Friday, May 29, 2009



Melbourne July 24, 2008

Up at 3:00 am…no one made telephone calls in the dorm last night; but the new people stayed out quite late even though it was raining off and on all evening.  About 2 am someone’s cell phone rang inside one of the lockers but I was the only one who woke up; it finally stopped ringing.  By the time

I woke Mary up at 3:15; I was dressed, packed and had stripped my bed (part of the hostel’s rules) in the dark.  Within fifteen minutes we were down stairs having our breakfast and waiting for the taxi which arrived right on the dot of 4 am as ordered. 

Off to the airport for our 6 am flight for Melbourne. 

Arrived and found that the computers were down and so we were all told to find a seat.  By 5 am they decided to handle the reservations and baggage the old fashion way; just as we arrived at the gate the computers came back and we actually had official boarding passes by the time we boarded the airplane.  A fast hour and half flight took us to the Avalon Airport just west of Melbourne; an added bonus that we hadn’t expected when we got our reservations. 

Our day was planned around the Great Ocean Road that travels along the southern tip of Australia; very like our Pacific Highway in California, and this would eliminate driving through Melbourne in morning traffic.  We picked up our rental car from Hertz and headed out to explore one of the must see areas of Australia. 

All along the coastal route we enjoyed vast expanses of beach and crashing waves.  Stopped to view a few roadside moments and finally reached Avalon just after 10 am.  There we found a café and enjoyed a delicious vegetarian breakfast/lunch of two eggs, tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, spinach and bread.  Our meal of the day we decided as we licked the plate clean!

After lunch we headed north again after visiting the Tourist Information Office in Avalon.  There we’d purchased our tickets for the Tree Walk and she also told us about a road that would lead us into an area that had wild Koala bears. 

Found the road and drove for miles with nary a sighting of even one bear; I said this was like a “snipe hunt”.  Mary was getting tired so she had me drive while she took a nap.  Remember:  this is left side of the road driving!  I’ve never done that before but picked up the skill in just a few minutes. Fortunately, the car is an automatic so that made the learning process much easier.  Back out to the main highway I turned north again for our road to the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk. 

It was a long walk down into the forest from the parking area but well worth the effort.  They have built metal bridges suspended far above a rain forest filled with huge trees and magnificent green ferns that had to be at least five feet in diameter.   We felt like monkeys scampering over the tops of the trees!  It took us an hour to finish the tour.

Back on the highway, Mary took over the driving and we headed back to the ocean and further north to view the Twelve Apostles.  There were originally thirteen sandstone pillars in the ocean, now there are only eight as the ocean continues to pound the soft stone, slowly grinding it until they topple into the sea.  The massive cliffs continue to be eroded and will slowly make new apostles.  We arrived just at sunset so it was difficult to take photos of the larger group but two that were south of the viewing area were very photogenic! 

We started our three – four hour drive back to Melbourne; a very long trip after a very long day and mostly on two lane country roads.  We arrived in the city about 8 pm and then got lost because the navigator was having difficultly reading the maps!  Finally stopped at a gas station and very nice people took our maps and got us headed back in the right direction.  We’re staying at The Nunnery tonight; a Hostel that was formerly a convent and only a block away from the Cathedral.  But the conditions are minimal and the only good thing is that we’re in a semi private room with one other girl.  For one night we can do it but that’s it.  Certainly would not recommend this place to anyone.  Of course, we were spoiled by the last one!  This one does have WI-FI but for $4.00 an hour.

It’s 10:30 pm and we’re tucked in for the night.  Need to get up by 6:30 am as the car is parked on the street and requires meter money by 7 am.  We’re off to Philips’s Island tomorrow to explore the home of the penguins and a new hostel out there! 

Thursday, July 25th  Melbourne

Up at 6:15 am; we packed and headed out to move the car before the 7 am requirement along the street where we’d parked for the night.  Headed over to the Fitzroy Gardens and enjoyed the beautiful flowers in the Conservatory and then continued around the park.  This park sits in the center of the City of Melbourne; very beautiful with huge trees and broad lawns.  Someone had donated a miniature tutor village; another had moved an English cottage from England, and one beautiful spot had a memorial to John F. Kennedy.  The People’s Place had a circle of bricks that had each been decorated individually but the person who purchased the brick; each was very unique.

We there went off to find the second tallest building in the city and enjoyed the view from the observation deck at the top; a 360 degree view of the harbor and surrounding city.  Back to our car we headed out of the city and towards Phillip Island.  After almost two hours we arrived at our destination.

The top attraction at Phillip’s Island is the “Penguin Parade” every evening. Like clockwork, day after day, the blue penguins march out of the water singularly and in groups of twenty our more every evening just after sunset.  Once they’ve checked to make sure no predators are around they strut up the beach and into the surrounding dunes to their nests. 

Another attraction is on an adjacent island named Churchill Island.  It was a working farm for many years and now the state runs the facilities.  We were able to walk through the house that was furnished as in the late 1800’s and visit the farm.  At the farm we watched them shear a sheep and also I held a baby lamb.  Lots of fun.

Our hostel here is a bit questionable; the outside looked really bad when we first visited.  But we’ve found that it’s really nice and has WI-Fi…a big feature in our book.   After our visit to the “Penguin March” we returned and have been on the Internet ever since. 

The Penguin March was really great…those little guys walk as fast as we do; lots of fun but it was very cold out there after dark.  Tomorrow we head back to Melbourne for one more day and night before flying to Alice Springs.  More later…Martha

Melbourne Again...July 26, 2008

We slept in until nearly 8:30 am…took a couple of hours to finish laundry, shower, eat breakfast and then hit the road about 10 am.  Our first stop was back on Churchill Island at The Heritage Farms for their weekly Farmer’s Market.  It was really crowded and had a wonderful selection of booths featuring cheeses, wines, fruit, flowers and an assortment of other things.   Stayed about half an hour and tasted a variety of things before crossing back over the bridge to the main road back to Melbourne.  We purchased some fruit and cake for dessert tonight. 

Actually had some sprinklers during our nearly two hour ride back to the city; enough that we used those “****in’ windshield wipers” for the first time.  We call them that because every time we use the turn signals we accidentally turn them on as they are located on the left side of the steering wheel in this car!!!    

Found parking for $4.50 for the day…but we have to out before 6 am tomorrow as the new day starts at that time every day.  It’s a couple of blocks from our new Hostel but not too far since we’re only taking in backpacks.  This is smack dab in the center of the city, a very large hostel named Greenhouse Backpackers.  The common room is very large and the security system is very good.  We are in a mixed four bed dorm room but it’s after 10 pm and still no roommates…so we may have a private room again.  Walls are thin and we can hear the neighbors easily but once we’re asleep that shouldn’t be a problem.

We finished checking in about 3 pm; spent two hours eating our early dinner with the carrot cake for dessert while we searched the web.  Or, at least Mary did.  My computer is acting up today and I only get a connection with limited access; whatever that means. 

About five o’clock we started our walk to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for 6 pm Mass.  We stopped along the way and purchased tickets for a movie that started at 7:20.  Had plenty of time to walk around and see the interior of the church before Mass began.   It was a high mass with a visiting Bishop celebrating.  Music was beautiful but we had a hard time understanding the Bishop when he gave the sermon. 

After Mass we walked out into a rain downpour!  Fortunately, I’d tucked my umbrella in my pocket so we huddled together and braved the elements for our walk to the movie theatre.  We arrived with minutes to spare; a bit damp but definitely not soaked thanks to the umbrella.  We saw the new movie Mama Mia; really cute. 

We had talked about going for a beer tonight after the movie but by the time we were on our way home…the rain had stopped…we decided with Mary’s cough and getting up at 5 am to get to the airport on time for our flight…we’d go back to our rooms.  So here we are at the end of another day in Australia.   Can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it but we do have a cell phone with us that works very well; can’t do text messaging but is very nice for local calls within Australia and calling home every morning to let Jim know where we are and that we’re OK.  See you tomorrow after we arrive in Alice Springs.

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