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Jun. 22nd, 2011

Melbourne Trip Report (Better Late Than Never)

I am so behind on trip reports that I don't want to even think about it. Since leaving New Zealand, I've spent a week in Melbourne, London, Berlin and Köln respectively. Even the last few days have been a blur, so I don't know how useful it is to go back to the beginning, but I am going to try. Especially since I have lots of photos from Australia.

May. 28th, 2011

More on Melbourne

I want to do a quick trip report before I forget, but just a warning: I'm feeling mopey today. My cat had to be put down today. She had two huge tumours, and the Ex (who's been taking great care of her) couldn't get her to eat anymore. Not even beef jerky, which she'll usually take off a finger for. So it was time... not that that makes it any easier. What makes it even worse is that both my pets had to be put to sleep in the past six months, both while I was away, and I had to leave it to my poor Ex. I am Stella in Sugar Rush. :CCCCCC

(I also got almost no sleep last night because my dorm has been infiltrated by Americans who come in at 1:30am - and bring their friends in!! - to talk about what they're doing the next day. Not whisper, talk, and not using their indoor voices either. And they've spread their stuff out all over the whole dorm. If I end up stepping on their laptops, it's really not my fault; I'm just sleep-deprived. Please, oh benevolent hostel gods, send more Brits, or those nice Polish girls, or ANYBODY other than people who don't have a clue how to travel!)

Anyhow, trip report: Yesterday I did the Phillip Island tour, which is a little island pretty much due south of Melbourne. The trip's about 150km, but we took pretty much all day with stops along the way, including:

1) The Australian Wildlife Park, where I saw all the Aussie critters, from Tasmanian devils (who were decimating a chicken) and dingoes to koalas and wombats. And I got to feed wallabies and kangaroos (and a very greedy horse) from my hand. It was quite the experience - picspam coming soon.

2) Cape Woolamai, the southernmost point of the island, with a gorgeous beach. The water was churning crazily and there were surfers trying their best,but not doing too well at all. (I put my toes in and brrrrr! Antarctic water is cold!

3) The Nobbies, a rugged edge of the island with some amazing rock structures (and a handy walkway perfect for tourists). Kinda reminded me of Northern Ireland/Scotland. Expect loads of pictures of rocks from this stop.

4) The Penguin Parade!!!! This was amazing. They had us sit in bleachers on two sides of the strand. As it got darker they were making announcements (no photographs, don't touch the penguins, etc.) and then, as if on cue, the first raft of penguins came in! There were about a dozen of them - they floated in on the surf and then tried to stand, but some kept getting knocked back, and while they caught up another few would get knocked back. It took quite a while for them all to assemble and then en masse they started to waddle up to shore, right smack between the stands of people. I wanted to cheer!

Our tour guide advised us to leave the stands after seeing the raft come in and go back to part of the walkway where the penguins would march. We did, and waited - along with dozens of penguins who were popping their heads out of the hills demanding that the travellers get home and feed them. Before long the first raft waddled up the path. It was very quiet then - there were just a handful of people there at the time - and the penguins were very relaxed, happy to preen themselves and play/nip at each other. As the night wore on, more penguins came through, but more people abandoned the stands too and it got noisier. (Why can't people just STFU?) Then the penguins would wait until there was a bigger group capable of braving the crowd. But their defense mechanism - freezing and hoping nobody will notice them - probably isn't the best for surviving the wild. They're lucky they have the park wardens looking out for them.

It really was an incredible sight and I'm so glad that I did it. I saw well over a hundred penguins, which is rare for this time of year they said. Whatever the reason, I was very happy about it.

(BTW [info]aldiara,we learned that a single fox can kill 60 penguins in a night. They don't eat them too, they just kill them. I know your domesticated foxes that cuddle in the manner of a cat would never do such a thing, but I can kinda understand why NZ isn't eager to let them in.)

Today was city day. I started out at the old Victoria Market, a huge covered market just on the edge of the city centre. The food part was amazing - so many bakers and butchers and cheesers (I have no idea what they're called) - but the rest was underwhelming. I got a few souvenir gifts but nothing else was tempting. (Notably the market vendors were more restrained than the clerks in stores, which was unexpected.)

Afterwards I went walking down the Yarra River and ended up quite unexpectedly at Eureka Tower. I had a free ticket (part of my tour) to go up, but I wasn't planning to do it. But since I'd stumbled upon it, I thought, "Why not?" It was terrifying (I don't do well with heights) and amazing. It's a great shape, with lots of areas shaped as acute triangles, and they give you a real sense of vertigo. I didn't do the Edge (a protruding glass cube with a clear bottom) because just the thought of that now gives me the shakes. But I'm glad I did the rest!

Then I went to the Museum of the Moving Image. FASCINATING STUFF. General stuff, of course,but really focused on Australian film, with some great features/interviews with people like Baz Luhrmann and Cate Blanchett, and what I enjoyed the most, people who worked behind the scenes and their stories about what film/tv making is all about.

Afterwards there was much strolling around to be done, much sushi to be consumed, and finally much beach walking back in St. Kilda. I also went to see the penguins again - it's becoming an addiction I'm afraid.

I'm still feeling quite mopey, but writing all this out does actually help a little.

May. 26th, 2011

On the road: Melbourne

Arrived last night in Australia. Wheeee!