Our last days in Australia Melbourne 14th to 16th September 2007.
24 Sep 2007
The alarm went off at 5.45 am and it was still dark outside, it felt like the good old winter days when getting up for work. We slunk around the house to be as quiet as possible and then sneaked down the street to collect the van and set off once more to the docks. The reason for the early start was to be at the docks at 7am, as soon as they opened to ensure we got our van on the boat. We also had to contend with the morning traffic going into Melbourne which we had often seen snarled up on the morning news reports.
We decided to put some more fuel in just to be safe so pulled into a garage only to find it was closed so pulled out again. Further down the road we found another and put $5 (£2) worth of fuel in, just to be safe. Once on the Western Ring Road, (the by-pass around Melbourne) we met up with a lot of traffic and as we got to the Westgate Bridge it was very heavy but at least we kept moving. It surprised me just how many people were travelling around Melbourne at 6.45am.
We arrived at the docks, signed in and waited for our escort to arrive. We were given bright luminous yellow jackets to wear whilst we were out of the van. The security man who gave them to us had said he had picked out the least smelly ones especially for us.
Our escort arrived and we drove a short distance to an office where we handed our papers in and received 2 big stickers to go on the van and a receipt. Then we followed our escort over to the loading area and parked our van. It was sad leaving it sitting there all alone and as we drove away I felt like I was homeless, and hoped we would soon meet up again. It is strange how attached you can get to a motorhome. Our escort returned us to the security gates and the gentleman called for a taxi to take us into the city. We were now feeling quite hungry and asked the driver to drop us off somewhere near places we could get some breakfast. He left us at the Casino and said that there were plenty of eateries in there but we could not find them, so we headed into the city centre. We crossed the River Yarrow and cut through the station and found ourselves in the middle of all the workers pouring out of the railway station and making their way to work. Remembering when I was going anyway in a hurry and got stuck behind someone wandering about quite aimlessly I used to get exasperated, so we quickly crossed over the road to where it was less crowded.
We eventually found a shopping centre with a large food court and by now it was 9am and we were feeling very hungry, we had been on the go for three hours. We ordered a cooked breakfast, juice and coffee and sat back to enjoy it and plan our day. An hour later we discovered it was raining very heavily so our plans changed to finding a cinema and going to see the new John Travolta movie, 'Hairspray', which we found very funny. The rest of the day was spent looking around the shops and by 3pm the rain had eased and we were able to have a short walk around the river area.
We caught the train back to Val and Ron's home and in the evening we went out to a local club that served Italian food, for a meal. We were joined by Kathy and David, Val and Ron's daughter and son-in-law, and Kimberley their granddaughter. We had a lovely evening with both good food and company. We returned home and Val and I left Jeff and Ron watching the footy on the TV whilst we had an early night.
On Saturday morning we had a walk with Val to the local shops and market, giving us a chance to see their local area which is very diverse in ethnic groups. In the afternoon Val was going to a meeting of the local genealogy group, where a minister was giving a talk on tracing his Scottish ancestors. Ron was taking Jeff and me to an Australian Rules Football Match. We had wanted to go to a match whilst we were over here but poor timing was an issue for us. The game is stronger in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria and we were in these areas out of season. Once the season commenced we were up in Queensland, where Rugby League is the preferred game. So today was our last chance to see a game. Val had looked up on the internet and discovered a preliminary final game at a local ground between Geelong and North Ballarat.
We all set off together and visited the Queen Victoria Markets in Melbourne. Val had been surprised we had not been there on our first visit to Melbourne as they are very famous and lots of tourist busses come here. It was certainly a large market and appeared to sell everything; we visited a bottle stall where, Janice, another daughter works. The tasting drink today was raspberry ale, so we just had to have a try. It was a nice beer and we should have got the recipe so we can do some brewing when we get home. Val left us and after a quick lunch, it was off to the footy.
There was a sizeable crowd of supporters but we still managed to get a good spot to stand where we could see all the action. The game was between two feeder teams for two of the premier league clubs we had often seen on the television. Geelong first team is currently the top team in the league and is tipped to win the playoffs for the main final. North Ballarat is the feeder team for the Kangaroo's, another Melbourne team. It was good having Ron with us as he was able to tell us all the rules and explain what was going on, thus making it easier for us to follow. At the end of the first and third quarters the fans are allowed on to the field to join the players huddle to hear the coach's instructions to the team. We went onto the field at the end of the third quarter but we could not hear very much but did get a view of the magnetic board with the playing positions on it. Up to the third quarter the game had been evenly poised however in the final quarter Geelong, with the wind at their backs, ran away with it and the final score was 156 to 94. We were told that some of the first team players on both sides were playing today, Ron did recognise at least one but we were none the wiser.
On our return journey Ron took us to Flemington Park Race Course, home of the famous Melbourne Cup Race. This race is held on the first Tuesday of November and stops all of Australia. We had watched it last year whilst on a bush camp with the Nepean Nomads, Val and Ron's CMCA group, and the horse I had picked in the sweepstake came in third. So it was good to see where my fortune had been made. After the running of the Melbourne Cup last year they lifted the track up and re-laid it along with a few other renovations. We were able to get out onto the grandstand and view the course and the great view of the Melbourne skyline; we had not got our camera so no views. Then it was back home to have tea and pack our cases.
Sunday morning the alarm went off at 5.45am, another early start, but this time we are heading for the airport. Val and Ron had insisted on us staying with them for our last night so they could take us to the airport and wave us off. I think it was to ensure we went this time, as having said good-bye to us last November we turned up again. We arrived at the check in to find a long queue and waited patiently. When our turn came we presented our tickets and passports. The lady asked where we would be travelling on to after New Zealand and wanted to see our onward tickets. We only had single tickets and I tried to explain that this was ok with our visa, but she said we would not be able to fly today unless we had onward tickets. I eventually convinced her to look at our visa and she was quite surprised as she had never heard of that before. I explained we had to produce financial evidence to the NZ Consulate, that we will be able to purchase flights home from NZ, before they would grant our visa. At last we were checked in and panic over.
We now went to get some breakfast, putting in four different orders but asking for three flat white coffees. The girl behind the counter got the food right be we found we were drinking hot chocolate.
After breakfast we said good-bye to Val and Ron, and I shed a few tears. I was sad to be leaving Australia; we have had a great time, met some very nice people and seen lots of wonderful sights. It is a big country and a very diverse one, in some areas you can travel a whole day and see no one, not even a kangaroo. We have had temperatures as high as 48C in the shade (and there was not much shade) and as low as 9C, which we are more used to. The one thing I have learnt is the value of water. The country is in a terrible drought and water is a very precious commodity, we have learnt to take 3 min showers and recycle water where ever possible. But my main memory is of a really nice country with people who have a great sense of humour and can laugh at themselves. Thanks Australia for a great year.