|Our time in Melbourne was different than most of our travels as we stayed with family, which was an awesome change from hostels and vans. Our hosts, the Szosteks, were the greatest hosts ever. We felt right at home immediately and enjoyed home cooked meals, lots of wine and were able to unpack our bags for a few days, which is always a plus. Our first few days were spent in Melbourne visiting the botanical gardens , the Crown Casino, Brighton beach, St Kilda and of course the downtown core. Melbourne is huge and reminded me very much of Toronto. We also went to the top of the Eureka Tower, which is the tallest building in Melbourne and experienced “ the edge”, where you enter a frosted glass room on the 88th floor and start to feel it move, not up or down but OUT of the building. The ground and walls remain frosted until you are fully outside the building and then the glass suddenly goes clear and you are looking down 88 floors, and have a great view of the city of Melbourne. Not the best idea for someone who is afraid of heights like myself, as I was feeling a bit nauseous before and after the experience.
On day four we took a road trip with our hosts and headed south of Melbourne to see more of Victoria. We first stopped at Bells beach which is a surfers paradise and where the RIP CURL world surfing championship was being held at the time, which was neat to see. After several stops to see waterfalls, coastal lookouts over the southern ocean and have lunch at a nice resort town by the name of Lorne. We hit the “Great Ocean Road” and made it to see the world famous 12 Apostles ( which is now 11 as one has recently fallen into the ocean), London bridge that has fallen down) and many other beautiful coastal views before sunset. After we checked into our apartment for the night we headed out for some pizza and the watched some “ Footy” (Australian Rules Football), which is super popular and crazy violent.
The following day we woke up bright and early and hit the road . Our first few stops were more beautiful ocean coastal views which included the Bay of Islands and the Bay of Martyrs. The Great Ocean Road seemed to have and endless amount of lookouts and things to see. It was awesome. However, we had to head north toward the Grampians ranges for our night in the mountains., and therefore sadly left the most beautiful highway we have ever driven on ( well that and the Ice field Parkway through the Canadian Rockies.) Arriving into the Grampians in the early afternoon we had a lot to do that afternoon. Which included many hikes to beautiful outlooks overlooking the Grampian ranges and a few to some remarkable waterfalls. When we returned to our hotel at dusk was a plethora of kangaroos and Wallabies in the field behind our hotel so we went to go and observe our marsupials friends. I absolutely LOVE kangaroos so it was an incredible experience for me, but not so much for the roos. One of the Roos I believe was apprehensive with our presence and attempted to jump a fence of over 6 feet, almost clearing the fence but got its leg stuck in the top wire and was frantically struggling upside down trying to free himself for a solid 15 seconds. Once he managed to free himself he hopped away as if nothing happened. I felt bad for the poor thing but thankfully he seemed ok. We left right after that as we did not want to distress any more roos or wallabies.
The following morning we started our journey back to Melbourne making only a few stops along the way. First was an Aboriginal cultural center in Halls Gap, which was interesting but also depressing as the aboriginals were so wronged and mistreated by the white man. Our second stop was a winery, but it was 10 in the morning and I was not prepared to intoxicated at that hour, however Michal thoroughly enjoyed his (and my wine) as well as some Easter Port.
Easter Sunday was our second to last day in Melbourne and we had a nice Easter Breakfast with our Hosts the Szostek’s and then headed to Phillip Island to see the Penguins. Every evening a plethora of penguins exit the ocean , sometimes after weeks at sea searching for food , to return to their nests and feed their young. We went early so we could get a good seat to see the smallest penguins in the world in their natural habitat. Like clock work they arrived right after sundown and made their way to the nests to feed their now crying young. Some were really nervous crossing the beach and they would waddle back in the ocean for safety, and restart their journey. For some this happened more than once. It was quite cute. Once the penguins reach the bush area they recommend that you head on the boardwalk that is above all of the nests and see some penguins up close. Michal and I saw heaps of them and even were blessed to see one mother feeding its young, which is essentially half digested food regurgitated for the young to eat. It was remarkable!
Our last day in Melbourne we went for Easter lunch to a great German restaurant in the mountains just outside Melbourne. I had NEVER EVER eaten so much in my life . I literally thought I would be sick. It was awful. Gluttony is truly a sin. Anyhoots, once I recovered from a borderline deadly overdose of meat and potatoes we once again packed up our AWESOME backpacks to continue our journeys to New Zealand .