Fun fact tres: Because Australia is in the southern hemisphere, your notions of up and down in relation to weather are wrong, i.e., the north is warm, and the south is cold. Florida is Maine, and Maine is Louisiana. This is confusing.
Fun fact quatro: Antarctica is the only thing south of most of Australia.
Previously, I’d gotten to Australia via England and spent a couple days in Sydney and about a week in Cairns. So there I was, basking in the warm sun in Cairns, enjoying the tropical breezes, getting soaked in a rainforest, eating ice cream every day, and really excited about going to see a friend of mine who lives in Melbourne. I spent my last night in Cairns extravagantly: I got the pizza at the Woolshed.
And then it was off to the airport, where I had Burger King, [but it’s not actually Burger King; it’s Hungry Jack’s because originally they couldn’t have the name Burger King (already in use by another chain) in Australia, so they renamed it Hungry Jack’s. Then years later, BK decided it was sick of having Hungry Jack’s in Australia, so they tried to also bring in Burger King franchises. Now there’s both. But they’re the exact same thing? I don’t understand mega-corporations.]
The second the plane landed in Melbourne (which I was on before that tangent about BK), I had a cold.
It’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced: I was completely fine in Cairns and the entire flight to Melbourne, but the second the wheels touched down, I was sick as a dog. I struggled through getting my bags, getting into Melbourne (SkyRail’s a deal: $20 for roundtrip to and from Melbourne CBD), and then finding the right local train my friend had told me to use.
I have to say, I was a little bit nervous. I hadn’t seen Gail since New Years 2006 at the Passion Conference, and while we’d communicated through Facebook and blogs, I hadn’t talked to her at all except over the last couple weeks whilst in Australia. Plus, I’d never met her husband, and here I was, about to spend about four days with them. I always get a little paranoid and awkward and think of the worst case scenarios possible. Obviously, I had no reason to worry. They met me right at the station and were the best hosts possible; they had specifically purchased my favorite drinks and food, and Gail had even made me ANZAC biscuits!
And for the first time since the 28th of March, I slept in a room by myself in a normal-sized bed. As someone who needs to be alone to function, I can’t even express how brilliant that was.
If Cairns was a breath of fresh air, being with Gail and Keith was like coming home after a hard day’s work to all your favorite foods, the perfect movie, a well-behaved dog that wants to cuddle, and the house at the perfect temperature, i.e., comfortable and perfect. They even let me borrow a winter jacket whilst I was there and fed me cold medicine. And Melbourne is the most livable city in the world, as Gail tells me at every opportunity, so I was bound to have a good time!
The next day, Keith and I went in early to Melbourne, going up to the top of the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, taking a free tourist tram and listening to Keith’s commentary, and convincing him cupcakes are a necessity in life and must be bought at every opportunity.
When we got back, we loaded up the car and headed off to Phillip Island, the once home of Gale Hawthorne and Thor (and their other brother who’s still just doing Australian TV). Phillip Island is well-known for two things: the Penguin Parade and the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix (motorcycles again, just like the Isle of Man!). Mostly though, I was psyched because I had wanted to go but knew I couldn’t have afforded to go on my own, and I love islands and island culture. Rod and Kerry, Keith and Gail’s friends, are seriously the most hospitable people I’ve ever met in my life. Even though I’d never met them, and I was only a friend of a friend, they had left a “welcome to Australia” present in my room, and they bought me Guinness, even though it’s tough to get and probably expensive. But… more than that, they were kind and lovely and welcomed me into their home like I was a long-lost beloved friend.
I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you.
Rod, Keith, and I got up early – or, well, they got up early, and I joined them around 9am. Gail had decided on an itinerary for the weekend, and first up was Churchill Island Heritage Farm. It’s an old working farm that has a restored Victorian-era farmhouse and was the first place in Australia to start agriculture. I had fun walking around, seeing Highland cattle (they’re red and shaggy! and from Scotland!) and a peacock and a cool-looking rooster and a horse that posed for my camera. AND WALLABIES! And a black swan on the way back out!
On our way back for a lunch, we drove by the Grand Prix track where Rod knew some kangaroos hung out. You know, just some random lot where some guy had bought them, and they lived? As they do. Possibly for meat? DID NOT CARE. KANGAROOS. IN REAL LIFE.
After I stared at them for a pretty long time and took about 50 trillion pictures while Rod and Keith stood by patiently, we stopped by a couple beaches, one of which has looks straight towards Antarctica (which I want to go to so badly) and a fantastic surfing spot (mayhap where Hemsworth brothers surfed?).
Then we trooped back for a late lunch before Kerry, Gail, and I bundled up, put some blankets in the backseat and went out to the Nobbies. There’s seals to be seen, after all!
Actually, I didn’t see any seals, but if you know anything about me or had read any of my past blogs (or my personal blog, for that matter), you know there’s something about the sea that fascinates me. I went to Thailand to help with the tsunami relief and refused to go to a beach for a while after that because the power of the ocean terrified me. I’ve gotten through that, and I have a much deeper respect for it now. The ocean is incredible. The power it has to create and destroy, man, and I honestly don’t understand how people can look at it and not see a Creator, but that’s another topic altogether. The three of us took multiple sets of pictures and video, and I attempted to get a picture of the blowhole, but it wasn’t the best time for it.
We didn’t spend too much time there though because we had to get over to a different part of the island for the Penguin Parade! I must admit, I’m not a huge penguin fan; I’ve never seen the animated movies where they dance, and I just have never understood the fascination. It was cool to see them come up out the ocean and slowly waddle across the sand to their dune homes. There was a group in front of us who had paid the extra fee for a ranger to talk to them, and we could hear his commentary, so that was nice. Even though they don’t have many natural predators anymore because it’s a conservation area, their instinctual behavior was fascinating. Nothing on the beach would have hurt a single penguin, but he still waited for another bunch to come out of the ocean before trying to make the walk. No pictures because photography’s not allowed, sorry, although I loved the tourists trying to take a picture surreptitiously with their iPads. That’s not obvious at all… The walk back to the car was also really cool because the pathway’s are through where their burrows are, so you could still see them walking around and greeting their families. In fact, some have burrows near the car park, so there’s signs everywhere telling you to watch out for the penguins. I checked underneath the car, don’t worry.
Then it was time for Thai and beer and good talk and some sharing of my Kenyan pictures as Rod and Kerry had also been to subSaharan Africa (Ghana, I think?).
The next day, Gail, Keith and I headed back to their home, first stopping at the Koala Conservation Centre. KOALAS! They’re REAL.
After a lovely roast dinner with some kangaroo meat (tasted decent) and champagne, I did some laundry and packed – onward to the next part of my adventure (in two weeks)!
And now random pictures!
Fellow BoHo blogger Gary Lee has also written a short blog about Melbourne. You can see more pictures of my time in Melbourne and on Phillip Island on my blog here. Next week, hotel tips. In two weeks, the last of my Australian epic, as I go on a shenanigan-filled bus tour to the Twelve Apostles and the Grampians.
* taken from http://journals.worldnomads.com/stowaway/post/3555.aspx who doesn’t have a disclaimer. they purchased the pictures from the gift shop.
Disclaimer: All photographs unless otherwise noted are mine. Additionally, all persons that appear in photographs have only given permission for their likeness to be used in this specific instance. Any other use of the photographs or likenesses is a violation of copyright and right to privacy.