After being on the road for about a month my bro and I arrived in Melbourne with no firm plans as to what to do.In order to save cash, and catch up with friends of mine in the city, I made a decision to couch surf a little on my arrival, whilst my bro checked into a hotel in the CBD. The next few days were a little bizarre and somewhat unsettled as I hopped about between locations in the city, leaving the car in a little-known free parking area in the centre, staying with my friend Carly in St. Kilda, who I knew from Cochabamba in Bolivia, and at Chris Madden's fantastic house in Richmond. Since most of my remaining dollars were tied up in the car, and in a hefty tax rebate that I could only claim once I'd finished working in Oz, funds were a little tight as I smeared out the modest residue of Sterling I had left in my UK account. My bro and I had a fun week in Melbourne though, visiting the Australian Open tennis, enjoying a few nights out with Carly, Chris and Josh - another friend from Cochabamba - and checking out the various trendy districts around the city. Melbourne was clearly an entirely different animal from Sydney: cultured, diverse, gritty, and full of delightful eccentricities, such as an adorable tram network, uninterrupted stretched of Georgian and Victorian architecture, and an unmistakably convivial, bohemian atmosphere, the likes of which Sydney is sadly bereft. A leisurely stroll around the city revealed innumerable inviting pubs, wine bars and restaurants hidden down pokey alley ways, each with its own unique vibe and character. Andrew loved the place, but alas, his days in Oz were numbered and he caught his flight back to the UK after less than a week, returning to embrace the familiarity of life in London. The story of Melbourne is not over though, as it appears that I will be based here until at least the end of Feb; however, more of that later when I write a blog in a few weeks. Andrew's departure coincided with the arrival of Charlotte and her friend, Suz, on holiday from Sydney; and after Suz left Charlotte and I went on a trip to the Great Ocean Road.
For those of you that don't know, that is assuming anyone actually reads this blog… hello? is anyone there? …echo-o-o-o! Well, for those of you that don't know, the Great Ocean Road is a stretch of road along Australia between Torquay and Warrnambool built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, and the world's largest war memorial; dedicated to casualties of World War I [to paraphrase Wikipedia]. It's a massively talked-about tourist attraction that appears on most back-packers' itineraries in Oz, but one which deserves every bit of praise showered upon it. The coastline is totally stunning - just take a look at the photos. For the most part the route hugs every indentation along the coast, cutting into the headlands, leaning into the valleys and swooping down to sea-level at intervals.Over every crest lies a new vista of white-water crashing into limestone cliffs, washed with a Caribbean-esk undercoat of turquoise sea over white sand. We stayed at a real cross-section of places along the route, such as a backpacker joint, a cabin in a caravan park, a yuppy ocean-view cottage with spa bath, and a night camping in the woods. We just generally made things up as we went along, which sat rather well for the both of us, and we ventured pretty much to the western end of the road before turning back.
One morning we took the Cakmobile off-roading, this time over a deeply-rutted track through the sand dunes. This was a different driving experience from slipping about in the woods of New South Wales and I wondered sometimes (as we sat in isolation with no phone reception) whether the car could actually do what we were asking it to. But, of course, she pissed all over it. I have to doff my cap to the old girl: sure, there are the mysterious plumes of smoke that whimsically pour out of the exhaust from time to time; sure, there is the sitting on wet seats and enduring a rank smell after there's been a big storm, as the roof is perhaps not as water-tight as the manufacturer had originally intended; and sure, there is the poor fuel consumption, the thirst for oil, the curious humming of the transmission between 90-110kph, the sporadic slippy clutch, the broken passenger-side lock, the plastics falling off from the dashboard, the absence of switches altogether in the back, the missing upholstery, the broken sunroof motor, the sllloooowwwww electric windows, the dysfunctional radio (despite the huge aerial), and the faulty fuel gauge… but, apart from that she is just great. I have decided that I am going to drive her the remaining 3420 km to Perth across the unforgiving and essentially uninhabited Nullarbor desert... but, more on that later.
Charlotte and I headed back for one last teary-eyed night together in Melbourne before it was time for her to head back to Sydney, and me to head back to Chris' sofa. I felt really quite depressed that day for many reasons, including opportunities not developing exactly as I'd hoped, and lots of fantastic career ideas turning into lots of dead ends in Australia; but, the next day pulled myself together, went forth into the streets and swiftly found myself a job and a room in Melbourne. I now had some breathing space, a little time to think things through and some money coming in to recharge the bank account, plus the opportunity to soak up life in one of greatest cities in the world. It was time to stroke one's bestubbled chin punctiliously - whilst sipping a latte and reading The Age in a Fitzroy café - and ruminate… what next?