I’m a planner. I like to make lists, be prepared, and know what I’m doing. So disembarking the plane in Melbourne with no real idea of what was in store for the next three weeks wasn’t ideal. It’s just not how I usually roll. It did, however, turn out to be a blessing in disguise because my time in Australia was some of the most fun I’ve had on this side of the world. Somehow, the best plans always seem to fall into place just when they need to.
The first step toward complete Aussie exploratory freedom was procuring a rental car for less than a million dollars. Note: this cannot be done at the airport. So after a fair amount of despair and far fetched plans to just walk the whole way to my accommodation, which was an hour’s drive, the perfect car appeared. Granted, it was from Wicked campers and had something dumb George W. Bush said painted on one side and something far less dumb George Orwell said painted on the other, but it did the job. And the backseat even folded down into a bed. I’ve had to practice using real paper maps (such an ancient art!) on this trip in stead of iPhone/pad/pod/mac ones and so far it’s gone pretty well. And yes, I just knocked on wood. Anyway, so I hopped in the car with my paper map and was en route to a free four-night stay at a five-star bed and breakfast in Olinda Hills. Thanks, connections!
Woolrich Retreat was nothing less than awesome. With a king size bed, spa bath, espresso machine and milk frother, not to mention the complementary wine and fancy cheese platter and the close proximity to beautiful walking trails, I’d say I totally lucked out. I saw my first parrot, magpie, cuckabara, and cockatiel and had time to just hang out and plan the next leg of the journey while munching on Aussie liquorice allsorts (for science, of course). For the record, NZ’s are better.
After almost a week of living the easy life, I took off for the Great Ocean Road–many, many miles of one of the world’s most scenic drives. I saw kangaroos at the Angelsea golf course, a sunset and lighthouse at Airey’s Inlet, and stopped along the way to take in the views at incredible lookout points. I walked the cliffs overlooking the sea and watched plenty of surfers wipe out in the tumbling waves. I hiked to waterfalls, went koala-spotting on a famous road (and saw at least 12), and perhaps most excitingly found Vermont’s own Ben & Jerry’s Maple Tree Hugger ice cream at a small shop. At $12 a pint I should have walked away, but I did not. What kind of Vermonter would I be if I passed up a chance to eat maple anything?
But even more exciting than a taste of home was seeing a large group of Asian tourists descend the steps of their bus and immediately get attacked by a large flock of birds, which resulted in a great deal of screaming and waving of the arms. I’m pretty sure this could have gone viral on YouTube, if only I’d been prepared to capture it. Just as the commotion died down, though, I realized I had a new friend perched on my head, so I guess I shouldn’t be so quick to laugh next time.
On the way back to Melbourne I didn’t even mind (too much) that the only radio station to come in was Christian rock because I’d just watched a The Life Aquatic at an off-the-beaten-track campground and seen the Twelve Apostles–maybe one of the most breathtaking landscapes yet. Huge chunks of broken-off cliff stand tall in the ocean, each more impressive and majestic than the last. It’s one of those places where you kind of have to gasp and jump up and down a little when you catch your first glimpse. Unfortunately, my photos aren’t accessible at the moment so you’ll just have to imagine the splendor.
The adventure continued in Hobart, Tasmania. I must admit that I’d always thought Tasmania was it’s own country. But now that I’ve been there, I’ve learned otherwise and have also now stopped confusing it with Tanzania. There was much talk of state pride while I was there because poor Tasmania was reeling from being left off the map of Aussie’s uniforms for the Commonwealth Games. Each uniform had a nice yellow and green map of Australia on it with little Tasmania nowhere to be seen. It’s a shame, because there’s certainly a lot to see and do there–and eat (cough red velvet tim tams cough Devonshire tea cough cough). I even came around to Vegemite. Granted, I had to smother it between toast and thick slabs of avocado, but it’s a start.
The first day in Hobart I took a casual stroll along the beach that turned into six-hour seaside trek to the city and back. I rewarded myself with what claimed to be “Tassie’s best fish and chips” then turned right back around to make it home before it got too dark. The next day I got savoury crepes and coffee at the famous Salamanca Market and had a guy try to tell me than Maine is the capital of Vermont. I’ll have to write a post soon full of all the funny things Kiwis say about VT. Lots of people here like to guess where you’re from by your accent and I usually get pegged as Canadian and then the conversation turns into Kiwis making fun of Aussie accents or the other way around. Anyway, moving on.
One day I got out of the city and headed up to Freycinet to hike Wineglass Bay. Wow, what a sight. Crystal clear water with amazing views and, to top it off the day ended with a friend’s mom treating us to a home-cooked Aussie dinner, complete with Pavlova and the ensuing debate over whether pavlova as a national dessert belongs to Australia or New Zealand. I remain unclear on the issue. And somehow, again, I’ve managed to make the post mostly about food. Oh well. Stay tuned for stories of baby lambs, calves, and the stomach flu. Exciting stuff!