Welcome to Melbourne

Trip Start Nov 28, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Saturday, December 4, 2010

In which the protagonists arrive to their homebase after an unsatisfactory train ride, get slightly lost, and get settled into their new home away from home...

Day 7 Melbourne 4/12/2010

            I originally thought that taking the train would provide a welcome respite from the monotony of flying and perhaps a quaint look into the Aussie country side. In reflection, these assumptions were pretty off base. The train ride was pretty un-fun. The seats were uncomfortable, the food was over-priced and there was a cackling herd of girls that talked loudly and uncouthly the whole night through. Pretty sure at some point Mount Steph would erupt a fury on these girls but she remained calm for the duration of the ride. (Thank you Benadryl!)  Gratefully they got off the train a few hours before we reached Melbourne and the last few hours gave us a glimpse into the  Victorian country side. We looked with eager anticipation for a hopping kangaroo or a foraging wombat but to no avail.

            We arrived at Southern Cross Station a little past 9:00 a.m. I was excited both to be in Melbourne and also to relieve the soreness that I had developed from sleeping in the rock hard seats overnight. At some point in my wanderings on the train searching for a bathroom I had gotten lost and found myself in the first class cabin of the train. Please don't concern yourself about how I can get lost a train, trust me I can, regardless, the first class passengers, surrounded in opulence on their cushy seats that turned into actual beds would surely not be in the same butt pain I was currently experiencing.  In addition to being completely jealous of the nice seats, I also suffered some embarrassment during my overlong search for the bathroom. After searching for a good 15 minutes I had decided to resign from my bathroom expedition when of course the lavatory appeared magically about 15 feet from my seat. You know those people who cannot find their sunglasses and search in vain for 10 minutes before realizing that they’re wearing them? Nine times out of ten that person is actually me. This similar scenario was not the bane of the story however, after being flummoxed that I overlooked the very conspicuous sign that said "Toilet" I found the door seemingly jammed. Well I certainly was not going to let a simple stuck door stop me after I had just found my salvation. I pushed with more weight against the door and it budged a little, one more shove and I flung the door open with a flourish only to reveal a very stunned and definitely frightened Asian woman in the middle of, well you know. Anyways, I stuttered my way through a very sincere but not so coherent apology of which I’m sure she did not understand a word of anyway  and bolted back to my seat in a hurry and buried my head in a towel to hide from the world. Naturally, as I peeked from underneath my cover, I saw the woman return to her seat just across the aisle from mine. Needless to say for the duration of the ride I ignored that half of the train car and hoped with every fiber of my being that she would not recognize me as her assailant and alert the authorities. Worst of all I had still not used the bathroom, oh prolonged agony.

            We got off the train and gathered up our various bags and ventured off to find some wi-fi so that we could orientate ourselves to our surroundings. Contrary to the popular belief my generation holds, at some point in the not too distant past people were able to function without the aid of an i-phone or a computer! A crazy notion I agree, but there is evidence in museums and other antiqueries. The search for wi-fi was fruitless and we were forced to look at a map and ask some questions to the train station staff, how 1990’s of us.  We were given our bearings and a heading and we departed the train station to board one of Melbourne’s iconic trams.

            The rattling trams are ubiquitous to Melbourne, reminiscent to similar trams in San Francisco they are as iconic to Melbourne as the opera house is to Sydney. We were hoping to board the City Tourist Tram because it was free and its route took us right to our hostel. But naturally, being na´ve and completely in the dark without our i-phones we boarded the first tram to come to the platform. It only took a few minutes to realize that we were indeed on the wrong tram heading in a not so correct direction.  We got off the tram at the next stop to find ourselves inundated amongst a massive throng of shoppers in the bustling shopping district of downtown Melbourne.

            Checking our map we realized we were a little of course and that our hostel was a few blocks up the street. If anything screams American, it is the tendency to over pack for travelling, we must have looked that part to a T. Carrying and dragging 250 pounds of stuff through the center of a busy city could never be confused with something remotely desirable, but we managed the hike to our hostel in 20 minutes or so and found a luggage room in which to store our stuff. Relieved to be unburdened of our luggage we ventured out into the sun to check out the State Library of Victoria which was a block or so away.

            The State Library of Victoria is a massive, sprawling building of a regal nature. Within its confines are over 1.5 million books, an art gallery, the folio’s of Captain Cook and a large auditorium sized room completely devoted to chess. Yep, chess, not just for playing chess or for tournaments, it boasts what has to be the largest, or close to the largest, number of books and articles on chess theory in the world. I prefer checkers. Curiously a few weeks later, we would return to the library in the hopes of obtaining a library card to rent out books. We approached the help desk hoping to be assisted in our attempt to procure a library card however we were greeted by a severe if not austere looking woman who had the appearance of someone who wished not to be bothered, maybe on second thought the help desk was not a good milieu for her. I begged her pardon with a great big smile on my face, all that returned was a look of extreme irritation, undaunted I continued in a chipper manner to request a library card. Curiously, the reply was “what for?” Astonished that I needed to explain myself further, I said, “to rent out books of course.” A look of scorn crossed her face as she peered at me with her beady eyes and she stated that the library does not actually rent books out. This of course, perplexed me as I was under the impression that libraries sole purpose of existence was to lend out books. I reckon this was akin to going to a hospital for treatment and being curtly told that in fact the equipment was just for show and that this hospital was not actually in the business of aiding the sick and injured, but I digress.

            However, on this particular day we were not interested in the collections or exhibits on display, we were just hoping to use the free wi-fi, and we were not alone in those aspirations. The reading room was packed with people who seemed to be in not too different situations from our own, backpackers are an easy lot to sort out and I would guess that 92% of the patrons in the reading room were backpackers hoping to piggy back on the free internet, bunch of free-loaders, but honestly, who wants to pay four dollars an hour to use really slow internet at a hostel when it is free just down the street?  Feeling industrious at this point, we set about looking for places to live and job’s we could start quickly to supplement our dwindling bank accounts. We found a bunch of potential apartments and jotted down their info so we could contact them once we got a phone. When I say we were being industrious I meant that we spent only 85% of our time on facebook as opposed to the typical 95%, but I think that’s a generational thing and would apply to most people in their mid-twenties. Soon enough it was check-in time at our hostel and we returned to get settled into our room and relax for a little bit.

            The three hours of sleep from the train ride meant a brief siesta was in order and we woke up a few hours later refreshed and ready to explore Melbourne in proper. We left the hostel with no bearings and no particular destination, just to amble around aimlessly and take in the vibrant atmosphere. We wandered this way and that looking at all the unique shops and interesting boutiques, observing all the different people. I’ll have a separate entry detailing the uniqueness that is Melbourne, for now it is enough to say that it was wholly different then back home and definitely very cool. We traipsed around for a few hours before we got hungry and grabbed a bite to eat. We spent the rest of the evening exploring other parts of Melbourne and relaxing in our hostel, we turned on the TV and found Oprah on nearly every channel, yep all three of them. Funny that even here in the antipodes everyone is still obsessed with Oprah, a fascination I will never understand. Oh well, perhaps a mystery for another day.
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