I rounded off my week or so in Melbourne with a visit to St Kilda, the down the tram tracks sea side resort that I had a perfectly pleasant time in, and only resent slightly for painting me strangers-stop-and-gawp red in the face with sunburn. It contained one of the best book shops I’ve ever been in and a classic Australian white strip of sand. It also has the rather ramshackle Luna Park: a fairground that looks half shut down and thus feels very Scooby Doo. There’s a pretty good pier to walk along which has a rocky outcrop at the end where you can spot tiny little native Australian penguins nestling down for the day.
I also went to the Queen Victoria night markets (they love Queen Victoria in this country.She may’ve been monarch when the first settlers arrived here but I wonder if anyone’s told them she’s stopped. Perhaps they think the current Queen is a geriatric hat model) which is full of different types of cuisine, classy knick knacks, sangria and bonhomie. I liked Melbourne, a lot. I’d very much like to return, except much richer than I am now and with a mule to carry my large supply of coffee beans back with me.
I had to get up last Saturday to set off on a tour along the Great Ocean Road. After much preparation and the kind of sleep you get when you’re worrying that your alarm on your phone won’t go off so you stuff everything up entirely, my stupid alarm didn’t go off on my stupid phone, leaving me in an incredible rush. (Obviously, if Mum wasn’t going to read this, I’d have put ‘fucking’ there, rather than stupid. It portrays my shock and anger rather better.)
But the tour itself was rather good, concisely taking in the impressively eroded rock formations which jut out of the Ocean along a small section of Australia’s southern coast and the beautiful Grampians national park in west Victoria, which is a green and hilly place, speckled with small towns and beautiful rivers and lakes and lots of hikes to go on. So a bit like a sunnier Wales, really. The highlight was climbing a small summit overlooking the Outback town of Hall’s Gap as the sun rose. Or at least, reaching the top was a highlight. Me sweating uphill for a considerable period of time never appeals much, perhaps least of all to the girl who had to sit next to me on the tour bus.
I can now say not only have I seen (and filmed) three Kangaroos fighting in the wild, I’ve also been in a vehicle that’s hit one. I’d love to be able tell you it was fine, but I’m afraid it was rather the opposite of that. Still, it’s the way of the world out on dark outback roads, unfortunately. There’s plenty more of them out there. Unless that was Skippy, in which case we’ve seriously compromised Australia’s main security infrastructure.
The trip took me to Adelaide, a city that is sometimes left off travellers’ checklists and dismissed by Australians as a country town with pretentions of being a city. Guidebooks are ever so keen to extol its charms, but ever so vague on how to fill your days here. It’s the only one of country’s city that was meticulously planned to reflect ideas on how an’ ideal’ town should look and you can definitely see that. The streets here as so wide, the buildings so far apart, the corners so sweeping, you feel you are looking at a city reflected through a fairground mirror and it makes you feel a little off kilter. While waiting to cross the road, I’ve idly wondered if I’ll age 10 or 15 years like when Simba crosses the log in The Lion King.
It’s also full of churches and fountains, the latter of which surprises me a little because this is the driest state in the driest continent in the world. Polite but firm signs warn you to limit your shower and use a sink plug; but the same amount of water is fine when spurting out of a stone dolphin’s mouth for pure aesthetics, apparently.
Luckily, I have a friend who’s been staying down here who’s showing me the sights. We’ve so far been down to the seaside suburb of Glenelg (sunburn: large patch, upper right thigh) and been to the moonlight cinema in the Botanic park, a warm summer evening picnic affair where the film was made more magical by fireflies flitting across the screen.
In Melbourne, I had been booked into a Nomads hostel by a travel agent. It was my worst idea of what a hostel could be, with a bar thumping out dubstep every evening and a tiny kitchen and beds that creaked if you so much as had a particularly strong thought in them. Which of course you did. About the noisy bloody beds.
The hostel I’ve moved to in Adelaide is brand new and totally brilliant. It has free pancakes two mornings a week and books in the book swap that don’t make you wished you’d packed it in with the whole reading thing around the time you’d learned the letter c. Having said that, the general shoddiness of such an expensive hostel in Melbourne did get me chatting to my roommates in a wartime spirit kind of way. By comparison, it turns out ‘Well, these facilities are more than adequate, aren’t they?’ isn’t much of a conversation starter, although it is one I intend to try if I’m ever invited to meet royalty at Buck House.
This evening, I’m off to Kangaroo Island- apparently Australia’s Galapagos, voted 5th best island in the world by readers of National Geographic magazine. The Isle of Wight didn’t even make the list, so I can’t begin to imagine the heady highs of the ones which have. As usual, with tedious inevitability, I’ll be sure to let you know next week.