Melbourne & Sydney
I landed in Melbourne at 7.30am and Tessa, a friend from my Borneo trip who lives in Melbourne, picked me up from the airport. I was so excited to see her and we spent the morning catching up and watching TV. In the afternoon we went in to the city because Tessa had an internship interview at her university. I sat in the library for half an hour surrounded by uni students; I felt very nostalgic! When she had finished we walked around Melbourne central and I took pictures which embarrassed Tessa, she's lucky that I wasn't wearing my bum bag and carrying my over the shoulder water bottle!
That evening we went to see Star Trek at the drive-in cinema which was a fun experience and the film was very good! You tune your radio to an fm station with your chosen film on, I think technology has advanced since the Greece film. I had had a really good first day in Melbourne and it definitely didn't feel like I was on the other side of the world- just like visiting a friend somewhere in England!
Tessa and I were picked up very early on Saturday morning by Holly, another one of the girls from Borneo, to go down to Phillip island. Tessa's family have a caravan down there so we got down early to unpack and then waited until Katie, another one of the girls from Borneo who is English but currently working in Melbourne, her boyfriend, and another friend of theirs, arrived about midday. Tessa, Holly and I then headed for the wildlife park where we bought food to feed the kangaroos and wallabies- both were very cute! We also saw koalas, cockatoos an echidnas.
For lunch we had fish and chips by Smiths beach and met up with Katie and the 2 guys again. They had rented surf boards and were getting pretty good but we didn't have too long on the beach so decided to stick to boogie-boarding. After getting into our wetsuits (it took me ages because Tessa had given me this child's size cropped suit that I struggled to squeeze into. I'm pretty sure she had known that this would be the case beforehand but thought it would be funny!!) we caught a few good waves and, although the sea was a lot colder than the temperatures I had been used to in Asia, I soon got used to it and had a lot of fun.
Katie, the guys, and I went to see the Penguins at 5.30 while Tessa and Holly started on a BBQ. There were benches set up a bit above the beach where everyone sat to wait for the penguins' arrival and were given some information about them. The small penguins started coming out of the water and up the beach at 6ish and there were hundreds of them! They came up in groups so everyone sat at the beach for about half an hour to watch and then stared walking back up the walkways to the car park which ended up being the best bit for me. Once the penguins came up on land the all stood around socialising very close to the walkways so I got to see them a lot more closely- so cute.
The four of us drove back to the caravan to help with the finishing touches to the BBQ. We had a lovely evening catching up and I had my first experience of 'goon' (cheap Australian wine in a box). It really didn't feel like we had been apart for 2 months!
On Sunday we packed up the caravan early and drove to Tessa's grandmas house where Holly dropped off Tessa and I. It was Mother's Day so the family were all going down to Rosebud and kindly invited me. We had lots of food and it was nice to have some family time, even if it wasn't my own family- they all made me feel very welcome.
After filling ourselves with lots of food we drove back to Melbourne and were dropped at the MCG arena to watch the Melbourne vs Gold Coast afl game. The stadium was massive and we were sat in prime position in the members seats. Tessa explained the rules before the game started but I still asked a lot of questions throughout and my biggest problem was seeing when it actually went through the posts- I wouldn't be a very good rugby fan! The game had a good atmosphere but unfortunately Melbourne got thrashed so Tessa wasn't very happy. We rented a film for the evening and had quite an early night after a tiring weekend- it was just so nice to be doing normal things.
On Monday morning I went on the official Neighbours tour. I haven't watched it very much since I started university so I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be current enough but the tour guide was great and related all the sets and stories for all viewers, even a pair who hasn't watched for 15 years!! We first travelled to the Nunawading studios and the indoor sets where we met the actor who plays Chris Papous. I got him to sign an autograph for my Chris who is a not-so-secret fan. We then went to the street set and watched some filming before the actor who plays Mason Turner came over for pictures. The whole tour was very cheesy but I loved it. Dad has told me that even if the neighbours tour was the highlight of my whole trip, I can't tell anyone! We were dropped back in Melbourne when the tour ended and I then tried to follow the route that we took to get home after the football but I couldn't remember the number if the tram and I realised that I didn't have Tessa's number. Eventually I found a nice woman on a hotel reception who typed in Tessa's address on Google and sorted me out.
In the evening Katie, Tessa's sister, and I went to watch Tessa play netball. I got very into it and Katie said that I was very loud and sounded very British with my "SHOT" and "come on girls" words of encouragement. Unfortunately they lost but it was a very close game and it made me really miss my netball (or exercise in general) so I look forward to playing when I get back.
On Tuesday I got the tram into Melbourne for the free city walking tour. We started at the central library and the old Gaol, walked through Carlton gardens to the Royal Exhibition Building, went past parliament, the Princess Theatre and the Central business district, through China town, and stopped for lunch at the mall by the old women's hospital. I had an avocado sushi roll for lunch which was about 5inches tall and delicious- I don't know why they don't do these at home and only sell tiny cut up versions. The tour then continued through some of the pretty arcades (I learnt that an arcade is not just a place with electronic games) to the street art in Melbourne. The art has become part of Melbourne's arty culture and buildings now commission it for their outside walls! We ended at Flinders Street Station, Federation square and Yarra River. It took 3 hours overall and the tour guide was very enthusiastic and informative so everyone left him a good tip- if you regularly earn as much as he did in 3 hours I should look into changing my profession! It was a really good way to see the city and get some history so I'll make sure to do one in Sydney too when I return with Nat.
Tessa was working until 7pm that evening but at 6pm she rang her sister Katie panicking "Sam leaves tomorrow and we haven't even shown her Grill'd" so on my final evening in Melbourne Tessa, Katie and I went to Grill'd and had a very good burger! They wanted my opinion every couple of bites and were pleased to see that I enjoyed it. We then went to the cinema to see Summer Breakers which was very weird and I wouldn't recommend it but we still had a really nice evening.
On Wednesday I packed in the morning and then went for an early lunch at The Veggie Bar in Fitzroy (Tessa's favourite restaurant) before Tessa went to work. Holly and Katie (Borneo girls) joined us and we spent a good few hours chatting before saying our goodbyes and Holly very kindly took me to the airport for my 5pm flight. I really loved Melbourne and, although a lot of that was because I stayed with Tessa, the city was great too- I could easily imagine living there for a bit. Tessa had previously been considering a year abroad in Canada with her course but during my time in Melbourne I think that I managed to convince her that she should come to the UK for a year instead. Her uni have good links with Newcastle University so that would be perfect- I could visit Jess, Jamie (presuming he gets the grades, which I am sure he will) and Tessa at the same time! I would also really like to return her very generous hospitality.
I landed in Sydney at 6.30pm and got a taxi to Kate Allmans apartment. Mum and Dad knew the Allmans when they lived in Sydney and kept in contact over the years via Christmas cards. In 2010 Kate came over for a gap year scheme in the UK and was placed working in a school about 20 minutes from our house so she came over a lot and we got to know her well. That evening we caught up and then went for dinner at a local pub with her boyfriend where we cooked our own steaks and had all-you-can-eat salad- very Australian!
The following day Kate dropped me at Coogee beach at 7am where I was picked up for my Blue Mountains tour. I was the first pick up so we then went to get the other 20 people from different hostels within Sydney. We didn't get out of the city until 9am but I had managed to sleep through most of the pick-ups! Our first stop was the Sydney 2000 Olympic site where the guide told us about the different facilities and what they are used for now. We then had a 2 hour journey to the Blue Mountains- I fell asleep again and was the brunt of a few jokes from the driver because of this. The first point at the top was Flat Rock lookout which had a view of the vast mountain landscape and Jamison Valley. The wind was so strong up there that I thought I might blow off the edge! Next up was Echo point which had the closest view of the Three Sisters. We have an oil painting at home of the Three Sisters so I made sure that I got a lot of pictures of it and me with it. I didn't know at this point that we would see it throughout the rest of the tour from many different views so I now have about 100 photos of the Three Sisters! It is apparently the eucalyptus oil that gives the blue mountain effect and it did look amazing. We had lunch in Katoomba where I impressed everyone by managing to find a $3 baguette, and then trekked from Scenic World down into the valley through rainforest and right up to the Katoomba waterfalls. We returned to the top by the scenic railway which has a 52 degree incline and is the 'steepest passenger railway in the world'- fun fact. From there we returned to Sydney and the tour guide very kindly dropped me near to Kate's apartment at around 7pm. It was a very tiring but good day!
Mum and Dad (who were very excited/ nostalgic that I was in Sydney) planed an itinerary for me for Friday which started with catching a bus to circular quay and then a ferry across to Kurraba point where they used to live. It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies so the crossing was amazing and I had already decided that I loved Sydney! When I got to their apartment I asked a lady coming out of it whether that was number 153 (it wasn't clearly labelled and I didn't want to take hundred of photos of the wrong building) and told her why I was there. She kindly let me into the building to go up to the roof so I excitedly bounded up the stairs and took some photos. I was then so excited that I rang Mum and Dad to tell them where I was despite it being 2am in the morning their time. Dad answered and was very confused but managed to tell me that it was to hear from me but must be costing a lot so we ended our conversation. Both Mum and Dad, now more awake, rang me back 2 minutes later and asked me lots of questions about how big the trees were now etc and were just as excited as I was. I think the woman in the apartment opposite who watched me run around the rooftop jumping around and taking lot of pictures whilst on the phone, was probably more confused than Dad when I first woke him. The apartment had the most amazing view of the harbor and it looked spectacular with the clear blue sky- very envious!
I got the ferry back an hour later and met 3 more of the girls from my Borneo group, one of whom was Claire who I was with in my homestay, on the Opera House steps. We went for lunch at Pancakes on the Rocks- apparently an Australian right of passage! It was very good and I will definitely take Nat there when we return. The 3 of them only did the one month Borneo programme so I told them all about the month 2 gossip and we caught up on what we had been doing since. We then walked down past the Lord Nelson pub and on to the Maritime Building where Mum and Dad used to work (all part of their itinerary) and the town hall. I said goodbye to the girls and caught my bus back to Kate's from there.
Kate and I left for Bowral at 5pm that evening and got there at about 7ish because of traffic. The Allmans live in Bowral but Kate now lives in an apartment in Sydney for Uni. They have a lovely house and Sue cooked us a tasty prawn pasta before we settled down to watch a film that Sue had been waiting to watch with female company.
I slept very well that night with a double bed all to myself. Sue and Jim asked if they could take me on a tour of Bowral and it's surroundings on Saturday and I happily agreed. We started off at Illawarra Fly which had treetop walks overlooking the coast near Wollongong. I benefited from the clear weather again and we could see all the way to the Blue Mountains! We then drove to The Farm beach that they go to most weekends in the summer to surf. It is their local beach despite is being an hours drive away. The beach was very pretty so we sat there watching the waves for a while and they told me all about surfing and the sharks that sometimes come up.
We had lunch at Kiama overlooking the bay and then drove up to Fitzroy Falls and walked around the top for a different view and were lucky to find a Lyre bird. We stood listening to the bird for a good 10 minutes and it was astonishing how many different bird calls it imitated.
In the evening Steph, Kate's younger sister came home from uni and we had champagne with cheese early on followed by Lasagne. Sue apologised for not doing a roast but I assured her that a lasagne was better than a roast in my opinion and after making it regularly at uni, I had missed it in the last 4 months! After dinner I had a long Skype with Mum and Dad and then Jess because I wasn't sure how easy wifi would be once I started travelling again. It was nice for Kate and the Allmans to chat to them all too.
On Sunday morning I made use of having a computer and backed up all of my photos- the mundane traveller stuff that's its good to do every so often- and chatted to Sue while she finished off the ironing. We then both drove back to Sydney to watch Kate play hockey. She was very good and they thrashed the opposition. It was also great weather for watching, sunny but not too hot. Sue then left and Kate took us to Bondi beach at dusk.
Tomorrow I fly up to Cairns where I meet Natalie. I'm very excited to see her and although I have really enjoyed home comforts for the past week, I'm looking forward to travelling down the East Coast.
love to all xx