We arrived bright and early into Melbourne and surprisingly both of of had managed to snatch a few hours sleep on the overnight bus. Since it was only 7am we made for a café for a scrumptious breakfast of croissants and a falafel sandwich. We sipped our first cup of famous Melbourne coffee and woke up a little more. It wasn’t long before it was time to return to the train station and meet Robin, our Australian friend. It was time for a good catch up as we last saw Robin at our wedding so we travelled back to her home and met her lovely husband Roger. We would be spending 10 days with them exploring Melbourne and also getting a break from travelling to recharge our travel batteries.
The 10 days passed very fast, but we managed to fit in quite a bit. After a cuppa and some time settling in we went to visit the local kangaroos and the Yarra river. Suburban Melbourne is fairly leafy and green and it was lovely to see the joeys exploring close to mum.
The next day we took a trip to Melbourne Zoo.For a city zoo is is pretty big and surrounded by a large park. We were impressed by the large enclosures, but the highlights were the adolescent orang utan systematically dismantling his enclosure and the platypus diving around in the red lit pool. It was the first platypus either of us had seen and very interesting to see how they swim and hunt.
After a brief pit stop for a tasty dinner, we headed back into the city to see a concert. Robin and Roger had invited us to a showing of West Side Story accompanied by the Melbourne Symphonic Orchestra. The music was fantastic and the film very entertaining.
The next part of our stay with Robin was a trip along the Great Ocean Road to stay in a holiday home in Aireys Inlet. The setting was picturesque and from the lounge we could sit and watch the waves crash on the beach and the surfers take their chances with the surf. To our great surprise Matthias was fortunate enough to spot a couple of whales breaching and playing about a kilometre of the beach. This was particularly special, since most the juveniles (which are usually the ones who play and jump) were already further north on their migration. The weather was very wintery during our 3 day stay, but we managed to enjoy a coastal walk along past the lighthouse and a walk through the bush where Robin managed to spot a few native orchids. We also didn’t miss out on the local specialities of wine and chocolate. On the rainiest day we spent some time wine tasting at local vineyards. To our surprise one of the winemakers was producing a wine with the Botyris fungus used to make dessert wine in Tokaj. He was a character but convinced us to try his desert wine which is very good. The other local wines were good too.
Our visit to the chocolaterie was delicious from the chocolate drop samples as we walked through the door to the interestingly flavoured bars and finally the liquid chocolate hot chocolate. We were surprised by the coconut and curry leaf chocolate and also the white chocolate with fig and fennel; both were tasty. In the evenings were spent time chatting in front of the log fire and enjoyed fire-roasted potatoes. It was a real treat for us to eat so well and relax.
After 3 days we returned to Melbourne which was noticably warmer and less showery. The sun shone as we wandered around the botanic gardens and visited the modern art gallery. We weren’t enthralled by the installation of a fan swinging around the hallway, but the collection of artefacts from the middle east and the stained glass window made up for it. We aren’t really sure what to make of the quirky modern art installations that often represent piles of junk with little explanation about the artists thoughts upon the matter. As our stomachs rumbled we caught a tram to the night market for a few international dishes. We decided on a pumpkin soup served in a bread bowl, pork skewers and four cheese pasta before we were full enough to retire for the night.
The following day was a rainy blustery winters day so we opted to stay warm and relax with a jigsaw. The 1000 piece jigsaw of an Australian river gorge was a little less relaxing than we expected as the sky and water were featureless apart from the rock face reflected in the water. The 5 corners and extra edge piece made it a little confusing but we managed a fair amount before the evening came around.
Our final day with Robin and Roger came around too fast and we made the most of it with a day trip to Healesfield Reserve. Healesfield is part of Melbourne Zoos but they only have native animal on display. The bird show was a great way to see raptors and parrots flying and performing. The staff conveyed an important message about using recycled toilet paper to ‘wipe for wildlife’ (and safe valuable trees from being cut down) and we found Crapman saving the planet one wipe at a time quite humourous. After our picnic we toured around the lyrebirds, koalas, kangaroos, animals of the night and platypus. It was a lovely day spent in the bush getting to know the natural inhabitants.
All too soon it was time to move on and share a farewell meal. We had a great time getting to know Roger and exploring Melbourne. Robin and Roger were fantastic hosts and we felt at home for the first time in long while (Thank you!). We would have loved to stay longer, but the adventure had to continue…