Trip Start Aug 06, 2008
28Trip End Dec 04, 2008
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I arrived on Saturday evening after a beautiful 3 hour flight from Perth.
Anyway, I arrived in Melbourne and made my way to my hotel (Pensione Melbourne) in the heart of downtown Melbourne, opposite the beautiful Southern Cross Station with its amazing wave-like roof. I went for a walk around the Central Business District (CBD) and discovered that there wasn't a lot to do in the CBD on a Saturday night, except around the touristy areas along Swanston street and the strip clubs along Kings street. The CBD is jam-packed during the day but it's quiet during the evenings. I later discovered that most of the better restaurants and the cafe-scene are spread out around the inner suburbs like Carlton, South Yarra, Prahran and St. Kilda. Another thing that struck me: shopping here is fantastic! There are so many shopping areas, each with its own distinct character. The CBD itself is just bursting at the seams with shops. Then you have the various suburbs with more shopping streets, malls and markets.
My old friends from school (in KL, who now live here), Balan and Mae Yin, picked me up from my hotel on Sunday morning and took me on a beautiful drive to St. Kilda, a beachside community just a few kilometers from Melbourne, where we walked around the Sunday crafts market and the pier. The views from the pier of the Melbourne skyline were stunning.
I had the most amazing time on Monday. I'd booked myself on a daytour to the Great Ocean Road and it was spectacular. I was initially a bit concerned because when we left Melbourne in the early morning, it was cold, very windy and there were many dark clouds. It rained a bit but soon cleared up for a bit. The sun shone at the right times, I must say. Like when we arrived in Torquay, a quaint seaside village (which is where the famous Aussie surfwear like Billabong come from) with a beautiful beach or when we stopped at Bells Beach, a surfer's haven.
The rain started getting heavier and when we finally arrived at the Twelve Apostles (a series of limestone outcrops that had separated from the mainland due to erosion), it was storming. The sky was black, the ocean pounded the coast with huge thunderous waves (I've never seen waves this big before. I'm sure some of them were at least five meters high) and the wind howled fiercely like a hurricane. The wind tossed me around like I was made of paper (with my skinny frame, that's not too hard to imagine I guess!) and hail didn't drop from above; carried by the high winds, it flew straight at you, yes, horizontally! I braved it all (along with two others) and fought my way to the edge of the cliff while the busloads of tourists huddled together in the safety of the visitor centre. The hail hit so hard till my face felt bruised while the hood of my raincoat kept slapping my cheeks very hard. When we got to the edge of the cliffs, the wind was so strong and the hail was hitting so hard, we could only afford 2-3 second peeks of the Twelve Apostles before covering our faces again!! I figured, this is so much better than seeing this dramatic coastline on a clear blue day.
It's my birthday today (Tuesday) and I've decided to take a breather. Honestly, I'm exhausted. Excitement about what's ahead and the accompanying adrenaline have kept me going for the past month. I was wondering when exhaustion would catch up with me - I guess now. Thank you all for the phone calls and birthday messages. I just got back from a walkabout along the Yarra River.
My friends, Mae Yin and Balan are taking me out to dinner tonight. And surprise, surprise, Mae Yin and Balan have arranged to celebrate my birthday with Janice, who also lives here. We know Janice from our teens in KL and Janice and I share the exact same birthdate. Janice and I, Balan reminded me, actually threw a joint 16th birthday together in KL. So, twenty years later, we're having another joint party... this time in Melbourne. Isn't that just amazing?!
Anyway, I'll let you know how the dinner party went in my next blog. I've booked myself on a daytour of the Yarra Valley tomorrow. We'll be hopping on board one of Australia's oldest steam trains for a ride through the Dandenong mountains, visiting a nature reserve (Healesville Sanctuary), and dropping by a few wineries. The reds here are awesome: I had a Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Merlot blend (from a winery close to Melbourne) the other evening and its was just magnificent: a dark ruby colour, rich plum, blueberry and vanilla flavours, and oaky - just the way I like my reds! On Thursday morning, I leave Melbourne for Canberra where I'll be staying with my old friend Renate, for two nights.
Catch up with you later.