31.03.2016 - 06.04.2016 24 °C
First thing I need to do with this entry is apologise, as in all the typing excitement with the campervan tales I forgot to thank those that bought us the campervan hire at our wedding. So thanks to Esther, Owen, Claire, Markus, Gem, Matt (& Sophie), Will, Siew, Kate and Chris. In case you didn’t get from the long gushing we absolutely loved the experience.
Right on with the travelling. We arrived in Melbourne on the Thursday evening, after hitting the wineries of Bellarine in the camper in the morning. Had a bit of a mad dash dropping the camper back to the depot in time, as in all our time away ignoring LA and a minor delay in Auckland, heavy traffic is not something we’ve seen and we’d forgotten what it was like. Anyway we made the cut off and lugged all our gear and leftover food into a cab and across to Quest Bayside St Kilda, where once again we received an upgrade, this time to an executive apartment rather than the standard. I’m not really sure what difference it made….. maybe just the inclusion of the espresso machine?
After the constant moving of the week previously all we wanted to do was veg out on the sofa and watch the TV. However even though 4 nights in Melbourne was a pretty long stretch for this trip, it still isn’t enough to see and do all that you want to. So we took the short wander down to St Kilda pier arriving just before sunset. Unknown to us a colony of little blue penguins consider the rocks of the pier and breakwater home, and come out to survey their world just after sunset. So this ended up being a pretty special evening stroll. My first wild penguins!!!! And some lovely views of the sunset across the city and out across Port Phillip.
there is a small penguin hiding under this rock
After a much longer stroll we came across the local Coles supermarket (of Australian Masterchef fame for those of you as sad as us), and a nice dirty kebab. On Friday we had booked one of our dining highlights of the trip, something I saw cruising around Melbourne when here previously and knew if I were ever to come back with Rob he would love it. It is the Colonial Tram Restaurant. This is a pretty posh little restaurant with a set 4 course lunch including wine (and fizz) with the slight difference of being inside a vintage tram car which travels around the city sights as you dine (thank you Abby and Mark). This was as good as I thought it would be and the lack of dinner reservations was probably the best thing as we saw so much more of the city and residential streets during the daylight. We left the tram a little bit tiddly, and therefore thought it was an excellent time to hit the casino. I have never been to Vegas, but I imagine the Crown Casino in Melbourne is on par size wise with some of the casinos there. We spent a fair bit of time just wandering the inside, before leaving without spending a cent when we were unable to find a table that had less than a $5 buy in (last of the big spenders!).
Saturday in Melbourne we had no pre booked plans so just picked up the tram to the city centre and strolled about looking more at the amazing architecture more than shops. Melbourne is known as the cultural capital of Australia and with its colonial background on show in the gorgeous old buildings I can see why it has this name. Found a nice little rooftop bar overlooking the Victoria Government building and watched numerous wedding parties have pictures taken. By coincidence our visit to Melbourne occurred during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (now in its 30th year), and we thought we should really make the most of such opportunities. Reading the guide, one show popped out amongst the others; What would Spock do? A show about Star Trek, love and being a proud geek. We bought ourselves some tickets, had some lush Mexican street food then went into the show which could not have been more perfect for me. It is a British production, initially seen at the Edinburgh Fringe and if it returns to play in the UK I recommend if you are a secret or not so secret trekkie heading to check it out.
On Sunday we had another activity I have been longing to do since my trip 4 years ago, the Phillip Island Penguin Parade. But before we caught our Little Penguin Bus (again who I cannot recommend enough!) out to see the island, we popped down to the Queen Victoria Markets, which we seriously underestimated and despite leaving ourselves 2 hours to explore, we barely scratched the surface. Then it was on to the penguins, with some commentary about rural Victoria and the sporting history of Melbourne from our amazing driver Bruce (actual name) on route. Before you head across to the beach upon which the penguins march across to their homes post sunset, you get to have a wander around the far end of the island, which is still penguin territory but with awesome waves. March/April is moulting time for the penguins so can still if lucky be seen in their burrows or boxes with a squint during daylight. After seeing a hidden moulting penguin, a wallaby or 1000s, and some Cape Barren geese I was very excited to see the penguin march. As it is a bit of a wait on a breezy beach to see the penguins, as they don’t seem to have watches and then seem in no hurry to find their homes and leave the socialising of the beach, it can get a bit nippy. Bruce supplied us with blankets, and Rob purchased me a penguin hat (as seen below I am rather fond of this hat). The sadly feel that penguin hats are not something adults want, even for ski trips, and only make them in children’s sizes. Luckily I have a now infamously small head and the age 7-12 fitted me perfectly!
Photographs are not allowed once the first raft (collective name for a group of penguins in the water) have hit the beach so there are no pictures to try and show how amazing this experience is. For over an hour the little fairy penguins float into the beach in groups of up to 100+, stand and mingle with each other for a while then waddle off up the hills or along the boardwalk to their homes. We paid extra for penguin plus seating, which meant we were but mere feet from these amazing little creatures. As it is the moulting season and this means the penguins cannot go in the water until waterproofed in their new feather coats, they have to fatten themselves up to twice their normal size before taking to their burrows for up to 3 weeks without food. So we had a display of quite chunky rather unbalanced little fellas parading in front of us, and occasionally a rather undignified falls as this weight makes them rather wobbly on their feet, and all the cuter for it. (thank you to Helena, Peter, Louisa and Jessica)
A home for the more discerning penguin, for whom dirt just will not do
my amazing penguin hat
Our last day in Melbourne was to end with the night train, and a first class sleeper cabin to Sydney, so we didn’t want to do anything too expensive or far away during the day. I made Rob go to a vegetarian restaurant – which he actually liked. Then we went to Luna Park, an over a century old small amusement park on the edge of St Kilda beach. It has the world’s only brakeman wooden rollercoaster and is one of the original rides, which still has all its original bumps. It was a great ride and we still have the bruises to prove it. After Luna Park we wandered along the beach then up Fitzroy Street to Albert Park.
Luna Park including the Scenic Railway rollercoaster
The Albert Park name is well known to those who follow Formula One, as the home of the Australian GP. The timing of our Australia trip was designed to have us in Melbourne for this event, but sadly the FIA changed the dates on us last minute and we ended up several thousand KMs away in Cairns over the GP weekend. Never fear though as I had spent over a week here back in my F1 days at the circuit and I managed to find the pit buildings and finish line for Rob with little fuss. It is amazing how quickly the F1 travelling circus can move on, only 2 weeks after the race only a few catch fences remained of the circuit and the park looked vastly different to my memories. Being back at a now only slightly rigger busy race track made me realise how much I do miss my FOM job, and the longer that I work back in the NHS I wonder if I made the right decision to leave.
a few photos from our walk to and around Albert Park
The night train was another Rob orientated element to the trip, and he was very excited by the train. Rather annoyingly we had an unbelievably rattlely door to the cabin that made sleeping a bit of a hard to come by item, to the point Rob awoke in the night to find me stacking our various rucksacks against the door at 4 in the morning in an attempt to lessen the noise. With perhaps less sleep than ideal we caught another train straight out of Sydney Central immediately after our arrival, up into the Blue Mountains, more specifically to a town called Katoomba. Another place like Melbourne that has a fascinating Art Deco history. Our first day in the town mainly consisted of a nap, a stroll and then me catching up on my sorely neglected uni work, including an exam – how very honeymoon romantic.
view from the night train leaving Melbourne
Our second and final day in Katoomba was used for what Katoomba is now known for, bushwalking around the Jamieson Valley. We sampled the local trolley tour bus, hopping on and off to walk along the majority of the Prince Henry Cliff Walk soaking in the fantastic valley (more like massive gorge) views and some rather impressive waterfalls. I’ll let the photos do the talking for this:
The 3 Sisters
The Leura Cascades (the small orange blob in some of these is me)
Katoomba Falls and Scenic World cable car
other views from the Prince Henry Cliff Walk (many km's were walked)
So now we have only 3 nights left in Sydney before we say goodbye to Oz, hopefully only for a short time.