Archive for the ‘melbourne’ Category

The Great Ocean Road: Redux

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

The next day was another early morning as we had to leave our hotel around 7 am to meet the great ocean road tour bus. I debated not going with my family to do this tour for the second time and spending the day curled up with my laptop and some room service, but I figured that since this was supposed to be a family vacation and all I would suck it up and just go. At the very least I could be sure that dad would do something ridiculous that would embarrass the family, and who would want to miss out on that.

 

Start of the Great Ocean Road

 

phallic

It takes about two and a half hours to get from downtown Melbourne to the start of the Great Ocean Road, and true to form Melbourne was overcast, windy, chilly, and rainy. The driver we had for our trip didn’t do nearly as many stops on the Great Ocean Road as the driver I had the first time did, although this might have been because we had a much bigger group with us, or because since it was now winter there were less daylight hours to spend on the road. Regardless of how many stops you make the one stop everyone makes is at the Twelve Apostles rock formations. The Twelve Apostles are the seven remaining limestone rock formations that sit away from the shore, there used to be twelve but over the years erosion has left only seven.

 

The 7 remaining apostles

 

Given that this is one of the main attractions on the Great Ocean Road, it is the longest stop the tours usually make, they give you about 45 minutes. So Mom, Dad, Julie and I piled out of the bus when we got to this stop to check out the formations. We wandered around for a good twenty minutes or so before heading off in different directions. Since Julie, Mom and I are all capable of telling time, we were back on the bus when our 45 minutes were up and of course Dad was nowhere to be found. Julie and I were quite unconcerned about this. I mean, he is 50 something adult male in reasonable mental standing and therefore it is reasonable for us to expect that he can take care of himself. Mom seems to feel otherwise.

She started pestering us as to his whereabouts, which of course we had no more knowledge about than she did. Soon her pestering turned into suggesting that one of us should go after him since she couldn’t get very far on her bum ankle. Julie and I made eye contact and without words knew that neither one of us would be volunteering to do this alone, so I asked her if she would go with me. Julie and I tossed this idea around for another minute or so as Mom moved from worrying to a full fledged panic as the bus driver began counting everyone on the bus. As the bus driver comes by to count us Mom explained that Dad was still missing, and the driver seemed unconcerned since it was an adult that was missing and not some small child. Little does he know that my father being missing is perhaps worse than a small child being missing because at least a child knows that he should not be out on his own, whereas my father still thinks he is capable of wandering off without supervision. Mom tried to explain this, but the driver only laughed.

Finally, seeing the desperation on mom’s face Julie relents and we both got off the bus to search for Dad. Having never been a member of a search party Julie and I made the rookie mistake of splitting up, and of course as soon as we had run off in opposite directions Dad showed back up on the bus, thus shifting Mom’s panic from where Dad was to where Julie and I were. Since I hadn’t made it as far away as Julie had, I heard Mom when she yelled at me to come back, and I did, but then we were still one person short.

The bus driver has counted the number of passengers on board at least twice, and as mom and dad both pester me to go after Julie (didn’t they get that this didn’t work the first time?) the driver shuts the doors and begins to drive through the parking lot towards the highway entrance. Now both parents are panicking and practically pushing me up to the front of the bus. Why the responsibility to find Julie who Mom sent to look for Dad falls on my shoulders I don’t know, but I suspect it just has something to do with shit rolling downhill. So I go up to the bus driver and sheepishly explain that my sister is still missing and he looked considerably less than pleased. Our family has held the whole group up a good ten minutes and he seems even more frustrated when I explain that I have no idea where she is and the only recourse is to go out after her myself. Embarrassed and frustrated I take off after Julie and luckily it isn’t long until I find her and we are both back on the bus. As soon as we are, we dig into Mom for sending us out after Dad, and in response Mom yells at Dad for not being able to tell time. Dad of course absolves any responsibility for the situation saying that by the time he was on the bus Julie and I were the ones missing. So in other words, everyone ends up disgruntled and frustrated and its another lovely day with the Lapointes.

in case you forget

 

Thankfully the rest of our trip on the Great Ocean Road passed uneventfully and we got back to our hotel in Melbourne around 9pm that night. We went to bed almost immediately after returning to the hotel because we had to be at the airport by 7 the following day meaning we had to be in the lobby waiting for our shuttle pick up by 5. This was to be our last night in Australia, next stop- FIJI!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March of the Penguins

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Thankfully the next day our flight wasn’t leaving at some un godly hour, instead we got to actually see sunlight before boarding the shuttle to the airport. We had a lazy morning packing and getting checked out of our rooms until it was time to meet the shuttle, which showed up over thirty minutes late due to some road construction delays. When we got to the airport we learned that our flight had been delayed too. Dad, who had spent two hours sitting on the runway at LAX with Julie due to a Qantas delay was growing quite impatient with this routine (not that it takes much to make him impatient) and he said “ You know I could work for Qantas. I would just have to be able to say, sorry for the delay. “

Eventually we did get onto our flight and once we arrived in Melbourne it was much chillier than it had been in Cairns. Since it was getting close to the end of the day we didn’t have any time to explore museums, so instead we checked into our rooms and headed down to the hotel bar for a light dinner and of course mom and dad got drinks, thus continuing the “Lapointes Get Hammered Tour.” After dinner Julie and I gathered up some $1 and $2 coins and headed to the Internet kiosk in the lobby to catch up on our facebook news feeds and check our email before heading up to bed.

Even though our tour of Phillips Island didn’t start till 1pm the following day, we had decided that we would get up early the next morning and spend the day exploring the city. So we got up the next day around 9am, had a quick breakfast at a cafe we found near our hotel and then headed towards Federation Square, which is the center of downtown near where all the museums are. I wanted to take everyone to the Australian Center for the Moving Image, a free and very interactive museum that I had really enjoyed when I was in Melbourne, and I thought that even Dad and Julie who have very little patience for museums, might enjoy this one. We arrived at the museum around 9:30am and since it didn’t open till 10 Dad and Mom explored the area around federation square while Julie and I sat at a table in the square to take advantage of the free wifi. Around ten we headed inside the museum and consulted one of the docents as to what exhibits were on for that day. Dad couldn’t have said more than three words to this woman when she asked “So what part of Ireland are you from?” In the United States people ask him if he is from Australia, and apparently Australians think he sounds like he is from Ireland. I don’t see why a Boston/New England accent is so hard to place but once even in Logan Airport in Boston someone asked him where he was from.

Interacting with some street art on the way to Federation Square

What is happening here? Art is happening here.

Car from Mad Max, Dad was pretty excited about this

Can Can dress from Moulin Rouge

 

After spending a few hours wandering through the museum we ventured back outside to a sunnier day than we had left, as it had been rainy and overcast when we had woken up. Given the pleasant change in weather I decided that we should check out some of the street art that Melbourne is so famous for, so we headed over to Hoiser Lane, one of the most famous alleys in Melbourne. Last time I was in Melbourne Seth, Jordan, Lyndsay and I had spent easily 30 minutes carefully examining and gawking at all the amazing works of art we found there. Mom, Dad and Julie were quite content just to walk through it at a normal pace and tell me it was cool. Another thing that Melbourne is famous for is its many hidden alley ways as they hold art, galleries, cafes, and lots of shopping outlets. I steered us towards one where I knew we could get some great burgers for lunch. After eating we headed back up towards our hotel to meet up with the shuttle that would take us to Phillips Island.

Healthy burgers for lunch. Dad and I both got Veggie burgers which were incredible.

More street art

 

Phillips Island is  a small island that is located 140 km southeast from the city of Melbourne and is approximately 10,000 hectares in side. In addition to the town of Newhaven, which has a population of 428 people, the islands other residents all live on the Phillips Island Nature Park. Wombats, koalas, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, parrots, birds of prey, and reptiles can all be found here, roaming free, but the most famous inhabitants of this park are the Little Penguins which nest there and come ashore in groups every night to do so.

Before reaching Phillips Island we made two other stops. The first of which was a petting zoo where Dad had his first real life encounter with a kangaroo. He seemed slightly less than amused, but mom seemed to really enjoy herself, although she was a bit timid at first to feed them since they can be a bit grabby.

Mom feeding a kangaroo

Dad staring it down

He gave in. They are so soft.

wombats- they bite!

After leaving the petting zoo our next stop was a koala sanctuary. By the time we got there it had started to rain, and since it was a bit chilly out, all the koalas were bundled up into balls sitting in the forks of trees sleeping. I can’t say I blame them. It was a rather miserable day to be outside. So that was somewhat disappointing. But I did manage to spot one of these:

A kookaburra! Do not be fooled by the cute exterior, these things make an obnoxious amount of noise and they are LOUD.

Roughly another hour on the bus found us at Phillips Island about an hour before the penguins were expected to begin coming ashore. We wandered around the visitor center which was buzzing with activity. They had a fairly good exhibit on penguins that showed the different types of penguins and talked all about the breeding and social habits of the fairy penguins that nested on the island. It was all very well done. They even had some nesting boxes with little viewing holes in them and you could see some penguins that had not ventured into the ocean for the day. Around 6:30 it had gotten dark enough for the penguins to come out, and so we headed down to sit on the bleachers lining the shore. It was a cold and windy evening and it was still lightly drizzling. Mom, Dad, Julie and I huddled together to try and stay warm, but I don’t think any of us were really dressed to be sitting on the beach in the rain in the middle of the winter so we were cold.

 

While we waited the park rangers explained that every night the number of penguins that come ashore varies a great deal due to the moon being out and tides and such. They have seen as few as 20 and as many as 2,000 in a single evening. Since the moon was full that night we were told not to expect a huge number, because this would increase visibility for predators thus making the penguins a bit more timid about coming out onto the beach. The penguins have had a rough time in the past few decades with the introduction of species not native to Australia, like foxes and feral cats as they have taken a dent out of the population. Penguins can only have one egg at a time, but they have survived somehow. We kept hearing them referred to as “determined little birds” and they really are.

 

We shivered and waited for about 15 minutes before we saw the first penguin emerge from the water. It is unusual to see only one, as they typically come ashore in small groups of four or five called rafts. They do this because when you are a tiny little penguin there are many predators out to get you and there is safety in numbers. We watched this lone little penguin come out of the water and timidly make his way out of the surf until he was almost halfway up the beach and then he broke into a waddling run to get to the low lying bush where he would be better protected from birds and such. The ranger had told us that we should only spend half our time on the shore as once the penguins had come out of the water they could be better observed further up the beach socializing and coming home to their mates. We saw that first one, and then about two small rafts of five or six before the rain really started to pick up and we decided we had enough and were ready to head inside. As we did we saw some of the penguins waddling up beside us.

Since the penguins can be easily startled, we were not permitted to take pictures, so here are some that I stole from the Phillips Island Penguin Park website:

 

We got this close

Totally could have reached out and touched one

ADORABLE. DO WANT.

 

By the time we got back to the visitor center we were cold, wet, and somewhat disappointed. While the penguins we did see were adorable I think we had all been expecting to see a few more than the twelve or so we ended up seeing.

Dad said “I’m gonna tell people that there were so many penguins that we had to walk on them to get back to the visitor center. The sea was blackened by penguins.”

The four of us all got a very overpriced cup of hot chocolate in the visitor center before getting back on the bus and headed back into the city.

No running over penguins please

No Worries Mate!

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Things have finally begun to cool down in the state of New South Wales. The dog days of summer have finally slunk away and the pleasantries of Australian fall have swept in. I find myself able to walk the 20 minutes to class without being drenched in sweat. I have also noticed as of late that I seem to have hit my Australian stride.

Upon arriving here it took me a few days to get used to the time difference, and then orientation happened and it took me a few days past that to get used to the climate and how expensive things were. Once I finally moved into my Glebe residence I had to learn about how to navigate the grocery store, and a two-flush toilet. Things I hadn’t thought of as being difficult were new, like using my weird Australian oven in Celsius.  And just when I was feeling like I had everything in order, classes started happening and once again I was thrust into a whole new acclamation process.

At first it was bewildering, being a freshman was not an experience I had hoped to repeat again so soon. It’s frustrating, and confusing and often you feel helpless under the weight of everything that is new around you. Soon this too passed, and I feel into a rhythm where I was getting to my classes on time and not needed to fumble around with my schedule and my campus map to figure out where I was going and what time I needed to be there. Physically getting to class was one thing, but then the school work started happening. I have been out of school since the first week of December, so it had been a good three months since I had done anything worthwhile with that lump of gray matter sitting inside my skull. I had gotten a little rusty. On top of this I had lapsed into vacation mode, which is easy to do when its 80 degrees and sunny and the beach is a backdrop to your life. I went to my classes for the first few weeks, but this was more of a physical going than a mental presence of actually being there. Sooner or later my professors started using words like “essay,” “exam,” “test,” and “soon” in the same sentence and I was yanked out of my blissful Australian day dream. I was here to STUDY?! I thought I was just here to play? Apparently not. So the last few weeks I have been frantic in my efforts to pull everything together in regards to school. I had lapsed on my readings and not started working on my mid semester assignments that would soon be due. Around this time my internship also started, adding another time commitment to my life, and more responsibilities.

There was one day where I remember sitting down with all my syllabuses and feeling really overwhelmed with everything I needed to due to prepare for the papers and projects I would soon need to turn in for midterm exam period. In the midst of all this travel opportunities kept presenting themselves, Tasmania, Melbourne, surf weekends, and while I am here to do some studying, had I only wanted to study I could have stayed in Virginia, so I didn’t want to miss out of any chances to explore this beautiful country I had been placed in on the precedent of “studying.” So instead of reading and doing school work I planned trips, one to Melbourne, and one to Tasmania, and spent my time in class day dreaming about where else I might go. Soon the impending exam period progressed from a mental itch to a full on rash. I needed to attend to it. One of the big reasons I had been putting off school work is because the books I needed for one of my literature classes were SO EXPENSIVE. I had gone to the bookstore and calculated that the 7 books I needed to buy were going to run me close to $150. In the world of an english major, thats pricey. Last semester at UMW I spent less than $100 on all the books I needed for five classes, so dropping $150 on books for one class was not something I was keen to do. Especially since Australia does not believe in textbook buy back, so I was going to get stuck hauling these books back in my suitcase.

The wonderful thing about being an English major is that you read books all semester, and until you have to write a paper or take a test, it is not imperative that you have read anything. It is the procrastinators worst nightmare, or greatest fantasy depending on how you look at it. We had four texts we were going to be on the midterm for my Australian Texts: International Contexts. One was a movie that I had managed to find and illegally stream for free online, one was a book of poetry that I had to do a presentation on so I had been forced to buy it at the start of the class, and the other two were expensive so I hadn’t bothered with them. I decided that since it had been weeks since the two books I hadn’t read had been assigned I would try getting one of the reserve copies out of the library. I was able to get copies of both, and as it turns out I really enjoyed reading them. One, called “Dreams of Speaking” I finished in two days because I was so absorbed. In the last week or so I have managed to catch up completely with all my school work, and even get ahead on a few things, and ever since this incredible sense of  joy has taken up residence in my person. Things at my internship have been really great, I have met some fantastic people, and am genuinely interested in the work I am doing. I return to my apartment at the end of each day tired, but feeling accomplished and productive. I feel like I have struck that perfect harmony in the melodies of fun and the baseline of productivity.

When I walk to school in the morning I hum and sometimes dance to the music in my headphones as I’m waiting to cross the street and pay no attention to the odd glances I attract. I smile like a loon when the wind picks my hair up off my neck and I can feel the warmth of the sunlight on my face. I find a childlike sense of pure delight over the silliest things like when my toast comes out of the toaster in a light brown crispy perfection. I would say its a case of spring fever, but its fall here in the southern hemisphere and getting colder not warmer. The kind of weather we have been having lately is the kind you don’t even notice. You walk outside and its so wonderfully temperate and sunny that the weather attracts none of your attention, for there is nothing to notice, it isn’t rainy or too hot or cold, its just wonderfully pleasant.

I am really enjoying the sense of independence I have here. Going to college at Mary Washington was a huge step for me in terms of starting over socially, and being away from my family for the first time, but it was also very close geographically, so I was able to run home whenever things got hard. While I felt blessed to have this option since my freshman year was really difficult, it meant that I was eased into my college life without ever really having to deal with anything hard on my own or for too long. Coming to Australia I was so concerned about making new friends and really being forced to do everything on my own for the first time. These concerns turned out to be completely unfounded as I have made so many great friends, and I am thrilled that so many of them live close to Virginia because I fully intend on seeing them once I return to the states.

My trip to Tasmania with Yaella fell through due to scheduling conflicts with her availability and mine, but in its place I decided I would book a surf weekend instead. I had wanted to do this since I got here, but as my weekends began filling up I had accepted that I might not be able to get it in before it got too cold to be desirable.  So on Wednesday of this week I decided to put a call into Mojo Surf just to inquire about their program, but after answering two of my questions the lady who was helping me asked me for my credit card number, and  I thought, well ok! So surfs up this weekend!

In Australia often in the place of saying “thank you” or “no problem” they say “no worries.” More than just being a way of saying thanks it seems to really be a way of thinking, and in my new and randomly blissful state of being I am really embracing this. While I am truly loving every minute of being abroad I am also looking forward to going back to UMW in the fall, being a tour guide again, seeing my friends, and finishing my degree. I feel like I am finally becoming a complete person all on my own. I feel ready to start a life that is my own. It’s a simple kind of free.

No I'm not the girl I used to be lately, you see you met me at an interesting time.

Melbourne City Sights

Monday, April 4th, 2011

After a full day on the Great Ocean Road on very little sleep, Seth, Lyndsay, Jordan and I were all too pleased to sleep in a little bit the following day. We woke up around 11 and set our sights on checking out a local Melbourne music festival for the day. Once we got a little breakfast we headed off to Federation Square where it was being held. On our way there we passed Findlers St Station, a famous Melbourne landmark and meeting spot. We also saw street art around every corner. Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia and is known as the cultural capital of Australia, and also for its diverse range of street art and subcultures. The whole street art movement began in the 1970s and 80s and Melbourne was one of the first major cities outside of the UK to embrace this renegade art form as legitimate, and not try to penalize people for doing it or cover or clean it up. Due to the governments laze faire approach to this art form, the movement has grown to take over just about every empty alley way in the city. The street art in Melbourne includes not just graffiti paintings and stencil art but also sticker art, poster art, wheat pasting, graphs, wood blocking, sculptures, textiles, and street installations. There is a strong sense in community ownership of these art works and much of the art carries with it some sort of political message.

Sticker art

More sticker art

stencil tagging

so cool

Creepy

Findler's St Station. The front of this building has different clocks that tell the time in various cities. This is a big meeting place in Melbourne, you say "meet me under the clocks!"

We arrived at the music festival to see that it was much smaller than we had heard it was going to be and the turn out there was disappointing. I have seen larger crowds at ihop at 2 am. So we ditched that idea and just wandered around the city instead. In the picture above you can see the “free” Melbourne tram. Technically it costs money to ride it, but there is one official who checks every tram in the city once a day, so the chances that you will get caught riding it without a ticket are VERY low. When the front desk manager at our hostel was describing this to us he said “Everybody rides and nobody pays- isn’t this country great?”

We rode the “free” tram down to brunswick and spent the day wandering aimlessly through the city looking at street art, shops and popping in and out of any store that grabbed out attention.

Amazing chickpea veg burger

Australia in general I have found to be very vegetarian friendly, but Melbourne in particular had a LOT of vegetarian/vegan/kosher/healthy food options. For lunch Lyndsay and I found this burger place that specialized in vegetarian burgers and it was FANTASTIC. Quite possibly one of the best burgers I have ever had. Mine was made of chickpeas with tomato, sweet tomato relish, tomato, beet root, and various other delicious things on it. At $10 it was a steal (yes this is considered affordable in Australia).

Lyndsay enjoying her tasty healthy burger

With lunch in our bellies we continued to explore. We rode the “free” tram up and down through Melbourne until it was dinner time and we ate in this funky but wonderful restaurant called the Gypsy Cafe. We lingered over dinner and then headed back to our hostel as it was getting dark. While we had been out during the day we had stopped into another Nomads location (its a chain) and talked to the travel desk clerk who was an American guy who had grown up in New York but attended UVA. He gave us some great suggestions on clubs and nightlife locations, including a three level club called Bubbles. He gave us the address for this, so on our way home we tried to look for it. In Melbourne I think they must have named every street and then found that they had run out of street name ideas because for every street there was another street with the name “little” in front of it. There is Collins St and Little Collins St, Bourke St, Little Bourke St, Lonsdale St and Little Lonsdale st and it goes on and on like this. Bubbles was theoretically located on Little Collins st, and we walked the entire length of the street (which, thankfully, was in fact little) and we couldn’t find it. We asked a few different people about it and they all told us the same address we already had. So it became a running joke that this place was just a figment of everyones imagination. My theory was that it had some sort of secret Harry Potter -esque entrance where you had to tap seven different bricks in a certain order for the door to appear. Who knows, we never found it. We went back to the hostel to shower and change and then head back out again in search of nightlife. The front desk manager at our hostel suggested a local club called Eurotrash, but we weren’t completely sold on that idea so we set out with no real destination in mind.

After a few minutes of aimless wandering we ran into two aussie college girls and their male friend and decided to ask them for directions to Bubbles, they told us they had never been to Bubbles, but were headed to Eurotrash and asked if we wanted to come with. Of course we did! We walked with them to Eurotrash, talking the whole way. They asked us lots of questions about where we were from, what we were studying, and the united states, and we in turn asked them about Melbourne. Once we got to the club we were pleasantly surprised to find this little hole in the wall establishment that was busy but not too crowded on the inside playing great dancing music and had plenty of outdoor areas to sit in and chat. We danced and drank the night away with our new Australian friends. I had my first gin and tonic, which was quite tasty.

I'm Lyndsays boyfriend, in case you didn't know. The guy on the far right is the guy we met the night before from Maryland

In a bizarre twist of fate we ran into a bunch of the people we had met the night before at this club. Among them was the guy Lyndsay had met that went to Maryland. He hung out with us for the rest of the night even after his friends left. While we were dancing this tall Australian guy came up to me and started talking to me. Talking to people in dance clubs isn’t talking so much as it is yelling. After a few minutes of half dancing half screaming my way through a conversation I asked him if he wanted to go sit down to talk. He agreed and we ended up chatting for upwards of an hour. As it turns out he was half american as his dad was from Las Vegas. I didn’t know anyone could actually be from Las Vegas, I just always thought of it as someplace like Disney world that people went to have fun but you couldn’t actually be a resident. He asked me lots of questions about America, and about Washington DC under the pretense that he wanted to go there during the upcoming holiday. I feel like this was just an in to talk to me, but either way we had a good conversation.

When we parted ways I went back into the dane dace room to find Seth, Jordan and Lyndsay but they they were nowhere to be found. They had left to go next door and get McDonalds but neglected to tell me this. Luckily I found our new Aussie friends and danced with them while I waited for one of them to return my text message asking where the heck they were. In only a few minutes they came back and insisted I tell them all the juicy details of my encounter with the tall Australian guy. They were quite disappointed to hear that we had just been chatting, and it took me insisting at least eight times that nothing else had gone on for them to believe me, and even then I’m not completely sure they bought it.

We were having such a great time dancing and hanging out with our new friends that we lost all track of time and didn’t end up leaving the club until almost 4 am. Since we had followed our newfound Aussie friends to the club, we didn’t really recognize where we were once we exited. Luckily the Maryland guy was still with us, and he was able to point us in the right direction. Before we parted ways with our Maryland Melbourne friend we went into a 7-11 and each got a maxibon man chew ice cream bar. This is basically a thicker crunch bar without a stick but the commercials they run for them are so outrageous. Watch this and you will understand:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHrhmpKSLVg

Jordan and Seth giving their jaw muscles a work out

So we all had one and made all sorts of cracks about our jaw muscles getting bigger. Once we had finished our ice cream we parted ways with the Maryland guy who was able to point us in the direction of our hostel. We were all more than happy to crawl into bed, but not before setting an alarm for 9am since we had to be checked out by 10 in order to avoid getting charged for another day. It was a slow day wandering through Melbourne followed by a wild night out.

Living it up in Melbourne

A Flight to Melbourne, A Drive On The Great Ocean Road

Monday, April 4th, 2011

After class ended on Thursday I frittered away the afternoon until I realized I had a plane to catch at 10pm and frantically packed at the last minute and met up with Lyndsay, Seth and Jordan to fly to Melbourne for the weekend. We flew with a small company that is a subset of Quantas called Jet Star. It is a budget airline, and we got a roundtrip ticket to Melbourne (pronounced Mel-bin) for under $200, which is pretty awesome. Our flight left Sydney at 9:50 and the flight time was about an hour and ten minutes, putting us at Avalon Airport in Melbourne around 11 pm. The airport we flew into I don’t really feel justified in calling an airport. Really it was more of a very large shed with a parking lot for airplanes. It was a budget airport, which means there were only four terminals, the parking lot was gravel, the boarding passes were printed on the paper they use for receipts, there was only one food option inside, and it was located 45 minutes outside of the city so once we landed we had to get a bus into Melbourne. But hey, it was cheap!

Once we actually got into the city we walked from southern cross station to our hostel, which was called Nomads. We had booked ahead of time, and the four of us were sharing a room with four bunk beds and our own bathroom, we were lucky to get this because rooms can sometimes have 10-20 beds to one bathroom. We plopped our stuff down and then went out in search of food and an ATM because were going on a bus tour of the great ocean road the following morning at 7:30 am and had to pay in cash. Melbourne around 1 am on a friday morning is a ghost town. It might have just been the area we were in, but things were eerily dead. There seemed to be a lot more chain restaurants in Melbourne though. 7-11s were on just about every corner, along with McDonalds, Subways and a sprinkling of Starbucks. Once we had eaten and gotten money we crashed because we had to be up in about four hours.

The next morning we were up bright and early and waiting outside our hostel for the tour bus to come pick us up. It was dark and chilly out and I was having serious flashbacks to waiting for the bus in middle school. The bus came by, we payed, boarded, picked up some other passengers and we were off to the Great Ocean Road! Our tour bus was not full by any means. Aside from the four of us there was a family from the states and a few other families, but we each had two seats to stretch out across which was really nice.

The Great Ocean Road is a 151 mile stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia that links the cities of Torquay and Warnambool, which are both in the state of Victoria. The road was built by soldiers who returned from war between 1919 and 1932 and is the worlds largest war memorial, dedicated to the lives lost in WWI. When you see pictures of it most often you will see pictures of the Twelve Apostles, which are limestone stack rock formations. Our bus tour was not going to run the whole length of the road, but it was going to take all day. We left in the dark and by the time we got back at the end of the day it was dark again. The tour took us about seven hours out along the road, and then drove us back, stopping several times at major landmarks along the way. Our first stop was a beautiful beach.

Me, Jordan and Seth on our first stop. Jordan looks to be as tall as Seth and I here, this is an illusion.

Stunning

Official starting point of the Great Ocean Road and our second stop

Memorial to the workers who built the road

More oceanic views

The area the Great Ocean Road is located in is very biologically diverse and so one of the stops we made was into one of the patches of rainforest along it which was wild.

Rainforest!

I'm in A RAINFOREST! HOW CRAZY IS THAT?!

Lindsay being framed perfectly by rainforest foliage

Map of the 12 Apostles

And the real thing. There used to be 12 of these limestone rock formations, but erosion has really taken its toll over the years and there are only about 5 left now.

It was really windy, and much cooler in Melbourne than it is in Sydney. Apparently the summers in Melbourne are much cooler and end much faster.

This made us laugh. It's hard to see but someone put googly eyes on the stick figure guy

Family! Perfectly proportioned, two males, two females, two short, two tall.

I have so many different photographic variations of this picture.

razor back rock formation explanation

Razorback rock formation

They look like mushrooms!

Lyndsay and I posin

They named this rock formation "London Bridge" and then parts of it fell down. I think they doomed it.

London Bridge rock formation...it fell down.

More cool limestone rock formations

rocky coastline

Erosion makes the edges of this mammoth incredibly smooth

One of the stops we made was to feed the beautiful tropical birds in this region. They have gotten so used to tourists that they will quite literally eat out of your hands.

License plate I need for my car at home

Me and Lyndsay

So after a long day driving the Great Ocean Road we were all exhausted but still wanting to check out what nightlife Melbourne had to offer. As luck would have it Jordan had some friends from his pre trip that were studying in Melbourne, so we went back to the hostel, grabbed a quick dinner, showered, changed and met up with Jordans friends at their apartment which turned out to be right down the street from our hostel. Jordans friends showed us some great Melbourne hospitality and Lyndsay even met a guy who went to Maryland and was involved in greek life there, so they had plenty to talk about. After about an hour hanging out at their apartment we all headed out in search of clubs and bars. There was a group of about 15 of us which made getting a cab or making any decisions very difficult. This was compounded by the fact that a bit of wine had been consumed so energy was high and rational productive thinking was low. The activities of the day were really beginning to catch up with me, and since we weren’t that far from our hostel I opted to sit this evening out, and head back to the hostel to go to sleep early. Jordan, Seth, and Lyndsay went out with Jordan’s Melbourne friends and we all got to enjoy sleeping in a bit the next day.

Probably the best picture of the four of us from the whole weekend. Taken at Jordan's friends apt.

April Adventures to Come!

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

In place of our normal Tuesday adventuring this week Yaella and I popped into a local Backpackers World Travelers travel agency. This is basically a free travel agent that makes money by receiving kick backs from the tour companies they recommend, and they specialize in booking cheap trip for students and backpackers. The purpose of that visit was to nail down our reservations for a trip to Tasmania that we have been discussing going on. We weren’t really sure what kind of activities we wanted to go on while we were there, but we knew we wanted to do a wineglass bay tour.

Wine glass Bay

Tasmania is part of Australia technically, but most Australians don’t actually consider it to be. It is kinda the unloved red headed step child in most Australians minds.  While looking at brochures and doing research for our trip I found this quote that said “Tasmania is an island of inspiration, a world apart, not a world away.” Most of the natural environment of Tasmania remains untouched, and 37% of the total land mass lies in national parks, world heritage sites, and wildlife reserves. The climate is incredibly bipolar, and the travel agent was telling us that it could be warm enough to go swimming and snow in the same day depending on where you are in the country.

The island is 226 miles long from its northernmost to its southernmost point, and 190 mi from west to east. So its not huge. Still, Yaella and I are looking at doing a five day trip there and getting a fair amount of hiking in during that time.

We would probably fly into Lanceston and work our way down to Hobart, which is the capitol city, and fly home from there.

While we are still ironing out plans to go to Tasmania during a weekend in April, we have already booked our flights to Melbourne for the first weekend of April. Yaella, Lyndsay, Jordan and I will all be flying out at 5pm on April 1st, staying in a hostel and getting up early the next day to do an all day tour of the Great Ocean Road. This is the one attraction everyone keeps insisting is THE thing to do in Melboure (in Australia this is pronounced Mel- bin) so we have booked our tickets already.

The 12 Apostles limestone rock formations

The Great Ocean Road is a 151 mi stretch of road along the south-eastern coast. The road was built by soliders that had returned home from WWI between 1919 and 1932, and is the world’s largest war memorial; dedicated to those lost in the war. It is an important tourist attraction in the region, which winds through varying terrain alongside the coast, and provides access to several prominent landmarks; including the Twelve Apostles limestone stack formations.

The tour we booked is a bus tour that basically takes all day, but lets you out at different points along the route for varying amounts of time.

The Great Ocean Road

Plenty of time on planes traveling means plenty of time to catch up on my readings for class while I am a safe distance away from an internet connection, which is my major downfall in terms of distractions. At the end of April I will leave for my spring break trip (technically a fall break trip in the southern hemisphere) to Thailand! I am so pumped about this I even downloaded an app onto my ipod that counts down the days, as of today only 30 days to go! I also enrolled in a frequent flier program because I am going to be racking up some crazy miles and it would be nice to log all of them and earn a free flight somewhere, since I will undoubtedly be broke as a joke by the end of this trip.

In other news, I applied for the Study Abroad Internship program through the International Student office at Usyd and was accepted. The next step was for them to send me internship options in the fields I had expressed interest in, which for me were media and communications, and public relations. They sent me a long list of internship option profiles, each one detailing the type of work I would be doing and some background on the company I would be working with. I was asked to rank these in order of preference, and a day later I heard that I had an interview with the Office of PR and Development at the University of Sydney, which is great because that means I don’t have to walk very far to get to it should I get the position.

On Tuesday I went over for the interview and the guy who would be my boss interviewed me and was really laid back and had a great sense of humor. He is also an american who up until four months ago worked with the University of Chicago. He was impressed with my background in writing and asked for me to send him some published writing samples. We chatted for over 45 minutes about Australia and America and it seemed like it went really well. If I get the position I would be drafting and editing proposals for groups who are seeking grants for projects and research in addition to dealing with the public relations aspects of public and private donors. There was also talk of the creation of a database of all the donors USyd has dealt with in the past, which would require some research and data entry. I am supposed to hear back by the end of the week so heres hoping! Should I get the position I can transfer it back to UMW for credit and it would also count as a class here, which would be fantastic because it would mean I could drop something else and have less homework and more time to travel. The way I see it I would rather spend my time here traveling and getting in as much of the country as I can because classrooms and homework pretty much look the same everywhere you go.