jpg

Jackie, on the other hand, convinced successive groups of people to push her on the merry-go-round. And I saved some kid on an out-of-control scoot bike from certain doom as he careened down a paved hill.  Fun times.

Soon enough, the sun started going down and that meant it was time for dinner. Gillian drove us to her house where we enjoyed fine conversation and some delicious homemade curries (including kangaroo and duck). The girls even got to watch some television (they picked Spirited Away), which is a pretty rare event on this trip.

At the end of the night, Gillian drove this satiated family back to the airstream with a clean load of laundry and a full bag of lamingtons, neither of which lasted long.

Notable Statistics:

  • Lava formations observed: 3
  • Tim Tams eaten: 11 (they come in odd numbered packages)
  • Trees climbed: 1
  • Out-of-control kids saved: 1

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

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Hanging Out with the Locals
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