Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Where to Begin...My trip to Melbourne

So Wednesday afternoon my buddy Matt is deciding whether or not he wants to fly down to Melbourne to go visit his friend from home who is studying there for the weekend. He had asked me if I wanted to go a week or so before and last minute I had the money and said what the hell if you're going I'll tag along for the weekend. So around 11am we purchased our tickets for a 7 oclock flight. Pack our bags book the shuttle bus and get on our way. We get to the airport about an hour early and kill some time with a few rounds of golf (new card game we learned). We get on the plane for the hour plane ride and touch down in Melbourne, or at least what we thought was Melbourne. The airport may have been smaller than CBA's cafeteria and with Melbourne being the second largest city in Australia, behind Sydney, this seemed a bit odd. But we were rolling with the punches asked someone and found out there are two Melbourne Airports, the one we chose happened to be the one that is about an hour away by bus. So we buy our bus tickets and make our way into the city. From there we have to get on a train to Monash University where Colin goes to school. Of course our bus got us in about 5 minutes after the train leaves and we have to wait another half hour to catch the train out of town. No all this time keep in mind that Colin doesn't have a cell phone so we are completely winging it based on the directions he gave us and waiting for us to call. The school is another 15 minute bus ride from the train station and we think the busses will still be running at that time. So we grab some sodas and a bag of chips and get on the train. After being threatened with a $165 ticket for having my feet on the seat we made it in one piece to the train station. We didn't know which bus to catch and the girls we asked just happened to be going to Monash and offered to give us a lift to the campus. Making small talk in the car we realize that the girls actually know Colin and they take us right to his room, which of course he isn't in. It only took us about 15 minutes to find him and we decided to walk over to the bar to grab a few drinks after our adventure. The difference between University of Sydney and Monash University, is that in Sydney when you go out to the bar there are millions to choose from. At Monash when you go out to the bar you go out to THE bar. We get to the bar and Colin is introducing us to some of his friends and the first thing I notice is that one of the girls from the US goes to Northeastern and was my orientee my first summer. It's crazy how small the world really is. But it actually gets better. Another kid I got talking goes to Loyola. I was like that's funny my brother goes to Loyola where did you grow up? He says a small town outside Albany, NY. He goes you probably have never heard of it. He then tells me that he lives in Greenwich. I say I know Greenwich and oddly enough I've been there before. See I know the Talen's who used to live above me when I was growing up. Then the world shrank two sizes and he said his younger brother was dating Claire's sister Mary. Probably one of the weirdest bar experiences I've had on the other side of the world.

That was just night one. The next morning we got up and went to pick up the rental cars. The plan was to drive a few hours south to Phillip Island which has penguins and some really cool beaches adn camp out and then the next day drive a few more hours to Wilson's Promenitory and see some more beaches and do some hiking. Wilson's Prom as they call it is actually the Southernmost tip of the Australian Mainland. So we get in the car and drive Colin, Matt, and I in one car and two other cars full of people. We take our time on the drive down and take some awesome pictures of the scenery and landscapes. I drove the car for a while. It only took about a half hour to get my bearings on the road. Once you get used to driving on the other side of the road it really isn't as odd as you might expect. On several occasions though I turned the windshield wipers on instead of blinkers and we all got a good laugh out of it. We split from the group for a while and drove around to a couple beaches. We went to one called Red Rocks where we tried to catch a sundown, but it was too cloudy, so we met up with the group to set up camp. Now it wasn't very warm, but we had lots of blankets, but the clouds at sunset immediately turned into torrential downpours. Colin and I ended up sleeping in the car and the rest of the group in the 8 man tent. Luckily everyone was dry in the morning when we woke up. From Phillips Island we got up and drove to Wilson's Prom another two hours. The weather was overcast, but bearable. We drove into the prom and it was like nothing I've ever seen before. The mountains looked like something out of Lord of the Rings and the way the mist was on them was breathtaking. We saw some wild Kangaroos and some Wombats as well as some crazy birds. We stopped at the visitors center in the park before hiking the mountain and grabbed something to eat. While I was enjoying my PB and Banana sandwich, the birds kept getting closer. Then this little red parrot flew right up and sat on my shoulder and tried to eat my sandwich with me. We then moved into the car to finish our meal. Colin threw his apple core out of the car when he was done thinking the birds would just peck out it. Nope a seagull came over and attacked the other birds before swallowing it completely whole. We aren't sure but we think we may have actually killed it. It's squawk got noticeably higher and you could clearly see the core logged in its throat. It was still flying around when we left though so we didn't feel too bad. Next stop was the mountain.

The mountain we climbed was about a 3.5km hike. It was kind of rainy and the clouds were covering most of the peak, but we decided to do it anyways. We took about a half hour or more getting up the moutain and had a pretty cool view from the top we could make out a few other mountains inland and a beach below us. We decided to hang out up there for a while and take it all in. About 15 minutes or so later and the wind picked up. Within seconds the cloud had moved past the mountain and we could see 3 or 4 beaches up the coast and a half of dozen islands that were out in the water that we didn't even know were out there. The clouds came and went for a little while longer and we walked around the mountain a few times before heading out. The group wanted to head to the largest waterfall in Victoria, but our car decided to try and catch another sunset at a place called Whiskey Beach. After turning around a few times, we made it just in time. Just when I thought I had seen some awesome things in my life, I was literally breathtaking. The pictures look fake. There were enough clouds to make the colors pop out of the sky but not too many to block the view. I was done, I didn't need to see anything else on this trip and I would have been happy. Now I forgot to mention that two of our friends from Sydney decided right after we left Thursday to buy tickets and come to Melbourne friday morning. They called us and asked where we were we told them we were driving down and camping etc. They siad they'd think about it. Well long story short Matt's phone and mine died so we had no way of getting a hold of them and when we tried to call them from a payphone they didn't have service either. They spend the night in their car driving from campsite to campsite trying to find us. We headed back to Monash because they weather still wasn't great and we decided to crash at Colin's instead of in a campground again.

The third day Colin had work to do so Matt and I decided to head into the city and explore Melbourne. We finally got a hold of the girls and got a stern talking to about how we abandoned them and they weren't ready to meet us quite yet. We told them we try them again later because our phones were still dead. The city of Melbourne is very cool. The day was overcast, but we got to explore the downtown area and the river shores. We ate some decent Thai food and found a place to sleep for the night. The hostel we stayed at was pretty nice. The selling point was that there was free internet and breakfast so we spent the $30 for the night. Immediately after paying they said "Oh by the way, the internet isn't working right now". Figures right. We called the girls and they were still kind of mad. We told them that we were going to take a nap and shower up to go out to a couple bars that we heard were good. This was there second time in Melbourne and they said they might end up meeting some kids they met last time. We told them where we were staying and left it at that. Matt fell asleep and started snoring immediately. About ten minutes later when I finally closed my eyes there was a knock on our door. We were reunited with the girls finally. Bars are pretty expensive so we decided to buy a box of wine and drink a little before we went out. It didn't take us long to realize that we didn't want to go out and instead we made the fateful trek over to the casino. (Know that the girls have been 3 times since they had gotten to Melbourne two nights previous, and you thought I was bad). Well the night turned out pretty well, I lost about $100 playing blackjack for four hours which I didn't think was too bad. Especially since Matt walked away with $500 and treated to the worst pizza we have ever had. Day three complete, one to go.

So day four started out to a slow start. The 10am wake-up call to remind us that we were being kicked out came very early, but not early enough for us to have our free breakfast. We grabbed a bite to eat with the girls before they had to leave to catch there plane before going to grab a car to make our last journey of the weekend to the Great Ocean Road. The Great Ocean Road runs along the southern coast of Australia and is windy twisty turns along the waters edge and in and out of the mountains and a rain forest. long the way there are all kinds of beaches and cliffs to check out. Our goal was to make it to the 12 Apostle rock structures that have formed over time from the erosion of the water. We looked at the map and figured that we can make with plenty of time and we would go a little past and come back for sundown. Well we were told that it was about 3 hours to 12 Apostles. What they didn't tell us was that its 2 hours to the start of the Great Ocean Road and THEN 3 hours from there to 12 apostles. So we are meandering are way along the Great Ocean Road stopping at all these lookouts and beaches taking pictures. We stopped and grabbed some sodas and around 4 o'clock we hit Apollo's bay and decide to check the map to see where we are at. We were still only about half way. So we decided to stop chitchatting and taking our time and stepped it up to make it 12 Apostles. Now right before you get to 12 Apostles there is about 45 minutes of farm country with cows and sheep and ZERO ocean front. The sun was going down quick and we didn't think there was any way we were going to make it. We thought we were going to see the sun go down on a farm that may have been in Madison, WI. But we pulled up to the 12 Apostles as the sun was going down and sprinted down to the water to take some pictures and enjoy the view. Words cannot describe how awesome this place was. It was worth every penny and every Km of driving it took to get there. I love road trips and Matt and I definitely had a good time listening to horrible Australian radio and the same 7 songs over and over again. We played some movie game. Talked a little bit about life and the stuff going on with our group of friends and everything. It was just overall and awesome awesome trip.

We decided that since it was now dark out there wasn't probably much left to see on the Ocean Road so we turned back and headed towards Melbourne. We turned one corner while we were inland and the full moon just lit up a valley that was full of a rolling fog. It was incredibly creepy looking and looked again like something out of a movie. Matt got a few good pictures and if I can get a hold of it I will post it here soon. We made it back to the airport around 10:45pm. We were planning on dropping our car off and sleeping in the airport, because our flight was at 6am. But, we had chosen the smallest airport in the world and they closed from Midnight to 4am. So what did we do you ask? We went back to the Casino in Melbourne. I didn't bring any money in with me at all and Matt only brought $50 which he lost relatively quickly. We wandered around for a while and got to watching some craps and learned how to play the game. We stayed there for a while talking to some Aussies about Australia and the states. Then somebody recognizes the guy playing next to me as Colin Miller. Don't worry Matt and I had no idea who he was, but turns out he was a champion cricket player that retired a few years ago. It was the equivalent of running into say Dennis Rodman in the states. He was known for his outlandish hair styles (which were pretty tame tonight). After that we walked around Melbourne for an hour or so and went back to our hostel to use the internet which they had finally got working. Then it was the drive to the airport and the flight back to Sydney.

If you can't already tell by my hour long post, this weekend has probably been the highlight of my trip so far. With no expectations going into it, everything worked out perfectly. It was some great times with some great people and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

This weekend most of the crew is heading up north for a couple days. I have some papers to work on that need to get done so I opted out of this trip. Things are good here and I hope things are even better back home. Less that 60 days still I'm stateside again.


I have to give a shout out to Linda who Matt and I met at the bar we went to on Phillips Island. Linda was a 47 year old woman who thought we were the greatest thing since sliced bread. It was quite the townie bar and we were probably the most excitement they had seen in decades. Here's to you Linda *Cheers*


albanymom said...

What a great trip. What a small world, Loyola, Greenwich, and the Tallons all in Australia! I am so happy that you were able to make the trip of a lifetime. I read your post and actually felt like I was traveling with you. The pictures are beautiful. The 60 days sounds good to me. Love you and miss you too.

Mary said...

I know another 47 year old woman who thinks you are the greatest thing since sliced bread....