Day 5: Getting away from the city

Today is the first day with a car! We had to pick it up in the middle of Melbourne, which was only a few blocks away. This also meant we had to get our large car down from a really narrow multi level parking facility and straight through a multi-million city, all the whilst trying to avoid tickets for speeding and driving on toll roads. We succeeded. 🙂 

The car is a light brown Toyota Camry, which did take some getting used to as it is really wide and has a huge turning circle. Also, it is a right hand drive, but also equipped with an automatic gearbox and cruise control. Only the best is good enough for us! 😉

From Melbourne, we had to head down to Apollo Bay, a small town on The Great Ocean Road. This is a meandering road down the coastline roughly between Torquay and Warrnambool, and is famed for its great views and fantastic scenery. With a day like today, with clear blue skies and temperatures reaching 20 degrees, it is a truly wonderful drive. Great scenic views of the coast present themselves around every corner, and the road even dips a bit further inland sometimes to go straight through thick coastal rainforest.

We have visited Split Point Lighthouse which is in working order ever since it is built in 1891! There also is a short walk in its vicinity where a small brackish inlet offers a variety of birds and other wildlife. After arriving in Apollo Bay a little too early, we decided it was a good time to visit Maits Rest, a location just 10 minutes our from the town, where the first Wildlife Warden of this area rest his horse while patrolling the coastline at the time of the First World War. A boarded walkway has been constructed to let visitors enjoy the coastal rainforest to the fullest as it allows you to walk right between the large trees and many ferns present. At only 45 minutes, it is also nice and short. 😉

On the way over, we even spotted a Swamp Wallaby, which of course posed nicely in front of our camera. Tomorrow, we drive the second part of the Great Ocean Road. The forecast: great weather, even better views and lots of fun!

Day 4: Melbournian wildlife

We are still suffering from our jetlag which means we woke up really early this morning. This was partly a good thing as we were to go out on a tour to find some of the local wildlife, namely Koalas and Kangaroos!
Our guide Paul showed up right on time at the hotel, after which he drove us to the You Yangs Regional Park, where the tour company holds the tours. The guides are allowed not only to walk on the trails, but also to take their groups straight through the undergrowth to get them (us!) to where we need to be to see the wild animals. The tour pretty much guarantees sightings of wild Koalas and wild Kangaroos, so we were in for a great day!

At around 18 degrees and virtually no clouds, this was probably the best day to walk outside and to be actively strolling throuh the woods. The Koalas were very quickly spotted by the spotter, and this information was relayed through to our guide via WhatsApp. Now that is modern technology for you! The tour operator is actively participating in a study on the identification methods of Koalas, and therefore all details about a sighting like location, behaviour and the like are noted and sent to a logbook with data. The study aims to get to a way to identifing individuals based on external features. As it so happens to be, the pattern of light patches on the nose of a Koala matches all the criteria to be used as an identification method, and the operator is getting the research paper published in a journal shortly! We are glad to be helping them to do good work!

Shortly after getting the info on 3 Koalas, we found our own Koala, getting our count up to 4. The first one was most easily visible, and what a sight it is! Even though the animals sleep about 20 hours a day, we were excited to see them in the wild. The best thing is that they don’t seem to mind us being around, and they’ll continue doing what they did before. 
After all that, we went on to the Serendip Sanctuary, a square mile bird sanctuary for Cape Barren Geese now also inhabited by 2 large mobs of Western Grey Kangaroos. We even got to walk right up to them, and peacefully watched them roaming the area.

After all this, we have also encountered rare animals like Swamp Wallaby and Yellow Billed Spoonbill. Among the more common animals were Tawney Frogmouths, Magpie Geese, Galahs and the quintessentially Australian Laughing Kookaburra. It was a great day!

Tomorrow, we’ll pick up our car and will be heading to the Great Ocean Road. I’m looking forward to it!


Day 3: In Melbourne

After a night which was too short and restless to be really beneficial to the both of us, we woke up to a beautiful blue sky and the promise of 18 degrees without rain. That is what one would consider a great day to explore the city!

We started off our daily search for food at a long time favourite of ours: Subway. With a sub and a drink in our stomachs, we are glad to have saved the 50 AUD that the hotel charges for a two person breakfast, and went our merry way in the city. At 4.5 million people, it is what you would call a big town. It is also really big in size. As there is virtually no high rise outside of the town centre, people generally live in single houses and not in apartments. This makes the city really stretched out wide, and it gives interesting views whenever you are high enough to see.

First thing, we tried to go to the famous Queen Victoria Markets. This is a covered marketplace, established in the late 1880’s where one can buy a vast number of things ranging from fresh produce to art. Unfortunately, it is closed on Wednesdays. And today is one. 🙁 We always have bad luck with markets, and today was no difference…

Our next stop was the Eureka Tower, the highest viewing point on the Southern Hemisphere. On the 88th floor, a viewing platform was created, and it gives you an amazing overview of the city. The elevator zooms up in under 40 seconds, and ends at nearly 300 metres altitude. The entire tower is built to resemble to markings on the measuring staff of a surveyor, but the “why” has never become clear to us. The best thing about it, is that it is not nearly as expensive as riding the elevators in the famous New York buildings, and that it is much less crowded up there.

Having safely returned to the ground, we went on to tour the city via the Flinders Train Station and a really cool heritage arcade with etched glass roofs and mosaic floors called The Block Arcade. After all that, our jetlag called and we retreated to our hotel room to get ready for dinner. 

Tomorrow, we hope to encounter some of the local (native) wildlife, as we’ll be on a tour! After the Lorikeets we found today, more is always welcome.


Day 1 and 2: That’s a big plane!

Apparently, it is that time of year again, the time in which we are leaving for a far away destination to go see and experience the way of living somewhere else. This time, it is Australia, and we’ll be there for a nice long time.

We are leaving one Kingsday, and luckily the traffic going to Amsterdam is not as bad as we anticipated. This meant we arrived at Schiphol feeling very relaxed and feeling confident about an issue with the seating in our plane. We don’t know where it went wrong, but somehow our tickets were not marked as travelling together, and we got seats in Two different compartments of the plane altogether. Luckily, we were able to resolve this with the friendly lady at the check-in counter. She got us two adjacent seats right next to an exit. This meant we had loads of space all around us!

The flight with Emirates took place in the biggest plane of them all: the Airbus A380-800. This thing is huge! Up until now, the biggest plane had a 3-3-3 or a 2-4-2 configuration, but here we have 3-4-3 for a total of 10 people per row, and the row numbers go to 88! Naturally, loading and unloading this beast takes time, so boarding starts around an our before flying. The 6,5 hour flight to Dubai was quite uneventful, but the 90 minutes layover was a bit short. We barely made it in time to the other terminal where our second and longest flight would commence. By the time we boarded, it was already Tuesday (local time)

The flight to Melbourne is by Qantas, and took 13,5 hours. Also, this was an Airbus A380-800, but our seats were less spacious as we only had as regular row. We did however not have a third passenger on our row of 3 seats and were able to get at least some sleep on this flight. Waking up after this was quite odd though, as the free left the lights off for the vast majority of the flight only to flick the switch mere hours before landing. And as we would land around 9PM, waking up to the evening is not the best way to get rid of your jetlag quickly. As we did not sleep long, our rhythms were not messed up that badly.

All of our bags made the trip safely, and were available to be picked up at conveyor 6 in Melbourne. The transfer to the hotel went via a thing called Skybus, a dedicated airport shuttle to and from the centre of the city. They even dropped us off at the front door of the hotel. Tired, and feeling well, we tucked in for the night. Tomorrow, we’ll start exploring the city on foot!