In May 2008, I went travelling on my own for the first time and was out of England for a month. Along the way I took in Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand before coming home. I kept a journal of my time on the road, so here’s a day by day account of my trials and tribulations that has the undeserved title of Dave’s Odyssey.
Day 17 – Melbourne
The 7.15 a.m. wake-up call made me chuckle. Previous ones were just a phone call but there was no voice on the other end. As this was the Travelodge some poor sod was ringing the individual rooms saying, “Good morning this is your wake-up call.” I was already up when the phone rang but it was still amusing.
Our tour of Melbourne began with a stop to take some snaps of the Royal Exhibition Building. I also managed a snap of the city skyline though it took patience and several attempts waiting for people to get out of the way. I try to be considerate where photo opportunities are concerned but when it’s something really scenic it’s every man/woman for themselves.
We next headed for the impressive St. Patrick’s Cathedral. There was a sign warning about no cameras inside but no one took any notice. I felt sorry for the odd person sat peacefully in the cathedral in prayer only to be interrupted by flashing cameras and rolling camcorders. The interior was up to the standard of your typical cathedral. I’m always drawn to the stain-glass windows, which were fabulous.
Next up we made for the Fitzroy Gardens. The coach stops were brief so we were unable to explore in full but there were some worthwhile treasures dotted about the place. Everyone was drawn to Captain Cook’s Cottage and although I got a photo of it I failed to find a moment when no tourists were about. While everyone swarmed to the cottage I wandered further afield and found a model of a Tudor village, which was worth a couple of snaps. Captain Cook’s Cottage was supposed to have a fee to go in but due to renovation it was free on this particular day. I didn’t take advantage because I knew nothing about it till we were on the coach!
From there we stopped at the Royal Botanical Gardens. On the other side of the road was the Shrine of Remembrance. In terms of memorials this was incredible. The Aussies really went to town when erecting it. Like New Zealand, you forget just how involved in the twentieth century conflicts both nations have been.
I managed a brief stroll through the Royal Botanical Gardens but due to the place being overrun by school children and the need to get back to the coach within the allotted time I wasn’t there long. We just don’t seem to have enough time. Some members of the group used their time to have a much-needed coffee rather than look around.
The final leg of our tour was a very brief stop at the Old Melbourne Gaol. This is most famous at the spot where Aussie outlaw, Ned Kelly, was hanged. He’s the equivalent of Robin Hood and wore a breastplate, an early form of the bulletproof vest. It’s amazing how much we love the criminals of old.
The rest of the day was free. Some of the group spent the afternoon on optional tours, others did their laundry, while I headed for the city. Melbourne is a beautiful city though with a population of around 4 million the streets were simply heaving. I’m not fond of shopping, particularly in busy places, so I found it difficult to stick to the city for long. I persevered because I wanted to change my traveller’s cheques to cash. It took a good hour to stumble onto a street with lots of banks. I was going to risk paying a fee at HSBC when I happened upon American Express.
After exchanging my cheques I headed for the outskirts of the city. I stopped off at Alexandra Gardens and Queen Victoria Gardens with an assortment of statues and monuments that kept me busy for a time. I wasn’t the only one making the most of my time there. I saw one guy sat with his back to a tree, he stood suddenly, stepped out of my sight, then moments later a line of urine appeared from behind the tree trunk. There were a couple of flaws in his way of thinking. The first was that toilets were all over the parks. The second was that although I couldn’t see his makeshift toilet everyone else in the park clearly could. The nerve of some people!
I figured it couldn’t get much more exciting than that great advertisement for Melbourne. I headed back to the hotel and while crossing a bridge was stopped by a girl whose first words I couldn’t quite hear. I suspect she said, “Did you know that one in ten people are gay.” I could be wrong but that’s how it sounded. She then proceeded to ask me my name and how long I was in Australia. I told her where I was heading and she thanked me for stopping and I was on my way. It could have been a survey or something but I suspect it was some kind of prank for gullible people like myself and that she’s still chuckling about it now. Who knows? I didn’t see the funny side.
Tomorrow would be the penguin parade and we were warned to wear three layers because it’s a cold one! The day after would be a 5.30 a.m. start. An early flight to Alice Springs beckoned. I’d already opted to do an additional tour in the Outback because Alex informed us Alice Springs is just shops and we had two days there in total. 17 days had already gone by. This tour was going far too quick.
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