Arrival in Australia

Trip Start Apr 10, 2006
Trip End Feb 07, 2007

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

First of all, apologies for the delay in updating the site. Internet has been few and far between since our arrival in Australia. Consequently we have quite a lot of time to cover so it may take one or two attempts to bring it up to date!

Thursday 20th April - Sunday 23rd April
We arrived in a noticeably chilly Melbourne at around 6am on the 20th and were completely knackered after failing to get any sleep on the flight from Bali, which took around 5 hours. As a result, our first day in Oz was a bit of a write off. We found our hostel in the centre of Melbourne fairly easily, went for breakfast and then crawled into our dorm beds and slept until mid-afternoon.

Our hostel was good. Clean, secure and not too noisy despite its central location. When we hauled our weary carcusses out of bed we had a little explore of the area and saw that we seemed to be in a really good spot. Plenty of cool cafes and boutique shops, not too far from some of the main things to see such as Federeation Square and some of the museums and things. Overall we were quite pleased! We headed to the local supermarket to buy some ingredients to make ourselves a meal that wasn't noodles. As much as I loved those noodles, it was excellent to eat something that wasn't Asian for a change. We had to ring our friends, Ben and Laila who were kindly putting us up (or should I say putting up with us?) for some of our stay in the state of Victoria, but before we did that and arranged to meet the following evening, we went out for a few beers and tried to get used to the hundreds of different sizes that you can buy beer in. Ok, hundreds is a slight exaggerartion, but you don't just get pints and halves over here. You have pots, schooners, pints, jugs, and that is just in Victoria - apparently it is different depending on the state you are in. There is something wrong with the world when it becomes complicated to order a beer...

Anyhoooooo, after we had sampled some of the local brews we arranged to meet our friends the following evening and then turned in for more of that wonderful stuff they call sleep.

We woke on Friday morning feeling a little more human and thought that we should get our work visa labels put in our passports, so we took a trip to the wonderful Department of Immigration where we queued for an eternity all to get a sticky label and simply to be asked, 'Do we want to extend our visa?' Do I want to extend it???? I've only just arrived and they like me so much that they want to know if I would like to stay longer!!! Well, it wasn't quite like that, but the upshot was, it seemed like a big faff for something that could have been done by the surly looking immigration officer at the airport.

We headed back to our hostel to decide how to spend the remains of our day and thought that as we were near it that we should check out the local aquarium. Gentle readers, you may notice that if there is an aquarium somewhere nearby, then we will visit it. This is because John has an unhealthy interest in fishies and he insists that we see as many as possible. Bless his cotton socks.

Melbourne Aquarium was superb though. We managed to time our visit to perfection and got to see lots of different creatures being fed. They had amazing giant sting rays that looked like crazy aliens, rather rotund looking grey nurse sharks and cute but dopey looking turtles - all being hand fed by divers. We also learnt about some of the reef fish including the lethal stone fish. Don't step on that bad boy! Overall it was really impressive and a cool way to spend an afternoon!

After the aquarium we explored some of the shops surrounding our hostel. There were lots of lovely clothes but I resisted temptation. When I say resisted temptation, it was more a case of hearing a little voice in my ear telling me that I didn't have room in my backpack for all these lovely things. That little voice was John. He is indeed wise.

That evening we waited at our hostel for Ben, Laila and our other friend from university, Lynsay to arrive. Melbourne Comedy festival was just getting into full swing and they had got us tickets to see a British stand up comedian called Daniel Kitson later that night. Before the show we ate at a lovely Italian and drank a toast to being together again. It was particularly nice for me to be back in the company of my friends and I looked forward to spending the next couple of weeks with them.

Daniel Kitson was very amusing. He was a strange looking man who had the fashion sense of a 1970's university lecturer and seemed to have a level of intelligence to match. His humour was based around rants about people and things that annoyed and frustrated him rather than 'jokes'. I thought he was very funny, although he had a stammer which he managed to disguise for the best part of his show but occassionally popped out to try to trip him up. I felt a bit sorry for him at these moments but I'm sure he would have hated me for doing so!

After the show Ben drove us back to his and Laila's house in Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula which is about an hour to an hour and a halfs drive from the city. This is where we would be spending the next few days.

Ben and Laila's house is lovely and made all the more impressive by the fact that they have built it themselves. It is set just off a road in rural Victoria and is surrounded by trees and vineyards and a few other houses which are all unique and not too close together. We took a walk out on the Saturday morning and visited a local cheesery where we sampled some delicious local cheeses before going for a drive and stopping off at their 'local', the Pig and Whistle, which has a very impressive range of brews. Our particular favourite was the James Squire Amber Ale. Tasty!

While we were driving around the peninsula I was really struck by how beautiful it is. Despite 40 degree plus temperatures this summer, the trees were still green and the vineyards and grassy areas still looked lush. It is also much hillier here than I imagined, enabling you to get to high ground and see some cracking views of the peninsula - you can even make out the skyscrapers in the city on good days.

Laila had taken the following week off work to spend with us (unfortunately Ben had to work). I felt like we were at a real advantage having some locals to show us the sites. It was suggested that we have a couple of days in the city and then head off to the Great Ocean Road for a road trip so that is what we did...
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