Thursday, September 5, 2013

Weekend in Melbourne = Best Weekend So Far!

This past weekend I went to Melbourne with Caroline, Brittany, Kate, Melissa, Audrie, and Chloe. We traveled in separate groups. Caroline, Brittany,and I left at 8:30 PM on Thursday night to meet up with the others who had left the day before. Due to the train schedule we got to Sydney super early and had to sleep in the International Airport's waiting room.  The domestic airport closes at midnight. Once it was close to our flight we took the train to the domestic airport.  There was a Mackers or McDonald’s near the waiting room.  We ate breakfast here.  They do not have biscuits!

Once arriving in Melbourne, we went to the 7/11 and got a Myki so that we could ride the tram to our Base X hostel.  We chose Base X for the first night because of its great reviews and the fact we could be picked up from there for our tour of the Great Ocean Road and Phillips Island. After checking in, we met the others at Victoria market.  Victoria Market is somewhat like a flea market.  I bought a super cool VW van sign.  They call the VW vans Kombi vans.   After dropping some dollars at the market, we went to the Eureka Skydeck.  Since it was Melbourne day, the Skydeck’s admissions were buy one ticket get one free.  The Skydeck was super high at 88 floors. We saw amazing views of Melbourne and a double rainbow. After the Skydeck we returned to BaseX for dinner and to hangout for the night.  I got a yummy pizza for $5.  A $5 meal is an amazing deal in Australia.  Everyone at Base seemed like family.  The staff joined in on the games and activities for the night.  The only downside to Base was that we got two European guys in our Mixed Ensuite room that slept from 6PM until we left at 7AM.  I think we got on their nerves a lot.  One would not speak to us.  

Double rainbow.
Eureka Sky Tower.

We checked out of Base at 7AM to be picked up by our Wildlife Tours..  We had booked a 2 day tour of the Great Ocean Road and Phillips Island.  This tour was amazing and worth every penny.  It cost $239 AUD.   Our tour guide Ben's love for his job made the tour outstanding.  He has only been working for Wildlife Tours for two months.  Before he worked as an IT man but found it was not making him happy.  I give him mad props for quitting his boring job.
The tour started with the Great Ocean road.  Since it was a two day tour, the tour went backwards from the single day Great Ocean Road tour.  This made each stop not super packed with other tour groups.  The tour started with morning tea and shopping for lunch at Colac Park.  Then we went to the 12 apostles.  There are 8 rocks and not 12 at the 12 apostles.  There never has been 12.  There were 9, but one collapsed in 2005.  Next we went to Loch Ard Gorge.  This was a beautiful stop of limestone cliffs and a cave off the beach.  Ben told us about how there was a shipwreck at Loch Ard Gorge.  Everyone on the ship but two died, a man and a woman.  The man saved the woman by pulling her to shore.  They slept in the cave off the beach.   People told them that they should get married.  The man proposed even though he was engaged back home.  She said no and returned to her home in Ireland.  He continued to sail on ships and survived many more shipwrecks until he met his match and was killed.  After stopping at Loch Ard Gorge, we stopped at Gibson Steps.  After traveling down the 80 some steps we found another gorgeous beach of huge waves and white rolling sand.  Then we drove a bit farther and stopped at Mait’s Rest of the Otway Rainforest.  Ben gave us many facts about the rain forest as we walked along the trail. There are Mountain Ash trees about the size of Redwoods in California.  These trees can reach heights of over a 100 meters tall.  We learned about the Myrtle Beech tree that grows on the tip of fallen trees.  We saw a carnivorous snail.  Thankfully, none bit onto any of us.  After the rainforest, we headed to Apollo Bay.  Apollo is a beautiful seaside town.  I would love to live here.  On our way to our accommodations in Lorne we stopped along Kennett River and saw a wild koala.  The koala even ate for us.  We were lucky to see this, since koalas sleep 20 hours a day.  Once we got to Great Ocean Backpackers in Lorne we were allowed to explore and do whatever before dinner.  We just got settled in and went down to the grocery store to get drinks for dinner.  The grocery store was an independent chain, because no franchises are allowed in Lorne by the government.  The government wants to keep Lorne free from litter and help local businesses thrive there.  Ben fixed us an amazing dinner.  I expected just to have a sausage sizzle, but we had sausage, chicken, kangaroo, and potatoes.  There was, also, lamb chops and salad.  I do not like either one of those.  We decided to crash early for the night, because we were tired.  We all got to sleep in the same room!

12 Apostles

Loch Ard Gorge

The next morning me, Kate, and Melissa got up early to see the sunrise from the beach.  It was gorgeous.  I do wish a cloud was not in the way for part of it.  Our first stop of the day was at the Split Point Lighthouse.  After that we went to Surf Beach and then through Torquay.  Both of these areas had a lot of surfers and great waves for surfing.  After passing through scenic seaside towns of Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove, we took the ferry to Phillips Island.  This ferry was really nice and had an air conditioned place to sit down on the inside.  Brittany, also, learned what a ferry is and that you do not have to ask if you need to bring your backpack because the whole vehicle goes on the ferry.  Our first stop was Koala Maru Park.  Here we got to see koalas, Tasmanian devils, emus, donkey, dingos, wallabies, and kangaroos.  I enjoyed feeding the kangaroos again.  There was an Albino kangaroo named Ice.  After the spending time at the park, we stopped at Penny’s Chocolate Factory to shop for chocolate.  We did not have enough time to take a tour.  I did not buy anything because it was expensive.  My one sample was yummy though.  We then headed to Nobbies.  On our way we took a pit stop and watched a couple of crotch rockets race around the Grand Prix Track.  We would have went to Swan Lake to but the pathways were flooded and the lake was closed.  Nobbies was very windy yet very pretty.  There were sea gulls everywhere because of mating season.  We got to see a bit of action.  Nobbies is known for its seal rocks.  However, it is rare to be able to see a seal with the naked eye.  We did see one, but he was dead an washing up to shore.  We left Nobbies after having an hour to explore the different paths.  On our way out, Ben stopped and let us look at the wild kangaroos and wallabies hopping around.  This is the first time I saw them in the wild.  We then made our way to my highlight of the trip, the Penguin Parade!  Every night Little Penguins or Fairy Penguins swim in from the ocean after sunset and go home to their burrows.  They wait until dark, so that their predators are likely resting.  They are so adorable.  I was so close to one that I could have touched it.  However,  I did not want to contaminate him/her.  Sadly, you were not allowed to take pictures.  Flash blinds the penguins and they normally die if blinded.  I did sneak and take a poor picture without flash.  You can just make out the outline of the penguin.  We sadly had to leave.  I wanted to stay with the penguins forever.  On the way out of the park, we did see more action of two penguins mating.   The penguin parade was a great finale to the tour.

Lorne Sunrise

A Joey came out from its mother's pouch for a visit.
Seagulls of Nobbies

Nobbie's Rocks

World's Smallest Penguins

We did not return to Base after the tour, but stayed at Hotel Discovery.  This hostel was pretty nice.  We all again got to stay together.  Hostelworld said that they have free Wi-Fi, but when we got there this was crossed out on their amenity list.  This was a bummer.  The next morning we woke up to our last complete day left in Melbourne.  We spent this day shopping and exploring.  I spent too much money We all peer pressure each other into buying things.  I did buy a super cute black dress that could work for sorority recruitment. When exploring, we went down an alley way in China Town and saw some pretty cool graffiti.  Graffiti is very popular in Melbourne and is not frowned upon.  We, also, took the free visitor shuttle and got an tour of the city.
While on the free shuttle tour, we learned about Little Italy.  We decided to take Audrie out to Little Italy for her birthday.  We ended up having the best dinner we have had this whole trip at Little Toto’s Pizza House.  I had pizza with prawns or shrimp.  This was a really good combination.  The service was great.   The owner even made Audrie a massive free gelato sampler.  When they brought it to the table, we sang her Happy Birthday.  The whole restaurant including a party of maybe 50 Asians joined in.  This was on her bucket list and made her birthday week.  She deserved all of this, since she bakes for everyone’s birthdays and is just an amazing, caring person.

We all stayed another night at Discovery.  Everyone flew back home in the morning except for Brittany, Caroline, and I.  Since we came later than everyone else and only had lectures on Tuesday, we did not leave until the afternoon.  We went back to the market. After the market, we had iced coffee and went to the Victoria Harbor.  Like most harbors, it was gorgeous.  We saw a lot of cool buildings around it.  The NAB or National Australian Bank building was my favorite.  We took the free city circle tram back to our hostel to pick up our luggage out of the locker we rented since we had to check out at before 11.  We then returned to Southern Cross Station to take our bus back to the airport.  I almost did not make it in the plane with my carry on because I bought so much and it was bulging.  Thankfully, the lady forgot to bring the scales to the gate.  I was well over the maximum 10 kilos.

NAB and Melbourne Bike Share


Since this was a long post and I want my blog to be helpful to future study abroaders, here are some tips to traveling in Melbourne.
1-  Book your flight for the Tullamarine airport and not the Avalon one.
2- You will need transportation from the airport to the city.
a.       Tullamarine: Skybus for about $16
b.      Avalon: Sita for about $22
3- Book the 2 day Great Ocean Road and Phillip Island Tour  Ask for Ben to be your tour guide.
4- Base X is nice and has great food and drink deals along with cool parties.
5- Discovery Hostel is nice too, but has a lot of rules and no party scene.  Also, there is a construction project right beside it.  Expect to be woken up by 7:30.  It is a bit cheaper and near Victoria market.
6-  Bring a towel for the hostels to avoid towel rental charges.
7- Bring a padlock to the hostels too.
8- Shop at Victoria Market
9- Bring a fully charged camera and lots of memory cards
   - Take advantage of the Visitor Shuttle Bus and the free City Circle Tram
1- You can get your cards for the Tram at a 7-11
1- Eat at Toto’s Pizza House
  - Check train times before booking flights.

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