The Fool arrives in Melbourne
The night flight from Christchurch passed without incident, immigration and customs were trouble free and then, suddenly, the Fool was legitimately in Australia. Despite the early hours arrival on a Sunday morning there was Tewell (aka Tool Man) a buddy from last years visit to Nashville ready and willing to chauffeur me around his home city.
After a quick pitstop at a nearby MaccyD's for a well overdue latte and catch up it was off up the road to a nearby park to tramp around, successfully spotting wild kangaroos - all this within an hour of touching down.
After registering and dropping my stuff off at the St Arnaud hostel (defo a contender for a Fawlty Towers award) we wandered into the CBD for the first time while Tool Man gave me a local's sardonic take on such buildings/constructions as their version of the Eiffel Tower and the beautifully ugly buildings around Flinders Square. As well as pointing out one of only 2 Starbucks in the city we also saw the iconic MCG (albeit from a distance) and Flinders station, which is a beaut, and Tool Man gave me some tips on what else to see and how to get around.
My hostel was located in South Yarra which is a pretty central location for forays by foot, bike or the tram system to all points of the compass. The clientele were truly a cosmopolitan group consisting of backpackers like the Fool and those with visas and looking for work in the area or already in gainful employment. A core group of mainly english people formed the nucleus of those who had been at the hostel a while and they seem to have stayed in most of the dorm rooms at one time or another due to the owners rotation policy (the owner didnt fare well in the compliments stakes and seemed to be, shall we say less, than popular with the long termers). Personally I thought that she was ok (if a little terse) and that the hostel represented good value. Many of my fellow backpackers were from the german regions of Europe and proved to be a hospitable and friendly bunch, happy to swap experiences of future places I had planned to visit.
Most days I would wander into the CBD in search of something new or interesting to photograph, eat, drink or buy, my route being through the Kings Domain park and alongside part of the Tan Track, a purpose built running/jogging/walking fast/amble whilst talking to your friends circuit for those souls who wear lots of lycra under branded or running club vests and expensive garish runners (trainers). Whilst I did vary the pace of my daily constitutional I never ventured close enough to be mistaken for a keen, fit or energetic person.
Highlights of my time included:
· Using the free bus and tram around the extremities of the CBD
· Strolling around Victoria Market (closed on Sundays and Tuesdays)
· Exploring the park for hidden gems such as statuary, the music bowl, fountains and even possums
· Day trip with Tool Man down to Phillip Island to see the awesome, cute and entertaining Little Penguins. They are actually Fairy Penguins but it's no longer PC or acceptable to call them that. Be aware that they journey to Phillip Island is longer than you would think and takes around 2-2.5 hours each way.
· Aussie Rules game day with the 3 amigos, Max, Chris and Liam, going to the MCG to watch the two worst teams in the league, followed by a cultural walk into the city centre where we had a beer at the only rooftop bar in the CBD - and it decided to rain on us!!
· A day trip on the tram to St Kilda
· Meeting and spending a day or two with Kate from New Zealand, especially the boat trip to Williamstown when it rained all day and the highlights turned out to be 1) finding a kitchen shop with funky gear and excellent prices (Kate's highlight, I was just happy to be out of the bloody rain) and 2) getting a hot and tasty pie from one of the many bakeries there!
· The trip around the war memorial in the Kings Domain, particularly the info and insight from one of the veterans working there.
· Meeting up with the lovely Karen Duffy from the NZ Stray tour for beers and a really good stand up comedy night.
· Catching up with Brooke (again from the Stray trip), again for beers and then to the movies to see the latest Batman flick - me, not Brooke, she watched some girlie dance thing with her sister!
· The bizarre weather in the city where every day is pretty much guatanteed to include three if not all four seasons.
· My first ever visit to a dumpling house (Max took me to the place he and the guys went to pretty much every day of their Uni life and the word "cheap" doesn't do it justice).
There were many other things I did or saw during my stay as Melbourne is crammed with interesting little curios but this Fool doesn't want to go on too much - needless to say, kind reader, if you do get to Oz make sure that you visit Melbourne.
My stay in Melbourne, as seems typical when I arrive in a new country, was probably longer than necessary however the city is a very cool and cosmopolitan place and I wanted to catch up with Tool Man and Max, Chris and Liam, the three amigos from Miami Beach last year. Once we had met and caught up I got the usual itchy feet syndrome and, as I was spectacularly unsuccessful in procuring a ride with other travellers or a relocation vehicle, it was off to the bus station to buy a ticket on a three day trip to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road.
Farewell Melbourne, if I do return to the land down under I will revisit thee!!