17 May 2008

To Melbourne by Bus

Federation Square

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been gone the past two weekends in Brisbane and Melbourne, which was a huge drain on my time. Besides missing a lot of class, I've had quite a bit to catch up on, both in terms of schoolwork and college drama. I'm still working on a 3000 word paper on initiation ceremonies of Aboriginal groups in Central Australia, which is due on Wednesday, having luckily been pushed back a week from its original due date. So that's an explanation, but not an excuse, as to why this summary of my adventures has been so long in arriving.

I thought I might have been crazy to sign up for a bus trip to Melbourne; I mean, it's an 11 hour drive. But I thought that only fifteen or twenty people were going, so I would be able to spread out and get some sleep. Dead wrong - there were over 70 people packed into a double-decker tour bus. We left Thursday night and got back on Monday morning at 5am, which meant that 2 nights were spent twisting myself into a pretzel trying to find a comfortable sleeping position, which I never ended up succeeding in.

The Free Tram

Enough whining though; I'll get to talking about my weekend. The first day we did the standard walking tour of the city. Part of our walking tour actually took place on a tram (pictured at left), which is the main mode of public transportation in the city. The red trams are mainly for tourists; they are slower and they don't cost any money. I'd heard people compare the feel of Melbourne and Sydney to Boston and New York, respectively, and the comparison held up pretty well. Melbourne doesn't have the sense of history that Boston does, but it is more walkable than Sydney, and easier to get the hang of. I still don't know where I'm going in downtown Sydney, but I was able to navigate around Melbourne by the end of the first day. Melbourne, however, is more oriented towards the arts than Sydney is; there is a very healthy theatre scene there and the architecture is trendier. We went up the Rialto tower to get a bird's eye view of the city, which would have been much more enjoyable had it not been raining, therefore obscuring any hope of a view.

During our free time, we checked out the Queen Victoria Markets, a good place to get cheap souvenirs. I bought a jacket that says Australia on it and has an Australian flag, and a wool hat with tassels (watch out, Kishore!), both items that I've been coveting for a while. Total cost A$30. I make my mother proud.

Lorne

On Saturday, reluctant as I was to climb back on the double-decker, we headed out to spend the day on the Great Ocean Road, a stretch of road along the southern coast of Victoria that is home to many amazing natural landmarks. At times, the road is literally right on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and there are spots where you see wild koalas just hanging (literally) in the trees. We passed through the town where Rip Curl and Quiksilver were started, and we stopped in Bells Beach, which was featured in the movie Point Break, although it was actually shot in Hawaii. The surfers there could catch any wave they wanted to. Later on we stopped at Lorne, a quiet seaside town, for lunch and a leg stretch.

Apostles

Then we got to the rock formations. The one pictured above is the twelve apostles, of which only nine are left standing. They are formed when the wave action erodes fragile rock, causing it to collapse into the ocean. The more resistant rock is left standing as a pillar. No matter how many times I'd seen pictures of it, the sight of it was breathtaking. Unfortunately, there were so many tourists there that it was difficult to enjoy, but I was glad I got to see it. London Bridge, below, is probably the second-most famous sight on the road. The middle section collapsed a few years ago, leaving people stranded on the end who needed to be rescued by helicopter. I guess it's been renamed "London Arch" since.

London Bridge

Melbourne Demons Fans

On Sunday, we caught an Aussie Rules Football game between the Melbourne Demons and Fremantle, which is a suburb of Perth on the far Western coast of Australia. The game was held at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds. I think they said it could hold 200,000 people, but it was far from full that day because the Melbourne team had lost their first six games and the Fremantle team, besides being from so far away, had only won a single game. It looked bad for Melbourne in the first half, but they were a different team the second half, coming back from a 60-point deficit to win by just 6 points. It was probably one of the most exciting games I've ever been to, as the Melbourne fans started going nuts when their team stopped sucking. After the game, they let everyone on the field, and there were footy balls flying everywhere. That's me down there, enjoying the mayhem of a win. I even happened to be wearing the correct colors! Be sure to look at Flickr for more pictures...

Mayhem after Melbourne Victory