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Exploring Victoria

Our journey from the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne

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View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

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Arch along the Great Ocean Road

For one week Elizabeth and I explored Victoria, which is in the southeast of Australia. The main city is Melbourne, which is where all of the bush fires have been occurring, so we were a little nervous about heading there given the rumors of temperatures in the 100s and extreme dryness. Low and behold, when we walked off the plane it was chilly and rainy, which was welcome weather for us and the area!

We started our tour by driving the well known Great Ocean Road, which follows a beautiful limestone coast between the towns of Torquay and Warnambool. Torquay is the surf capital of Australia and is home to an entire mall dedicated to surfing. We're not really shoppers, but given my new surfing "skillz" we had to stop in!

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Along with several other tourists, we stopped at several sites along the Great Ocean Road, including the 12 Apostles, of which only 6 are still standing, the London Bridge, which fell down in 1990 (is that where that childhood song came from?), and the Loch Ard Gorge, named after a ship wreck in the area due to treacherous rocky waters. The coast has a lot of pretty scenery with all of the limestone cliffs, but apparently this national park is having trouble hanging onto their fragile attractions ; - )

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On the road again, but with new, hot wheels! And a nice road reminder for us Americans.

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The 12 Apostles of which 6 still stand.

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London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down . . .

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Loch Ard Gorge

Leaving the coastline we headed north to Grampians National Park to do some hiking. When we arrived the extremely hot and dry weather returned. Locals were so traumatized by the bush fires they closed schools, closed some roads, prohibited buses from visiting the park, and recommended no one do long hikes in case another fire broke out. Even the Great Ocean Road that we just finished traveling was closed entirely for a day. But this didn't stop us from visiting a few park waterfalls and look outs. The heat and the flies were definitely getting to us though! Elizabeth, who is having a little trouble understanding temperature in Celsius asked me what 40 degrees really meant in "our" terms. I told her it was 110 F outside. With sweat dripping down her face and out of breath from a walk she responded with my favorite quote of the week, "No wonder I'm so f-ing hot!" You had to be there, but it was damn funny! Good thing she doesn't know the conversion trick yet or we would have been stuck in the air conditioned car all day!

In the Grampians, we definitely noticed the dryness of all the underbrush and trees. It reminded me of the conditions in Colorado during the wild fires a few years ago. Also, it should be noted that much of Grampians were burned from fires in 2006. Never-the-less, we managed a hike to the Pinnacles in the cool early morning the next day which was spectacular.

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Walking up the "Grand Canyon" trail to the Pinnacles.

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View from the Pinnacle.

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Another view from the Pinnacle.

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Trees half burned by the fire two years ago. The outsides were visibly charred, but oddly new life was sprouting out of the top.

A note about budget travel... living in a car, crowded hostel, or tent over the last several months has been a lot of fun. We meet a lot of people and are closer with nature (especially bugs) as a result. It does, however, pose some obstacles for privacy. So, we take advantage of what our accommodations afford us. For example, one of our rented tents along the Great Ocean Road had a pole in the middle, allowing me to provide Elizabeth some entertainment.

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Pole dancer Dave. (I'll be keeping my day job!)

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This was one of our more luxurious accommodations... the cabin at a trailer park included our own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and AC (or AirCon as they call it here)!

Next up - Melbourne! We immediately fell in love with this city which is beaming with character. The city has several large sports complexes (rugby, cricket, and Australian Open home), has a large arts center, several unique neighborhoods and several theaters around town, but what sets Melbourne aside from other cities is its wealth of narrow alleyways that have been transformed into social meeting places with heaps of cafes, restaurants and shopping. The city gets much of it's character from these alleys and arcades.

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Alley cafe

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Another cool alley cafe

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The alleyways turn into graffiti art centers at night.

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Arcade gargoyle that has been watching over shoppers for many years

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Free trolley that takes you around the central business disrict.

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Old historic bathroom entrance. Elizabeth knows every bathroom in every city.

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Big Purse sculpture on the road, with a peaceful protest behind it.

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Fun street sculpture of working people crossing the road as people cross the road.

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St. Kilda is a hip neighborhood surrounding Melbourne city center. It has lots of great restaurants and a carnival with an old rollercoaster. Notice the guy standing in the middle of the coaster car operating the break! St. Kilda also has a city beach.

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Bohemian Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, is another section of Melbourne where we had the best iced mochas ever .... came with ice cream. Yum!

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Mmm... mocha.

Melbourne also has a remarkably safe and friendly feel to it. Not only because the alleyways, rather than being dark and scary, are filled with artsy cafes. One day, we noticed school kids (12-14 years old) wandering around the city on a fact finding hunt. They were unsupervised and using public transportation, walking through city streets, and asking strangers for information. We couldn't believe it! Melbourne is a city that is much bigger than Boston and has roughly the population of Detroit!

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Kids roaming freely around the city.

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They even advertise the laid back attitude!

And a note to our biker friends... road bikers were everywhere around the city. Just about every street has a bike lane. There are apparently more than 500 km of bike paths in Melbourne. This made us Bostonians quite a bit jealous!

For domestic flights Elizabeth and I were never asked for identification at the airports, not at check-in, security, or boarding our flight. Get this... We didn't even have to remove our shampoo or toothpaste from our bags, nor our shoes from our feet. The Aussie security agent chuckled at us silly Americans for even asking about these measures we have become accustomed to at home.

Are Australians overly trusting or are we just scared and paranoid? Probably a bit of both.

Our sense is that the Australian government takes better care of its citizens and Aussies have a better work to life balance. There is a lot less poverty, health care is a given, and five weeks of vacation is the norm for someone starting a job. People here appear less stressed and there are less reasons for crime, although it does exist in some areas. Of course the country has fewer people to take care of compared to the States, taxes are higher, the health care system has some flaws, and Australia has dealt with their own issues with racism. Even so, when the economy takes a down turn as it is doing right now, it certainly relieves a lot of stress to know that you'll have health care at the end of the day if you lose your job and that your kids higher education is taken care of or significantly reduced in fees. This makes me wonder how we can improve our lifestyle in the US. Perhaps our leaders should live in Australia for a little bit to get a fresh perspective! We suggest Melbourne, with a weekend getaway to Noosa!

We just flew from Sydney to Darwin after a whirlwind tour of Sydney. More on that soon!

- Dave

Posted by daveliz 00:05 Archived in Australia

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Comments

Like all of the blogs, I've enjoyed reading this one as well. Lovely photos. But this one had me laughing out loud.

This photo caption is priceless: Old historic bathroom entrance. Elizabeth knows every bathroom in every city.

I look forward to exploring Australia some day and will use your adventures to guide me. Safe travels!

Melissa

by MelLong

Dave and Elizabeth,
Glad to know that you are safe and sound. The scenery is amazing. We miss you and are thinking about you often. Much love, Fran and Lou

by fsteinmroz

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