Well, would you believe it, we have finally left Melbourne! After cluttering up Deanna and Paul's spare room for more than they would probably want (although when I pull out the family card they can't get rid of me!) we embarked on a greyhound to Sydney, but not before some last minute Melbourne fun was had! After a day exploring St. Kilda and the beach area of Melbourne, Ellie and I took in a game of Aussie Rules Football with Paul and some of his friends which was a lot of fun and surprisingly not too hard to follow. As well as lots of cheering crowds, the famous MCG stadium, people waving pom poms, silly footy players pushing each other and lots of nice legs, we were also introduced to the AFL fare - four and twenty meat pies which I can actually say after a few beers and on a cold (by Australian standards) evening were pretty tasty! Luckily we didn't have to roll Paul home and in case you were wondering, it was victory to St. Kilda over Carlton - go the Saints!!
For our last weekend in Melbourne we were treated to a wonderful night in Reno and a brilliant couple of days at Phillip Island. Here we went to a old-style farm complete with goats, chickens and dogs that can herd ducks and very cute cows! We had a lovely swim, spa pool and steam room combination in the afternoon and then went to watch the little penguins come in from the sea at sunset. The wait on the cold seats was definitely worth it as the penguins came in in little groups and wandered up to their burrows. The walk back to the visitor centre sent us right past all the penguin homes and we got to see them close up. At one point it was Ellie, Paul and I and three penguins all looking at each other. They are so small and cute! The next day we went to a koala sanctuary on the island where we saw many koala bears (obviously) up in trees and one very close up - I actually saw more of him than I would have liked, he certainly wasn't shy!
Our last Melbourne activity was a trip along the Great Ocean Road and we had a brilliant day for it. After getting up at some silly time in the morning when it's still dark and the only thing that can cheer you up is a cd of nursery rhymes, we got on a mini-bus and promptly fell asleep until we got out of Melbourne! We stopped at some amazing places along the coast - Bell's beach, a magnificent lighthouse and a lovely little beach town for lunch. We sat eating sandwiches on the sand with our jeans rolled up - how very cool! The bus then went inland to view some koalas and some very pretty bright red and blue birds, then we went to a rainforest for a guided bush walk where the driver told us all about different animals and plants and took photos of us standing in a very large tree! Following this, we drove along the shipwreck coast and saw the 12 Apostles (or however many are still standing) which are big rock formations that rise out of the sea; the Lock Ard gorge, where the coastline gets it's name due to a shipwreck that happened there and which has a lovely beach and some great hanging rocks; and finally to London Bridge which as you would imagine is a large rock in the sea that looks like a bridge. We returned to Melbourne via Colac, a place I have heard of through being sad and watching Neighbours.
It was very sad to leave Deanna, Paul, Abbie and Archie behind - if we could we would have taken them with us on our trip to entertain us and watch Farmer Wants a Wife with us! We are so incredibly grateful for everything they did for us and for letting us stay and recharge our batteries for so long. We'll definitely be back to sing more songs to Abbie and swim in the pool, and we won't shampoo your dog next time!
A 12-hour greyhound journey took us to Sydney in time for World Youth Day and the Pope's arrival. Don't we have incredible timing! Sydney was heaving and we spent the first day attempting to navigate all the barriers and registered pilgrims only areas before giving up and going to Anne's house, my Dad's cousin. I'd like to point out that after Sydney I've run out of family members to stay with! I'd also like to question why my parents know so many people this sie of the world yet never travel...but that's another issue! On our first full day in Sydney we were lucky enough to go to Palm beach, where Home and Away is filmed although this is not the reason we went! The beach is lovely with golden sands and big waves crashing against the rocks. Over the weekend we went to the Blue Mountains National Park and did some more hiking around the rim of Govett's Leap - a large canyon in the park and then down into the canyon for some fun exploring of rocks and climbing up and down about 3 million steps to get everywhere! We also went to Bondi beach for a look around the market and lunch on a nice white sandy beach, luckily not too full of tourist due to it being winter (or t-shirt weather in English terms).
During the week we spent lots of time exploring Sydney - Darling Harbour, the Rocks, Circular Quay, the botanical gardens and Hyde Park. Sydney is a beautiful city with so much to do, although when you see my pictures you will think that the only things there are a bridge and an opera house. I think I was a tad excited! On my birthday I treated myself to a ticket to Mozart's Don Giovanni opera, which was most definitely money well spent, and luckily they let you in wearing jeans and trainers! I spent a good twenty minutes ooh-ing and aah-ing at being in the opera house then made my way to my seat and took a few probably illegal photos before the start of the opera - well the woman next to me was doing it! I was sat at the back however I had a perfect view of the stage and subtitles screen (hooray for modern technology) and down into the orchestra pit and the opera was brilliantly done. There was a modern take on some of the translation and dress but the music wonderful and there were many times when I forgot to look at the subtitles and then had to take a moment to figure out what was happening! During the interval I;m fairly sure I ended up in an area of the opera house reserved for the "better dressed" due to all the nice dresses floating around but hey, nobody stopped me and it was my birthday! During our final few days in Sydney we became two ladies plus one man for travels as we were joined by Ellie's Dad and we had a great time showing him around and walking across the harbour bridge with him. Thanks for dinner Phil!
We are now in Port Macquarie for a couple of nights couchsurfing and will then be moving on to Coffs Harbour. Another greyhound trip was enjoyed today, and that had the pleasure of making a 4 hour drive last 7 and a half. We arrived in darkness but will be off to explore tomorrow!
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