I hope this message finds you well. Thanks for your fun comments. We love hearing from you. I actually started this posting several times over the past couple of weeks: First at Heron Island, but since they use radio waves, I was continually knocked out of the system. Then again in Auckland – spent 4 hours there trying to upload photos…I gave up. I will continue where I left off. Please please please excuse the spelling errors…not only am I on a slow and timed computer, but I noticed the posting from Heron changed some of my letters. No time to worry about perfection mates especially now since we’ve already spent one week on the North island of New Zealand and tomorrow we’re taking a ferry to the south island!
THIS SECTION BELOW – started at Heron Island and was continued in Auckland and will now hopefully be completed here in NZ at Wellington:
So, I imagine this will be a short one? I’m on a painfully slow computer (it took me 15 minutes to get to this site) at a delightfully beautiful place (Heron Island…more on that…next post). Again spelling errors are likely to abound…thanks for overlooking those. This is taking a toll on my patience.
Melbourne was wonderful! We arrived late in the afternoon on the 24th. We were taken to a luxury locale: Hotel Windsor. This hotel had write-ups in several places throughout our Lonely Planet guide saying such things as: “built in 1883-1884 and refurbished in the 90’s, the Windsor is the epitome of old-world elegance from the ostentatious Victorian era facade, right down to the floral bedspreads. It has all the comforts and facilities expected of a five-star hotel.” It’s a marvelous reminder of the 19th century gold boom Melbourne. It’s all true. It was divine. We even had the big, white bathrobes and slippers to boot…no pun intended. Aveda bath products, which found their way directly into our toiletry bags and a view of Parliament across the street. By the third day and after a day-long tour, we returned to some leak disaster in our bathroom that was reminiscent of Amityville Horror…just a bit more mild. Supposedly the room upstairs had some plumbing problems. There were dark splashes of water covering about 50% of the bathroom. They kindly helped us move our things to room 222 (my lucky number!), which was an UPGRADE to the deluxe room. This room was even bigger and better (if that’s possible) than what we previously had! It had a big ole’ tv that we managed to get a few glimpses of…we recovering tv addicts.
Melbourne is a walking city with much to see at every corner. Apparently its origination was not so ethically created when a guy named John Batman ‘bought’ 240,00 hectares of land from indigenous owners, the Aborigines of the Kulin clan. They only received trivial items such as tools, four and clothing. And yet another example of how these people were exploited. It’s Australia’s second largest city and is wonderfully eclectic with loads of restaurants and cafes, interesting structures, and lovely gardens. Supposedly it offers Australia’s richest cultural offerings. In the last ten years, the city has undergone a renaissance and is now lively at night yet still has a small town feel. It has stunning Victorian-era arcades (fancy malls) strategically placed throughout intriguing alley ways: Block Arcade and Royal Arcade. Our hotel was on Spring street with so much to explore in that vicinity. We were just blocks away from Chinatown on Little Bourke Street (yes, there is a big Bourke Street), which was incidentally only a block long. Nothing like San Francisco! We walked for hours on this first day. We explored some of the more must-see places: the various churches (Baptist Church, Scots, St. Michaels), the Flinders train station, which is actually the Central Train station. Since there is already a station called Central, it is stuck with the name Flinders. There were many other aspects of this city that do, however, compare to SF. A wonderful mix of old and new from Parliament (see photos that I hope to link up tonight!) to Federation Square with some really funky architecture – that apparently created a lot of controversy when first built.
The first night we walked what seemed to be a looooong (it probably seemed longer cause we were very hungry) way to the Fitzroy neighborhood for what is supposedly the best vegetarian fare in the city at the Vegie Bar. It was fantastic and had mostly vegan food! We liked it so much that we went back two days later – amazing vegan chocolate cake! We took the free city tram back…once we discovered that, we took much advantage of it. Fitzroy is considered to have the Bohemian subculture of Melbourne. Maybe that’s why we liked it so much. We were on Brunswick Street, which is supposedly the most lively and vibrant part of Fitzroy. The Vegie Bar had an interesting mix of patrons from business folks to goths to surfers to dreds…and…well…us!
Saturday, the 25th was election day. We later discovered that voting is mandatory and those who do not participate get a $100.00 fine…intedesting concept. The Labour party wins! This is a good thing, because they are the liberals who are trying to create a better world…as in clean up the environment. We hit the Queen Victoria Market (see pictures of fruit…just couldn’t stop taking pictures of the vibrant colors! Yes, I am still learning my camera, so there are many pictures that are either under or over exposed…I’m getting there) on Elizabeth and Victoria streets. We had a yummy lunch of ‘hommos’, organic tomatoes and avocado. The market was alive and a bit chaotic with rows and rows and rows of vendors. I took some pics of a little boy, bored, hanging (literally) out in some structure. See pic of feet. We then hit the Royal Botanic Gardens along the Yarra River, which is known as the river that runs upside down because the mud is on top and it’s clear at the bottom. We saw a moving art exhibit of photographs called Above the Earth. This photographer (somebody something Bertrand) took pics of places throughout the world from a plane or helicopter. Each photo was about 4ftX5ft and showed a mix of disasters and beauty. The theme was ‘take care of your world’. I wish everyone could see it. The gardens were full of interesting statues and sweet scents with gardens galore.
On Sunday, the 26th, we went back to the market to get me a hat…a real hat to keep my head warm, because they were having an unusual cold streak…go figure. We then took the tram to St. Kilda, which is a seaside town only 5 kilometers or so away. Supposedly both little penguins and water rats call the breakwater home, but we saw neither. We did, however, see loads of kite surfers and little boys learning to inline skate. I removed a bunch of those pictures as not to bore you, but ya know…love the skating stuff. This town was so interesting – full of diversity! We saw dwarfs, afros as big as the hats at Beach Blanket Babylon, dreds, preps, ritzy folks, lots of veg food. We found the Veg Time Out restaurant that we thought was in Fitzroy. That night, we took a walk to the southbank (downtown Melbourne) and saw the famous burning structures. At 9:00 every night they blow huge flames. People gather and go ‘ohhh!’.
NOTICE! ALERT! The following paragraph or two might be boring to some if not many of you. I took notes on our bus driver’s narrative. Even though I found his information interesting, some might disagree with me!
On Monday, we took a tour with a bus driver named Izzy. He spoke for one hour straight – quite detailed some of these Aussies are! I was, at times, worried about his sharings, because I often found him talking with not only his mouth but with his hands. Not such a good combo for a bus driver. He told us when he was turning right and left. He told us what he and his family do on the weekend…a play-by-play like I’ve never before experienced! Very sweet but he smacked his lips in the microphone. That was a bit disturbing but only after Scott pointed it out! To our good fortune, his detailedness taught us a lot on that journey. He described the tollway (like Fastrak) and the beep and how it prevents a big fine…that was good to know…right? We passed St. Kevin’s College – prep school. They charge $22,000/year and Scott’s College, the best in Melbourne. “You wouldn’t want to have 5 or 6 kids” said Izzy. 35% of the land in the Melbourne area is now gardens. They physically moved the Yarra River to make the freeway. He used a lot of “personally I” statements to share his stance on things. The housing prices are going over the top. A 30sq home on a nice block of land is $450,00 Aus. That’s 4-5 bedrooms, 2 toilets, two bathrooms (yes, I suppose they’re different), a couple of sitting rooms, etc.
3.8 million people live in Melbourne and there are 12 million cars registered. We changed buses in a town called Menzes (pronounced Menses…). The following bus driver had just as much information for us! Melbourne was once the business center of Australia. The Parliament House, directly across from our lodgings, was the first parliament of Australia.
We rode into the Dandenong Mountain Ranges. They have several hundred varieties of Eucalyptus trees there. This is the closest mountain range to the city. It always looks foggy, but it’s actually the vapor coming off of the trees, which cause many bush fires. They are very volatile. One strike of lightening, and it’s all over. The biggest bush fire, Ash Wednesday, was in 1982. 90% of the forest burned including 150 homes and countless creatures. They now have fire shelter bunkers for women and children who live near the ‘really nice homes’. 30% of the Dandenongs are homes with the rest being national parks. Intesestingly enough, we just heard on the news that there are huge bush fires in Victoria (this is the state in which Melbourne is located) that are being compared to Ash Wednesday. Firefighters from all over Australia and New Zealand are being sent there. We saw a picture from a local firefighter crew and they were holding their tools with big smiles on their faces…preparing for battle.
We went through a town called Belgrave, the birthplace of Puffin’ Billy. This was the steam train used to transport people and logs many moons ago.
Our first stop was at Fergusson Winery. We hung out with a lovely couple (Tracy and Roy) from Auckland (see pics of Melbourne) and then headed on our way to Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary, home to over 200 species of Australian birds, mammals and reptiles. It’s a natural bush setting, and they take injured animals that are found around the area for rehab. Healesville is playing a major rile in leading Australia’s wildlife care and protection. It has a working veterinary hospital. Scott likens it to the Marine Mammal Center in Marin. If they animals are well enough to be reintroduced to the wild, they are set free. If they are not able to be rehabilitated, they are kept at the Sanctuary or yes, sadly, sent to a zoo. We saw koalas, kangaroos, wombats, emus, cockatoos, parrots, echidnas, emus, platypuses (platypi?). I am in LOVE with the koalas and platypuses! They had just rescued a platypus from a nearby river. She was caught in some plastic thing and was badly cut. When we saw her, she was healing well and swimming about with what appeared to be great enthusiasm.
We also saw a Birds of Prey edutainment. One of the owls was recently rescued. She was missing an eye and will now permanently reside at the Sanctuary. Phenomenal creatures, they were. On the bus home, I heard some girls talking about someone to whom they referred as a ‘skanky crecka’ (skanky cracker). I went back and asked our doorman and concierge (Russel and Nathan) to educate me about ‘skanky creckas’. My question surprised them! They eventually found their way around some words to explain that a skanky cracka is a ‘whorish’ type of woman, just as Scott and I figured. James, at the front desk, referred to a skanky crecka as a ‘Hoochie Mama’. They asked about my inquiry and if someone called ME a skanky crecka. They were prepared for battle and quite relieved to hear that I was simply listening in to another’s conversation. Kenda, the nosey.
Our last night in Melbourne was spent traipsing around. We hit the Fitzroy district one more time and hung out with some of the guys at our hotel..chatting and learning about the culture.
Stay tuned for some Aussie Lingo, our amazing trip to the Great Barrier Reef and the Turtle Adventure that we’ll never forget!
I’m hoping to get online again in the south island now that we’re just finishing up our north island journey, but…well…dunno if it will happen! I might have to write again after our return. I’ll do my best to get a quick note online, because I really really want to tell you about Heron Island and meeting some new friends near Auckland!
Love you loves,
Kender (that’s how my name is prounounced here) and Scott