Melbourne - Reunions & Roads

Trip Start Sep 14, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Monday, October 31, 2011

31st October - 6th November

Our arrival in Melbourne was marred not only by the weather (cold, cloudy, hi England) but by the fact that our departure from Australia was very real and very close. After a gruelling 12 hour bus journey from Sydney, we trundled into our hostel; a 16 room cavern with no openable windows and a distinct smell of sweat and shame.

Not to worry. Within a matter of moments we received a call from GRIZZIE (see Sydney entry) instructing us to get our arses on the next tram over to (what seemed like) the other side of the city for a jaunt to Phillip Island - Penguin paradise. Setting off on a one hour drive, we had two turns to make - the second of which we missed. Two hours and a therapeutic ice cream stop later, we arrived on the island with 5 hours to spare before the penguins arrived. Donning a variety of durable yet stylish outerwear, we went for a walk and had a BBQ, but not before Nick 'Hero' Whitworth saved us all the trouble of stepping right on a Red-Bellied Black Snake. Just chillin' in all it's venemous glory. The penguin parade itself was a great spectacle, with 100's of Little Penguins (only 30cm tall!) in groups coming out from the ocean to wander back to their nests behind us.

The next couple of days could be said to be spent in a post-penguin trauma, but still saw us take in the the rolling hills to the East of the Dandenong Ranges & Emerald Park for another BBQ (what other way to eat in Aus?), and the intrigue of the Melbourne Cup horse races. This is effectively the Australian Grand National except that they actually take a public holiday for it. For horses. Absolutely genius. Finally, we took in the seaside air at St Kilda complete with an emotional farewell to exulted travel companions Izzy and Grace, who headed back to England to become real people again. To forget our troubles, goon and a night at Sorry Grandma's with some random Belgian DJ was definitely needed.

After a further reunion with Jack and Glen from the Whitsunday boat, complete with ridiculous dancing and provocative displays of seduction from the former (hero), we sorted ourselves out a beige family saloon car for the next leg of Melbourne - The Great Ocean Road and the Grampians.

7th November - 9th November

The 7th saw us rise bright and early to pick up the aforementioned beige-mobile from the city, stock ourselves up with all the treats and mandatory fruit (nobody likes scurvy) we could carry, and hit the road; or more specifically, the Great Ocean Road, which also happens to be one of the top ten coastal drives in the world.

Consulting the massively oversized map of Australia was no help at all, so we instead decided to follow the advice of brown signs. Any brown sign. In fact the entire first day of our road trip was dictated by brown signs. Scenic lookouts occured pretty much every 5km, and with over 250km of road to see, this probably wasn't the greatest plan of action. Instead of attempting to track down every single point we stopped at, we'll give you a short list and you can see all the beautiful pictures your heart desires. Bells Beach, Apollo Bay, The Twelve Apostles, Bay of Islands. There.

After eventually finding ourselves a secluded (and equally illegitimate) sleeping spot for the night outside Port Fairy twelve hours of driving later, we attempted to settle down. Just that nobody ever did settle down, because clearly we were trying to sleep three in a Hyundai which would comfortably sleep zero. Once again, you can't fault our planning.

Up came the second day (6am, ergh) and off we went again to the Grampians, a series of mountains 150km north of where we happened to bed down the night before. Using Halls Gap in the centre of the range as our base for the day, we headed slowly up a long stretch of dirt track badly damaged by floods 10 months ago and still being repaired. Nature here is mental. Tempted again by a brown sign, we discovered Beehive Falls (relatively unimpressive) completely off the beaten track, before winding round some beautiful mountain roads to the far more impressive Mackenzie Falls. Climbing across the barriers which would fail to stop anything from a curious toddler to a pipe-smoking grandad, we managed to find ourselves the better picture opportunities.

This didn't prepare us for our final lookout point however, aptly named the Balconies. These overhanging chunks of rock gave unparalleled views across the entire range and provided a suitable end to our entire Grampians experience.

Again we found ourselves a secluded (illegitimate) sleeping spot for the night by a lake; made not so secluded by Nick 'Liability' Whitworth setting off the car alarm at 3:30am while trying to go for a bush wee. Hyundai-sleep went by a bit easier tonight, mostly due to the rollover tiredness from the night before.

Our final day consisted of a whirlwind trip back down the Great Ocean Road, topping up on any brown sign we may have missed on the drive up. We discovered that we had missed out two of the more famous spots - the Loch and Gorge and London Bridge, both equally stunning. By the time we made it back to Melbourne, tired and hungry for something other than BBQ or tuna, we of course missed our turning, rendering Nick calm and collected in the driver's seat. Somehow, a half an hour of back streets later, we found the sea (St Kilda) followed by home, where the direction-rage subsided. A long night of sleep was the only way to recover from this, Goodnight road trip!

10th November - 14th November

Our last weekend in Melbourne was spent having.. yes, another reunion. This time we found ourselves in the company of the Aussie Rules boys Trotman & Rhys and Canadians Nel & Amanda (all Byron Bay, easy!). Which meant one thing. Drink. Lots and lots of drink. Brilliant.

Itinerary - Friday
Travel to Altona, get picked up by Trotman (Goin' on). Stop at Trotmans house, pickle livers through copious consumption of Corona, get loose, taxi into city, Karaoke funtimes, witness Rhys dance his way out with the assistance of the bouncer. Home.
Itinerary - Saturday
Get up, drink, laze around, get hangover, drink to quell hangover, get loose, taxi into city; strip joint. Just another day.

Sunday brought about the pain of our last day in Melbourne (and more acutely, our last full day in Australia). The day was largely spent filling in the gaps of our tourist-y agendas, with Martin making his way over to the MCG (Largest cricket ground in the world and accompanying museum) whilst Nick and Rosie spent their time perusing the rather artsy Southbank area. As night fell, more goodbyes were exchanged and, as Rosie made her way off to Brisbane, we were back down to two once more; albeit ready for the mischief and adventures which might await us in New Zealand.

There had better be Hobbits galore, or we are going to completely lose our shit.
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