The Living City
Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
123Trip End Feb 27, 2006
Unlike when you go on holiday from the UK, there were no queues at all and I was pleased when I saw my seat number was 1F...a window seat with extra legroom! I withdrew my wages, which had safely been deposited into my account, and changed them into Australian Dollars (losing 10% in the process because of the exchange rate). I forked out $25 on Departure Tax (?) before making my way to the Departure Lounge, where I chilled out for an hour before boarding the plane at 8.10am
I had the front row all to myself, hence I didn't have to battle anyone for the use of the armrest! Before long, the engines were firing and we began our ascent, passing over the spectacular Southern Alps in the process. We experienced some heavy turbulence for about 10-15 minutes, and no matter how relaxed the Air Hostesses look, it still gets me nervous! However, they announced that it was perfectly normal when going over the mountains, and the rest of the 3 hour journey turned out to be very smooth.
It was a little more hectic at Melbourne's Airport, particularly on the Sky Bus to the city centre. Indeed, I nearly knocked a poor Australian woman out with my back pack while climbing aboard! The bus stopped at Spencer Street Station, and after a brief consultation with my map, I made my way to The Friendly Backpacker. It was actually really easy to find, and it seemed like a decent place considering it was a city centre hostel. Certainly not in the same league as some of the hostels in New Zealand, but a lot nicer than the ECB in Auckland. The lockers in the room provided great peace of mind, and it's nice to know I won't have to take my valuables with me for the Teenage Fanclub gig.
I spent the afternoon wandering around the city, getting my bearings
I sent Paul, the guy I met in Mount Maunganui, a text message letting him know my number. He maintained that I could stay at his place, but I chose to base myself in the city centre because it is a lot more convenient when you have a relatively short amount of time. I asked if he knew any good bars that would be showing the cricket, and he recommended the Charles Dickens on Collins Street, so at 7pm I went for a beer and watched the first session's play. When the rain forced the players off the field, I went back to the hostel and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The highlight of the next day was visiting Melbourne Zoo, which was similar to the one in Wellington...but better! As I was queueing to get in, the tannoy system announced that there would be a training session with the seals in 5 minutes, so myself and dozens of kids hurried over there
Again, the stars of the show were the gibbons, especially a white one which kept showing off to the crowd (although it had a couple of disgusting habits that I won't mention here!). The meerkats and otters were very cute, and I got my first sighting of a koala bear...but it was asleep! One of the lions lazily strolled over to within inches of where we were standing, and an agitated tiger paced up and down, as if looking for its next victim. The elephants, gorillas, kangaroos, giraffes and many other animals made it an enjoyable experience - a nice start to my trip.
At night I went to the top of the Rialto Tower, the tallest building in Australia. The views of the city at night were superb, although I couldn't get many decent photographs because all the lights played havoc with my camera! I could see the MCG, the huge sports stadium that is high on my list of must-see attractions - Paul and me are going to watch an Aussie Rules game there on my final day, but I also want to go on a guided tour of it as well
Sunday was a fairly quiet day, and I spent the morning exploring the southern part of the city. This area is home to the Royal Botanic Gardens, and I enjoyed a leisurely stroll through there, before visiting the Shrine of Remembrance and walking along the Yarra River. The Gardens were immaculate and very peaceful, a huge contrast to the hustle and bustle of Swanston Street. I could see why Melbourne was voted one of the most liveable cities in the world.
In the afternoon, I made another trip to the Information Centre to book a couple of excursions. I've decided to go and see Phillp Island's wildlife on Tuesday, and the Great Ocean Road's scenery on Wednesday. The fact that I booked both trips with the same company means that I get a free City Sights Tour on Thursday which is a nice little bonus.
Before all that though, I've succumbed to the most touristy thing in the world...a Neighbours Tour! I don't even watch the show anymore, but apparently Harold Bishop is still in it, and if I get to meet him, I'll be a very happy man!