Everybody needs good Neighbours...and Penguins too

Trip Start Mar 13, 2010
Trip End Feb 13, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So, after a few days of heat and desert, we hopped onto the plane (again) and headed down to Melbourne. After a short stop-over at Sydney and 5 hours in the air, we arrived safely at Melbourne airport and headed for the taxi rank. This meant that the first thing we learned about Melbourne was to not take a taxi to or from the airport; it is miles away from the town, and even further from St.Kilda which is where our hostel was.

Well, 30 minutes - and $65 - after leaving the airport we arrived at our hostel, Pint on Punt. It was situated on top of an Irish pub (ideal), had excellent facilities (good), and 15 minutes after we checked in there was a quiz on in the pub and steak dinners for $10 (fantastic). This also led to the second thing we learned about Melbourne; alcohol is expensive! A pint was almost as expensive as the steak dinner!

Anyhow, as we arrived quite late on our first day, after the pub quiz we had a reasonably early night so we could get up bright and early to explore the city the next morning. Things didn't go quite as planned however, as we made it about 50 meters from the hostel door before the heavens opened and we were soaked to the bone before we could even get back to the door! We sat hoping that the rain would ease up for around 7 hours, but the day wasn't an entire waste as we managed to watch Australian 'Deal or No Deal’ (discovering in the process a host even more annoying than Noel Edmonds!!), ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ and got muchos advice from various Melbourne long-termers about where to go, what to do and how to do it. We even managed to make it out for a small walk around the St.Kilda area when the rain eased later that evening, which was nice after being cooped up for so long.

Repeating the previous morning, we were up and ready to roll first thing and, joyously, there was no rain. We grabbed a tram – the trams run everywhere in Melbourne, it really is an awesome way to travel round the city – and headed into Federation Square in the centre of the city. When we got there we discovered that there was a FREE tourist shuttle bus around the city! So being the cheapskate tourist that we are, we jumped on to have a peak at what was on offer and where it all was. Having found out that Melbourne offered a lot more to see and do than Perth – the MCG, Victorian Markets, Captain Cook’s house, and several museums, to mention but a few – we took a walk through the park to the War Memorial. It was an impressive monuments dedicated to the Australian troops involved in both World Wars, the Korean War and Vietnam, and also contained a fascinating museum with, amongst other things, loads of stories and interviews with soldiers, and war-related paraphernalia. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area; as sombre as it is interesting, they perform a memorial ceremony a la ANZAC day every hour (I think).

The next day we hit the town to visit the Melbourne Art Gallery and a free Rock Chicks exhibit next door. We didn’t realise it before entering (fortunately it was free anyhow) but the Rock Chicks exhibit consisted entirely of Australian artist...Other than Kylie, Olivia Newton-John, and The Veronicas, I don’t think between us we had heard of anyone! Anyway, we strolled over the bridge to Fed Square, and found it incredibly busy. Wondering what was going on we wandered over to a big stage that we’d seen the day before to find that it was where Oprah was doing her live show in Melbourne...about 15 minutes later! We sat and watched the goings on for a while (Julia Gillard got the loudest response of anyone attending; a massive boo) before getting bored and going to grab some food with the intention of heading back later. Unfortunately, that’s when we realised that someone had taken a liking to our St.Christopher necklaces and my Zimbabwe 100 Trillion notes. So the next hour was spent looking for a police station and filing a report...

However, even thieving Australians couldn’t reduce the excitement levels of what we were doing the next day. I’d always imagined that visiting Ramsay Street could potentially be the pinnacle of a person’s life, and the Neighbours tour did not disappoint! After visiting the street itself, and the set, and getting to watch old Neighbours episodes in between, we also got to meet Janelle Timmins (Karl Kennedy was in the UK doing panto!). And yes, that is her real name to me! It was pretty surreal standing at Lassiters, outside the House of Trouser, and in front of Grease Monkeys after so many years of dedicated watching. All I can say to sum the experience up is that it was super-epic-awesome, and I now know that Kenya is 6 years behind the Neighbours filming schedule – so they’re somewhere around Susan and Karl splitting up...

Before we left we decided we had two things we wanted to do; go to the Melbourne Museum, and see the penguins at St.Kilda pier. So that’s exactly what we did. Melbourne Museum was a worthwhile visit; they had some really interesting exhibits on Aboriginal life, the history of Melbourne itself and a super cool interactive bit about the human mind. The dream experience was particularly fun, although don’t do it if you’re tired – consider yourselves warned! To top up our energy levels before night fell, we chowed down on some Cold Rock ice cream – if you haven’t had this, it alone is worth the visit to Australia! So filled up nicely, we sauntered down to the pier just after sunset to have a look at the fabled penguins we had heard so much about from our room-mates.

Things didn’t look good as we walked down the pier; we were walking against a stream of people, and Annie was getting very worried that we had left it too late and that the penguins would be gone. We reached the rocky end of the pier and looked around, and saw nothing. There were only a few other people there. It definitely wasn’t looking good for penguin watch. Then, sat plum on one of the rocks, we spotted a tiny, little, miniscule creature, black and white in colour. We had found our penguin! There actually turned out to be loads, and every now and then one would hop up the rocks and waddle around on the paved area at the top of the rocks, literally meters from your feet. The pictures aren’t great due to the lack of light and not being able to use a flash on the camera, but they do more justice than any description...

And then we were on the move again, back to the airport to spend Christmas and New Years in Brisbane with Annie’s family.
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shiiuga on

Woot Australia! Sympathies on the police report filing. I've had to do two so far, it's not my idea of fun! Also discovered in Greece that EVEN I can be cheesed out. Damn you, TGI Friday's!

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