A Travellerspoint blog

More Melbourne

Great Ocean Road and penguins!

Ok, missed out a few key details in my last Melbourne entry!!

Maeve and I went on a 2 day trip to the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians National Park and had a great time! We set out early on the Saturday morning and it was pouring down in Melbourne. However, our slightly mad German guide, Henning, encouraged us to engage in a bit of visualisation (apparently he'd seen it on some American TV show/book called The Secret... he was sceptical but thought it was worth a go!) and sure enough as we neared the Great Ocean Road, the sky cleared! It was still cold and VERY windy with lots of clouds but they made it all look quite dramatic and artistic so i didn't mind tooooo much.

The road itself is very impressive - cut into the rock along the coast which must've been quite a feat 60 odd years ago. The views are spectacular the whole way down and getting to the Twelve Apostles really was incredible. Even if there aren't and never were 12 of them (still don't understand that). We also saw London Bridge - a naturally occuring bridge over the ocean made of rock which fell down in the 80s. Amusingly a couple were on the other end of it when it collapsed and were stranded on the rocks til they could be rescued. Apparently they were desparate to hide their faces when the rescue team turned up with newspaper reporters and photographers as they were both skiving off work AND each married to other people! Scandalous.

Other highlights of the day included seeing koalas napping in the eucalyptus tress (didn't get very close to them, but given they're apparently all riddled with chlamydia, that's probably for the best) and feeding (and getting enthusiastically mobbed by) parrots. Low point of the day was getting told off by a large turkish woman for not specifying what sauces I wanted on my falafal wrap before she made it.

We spent the night in a little hostel in the middle of the Grampians National Park and watched kangaroos nibbling on the grass outside our room. We also played several lively games of ''chase the enormous and enthusiastically jumping cricket around the bedroom'' which was most entertaining!

The next day, our powers of visualisation obviously dwindled as we had TORRENTIAL rain basically all day! We went on one walk up to a ''viewpoint'' where all we could really see was cloud and rain! I was very glad i'd brought a rain coat as the people without were either getting very wet or sporting stylish bin bag hats. It did clear up a few times in order for us to see some massive expanses of greenery and beautiful gorges, but it has to be said that my main memory of the Grampians will be the sight of my walking sandals sliding about on wet rocks through the blinkers of my rain jacket's hood! Lots of fun though.

Our other main trip was to Phillip Island which was superb. We made a few random stops on the way including to a wildlife park where we saw koalas, wallabys, emus, dingos, goats, alpacas, a baby wombat (SO cute!) and kangaroos (in fact, we saw a little more than we bargained for of one kangaroo. It was a little concerning just HOW much he seemed to be enjoying the seeds I was feeding him but we won't dwell on that). We also went to some beautiful beaches and viewpoints over the coast but the real highlight was the penguin parade!

We were all given foam mats to sit on and went to join a few hundred other people sitting on concrete steps at the edge of the beach. As the sun set, you could see ''rafts'' of little penguins (the smallest in the world - approx 33cm high!) floating about in the shallow water waiting for it to get dark enough. They started drifting in to shore, then swam back out again a few times until the groups started to stand up on the sand and think about heading inland. At least twice, as they were all just getting to their feet, one penguin at the back of group would think better of it, turn around and swim back out into the water, taking the rest of the group with it! Eventually, once they were all certain it was safe, they all stood up and marched single file down the beach to their burrows in the sandbanks behind us. It was hilarious to watch! Especially when just one penguin got scared and headed back in, or when the whole group retreated without telling the brave leader who was proudly storming ahead oblivious to the fact all his mates were drifting out to sea again!

After we'd watched a few groups come in, we walked back along the boardwalk and walk alongside the groups of penguins coming home - some others came out to meet them, some fed their young, some made their delight and being reunited with their partner very clear (and very loudly) - it was fantastic! As the penguins' eyes are so sensitive you're not allowed to take pictures which was a new and bizarre form of torture for me but actually I think it made me appreciate the whole experience more than if i was worrying about taking the best possible photo.

Maybe my new year's resolution should be not to view my life through a camera lens. Or maybe not.

Posted by Hoodfish 18:33 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Melbourne moments

New people, old neighbours, good friends

I can't remember where I left off but i'm guessing it was sometime around the day I flew from Sydney to Melbourne...

I was VERY kindly picked up from the airport by Clare (formerly McDiarmid of friends-since-we-were-in-playgroup fame) and hubby James and given a quick tour of Melbourne in the pouring rain. I never thought it would remind me of Stockport but it seems weather is a powerfully evocative thing.

I stayed with Clare and James for 3 nights which was lovely - so good to see a familiar face! I also spent a lot of time with Vanessa (of married-to-Ben-who-I-was-in-Germany-with fame) and her family who were very good to me - inviting me on outings, driving me places, giving me a bed for the night and filling me with LOTS of delicious food and drink. Including my first mince pies of the year :-)

So - Melbourne... we had a great day at the zoo - saw baby elephants which were incredibly cute, gorillas (who i could've watched for hours. They're so human!), meerkats, monkeys, kangaroos and lots of others - including My First Koala who rocked. We also went to the Shrine of Remembrance where Hailey - Vanessa's little sister - works so she gave us a guided tour and took us further down and higher up into the building than tourists usually get to go. There's a room in the centre of the shrine with a stone tablet commemorating those who died in the war and at exactly 11am on 11th November every year, a chink of light falls across it for a couple of seconds when they do the minute's silence. I know i'm not much of an astronomer (or whatever you'd have to be to work that kind of thing out) but i thought that was pretty incredible! We followed that with a delicious picnic in the Botanical gardens which were beautiful.

Maeve and i did a lot of walking about the city - taking in the sites (a LOT of chocolate shops...) and appreciating the local specialities (hot chocolate). We visited the Melbourne Museum which was fascinating - spent about 2 hours in the aboriginal exhibition which had some amazing art - and could very easily have spent longer in there had it not been closing time! We also went to the Crown Casino which is a massive casino (as one might expect) full of 'pokies' and tables full of people looking very intense and pinging levers/piling up chips/watching spinning wheels in a manner I can't claim to understand. It was impressive though! We also had the dubious pleasure of witnessing the 'Christmas display' which one can only presume was designed for kids but what with the horror movie music, disembodied fibreglass heads emerging from outsized christmas trees, creepy voiceover and monkeys dangling from the ceiling in what can only be described as gimp masks, I'm not 100% certain their were catering appropriately for their target audience. Or the time of year...

Anyhoo. What else? We went up to the top of the Eureka Building (which claims to be the highest viewing platform in the southern hemisphere but i've just arrived in Auckland where the Sky Tower is claiming exactly the same accolade so now i'm all confused) which had great views across the city. As we had free tickets we went into 'The Edge' which is basically a glass box that you stand in as it moves 3 meters away from the building and as the glass clears you see down to the pavement. It's deemed so exciting you get given a wrist band proudly declaring 'I survived the Edge' (before you've actually been in the thing which struck me as slightly premature) but all i can say is i'm glad i didn't pay $12 for the priviledge.

I met up with Amy Oliver who left Emap on the same day as me which was great - together with Maeve and an american girl called Autumnn we met in the hostel, we went to St Kilda to the beach. It's a lovely place but it was all kinds of windy and quite cold so we did a brisk walk along the shore and then headed for a cake shop and then happy hour of the pub next door where everything was a little calmer. After that we went to the apparently 'world famous' Neighbours Night which was ...i'm struggling to find the right word but we were told to order drinks on the tab of an office work party, we were sat on a table with 6 irish men who all came to be known as Dave, we partook in a quiz which quite bizarrely didn't seem to have anything to do with Neighbours, we were photographed with Steph Scully, Sky Mangel and Irish Connor, we were treated a musical performance by the one and only Paul Robinson (his performance reminded me a lot of Phil Sawyer on singstar) and I bumped into Paul who i used to live opposite in halls in first year! So, i think the correct word is: random. But a lot of fun.

When Ben miraculously made it over to Oz from Cambridge, I went over to Vanessa's again and we had a couple of lovely days out - along the Mornington Peninsula visiting a farm where they make EVERYTHING out of strawberries (they were closing when we arrived so they told us we couldn't buy anything from the cafe but they started offering us free samples of strawberry cider, wine, bellini, port...), wineries and some beautiful viewpoints; and a day out in the Dandenong Mountains which were stunning - home to the Mountain Ash tree - tallest Eucalypt in Australia. How's that for a fact? They're very impressive.

Oooh - Vanessa's family also took me to a hot springs where we basically sat about in hot pools ranging from 28 - 45 degrees! There was also a sauna, hamam and steam room. All very stressful.

Posted by Hoodfish 17:41 Comments (0)

Sydney baby!

(just the odd jagerbomb)

I've just spent a week in Sydney and totally fell in love with the place. It was a bit of a shock being in a city (with, like, people and buildings and stuff) but it really is a great one.

The hostel (Wake Up) was the most expensive one i've stayed in so far but it was worth it - really lovely place with lots of free/discount vouchers for things and the offer of free walking tours which Maeve (who I met in Alice Springs and with whommmm i'm now travelling) and i took advantage of both the city walk and the beach walk - which goes from Coogee to Bondi! It's so cool seeing all these iconic places that you've seen hundreds of pictures of. Somehow actually being there doesn't quite seem real!

We spent HOURS in the Aquarium (and were embarrassingly slightly fooled by the posters all over the place talking about odd sounding animals like the Sharkatron which communicates with its fellow Sharkatrons using glowing panels down its side... i thought it sounded odd but as Maeve pointed out, they're not going to lie on the walls of an aquarium... turns out it was all part of a competition for under 16s to imagine the animals of the future. Obviously we entered - Maeve's Aquahag (water dwelling haggis) was the only natural predator of my Ningaloo. I do hope we win.

Maeve and I went to the Blue Mountains one day with Anne - another girl from our tour - and had a great time. Despite the fact it had poured with rain the previous day so all the paths were muddy rivers, we didn't take a guide book so managed to miss the main falls and also managed to miss 2 (yep, that's TWO) trains homes - one when we were standing on the platform touching the damn thing - it was a really fun day with a LOT of hysterical laughter and some very very beautiful scenery. We weren't impressed by Gordon though. We trekked for miles through rainforest-like undergrowth having been told about leeches and being eaten alive in order to get to 'Gordon Falls' .We were expecting something spectacular but sadly it looked more like Gordon was taking a leak off the side of the mountain. And he hadn't even had very much to drink before doing so.

We took the ferry out to Manly and sat on the beach admiring the things that surfing and sun can do to men's bodies, wandered down the beach and ate quite a lot of ice cream. Tough life.

One morning we got up extra early and charged down to Circular Quay (which, having speed-walked the route approximately 53 times, i can testify is a LONG way. Far longer than you might plan for) to get cheap tickets to see The Nutcracker at the Sydney Opera House! It was incredible. We stood right at the top at the back, surreptitiously eating skittles and m&ms and loved it. Stunning costumes, amazing setting - it was just a bit odd being able to see into the orchestra pit and not being able to watch my dad and ros in there! Well worth the money.

The whole of Australia has gone a bit Oprah mad as Oprah Winfrey is here on a visit and filming a live version of her show at the Opera House (I REALLY wish they're rename it the Sydney Oprah House) as I type. The whole of the front of the Opera House is covered in scaffolding and has a huge open air stage in front of it. They've even fashioned a large O that lights up on the Sydney Harbour Bridge (i guess there they just call it the Harbour bridge) at night. Bonkers. Not everyone's impressed though. I saw a little girl this morning with a magazine with a picture of Oprah on the front of which she was vigorously punching. I guess the media frenzy hasn't caught everyone's imagination.

Apart from that, Sydney was a very sociable week - met up with Julie and Kylie from the west coast tour, spent waaaaay too much time in Side Bar - beneath the hostel - and (possibly ill advisedly) went on the 'Oz party bus'. Essentially a bar crawl so you get to see some cool bars, have a free drink and meet lots of people, but when you're actually ON the bus, there's crazy loud music, flashing lights, 60-odd (very odd) people, you're not allowed to sit down and you're encouraged to jump up and down and bang the roof. It felt a bit like freshers week without the class but it was quite funny. Worth it if only to see the faces of passers by as we drove past them.

So, a week of varied amounts of culture, but lots of fun. Looking forward to returning in Feb to do the bits i missed!

Posted by Hoodfish 17:54 Comments (0)

Alice Springs (, climbs, treks and camps but doesn't sleep)

Flew Darwin to Alice Springs and was met by a friend of Dom's - my sister's boyfriend - who basically acted as my personal driver/tour guide/chef/accommodation provider for my time in Alice.

The first night we were out til 2.30 so getting up at 5.30 for the start of the 3 day Rock Tour was a little tough but definitely worth it :-)

We had a great group of 21 people - representing 11 nationalities! There was a lot of driving but we kept ourselves amused introducing ourselves, singing along to the slightly too well planned music choices of our guide (songs about breakfast and getting up in the morning as we drove to see Uluru at sunset, I could cope with. 'Highway to Hell' as we drove down a deserted track into the bush was a little less welcome...) and played 'The bus driver wants' - a full on contact 'sport' involving 3 teams of people down the bus racing to bring the bus driver whatever he demands (a shoe, something green, an item of clothing) first. Being at the front of the bus, I ended up on the floor of the bus with 4 people collapsed on top of me more times that i can count. Lots of fun.

I guess that's probably not the most memorable bit of the tour though...

First stop was King's Canyon which is a huge ... erm ... canyon which we walked around the top of - it was stunning. Along the way we learned more about the Aboriginal (Anangu) culture, traditions, bushtuckering and swam in a beautiful pool. Chatted a bit of German too which made me happy!

The first night we camped in the bush with no facilities at all so we had to stop to collect firewood and the boys made a huge fire whilst the girls chopped veg (getting into the spirit of the local culture there) which we cooked in huge metal pots buried under the ashes of the fire. We also made bread with beer, flour, sugar and salt which was deelish. Ate sitting on our swags (mattresses inside zip-up groundsheet kinda thing. very cool) around the fire with a beer or two.

Were woken up at 5 to find Maeve having covered herself a little too efficiently with her swag, thrashing around trying to escape the right way up which cheered everyone up no end. As did the porridge that our guide had got up early to make us.

We had quite a long drive to Kata Tjuta which is a series of 36 (maybe?) separate rocks which are a holy site for the Anangu men. It was a really hot day and tough walk/climb but totally worth it. I should probably take this opportunity to apologise to the Anangu men for answering a call of nature in the middle of their sacred site... but if you WILL tell me to drink a litre of water an hour...

Cooled off in a swimming pool with a violent game of piggy in the middle before heading over to Uluru for sunset. It was truly spectacular - it really does glow red!! We ate dinner there as the sun went down and lay on the floor watching the stars/satellites/shooting stars/UFOs til the park warden came to throw us out for staying over an hour after the park closed!

The second night we had the luxury of a shower (though as i'd forgotten ALL my toiletries, the benefits it afforded me were negligible) and another few beers by the fire. Then we bedded down for a couple of hours before our 4am wake up call! Sunrise was also very cool - though it was the site of one of the worst photographs ever taken of me (quite an achievement). I think lack of sleep got to us a little bit and we all got a little hysterical laughing at it. Good times.

Then we did the base walk around the outside of Uluru which was great - loads of caves, patterns, pools, nooks and crannies - Scott (our guide) pointed out areas where they would've cooked, slept etc. It's flipping massive too! Managed to avoid tarnishing this particular sacred site but it was a close thing.

And that was that! We drove back for dinner and drinks at the Rock Bar where things got a little bit silly again with dancing competitions and general fun.

I must pause now to mention a dear friend who I lost that day. Goodbye, Mr Camera. We had some good times, though you weren't always kind to my face, you did manage some pretty good pictures. I will miss you.

The next day Dom took me to a 'Ellery Creek Big Hole' which was pretty big. It was amazing just driving through the outback. Such a beautiful part of the country. We followed up this natural beauty with a paddling pool party with punch, tinkerbell transfer tattoos and a BBQ. The perfect end to a fab few days.

Posted by Hoodfish 01:46 Comments (0)

Darwin and Kakadu National Park

Sweat, sand and storms

So, after a 10 day tour you might have gathered i quite enjoyed, I felt a bit sad arriving in Darwin - having been entirely used to my own company in Perth I struggled a bit to remember how to befriend myself having been surrounded by such great people for so long. However, I put my best socialising hat on and welcomed the Youth Shack's invitation to 'get f*cked up on free sausages' and ate my bodyweight in free veggie sausages whilst chatting to 2 french girls. Order was restored in the world.

I just had one day to explore Darwin and after all the late nights/early mornings/long drives of the previous tour, I was quite relieved to discover there's not actually that much to do there! Spent the morning sweating by a pool (met a charming chap who was recently divorced and showed me how his ex had had 'Whatever, loser' engraved in his wedding ring) then I met a lovely German girl and the two of us hung out at the waterfront for the afternoon in the weird manmade harbour that looked kind of like an artist's impression of an actual place, enjoying the heat but not so much the humidity. It's a tough combination.

That night there was another BBQ at the hostel so I was back on the veggie sausages with a vengeance. Then I was picked up at 7am the next day for a 3 day trip to Kakadu National Park which was great. It was a far smaller group of 9 (4 of whom were Spanish which my language skills were less delighted with. Apparently 'soy estudiente' just doesn't cut it any more) but everyone was lovely. We did LOTS of walking through really lush green valleys and did lots of climbing up to ridiculous heights to look out over enormous panoramas. It's the wet season up in the northern terroritories so we did a bit of hiding from the rain in caves full of aboriginal paintings and learnt a lot about 'bush tucker'.

We spent the nights under a corrogated iron roof in tents of mosquito nets without the groundsheet/awning bit which was BAKING. The noise was quite dramatic too - didn't get a whole lot of sleep what with the torrential rain on the metal roof, the sounds of the insects (who were deafening!) and the croaks of what sounded like hoards of marauding toads. I lay awake grinning though - it was just so surreal and exciting!

In amongst the walks were lots of swims in waterholes (one of which offered a free foot treatment as the fish nibbled on the dead skin!), had a didgeridoo lesson (I might take it up. It's clear i have a natural talent) and tried bushtucker - tasting tiny passion fruits, nibbling on bush apples and licking the bottoms of ants. More pleasant than it might sound.

Generally had a lot of fun and saw some truly stunning scenery. Arrived back in Darwin in time for a few drinks and 2 for 1 pizzas before collapsing.

Posted by Hoodfish 00:34 Comments (0)

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