30.12.2008 – 01.01.2009
I left behind a cold, wintery Heathrow and some teary parents on the 28th Dec to embark on my world adventure. After saying goodbyes and once checked in i sat back and began to think of what lay ahead. I was full of hope tinged with a little anxiety, the prospect of discovering new places that i had only seen in magazines and read in books, meeting new people but mostly I was filled with excitement as to what would unravel ahead of me.I had no sleep the night before as I lay awake looking at the 2 bags packed for the upcoming venture mostly thinking “what have I done?” and “is this all a mistake?” I had set no exact itinerary just armed with the knowledge of where I wanted to go. Something work had taught me was that plans change and you have to adapt and change with these which was something that I was well willing to do. The basic route that I had planned was Australia, NZ, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam for starters, a well trodden route for first time travellers.
The first leg of the trip was a 24 hr journey to get to Melbourne, Australia, broken down into 2 legs, 11 1/2 hrs to Hong Kong, a 2 hr stop over to stretch the legs a little and then on board for another 9 hour flight to land in Melbourne. Long haul flights are relatively easy with on board movies and entertainment to pass the time but the only down side is the lack of leg room for us taller folk. I was met at the airport by Stevie D (an old friend from University days) and Misa (his girlfriend) who drove me back to their apartment right in the heart of Melbourne for a few cold stubbies on their beautiful apartment balcony. Steve emigrated to Australia a few years ago and now has permanent residency here and I can understand why. A beautiful 2 bedroom apartment with shared facilities of 2 tennis courses, a gym and a swimming pool and at the fraction of what it would cost in the UK. Melbourne is a lot like the UK in respects to weather, not too hot and a little rainy. We caught up on the good old days, and what had been happening with everyone back home whilst supping a few cold Victoria beers. The next day I woke early determined and ventured into Melbourne for a quick look round.
Although Melbourne doesn’t immediately take your breath away it certainly makes up for it in character. For some unknown reason I had come to imagine that most towns in Australia would be more colonial, although I had seen pictures to prove otherwise. Melbourne boasts an impressive modern skyscraper background with colonial building mixed in a lower levels. It’s the second biggest city in Australia with a population of around 3.5 million, although you wouldn’t think it has anywhere near that many people when you walk around the streets. There are many British aspects to Melbourne mixed in with modern architecture as well as an array of ethnic backgrounds and culture especially a huge Asian community, mixed in with Greek and other European. In fact it has the second largest Greek population in the world. On the surface all seem to blend and mix very well into one of the world’s youngest cities. A large cafe culture here allowed me to soak in the quintessential Australian atmosphere of the city and after a caffeine boost I had a quick walk around Federation Square, the city centre and Chinatown.During my walk around town, I encountered a lot of happy and drunk South Africans around the city. Reason being that they had just won the second Cricket Test which was held in the MCG. It was the first time the Aussies had been beaten in their own back yard for 16 years so the pubs weren’t busy that night with locals and the nation was in regress.
I then met up with Steve later in the afternoon and we gathered together a few groceries so I could have my first Aussie Barby. Steve whipped up a fantastic dinner comprising of lamb chops with lemon zest, lemon juice, rosemary and olive oil along with some pork snags (Aussie sausages), some hot chicken wings and Misa created a lovely Japanese salad. After the meal we settled down with a few beers and started to plan the NYE celebrations for the next day. We woke up late and started to prepare for NYE, but first we had a quick game of tennis in the downstairs court in Steve’s apartment block. Although it was only 20 degrees over here at the time you have to be very careful of UV ray,s especially for my white, untanned European skin.
After a quick wash and change around 7ish we all headed down to beach front suburb of Melbourne called St Kilda to meet up with Steve and Misa’s friends to have a few pre club drinks at their house before heading to the beach. Our NYE destination was a small club on the beach front to toast in the New Year. Not so different from NYE at home bar the fact that we were on a beac but it wasn’t cold or raining, everyone had weird accents and everything everyone said seemed to end in a question! We all left the club at around 2am when things started to quieten down feeling well watered, happy and in high spirits and all looking forward to what 2009 will all bring us. Happy New Year one and all… The next was spent recovering, watching DVD’s and drinking lots of espresso, very typical to what most people would probably be doing back home. Steve’s hospitality in unsurpassed and the next few days were spent cooking and taking a few more sights in and around the Melbourne area.