Published: September 11th 2005September 4th 2005
Il Furioso ...
... bandido de culo
In 2004 Melbourne repeated the feat that must have startled somewhat anyone who was listening in 2003, that of being ranked the best city in the world to live in. As mentioned in a previous blog the survey was carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit, whatever that is. This time Melbourne only narrowly retained the lead which it now shares with Vancouver and Vienna (H'mm, I'm wondering if Scrabble score might have been used as one of the criteria). It pipped the other major Australian cities on account of its weather, which I have to say is really rather good. We've been here during August and the temperature has never dipped below freezing, remaining bearable enough to sit outside most of the time. As I sit and write this it is our fourth straight day of bright sunshine, precedeed by a couple of days of almighty winds as a front passed through, which put the end to the last week-long spell of fantastic weather. Sure there are some cloudy days in winter but much more than half the time it has been sunny. Few British summers can compete with winter conditions here.
I've been looking at an Atlas to
Underneath the Arches
Snowgums, Mt Stirling
see where else might suffer these ideal conditions. Buenos Aries looks about the same latitude, and Santiago is just a bit further North, as is Cape Town. In the North we're looking at, very roughly (I'm reading off a small map on the internet with no cities marked), Beijing, Rome, The Caucasus, Madrid, Washington DC and Nowheresville, Oregon (Portland is probably just a bit further North). Plus some places in the middle of America I can't name and place exactly - Des Moines, Sioux City etc. But if you lived there you'd have to vote Republican again. I'm not sure whether these places have the same great climate - I suspect many don't. Melbourne's great trick is having the vast continental mass of the Australian desert to the North, whilst reataining the cooling sea to the South. In the winter when the winds come down from the desert all is balmy, whilst in the summer the sea serves to cool down the blasts from the nearby furnace most of the time. Lovely.
Yep, on the whole I have to agree with George Smiley's number crunching successors at the EIU - this time the numbers do seem to add up.
Melbourne looks as good on the ground as it does on the income distribution maps. The CBD has enough skyscrapers to make you feel good about yourself, but not so many that you think you are contributing to much to the global conspiracy (should that be capitals?). It is pleasantly small and, unusually for a city of 3 million people, remarkably clean and safe. To the south lies the Yarra River and South Bank, where the suits come out to play and the casino burns off Australia's oil reserves in huge jets of flame, nightly at 7.00pm. To the North lies the huge Queen Victoria market, where you can buy almost everything you can get at Food and Fine Wine
, the University, and the ethnically rich restaurants and cafes of Brunswick and Lygon streets, where you can sit outside and pretend to be in Rome, Madrid or even Des Moines, if you wish.
I'm sure there is crime in Melbourne, aside from that perpetrated in the gleaming towers of the CBD that is. We just didn't see any. I'm sure there are many poor people, down on their luck and struggling to survive. We just didn't really come across
any of these either, apart from the odd wino in a doorway. I hadn't thought of Australia as a particularly friendly country but many well-dressed people approached me in the street and asked me to fund their trip home, night in a hostel, poodle's bah-mitvah etc. On the whole I was cautiously generous, simply impressed by their audacity.
I'm afraid to say that for me the only thing that Melbourne lacks is Oomph. I wonder whether the Economist's mandarins sent their field agents off around the world to test out Oomph first hand, a risky business at the best of times. I'd heard the EIU lost three double-Os in Munich to a large Bavarian woman called Grunhilde. Perhaps measuring Oomph was deemed too expensive, given the lowly places that London, New York and Beijing occupy. I'm not sure what Oomph really is but I'm sure Papua New Guinea's Port Moresby has it in spades, but they came bottom of the list.
If you are really bored at work today, then take a look at the Economist's Cost of Living
survey, with London and Moscow placing third and fourth after Tokyo and Osaka. Just don't click on the Tesco
advert. They'll abduct you. Or take a look at their reckoning of the World's Best Country 2005
. You've guessed it. Ireland.
So if you do live in Melbourne, miles from anywhere, what is there to stop you going mad, now that the Cricket team is up the spout? Well, many expats we met were keen to tell us about the quality of the food and wine. Ok, the wine speaks for itself. Even the little area of wineries around the Yarra Valley, less than an hour's drive from the city, is probably producing wine as good as the whole of South Africa, and in Australian terms this is not a highly rated area. What about food? I think many expats have missed the recent changes in the food landscape of Britain, most particularly the rise of the Deli. I think it is fair to say that today you can get good food in Britain in you know where to look - just don't go to the supermarkets. However it is also fair to say that in populous parts of Australia, and in Melbourne in particular, you really don't have to look very far to find good food of any
description. In many British towns and cities you still need to exercise care and shop around, whilst here, as in continental Europe, the general standard just seems to be higher.
So, what does Melbourne have to offer to the well-fed and sated weekend warrior? Well of course to the South is the coast, a short tram or bicycle ride from the centre. Every weekend ten thousand cyclists take advantage of the flat coastal road to stretch their legs and test themselves against the sea breeze and the marauding roller-bladers. Join the 7.00am Hell Ride every Sunday, where hundreds of cyclists gather to charge through the streets celebrating their freedom, Mad Max style, taking no prisoners. Afterwards stop at the trendy St Kilda beachfront cafes where meat pie and chips has been replaced by foccacia and sundried tomatoes.
Drive along the coast in any direction and you'll find pleasant coastal scenery dotted with peaceful towns and beaches in which to relax and chill. And if you are a diver, surfer or yachtie then the sea is just over there.
To the East the aforementioned Yarra Valley provides beautiful country vineyards less than an hour from the city centre,
nestled under the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. Travel further East and North and the mountains get bigger, hosting downhill skiing and backcountry ski-touring in the winter and hiking and mountain-biking in the summer. Purpose built tracks, both downhill and cross-country single-track, are starting to appear, but to be honest Victoria seems to be fantastic country for those addicted to banging out the miles either on the trails or the roads.
Head North and West and you enter warmer climes that make the area so good for growing Australia's top varietal, Shiraz. Ninety minutes north is the small town of Heathcote, which hosts two of our favourites, Barnadown Run and Sanguine Estate. To the west of here is the University town of Ballarat and to the North the old gold-mining town of Bendigo. Nearby lies Kooyoora State Park, the hauntingly Australian bushland that hosted the World Orienteering Championships in 1985 and the World Masters Orienteering Championships in 2002. Plough North for a couple more hours and you enter the well known wine-making area of Coonawarra, on the border with South Australia.
But this is all by car. Step on a plane and the spectacular World Heritage Wildernesses
of Tasmania are only an hours flight away. The world-class vineyards of Adelaide and the world-class bronzed bodies of Sydney's beaches are not much further. For divers and winter sun-seekers the tropical North of Brisbane and Cairns is reachable in a long weekend. For lovers of real mountains, Virgin Blue and Jetstar (from December 2005) compete on the direct flight to Christchurch, only three hours away - not much further than Prague from London.
But most of all Melbourne is the home of the festival. In the space of two months during August and September the city hosts the Melbourne writers festival, the Slow Food Festival and the Melbourne Fringe Festival, which has been running for the last 23 years. In fact, with sport, food and culture combined there seems to be something major happening pretty much all year round.
As I said in a previous blog, we had come to Australia, and Melbourne in particular, for a rest and the chance to catch up on some organisation. This time our generous and kind hosts were my cousin James, his wife Heather and their cute and flirtatious twins, Maia and Holly, whose first birthday was the day after
we left. All seem to be doing well, the responsibility of fatherhood doesn't seem to have dampened James' mischevious spirit whilst Heather appears to have taken to the challenge of raising twins in her usual relaxed and competent way.
Perhaps I'm being hasty in all this praise, for these young and impressionable cherubs are being raised in the notorious suburb of Brunswick, Melbourne's very own Axis of Evil, home of ethnically challenged Greeks, Lebanese and Iranians. Yashmaks, no doubt soon to be banned in the nation's wonderfully secular schools, abound. So does great food, and swarthy-looking gentlemen sit outside the local cafes sipping thick black coffee and smoking strong smelling cigarettes. It's great.
As an aside, I got quite incensed listening to a debate on triple-R, Melbourne's independent radio station. RRR survives with no corporate investment or advertising. The DJ's are volunteers, the funding provided by voluntary subscription from the listeners. Despite continually operating on the breadline the station has been operating for more than twenty years. Fantastic and varied music is standard fare making listening an education itself. They also do their share of 'talk radio'. I listened in utter disgust whilst trying to eat my lunch
as Geoffrey Robertson QC went into great and lurid detail as to the methods used to dispatch Cromwell's republicans in the days of old - 'first they were hung by the neck, but released before the neck broke. Then the genitals were removed and fed to dogs whilst the victim watched. Next came live disembowelling etc etc.' Great stuff, I found myself turning greener and greener as the great humanitarian lawyer warmed to his subject. I could almost see his eyes misting over in the studio, although I'm not sure of whom he was thinking.
The particular debate that got my goat was the old 'let's notwear religous garb in secular schools'. I'm no great supporter of religion but I will defend people's right to be religious. Suddenly secular is the new white. The arguments of most callers seemed to amount to 'religion has been the cause of lots of wars so let's ban it, at least in secular institutions.' Great. I'm all for it. And while we're at it let's ban incorporated businesses, ignorant statesmen and self-serving politicians as they have caused more war and death in the last two centuries than religion has, possibly in the whole
One young chap rang in and said 'I moved to Brunswick from Adelaide and saw women wearing Yashmaks all the time. At first it was a shock but now I don't even notice'. Later, he went on to say that he is uncomfortable and unsure about the objectifying of women relating to this." The well prepared presenter, who seemed to be regularly vaulting the fence rather than sitting on it, responded with "some people would say that objectifying women by having them displayed semi-naked on advertising hoardings is a bad thing." Hmmm, I'm sure the bible has something to say here - something about "motes" and "beams" perhaps?
I did warm to the old fella who rang in and pointed out that it was not long ago that the Australian establishment regarded a certain strange and subversive sect of women dressed in religious headgear as something likely to promote public order rather than to challenge it. Father Jack wasn't fooled though - "Nuns! Reverse. Reverse".
To give more of a flavour of the ebb and flow of internal politics in Australia today I've chosen three, admitedly biased, headlines from Melbourne's 'The Age' newspaper on the
one day we bought it. I was particularly pleased to see Australia's Treasurer Peter Costello attacking Australian teachers from promoting anti-American bias in Australian schools. Unsurprisingly the teaching associations have responded in a suitably outraged manner. As Mr Costello dug himself in deeper he seemed to claim that many pupils he met were not aware that America had helped Australia in the Second World War, and he suggested that perhaps the reason was that the supervising teachers didn't know this either. Hmm.
Above this article ran the headline 'Thirst for power in city council's fuel-guzzler fleet. Car pool policies take back seat.' It appears that the Melbourne city council, unaware of Australia's startling position as the world's second largest producer of CO2 emissions per capita, have restocked their car fleet with gas guzzling SUV's and 4WD's. Not necessarily anything to evoke major comment except that the city council has vowed to reach zero emissions by 2020 and prides itself on being a leader in sustainable transport. In a kind of Anti-Clarkson tirade a green counciller is quoted 'These cars serve no godly purpose in the City of Melbourne. They are basically urban assault vehicles'. (I should add that I
drive - or used to drive - a 4WD estate myself, but excuse that on the grounds that it was bought second hand and is over ten years old. The environmental damage from creating a new car is apparently vastly greater than that caused over the lifetime of driving that car).
Next page over there is the sad story of a ten year old immigrant that is suing the Federal government over psychological harm caused by the treatment received whilst detained by the government for nearly two years as an asylum seeker from Iran. In May 2002 the Human Rights and and Equal Opportunities commision found that the detention centre in which he was held breached the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Whilst we've been here there have been many extremely silly antics from Australia's top politicians but I won't bother documenting them. I just found these three stories from one day in one paper an interesting snapshot ... although I can't help but add this one just called out from the kitchen as I'm typing - opposition leader Kim Beazely says Australia is being held hostage by the Middle East. Clearly he has forgotten
who has invaded whom. "The bastards. They've nicked all our tanks and our troops and they're holding them hostage over there. They were just minding their own business in Ohio when a load of towelheads came over with candy and pop and whisked them off to Bagdhad to look at puppies. Now they're holding them hostage". He is of course talking about fuel prices but his completely indignant and outraged reversal of the facts would be quite surprising, if it weren't done every single day by almost every western media channel.
But enough you say. If anyone has actually got this far you might be wondering what we actually did whilst in Melbourne. Well part of the time was logistical, buying a round the world ticket to cover the next leg, and the ongoing battle to get my sick 70-300 DO IS fixed under an international warranty provided by an American company. Hopefully I'll see it again by the time we get to Wellington in New Zealand :-(
We've also changed our future travel plans dramatically. We had planned to head to Nepal and then India, to take advantage of the best weather, and then come back to
New Zealand and South America. However it has been a lot cheaper to buy a OneWorld Explorer ticket from Melbourne to travel to New Zealand and South America first.
Our new itinerary is as follows:
3 Oct 05 : Melbourne -> Christchurch
2 Nov 05 : Wellington -> Auckland -> Santiago
3 Nov 05 : Santiago -> La Paz
18 Nov 05 : La Paz -> Santiago
2 Jan 06 :Puntas Arenas -> Santiago
3 Jan 06 : Santiago -> Rio
16 Jan 06 : Buenos Aries -> Manchester
23 Jan 06 : Manchester -> Colombo
From here we plan to work our way up through India to Nepal, trek in Nepal, and then finish off in South East Asia. We may, of course, retire at the spectator control, or come back directly from India. We'll see how the money and will-power last.
We also managed several day trips from Melbourne. James took us to Mt Stirling for the day to do a bit of cross-country skiing. Kim borrowed Heather's skis, I rented a pair of semi-skinny touring skis with metal edges whilst James got a thin pair of skating skis. To start we did a
little loop around the valley through the gum forest and practised our turns on a little beginners slope. Then we left Kim to await the arrival of Bruce, her old flatmate from Edinburgh, and James and I proceeded to mount Mount Stirling. This was a seven hundred metre climb from the car park, and whilst beautiful, I was knackered at the top. James' skis had no herringbone pattern on the base so he was forced to skate upwards in order to not slide back. His thighs were springs, coiled from years of roller-blading round the streets of Melbourne, latterly pushing an off-road buggy full of twins. As we climbed up through the mountain slopes the environment changed, the snow getting deeper and firmer, the gums slowly getting shorter, more twisted and more colourful, with the multicoloured stripey-bark patterns becoming more vivid as the conditions for life got colder and tougher. At the top the snow was almost ice and we alternated between beautiful sunny views of the surrounding mountains and total whiteout conditions. Coming down was much easier, taking not much more than fifteen minutes of semi-controlled inelegant sliding down the narrow trail. On the way down we met Kim,
Bruce, his fiancee and two friends, who were making good progress walking to the top. When we reached the bottom we quickly changed and dived into the local cafe where a continental European of unknown origin, possibly Austro-Hungarian, served us with great pies and great bacon butties whilst we sipped mugs of tea and waited for the walkers to return. All in all a grand day out.
We were to do more skiing a couple of weeks later when the entire Horne family decamped to the pleasant ski village of Bright, nestled snugly in the Victorian 'alps' for the weekend. We were joined by Carina and John and their two year old son Finn. John is a multi-outdoor-sport enthusiast, his parents Blake and Dale Gordon both being big in the Victorian Orienteering and Mountain Bike Orienteering scene.
Kim and I rented a car for the occasion at 117 AUD for three days and on the way stopped in the delightful little town of Milawa, in an aptly-designated 'gourmet' area. Here we sampled olives, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a range of mustards and cheeses, all of which originate in that area. Very good fare it was too, although
the balsamic, which was excellent, had been made from a kind of syrup imported from Italy I believe. We also took the opportunity to visit Brown Brothers winery, pride of supermarket wine-lovers everywhere. They had around forty wines to taste, all for free, and they are big enough that you don't feel so guilty that you have to buy. If you are looking for a cheap way to get sloshed then this is ideal - as long as you aren't the driver. To be honest I was a bit surprised that some of the whites were ok, although nothing special. The reds were almost uniformely awful, even the big fella they had made so that they could offer a 'top-end' wine. However the late harvest Riesling on offer was really very pleasant indeed, although at 26 AUD for a half-bottle it was out of our price range. They also offered a couple of examples of what Australian's like to call Port. Neither tasted anything like Port and both were quite sugary. However I quite liked them, particularly the older, slightly less sugary one. I'm not actually a great fan of traditional Port, no reason other than the taste just doesn't
turn me on. However the New World variety is really quite appealing - we had something similar in South Africa - just don't buy it expecting it to taste like the stuff from Portugal.
On the Saturday we skied at Falls Creek, which was hosting the Australian Snowboard championships that day. Falls Creek is known as more of a beginners and intermediates resort which suited both Kim and I as James had offered to do some teaching. As Des will remember, James was an enthusiastic and avid skiier when over in England, and since returning to Australia has worked a couple of seasons as an instructor at Mt Buller, teaching both telemark and alpine. My ungainly lumbering down the simple slopes at Mt Stirling had prompted him to say that given half a day on a decent alpine slope he would be able to fix my telemark style. This seemed to good an opportunity to miss so we stumped up the 85 AUD for the lift ticket and 50 AUD for skis for Kim. This time I was able to borrow a great set of boots and waisted alpine skis with clip-in telemark bindings of James. John, another backcountry
legend, joined us on a pair of free-style telemarks he was looking to buy from a friend.
If you've got this far then I guess you deserve to know the origins of 'Il Furioso'. Back in about 1996 James and Heather and I, along with their english friend Anthea and their Australian friends David and Anette (who popped over for lunch whilst we were in Melbourne) spent a fun week together in the Dolomites. At the time James was pushing his telemarking hard and we did a lot of mogul bashing on the steepest slopes we could find in the area - the Italians are known more for cruising stylishly down wide flat slopes hailing "Ciao" to the startled snow bunnies, stunned like rabbits in the headlights. I can't remember the exact conversation but we were on a lift and James asked something about how he looked coming down the slope. I told him he looked like a "raving arse bandit", which he translated into his limited Italian. Somehow the name has stuck, for me at least.
This new James with improved technique was much less furiouso and much more flowing, carving elegently and effortlessly down the steepest
slopes the resort could offer. And, sure enough, he made two simple suggestions and suddenly the clouds lifted. I understood how to telemark and why what I had been doing hadn't been working. Now it is just a matter of time on skis and practice - until I hit the next barrier.
We had a great day at the resort, with cloudless blue skies and gentle forgiving slopes. Kim enjoyed her instruction and her skiing. Around lunchtime we stopped for a bite to eat and a strange incident ensued. Whilst I was queuing for the grub a couple of bright young things on the table next to Kim and James struck up conversation. Next thing I knew Kim had been handed a couple of CD's and James was inspecting a Sony Camera. I sat down and the young chap asked me if I would like to look at his camera. Out of politeness I said yes, thinking it a bit odd. I managed to refrain from offering him mine in a Crocodile Dundee-style 'That's not a camera. THIS is a camera.' It turned out they were employed by Sony, or a Sony dealer, to wander around the resort and
promote Sony's new camera and mp3 player, and hand out Delta Goodram and Anastacia CD's to punish those who didn't seem suitably impressed. We played the CD's on the way back and they were awful, which is a bit sad as both musicians clearly have bags of talent. Just no style.
Next day, in more stunning weather, we drove up to the snow-free Mount Buffalo National Park, which had a more sensible 10 AUD entry fee. Kim and I managed an hours run through the bush whilst the others took their little ones for a more sedate walk. We finished with a picnicking in a meadow before heading off for the three hour drive back to Melbourne. Sadly it was too late to do the diversion to the wine-growing area of Rutherglen, famous for its dessert and fortified wines. Maybe next time.
We did manage more wine-tasting though, in the Yarra Valley. After a gentle hours run through the bush to the East of Healesville at the Eastern edge of the wine-growing regions, and a spot of lunch at yet another cheese factory/emporium we started by popping into the Healesville Wine centre. We had been misled a bit
by their advertising, expecting a place where we could enquire about the styles of the region and choose which vineyards were good to visit. In fact they are a tiny little vineyard themselves, all sales coming through the shop in Healesville. The chap was extremely pleasant and obliging however and we spent a good three-quarters of an hour tasting his range and having a nice chat about wine in general. It was extremely interesting tasting several different vintages from such a small winery as each vintage varied dramatically. In the end we bought the 2003 Chardonnay, which at 20 AUD was really very good indeed. However neither the 2002 nor the 2004 had appealed.
He did offer a little bit of advice, and our next port of call was Domaine Chandon, owned by Moet Chandon. Here they market a full range of still wines under the label 'Green Point' and a range of sparklers under the Domaine Chandon label. Tasting the Green Point wines was free whilst you paid 7.50AUD for a glass of sparkler. The whites were very acidy which spoiled what otherwise might have been a quite pleasant range. The reds were ok although their Premium Pinot
at 35 AUD was excellent. We negotiated to try two half-glasses of sparkler for the price of one glass, which came with a bit of bread and cheese to sober Kim up. Their standard Champagne-blend sparkler was pretty good, giving Pelorus Vintage a run for its money, but the Rose was a disappointment.
Next we travelled up the road to Coldstream Hills, once owned by the famous Australian wine-critic James Halliday and now owned by Fosters (I think). Tasting for the standard range was free, with a quite reasonable 5 AUD fee to taste the Premium range. The whites here were better, their 40 AUD Premium Chardonnay being a classy drop, more akin to an aged Chablis than a new world white. It recently won the Brisbane Wine Show. Their 75 AUD Pinot is reputed to be the best in the valley, which even the chap at Moet admitted. It was clearly a good wine, but to be honest I didn't think it merited double the price of the Moet alternative, which I preferred. But what do I know?
Just around the corner from Coldstream is the tiny family run vineyard of Warramate, whose terrace must have the
nicest views in the whole Yarra Valley. Sensibly they stay open until 6.00pm whilst the more famous Coldstream shut at 5.00pm. We spent a good hour there watching the sun go down and sampling the few wines from their small range. Kim chatted to the owner, and elderly woman whose husband, the original winemaker, had died only two months ago. Her sons now make the wine whilst she looks after the tastings. In the end we felt we had to buy something, as I had been making great use of the verandah. In fact, this visit made us quite wary about dropping in on the many small wineries that you pass on the endless Australian roads.We'd love to but we don't want to end up feeling guilty and stung for a bottle of something we didn't really need. However if you are in the area do visit Warramate, if only for the view.
As many people reading this will know, Victoria has some pretty decent areas for orienteering, and the newer sport of Mountain Bike Orienteering in particular. Heather put us in touch with John's parents Dale and Blake Gordon, and we drove out to their house in Ballarat
The Godfather Part II, Brunswick
Michael sends Fredo out fishing.
one day to get a run on a map. Even more impressive than the orienteering was their setup. The Gordon's were in fact American, and had lived in some of the more desirable places in America, including Boulder Colorado, before moving to Australia more than twenty years ago. They feel Ballarat rivals anywhere they have previously been. Quite sensibly they bought a large plot of land early on, on the edge of Ballarat and surrounded by bush. They traded half of it with a local builder in return for his building their fabulous house. Over time they have added a large pond and more recently bought the land facing them, which prevents people building on it. The value of this land only increases with every offer they turn down. Behind their house is native bush, which has been mapped for both orienteering and mountain bike orienteering - it was the model event for the MTBO World Championships in 2004. We had a pleasant run round for an hour and we both enjoyed immensely the feeling of running through the forest with map in hand. It had been a long time.
Dale and Blake also got us maps of Kooyoora
State Park, scene of the 1985 World Orienteering Championships. This area is something of a legend and deservedly so. Back in 1985 Australia hadn't hosted that many major events, and no-one was quite sure what to expect. In true Ozzie style they shocked the world, producing a stunning map of a stunningly complex area that few had been expecting. I remember watching the video of the championships and seeing Kari Sallinen, the Fin who won the men's race, actually walking out of a control studying his map. This is unheard of at this level but clearly his caution paid off. Many people made a lot of big mistakes that day. Kooyoora is something of real Australia. It is as if a bit of the Aboriginal north has been brought down and planted in the middle of Victoria. Wineries and farmland bound
the area itself but whilst you are in there you can almost hear the sound of the didgeridoos and feel the spirits of those people who lived there for tens of thousands of years before the whites came and destroyed them.
I was surprised at how tough going it was through much of the area, and this may
have been what caused Sallinen to study his map so hard. To win here it is not enough merely to spike the controls - difficult enough for mere mortals - you have to work out the fastest way to do so and that is not going to be a straight line. Our slow progress was followed by flocks of huge parakeets sounding a cacophony of alarmed and aggressive squawks. The heavy "thud thud" of startled kangeroos was common as we approached each thicket although we only actually saw one, bounding away along a spur as we chased it down to the control. After climbing over the hill, taking in the beautiful vistas, the going started to get easier and we started to speed up. Typically, having spiked every control so far, I started to let myself go on the second last leg, running fast (for me) through the bush and picking up the small boulder fields as I passed. This was a great feeling, but of course I was overconfident. I only veered slightly off the line I should have been on but relocating in this detailed area with many rock features but few contours proved very difficult. A good
five minutes later I found myself and staggered to the control. Kooyoora had bitten back.
Back in Melbourne, Kim's friend Bruce gave us a taste of the high life and how the other half lives. We left the miserable Brunswick squat where our penniless academic hosts eke out a hand to mouth existence to seek out an address in a block of flats near the city centre. We were met by a cheery Scottish "Halloo" and a wall to wall panorama of the Melbourne CBD from the swanky 19th floor flat. Bruce and his fiancee both work for PWC and so we had a very pleasurable evening, pretending to be Gordon Geckos, looking down on the city of ants with our Gin and Tonics in hand. Sadly, I had left my camera and tripod behind.
But academics have their good sides. Always looking for a free meal, there was no problem in gathering a host from Heather's work to attend Kim's birthday barbeque. Joking aside, we were both quite touched by the thoughtfulness of those who attended, most of whom had met us only once before, and by Heather and Jame's excellent organisational efforts. I've never had barbequed
mussels before but they were lovely.
So, after more than three weeks without having to pack our rucksacks, we had to say a wrenching goodbye to our long missed hosts and their adorably cute daughters and step on the plane for the short flight down to Hobart, and that other world that is Tasmania.
There are more photos below