Day 13: G’day Bruce!
Up with the dawn in Queenstown NZ, and onto the coach to the airport – the sweet sleepy little airport. Our Counter was the only one open when we arrived and even filling out forms took only a minute. After a wait made more comfortable by ice cream, we went through a sweet and personable security line and boarded up the two ramps. And we were off to Melbourne! And Australia!
The view of Flinders Island was a welcome one as we crossed the Tasman, but the hustle and bustle of Melbourne (pronounced “Melb’n”) was immediate. We saw more graffiti here in a minute than we saw in all of NZ. And only when a curiously-attired woman cut in the customs line did we realize there’d been no meanness or pettiness on our trip so far – a couple jaded and hard-faced Americans, sure. A couple furrow-browed South Africans, fine. But to see 2 different but almost identically dressed 50+ Asian ladies in black pleather with straps and buttons intentionally break in lines and ignore protocols was a bit surreal. Like an updated version of ‘What’s Up Doc’, where matching outfits and bad behavior create Screwball comic mayhem down under….
We never went to a bank machine or changed currency for NZ, but Australia is already proving a different kettle of fish. Cash is king, and exchange fees pile onto to the already poor showing of the US Dollar.
After a wander through the many alleys around Flinders Street Station (and blind alleys of Sim card conversion for iPhone and iPad) we returned to our hotel on the South Bank for a well-earned nap. I’d been surprised that our 13 hour flight to NZ had only changed the clock 3 hours (beyond the whole date line thing). That a 3 hour flight to Australia should change the clock 2 more hours just seems silly. But by the time we collapsed (like a flan in a cupboard) we’d already been up for hours….
We awoke a couple hours on to the sounds of pouring pounding rain. While we’d slept, the storm had roared in from the south, and the city was running like a watercolor left out in the rain. But we headed out to meet up with Stefan and Edith nonetheless. We crossed the Yarra and ducked into the tunnel under Flinders St Station:
We shared red Kangaroo Curry at a Thai place in Chinatown, and made plans for Saturday afternoon. The rain had abated a bit by the time they left us at Flinders to meet up with Gwynneth and her friend. From there we headed a few blocks to the madness that is the Crown Casino plaza. Quite the site for people watching and overpriced foofarah!
It was a bracing night, but other than a curious stain on my poncho everything turned out wonderfully well.
Day 14: Mission: Fairy Penguins Hit the Beach!
In a day fraught with monotremes and nobbies, we will not attempt any manner of sensible narrative here ~ only a list of the day’s many highlights.
Gluten-free designer cupcakes
Bunyip Tour Bus (we’re guessing most tourists have no idea what a Bunyip is). :)
En route to Philip Island and Churchhill Island
Highly-attractive people from Switzerland
Mocking bad ads and music on overly loud radio (auto-tuned music and grotesquely ebullient ads)
Emus, cockatoos, poisonous snakes, et al.
Purple swamp hens and other splendid bird life
Better music from driver’s iPod (including Missy Higgins and Crowded House)
Shepherding with a dog named Pirate (it was almost as though this whole day was meant for Julia Ecklar)
Animatronic koala (WTF?)
Cowes (as opposed to “Bulls” in NZ)
Two disproportionately evil bunnies
Remote seal viewing
Up-close blue fairy penguin viewing
Stormy seas and spectacular sunsets Fairy penguin homes
Fairy penguin parade (no photos allowed).
Shared poncho with underdressed Columbian woman
Passed a brush fire just starting, our driver called it in (the fire truck passed us a bit later)
Home by midnight