Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Melbourne Days 3 & 4

I slept in until 9am on Monday and headed out to McDonalds for brekky. One might argue that I should go have something Australian for breakfast in Melbourne, but listen, I’ve been here in Oz for awhile and they eat the same things we do: bacon and eggs. Plus McDonald’s has the type of coffee I like in a big cup, and free wireless internet.

After that, I walked back to the hostel and booked my tour for Tuesday that you’ll read about tomorrow. Then it was off on one of the longest days of walking I’d done in some time.

I once again walked to the free bus and rode that for a good 40 minutes. On the bus they tell you a little history about Melbourne, so it’s educational. One funny part was the drivers commentary on CostCo which is opening up in Melbourne in about a month. It will be Australia’s first CostCo. The driver said “And probably last. They spent 100 million making it, in an industrial park in the middle of nowhere.” Tell me how you really feel buddy. I think a lot of people are offended by stores like Sam’s Club and CostCo.

The stop I decided to get off at was the sports precinct. This included Melbourne Olympic Park, the MCG Cricket Ground and my favorite, Rod Laver Arena. I was very excited to see the location of the Australian Open tennis tournament. I have watched it the last few years. I didn’t get to go inside Rod Laver, but I spent a long time walking around the campus, visiting the gift shop and food court. It was cool to see the players gym and food court area, just trying to imagine the Williams sisters eating in there or Pete Sampras before a big match.

For lunch I ate at an Irish Pub and had a mega burger and Stella Artois for only $12. The guy behind the bar wasn’t too friendly. I sometimes wonder if that’s an Irish thing or if it’s an Irishman who doesn’t like Americans thing. The woman bartender was kind so that made up for it I guess.

I was also supposed to meet up around 3pm with a former coworker of mine from Carnival Cruises but she texted me saying she was sick. Bummer. Next time I guess. I hope she was really sick, but honestly in my time in Australia, I’ve found that many of my Aussie acquaintances haven’t really jumped at the opportunity to meet up. Keeping in touch with people and meeting up is something I thoroughly enjoy, but I’m sure some people could care less if they ever see me again. To each his own.

The rest of the day was very relaxing as I slowly walked all the way across the city back to my hostel. I did jump on one of the famous Melbourne trams for a few hundred yards before realizing I didn't have a ticket, nor was I going pay for one, so I hopped off. At least I can say I've been on the trams now.

I watched part of There's Something About Mary and Austin Powers 2 that evening with a German guy before going to bed around 10pm.

My final day in Melbourne wasn't even really spent in Melbourne. I had booked an all day tour down the Great Ocean Road. The Great Ocean road is a 150 mile stretch of road along the south eastern coast of Austria. Of all the beauty Australia has to offer, many consider this to be the most scenic of all trips to take.

The day started early with my tour guide picking me up at the hostel at 7:15am. He was smoking a cigarette outside when I met him. I'd learn later his name was Simon and that he loved his smoke breaks. We had to go to about five other hostels around town to pick up the rest of group on the tour. This took a good 45 minutes which was a bummer because I hadn't had my coffee yet.

When we finally got everyone on board, it came out to about 20 of us. I would say that nobody was over 30. We were a mixed bunch too. There were several Koreans, Austrians and Germans and also a gal from Boston.

Simon told us the trip would be around 570 kilometers round trip, or around 350 miles. That probably sounds like a very tiring day, but the views would be worth it. The trip leading up to the Great Ocean Road wasn't too exciting. We passed through a town called Geelong, pronounced Ja-long by the Aussies. It is the state of Victoria's second largest city, although it didn't look all that big.

We pulled over for "morning tea" before we got to the actual Great Ocean Road. We stopped at a stretch of beach where the movie Point Break refers to. At the end of that movie there is a scene that is supposed to be this beach, but in reality it's somewhere in California. Simon laid out the tea, coffee and cookies on a picnic table and the group helped ourselves. It was instant coffee, but it did the trick. The view of the ocean was amazing, but not even close to the best one I'd see later in the day.

The Great Ocean Road was constructed to provide work for returning soldiers and dedicated as a Memorial to those killed in the first World War. I learned that from Simon as we pulled over at the entrance to the GOR so we could take a picture by the sign. Luckily as we pulled over, the brightest, longest rainbow I've ever seen was taking place. I have an amazing picture of me with the rainbow in the background you can see in my next post.

It was time to get back on the mini bus. We stopped in a small town I can't remember the name of for lunch. Again, Simon brought out his bin with lunch in it. It was a tuna sandwich. I ate it in about a minute. I realized I don't think I've ever eaten a tuna sandwich before. It is one of those foods I don't eat based on the look and smell. But I think I really like it and need to go get some tuna soon. Anyway, the sandwich didn't do it for me, so I went over across the street and had a bowl of fries and a coffee.

The Great Ocean Road has a couple different sections. One runs along the ocean, obviously, but another section runs through a rain forest. Simon took us on a 30 minute hike after lunch through this beautiful rain forest. Some of you know I get about as excited looking at trees as I do going to zoos (not very excited) but this was a nice little nature hike. The trees were hundreds of years old and the woods were so thick, you couldn't see too far around you. It was also a good way to walk off that bowl of fries and tuna sandwich.

The main attraction of the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles. They are these large natural limestone and sandstone rock formations standing out off the coast. There used to be twelve, but over the years, some have eroded way and fallen into the ocean. So now it's something like eight, but they still are referred to as the Twelve Apostles.

Right down the road from the Twelve Apostles was this secluded bay that we stopped at. Apparently there was a famous ship wreck here. I took a couple good photos. I haven't mentioned it but all day I witnessed the largest waves I've ever seen. Just scary big.

Not too far from this, we stopped at the London Bridge, which is another formation that used to make an arch way out into the ocean, but unfortunately crumbled into the sea about 20 years ago. It is still referred to as London Arch or Bridge, even though the bridge is gone. Again, these views are absolutely stunning. What's amazing is that one day, all these Apostles and bridges will crumble to the sea, so it was special to see it with my own eyes.

That was the last stop on the tour. We had about an hour until we stopped for dinner, then another two hours until we'd be back in Melbourne. I had sat all day next to an Asian girl. She was with two other Asian girls. But she and I talked a little bit. She was from Korea and had lived and studied in Melbourne for nearly three years. Earlier in the day I also talked to a guy named Martin from Austria and also that gal from Boston. But honestly, I don't think she was from Boston, but probably had lived there a few years so she could claim it. But then again, I will often tell non US people I'm from Boston, so I don't have to explain New Hampshire to them.

Simon had us back to our hostel around 8:45pm. I joked with him that I was the first picked up and last dropped off and next time he should do the opposite. The Great Ocean Road was really a great way to end my seven day trip. I was asleep within an hour of returning to Melbourne.

The next morning, my shuttle to the airport and my flight to Sydney were right on time. It felt great walking in the door to my house in Gymea. I went for a walk and hope to go on a good run the next two days. My flight for New Zealand leaves in about 60 hours from the time I am writing this, so I have to get my laundry done and packed up again for a week of skiing. I'm guessing I won't have a blog for everyday of the ski trip, but I'll make sure to write a few things down for ya.

See you soon. Look for the photos in a few hours!

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