Monthly Archives: May 2012

Stop.Smile.Laugh

Stop. Smile. Laugh

The other day after a frustrating afternoon of half completed errands, cancelled classes and wasted time: I was sitting on the tram on my way back to Toorak. It was early for me, and I was wondering how I would make the most of an unexpected free evening.

We stopped at a busy interchange and a little girl got on the tram with her father. She jumped onto the seat opposite me, sat cross-legged and got out her “phone”. It was a large plastic toy phone with buttons that made different ring-tone sounds. The little girl sat on the tram pretending to be on a very important phone call. No more than four years old, she sat there nodding and gesticulating with her hands, whilst her father looked lovingly over her and I sat watching totally smitten by her.

Her back pack was placed on the seat next to her and had three characters on the front with the words: Stop * Smile * Laugh. Never has a four-year-old taught me such an insightful lesson. I stopped what I was thinking about. I smiled at her. And I laughed with her father at this little lady on the phone.

What a beautiful journey home. And what a mantra to take away from that moment.

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lakes entrance

This is about a month overdue, but too much of a fun weekend not to share!

Down in the very south of Victoria, some 4 hours from Melbourne, the clue is in the name as to what this place has on offer. It is indeed the entrance to a network of lakes and home to a medley of hotels, motels and souvenir shops. In the off season is it is almost dead, which meant myself and my cosmopolitan group of travellers, this time the Colombian numbers were higher than before – standing at 5:4 Thai: Colombian and one English of course.

This was an overnight excursion and at sunset the beach was dowsed in the most incredible array or colours: pinks, violets, reds, deep oranges. We played volleyball until the light failed us and it was time to check into our highly recommended YHA hostel cabin.

The following morning a stroll along another beach before a 3 hour boat cruise complete with afternoon tea and excellent commentary. The cruise took us deep into the lakes’ system and offered us kangaroos, giant pelicans, a huge number of different species of birds, a dolphin, and a seal who joined us to play in the surf at the lakes opening.

That’s all for my commentary, enjoy the photos!

philip island

7 Thais 1 Colombian and Me + chocolate + koalas + wallabies + little penguins = Philip Island

Of we set early one Sunday morning to Philip Island, which in my opinion is a bit of a con: you pay lots of money to see things that you would and should be able to see for free elsewhere.

Still, a silly hour playing games and enjoying chocolate at Panny’s chocolate factory was a good way to start followed by photos of geese and cattle on Churchill Island.

 

Next we went to the koala sanctuary and did the “koala woodland walk” which showed us plenty of mechanical Koalas. I was and am still somewhat convinced that the koalas were far too conveniently situated to have been real. I could have sworn the park ranger skipped along in front of just in time to switch on the koala…

Absolutely torrential rain came next as we made our way to the The Nobbies and Seal Rocks. The seals were nowhere to be seen, but instead at the end of the island once the rain clouds had rolled away, a rainbow arched across the sky and the most spectacular panoramic views out into the Bass Strait.

The final stop at Philip Island was the Little Penguin Parade. We huddled together as dusk fell, sitting on wet steps patiently waiting for the Little Penguins to emerge from the surf. They are the world’s smallest penguin and undeniably cute. Whilst we waited, instructions were given to us in English and then a variety of Asian languages informing us of the Little Penguins’ sensitivity to camera flashes, the importance of not making too much noise and that under no circumstances must we attempt to take one home. Shame. They were expected at 18:18 and were fashionably late, but when they waddled up the beach out of the surf, checking to see if they were still in their groups, there was a collective gasp at their cuteness. It was then very amusing to invent dialogues between them as they squawked and squeaked to each other whilst making their way to their burrows in the dunes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

aussie rules

Just a load of men running around in hotpants trying to catch soap…

I sat in the members’ area to watch Essendon against Collingwood. There were rules regarding clothing which alarmed me somewhat. We were instructed not to wear thongs ( which being British would alarm me even more, as how would they know what underwear I had chosen??), ripped jeans, sports wear, ripped clothes etc.

I had read enough to understand the points and some basic rules regarding picking the ball up ( why is it called football?), throwing it, kicking it and scoring.

I enjoyed it, could even get into it: wouldn’t say I loved it, as that would be unfaithful to the real game wouldn’t it?

Here’s a list of things I learnt or found strange.

  • It’s perfectly ok to get totally smashed at the bar once the game has started ( i didn’t do this by the way)
  • you don’t cheer if the team only scored one point ( as opposed to 6) ( yes, I DID do that, but only once….)
  • people run onto the pitch during play to give the players messages from the coach
  • there are 18 men on each team. each wearing very short shorts.
  • you don’t get excited until the game is over

There are some other points to make. Essendon won. And I found that very pleasing as that is who I was barracking ( new Australian word for me).

 

I think that’s all. It was at the Melbourne Cricket ground. Oh, and in fear or being embarrassingly late, I got there 40 minutes early. Now THAT’s not normal for me at all..

March moments #4

Bus driving, horse riding and Mornington Peninsula.

As driving is one of my favourite things, I jumped at the chance to drive the school bus/minivan to Mornington Peninsula for a school organised excursion. The crew consisted of three teachers and 6 Colombian students.

The hardest thing for me to deal with was not being able to change gear when I wanted to which made driving out of Melbourne particularly stressful in this matter, as at  traffic lights and junctions I wasn’t able to tell the bus to do what I wanted it to do.

That said, it was an easy drive down to Mornington, with no hiccups other than an unfortunate hangover (not my own) causing one of my passengers to need me to stop every so often for a quick vomit. Fun.

I dropped some off at the beach, and four of us continued to our horse-riding location, where we mounted our horses and enjoyed a leisurely trek through the countryside. I say leisurely and I mean incredibly slow: unfortunately we were booked into a beginner’s hack, which meant I honestly could’ve walked faster than my horse Woody was allowed to go and at times I had visions of kicking his flanks and taking him for a quick canter over the hills. The girl behind me asked if my horse was called Woody because of Toy Story, but no, as I had suspected, he was so called because of something else… 😉

After our little horsey jaunt I drove around looking for nice beaches and picturesque photo opportunities and due to my lack of local knowledge, this involved a few U turns and parking tricks, but fun was had by all. We found an incredibly windy location, which made for a hilarious hair-flying-in-the-wind photo shoot, complete with numerous Marilyn Monroe moments of mine where-by everyone got well acquainted with my underwear.

The bus was delivered back to Melbourne without a hitch only 3 hours later than scheduled. No, this was not due to my incompetent time keeping, but a group decision to enjoy the day and stretch it out as much as possible. This is a common trait of mine, because yes, I do and have enjoyed living in Melbourne, but give me a chance to leave the city for the day and I will make it last as long as possible.

Sydney sights

Sydney

Easter Weekend in Sydney…

I took myself to the “other capital” for Easter weekend. There is a certain rivalry between these two cities, and a feeling of competition as to which is cooler. I think that neither is comparable, as they are so different in lifestyle and location. Sydney – usually bathed in sunshine boasts sea, surf and one of the most iconic buildings in the world. Melbourne is less focussed on beach life and offers more culture in its detailed diversity or so goes my opinion.

This was my third time in this city, and as the last two times were 8 years ago with a different frame of mind and with another person, I was able to enjoy the city by myself and for myself entirely, which I thoroughly did.

I enjoyed the freedom of going where I wanted, when I wanted, changing my plans if I wanted, spending longer somewhere if I wanted or just sitting down and doing nothing if I wanted. It really was just what I wanted and needed.

My first evening was spent at Hard Rock Café, having dinner surrounded by some of my rock heroes and gorging on my favourite Hickory BBQ bacon cheeseburger. Doing this alone was a first, but the HRC is a place I enjoy visiting and eating in and decided I felt comfortable enough to do it alone. I was indeed the only person eating alone, but it honestly didn’t bother me in the slightest!

The next day I visited the Chinese Garden of Friendship as I hadn’t had a chance to do that last time and took a trip down memory lane by visiting Paddy’s market and China Town. I wound up in the Art Gallery of New South Wales somewhat by accident later on and enjoyed a happy hour or so pottering about enjoying European, Australian and Aboriginal art.

The botanical gardens I had done before, but were worth a second visit and some time taking in the sights of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House were necessary items on my unwritten Sydney to-do list.

The next day I made it to Manly, which I hadn’t done last time and enjoyed an afternoon with a relaxing beer, some beach time, a good walk along the Manly coastal path and a good dose of me-time. On the ferry trip back to the city I was entertained with the most spectacular storm across the bay. Fork lightning coming from left and right and reaching horizontally over the horizon. I stayed on deck as long as I could bear to watch something that used to terrify me and then knowing I didn’t exactly have a warm cosy hotel room to go back to once I had got cold and wet, I ducked back inside to enjoy it from behind my book.

I meant this entry to be a photo blog rather than descriptive, so here are my best views of Sydney.

March Moments #3

March Moments #3

Wine, food and friends. Aren’t they three wonderful things to enjoy at the same time?

I certainly enjoyed all three when I did a day winery tour in the third weekend of March. A minibus collected us from Flinders Street and drove us out to the Yarra Valley where we visited 4 wineries complete with samples, lunch and some fairly comprehensive commentary.

I may disappoint you by not bothering too much with a descriptive winery by winery narrative, but hopefully win you over with some pics of Victoria in all its greenery.

I did amuse others on the tour by asking for a list of the wines we were tasting at eact station, in order to annotate each one with my own version of how they tasted. I did discover that I am not wild about Pinot Noir, but do actually like Chardonnay.

March moments #2

March really was a month of doing fun things: every weekend I went somewhere or did something worth blogging about, so in spite of the 2 month delay, those moments need to be written about.

On the morning of Saturday 17th March I was woken by an incredibly annoying, repetitive sound which took me some time to figure out that it was indeed the cars warming up at Albert Park. I had heard it the day before too, but it wasn’t until the Saturday that I got excited about it. I had bought some fairly last minute tickets to go to the qualifying, which was cheaper than then actual race, and since I understood relatively little about the whole event, I wasn’t bothered which day I went, just interested in being part of an event that I would never have had the opportunity to do at home.

It was a hot, late summer afternoon and as we arrived there were cars doing laps at breakneck speed and at an incredible volume. I had forgotten that I love things that go fast and found it exhilarating watching the V8 super cars roar past, remembering that I used to play car racing games for hours on the Super Nintendo and always on the arcade games in the bowling complex at home.

When the Formula One cars started doing their qualifying laps, I have to admit that my own ignorance pissed me off! I wish I had taken the time to read up a little so I could fully understand what was going on, or that I had t

aken a greater interest on those Sundays in Bratislava, when my flatmate was desperately trying to find an internet signal to get the latest race updates.

You often have to experience something to appreciate it, or to find out that it’s something you enjoy and this day I discovered that I could indeed enjoy and get into this sport. There are now two sports my future husband could feasibly follow: Football and Formula 1. Although I should be careful what I ask the universe for…

 

March Moments

March moments #1

It seems so long ago now since I blogged about adventures of the Australian kind but in March I did a few things worth sharing, so better late than never…

A long weekend in March involved camping, hiking, platypus searching and bushbashing. The day’s rock climbing and abseiling I had been looking forward to with a friend for some months got cancelled last minute due to heavy rainfall and slippery rocks, so since the camping and car hire were non-refundable, the only thing we could do was go anyway and make the most of the location. Although I was disappointed that the purpose of the trip had changed, I was looking forward to a couple of days out of Melbourne, to enjoy the countryside and smell the fresh air.

Werribee Gorge is a relatively small national park compared to its neighbours, but nevertheless offers spectacular scenery for a day’s hiking. Our 10km hike up, over and along the gorge was well worth it. It took us up along the ridge overlooking the calm green waters inside the gorge and the rolling greenery of the Victorian landscape outside it. After the decent, you follow the river for about 5km and at one point there is a little bit of rock climbing, as you scramble around the rock face over the river, assisted by some metal chains and handholds. The scariest part of the day was nothing physical regarding the hike, but a pile of bones we came across which looked remarkably human sized (or maybe kangaroo-sized) leading us to spend the next few kms coming up with stories of whose bones they were and what had happened to them.

Later on, hiking without a map caused a little confusion at a fork in the path, so a kindly hiker passing by stopping to show us his map and suggest our next route. He told me that if we went left we might have to do a bit of bush-bashing to get back onto the path, as it was quite overgrown. The differences between the Australian lingo and ours does often create those moments when you have to bite your lip hard and avoid the childish temptation to laugh in someone’s face. Honestly, go bush-bashing?????

The thoughtful Victorian parks people had put placards at certain points along the track pointing out flora and fauna of interest – one of which was the platypus. I had sort of considered this animal to be a mythical creature, which didn’t really exist: although very shy they apparently live in rock pool areas of slow-moving water, so we dedicated some time, as foreigners do, to finding it. It seems the platypus didn’t want to make an appearance that day.

Hike number 2, the following day was in Lerderderg Park, which amused me just to say it, so I simply had to drive us there for a look. Another hike took us along a river to a bathing pool, which was further down the track than we’d hoped and enthusiasm to swim had worn off a little when we got there. The actual location was idyllic however, with barbecue spots, and sunny grassed area, rivers, pools and a number of paths leading off to different hikes. It struck me just how much I was enjoying being in Australia, and how with very little effort you can travel less than an hour out of the city and enjoy peace and tranquillity, exercise ( I know, sometimes I enjoy it!) and just being surrounded by green things. Although I enjoy living in a city and having things at my fingertips, I was born in the country and know that my real happiness comes from being in it, and every now and then necessity dictates that I find somewhere green to fill that need.

Done. A great weekend with great company in great surroundings.