It was a long day travelling from Canberra to Melbourne, where we starting on a rather empty coach bus and then a pretty crowded intercity train. Kevin appreciated the chance to stretch out and nap during the bus ride, considering we were up and out pretty early. Our very lovely hosts greeted us in Melbourne at the expansive Southern Cross train station. They kept us entertained and informed as we timed our arrival to perfectly hit the rush hour traffic all the way to our first house sitting assignment in Oz. They have a one acre plot in a suburban neighborhood that they have converted to a makeshift wildlife sanctuary! Ducks, geese, chickens, sheep, and cats would be our companions for the next ten days, and it would be our responsibility to make sure they were well taken care of when our hosts hit the road. Luckily we spent the first few days with them getting to know the property and various animals to take care of. The feeding routine is strictly regulated, as is the watering schedule for the extensive shrubbery on the property. We had a lot to learn and they were kind enough to teach us. As far
Spot the Koala!
Seen at Melbourne Zoo
as climate goes, Melbourne is already a bit cooler than anywhere else we've been yet, but there is still plenty of sunshine to enjoy.
Seeing as it was Sunday we took a Melbourne tram down to St. Kilda, a popular seaside suburb that seems to feature a lot in Australian novels and songs by the Cat Empire. The temperature was pleasantly cool with a light breeze as we strolled up the pier and along the beaches where Kevin braved the waters for a quick dip. The ocean was cool, but still far warmer than Lake Ontario, so he was good.
We paused to visit Luna Park and ride their 104 year old roller coaster which was a great thrill. This amusement park was designed by the same team who designed Coney Island. We rested for lunch in a very pleasant park reflecting how nice wandering around this area was. The Sunday crafts market, another reason for visiting today, added a certain charm but shortly afterwards we were lured by foot fatigue into a bar. Surprisingly enough this bar was kitted up like a Canadian hunting lodge, with an elk head on the wall above the bar. A 'footie'(Aussie
Rules Football) game was playing on a big screen and we had fun trying to figure out how the heck this game works. We had found another good Happy Hour special to enjoy a pint or two, which is one of the only ways we can stick to our budget when it comes to going out. However, even though this country is expensive, it hasn't been too difficult to stick to a budget and still enjoy what the relaxed Aussie lifestyle has to offer. It seems like a little planning goes a long way as far as saving money here.
We had our sights set for the Melbourne Zoo for our next outing. I do not think I have been to a zoo in many years, since Calgary Zoo I believe, and sometimes find them a bit depressing. Melbourne Zoo has a very high reputation so we talked ourselves round to visiting the place. Its reputation is certainly deserved as it came across as more of a safari park by foot but with a wider range of animals. There were masses of school groups, which was great, all in quite charming old fashioned uniforms with hats and while it was busy it did not feel crowded. I had briefly looked at going out of Melbourne on wildlife tours, but $150 each to see the penguins on Phillip Island had seemed pricey. Also, I had heard that the tourist impact had disrupted the wildlife there and didn't feel great about going. At the zoo, however, we got to see the same penguins. We saw a seal gracefully swimming underwater as well as being trained by keepers.
Koalas are nocturnal animals and dozy at the best of times, so we weren't sure if we would spot one. I was delighted to see one up close, especially since we didn't see one the first time heading round the enclosure. The emus were ponderous and the wallabies seemed quite tame.
I will say that the enclosures were top notch. Even the large predators, like tigers, snow leopards and lions, seemed to have plenty of room and private space. The elephants looked very happy, housed in large, interlocking paddocks. All in all, it was a very pleasant day in not too hot sunshine.
Our next adventure was spent wandering through Melbourne's lanes and arcades to Federation Square. The city is full of quite narrow backstreets, giving it a distinctly European feel, with independent bookstores, high end fashion emporiums and cafes upon cafes tucked into all the nooks and crannies. Federation Square itself does not have the imperial architecture one expects at a town square, but it is surrounded by ultra modern architecture housing art galleries, museums and more cafes.
Our house sit was very pleasant, and we greatly enjoyed taking care of the sheep, geese, ducks, chickens and cats entrusted to us. However, it was more of a full time commitment than we anticipated, and we didn't manage to get into the city as much as we would have liked, so we are definitely going to make our way back to this cosmopolitan city before we leave Oz.
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