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Eastern Australia PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Smith   
Thursday, 23 April 2009 10:39
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Eastern Australia
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Melbourne to Jindabyne (Snowy Mountains)
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 Day 83: Thursday 13th December -  
Wannanba - Melbourne



Had a bit of a lay-in until 6.30am, took the tent down, had a bit of a breakfast and made a quick trip to see the sea which was not far. Left at 8.00am instead of 7.30am, because the reception was closed until eight.

We were setting off up the Gt Ocean Rd to Melbourne. The road very quickly changed into a kind of country lane with fields of harvested wheat. The landscape changed yesterday to a very continental looking environment with vineyards etc and it carried on today in a sim ilar vain.

Stopped for dinner at a famous pie shop and they were pretty good. I had a shepherd's and Anne had Chicken and Mushroom but there were beef in Guinness, Moroccan lamb, leak stilton and chicken.

The ocean road, did as it says, followed the coast and pretty spectacular it was in places but generally it was beautiful in a European way with green grass, trees and well kept bungalows neatly sitting on the hillside looking out to sea. Yvonne told me that the very modern designer looking properties sell for $1000,000, that's £400,000 plus or the price of a terrace in London. She actually thought that a million is a lot of money and that I was exaggerating about the price of London properties.

After lunch we went for a walk through a rain forrest to a beautiful waterfall called Triple Spring. There were forest Ash rising to about a hundred and fifty feet and thirty feet in diameter.

Further down the road or, to be correct, up the coast we pulled into a café called aptly Kuala Cove Café and of course the trees were full of Kaulas. Well not exactly but the first tree we came to had five, two adults and three young and in all we did see nine all lazily sitting drugged out of their mind on Eucalyptus. As we got of the bus Noreen noticed a large striped snake slithering off up a water culvert. I managed to get a poor photo of it but there was little doubt what it was. Tiger snakes are one of the most dangerous and it seems will attack if provoked. This was my second deadly snake. Far more beautiful were the incredible King Parrots which are quite big and have very red heads and breasts and green wings and swoop just at head height and adopting an ideal position in a tree for photographing before flying off before you could take one.

Back on the road the highway carried on with beautiful views of the cliffs, the rocks and the pounding waves. What I found strange was the total lack of people and traffic which gave the whole route a feeling of a clean, empty space undiscovered by tourism. However, talking to Yvonne she assured me this coast will be like a mad house just after Christmas. It seems Australians wait until after Xmas before setting off for a months vacation and this area is very popular with those around the Melbourne area.

The first sight of Melbourne was of the familiar skyline and the traffic which seemed to cause Rick the driver some problems mainly because of low bridges which the coach was unable to get under. Eventually he managed to get a taxis driver to show him a safe way to our hostel Urban Central which was very modern, spacious, in short enormous. After booking in I was once again in a room with John and just for a change Kwok who had rejoined the bus after leaving in Darwin with a badly infected foot he damaged in Bali.

After a few beers and a couple of games of pool, with John, in the very large bar we all set off to find somewhere to eat. We finished up eating in a restaurant along the road from the hostel and although it was reasonable it was quite expensive. Finished off the evening drinking and playing pool in the hostel bar again and later being entertained by the lads in the presence of Lucinda’s sister who drew them like flies round the proverbial but then drove them mad with her obsession with money and costs. Costs were not something the lads understood or wished to discuss.
 

 

 Day 84: Friday 14th December -  Melbourne


We had a lay-in untill about 9.00am and then set off into the city to do some shopping. We didn't get very far because the shop a few doors away from the hostel was an AppleMac dealer and I wanted to check the price of a laptop. I'm so pissed off with the level of internet access that I'm seriously thinking about buying one to compress my photos etc. Of course the problem is buying the software, although, I could download some thirty day trials of Office and Fireworks. Anyway the lads in the shop were very helpful and suggested I wait and buy within thirty days of leaving Oz to get 10% tax back. The prices looked good: a basic laptop with 2ghz intel, 1mb ram, 80gb hard drive costs $1580 or £660 which I think is cheaper than the UK. A 2.2ghz, 1mb ram, 120gb hard drive, black with internal camcorder was £1700.

As we reached the Yarra River the modern skyline soared above in a very friendly kind of way and not imposing and threatening like I always think NY looks. But of course Melbourne is a minnow compared to the Big Apple. The south bank consists of a large casino complex and many fine restaurants and bars. The north is the main shopping area and we headed for Elizabeth St to buy yet another SD Mini Card for the camera/ PDA. This time it was cheaper than in Alice but at £15 for a 2gb still extortion compared to the UK

I quite enjoyed the shopping spree. We went into the outdoor shop Kathmandu which had 50% sale and bought Anne some new Solomon walking boots, socks, pillow to replace the one lost and a foldable shoulder bag. The boots were to replace her trainers which have not recovered from the jungle trek to see the largest flower. We also went into a chocolate shop to satisfy John's passion for chocolate mochas and I have to say it was delicious. I also bought myself another silk shirt which is much better than the one I purchased in Varanasi. The shirt I also had made whilst there as long since been binned. It was not finished off and started to fall apart. Anne was right when she tried to dissuade me from buying. Another £4 wasted.

After the mini shopping spree we headed back to the south side of the river for a more grown up drink. The bars and restaurants were very busy with Christmas office party's etc. It's strange that all the shops have special deals and sales on for Xmas and plenty of party's but it doesn't feel like Christmas at all. It may be that it only works in the winter. I've believed for a long time that it has very little to do with religion and all to do with cheering the people up in the midst of winter when there's nothing to do on the land. It certainly doesn't work here in Oz.

Once back at the hostel I attempted again to upload more of my blog. I paid my $5 and tried to log on to four or five machines to no avail. Eventually got on after fifteen minutes of wasting my money and time. Managed to check my email but when I tried to locate my USB nothing happened. I was informed by the receptionist that they have been blocked because of hackers. Her answer made no sense to me and she wouldn't reimburse me either.

After an hour John and I made our way downstairs to the large, noisy, hostel bar. Anne came down just in time to make happy hour which lasts two hours in Melbourne. Set off once again into the centre but this time to eat by the Yarra. It was only 8.00pm when we arrived at the first restaurant but it was obvious we were going to have difficulties getting a table. The place was buzzing with people seeking tables and each establishment had a queue of people waiting. I managed to get a table at Greccos which was packed and presumably a good sign. I ordered barbecued Octopus on a bed of chick peas to start and Mussels in a tomato source to follow. I had finished my first course before the wine arrived and when it did, after complaining, it came Luke warm and served in wine glasses straight out of the dishwasher and hot. Second complaint didn't go down to well, for a moment I thought he might call us winging pommes but he did change it for an ice-cold bottle and cold glasses. I had been told the eating establishments in this city are excellent and indeed the food was good but the service suffered from the number of customers passing through. The waiter smiled when I gave him a $20 tip and he apologised for the wine. He'd been rushed off his feet poor lad.

When we came out we entered the fairytale environment of the casino world of the stupid and rich. A large ornate clock hanging from the roof marked the central area with bars, restaurants and gambling halls running off at tangents. One hall had poky machines stretching for as far as the eye could see. I have to say I was glad to find the front carport area showing off Audi's, Mercs etc because it meant we were out of the maze. Outside, the fairytale continued with the lights and reflections from the buildings on the Yarra. Melbourne is more beautiful at night than in the daylight and although we saw lots of drinking and merriment there was no sign of bad behaviour or violence. This is a great city we'll be returning soon. I can't wait for Sydney bring it on.


 

Day 85: Saturday 15th December - 
Melbourne to  Jindabyne (Snowy Mountains)


Awoke in the dark at 7.10am and managed to make out the time without lights or glasses. I had been disturbed by our other bedmate Kwok who arrived at 4.00am and settled down to a quick snoring burst which died almost instantly. His snoring did not last long enough to wake John who was sleeping soundly as a result of all the booze he’d consumed last night. Once downstairs I became aware of the pouring rain well before I took our bags to the bus. Anne nagged me into running a few hundred yards to post some more Xmas cards and the street was difficult to maneuvre with the puddles and spray from the traffic.

The journey out of the city was easier than the one in and I must have fallen asleep because when I awoke it was to a wet but beautiful landscape of hills, trees and lakes. Anne said I'd missed the best views. We were now in the Snowy Mountains at an altitude of 1500 metres heading for our next and last stop in Jindabyne.

We were directed to a very nice chalet type hut with a double bed, lounge area and full cooking facilities. Before we had time to settle in we were wisked back off to the bar down the road for Leighton’s last sourced meal of cook your own stakes and salad. Once again the pieces of meat were a good inch thick and 10 x 6 and succulent. After the meal and a few beers we headed back to the campsite and our final drinking session together. The communal area was closed but this didn’t stop the lads from opening it up and settling down with boxes of beer and wine.

Gordan had instigated an Oscars award evening and he and Andrew compared it. For a week or so before everyone had been encouraged to write down any awards they thought was appropriate. I nominated Ben for the Best Bus Carpet for all the hours he’d slept in the buse’s isle etc. Although it was well thought out and presented, by Gordan and Andrew, it somehow drifted into a rather raucous event and eventually came to an abrupt end as a result of the complaints about the noise from elderly campers in the immediate vicinity. Anne was nominated for being the only person on the bus to have a song composed about her and I for promoting Sheffield.


 

Day 86: Sunday 16th December - 
Jindabyne to Sydney via Canberra


It should have been an 8.00am start but after last nights shindig there was no chance. We took our bags down to the bus and it was raining yet again. The weather's been pretty poor since leaving the Northern Territory. It started raining in Melbourne and has continued since and colder as we've moved north.

Arrived at the Parliament buildings in Canberra at 11.15am and spent an hour looking round, which was about the length of time needed. Although it consists of lots of marble and large open spaces it is still quite plain. I related a story to Andy about one of my early visits to the Houses of Parliament and a tour with Brightside MP Joan Maynard. She told the students that everything in the palace is the real McCoy: paintings, statures, furnishings, marble, onyx etc and all of it designed to corrupt any MP from a working class background. She suggested it should be burnt down and a purpose designed functional building built. She would like the one here in Canberra. Went on the roof to get a good view of the city, the old parliament building, the Telstra Tower and the lakes but unfortunately it was raining heavily.

Set off for Sydney and sadly the final leg at 12.30pm. As we got nearer to our final destination the rain got heavier and the visibility poorer. With just 50 kilometres left we hit a traffic jam and the last few miles were slow and an inauspicious way to finish a journey of a lifetime.

We arrived in the pouring rain at Mrs Macquarie's Point across from the harbour bridge and the Opera House. It somehow didn't look the way I expected it to. It just looked and felt like an ordinary town with a big bridge and harbour. My first comment was it could be Newcastle. Ah, such is the power of the sun!

As normal when the bus pulled in everyone ran for a toilet which was about 150 yards away in a park. My first observation was no taxis so how do we get to our new home for the next week, the Maze Backpackers Hostel, 417 Pitt St, China town? We were told by Andrew that this was just a photo shoot opportunity. I then mistakenly thought he meant with the press but it turned out it was for us. The only person to approach Andrew and question some of the changes was Sue and he told her this was not the place or time. 'Send me an email'. Fat chance of a reply.


So it passed on the 16th Dec 2007, at approximately 6.00pm, standing at the front and hanging by his fingers tips from the overhead parcel shelves of the Oz Adventure bus that had carried the remaining 29 survivors the final 3000 of their epic 12,500 mile journey from the warm and sunny Embankment in London to the wet, windy and cold Mrs Macquarie's Point in Sydney and looked upon by stalwart Oz driver and guide Rick, Group Leader Leighton James, deliberately and nonchalantly and definitely not in the tradition of earlier great leaders dismissed the family for the very last time, therefore, dispersing them for ever to sail the trade winds of the great oceans, fly the Boeing packed air corridors of the world and rattle down the ancient Old Spice routes of long dead ancestors and in doing so ended the Saga of Ozbus 2 with the immortal words:

'Tomorrows itinerary is as follows, do whatever you fucking want'.

The bus then dropped us at Circular Quay and after a few tearful goodbyes we made our way to the next stage of our journey and our home for the next week. The Maze Hostel is as central as it could be but nothing can change it from being a dump in the middle of Sydney. Our room for $70 a night was a cell that would be condemned by The Prison' Ombudsman. It consisted of a bare 8 x 6ft room, a window opening out onto the noise of Pitt St and the hostel across the road, two tone painted walls of dirty cream and manky mustard and iron bunk beds. No shelves, cupboards, chairs or plugs to recharge batteries etc. The gent's toilet was eau de urine even though they were cleaned on a regular basis; unfortunately the main male clientele could not work out the complicated procedure ofr lifting the toilet seat.

When we climbed into bed we noticed that the room's fan was dead and we both breathed a sigh of relief that it was raining outside and cool. As I lay on the top bunk and rejected the Australian flag coloured duvet by pushing it down the bed towards the window, the noise began to roll out from the hostel across the busy road as the smokers, drinkers and singers filled the pavement. I eventually fell asleep sometime in the early hours in the knowledge that I didn't have to rise to anyone's trumpet. As it happened I was semi conscious just a couple of hours later but not because of the noise from individuals but from the sound of the city.

As I lay there the city began to play an urban symphony. Street repairs began as generators and pneumatic drills percussion in unison, low voices repeating late night gossip hummed in the background, car engines ticked over at the traffic lights and police cars and ambulances, life saving, dashing about in the shadowy distance with sirens at half volume. In the squeaking-bunk-bed, half slumber of my head the din moves down an octave and starts thrumming like a giant didgeridoo and lulls me back to sleep. After three months, 12 weeks, 84 days of being moved on like Romany's (albeit by Leighton not the law) I always knew that being put in one place for a whole two weeks was going to be hard to cope with but what I have seen of this lovely city I can't think of a better place to be stationed.

The End

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2009 14:20