“How ya goin’, mate?” Two weeks in, and that standard greeting still throws me off a bit. Local obsessions with man-buns, poached eggs and this song still baffle me. Along with kilometer, kilogram and celsius conversions, and exorbitant produce prices (bananas and avocados are a luxury here — at least for me).
But there are things I’m also getting used to. For instance, I’ve mastered the whole driving-on-the-left-side thing. The two-dollar sushi rolls have become obvious lunch choices. And Melbourne itself; the tram is starting to make sense and I’m grasping the general layout of the downtown area.
Just in time to leave and take off for Sydney today.
My time in Melbourne, though it felt fleeting, was amazing. If I ever come back to Australia, I’m absolutely sure I’ll make another stop here. It truly feels like a place I could live, if I took the opportunity to work abroad. Time will tell if that proves true of all the other cities I visit, in which case it might just be a Jeremy problem.
Anyway, let’s backtrack. I won’t go into crazy detail because nobody wants to read a novel-length blog, but my all-time offer still stands: email, message, text (on What’s App or Viber) or video chat me anytime and I’ll be glad to fill in the blanks!
After a predictably uncomfortable 14-hour flight to Melbourne, I arrived at the airport and hopped a bus downtown to meet my sister and Katie. I got lucky in the sense that I took an overnight flight that departed LAX at 10 pm on Tuesday in California and arrived at 8 am on Thursday in Australia, so even though I basically skipped all of Wednesday, I didn’t have much jet lag to deal with. It felt like a normal, albeit shitty, night’s sleep.
I got my first taste of Melbourne foodie culture when Lexie and Katie took me to a breakfast place called Grace, which would make the most hip brunch joint in San Francisco blush with envy. We hit all the major food and drink hotspots in the first couple days, and got a full appreciation for the impressive graffiti of the Fitzroy neighborhood:
The girls surprised me with rugby tickets as a late birthday present on my second night, so we met up with lifelong friend and fellow Australia transplant Kylie, as well as her friend Brandon to catch the Melbourne Rebels play the Lions (from South Africa, city unknown). General Admission tickets put us in the third row, and even though the Rebels lost at the last second it was really cool to see a game live – props to Lexie and Katie for getting me my sports fix right away. I was itchin’ for it.
Day three consisted of another nice surprise, but this one was unplanned. We rented a car and drove the Great Ocean Road, which is this region’s equivalent to driving Highway 1 in California. The surprise came in the form of two other backpackers who wanted to hitch a ride after we coordinated on a Facebook page the previous day. Ben (from Colorado) and Emilie (from Florida) completed our All-American car and ended up being two really fun, interesting, engaging people who made the day that much better. We topped off the trip with a sunset at the 12 Apostles, which was a pretty miraculous sight to behold – this grainy, bumpy timelapse does not do the experience justice:
We hopped a plane to Hobart, Tasmania last Sunday and slept in a hostel for the night before picking up our campervan and beginning a six-day, five-night trek around the island. Lexie’s tireless research really paid off, and we were rewarded with an awesome van that comfortably fit all three of us and even came with some necessary perks at discounted rates (GPS, extra pillows and blankets, etc.).
To summarize my time in Tasmania, check out some of our best pictures from a week filled with camping, hiking, cave-touring and some of the most incredible landscapes I’ve ever seen:
Calling Tasmania “untouched” feels like an understatement. Besides its “major” cities, Hobart and Launceston, the entire island felt uninhabited. Occassionally we’d stumble across a small town or pass a couple cars on the winding mountain roads, but for the most part it was just us, the van, and a bunch of beaches, forests, rainbows and waterfalls.
Our hike — no, rock climb — up Mt. Amos in Freycinet National Park was certainly my favorite accomplishment, and the view of Wineglass Bay from above was stunning. Spying wallabies, Tasmanian devils, echidnas and wombats while driving was exciting, and the two other National Parks we stopped in (Cradle Mountain and Mount Field) were beautiful, even if our stays were short-lived.
But truthfully, the best times were spent just drinking wine and bullshitting with each other in the van, while cooking dinosaur-shaped pasta in a random, remote camping spot every night. The feeling of complete ownership of the island was inspiring, and the “why not” attitude was contagious. For anyone who visits Australia and has a week or so to fill, I’d highly recommend a similar trip to Tassie — it’ll amaze you.
After sadly parting ways with our van (and gladly welcoming only the second shower of the week), we spent two and a half days exploring Hobart and enjoying free Wi-Fi in a badass hostel called The Pickled Frog. I tried a wallaby pie at the Salamanca markets by the waterfront downtown and watched the Cricket World Cup final on TV (Australia beat New Zealand, apparently…yay!).
But the highlight of the second hostel was probably our last night, when we started playing Asshole (the card game, in case I needed to clarify that for anyone) with two Canadians and two Dutchmen. Many beers and a box of goon later, we had been playing and laughing and chatting for near six hours. That’s exactly the type of night I came on this trip looking for: New friends in new places, giving everyone a new and invigorated spirit.
Since then, my trip has consisted of a flight back to Melbourne, more sushi rolls, a delicious kangaroo burger and lots of planning for Sydney and beyond. Lexie took off for Asia yesterday, and I’m looking forward to meeting her there in a couple weeks. But first, another spell of Australian adventures as Katie and I move on to Sydney (and maybe Cairns and/or Fraser Island for me? Hmm…).
All I can say at this point is that two weeks feels like two months and that’s a damn good feeling. I’ve loved exhausting myself every day in Melbourne and Tasmania and some parts of it still feel like a dream (did I really camp in the middle of a forest next to the beach and wake up to a wallaby standing 10 feet away from the van, munching on a carrot and curiously watching us?). It’s exactly what I’d hoped for so far, and I have the girls I’m here with to thank — the guidance and company has been much-needed.
Oh, and yes. The rumors are true. I did shave my head. But not in a Britney Spears emotional breakdown way. Just in a “hey, I’ve never done this before, might as well try it now” way. The verdict? A little bit cold up there, but less lumpy than I imagined. I’ll take it.
Next time you hear from me, we’ll be talkin’ Sydney. Cheers till then!