Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Melbourne and the Prom (Australia: Melbourne/Wilson's Promontory: 22-26 July 2007, Written 26 July 2007)

Sunday morning, 7am. Got ready for Wilson's Promontory and met Alisdair. Picked up Keriann then we headed to Alisdair's in Dandenong to load up the car. Although we were going for just a night, we had heaps of food, blankets, sleeping bags, etc etc etc. We arrived mid-afternoon at Wilson's Promontory. Admittedly my expectations had been built up due to lots of different people telling me how great it was. I had been drifting off to sleep in the back when Alisdair spotted an emu - how exciting! Thus far, the only emus I had seen were in Wanganella after Susan and I had driven around in the ute for a good 45 minutes searching for them.

We continued on and went to Tidal River campground to pitch the tent and get oriented. We were just in time to hike up Mt. Oberon for a sunset view. This walk was quite montonous and boring, as it was just a wide road that went uphill, turned a corner, went uphill again, turned, and... you get the point. What we were awarded with was phenomenal. The Prom, as it's known, is the southernmost point of mainland Australia. It is surrounded to the south, east, and west by endless water. Antarctica is, it seems, not very far away. We sat on rocks watching the sun setting over the ocean and the expanse of small islands, bays, and inlets was breathtaking. It was extremely windy so the walk back in the dark was a bit cold but worth it.

We got back to the campground and Alisdair made dinner - lentil pasta bolognese. Looked like dog food but tasted great. I had read in a brochure that wombats, emus, and kangaroos were commonly spotted at the Prom, in addition to heaps of birds, and I had been excited by the kookaburras and parrots that had quickly appeared at Tidal River. As we went to the car to pick up supplies, I heard something on the grass nearby, and my eyes could vaguely make out a dark figure on the ground. A wombat! I was really really really excited. Australia Zoo was the first time I had ever seen a wombat, and I was instantly enamored. With a name like wombat, how could you not be? I didn't want to get too close and I quickly turned on the torch; he seemed slightly alarmed and waddled off in another direction. At the cooking area, opossums started appearing out of nowhere. They look quite different to their North American counterparts and have long, bushy tails, and these ones were dark brown. They were mildly aggressive but ran away - I wasn't in the mood to share food.

It was pretty unbelievable how quickly the temperature dropped. During the afternoon I had been comfortable in a long sleeved shirt, and as the sun went down you could feel the air becoming chilled, and the winds picked up a bit. A few more wombats wandered around the area eating the grass, and we did our best with numb fingers to wash dishes and we were ready for bed. Keriann and I were sleeping in the car and Alisdair was staying in the tent. Keriann and I stayed up for a few hours chatting away and gradually warmed up a bit.

We had a late start in the morning and had a big breakfast of porridge, baked beans, eggs, toast, and cereal. Hmm. We went down to Tidal River and wandered around a bit. We continued up to several different lookouts, bays, and beaches where we got a good idea of how we were situated and the sense of how we really were at the end of the world. It was beautiful.

We didn't stick around too long and we headed back towards Melbourne. Stopped in Fish Creek for some greasy takeaway, and didn't stop again until we got to Alisdair's house. That night, we went down to Fitzroy to have $4 pizzas at Bimbo's and then to Rainbow Hotel to hear a jazz band. Greg, who I had been in touch with nearly a year ago, came to meet us briefly. Exhausted, we finished up early that night.

Tuesday was my outing with Angie. We walked all over St. Kilda with Aiden, part of the time me pushing him along. I really love this part of Melbourne, it is so aesthetically beautiful, right along the water with several cute streets packed with pubs, cafes, restaurants, and shops. We went down on the esplanade and up to St. Kilda Baths, where there is also a restaurant called Soul Mama. It is a vegetarian place and if this was how all vegetarian meals tasted, I bet not many people would have such a hard time cutting meat out of their diets. The way the system worked was that you paid a set amount for a bowl, and that would give you a certain number of dishes, with rice. Angie and I both had the 4 dish bowl, and I filled it with creamy mushroom and white beans, potato salad with aioli and pumpkin, seasonal stirfried vegetables, and a catalan vegetable pasta. She had grilled curry mushrooms, a lentil and pea curry, season vegetables, and malaysian noodles. Fantastic. All while having a gorgeous view over the water.

Later that afternoon I headed to Rosanna to meet Declan. It's out in the suburbs and a stark contrast to the variety of things available in Central Melbourne. We cooked a yummy stirfry and rented a DVD, with lime and black pepper potato chips (my favorite Australian flavor so far) and raspberry Tim Tams. This was my first exposure to the ubiquitous Tim Tams. Not bad.

Wednesday morning we lounged about until I headed back to Melbourne just after lunch. I went to a few cafes in the CBD, St. Jeromes on Caledonian Ave. was a hip little place where people were clearly there to see and be seen. I then was pretty frustrated by the speed of public transport so walked all the way to Fitzroy to meet Greg.

Greg is one of those special ones. I had emailed him nearly a year ago when he was living in Osaka but it turned out I was too late - by the time I got in touch with him he had already left Japan and was travelling in China, headed to India. He mentioned then that if I ever came to Melbourne I should look him up. So I did. He was not feeling well at all but was kind enough to meet me, and we just went back to his house and had a good chat. He lives in a beautiful old house that was originally built over a hundred years ago. Felt even older than the house at Wanganella! It was refreshing to have a honest, straight conversation about so many different things - living abroad, multiculturalism and what it means in different contexts, immigration laws, fear, politics, etc. etc. It was really great to talk to someone who knew policies in Australia and we could compare with both Japan and the US. I was pretty astonished to hear about some of the refugee stories and how Australia's policy is to either set them up in camps in the desert or ship them off the remote island such as Naoru, a place I had never even heard of but with a funny history in and of itself. We went to have dinner at Dante's on Brunswick Street, it was yummy. Food in Melbourne is pretty fantastic. Anyway, hung out a bit more then I decided I should let him get his work done/rest and off I went.

Hung out at home for a bit then got totally engrossed in the book I'm currently reading, The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh. It intertwines stories in Burma, India, and Malaya over a century, including the World Wars with Japanese involvement and it's an epic novel. Makes me want to go to India and certainly return to Burma.

Today Angie, Aiden, and I went to Queen Victoria Market up in the CBD and we bought heaps of fruits, veggies, and other delights like olives and cheese, mmm. I had a Turkish lunch and fresh juice and we quickly left before I could consume more. I got dropped off at the pool and I went for a relaxing mindless swim, until I got back. And here I am.

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