BootsnAll Travel Network

Not quite backpacking…

Well, I finally saw a kangaroo, it only took 13 days. I was beginning to think it was some big tourist ploy. Even Denika and Jane were surprised we didn’t see any on our drive from Sydney to Melbourne. We did see one, but it was dead on the side of the road so it really could have been anything, and our road trip turned into the tourist conspiracy theory, where I was convinced for about two days that kangaroos, koalas and wombats don’t really exist, they just make fake Jim Henson type stuffed animals for their tourist advertisements to try and get stupid Americans down here. But no, I finally saw a few of them outside Denika’s grandfathers house on Saturday morning. They look like huge rabbits really and once they caught a look of us, they bounded away, just like on TV.

We stayed overnight at Denika’s grandfather on Friday night in a suburb of Melbourne. It was interesting driving through the small towns. While Melbourne is a big city and has suburbs, you can tell how much smaller of a population Australia has in comparison to the US. The suburbs ended rather quickly and it was back to small town, driving through the countryside for half an hour, and then another town. When you approach each town, there is a big fire warning dial which is turned towards a certain color, much like our terrorist attack warning system. The big difference being is that this isn’t just a scare tactic, bush fires occur frequently here. In her grandfathers town of Heathcote, the warning was on red, extreme danger of bushfires. They aren’t messing around here. On the news this morning, there were reports of two ocean attacks, one 7 year old girl died from a box jellyfish sting, considered the deadliest of all sea creatures. Another 21 year old woman died after being attacked by 3 bull sharks. They were both up in Queensland, on the north east coast where the Great Barrier Reef is. I can’t wait to go there!

A few things I’ve noticed so far about Australia. Food is pretty expensive here. Because of the drought and water shortages, it’s harder and harder to grow crops and they have to import more and more every year from Asia. Bottled water and sun tan lotion is also expensive, and pretty ironic since those are the two things most likely to kill you or make you sick without them. Cigarettes I noticed at a 7 Eleven are also really expensive, AUS$15 a pack, almost US$12. They have a huge anti-smoking campaign here, and it seems to be working, as I rarely notice anyone smoking. I’m sure this is not only because of health reasons, but also to prevent bushfires. They have a ton of American brands and things here, the ubiquitous McDonalds and Coke, but also I saw a TGI Fridays, Steve Madden and Nine West stores and things like that. Even though they are still a part of the British Commonwealth, it is more like the US I think culturally. However, they are still their own country and yes, everyone eats Vegemite and drinks tea, although there a few Starbucks around and coffee is more popular here than in Britain.

This past weekend, we went out on Saturday night with one of my friend Rhys’ friend Paul, who now lives in Melbourne. He told me he basically has no intention of going back to the UK, and has put in for permanent residency. I can see why, the weather is awesome here, the culture so laid back compared to Britain. (We ended up not going to that toga party in case anyone was wondering.)There isn’t a whole lot to do in Melbourne tourist-wise. They have of course museums and galleries and things like that, but really the things to do are sit outside and have dinner and drinks on the Yarra River and stuff like that. Mayor Daley should really take note about how thats done, they have pubs and restaurants all along the water, it’s a great atmosphere.

On Thursday night we stayed in a little town called Eden. This used to be a big whaling center, but now they make money off the whales by sightseeing rather than harpooning them. Unfortunately we were not there during the migratory season to Antarctica, but I made Denika and Jane stop in the Eden Killer Whale museum. We were told a story of a man who was swallowed by a whale, and survived an 800 meter dive, only to surface and basically be barfed back up, to which he lived to tell the tale. There was also the story about a killer whale who used to help herd other breeds of whales to the harbour, where the whaling ships then were able to kill it. It was a typical small town museum, they are obviously very proud of their towns history.

It is Monday afternoon for me, Denika went home to her family’s sheep station early, and her gracious friend Melissa is letting me crash at her flat for the next couple of days before I leave for New Zealand. I am a little freaked out about going to NZ. These past few weeks have been more like a vacation than a backpacking trip. We have been driving everywhere, able to do laundry, have my stuff spread out all over. It’s going to be a real backpacking adventure come Wednesday, my first hostel stay in the past two weeks, communal showers, all that good stuff. I’m having a lazy day as Melissa is at work and I have been fighting a cold. I might go to Phillips Island tomorrow and see some koalas, if they really exist.

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