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Archive for May, 2015

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since I returned from Melbourne.

During the first week back at work I felt disconnected.  I didn’t care about anyone or anything.

Slowly, predictably, I’ve fitted back into the dull routine, pretending, at least, to be interested.

Now the weather’s turned cold and the long dark of the winter is ahead.  I see no respite from the boredom and loneliness.  The occasional night or day out is the only relief – few and far between.  Not that I’d probably want to spend more nights out.  When it’s dark and cold I prefer to be at home with the cat, in front of the heater, watching streaming video or DVDs of quality TV programmes.

When you think TV programmes can’t sink any lower, when you think they’ve all been dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, you see an even dumber one advertised, or come across one that’s so truly awful you are ashamed to be part of the same species.  Any investigative journalism is canned in favour of more light “entertainment” – absolute rubbish which only the uneducated can possibly enjoy.  It’s outrageous when there is so much beauty and knowledge out there and issues that we need to be aware of.  Then you wonder if it’s all a big master plan – to make the masses stupid and ignorant so the rich can rip them off, enslaving them, telling them to buy more shit to make them dumb and happy, meanwhile destroying the earth in their arrogant greed and selfishness.

It’s the season for melancholy.

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And so to the day I hadn’t been looking forward to – the return journey home.  I had a half-hearted breakfast and packed.

C and W dropped me off at the international terminal.  We hugged.  I had no idea when I’d see C again.  I fought back tears as I trudged into the terminal, my bag dragging behind me.  There were no queues at the check-in counter.  Presumably others hadn’t got the message about the flight being 2 hours delayed and came early to check in.  Overnight I’d received texts saying the flight would be 1.50 late, then 2 hours 20, then 1 hour 55.  It was still two hours ultimately.  As an “apology” for the delay, I was given a “meal” voucher.  I didn’t look at it, just shoving it in my bag as I continued through to the departure lounge, after filling in the departure card.

Smart gates for those with smart passports – yay.  Passed through security no problem – wasn’t pulled aside for one of those humiliating xray machines which make you feel like you’re contaminated.

Didn’t bother looking at duty free.  There was nothing I wanted.  I wandered around looking for food.  Nothing appealed.  I had a cappucino then wandered up and down, sitting for short periods.  There wasn’t much to see – a book shop, a bar, overpriced clothing and souvenir shops.  I was thirsty but didn’t want to break a note just for an overpriced bottle of water.  I slurped some water from the tap in the toilet instead.  I watched as a uniformed American woman was rude to a person serving at a food counter.  United Airlines.  Huh.  Arrogant bitch.

There wasn’t enough seating at the actual departure gate, so I just hung around, worrying about catching my connecting flight.

Finally, finally! We got on board.  I had an aisle seat.  I hadn’t bought any food for the plane (I’d got seat and bag only) and belatedly looked at my voucher.  It entitled me to the equivalent of cheese and crackers and a juice.  Not really a “meal”.  I didn’t care.  Others appeared to pay for their snacks – didn’t they get a voucher?

I slept for most of the flight.  I was tired and depressed.  The only bright spot was seeing Jasmine again.

On arrival at Auckland, they let off the people who had connecting flights to catch first.  I lined up with the rest and followed a woman who ran.  I’d overheard her worriedly explaining to a fellow passenger, that she only had one night to be with her mother in PN and if she missed the flight she wouldn’t see her mother.

I lost sight of her and anxiously waited for my bag.  Relieved to see it come through as one of the first.  I grabbed it and ran and saw the queue for customs with a groan.  I didn’t have time to wait.  I barged through, apologising and mumbling “connecting flight to catch”.  Some were fine with it.  Others looked put out.  I didn’t care.

Waved through no problem, thankfully, and the dog didn’t sniff out any possible chocolate crumbs in my bag.  I ran from the international terminal to the domestic.  There was half an hour left before the flight to PN departed.

Puffed, I went up to the check in machine and couldn’t work out what to do.  I asked the woman standing doing nothing at the bag drop off.  “Just follow the instructions on the screen”.  Of course.  Read the screen, girl.  Calm down.  Everything printed out and I hastily stuck the sticker through the bag handle and dropped off the bag.  The other woman was there too.  She looked just as stressed.

Sigh of relief as I walked to sit down.  At one time I’d worried that this flight might be delayed (as it so often is) but the other woman had commented that it was on time for once.

About to drag my tablet out, when the flight was called for boarding.

I still wasn’t completely with it when I ended up sitting on the plane, looking out at airport workers in blinking vehicles.

A non-speaking man sat next to me the whole flight, even though there were spare seats on the other side.  I just hid my face and let some tears fall.

No-one to greet me at the airport on arrival (for the first time).  Got my bag and queued up to pay the parking, then took my crumpled ticket to my little car, still there waiting, bless it.

Bag in boot, start the car (first time, thank you, car) and left, driving in the darkness on another planet.

I couldn’t pick up Jasmine until the next evening but it was lovely to see her and cuddle her furriness.

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Both H and C were working, so I had the day to myself.  It looked like being another fine day.  The balloonists were out.

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I caught a train to Flinders Street (just missing one, and having to wait for the next).

My plan was to revisit the Botanic gardens to see the autumn colours and the Shrine of Remembrance on the way.  I walked down St Kilda Road past the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria), which I intended to visit later.

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Ironically it was a nicer day than the last time I visited the Shrine of Remembrance in summer the year before.

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The view from the top was lovely,

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Interesting poppy sculpture to the southeast of the memorial.

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I continued on to the Botanic gardens.  I wanted a drink but I knew the cafe near the entrance was expensive, so decided to make my way to the pond-side cafe.  I could see already that the autumn colours were beautiful.

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I had to queue a long time just to get my cold drink (lots of old ladies, etc, wanting cups of tea).  I sat outside overlooking the pond and just soaked it all in, watching people and birds.

Magpie lark

Magpie lark

A skinny version of a pukeko

A skinny version of a pukeko

After my drink I wandered slowly round the pond towards the bellbirds, looking at the swamp hens, ducks, and a shag.

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I heard rainbow lorikeets in the trees but it was a while before I spotted any and the resulting photo would be a contender for #worstbirdpic.  Last time I got a great photo of a bellbird, but this time I found it difficult.  They’re small and active.  I watched as they uttered the sound just casually while feeding.  Such a huge sound for such a small bird, just like the NZ bellbird.

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I continued my wander, taking in the beauty.

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By now it was getting close to lunchtime, so I left the gardens and headed back up St Kilda Road towards the NGV and went inside.

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I looked at what what was on offer in the cafe downstairs (including a “Hawiin” pizza) but nothing took my fancy for the price.  Upstairs didn’t appeal.  Ii remembered that I had a voucher for the Ian Potter Centre cafe from visiting the exhibition the day before, so I wearily made my way there instead.  For the voucher I got a % discount off a pastry and coffee and a free coffee.  Weird really.  However, I had both coffees and a danish pastry.  The danish pastry wasn’t great but it was food.  The coffee filled me up as well.  I returned to the NGV.  I thought about going into the Chinese exhibition, which cost the same amount I’d spent for the car exhibition (and was probably better).  I decided just to look around the free exhibitions again.  It’s a great gallery.

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C was finishing work early at 4.30 and text me.  I thought she might meet me at the gallery but she complained it was too far, so I started walking towards her work place which was across the river from the Exhibition Centre.

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I waited by the sailing ship.  C turned up some minutes later.  She said the German style pub was too busy so she led me to a Belgian one.  We sat at a bench overlooking the road sipping our beer and cider, watching the taxis lined up opposite.  It slowly got dark.  H and W would meet us later but we had some time to kill so we headed into town.

We heard the Aboriginal protest near Flinders Street but didn’t go down that way and took detours through lanes.  We wandered around malls and shops.  Again I wasn’t in the mood for shopping.

Eventually we met up with H and W outside H & M.  We wanted to find somewhere to eat and couldn’t agree on what type of food.  Many places were too busy. We settled on an Indian/Thai takeaway type place.  I wasn’t too sure about it as it was empty (not a good sign) and the food in the bain-marie looked old.  However, we ordered from the menu and the food was actually quite good.

We went onto a cocktail bar which was housed in an old mental institution in Chinatown (The Croft Institute).  I was tired, but followed them down a dark alleyway and into a dark and noisy place.  They served cocktails with syringes.  Upstairs the toilets were all cold green and white tiles and a hospital bed was next to the taps.  A creepy place, really.

It was getting late.  H had work the next morning so we split up on a train platform.  I wasn’t sure when I’d see her again.  We waited for our train.

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We had to change at Richmond and there were a lot of men on the platform, having just returned from a footy game.

Back at the apartment, the neighbour decided to have a loud party just as I was trying to get some sleep.  I had to be at the airport at 8 am.  W said that parties weren’t permitted in the building after 11pm and rang to complain.  Eventually someone went to their door and told them to quieten down or something.  Finally the guests left and all was quiet.  Then a text from Virgin Airlines to say that my plane would be two hours delayed.  At least I didn’t have to be at the airport until 10am but it was annoying.  There was nothing on the website to indicate the delay.  W rang to check and yes at least two hours.  I hoped it wasn’t longer as I had a connecting flight to catch in Auckland.  A rather depressing end to the day and week.

 

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I had a morning on my own.  C was back at work and H (on her second day of her “weekend”) was going to meet me towards midday.

I caught the train into Flinders Street but was too early to get into the Ian Potter Centre to see the car exhibition “Shifting gear”.  It was a pleasant, sunny day, so I wandered around nearby, enjoying the sights and sounds and wishing I could stay there indefinitely instead of having to return home.

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Finally, the Ian Potter Centre opened and I was met with hoards of school kids.  Luckily for me, they weren’t there for the exhibition (about Aussie car design).

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The gorgeous 2005 Holden concept car, Efijy.

 

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There weren’t many cars there so it didn’t take me long to look around.  I was a little disappointed.  Better value were the free exhibits of lovely Australian paintings, including my favourites, McCubbin and Streeton.  I wandered round inside, avoiding the school kids…

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then headed out into the sunshine and lingered until it was time to catch the 11.20 train to Fairfield.

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The journey was interesting.  A young guy (I could tell by his hands) got on and sat nearby.  He was wearing perfectly normal clothes except his head was covered in a Spiderman mask under his hat.  I think he was wearing a Spiderman jumpsuit underneath his clothes.  He got off and then someone else got on who was under the influence of something.  He was talking loudly, slurring..  “My friend…. dying… cos I gave him battery ACID, yeah!”… “Who am I talking to?  I dunno…”, etc.  The next stop was Fairfield, thankfully.  I walked past him to get off, avoiding eye contact.  The only other passenger nearby, a Chinese girl, hesitated, then followed me.

H met me at the station after about a minute.  We walked down the main street and she took me to a Lebanese or Middle Eastern bakery and we had haloumi and spinach triangular pastry things (forgotten what they were called).  We sat outside and ate and chatted.  H asked if I wanted a drink or just to get some water at her flat nearby.  We walked to her flat.  After some water (which I prefer over overpriced soft drinks), we walked to the park she goes to with a friend and her dog, Darebin parklands.

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A very pleasant walk.  There was water near the entrance so we had more before heading back to the main centre.  We caught the train to Collingwood.  H wanted  to take me to a convent where they served food for which you pay as much as you liked.  I thought we had had lunch and I wasn’t feeling very hungry.  However, we walked from Collingwood station to Abbotsford,  came across the convent gates and walked around to the restaurant, Lentil as Anything.

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The food is vegetarian (as you’d expect from the name) and you help yourself from a smorgasbord.  I took a few salads and a little curry.  H insisted I also take some of the orange cake.  The food was absolutely fan-bloody-tastic.  I haven’t tasted anything so tasty since H left home.  The cake was also nice – not too sweet.  As I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t eat a great deal, but it was wonderful.  We had water with our meal and just enjoyed the atmosphere.  We both commented that it reminded us of Europe.  I was thinking of a particular place in Aachen where we sat outside and enjoyed a similar atmosphere.  After we put our donations in the box and cleared our dishes, H took me for a “tour” around the buildings, pointing out where they did dancing, art therapy, galleries, art studio, etc – a real community.

H’s plan was to walk towards the trams but it was a long walk and as well as sand grating on my foot (left over from the beach near the Twelve Apostles), part of my left leg was a little sore.  I wasn’t used to so much walking!  So we veered right to catch the train to Melbourne Central to do some shopping.

We went to the Emporium, wandered round, had a cup of bubble tea and went to H & M and Target.  I ended up buying a couple of long-sleeved tops, one of them for just $5.  H bought a backpack with room for her laptop.  I gave her money for it, part of her birthday gift.

We split up at Melbourne Central station.  We would see each other the next night.  I changed trains at Richmond and continued on to Prahran.  I walked back to the apartment and W buzzed me in.  C had only just arrived from her time in the gym.

We wandered down Chapel Street to find a place to eat at for dinner.  We settled on “Shanghai Street” for dumplings.  We were the last before they were closing up early due to being short-staffed.

Lots of people around.  Chapel Street is always full of life.  I noted again how Prahran seemed to be populated purely by young people.  I rarely saw any middle-aged people around.

I had one more day in Melbourne, one more day of freedom…

 

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C had one more day off and it was the start of H’s “weekend” so we arranged to go on a train to Bendigo.  I had wanted to go, on a previous trip to Melbourne, when I saw the train at a Southern Cross platform for Bendigo.  Perhaps it was the postcards sent by my aunt years ago.  She would send me details of her trips around the country including Ballarat (visited last time) and Bendigo.

It was a sunny day – yay!  C and I got the train to Flinders Street and changed for the one stop to Southern Cross.  Unfortunately, they changed platforms on us so it took longer to get to the connecting train and we were running late.  Once at Southern Cross, we hurriedly topped up the Myki cards and ran for the platform where H was waiting.  Phew!  For decades I’ve had recurring dreams about missing trains and planes so it’s always a huge relief when I catch one on time.

It was about a two hour train journey, but I like train journeys and it was nice to see the outer suburbs and countryside.  Castlemaine (or “Casselmaine” as it was pronounced) looked pretty.

On arrival, a useful sign directed us to the town centre and we followed others walking in the same direction.  We wandered around until we found some grand old buildings.

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Town hall

Post Office building

I love old architecture.  Such a change from the bland modern rectangles of concrete and glass.  We have little of it in NZ (and even less since the Christchurch earthquake).

By this time we were hungry so sought out a cafe.  C consulted her trusty smartphone again and directed us to a cafe called  “Old Green Bean”.  (I can now see the benefits of a smartphone, particularly in unfamiliar surroundings.  At home I have no use at all for one.)  It was a quirky place with crocheted blankets on mismatched chairs.  It was rather stuffy and noisy inside so we sat outside in the sunshine after ordering.  It was more pleasant, although there was the noise of tyre-changing machinery at Beaurepaires opposite.

H is also into beer so she and I bought local brews (from Bendigo and Beechworth), while C had a cider.

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I ordered a “Middle-eastern roti” (fusion food?).

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It looked nice but lacked some spice or other flavouring.  Something different anyway.  Whatever H ordered (I can’t recall) looked huge and a woman at the neighbouring table commented on it.  It was very pleasant in the sunshine.  In fact we felt like we would get sunburnt.

We wandered some more after lunch (including through the original Myer, which felt like the old Collinson and Cunningham in PN in layout and vintage) and found our way to the Info/visitors’ centre housed in the old  Post Office building (opened in 1887).  We grabbed a couple of pamphlets about buildings, etc.  Apparently there wasn’t a general museum, only a Chinese one (which charged for entry) and a Soldiers’ Memorial (which we weren’t in the mood for after all the ANZAC coverage).  We started walking in the direction of the Golden Dragon museum anyway, past a conservatory full of dahlias and alongside a park.  We crossed a bridge over a creek and suddenly saw hundreds of bats hanging from trees above and flying around.

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What a racket!  The locals must be used to it.  Few others took any notice of them.  As we weren’t prepared to pay for the Chinese museum and garden, we headed back (past a giant red and yellow lotus.  It looked like a McDonald’s playground.).  Toilet stop, then a wander up View Street past some more lovely old buildings.  Bendigo has trams too.

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If the tram doesn’t go, get a tractor. to pull it.

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We laughed.

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Typical Aussie hotel, complete with gum tree.

 

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Want to catch a bus?  Let’s go to Bendigo.

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On the way to the old gaol (now a theatre), we came across my beloved crows.  (I don’t know why, but I love rooks, crows, ravens, and magpies.)

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Old Bendigo gaol, now Ulumbarra theatre)

We did the circuit and ended up back near the Chinese museum.

Coming from the other direction, with the sun behind me, I could get a better photo of the bats.

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Just across the road was a charming old bookshop,

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so we had a look in there.  Large number of books, with a mezzanine floor above and well laid out.  H was interested in travel books, that weren’t too old.  She found a book of German sayings and bought that.  (She asked me to take her German lesson exercise books over for her, as she wants to re-learn in preparation for her trip to Europe.)  I didn’t buy anything.  I’m trying to get rid of excess books, not accumulate more.

Normally C and I would, by now, get a coffee or something at a cafe, but H wanted to go into the Shamrock Hotel for another beer.  I never say no to a local brew.  I had a “Fat Yak”.  Not sure what H had.  C had another cider, I think.  We found a table by the window, which was perfect for people-watching.

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We wandered up to look at the fountain on the corner of a busy road, before heading back to the station.

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On the way we spotted a Kathmandu sale and went in.  H found a warm jacket in her size for a good price and bought it.  There were also some nice shoes at a good price, but I was not in the mood for shopping and didn’t have warm socks with me to try any.  We also went into a Chemist Discount store, where I bought some cheap Oral-B toothbrushes (for a fraction of the price in NZ) and a couple of moisturisers.  The Sukin brand was about half the price in NZ.  We really are ripped off.

Unfortunately, we miscalculated the timing and only just missed a train back to Melbourne.  Across the road was a shopping mall so we went into the supermarket and wandered round.  We then looked in the bag shop.  C wanted a new suitcase and H wanted a backpack which would also accommodate her laptop.  Finding nothing suitable, we returned to the station and waited 20 minutes or so.

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It was getting dark on the way so I didn’t see much countryside heading back.  I did spot a kangaroo near Kangaroo Flats, though.

On arrival at Melbourne we caught a tram to Richmond and made our way to Burmese House, a restaurant serving (obviously) Burmese food.  W was meeting us there.  Very nice food and lovely owners – a gentle middle-aged man and his wife.

W had brought the car but we dropped H off at the nearest train station to catch a train back to Fairfield.  I wondered why we didn’t just drop her home but it would’ve taken an extra half hour and I’m guessing W was tired.  You forget how long the distances are in Australia, when used to small distances in NZ.

Anyway, a longwinded entry to say “Fabulous day!”.

 

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C had another day off work so we took the train into Flinders Street then got the tram to Brunswick.  H had told us about a shop there that made their own jeans for about $50 and altered them so they fit perfectly.  H had bought some for her boyfriend, L and they didn’t fit, so she’d asked us to take them with us to return for a refund.

An interesting neighbourhood – full of shops selling wedding gowns, so I’m guessing it was a sort of tailoring precinct.  C tried on a couple of skinny jeans at the shop (Dejour Jeans).  I tried on a pair of “basic” blue ones, but actually wanted black and not skinny leg but they didn’t have them in my size.  I didn’t like the way the jeans hugged me, so didn’t bother trying on any others.  It was a style for the young.  C arranged to have one pair altered – the waist taken in.  It would take about an hour, so we walked down to find somewhere to eat.  There weren’t really any cafes or anything, so C looked up on her phone to find a recommended place.  So we ended up at Code Black and had a coffee and brunch.  I have to say the coffees in Melbourne are generally pretty good.  Stronger than the insipidness I usually end up with.  I can’t recall what C had to eat but I had “coffee-infused” bacon and egg on fried bread with potato salad.  It was very nice although I couldn’t really taste coffee in the bacon or egg.

We returned to the jean shop.  C picked up her jeans and we got a refund for L’s jeans.  We then caught the tram back and wandered over to Fitzroy Gardens.

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It was very plesant in the gardens.  I worked out which path was the one frequently taken by Nina in “Offspring” and spotted the nearby building with the “hospital” balcony.

We walked back to Flinders Street and got a tram down to Albert Park.  I said hello to the local coots.

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I pointed out a willie wagtail to C.  The bird itself wasn’t feeling photogenic and flew off when I tried to take a photo.  We walked around the lake for a while, past a cawing crow in a tree, then walked back before the runners took over, to catch a tram to the apartment.

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For dinner we walked down the road to David’s restaurant in Prahran which served Shanghai food.  It was very tasty.

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This morning looked brighter, which was good, as we had planned to drive the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles.  We by-passed Geelong (a not very attractive township judging from a distance) and Torquay, instead taking a road south to Anglesea.

We stopped in Lorne for an early lunch.  W had taken his friend there and he’d been swamped by cockatoos wanting food.  C and I were happy to stop there.

W parked in a carpark near a public toilet.  As I returned to the car, I heard cockatoos and saw one in a tree.  I was just about to take a photo when C directed my attention to the lawn nearby.  There were dozens of them eating the grass and up in nearby trees.

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They were quite tame so we were able to get quite close.

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I was delighted.

We had a very pleasant lunch sitting outside a cafe.  No birds came over to share it, thankfully.

We continued on the road past the impressive Grand Pacific Hotel.

 

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We could see showers on the coast but once through them it was often clear again.  Much of the coastline and small townships looked like New Zealand.  I could easily imagine that we were driving on the southern coast of the North Island near Wellington.

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The road left the coast and headed inland through some lovely forests.

apr24may01 071We passed farmland which also looked very like New Zealand – green paddocks with macrocarpa trees dotted about.

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We had to stop for some roadworks and I looked in the nearby paddock and spotted ibis – definitely not something you would see in New Zealand.

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We finally reached the Twelve Apostles in Port Campbell National Park.  It had been a long drive.  It was now mid-afternoon.  We stopped at the Gibson steps and headed down to the beach.

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We could only see  two of the remaining seven “apostles” (there were only nine when originally named!).  The tide prevented walking round to see others, so we returned to the car and drove on to the carpark and visitor centre further along the road.  There were hoards of Asian tourists.  There was a good view of the other “apostles” although the sun was against me when looking the other way.

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We bought a cup of tea and shortbread biscuits at the visitor centre but had it near the car.  Outdoor seating was either by the toilets or smokers, neither of which was particularly pleasant.  We heard frogs nearby but couldn’t see them.  Only sparrows joined us.

We did not return to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road, but took the inland route which was shorter.  It was very scenic, especially as the sun set.  The clouds, too, were wonderful.

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It was completely dark by the time we returned to the outskirts of Melbourne.

On arrival in Melbourne we went straight to a Vietnamese restaurant, in Richmond I think, before heading back to the apartment.

It had been a very enjoyable day.

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