Melbourne, Australia – Auckland, New Zealand 2010 – Day 12

05/06/10

Since we did 2 full day tours in Melbourne, we weren’t able to really get a chance to see the town. I for one wanted to see Flinders Station and Federation Square and Chinatown area. We decided to get a late flight to Auckland so that we could explore. We took the tram – it runs on a honour system. You purchase your tickets on the back of the bus from a coin machine as the driver is sitting in a box and doesn’t interact with you. The trams run quite frequently. We made our way to Queen Victoria Market which is very similar to Toronto’s St Lawrence Market including a similar looking building albeit white instead of our burgundy one outside. We had a quick bite before we scurried past Chinatown and took to the main touristy streets I suppose. Did you know Federation Square is Australia’s largest free wifi hotspot or that Flinders Station is their Union Station as the central hub for transport. As I was taking a panoramic, a group of school kids with bright orange hats were crossing by and this little boy made my day. He basically saw me and had walked along with his class but then he turned back and walked back towards me and said hello! than ran back to his classmates. We didn’t have enough time to go shopping nor go through the National Gallery of Victoria (180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne VIC 3006) (mind you the gift shop was lovely) but we we’re able to stop by San Churro Chocolateria (Shop LTL 255, QV Centre/Swanston Street) – basically gourmet chocolate churros and other chocolate products. I got a raspberry rumba which is a white chocolate shake with raspberry topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

We noticed the time and were running a tad late in returning to our hostel to catch the shuttle. We hopped on a tram but apparently the wrong one, hopped off and got back to the hostel right on time. We got to the airport about 4-430PM and our flight was at 605PM. We got to the Qantas check-in counter for our flight from Melbourne to Auckland and the lady asked to see our boarding pass out of New Zealand; having only booked a one way to New Zealand, we had to go purchase another ticket before we could even check in. Our minds weren’t clicking before that we were flying internationally meaning to another country so we didn’t think we needed to book a flight out. Anyways, we wanted to fly from Rotorua back to Sydney and stay a day with uncle Ronald and auntie Maisie but apparently the visa we had trouble getting before departing toronto (the ETA) is only valid for a single entry only so once you leave the country, you cannot come back in unless you reapply off of Australian soil overseas.

So this put us in a predicament as our international flight home was in Sydney. There were 2 plans that we looked into with the helpful people at Flight Centre, the first being – fly home from Auckland (cost double the price of our existing flight home = no good), 2- book a ticket to Fiji and show that to get us approved for our Auckland flight (which was almost ready to depart) and once we get through, cancel the ticket and reapply for Australian visa once we landed and book a ticket back to Sydney. So for a split second we purchased a ticket to Fiji. As we purchased that ticket, we went back to the check-in desk and the manager of the check-in  desk with the Qantas team had told us since we have proof of our returning home flight that all we need to do is purchase a ticket back to Sydney but we would not be able to leave the international terminal as we would be “transiting” to our home of origin flight thus, no need for a new visa. Andrew ran back to change the ticket while I waited at the gate. We were indeed the last ones checked in but luckly not the last ones to board as we cleared security quickly. Apparently, Qantas and Air Canada have some sort of agreement where you can connect with one another allowing our checked baggage to transit through to our next flight although they are not connecting flights in one ticket purchase. We hopped on and flew roughly 3 and 1/2 hours and because of the time change (2+) we arrived at 11PM-12AM-ish.

We are staying Freemans Lodge which apparently is New Zealand’s #1 hostel and last year NZ’s cleaniest hostel. Once you enter, your shoes must be taken off. Did I mention free wifi the whole length of the stay. This hostel is apparently known as a B&B but there is only free tea and coffee and our twin private shared bathroom is actually a double bed in a smallish private room with a shared bathroom.

Melbourne, Australia 2010 – Day 11

05/05/10

We booked Great Oceans Road Classic Tour (125AUD) with Bunyip Tours. Same as the previous day, we hopped on a 20 seater van but we had a more interesting and animated group of people today. Our guide/driver Cameron was cool and a noted plus was that it barely rained.

We drove through Torquay, the hometown to brands such as Quiksilver and RipCurl. Bells beach is situated in this small town and holds one of the largest surf contests. We had a bunch of tourists from around the world on our tour – Germany, France, Ireland, Thailand, Japan and Korea.

Cameron told us that the great oceans road was built by the returning soldiers of WWI. Since they did not have jobs when they returned they were shown gratitude by being given this task which proved to be difficult and actually take some more lives, adding to the many already lost in the war. The roads are windy and have a beautiful view the whole way. So clear that we saw multiple rainbows.

Our next stop was Split Point Lighthouse which was a location for an old comedy that aired in Canada. We stopped at a koala park where there are wild koalas unlike the ones I had seen earlier on this trip. Cameron reiterated the rules that are in place in different states in regard to Koalas. In Queensland, you can do whatever you like to them (as in hold them, take a photo with them) but in Victoria, you are not allowed to touch one or you will be fined. The reason being, the koalas in Cairns are in the humidity and much smaller (anorexic let’s say) while in Victoria, the climate is much cooler (giving them the ability to be full weight and larger – plump). Cameron told us some stories of animal accidents that took place involving koalas and others with kangaroos. A girl on one of the tours came to Australia with her mind set on cuddling a koala, but being disappointed that the first ones she saw were up in the trees too far to hug. On her way to the toilet she spotted a koala sleeping on low tree and just had to get her hug! She ran up to it and tried to pry it off of the tree to no avail. Managing to wake the male koala, it held out an arm and she saw it is an invitation and ran in… Only to receive a nice big slash in the cheek 75mm deep.

Our next destination was to Loch Ard Gorge that I must say is one of my favourite locations of this trip. It is located in the Port Campbell National Park. There were 3 paths you could walk to and view view beautiful rocks. This rock formation is named after a shipwreck story with a romantic twist.

The Loch Ard, an iron clipper rumoured to be jinxed, set sail from Gravesend (I’m not kidding!) in Scotland in 1878 with 54 passengers and crew on board for a 3-month voyage to Melbourne. It struck Muttonbird Island near the Loch Ard Gorge. 52 people died and eight-foot high wreckage was spread across the golden sands, along with the only 4 bodies that were retrieved – and later buried in the clifftop cemetery in coffins made from piano cases! Tom survived, was recuperating in a sea cave and heard cries from the water. He valiantly dashed out into the raging sea to rescue Eva, who was clinging for dear life to a chicken coop and then a ship’s oar. large image Tom rescued Eva, they sheltered some more in the cave, drank some brandy and, unfortunately for the romantics amongst us, did not go on to live happily ever after, but went their separate ways. (link here)

We then drove over to see the 12 apostles and I must say it was stunning. I ended up running out of battery and running back to the van to get a new one but it was so amazing how all the photos turned out without even trying. Apparently the formations were named the 12 Apostles to attract tourists especially Europeans.  Before heading home, we stopped by a nearby town and had a pizza dinner at Red Rooster. Had a long day but a fun one. Met some cool people although didn’t get their names.

Melbourne, Australia 2010 – Day 9 & 10

05/03/10

Flew to Melbourne today with Virgin Blue. We flew out at 1245PM but had a connection in Sydney so the flight took an approximate of 5 hours. My last name is more easily accepted here! well at least through the kiosks and we both got through so quickly.

We landed about 10 minutes early however we didn’t leave the airport for another hour because we were searching for a green and white shuttle that is suppose to take us to our hostel which is difficult since that is all they tell you. The highway system is a mix of  toronto and LA however, they have these toll points which are similar to etr 407 and they have these light-up signs with estimated time for exits but it’s less congested than LA. The main street has various lanes and has a dedicated centre lane for their trams like our lrt/street cars. Gas here for regular is 130.1

We are staying at Habitat HQ (formally Coogee on St Kilda) which apparently isn’t a very busy part of town and food options are quite limited. We finally arrived around 8-9PM. I like it a lot. It’s a cozy environment with a huge common lobby, full kitchen, 24 hour reception with helpful people in the front.  We booked a twin private ensuite (meaning a room with 2 beds and an ensuite bathroom). This room is awesome and 10x better than our hostel in Cairns. This room features a nice bathroom, no table but a double bed and 2 single bunk beds as well as a tv, kettle and coffee maker. Depending on the night, there are hostel activities like a social BBQ or a petting zoo/ magic tricks night.
I didn’t get the guys name at the front desk but he has helped me out a lot since we got here about 4 hours ago. We had discussed about doing Stand-Up Paddle Boarding but in the end, we decided to book 2 tours through Bunyip Tours. The only thing about booking these 2 tours is that they are full day meaning we have only half a day to explore Melbourne before leaving which veto the chance for SUP at all.

The weather is different than Cairns that is for sure. It really feels like Toronto. After settling in late,  Andrew and myself walked down a street to find dinner and found ourselves walking down a very quiet suburban street that reminds me of downtown toronto – west end. There are some really nice hidden houses here. There is even a King and Queen St here!

05/04/10

We booked the Penguin Parade Ultimate Tour (139AUD) with Bunyip Tours to Philips Island. The morning started off actually cold and a little windy but from what we were told is the you experience all 4 seasons in a day here in Melbourne. We started off taking a shuttle over to the main office/ loading area on Flinders St and took a very scenic route I suppose as we picked up other tourees. We arrived at the office to pay for our tours. Although Toronto doesn’t have LTRs just yet, the system here seems to work really well. As we went through the core of downtown, it felt a lot like driving on the DVP and seeing all the tall business buildings.

Our driver/tour guide was this jolly man Bernie who apparently lived in Yukon digging in a coal mine for a year. We started off going to a small wildlife conservatory and saw more wallabies and kangaroos as well as other animals. I held a python snake there as well and its not bad.The scales are pretty cool but as I was paying attention to its head, its tail was going elsewhere as it started to wrap around my leg. Snakes smell through their skin. After lunch, we passed through Cape Woolamai, a beach that had pretty good waves but it was chilly and sunny so onward we headed to Churchill Park. Highland Cows! They are so adorable! We also were shown sheep sheering and a work dog corralling sheep.

The weather took a turn for the worst and it started to cool down and rain. It was horrible weather when we went to the koala conservatory and quickly went through the path to see the koalas sleeping far up in the trees. This of course was not the end of the trip as we still had the penguin march to watch. Did you know a group of penguins is called a raft and their feathers are waterproof. The penguins after a year start maulting, where they lose all their feathers and must be on land for about 8 days until they grow back. They must fill their bellies because they only eat in the water. As it get dark out and tides start to come in, the penguins swim back to shore to rest. Cutest thing ever! The penguins we saw were really tiny ones that were silver and as they were brought in by the tide, they would start to walk and because they ate double their weight they can barely walk and plop over. They have poor eyesight so if they are too slow, they lose the crowd and get frightened so they scurry back into the waters to wait for the next raft to come in. Photography is not allowed during the march of the penguins because tourists have wrecked havoc on the poor penguins with flash photography.

It was cute but the weather was cool and wet. Andrew didn’t bring a sweater and was in a t-shirt the whole time. We ended off eating pizza and going back to the hostel. We booked Auckland and I am psyched for New Zealand! It just sucks we don’t have enough time to stay and discover Melbourne. I want to try the free tram service and goto National Victoria Gallery, Federation Station (apparently the largest FREE wifi area). The hostel we are in; Habitat HQ is voted #3 in all of Australia. I highly recommend it.