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March 9th 2008
Published: March 14th 2008
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Loch Ard Gorge
Hi everyone, I can't believe my turn to write the blog has come around again so soon! It seems like just yesterday that I was telling you about our outback adventures. We were very sad and lonely leaving Simon and Row's place in Sydney. We had such a lovely time there it really was very difficult to move on. We couldn't stop thinking about how we would be back to proper backpacking after we stayed with Sarah in Melbourne. We were so used to friendly, familiar faces and no hostels. However, we had one more week of sponging off relatives to go, and that the lucky relative this time was my dear cousin, Sarah. She very kindly put us up in her bed for a week and managed to cope with the week-long mess that was our usual backpack explosion. It was so great to see Sarah, as I hadn't seen her in over 2 years! She is now a fully fledged student of social work in Melbourne and is also part timing in a lovely restaurant by the sea in St Kilda. She met us off the tram on Acland St, St. Kilda and brought us back to where she
St. Kilda, MelbourneSt. Kilda, MelbourneSt. Kilda, Melbourne

At the Vineyard, where Sarah works
was waitressing and got us fabulous (and discounted!) lunches. In fact, having herself backpacked around Australia last year, Sarah made it her mission to find us cheap everything in Melbourne! She knew exactly what we were after.

Sarah lives in St. Kilda which seems to be the coolest part of Melbourne. St. Kilda is famous for many things. It's very trendy with lots of good value cafes and restaurants and a lively music scene. My favourite part was the abundance of vintage clothes shops, on Sarah's street alone there must have been about twenty. I went into every one at least twice and not just in that part of town either! Everything was so cheap and extremely chic, I had to work very hard to resist my temptations to purchase. It really was torture! St. Kilda is also famous for its many delicious cake shops on Acland Street, and needless to say we indulged a couple of times. The Neighbours night in St. Kilda is one of the main reasons that backpackers flock there. Every Monday night, select members of the Neighbours cast come to a local pub run by a backpackers and fools like us pay $40 each to spend the evening with our favourite neighbours such as Carl Kennedy, Libby Kennedy, Paul Robinson while simultaneously getting ludicrously drunk and generally making a fool out of themselves. Mark and I tend to steer clear of these kind of backpacker social events, but we figured that it might be fun and how can you turn down an opportunity to meet "THE" Dr Carl Kennedy anyway, and to hear his band perform LIVE! So, we forked out the dosh and headed off, with plans to meet up with Sarah at 9pm for dinner. I was told the evening was starting at 6.30pm. By 8.30 we were still sitting in the pub with about 300 backpackers and there was no sign of anything happening. Being my confrontational self, I went outside to the ticket desk to complain and they finally agreed to refund our tickets. Apparently the show doesn't get going until about 9pm, obviously the plan being to get the backpackers in early so they can get tanked up and spend a fortune at the bar. Mark couldn't find our tickets and thought he might have given them to the barmaid when we came in, in exchange for our free beer each. I was waiting at the ticket desk waiting for Mark to get our tickets and then the strangest thing ever happened! He came out the door with a huffy barmaid, clearly put out that she had to come out and talk to the ticket office people. I recognised her voice straight away and nearly fainted with shock. Who was it only my secondary school bully, Laura Corrigan who famously pushed me into a bush, threw numerous drinks over me, and basically made my life a nightmare for 2 years!!!! I couldn't believe it. Of all the people to meet! She recognised me at the same time and tried to be all friendly but I told Mark who she was and we both just walked out, refunds in hand. What a night! Talk about a "Neighbours Night!".

On our first day in Melbourne, Sarah and I spent the morning and afternoon lying on the couch, catching up on all the news and reminiscing about our college days together. Like Simon and Row, she has the perfect life over here. Mark and I are very jealous and it makes thinking about going home very hard! A surprise package arrived
St. Kilda, MelbourneSt. Kilda, MelbourneSt. Kilda, Melbourne

Mark with new camera bag, outside Sarah's house
from Auntie Morna that morning with some beautiful tops for Sarah and I. It was perfect timing as I was beginning to despair at the state of my portable wardrobe, and was very close to crazy shopping spree breaking point. Meanwhile, Mark headed into town in search of a Crumpler camera bag, something he's been looking forward to buying for ages. They are manufactured and sold mainly in Melbourne so it was to be his souvenir/practical purchase from Australia. That evening Sarah went to work and Mark and I headed out for a tasty kebab. We are really going to miss kebabs when we get to Nepal so now is the time to get them in while we can! I spent the next day wandering around the shops in St. Kilda, while Mark headed into Melbourne CBD to take some photos. We cooked dinner at Sarah's house that evening and enjoyed a few glasses of cheap Aussie bubbly, followed by a few episodes of Sex and the City!

On the Thursday we rented a car to do Great Ocean Road for two days. Unfortunately Sarah had to work and couldn't join us. We left Melbourne around midday and drove to Geelong where Great Ocean Road starts. We spent the rest of day driving and stopping at incredibly beautiful and deserted beaches. To be honest, I have seen so many photos of Great Ocean Road so I felt like that would be enough and neither of us were expecting all that much. What a surprise though! It blew our minds away. I couldn't believe how stunning the scenery was and there were loads of pretty little towns along the way to stop for a nice lunch or a coffee. We arrived at Port Campbell after 7 hours of driving and watched the sunset over the Twelve Apostles. It was just magical. This little trip summed up my experience in Australia so far. I had always felt that we were going to Australia because everyone does it when they travel and it's the thing to do, but it was never one of the places I was really looking forward to visiting. I hate all the hype about Australia and it really put me off. That was, until I actually got here! It is a truly amazing country! I absolutely love it and I guess I can now understand what all the hype is about. We camped in the gorgeous town of Port Campbell that night after enjoying pizzas and beer after sunset. We took our time driving back to Melbourne the next day and spent some time at the beautiful Loch Ard Gorge which has probably the nicest beach I've ever been to (I'm sure when we go to Queensland this opinion will change, but it was perfect).

Mark had a sleep in on Saturday while I got up early to peruse the shops on Chapel Street, returning only with a vintage t-shirt (only my second purchase in Australia!). That evening the three of us played around with some trivial pursuit cards over a few glasses of wine and then went down towards the beach for yummy gourmet burgers and some beers. On our last day in Melbourne, Mark and I enjoyed some treats of the sugary variety on Acland Street before meeting up with Sarah for a jug of beer at the Espy (a St Kilda institution, the Esplanade, colloquially known as the Espy, is a huge bar overlooking the seafront with live music all day- reminded me of Dun Laoghaire on a sunny Sunday afternoon). We then jumped on the tram to the Botanical Gardens to catch an outdoor movie at the Moonlight Cinema. This was the perfect way to spend a Sunday evening. Lying on a bean bag bed in the park, surrounded by the night time Melbourne sky line, watching Donnie Darko and having a picnic. Nice.

We were up early at 6am the next day to catch our flight to Ayers Rock. There was an ominous forboding surrounding this part of the trip for a few weeks, since we realised that bloody Trailfinders booked us flights to Ayers Rock, where there is nothing apart from a resort, instead of Alice Springs, where all the tours depart from. We ended up forking out big bucks and big hassle to arrange our 3 day/2 night tour of Ayers Rock. Since we were flying out of Ayers Rock also, we had to finish our tour in Ayers Rock, but all tours have to return to Alice Springs after they visit Kings Canyon on Day 3. This meant that on Day 3 we had to spend six hours on the tour bus going 600kms north to Alice Springs, stay the night there and then get up at 5.30am the next day to travel the 600kms back to Ayers Rock to catch our flight. And we had to pay an extra 90 bucks on top of the price of our tour, for the pleasure. Anyway, we had come to terms with this and just decided that that was how we had to do it. Sure how hard could it be?!

Arrived at Ayers Rock airport, bag which we had packed for the tour didn't make it and was still in Melbourne. Great! Saw Uluru, just a red rock. Went for a hike with our tour, in my flip flops (hiking shoes in the missing bag). Walked around the Olgas, in 40 degree heat. Olgas pretty nice, kept thinking Traquair (where we worked in the outback) was way nicer. Watched sunset over Uluru, standing up and bored, while every other group had wine and nibbles. Went back to campsite for dinner, not enough food. Had to get up early the next morning, at 5am for sunrise. Watched sunrise over Uluru, looked the same as sunset the night before. Went for another hike around base of Uluru, in flip flops, flies everywhere, not allowed to take photos as it's a sacred site. Guide drove us to King's Canyon, 5 hours away. Trekked around King's Canyon the next morning, Mark lost his lovely cowboy hat from Chile. Mark ran for an hour in 40C heat with no water to find hat and then catch group to find he had overtaken them, took 30 mins for group to arrive. Guide drove us back to Alice Springs, had to get bus back to Ayers Rock next morning at 6am.

So, all in all, Uluru was a disappointment. Afterall, it is just a big red rock in the middle of the desert. Denis and Susie's farm was way nicer! On the plus side, we did get our missing bag back on Day 2, and Quantas gave us 120 dollars for expenses. We also got to sleep in swags under the stars for 2 nights, which was pretty amazing. Overall, we just felt that Uluru is just as good seen on a postcard and that we really didn't need to fly 1,500km to see it for real. However, we did have a few laughs, and we met some nice people so that was nice. One thing is for sure though, I couldn't have got on that plane to Cairns any quicker!


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14th March 2008

Ref. Yummy Burgers
For skinny girls you and Sarah can sure stuff your faces Kate! Loving your stories and photos each time- and v reassuring for me to see that Sarah is neither hungry nor stressed in her firsr week as a student in Melbourne! Try Whitehaven Beach on Whitsundays if you get a chance. Happy onward trekking to both of you- Morna
16th March 2008

I am impressed by your restraint on the shopping front Kate! Hope you celebrate Paddy's Day in style over there. Can't believe it's been 2 years since the Edinburgh pubcrawl marathon! xx
8th April 2008

Well done indeed to you Kate for putting loud mouthed bullies in their place. Sounds like she fitted right in such a rip off place. Still enjoyed your run up the Great Ocean Road. Great photography as usual though I was greatly impressed with the views of Gibson's Beach. I would certainly love to see it myself. Im told over here that some of the !2 Apostles have disappeared into the sea.

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