Tourists don't know where they've been, travellers don't know where they're going.

Paul Theroux

The Aussie Road Trip pt. I 🇦🇺

Sydney

Jon:

So. Australia…

We all know it’s a big, country, almost 4,000 kilometers from East to West, one state is as big as the whole of Western Europe, millions of hectares of arid red desert. The vast majority of Australians live on the green (all things are relative) fringe between the desert and the ocean.

Our road trip around Australia was concentrated on the South East Corner and the southern coastline of Queensland in the North East. I had wanted to visit the interior, specifically Uluru (formally known as Ayers Rock) but all the books, and everyone you speak to say that going in the summer is just plain daft. Temperatures can, and do, reach 50 degrees Celsius, and even cars expire and give up when driven in such extreme temperatures. So the interior was out and our itinerary kept us close to the coast.

Helen has family in several areas, Adelaide, Sydney, Mount Gambier and Brisbane so they were all on our route and in addition Paul and Alison (H’s mum and dad) were in Adelaide for Christmas.

This became our first destination, flying in from Singapore (via Melbourne) a week or so before Christmas where a room in an apartment overlooking a beach some 50km long awaited us.

Helen:

So how best to write up seven and a half weeks and 5,500 km of travelling we pondered?

If we write up each trip separately we won’t have finished by the time we get home in June!

We arrived in Adelaide after a 10 hour flight from Singapore to Melbourne, a plus 2 hour time difference, and a 2.5 hour layover. As we walked up from our gate Dad and uncle John, faces beaming, we’re there to meet us.

We weren’t expecting that! Of course, domestic flights means no security or passport control!

It was great to see my Dad after 6 months away from home and despite living half way around the world, I’d actually seen my aunt and uncle back in June as they had travelled to Wales for my uncle Leighton’s 80th birthday.

My parents had rented an Airbnb for two months in sunny Semaphore, a seaside district to the west of Adelaide. We stayed with them for the next 12 nights in their two bedroomed apartment with a lovely balcony overlooking the beach… literally 50m from the sea!

When reunited with my Mum and aunty Yvonne who were waiting at the flat, there were a few happy tears soon followed by a couple of glasses of aussie fizz and, fair dinkum, a lamb dinner!

Christmas in 35 degree heat is strange: shorts and thongs (aussie lingo for flip flops,) cold beers, barbies and lazing by the beach and pool. Not what we’re used to! Despite the heat the stores in the shopping malls were trumpeting “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bells”! Strange but good.

In commercial terms Christmas is SO low key when compared to the UK. No hype, no endless strings of adverts on the t.v. and music other than Christmas songs had airtime on aussie radio. Even a large department store on Christmas Eve was quiet in comparison to how it would have been with last minute shoppers at home!

I may sound a little bah humbug but I actually love Christmas. However for me it’s about being with family and spending time together. I’ve only ever spent one Christmas with my aussie family and that was back in 1976 in Hong Kong when we were mere youngsters! I so appreciated my three cousins and their lovely families making the effort to come over to Adelaide to see us.

With every pro there’s always a con and that was not being able to see Jon’s gorgeous girls, Georgia and Ella, and their partners over Christmas. It was particularly difficult for Jon and seeing me with my family must have accentuated the separation. We have said that we’ll make up for that next year.

We celebrated Jon’s birthday with a lunchtime picnic and a stroll through the beautiful Botanical Gardens under clear brilliant blue skies followed by a quick look around Adelaide. I wish I had thought ahead and bought a bottle of fizz! We enjoyed a delicious Greek meal in Henley, a 15 minute trip just down the coast to further celebrate along with my Mum and Dad in the evening. Henley has a glorious, vast beach and pier so Jon and I walked out before dinner and while the wind certainly blew away the cobwebs I must have looked like some kind of wild woman going into the restaurant!

A few days before Christmas my cousin, Andy and his wife Shelley had flown in from Brisbane, Queensland. My cousin Siân, her husband Richard, and their “kids” Zak and Ella drove up from Mount Gambier in their converted bus, roughly a 4.5 hour drive from Adelaide. They had booked into a campsite right by the beach, conveniently only a few minutes walk from my Mum and Dad’s place. So we went to meet them all prior to having a family dinner at the Surf Life Saving Club.

Jon must have felt as though he’d stepped into the set of ” Meet the Fockers”!

Clear, blue skies and searingly hot sunshine could only mean one thing: a few days of lazing by the pool at my Uncle and aunt’s! Ice cold beers, ciders and sauvignon blanc were flowing freely with tasty Aussie tucker sizzling on the barbie!

It was wonderful spending time with my Mum & Dad and my aunt and uncle. After 6 months of travelling we both appreciated not having to move on and we both found it novel to actually unpack our rucksacks and stay in one place for more than just two or three days! It was great relaxing in their homes – not to mention getting some much needed washing done!

My cousin Allison, and her husband, Andrew, drove from their home in Sydney across to Adelaide, a 15 hour trip (yes, I did say 15!) that we were later to experience! Their girls, Sarah and Laura, flew in from Sydney after finishing work late on the 23rd December.

A real family Christmas!

Christmas Day was spent at my aunt and uncle’s and Andrew missed out on an early glass of fizz to pick us up from Semaphore! A delicious brunch of yummy, home-made pancakes, juice, delicious fresh fruits, and a variety of breads and croissants awaited us! We all sat out on the patio under the shade of the vine. Back last June when we were packing for our world-wide trip I’d suggested to Jon that he would need a short sleeved shirt. He didn’t think so and he wasn’t keen to pack one. I hate to admit it, but he was right, on Christmas Day he got to wear his shirt for the second time in 6 months!

 We all swam and messed around in the pool enjoying the fantastic weather. It was really hot, in the high 30s celsius so we had to take care to sit in the shade or inside in the air conditioning. Drinking cold beer or chilled vino certainly helped!

In the evening when it was cooler we enjoyed a delicious traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings accompanied by some of Australia’s best wines.  Needless to say the video calls made to family at home in the UK were raucous… and they were only just eating their breakfast!

Boxing Day afternoon was spent at Mum and Dad’s apartment at Semaphore. A swim at the beach with sand so hot you couldn’t stand still for more than 15 seconds was followed by a traditional Boxing Day leftovers lunch. The crayfish certainly provided an Aussie twist to bubble and squeak though!

I know you’ll find this difficult to imagine but a trip to the vineyards of the Barossa Valley to sample the many fabulous South Australian wines was on our itinerary. The Barossa valley is known for its reds, particularly its Shiraz. The valley lies about 45 minutes north of Adelaide and Andrew kindly offered to drive us out there and Laura and Sarah decided to join us too.

We visited three vineyards: two were relatively small family businesses and the other a large, corporate outfit. Andrew wanted us to experience the contrast between the two types. We both much preferred the small, intimate wineries; one of which was Rockfords where Andrew & Allison are long-term members. In fact they were one of the first members way back in the late 1980s. The staff were friendly, informed us all about the wines we were tasting and were happy to answer our many questions. We weren’t at all rushed and there was certainly no pressure on us to buy and I felt as though we could have lingered all day! In contrast the large corporate style vineyard (Seppeltsfield) was busy, very impersonal and geared up for mass tourism. Although the wines were very drinkable we didn’t rate them as well as the others and consequently didn’t buy any.

Now Adelaide was hot and sunny when we had left in the morning but the temperature in the Barossa was something else! We stepped out of the cool, air-conditioned car into 44 degree heat! Believe me when I say it was just like opening an oven door! I could have fried an egg on the car roof! At least it wasn’t humid as that would have just killed us off!

The wines were delicious and we bought a bottle at each of the smaller wineries (and we were tempted to buy more!) Andrew stocked up on several at Rockfords winery including some limited edition wines which are only available to members. Fortunately for us non-members, we were able to taste these courtesy of Andrew! Cheers! 

Allison and Andrew were driving back home to Sydney on the 29th so we hitched a ride with them. Everyone knows how huge the journeys are between cities in Australia. To cover just a small portion in the south eastern section took us 15 hours! Before you think that we stopped for an hour lunch break plus an evening meal, think again. We had three brief stops for essentials only: loo, fuel and to pick up food (and that was eaten en route.) Surely we would see plenty of koalas and kangaroos during our 15 hour inland trip? Nope not so! Not one koala and I was on wildlife alert for the whole of the 15 hour journey! Apart from a group of ‘roos some distance from the road at dusk, the only furry creatures we saw was roadkill… most probably possums and koalas.

When out for a walk with Andrew in Linea Park near John and Yvonne’s home in Adelaide we had been fortunate to see a koala resting in a eucalyptus. I don’t think we appreciated how rare a sight this. They’re certainly elusive creatures and when speaking to some Aussies later on in our travels they told us that they had never seen one out in the wild!

During the day on New Years Eve in Sydney Allison and Andrew took us on a 10k walk from Spit Bridge to Manly. The walk took us past a few, small Aboriginal rock sites, some lovely coves and as the path hugged the coastline it provided us with some fabulous views across the bay. Oh and then there were encounters with some of the local wildlife!

The hot and and humid weather meant we were rather warm and sweaty when we arrived in Manly. We sat on the promenade steps of Manly beach drinking some well deserved, delicious fruit smoothies. Jon and I immersed ourselves in the rough surf to cool off despite the crowds at the designated swimming area. (The surf and rips are pretty strong at Manly.) Andrew was going to join us but decided against it as he wasn’t overly keen on competing for elbow room!

So, New Years Eve in Sydney! After many years of watching the celebrations on the tv news programmes at home, I had always wanted to see the “live” firework spectacular for myself.

We were so lucky to be invited to Alli and Andrew’s friends’ party. Even more fortunate for us was where Steph and Colin lived; a beautiful apartment in Milson Point. Smack, bang, right in front of the iconic harbour bridge with the added bonus of a roof terrace! We couldn’t believe it!

The fireworks were amazing.

At around 9:30 pm there was an early show for the kids plus those adults not able to stay awake until midnight! A scintilating display in it’s own right and certainly a tasty appetiser for the main course.  

What we hadn’t realised from seeing previous years’ T.V. footage was the fact that fireworks are actually jettisoned from barges at various points along the harbour as well as from the famous harbour bridge.

What an amazing sight! The dark night sky was illuminated with fireworks producing a plethora of vibrant colours and designs. The sound was quite deafening but punctuated in between the fireworks were gasps of “oohs” and “aahs”! I dread to think how much the Sydney council had to cough up for that mesmerising show!

The rather generous fishbowl G&T and free flowing champagne throughout the evening meant that we spent a quiet New Year’s day at Allison and Andrew’s home. The only movement seen was us jumping into their pool to cool off!

During our week in Sydney we took a walking tour of ‘historic’ Sydney around “The Rocks”, including the small but very informative museum which told of early settlement in the city. The arrival of the then Lieutenant (later to be Captain,) James Cook in Botany Bay in 1770 was unsurprisingly met with alarm by the indigenous people. The later, and permanent arrival of the British “first fleet” in 1788 under the stewardship of Captain Arthur Phillip, brought convicts, marines and livestock to Australia. The lack of fresh water prompted Phillip to take the ships north to Sydney cove where he found “the finest harbour in the world”.

The day of landing, 26th January, is a public holiday in Australia and is “celebrated” by many, but not all Aussies. Many Indigenous people within the community call this day “Invasion Day” and protests are often held throughout the country on the 26th.

The Greater Sydney area is the ancestral home of at least three distinct Aboriginal peoples. The Eora people (literally meaning ” from this place”) were divided into clans such as the Wangal and Gadigal and inhabited the coastal areas of Sydney. As you can imagine there was fierce and armed opposition to the British by the Indigenous people but they were eventually defeated and the British colony took control. The Aboriginal people not only had to contend with fierce battles but also European diseases such as smallpox which decimated the Eora people.

Allegedly just three of the Gadigal clan survived! Difficulties arose in the early days of British settlement especially due to the threat of famine. However with time a bustling port was established complete with stone houses, warehouses and streets. Today this area is known as The Rocks and we enjoyed a two hour, self guided tour (courtesy of Lonely Planet,) which covered all the “historic” sites. The oldest cottage was built in 1816 so in comparison to British history it didn’t seem at all old to us Brits!

If asked to name three of Australia’s  iconic images I bet you would say Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, and possibly Bondi Beach or Uluru. As part of our city tour we walked across the harbour bridge (built in 1932,) which gave much better views than when you drive across. The harbour was bathed in sunshine with a light breeze and it took us twice as long to walk across as we kept stopping to take photos of the stunning views! The glistening harbour was full of life: ferries, pleasure boats, yachts and small dinghies giving us plenty to watch. The Opera House was shining like a prize pearl in a giant oyster.

It’s a world heritage listed building and Australia’s most recognisable landmark. It has a strange beauty with its peaked structures resembling billowing white sails and it dominates the harbour.

We walked through the museum of Contemporary Art, past the busy ferry terminals in Circular Quay and on to Opera and House for a closer look.

Just east of the Opera House are the Botanic Gardens which you get to by following the water side path. Established in 1816 it houses Australian plants as well as those from around the world. We strolled through enjoying the variety of plants, trees, ponds and wildlife. Sydney has a tradition of open air swimming pools throughout the city and we walked past Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool apparently particularly popular with gay, straight and fashion conscious types.

One Sunday we took advantage of the flat fee of $4:80 for any public transport throughout all of Sydney and caught the ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay. The lure of a flat fare for all day travelling on a sunny Sunday during the school holidays meant that we had to stand in the queue with the hordes and we couldn’t get on the first ferry. Our patience was rewarded as we caught the next ferry and sat out on the back deck bathed in hot sunshine. Luckily a gorgeous breeze helped to cool us while drinking in the sites of Sydney’s harbour.

A lady picked up on my British accent and told me that she used to spend time in Mumbles with some friends that lived there!! Such a small world!

The ferry called in at picturesque Rose Bay before our destination of Watson Bay, which was busy on a sunny, summer Sunday. We walked past the popular pub garden with delicious barbie smells and saw some of the glamorous, wealthy “ladies who lunch” at the waterside restaurant. Deciding to escape the crowds, we walked around the headland to the lighthouse passing a nudist beach on the way! We didn’t stop for long… honestly the hour went by so quickly! We had wonderful views of Sydney’s CBD and some of the myriad bays and inlets which makes up its beautiful coastline.

One evening Allison prepared a delicious evening picnic and we drove out to Middle Head and sat on the cliff top, a great vantage point for watching the sunset over north east Sydney and the bay. Whilst a little cloudy and humid it gave rise to some spectacular lightening bolts but fortunately for us, no rain!

On our last Sunday in Sydney following a walk around the headland at Clovelly (not far from Bondi) we all met up with Sarah, Laura and her boyfriend, Henry for dinner at an Australian hotel (read pub.)

 Jon and I thought we ought to try the “chicken parmi”. A parmagiano is essentially a schnitzel with a choice of several toppings and served with fries, a hugely popular pub dish throughout Australia. It’s usually huge and today was no exception!

 Afterwards we drove around to the world famous Bondi beach and walked along the promenade. Cool weather and early evening meant that that the throngs of surfers and sun worshippers had long departed. We drove home through some of the expensive and exclusive residential areas, not sure there were many nurses living there!

We decided to head out out of Sydney for a couple of nights to see some of the surrounding countryside in the Blue Mountains. So called due to the oil of the eucalyptus trees giving the air a blue tinge.

An hour and a half’s drive and we were in Wentworth Falls. We thought that we’d just do a short walk maybe 20-30 minutes, somewhere we could see the waterfalls before heading off to our guesthouse in Blackheath. We ended up walking for an hour and a half to the bottom of Wentworth Falls! The walk took us along some narrow cliff edge paths with stunning views across the valley. It was a steep descent down some 300 odd steps and I can remember thinking bloody hell we’re going to have to climb back up these in this heat!

As you can see the waterfall in mid summer although not a trickle, wasn’t massively full. When we got back to Sydney and showed my family our photos it turned out that Sarah had done the same walk on the same afternoon with some of her friends! I can’t quite believe that we didn’t bump into her!

The picturesque town of Leura provided a stop off before booking into The Glenella guesthouse in Blackheath, a lovely period house operating since 1912 with many original features.

The young south African owner helpfully gave us tips about local walks and the following day we walked the canyon route amongst enormous ferns. The cooler air of the steep, shady canyon providing some respite from the glaring sun.  We sat and ate our picnic lunch whilst cooling our feet in the crystal clear river.

Following our walk we headed for one of the local natural attractions, the Three Sisters, and had planned to have our picnic nearby.

Whilst at the massive viewing platform, mother nature had other plans: a spectacular storm blew up from nowhere! The wind was gusting and we could see dark storm clouds hurrying toward us. A couple of lightening bolts appeared over the valley before the rain finally descended. We drove trying to get ahead of the storm so that we could enjoy our picnic.  As soon as we found some dry ground the storm caught up with us and down it came! We ended up eating our picnic back at the dining room of our guesthouse, washed down with some red wine!

The next morning our final walk started on the western side of the Blue Mountains and was equally beautiful.

Before driving back to Sydney we took a detour to the Jenolan caves. A vast, complex network of limestone caves which formed some 400 million years ago and are still being explored today. The Gundungurra tribe named this place Binoomea (Dark Places) and it wasn’t until 1813 that the first white men discovered the caves. After an informative and humourous guided tour we headed back to Sydney for our final night with Allison and Andrew.

As cousins sadly we don’t see each other very often. It was wonderful to spend time with everyone in Adelaide over Christmas and to enjoy a fabulous week or so in Sydney at New Year with Allison, Andrew, Laura and Sarah. I know that Jon enjoyed meeting my family too and he got on with them famously. I only hope that it won’t be too long before we’re all reunited!

We dropped our hire car at Sydney airport before flying to Tullamarine airport in Melbourne. We picked up a hire car and drove inland to Mount Gambier to stay with my cousin Siân, Rick, Zak and Ella. “The Mount” as it’s fondly known is South Australia’s second city (after Adelaide,) although is really more of a country town. It’s situated on the limestone coastland beneath an extinct volcano. There’s much to explore underground such as the Umpherston Cave Gardens and the sinkhole right smack in the centre of Mount Gambier! Siân was a perfect tour guide and took us around the Mount Gambier sites and Ella joined us for most of them.

However the Blue Lake is the “big” attraction. As it’s name suggests the 75m deep lake is a brilliant blue particularly in summer. This is thought to be due to calcite crystals suspended in the water which form more quickly in the summer months. Whatever the reason it was a stunning colour when we visited.

The smaller, green Valley Lake is also an extinct volcano and hence we had to walk up a short but very steep hill to get to it. I was like a Puffing Billy by the time I got to the top! The views of the surrounding countryside were lovely from the Centenary Tower.

Siân and Ella took us to the nearby Valley Lake Wildlife Park, a free, open park area where the animals are able to roam around. We saw wallabies who were quite timid and hopped off if we ventured too close to them!

 

While walking along the open path we encountered a whole bunch…or rather a mob of kangaroos, who allowed us to come within 20 – 30m of them! They were fairly disinterested in us when we stopped to take photos as they were much more focussed on eating.

Although they look cute kangaroos can be vicious. Although rare, if thy feel threatened enough they attack a person by standing up on their back legs, putting their front paws around your neck and then jumping up and with their powerful back legs dis-embowel their victim! Nice!

Siân and Rick’s friend, Greg, very kindly offered to take us out on the houseboat which he co-shares with another of their friends. In fact they both built it together. It was a beautiful day and armed with an esky (coolbox) full of tinnies and wine we headed off. Oh and there was a picnic too! The boat was moored on the Glenelg river about a 25 minute drive south east of Mount Gambier. We met up with Kevin (Rick’s late Mum’s husband) and Greg was already on the boat with his two dogs. The beers and wine were out of the esky as soon as we set off!

It was so peaceful sat out on the deck enjoying the views with Siân, catching up on the lost years while topping up our tans. As with Allison, the missed years disappeared and it really made me wish that I lived much closer to my cousins.

We headed south down the river to the small town of Nelson passing some fisherman and small boats out enjoying the glorious sunshine. It was so relaxing. Just before the point where the mouth of the river joined the sea Greg headed back up river to the mooring. We had a fun afternoon with a few beers, laughs and good company.

The forestry and logging industry is one of the major sources of employment in the Mount and Siân’s husband Rick, worked for 20 odd years on all the various machines harvesting and processing the pines. He now works as a much respected manager and planner and when he invited us out to see how it all worked we jumped at the chance. Jon and I hauled ourselves up into the cab whilst Rick demonstrated the felling, stripping and cutting processes. Amazing! The machines are real beasts and can clear swathes of trees like matchsticks in minutes, stripping all the branches and cutting them to the desired lengths. The machinery is highly precise and computerised. I must add that there’s a sophisticated tree regeneration programme that runs in tandem with the logging programme.

I can’t possibly carry on to our next stage, the Great Ocean Road without mentioning Rufus!

Siân and family collected him after they left Adelaide on their way home at Christmas time. Such a loving, friendly puppy with real personality! I suggested to Jon that we should get a dog when we’re back home, but deep down I know that it would be too much of a tie right now.

I left Mount Gambier with a heavy heart wondering when I would next see my family. Siân’s last trip to Britain was back in 1988 so I’ve said a trip is long overdue and Richard has never been to Europe. Don’t think he’s too keen on the idea of warm, flat beer though!

From Mount Gambier we headed south east out of South Australia state and into Victoria. One of Australia’s most famous road touring routes is the Great Ocean Road (GOR) and we headed back toward Melbourne along this stunning stretch of coastline! And we had perfect weather too!

I had travelled most of the GOR on a previous holiday but Jon had never been. We didn’t have heaps of time as we had to return the hire car to the airport in Melbourne so we opted to spend two nights in Apollo Bay, situated about half way along the GOR. It’s one of the bigger towns probably due to a lovely, broad white sandy beach with a backdrop of (relatively) green rolling hills.

The summer school holidays plus the GOR being one of Australia’s premier destinations meant that finding cheap, or even reasonably priced accommodation, was more scarce than finding an Aussie who doesn’t like beer!

Perhaps we ought to buy a tent said Jon. Not a bad idea but we knew that when we travelled north to Queensland it would be hot and humid plus we’d get bitten to death by the mozzies!

We stayed in a lovely B&B about a 20 minute walk into the centre of Apollo Bay. The owner, an affable kiwi, asked us if we’d eaten when we pitched up at about half eight. No we replied so he helpfully suggested a couple of places and said that we might want to head into town straight away. Well, if that was Apollo Bay on a Friday night at the height of summer I wouldn’t want to stay there on a wet Wednesday in winter! We strolled along the main drag and many places were closing and there were a couple of restaurants but they were too pricey for the likes of we backpackers! We tried a busy pub which had live music…

Ah this’ll be fine I said as I spotted a couple of pizzas, but sadly for us they’d stopped taking orders and in fact that the barman told us he was about to call last orders too!

We scurried out of the pub, down the main drag and into a family run takeaway pizza place where we were the last customers to place an order! We sat outside at a picnic table enjoying some delicious pizza!

The most famous and most photographed section of the GOR are the Twelve Apostles in the Port Campbell National park. The soft limestone cliffs have been eroded and rocky stacks standing some 70 foot jutt out from the cliffs. The unceasing, relentless power of the waves led to a stack collapsing in 2005. Apparently there were never twelve Apostles and depending on where you stand and who you speak to, the number varies! Only seven can be seen from a series of well placed viewing platforms. We were there on a beautiful late afternoon and the apostles stood resplendent in the golden sunshine.

Despite us visiting in the late afternoon trying to capture photos without the plethora of selfie-taking tourists was hard going! I have to confess though that we took a couple too. Many tourists were arriving with tripods and long lenses for what was sure to be a spectacular sunset.

Other stops along the GOR included Port Fairy, a picturesque town with some lovely riverside homes leading to the sea. The town has a strong maritime tradition dating back to 1833. We sat next to a rose garden at the Cenotaph to eat our sandwich lunch.

We pulled over at Fairey’s Inlet and walked along the inlet and up to the lighthouse and nearby viewing platforms with views of Fairhaven beach.

Closer to Melbourne we stopped to see the famous Bells Beach where many surfing competitions are held. It’s also home to the two iconic surf brands, Rip Curl and and Quicksilver. I think there was a competition on as eager windsurfers and kite surfers were rigging up.  We didn’t stop long as we were keen to deliver the car back to the airport without incurring a time penalty!

Next stop: Melbourne, the cultural and sporting capital of Australia.

We stayed in an Airbnb in Southbank, a convenient suburb where many of the arts institutions are found, just south of the CBD. A 15 minute walk across the Yarra river and we were in the city centre. Charlie, the owner, also lives there as it’s a 2 bedroomed place but he wasn’t around much and neither were we as we wanted to make the most of our two night stay before flying to Brisbane.

We were blessed with beautifully warm weather (which isn’t always the case in Melbourne,) and the Yarra, the riverside bars, restaurants and parks looked inviting in the sunshine.

We stopped to admire the Flinders Street Station, Melbourne’s first railway station built in 1846, a large, handsome neoclassical building. Many of the street trams stop here too so it’s a busy area. 

We walked through Federation Square, a multipurpose, open space with 460,000 cobblestones from the Kimberley in the Northern Territories. It’s used for protests, to watch sporting events as well as free public events or you can just sit in the deck chairs and soak up the sun.

We popped into the Koorie Heritage Trust as there was an exhibition of indigenous art. We found it difficult in the cities we visited to find much information or exhibitions about the Aboriginal people. Perhaps we were looking in the wrong places. 

At tourist sites though there were always acknowledgements of the Aboriginal land and history although sometimes I couldn’t help but feel that this is in some way an after thought or even an apology for their stolen land.

The Australian Open was about to start on the day that we left Melbourne and we strolled through the park but couldn’t reach the Rod Laver stadium as preparations were well underway. The thought crossed our minds that we could delay our flight and try and get tickets for the Open but we had a non-refundable fare.

We’ve done a couple of the Lonely Planet’s city walks and decided to walk their suggested “Arcades and Laneways. ” The centre of Melbourne has a maze of 19th century Arcades with opulent plasterwork and beautiful mosaic floors. Cobbled bluestone Laneways feature a plethora of street art, boutiques and bars. Hosier Lane and Rutledge Lane are particularly famous for the eclectic mix of graffiti art.

We visited the impressive National Gallery Victoria not far from where we were staying and took advantage of the free 45 minute highlight tour which over ran as we had an enthusiastic guide and our group were inquisitive! We really enjoyed it as there was a good mix of ancient and modern. If I lived in Melbourne I’m sure it would be a regular haunt. Just outside the museum was one of the many popular pop up cafés where we sat munching on a sandwich and drinking coffee in the sun.

We walked along the Yarra river during the evening, an attractive and popular place for drinks and dinner. The bars were bulging and street artists ranging from artists, magicians and escape artists were all demonstrating their skills in the hope of a few tourist dollars.

We took the airport coach to start the second part of our Aussie road trip to Brisbane in tropical Queensland and to visit Andy and Shelley in their home in Redcliffe just north of Brisbane.


Footnote:

A few weeks later, after we’d visited New Zealand and Bali, we returned to Melbourne. Mainly to plan our trip through South America, but also to look around some more.

Our time was spent at the coast (St Kilda, where we visited the Little Penguin colony), staying around Albert Park and visiting the CBD. We also went to the famous MCG to watch some Aussie Rules Football (AFL). Cousin Andy was pleased as we saw his team, the Essendon Bombers thrash Brisbane.

Some more pictures from Melbourne, and the rest of our Aussie adventure can be found in our Australian Galleries.

I think we left Melbourne for Santiago having grown to like the laid back vibe, the street art, the bars and the incredible sporting heritage that the city has (it hosts a tennis major, Formula 1, Moto GP and has one of the largest stadiums in the world, the scene of some epic cricket and AFL).

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