Return of the Beast

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February 11th 2007
Published: February 16th 2007
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Temple of  WindsTemple of  WindsTemple of Winds

Part of the botanics
There had been quite a storm overnight: the first rain we've seen since the thunderstorm in Katoomba about 3 weeks ago and it was still blowing a gale when we got up to get ourselves together. We took all our luggage out of the car and spread it over the living room floor in the cottage. There seemed to be tons of it. Eventually we squeezed it all into rucksacks and it was time to go back to Geelong, where we would return the Beast to Europcar and set out for Melbourne via public transport. we've travelled more than 5000 kilometres i(just over 3000 miles) in it, so it was sad to see it go.

Caught a train to Melbourne it all went smoothly and by noon we were checking into the Melbourne Metro Hostel. The taxi we caught to take us to the hostel was driven by a mad Syrian (who in between swearing at every other driver on the roads informed us he had lived in Melbourne for 41 years). Even by the standards of your average cabbie this guy's driving was crazy cutting people up and at one point going the wrong way up a one way street (albeit a very short one). By this time the clouds had broken up and the sun was out though it was still pretty windy.

We took the free shuttle bus round town to visit the Sunday Market at the Arts Centre, which was, perhaps predictably, very expensive. We then stopped for lunch (coffee and sandwiches (no cakes!)) and crossed the road to the Botanic Gardens, passing a statue of Queen Victoria balanced on what looked like a pale green beach ball, but is probably meant to signify her position as ruler of over half the world at that time. We also passed a statue of a Marquess of Linlithgow, who was apparently an early Governor-General hereabouts.

The botanics was more European looking than most I've seen in Oz - it's apparently second only to Kew Gardens in importance to planty people. Very busy with at least one wedding and lots of picnics. Lots of impressive trees including a gigantic Moreton Bay fig (a native of Queensland).

Monday - went into town looking for present for John and Noelene (our hosts in Brisbane). We got Lonely Planet's Travel Book - it lists every country in the world with a brief description of best places to visit, highlights etc - great book for dreaming of exotic places. As they themselves are keen travellers, we thought it would give them some ideas for future trips.

It was now very hot so spent the afternoon avoiding the worst of the sunshine (or best if you're a Cara)
We had planned a trip to see fairy penguins in Melbourne harbour. When Melbourne hosted the Olympics in 1956 they built a breakwater for the sailing contests. Within a couple of years they noticed that fairy penguins had began to nest there. It was then turned into a nature reserve (by building a fence across the breakwater to keep people out) and has since gone from strength to strength. One of the guys involved in monitoring the penguins thought it would be a good idea to let people see what was happening so got himself a boat and now does evening trips to see the penguins. It is probably the only place in the world where you can get within 2 or 3 yds of wild penguins, the boat eases along the breakwater and you can watch these tiny penguins clambering out of the sea and hopping up the rocks to find their burrows - amazing. The penguins are only about 8 inches tall. As an added bonus we also saw some native water rat things that are marsupials - they just looked like rats. (ugh!)

Tuesday was market day - Melbourne's largest market -the Queen Victoria Market is just down from the hostel and there was no way I could keep the ladies from spending at least a couple of hours browsing round the myriad of stalls. As it happened I spent more than either of them buying myself a new pair of trousers, my previous pair were coming apart at the seams and both Cara and Wendy had warned me that when sat down I should keep my legs crossed to avoid being arrested for indecent exposure. Afterwards we wandered downtown eventually ending up at Federation Square, an experiment in architecture involving the use of fractals in building design. The various building including the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) are all angles and joined together at angles so the overall effect is, well angular. The ACMI had a section dedicated to early computer games inluding "The Hobbit" but when I tried it I got eaten by trolls after 5 mins. We then wandered back through town and although the temperature hadn't quite reached the threatened (promised) 33 C by the time we got back to the YHA all I wanted was a cool shower.
Went for a walk hoping to see the inside of Melbourne Exhibition Centre - site of original parliament and with allegedly very impressive interior. However building was locked up tight so had to content ourselves with looking from outside and a wander through the surrounding park. Were caught in sudden thunderstorm but managed to find shelter under huge tree (Moreton Bay Fig). Made our way back towards the YHA stopping in Malaysian restaurant to eat (and also to escape the rain).
Wednesday - last day in Melbourne for Wendy and I, Cara's staying on for another week or so. Met Charlene (Niome's sister) for lunch then headed down to Art Gallery. Impressive building - we got lost twice. wandered round the european collection - all sorts from medieval Italian to Picasso, My personal favourites were a couple of Sisleys, a Monet, some Australian 19th century landscapes including a huge painting of men on horseback, cattle, sheep and wild animals fleeing a bushfire (can't rmember who by). They also had an exhibition of trainers including my personal favourite the Dunlop Greenflash.

Went out for last meal together to a really nice Italian before we went our separate ways.
Thursday up early and off to airport.

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


Sunset in Melbourne BaySunset in Melbourne Bay
Sunset in Melbourne Bay

A cruise round the bay to see the sunset preceded our visit to the penguin colony
Fairy Penguin Fairy Penguin
Fairy Penguin

Unfortunately the little b----ers don't come ashore till after sunset
Art Gallery - glass ceilingArt Gallery - glass ceiling
Art Gallery - glass ceiling

Couldn't take any other photographs, but this isn't "art", it's just the ceiling of one of the galleries
The Last SupperThe Last Supper
The Last Supper

Our last dinner together - and this was the lemon cheesecake that we just couldn't finish

16th February 2007

C'est la vie (as the Spaniards say)
Fairy penguins at dusk...sounds wonderful (or did WG have an encounter with some ace wacky backy?!). Most impressed with the detail on the Temple of the Winds columns - dont you fancy something similar tastefully carved in wood on the porch of the strawhouse-to-be? As for mad Syrian taxi-drivers...I wouldn't worry about it. Just wait till you get to Cairo! Best xx

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