Road Trip #1 Tom Sar and Trace (Go Team Rob!)

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
Trip End Sep 01, 2008

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

So, Australia rocks! We're not sure if we made it clear in the last entry how much we like Australia. The people are so friendly, you see it everyday. Like on the bus, when an older person gets on about three or four people get up and offer their seat to them. When we were waiting for the bus in the city and we were actually just standing by the road and not a stop, a passer by was kind enough to let us know where the stop actually was! People are always asking "how ya going " and always say hello to you in the street. Whenever an old person finds out you're a 'Pom' they hug you! This happened at a restaurant where an old lady heard me talking and came up to me and hugged me just because I was English!

When we were at Sonia's house, it was really cool to be able to chill out so much. We felt really at home and Sonia's housemates, Felicity and Kellisi were really welcoming too, and we made use of their computer and Internet access and their DVD collection!

So, after our really great time in Sydney, we decided a road trip was in order. Tracey and ourselves hired a car in Sydney with the plan to drive to Melbourne and over the next seven days where we would stop along the way at various places and to include the Great Ocean Road, which all in all, we reckoned would cover almost 2000km (1200 miles). Sarah was very impressed when we picked up the car because it turned out to be a Subaru Impretza instead of a Toyota Corolla or something.....yes, Sarah does know her cars!

We headed off on a Sunday afternoon to Canberra which was only a 3 hour drive away. Canberra is a quiet place at the best of times, so an early Sunday evening there was like a ghost town! We seriously struggled to find a place to eat at 7.30 pm!
We spent the next two days in Canberra seeing all of the sights. As it's the capital of Australia there are plenty of sights to visit. The Australian War Memorial is very good, it has an amazing mosaic artwork display covering both World Wars and is very well done. It also has the largest collection of Victoria Cross medals in the world, more than the Imperial War Museum back home.

We took a guided tour of Parliament which was really interesting because there is so much the same as at home, but with an Australian twist. An example of this is that they use Eucalyptus green for the house of representatives (commons) instead of the dark green we have at home. Australia still has a Governor General, the Queens Representative and there is always talk of when Australia will become a republic. The current Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has said it is a matter of 'when' and not 'if'.
The best part of the parliament building is the grassed roof which covers both houses and means that the people can 'walk' over their parliament. This signifies that the people are always above the government and not the other way around which is a nice concept, albeit it maybe not always a true one.

Tracey decided she wanted to test her nerve and she booked a 'meet a cheetah' experience at the National Zoo. This meant she went into the cheetahs cage and sat next to it. No tranquilisers (for the cat, not Tracey), no other restraints just Tracey and the cheetah! She has the photos to prove it.

The next stop planned was the 'Snowies' or the Snowy Mountains and Kosciuszko National Park to those of you unacquainted with the area! It's still in the state of New South Wales but also borders Victoria. They actually ski here in winter. We stopped off at several towns on the way through. We stayed the night in a place called Cooma where we ate dinner at a local cafe. By 8.30pm, the waitress had got the hoover out and was hoovering around our feet! They really like to shut early and apparently this type of thing is common. We made a breakfast stop at Thredbo which is a ski resort complete with chalets, chairlifts and cafes and bars. We went up the chairlift to see the top. It was cold but no snow yet. It was weird to think of snow in Australia!

Since the early 1940's my nan, who passed away several years ago now, had an Australian penfriend called Joyce and my mum has continued to keep in contact since. Joyce lives in a place called Shepparton in Victoria and as we were passing near by we decided to pop in and visit her. My mum had given me Joyce's phone number and I called to invite ourselves for dinner and to stay the night. When we arrived at the address it was an old peoples home. The type with 24 hour care and I could see an elderly gentleman in the window in a wheelchair. My first thought was 'oh no, mum's done a mum thing on me' Now let me explain. Once my mum gave me a hand wipe she got from a plane. I used it and my hands turned brown. Turned out it was in fact shoe polish. Another time my parents told me to pick up a baby mole that had ventured into a tent when we were camping once. I did and it bit me very hard! You get the picture. Now imagine how I felt puling into the car park of this home. I had spoken to Joyce, but she was at least 80 by my reckoning so she may have not understood we wanted to stay the night. A small panic overcame me but then I realised that we had a house number for Joyce and that there was actually another part to this retirement village. We drove around the corner and found her house to my relief. Joyce is 84 years old and definitely not senile. She calls the other people at the old peoples home 'oldies' and devotes most days to looking after them by feeding them or giving them afternoon tea which is remarkable. We had a nice dinner with her and then to Tracey's delight, we watched Home and Away as Joyce is a big fan too and never misses an episode. After that Tracey and her were best friends.

We drove on the next day to get to the start of the Great Ocean Road. This road stretches along the coast of Victoria and has amazing scenery. It was built by ex-servicemen who had returned from the war and is dug out from the cliff in places, all done by hand. We saw a colony of little penguins coming out from the surf at dusk at a place called the Twelve Apostles. We also had the amazing experience of seeing wild koalas. We were driving along a quiet road through a forest when we passed a car that was stopped on the side of the road and the people from it were looking up at the trees. We stopped and asked what they were looking at and they pointed out about 5 koalas in the trees around. It was great to see them wild after having seen them in the zoo. They just hug the branches and don't move much though.
Once at the end of the Great Ocean Road you can carry on or turn around to go back to Melbourne which is what we did. We took the country road this time as Tracey couldn't take any more of the bends and curves of the coast road. A great quote from her, after she had been sick for about the third time on the way through was " It's OK, it was only water!" Poor Tracey. Anyway, we managed to pass places that did chocolate, cheese and wine tasting on the way back which suited the girls very much.

In Melbourne we enjoyed the city and the market, the river and the parks and we stayed in St Kildas which is quite a funky place. We enjoyed riding on the trams too. The best memory from Melbourne happened on a Sunday morning after we had been to the Victoria market for breakfast and were walking down by the river in sunshine. We came across a group of local drunks. They looked like the drunks do back home. Dirty ripped clothes, unkempt appearence. Except instead of hurling insults as we passed as you might expect, one of them looked at Tracey and said in a most sincere voice " You are an immaculately beautiful wonderful creation" ! Brilliant.
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