Australia - Part 1 - Melbourne, Sydney and the Great Ocean Road
We arrived in Melbourne after our short flight over from Christchurch and it was a lovely day. We obtained an airport shuttle to the centre of town and then planned to catch the trams to the hotel we were staying at. I say 'planned' deliberately as the Melbourne tram network is most confusing. Some areas are free, some aren't and you are meant to be a card to swipe upon entering a train but these are not available at all platforms. After asking a few locals, we eventually found the right one and hopped on, as it was a busy tram on a Sunday afternoon and it was packed. As we were carrying our backpacks at this point and we were still a bit confused as to how it all worked ***Parents look away now*** we ended up using the tram and not paying for it!
We arrived in our hotel and were pleased to have our own room, with an en-suite shower, a T.V and a fridge (most of you will think this is standard - BUT after spending 30 days travelling new Zealand in 6 - 8 man rooms with a shared bathroom with everyone on your floor, i can tell you that this felt way more than standard to us!) As it was now early evening, we went out for dinner and found a nice little Laotian place just around the corner specializing in Laos and Thai food. It was a very tasty meal and the debate between me and Alex was whether or not the waiter was a man or a woman, after a while we came to the conclusion that he/she was a ladyboy - interesting start to Australia.
The next day we awoke to the news on the telly that it was a bank holiday. They do not do bank holidays like we do. In Australia a bank holiday is not just a day where no-one goes to work. We were lucky enough to find ourselves walking round a packed Melbourne on a glorious day filled with locals. There was a big carnival at the bottom of town and the local river had been closed off and was giving way to some various water-sports. Some roads were also closed for a big parade (the man at the head of the parade was none other than 'the King of the Melbourne Carnival - Shane Warne). Although perhaps the most impressive thing was that a massive downward sloping road outside of our hotel was closed for the day as it had been replaced with a 200 meter waterslide that was open to the public! We spent the rest of the day walking round the botanical gardens before returning back to the hotel.
On our last day we headed to the beach, it was a very hot day, however the wind was too strong for a proper beach day so we chilled in a local cafe instead. We decided to turn in early as the next day we were heading on our 2 day trip on the Great Ocean Road.
The Great Ocean Road
We had to set off early, as although we had a rental car for 2 days we had to cover an 800km round trip in that time. We arrived at the rental car place at 8pm as planned. We didn't managed to speak to anyone until 8.30 as the staff were busy sorting out a rental camper man to 10 people at the same time who all wanted to share the driving! After sorting out our booking we were given the keys and we headed upstairs to pack up and head off, we packed everything into the car, set the sat-nav up and then I went to put the car in gear and start the engine and we realized it was an automatic! I have never driven an automatic before and it wasn't what we had arranged to rent. After they had switched us to a manual, we were finally off at around 8.45pm. We began to drive around Melbourne but the sat-nav wasn't working correctly, we then had to find our way back to the rental car place and tell them. They sorted the sat-nav out and we were finally away just after 9. It had taken us over an hour to leave, but now we were away!
It took us roughly 2 hours of motorway driving before we saw the famous 'Great Ocean Road' sign. And after that it was stunning, we visited a local beach along the way and watched the surfers for a while and then headed along the windy road further. At points, it was spectacular, sheer cliff faces to one side of you and the sea the other, after every turn a new sight would appear and warrant a better photo than the last turn did. After a few hours, we wound away from the sea-front as the Great Ocean Road heads through a forest section before you arrive at the 12 Apostles. We didn't stay long here as the cloud had begun taking over the sky now so we headed on to our hostel in Port Campbell.
The next day we planned to leave to return to Melbourne around about 9, however due to some delay in myself and Alex having some difficulty ordering mothers day cards (the difficulty being that mothers day is in May in Australia). We ended up leaving just after 10 and having to head back to quickly to make sure we got the car back in time. This was fine as this day was very miserable. That evening we met up with Louise who I used to work with at Cartus and her boyfriend, Frank. - They are currently living in Australia. We had a few drinks with them in a couple of nice local bars that they knew of. Then we headed off to the bus station for our first night bus. It was 12 Hours to the next stop - Sydney.
We arrived in Sydney after our 12 hour bus journey which we both agreed was the worst single journey of our life. The air con had been freezing and both me and alex were not prepared - we were not wearing trousers or had jumpers with us, and our ear plugs had been in the luggage below the bus which had been whisked on too quickly for us to get what we needed out of it. Neither of us hardly slept. So we arrived in Sydney, having been up since 7 the previous day driving back from the Great Ocean Road and then through a near sleepless night. Needless to say that neither of us were in the best mood.
Sydney was miserable when we arrived so we headed for our hostel. We decided we would go to the cinema and relax for a day out of the way of the weather. We arrived at the hostel around midday and checked in. There is a hostel that we stayed in Rotorua in New Zealand which me and Alex had universally agreed was the worst hostel we had stayed in....it held that prize no longer for Chilliblue backpackers of Sydney was absolutely horrible. It had been cheap and with me and alex having limited internet, we did book it in a hurry but we didn't know what we had let ourselves in for. The kitchen was tiny, with hardly any hobs, there were 4 showers in the whole hostel, it was noisy, the room was smelly and the wallpaper was peeling back where damp was coming through the ceiling and walls. It wouldn't have been out of place in a horror film. The icing on the cake however, we wouldn't find out until the next morning.
We went to the cinema and asked several helpful locals of the way. One man gave us very good directions and told us it was about 20 minutes away. As said, his directions were good but the time frame he gave us was less accurate. It took us over an hour to walk there, although we did get to see a bit of Sydney along the way. The next morning we were awoke to half the hostel rejoicing and singing what appeared to be French rap music. We made our way into the kitchen to make breakfast and were greeted by a few young lads who were far too happy for 9.30am in the morning and had already used all the available hobs in the kitchen too begin cooking a Beef Bourguignon and had put their french tunes on as well. We then found out that our coolbag which had been in the fridge had been leaked on by someone else's milk carton on the shelf above. Not a good start.
The weather was good this day so we headed out into Sydney. We were in the centre in no time at all and with the sun shining on it, Sydney was a picture. The harbourside was a glamorous sight packed with restaurants and cafe's. Then we walked through a park and botanical garden and came to a waterfront which had Sydney bridge and Opera House in the background which you will have seen from some of our photos. The spot was so picturesque that a couple were having their wedding photos taking there just over from us. We headed on into Sydney and walked through another park when we came across a few birds that we had never seen before. They were very strange looking birds that startled us at first but we soon noticed that they were everywhere. This bird, we later discovered, is called an Ibis bird. As we continue to walk through Sydney we came across another 5 or 6 weddings that were all going on, clearly a very popular venue. We walked through some back streets and came to a museum of contemporary art which we had heard from a friend in New Zealand was very interesting. I wouldn't ever declare myself as a lover of art however Alex is very fond of it so i kept my opinions to myself at first, however this exhibition was very abstract. Alex quickly admitted that she wasn't impressed, and seeing as I had found myself staring at various things unable to tell what they even where, we decided to leave. We had some lunch on the waterfront and then walked round Sydney some more.
We had actually bought a few things for dinner but we disliked the hostel so much and were enjoying sydney a lot. So we stayed out longer and found a cheap pub to eat dinner in. A slightly unusual thing happened then, there were no available tables and the bartender offered to find something for us with a couple that were sat at a 4 seater table. As the bartender approached to split the table allowing us a table of 2 also, the man stopped him and insisted that me and Alex join him and his wife for dinner! We sat with them for well over an hour and they were very pleasant although the man was also quick to laugh at England's dismal cricket world cup and how he can't wait for Australia to play us this summer. They were a very lovely couple and we both found it really nice to chat to some friendly locals who were easy going.
On our last day, we headed into downtown Sydney and headed into to the local china town to take a look around. we found ourselves down by the harbour when we heard loud music played. There was a Thai festival going packed with Thai fighting, cooking demonstrations, Thai music, and all sorts going on. We watched a cooking demonstration and some Thai fighting and enjoyed the sun.
That night, we returned to the same pub we went the night before as the atmosphere was nice and it was cheap, plus it kept us out of the hostel for longer. When we arrived we sat at a 4 man table on our own and were shortly joined by 4 men who asked if they could sit with us as there was no-where else to sit. We looked at each other as if to say - is this the norm in Sydney or we were the most friendly looking people in the pub? The four men sat with us and began chatting, we soon worked out they weren't Aussies. It turned out that they were all from Walsall and were out here forming part of the Barmy Army following the England cricket team around. This also struck a bit of banter with Bristol City playing Walsall in the JP trophy that weekend and with all of the men being season ticket holders. They were all really friendly and seeing as we were on a night bus that night and we had to kill a lot of time until leaving, we spent the whole night chatting to them. One of the men who was quite wealthy according to his friends even insisted on buying us a drink each. This made the night fly by and ensured that we both had a few drinks inside us ready for night bus number 2. We were determined not to make the same mistakes as last time so with our ear plugs, jumpers and travel pillows, we were ready for the night bus and we would need to be - This night bus was going to be 15 Hours to Byron Bay!