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Published: January 24th 2006
..there really are twelve..promise!
Picking up our second hire car from St Kilda Europcar, I had to check the number plate to see that it wasn't our original car. Picked up lin and the bags from the Ritz then drove out of Melbourne along the M1 to Torquay, a small town at the start of the Great Ocean Road with a large surfing contingent at the busy beach. We sheltered in front of the sea wall for our lunch before continuing down to the famous Bells Beach. This is renowned for the huge waves that are a magnet for surfers and appears in the late eighties film Point Break, one of my favourite movies from my teenage years so a must visit for me!
The waves were too big for us, especially with no life guards present so after dodging a few at the waters edge we drove onto the Kennet River for some Koala spotting. As so often happens, we couldn't see any so drove on to Apollo Bay picking up a German backpacker on our way. His name was Chris, and he was grateful for the lift, but assured us that he only ever had to wait about fifteen minutes to catch a
posh hostel anyone?
ride. Now thats cheap travelling!
The YHA at Apollo bay had only been open 7 weeks and was of a fantastic modern design with spotless designer kitchens, comfy lounges and a roof top deck looking out to sea... one of our favourite hostels. (If you're wondering, we dropped Chris off near a campsite).
Incredibly, our room-mates that night were Simon and Clare with whom we'd shared a room at the Botafogo Hostel in Rio!
Set off in good time the next day with a busy itinerary planned. It was an amazing day, and such a fantastic road to drive on with every bend bringing new sights into view.
We stopped at and walked to or around:
Loch Ards Gorge, the sight of the wreck of the Loch Ard.
The London Bridge.
Turned around at deserted Peterborough then stopped for a drink in bustling Port Cambell before returning to Apollo Bay for the night in a speedy hour and 15.
Drove back to Melbourne stopping at the Split Point lighthouse, and again at Torquay for lunch and a quick play in the huge waves for me. It was a struggle to get
here kitty kitty!
out to the waves but once you caught one right, you were just along for the ride!
Dropped the car off in the nick of time at the Franklin Street depot having checked into our room at the St Arnaud hotel. We stayed in the backpacker dorm room of this quaint little place which really seemed like someones home. Spent the evening walking around Melbourne centre and going up the Rialto Tower block to the Observation floor for panoramic views of the city.
In the St Arnaud, breakfast was included and we helped ourselves until we were full, and discussed our plans for the tennis with a NZ and Aussie couple.
As planned, it was only a short walk through the botanical gardens to the Australian Open. Surprisingly there was no sign of any large queues like at Wimbledon, so we breezed in and enjoyed two matches on the outside courts featuring Dementieva (RUS) and Hantuchova (SVK) then took our seats in the Vodafone Arena for Venus Williams's match. After winning the first set 6-1, she lost 0-6,7-9 to her unknown bulgarian opponent.
Incredibly, we were gifted two tickets to the Rod Laver Arena as we sat
the new Tim? not on this performance!
outside having lunch, so saw Maria Sharapova in the last day session on this fantastic court. Then after a break we came back to see Henman self destruct in his usual style which was a shame, but the crowd was almost as vocal as at Wimbledon. We certainly made ourselves heard.
This match didn't finish until 11:15pm so back at the hostel it was straight to bed!
Having had such a good day, we decided to go again, and went with one of our roommates to queue up for a ground pass. Wimbledon this is not, so it was only 20 minutes and we were passing through the turnstyles ticket in hand. This time we saw a good mens match on an outside court then went to queue up for the Vodafone Arena. Our good luck shone agaain, and a man gifted us 3 pass outs, so we jumped the hour long queue and went straight in at the next changeover. This meant we saw Tommy Haas (who only later lost to Federer in the fourth round), and then Andy Murray. No heroics as in SW19 this year, and he bowed out in 3 straight sets with a bit of racquet abuse for good measure!
All tennis'd out we returned to the St Arnaud to pack ready for our impending flight to Cairns and the joys of the East coast!
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