|Victoria (Melbourne) (January 3 - January 14 2002)|
We arrived in Melbourne and got a room at the Royal Gardens Apartments
near the Melbourne Museum. Luckily we booked the
room using the airport tourist facility as they gave us 'sell off' rates
that were not available directly from the hotel
Melbourne is very much like Toronto - parks, trees, streetcars and over 3 million people (just under the entire population of New Zealand).
My parents lived near here in 1956 while Dad attended the Australian Army Staff College in Queenscliff. They have kept in touch with a few classmates and have been organizing us to meet them. We met Jenny Hearn, who lived in the opposite half of the duplex house in Queencliff.
Jenny very quickly confirmed the story that Mum has always told us about seeing the Huntsman Spider in her house (although their seemed to be some discrepancy about the size of the spider). According to Jenny, Huntsman Spiders are useful spiders to have around as they eat lots of bugs. Mum does not appreciate this - she says they are BIG and HAIRY.
Speaking of bugs, we learned very quickly to do the "Australian wave". Flies are everywhere here and everyone is constantly waving them away from their face. Waving is so commonplace that I think Aussies don't even realize that they are doing it.
On Saturday, we visited the excellent Melbourne Museum. Among the curios was Phar Lapp, the famous race horse from the 30's. Aside from being stuffed, it looked ready for its next race. In the evening, we visited the Crown Entertainment Complex, a city block sized building that is the southern hemisphere's largest casino. After supper, we all went to the arcade which is probably better described as a casino in training for the kids as every ride had lights and bells on it.
On Sunday we picked up our rental car (Toyota Avalon - much bigger than the Corolla) and drove to Queenscliff to look for my parent's old house. I think we got close, but I'm not sure if we saw the right one as neither Jenny nor my parents could remember the street number. We drove further along the Great Ocean Road ( billed as 'the surf coast'). Traffic was very heavy, and the beaches were absolutely packed with surfers. We visited the Surf City mall in Torquay - a large mall except every store was a surfing store full of trendy people. We had great difficulty getting a motel room as it is peak summer holiday season, and this is a main holiday destination for people in Melbourne - we ended up backtracking from Lorne to Geelong and stayed in a cabin at the Riverglen Caravan Park.
Mark and Cecily fished with minor success on the local pier on Tuesday and then again for most of Wednesday, while the other two girls played on the beach.
We left around 4:00PM on Wednesday for the 2 hour drive back to Melbourne where we spent another 2 nights in Jenny's large flat. On Thursday morning, Jenny left for Benalla, a few hours north of Melbourne where her farm is. We visited the Royal Botanic Gardens and Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG).
On Friday, we drove to the Healesville Sanctuary. The zoo has a different philosophy from Philip Island Wildlife Sanctuary, and it was interesting to compare the two of them. Healesville is very much a typical "big business zoo". Exhibits were sponsored by major companies, and we had to stick to the paths as we wondered amongst the pens. I think the kids enjoyed Philip Island more even though it was much less 'professional' - we saw many of the same animals but were much closer to them in Philip Island. We stayed overnight in Jenny's farm house near Benalla. Lloyd Bowditch, Jenny's partner, took us to the local golf course where we saw wild kangaroos grazing.
On Saturday, we drove to Glenrowan and Beechworth and learned about Ned Kelly. Ned was an outlaw from the late 1800's who has since become a folk hero with a few books and a play written to honour him. He had robbed banks and shot a sheriff or two... but as he was Irish and the authorities were English, he had a certain amount of local support. In his final act of defiance, he fashioned a suit of armour out of stove pipes and stood his ground in the gunfire when 'the law' came to get him by train. Of course, they shot him in the legs, which was the only part of him not covered by armour. He was tried and then hung in Melbourne.
We stayed at Lloyd's high country farm in Kancoona (don't look for it on a map because you won't find it - its between Yackandandah and Mt Beauty). Lloyd briefed the kids on what to do if they saw a snake, and we also saw a poisonous (but not deadly) red backed spider. Gee - we really are in Australia! There were lots of Cockatoos flying around and we went wombat hunting (in the car, no guns!) on the farm at dusk. We met Lloyd's son Kelvin and his fiancée Bronwyn and her daughter Samantha.
Thank you Jenny and Lloyd for a most memorable visit to Victoria.
On Monday, we left Jenny and Lloyd and drove to Corryong where we stayed at the unexciting Pinnibar Motel. This is 'Snowy River Country' - we'll have to watch the movie with the kids, as they just see this area as dry valleys and hills.
On our way to Canberra, we stopped at Threadbo, one of Australia's ski resorts and marvelled at the prices - it seems as expensive as Whistler!
On to Canberra in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory).