I’m currently sitting on a plane bound for Singapore (or at least, I was when I wrote this) after just spending 3 outstanding weeks in Australia! Thankfully tearing myself away from the Aussie sun was relatively easy because I’m about to embark on a 2 day long fiasco of a trip home to Scotland for Christmas. I can’t stop thinking about the smiling faces waiting for me at the airport that I haven’t seen for over 4 months now (my parents are Skype-o-phobes). But back to Australia…
I started my trip off with 2 days in Melbourne staying with my aunt, uncle and 4 year old cousin. I’ve been to Melbourne before (on a previous trip to Australia visiting family) but have never really had a chance to explore it for myself. Because my final essay was due the day before I left, I hadn’t had a chance to scour tripadvisor for things to see and do. So I decided just to set off and see where my feet would take me. I pretty much spent the entire two days walking (and a surprisingly small amount of that time was I lost).
Melbourne is the coolest city to simply observe. Watching people go about their lives is almost a tourist attraction in itself. It’s a painfully hipster city, but I kind of loved it. In the time I was there I got myself to the centre for the moving image (at least I think that’s what it was called) and saw an exhibition on the history of the music video. I was skeptical but it turned out to be pretty awesome. I even got to see some original artists renderings for the music video for Aha’s ‘Take on Me’. I also went to countless art galleries and museums, all of which had at least a few astounding pieces. The best museum experience though was a James Bond exhibition in the Melbourne Museum. I’ve never felt like such a kid! I was practically giddy looking at all the props from the movies such as the actual Golden Gun (!!!), countless Q branch gadgets, lots of costumes and a couple of Aston Martins to top it off. My mum just so happened to ask if there was anything I wanted for Christmas later that day and, well, let’s just say I’ll be well versed in Ian Fleming’s work by New Year =P.
So apart from museum and gallery hopping, I made up my own walking tour of Melbourne’s ‘street art’ (their quaint name for what is actually graffiti). It’s probably obvious from the above that I’m an artist, I’m also pretty liberal…but that doesn’t mean I’ll happily jump on the Banksy bandwagon and dub graffiti the right of the people. In my humble opinion, it’s vandalism…but god does Melbourne have some beautiful vandalism! If you ever get to Melbourne, get to the tourist information centre and ask for a map of the street art (for some reason they keep these hidden behind the desk). You won’t regret it!
Next up was 7 days in Ballarat. You might be wondering where Ballarat is, or if you know, you might be wondering why I decided to spend so long there. Ballarat is about an hour and a half outside of Melbourne. It’s a very funky, slightly sleepy town with a very quaint vibe. The reason I spent so long there was because I have another aunt and uncle who live there. My grandparents lived in Ballarat previously as well so we have visited a few times before…it’s almost like a home away from home.
I was really excited to get to Ballarat to see my family. I’ve kept in touch quite a bit with my aunt. We share a lot in common, both being vegetarian and being interested in animal welfare. My aunt and uncle are both runners as well (a lot of the keeping in touch we do is over runkeeper) and they’re both big movie buffs…so I ended up spending this week entirely in either running gear or pyjamas…it was pretty fantastic!
On the first day we went to the Grampians for a camping trip. I was astoundingly nervous to be sleeping in the bush with snakes and spiders and things (oh my!). Thankfully the camping we were doing was pretty cushy. We set ourselves up at a campsite (with facilities) and went hiking for the day. This was going to be an uphill run but turned into a walk up and a jog down. The place we went was called Halls Gap. If you’re ever out that way, it’s really beautiful and definitely worth a trip!The climb we did was called ‘The Pinnacle’ but after Mt. Kinabalu this was a breeze. We spent the evening huddled around a camp fire talking…mostly about movies =P. It was pretty great!
Like I said, the rest of the trip I spent either running or watching movies and lounging around. We also did a 15km run in Melbourne which was pretty cool. It was a small race, so finishing near the front (22nd) was a nice confidence boost!
After a pretty perfect week, it was time to set off for my next destination. 4 days in Sydney, I was very excited! I’d never been to Sydney before so I couldn’t wait to see whether it would live up to the hype. I had an awesome time!
I stayed in Alfred Park hostel and have only good words to say about them. The rooms were basic but there are full kitchen facilities, brand new bathrooms and very, very friendly staff. You can also get reasonably priced single rooms if you’re like me and need a bit of your own space. The hostel is near central station so it’s easy to get into town. I opted for walking (even though it took just under an each way) because I really like getting to know a city by foot.
Obviously my first stop was to see the opera house and the harbour bridge. I think I must have been tired that first day because I was much more impressed by them the second day. There’s tonnes to do down by the harbour so it’s a great place to go. I spent quite a bit of time in a historic area of Sydney called The Rocks. Lots of quirky old buildings, art galleries, old factories etc refurbished into cool cafés and restaurants. While I was there they had a Village ‘Bizarre’ on the Friday night which was pretty cool.
I had also booked a day with a surf school called Mojosurf. There was 1 instructor and only 5 of us in the group (a few days previously there were over 30, so we were lucky). I would definitely recommend Mojosurf. The guy who took us out was called Scott and he was fantastic, a proper veteran surfer dude! I’ve surfed a few times over the past few years and wanted a few more tips so the lessons were great.
I’ve fallen in love with the Australian lifestyle…where in the biggest cities, skateboards are a viable mode of transport, no one would look twice if you strolled through the CBD shirtless, and where everyone seems to be just hanging out. Even the suited up folk seem relaxed…and half of them hop into a Quicksilver or Billabong over their lunch break to grab some gear for their next day out in the surf. I’m not jealous at all =P.
I also spent a day at Bondi…oh Bondi…apparently it’s not even a nice beach by Australian standards but to me, it didn’t even look real. I didn’t know water could get that blue, and sand that white! Definitely spend some time at the beaches if you’re ever in Sydney.
Sydney was fantastic and I managed to fit in pretty much everything I wanted to in the 4 days. My next stop was 7 days in Perth. Again, it seems strange that I’m allowing less time for your typical big city stops and more time for the smaller, more quaint places. I had gotten rave reviews about Perth from a fellow exchanger (who is from Perth, so perhaps a little biased). Also, I’m a country bumpkin at heart so when I can, I love getting my wilderness fix. With Kings Park and countless others, Perth seemed like a great way to see a beautiful Aussie city whilst also getting my nature fix.
It certainly lived up to expectations. I stayed with my aforementioned friend’s family in the centre of town. I spent a lot of my visit running in Kings park (apparently the biggest inner city park in the world!). I explored nearby Fremantle which has a very cool market, some art galleries and a prison turned tourist attraction.
I also hired a surfboard and a wetsuit for a day at Scarborough beach. That was pretty awesome! After my surfing lessons in Sydney I realised I probably just needed a lot more practice as opposed to lots more instruction, so I just went for it…and tried not to listen to the shark horror stories, and the recent death reported at a beach just a kilometre down from where I was. It’s safe to say I survived the experience, and had a brilliant time. I was sneaky and spent the second half of the day following a surf school to the best beginner waves.
One of my favourite things about my trip to Perth was spending a a day at Rottnest island. It’s a must see! The island used to be a prison island, but it looks like paradise on earth. You can go and rent a bike for the day and cycle around the island’s (roughly) 22km circumference. The beaches are astounding. I was impressed by Bondi until I saw these beaches!
So the best thing about my Australia trip was scheduled for my last evening in the country. I had booked tickets to a Jack Johnson concert in Kings Park. I LOVE Jack Johnson! It was an unforgettable night. I was the first to queue for opening (at 12:30pm with gates opening at 4:30pm). I was one of the first to choose one of the best spots on the grass (benefits of a park venue) and I got to stand front row for when Jack came on! He sang pretty much every great song he’s ever written (near enough all of them) and finished with my two all time favourites (Gone and Better Together…for any fellow fans who are interested). So that was it, the end of my Australia trip and a really awesome way to go out with a bang!
Now I’m just a few hours outside of Singapore. I’m going to spend the day with a friend before hopping on another plane (with a stop over =S) back to Glasgow…before driving to Edinburgh for a few days with my friends, then up the road for Christmas. It’s been a blast, but I’m just about ready to indulge in some home comforts!
Merry Christmas and TTFN =).