The Aussie Scenic Public Loo that WASN’T!
I’ve got Pilchard to thank for some of our more obscure travel destinations.
If not for him, I wouldn’t be out birding.
And if not for birding, I wouldn’t have been in this marvellously scenic spot near Werribee on the outskirts of Melbourne’s west!
As I photographed the sunlight glinting across the waters of Port Philip Bay to Portarlington, and the panoramic vista stretching way past Avalon airport over the plain to the You Yangs, I wondered why no one else was around.
Doesn’t EVERY visitor to Melbourne want to visit the sewage ponds??
Weirdly, it’s unlikely you’ll find the Western Treatment Plant facility on any ‘Top 10 Melbourne Attractions’ lists, despite its environmentally friendly waste treatment credentials. And while its 11,000+ hectares of filtration ponds and lakes give good photo opportunity, they’re not used to define Melbourne in the same way as, say, the Yarra. Or the Queen Vic Markets. Or even the Boathouses of nearby Campbells Cove***!
I guess the opportunity to be where 52% of Melbourne’s sewage is being processed just isn’t that enticing.
Unless you’re a twitcher*.
If so, you’ll know EXACTLY what a nice sewage pond is doing in a place like this, and call it ‘Werribee’ – the ‘in’ name for birders worldwide. Because among the levees and lakes that make up the extraordinary patchwork of poo-ponds that is the Western Treatment Plant, the 284 species of birds recorded at Werribee from all over the world draw serious twitchers like flies to … well, you know.
But … you don’t just ‘drop in’ to Werribee. Jumping through bureaucratic hoops to get a permit just for the privilege of visiting a massive set of poo-ponds may be incomprehensible to non-twitchers, but as Pilchard’s best chance to spot a few lifers**, he happily signed up, giving assurances we’d behave responsibly.
Yes, there IS a sewage pond etiquette protocol!
Dang! I guess that meant the spontaneous sewage swim I’d been looking forward to was out of the question …
If you’re looking for a comprehensive photographic catalogue of the birds we saw, then don’t buy a lottery ticket because today is not your lucky day. The ‘responsible behaviour’ expected from THIS passenger became an exhausting round of navigating through the complex maze of poo-ponds; opening and closing the locked gates that kept the riff-raff out (because EVERYONE wants to break into a sewage treatment plant, right?) and in my spare time, ‘helping’ spot the rarities Pilchard was convinced lay lurking behind every shrub eagerly awaiting his identification.
Who says birding isn’t an extreme sport?
Telling twitchers and non-twitchers apart is easy! Just apply this simple test when a twitcher tells you he didn’t spot an unusual bird seen by almost everyone else in the same spot: If you’re a twitcher, you’ll openly commiserate while secretly gloating because you’ve either trumped the other twitcher (ie the bird’s already on your list); or the other twitcher HASN’T trumped you!
If you’re NOT a twitcher, you won’t care.
In a perhaps unsurprising demonstration of the ‘camaraderie’ for which the birding world is sometimes known, an older couple (ie older than US), their necks hung about with several thousand dollars of optical equipment waved to us from across a pond. We drove around to muscle in pick their brains be sociable only to find they hadn’t been waving, they’d been waving us ON! We’d cramped their style by daring to slow down directly above a bird lurking in the grass below the levee bank!
Chastened, we slunk away before they could take us out with their giant lenses …
For a place surrounding one with 360° of sewage (albeit filtered and treated), there’s one surprising – and ironic – omission at Werribee.
Perhaps a Public Toilet in a sewage treatment plant is redundant?
So I didn’t think I’d be issued with a ‘responsible behaviour’ infringement notice just for doing a squat amongst the sewage ponds … I mean, how could you tell??
I’ll leave you to decide whether being surrounded by sewage counts as a public toilet; OR if Werribee is the BEST scenic spot NOT to have a loo!!
If this post leaves you suffering from Australian Scenic Public Toilet deprivation, the best antidote is to visit a spot where you can see a baker’s dozen of them all in one place, right? RIGHT??
* Twitcher = Birdwatcher. Who knew?!
** Lifer = Bird never before seen by you.
*** Tourism Victoria: I guess you’ll be BEGGING to use my Werribee photos to help promote Melbourne now, right??
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