Australia is somewhere I have always wanted to visit ever since I can remember.
I can’t decide if it was because my great-grandma used to visit her daughter there or because of some factoid books I received when I was a kid and they had a massive section in there about Australia.
Whichever it was that piqued my interest, a boy like me would never get to Australia. Someone who grew up on a council estate and was poor would never get the chance to go to Australia. It’s unheard of.
Well, that changed last month. I went and I absolutely loved it.
I decided my birthday would be a good time to go. Around 6 months ago I saw a deal for flights so decided that I would book them. I hadn’t secured my annual leave (it hadn’t even been released) but booked it anyway and hoped for the best.
I had a bit of trepidation as it came time to travel (Just ask J and K). I got to the point where I didn’t want to go and was thinking of all sorts of reasons to cancel. J and K and T spent time convincing me that I should go. I did and I am so glad I did. I got to fulfil a dream.
It came time to go to the airport and Jamie took me down. I was still a bit nervous about going (I know, I don’t know why either since this isn’t my first – or even second – flight).
We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare (I think my grasp of time is a pet peeve of Jamie). It gave me time to make sure everything was as it should be and enough time to drop my bag off and go through security. I asked for an upgrade and they said they didn’t offer any kind of free upgrade any more. BA wants to be the flagship carrier with flagship prices but budget policies. The lady was really nice and we had a laugh (even if she was from Sunderland).
I am glad the flight was an overnight flight as it gave me a chance to get some sleep and try and get on local time. I think I managed to get some sleep. It was a flipping long flight though.
I got off in Hong Kong and it was hot as anything. I was sweating and there was no air con at all in the airport. I managed to find where I needed to be and had to go through security again (what a pain that is!)
I managed to find some food as I was starving. Airplane food leaves a lot to be desired. It was awful. All I really wanted was something to drink. Being on a plane for 12.5 hours is thirsty work.
I found a McDonald’s and got an egg, chicken, cheese and ham sandwich. It may sound gross but it was really nice. I also bought some water and headed to the gate for the flight to Melbourne. I had a 3 hour layover – just about right I reckon.
As I was headed down to the plane, we were searched again and my water was confiscated as Australia only wanted 100mls or less on the flights. This I found ridiculous as the water has to be screened before going in to the airport anyway. So annoying!
I got on the flight and mentioned to the stewardess that I tried to bag a birthday upgrade and thought nothing else of it. I was in my seat and started to fall asleep when the same stewardess came over and said she had found me a free row in economy plus. RESULT! I headed down there and it was nice to have the extra room. I thought my luck was in until somebody else decided to sit on the end seat to make way for his stupid child. He tried to take over the middle seat but I put all his stuff back on him so he couldn’t have space for his stuff. Petty I know, but this was MY upgrade.
I finally landed in Melbourne and boy was it hot. The airport had long queues and no air con. I was able to use the e-passport gates so no need to be hounded by customs. Once I was at the front of the queue (About 45 minutes after getting my bags) I was straight through.
I found the transfer bus into the city centre and it was so nice to sit on the bus that had air con. So, so nice. I got to the main station and the chap from the place I was staying said he would pick me up from the station by his house. I got there, relaxed for about an hour and had a shower and headed out in to the city.
The tram had air con too and it was lovely. I was tempted to sit on it and ride around until it was time to head home to bed. I didn’t. I decided to wander around the city. Such a lovely city.
I will split the rest of the post into separate activities.
There was so much to see that I decided to split it over 2 days. The commentary on the bus was not as good as it could be – although it was more informative than some I have listened to.
It was so surreal to see places in person that I have only seen on TV shows. The 2 routes took us around the city and into the St Kilda suburb.
There is a ton to see in the city that you just couldn’t take it all in from the bus. You need to get off and wander around. I spent the first day doing the city tour and scouting out places to visit when I was off the bus and had some free time.
I wandered around in the city and some of the suburbs after I had arrived back at Federation Square.
I decided to head towards the malls and it was nice to walk along the street. It was also nice to be in the malls as they had some lovely air con – a welcome relief on a day of 35 degree heat.
After I wandered around the mall, I hopped on a tram to the docklands area. It was nice to walk around there too. It is for sure a rich area. Lots of boats and expensive apartments.
I then hopped on the City Circle tram. This is a free tram that circles the Melbourne CBD. It also provides an historical commentary of various stops that it makes around the city. It would have been even better had some guy not stood right next to the window I was at. I was trying to take some pictures but he plonked himself right there. It came time for me to get off and he was still taking pictures. I decided to make sure I spoiled one of the shots he was trying to get as he did for me. I did hear him tut. Oh well. I don’t feel bad in the slightest.
After I was done on this tram, I decided to hop on a tram out into the north-western suburbs. It was nice to just sit and relax and do nothing. It was also nice to wander around in the suburbs (even though I was staying in the suburbs anyway). I then went home for the day as I was super tired.
The second day of sightseeing was spent on the St Kilda bus. It was fun to see this area of the city. It is different to the suburb I was staying in. One of the places we stopped by was Luna Park. It was so surreal to see it as I have only ever seen it on a TV show (as with the rest of Melbourne surprisingly enough). If you have been there, you will know why it is distinctive.
The bus also took us along the coast and towards the port and cruise terminal. The coastline is really nice. Nice clear waters and yellow sandy beaches. As we were heading to the cruise terminal, I saw a familiar bright yellow funnel. I realised it was a Costa ship and wondered if it was the one we were on when we were on our Med Cruise. It wasn’t, but it reminded me of that.
Once we got back to Federation Square, I hopped on the city tour again to get some pictures from a different viewpoint.
I got off part way through this tour and wandered around the city again. I like to walk around the city centres and suburbs of where I am. I like to get immersed in the local scenes.
I then decided on the Sunday and Monday I wanted to do a couple of tours so used my phone to find some tour companies. I found one called Bunyip Tours and hopped on the tram to go and book some tours.
The tours I booked were the Great Ocean Road and the Neighbours tour. I did the Great Ocean Road on the Sunday as the weather promised to be really nice (and it was) and Monday was showing a bit rainy so I booked the Neighbours tour for then (it did rain, but stopped as we were on the minibus).
After I had booked the tours, I then went to do some souvenir shopping whilst I had the time. After I did that, I got some dinner and headed back to where I was staying as the Great Ocean Road tour was an early start. I had to be up at 5am to get ready and get the train.
Below are some of the pictures from the city.
View all of my pictures of the city here
This was an early start tour. I was up at 5am to get ready, have breakfast and out to the train. The guy I was staying with was nice enough to drop me at the station for the 6:20 train.
I made sure I got to the station with time to spare as I couldn’t miss this train as they were only every 30 minutes and I would have missed the departure of the tour.
I managed to see a Praying Mantis have a bit of a dance on the railings at the station.
I got down to meeting place with enough time to spare to buy something for breakfast as I was really hungry.
The way they plan it is really strange. They say the tour is only a small group but what they don’t tell you is the book a lot of people and split them up into smaller groups for the bus and fill the bus to the brim.
We had a really strange driver. He said it was his policy that we all changed seats at every stop. Not a lot of people were fans of that policy. Ha. Neither was I.
The drive was a stunning drive. The weather was nice and the scenery was truly awesome.
We made 5 stops throughout the day and each was a scenic as the last.
We made the following stops:
> Kennett River
> Cape Otway
> Gibson Steps
> Twelve Apostles
> Loch Ard Gorge
We were told that this is one of the best places to see Koalas. The driver said if we see groups of people around a tree with cameras out, then it was pretty certain there was a Koala there.
I found a tree like that and looked up and couldn’t see anything. A girl on the tour couldn’t either. We decided to walk up a little further to see if we could see any. We still couldn’t. She went a little further up and I decided to head back down towards the tree where the people were gathered.
I looked up again and couldn’t see anything. About 10 minutes later I spotted the koala in the tree. I got a few pictures whilst I could still see it.
At this stop we had a ‘traditional’ Australian lunch (A hot dog and a couple of slices of bread). After I was done I decided to head down to the lighthouse and get some pictures from the top. The view was stunning.
The lighthouse here is the oldest one on mainland Australia. It was built in 1848 after several hundred lives were lost in shipwrecks.
The views here were stunning. There is a closed viewing platform near the edge of the cliff. You can also walk down the 86 steps to the beach. The steps were carved into the cliffs by a settler called Hugh Gibson. The route was originally used by the Kirrae Whurrong people.
On the beach, you can get stunning views of Gog and Magog (the giant limestone stacks rising out of the sea)
This was such a stunning view. I didn’t even need to go right to the edge to get a view of the Twelve Apostles. I can’t describe how amazing the view is and pictures really don’t do it justice either.
They started off as cliffs, being eroded into caves, then becoming arches and then collapsing leaving what is there now.
Loch Ard Gorge
Our last stop was Loch Ard Gorge and the views here didn’t disappoint either. There were 3 lookout points and I stopped at 2 of them owing to the time frame we had.
The gorge is named after the ship Loch Ard that wrecked here. This happened in 1878 and the only survivors were a 15 yr old boy called Tom Pearce and a 17 yr old girl called Eva Carmichael. Tom raised the alarm and this saved Eva’s life – she went back to England though. Tom remained in Australia and was a hero.
The two remaining pillars (formed after the archway crumbled) are called Tom and Eva after the shipwreck survivors.
You can see some of the pics of the tour below.
You can view all of the tour pics here
I guess I should let you all know that I am a Neighbours fan. I have watched the show for as long as I remember and never thought for one second I would be on the street where they film. Well, I was here and it was really surreal.
I booked again with Bunyip tours and there were about 20 of us in the minibus doing the tour. The driver was a funny guy. Always cracking jokes. He was also full of trivia about the show.
The tour included a meet the star – even thought it was a past star. He is called Ben Nicholas. He played Stingray in the show. I remember his character and it was surreal to meet a star from the show. I would have loved to meet a current star and I had my mind set on which I would like to meet.
We were told the street may be closed off if they were filming. I was sad and glad they weren’t filming. Sad that we didn’t get to meet a star on the street and glad that we could get on the street.
They film on the street itself and in one of the back gardens. They film all the way up to the front door and once inside the door, they are then filming from the studio.
The street is a lot smaller than you see on TV. They also had a security guard there as people were coming along to the street and causing issues – they said at one time, a group of lads climbed on the roof of one of the houses.
We got to spend about 20 minutes on the street taking pictures. Really, really surreal. The street itself is called Pin Oak Court and is in the Vermont South suburb.
After we were done on the street, we went to the studio and had a look around and met Ben. We all got to have a picture with him. I made sure I got some pics of some of the sets they use. We also caught a glimpse of some of the stars as we were on the bus.
I can’t tell you how surreal it was to be there on the set and street of a show I have watched for a long time. I also got some pictures for a friend of mine and his wife. Yes, that’s you C & D!
You can see some of the pics I took below.
You can view all of my pics of this tour here
Today was the last full day I had to sightsee before I had to head to the airport for home. I wasn’t going to be fooled by the rain this time. I didn’t take out an umbrella with me and used the small one I carry in my man bag. It turned out to be a good idea too. It didn’t rain all day but did for a lot of it.
Today was the day to tram surf. I went out into the suburbs and once it stopped raining, I went for a wander. When I say rain, I mean practically a river running down the street.
Once I got back on the tram, I headed back into the city centre and stopped off at the Shrine of Remembrance. It is a very impressive building and has great views of the city from the top.
I spent about 90 minutes here just looking around and admiring the views. The humidity was truly awful on this day though. I then headed back to the tram and went to the local souvenir shop to pick up a few final things and one of the things I picked up was a hand fan that came in handy.
The shrine itself was opened in 1934 to commemorate the victims of the World War I. It now also commemorates the victims of World War II and subsequent wars. It is a memorial that is truly spectacular.
It is located in Kings Domain just off St Kilda Road.
Here are some of the pics from my visit here.
Today was the day to head home. I made sure I packed the couple of days before so the only things I had to put in my case were my dirty clothes from the day before and my toiletries. It also meant I could have a lie in.
The Airbnb host took me to the station and I hopped on the train. It said it was going to the station I needed but took a different route to the one I had taken on the way to the house. I was really confused. I got to Flinders Street station and got off the train, only to realise it was going to where I needed so I walked down and got on a couple of carriages down so it didn’t look like I was as confused as I was. Haha.
I got to the airport with time to spare and made sure I had very little on me that would cause delays or issues going through security. Make sure your laptop is available to hand and put your liquids in your carry on so you don’t have to deal with that.
I got on the flight and luckily there was a spare seat between me and the other passenger. It was a pleasant flight back to Hong Kong. By the time we got there I was starting to get tired. Tired enough to sleep on the flight.
I got some food and got to the gate – only for them to say the gate had changed. A 15 minute walk back towards where I had just come from. Grrrr.
I got on the flight back to Heathrow and this was probably one of the worst flights I have been on. It was cramped, no good food and we flew through turbulence over China for about 2 hours. I don’t get travel sick, but I did feel sick on this flight. Hopefully I never have to deal with a flight like that again.
We landed in Heathrow and it was pretty quick getting out of there. My bag was there almost straight away. It was so good to see a familiar face again. Jamie picked me up from the airport. Thank goodness she is so kind to me still. We made the obligatory stop off at McDonald’s for breakfast and then headed home.
I never suffered from jet lag in Australia or back here. A true first for me on a long haul flight.
I just want to say again how lucky I am that I can travel the world. I truly appreciate and cherish every trip I make.