Melbourne at last

Trip Start Sep 28, 2003
Trip End Sep 29, 2004

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Monday, December 22, 2003

Before I start, I must apologise for the lack of photo's in the entry, not quite sure why I didn't take any... Tim

After the 8 hour coach ride and two bad films, I finally arrived in Melbourne. I knew that the hostel that Jim had checked into was in St Kilda, so my first mission was to try and find a Tram that would take me to that area. The first problem was finding where I could actually catch the tram from. It turns out that you have to wait at a special place in the middle of the road. This was not too obvious to me as someone unused to taking trams. The second problem was finding the right stop to catch the right tram from.

After giving Jim a call and still not having had any luck finding the right tram, I decided to jump in a cab, not a normal backpackers luxury I know, but I really wanted to get checked into a hostel and get sorted out. It would also mean that I would not have to muck around with sorting out a ticket or carrying my bag onto the Tram.

So a cab it was, I enjoyed the night-time journey through the centre of Melbourne, over the river and towards St Kilda.

The next day James has planned a trip out with Elaine and Bob, so I decided to have a look at Melbourne museum after being so impressed with the National Australia Museum. I was again lucky to arrive just before a guided tour started. The guided tour lasted for about 90 minutes, it was a very enjoyable introduction to the museum and it was great to have important exhibits pointed out, that I may otherwise have missed.

In particular some highlights included Phar Lap a famous Australian race horse. It is possible to see Phar Lap on display in a glass cabinet, which is kind of eerie really. It was amazing to hear the tour guide sound so enthusiastic about this horse and it turns out it even has its own website! The next amazing exhibit, was a skeleton from a 18.7M long whale that had been washed up on the Victoria coast in 1992. There is even a video detailing the process that was necessary to prepare the skeleton to be displayed. There is an amazing Aboriginal Gallery, which has been designed and laid out by the local Aboriginal people. We even received a welcome into the area, in a way similar to which visitors to an Aboriginal area would be invited and welcomed traditionally. We spent an interesting 10 minutes or so looking at a collection of reproduction Aboriginal items which were able to handle, this included cloaks, weapons and also shields.

The tour guide then pointed out an exhibit from Neighbours which was a well known soap in Australia. "Oh yes - I used to watch that at home!" I exclaimed, and she was genuinely shocked to find out that it is syndicated to the UK. The exhibit included the set from the Robinson's kitchen (26 Ramsey St) in Neighbours, which had been reassembled in the Australian Gallery. It was interesting to see that the back of the set had been signed by many interesting people, most of who seemed to have made the British Top 40 at least once! The tour guide mentioned that when it used to be on display, Kylie Minougue's wedding dress (from when she was Charlene Mitchell in Neighbours) used to be the most visited exhibit (now it was Phar Lap!). I again opened my mouth too quickly and pointed out that I remembered the Scott & Charlene wedding episode (Oops - The Shame!). Again the two Australians on the tour with me and the tour guide were quite shocked about this. I tried to gloss over this and we continued with the tour.

I managed to complete the tour without bringing any more attention upon myself and explored the museum for another hour or so on my own. The rest of the afternoon I spent on a free tram which runs around the CBD (Central Business District). It runs on a circular route and you are free to get on or off as you please. It was quite nice to take a rest having walked around Melbourne earlier on.

On a different day after spending the afternoon in the Aquarium, James and I met up with Elaine and Bob and we went for a Chinese meal in Chinatown which was very good. They were staying in an Apartment Hotel in a different corner of Melbourne. We also went down to the river to see the gas flames that appear out of the top of a row of columns. This may not sound too impressive but it was amazing to watch as they all burst into flame and spat balls of fire into the air in sequence. This happens every hour on the hour after dark (until midnight?) I believe.

We also enjoyed a meal in a restaurant on the waterfront at St Kilda on another day.

On our final full day in Melbourne we had planned a trip out on the Great Ocean Road which would include going to see the 12 Apostles, unfortunately the car overheated drastically. This had happened a couple of times now and we were worried about the car getting us back into Sydney in time for Christmas. So James called the NMRA out again and they checked out the car. By removing the thermostat the car seemed to run cooler and better, but the mechanic also told James that he suspected that the head gasket was on it's way out. The car was deemed fine for getting us back to Sydney (900ish k's) but would need looking at after that. Unfortunately we had to call our day-trip off and we spent the day around Melbourne.

The next two days were spent travelling back to Manly, which was to be our base for a while. We spent a night in the hostel we had used in Canberra, and the next day completed our journey back to Manly just north of Sydney.

Please see the next Christmas and New Year episode for our return to Manly
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