When I finally arrived in Melbourne at 2am after the hassle with Air Pacific, I went straight to the hotel and slept. I had two full days to explore the city before picking up a hire car and hitting the road (and in Australia these are very long roads). The next morning I walked towards town and grabbed a coffee. The couples on the table next to me were all dressed up. When you see a bunch of rough looking guys in suits with wide-knot ties they're either Championship footballers, estate agents or there's a wedding. But it wasn't just the adjacent table. The whole city was full of suits and glamorous women. It was the Melbourne Cup day. Now, I find horse racing tedious (though I appreciate it provides gainful employment to men with bad teeth and growth hormone deficiencies) but here it captivates the city so much that it's declared a public holiday in the Melbourne metropolitan area. Big screens were erected for the event and the riverside was buzzing.
|Just like NYC, but they drive on the left|
Melbourne has a great food scene: I had some great value feeds in Chinatown and apparently it's one of the best places to get Modern Australian (Mod Oz) cuisine, although I don't really know what that is... as one of my friends said, "Mod Oz is just... food". I burned a lot of these huge meals off by walking around the compact city centre and its many parks.
I picked up car and headed for the principal wine region of Victoria, the Yarra Valley. I decided to stay in Healesville, for the lack of a better option and like most of the wine towns I've been to it was the standard mix of fancy B&Bs, Cellar Doors and swanky bistros. I tried to hire a bicycle to attempt to repeat my trip around Marlborough in NZ but in the end I had to admit defeat and take the car. That meant wine tasting but no drinking and, as with most things, spitting out is the least preferred option (ahem...).
I drove south to the Great Ocean Road, 250km of beautiful road hugging the Victoria coast. I passed through small surf towns like Torquay and Anglesea before arriving at the lovely village of Lorne. It was a Saturday and happened to be the first hot weekend of spring, and everyone from Melbourne had made the trip to the coast for surfing and beach time. I walked along the beach to the pier where a group of people fishing had attracted an audience. One guy had snagged a huge 1.5m wide Bull Ray and spent at least half an hour dragging it to shore in order to take the hook out.
|Bull Ray at Lorne|
|Koala, Kennett River|
Further down the Road, I passed the 12 Apostles, beautiful rock formations rising out of the ocean, now whittled down to just 6 stacks by the waves. After another close call with fuel I arrived in Port Fairy, a quaint town of sandstone cottages, a little marina and a lighthouse. Black Wallabies hopped around the scrubland near the ocean. At sunset the sky was black with Short-tailed Shearwaters coming back to shore for the evening.
|The 12 Apostles|
|Lighthouse, Port Fairy|
|A scratty emu|
|'Roos at Hall's Gap|