(*** Inserting photos into the written posts are just too much of a pain in the ass, and they never seem to line up the way I envision it, so I’ve opted to post a gallery of captioned photos (figured that part out at least!) that follows the same timeline as the post. You could open the blog in two separate windows and have one on the writing page and one on the photo gallery if you want to be that in tune with how it all goes! ***)
Our Tour started on a little baby bus full of 14 people plus PJ, our tour guide and driver. After a bathroom/coffee break (I later came to realize that that comprised a significant portion of the tour – pee and beverage stops) we arrived in Canberra for lunch and a zip around a memorial museum and the Parliament building.
Canberra in a nutshell. An entirely planned city – the competition between Sydney and Melbourne to be the biggest/best city and which should become the capital apparently was becoming problematic. There was a call for applications for a planned city halfway between the two big cities and Canberra was developed. Most government things happen here, yet there must be more to it – over 350 000 people live there, so something must be going on!
We drove to the bottom of Mt. Kos…….. (see photo of sign to see what it’s called! ha), dropped our bags, the 5 girls settled into our hostel dorm room and had a hearty dinner of stew to fill our bellies after a day on and off the bus. With my last ten dollars I bought an hour of internet time for $4 and begged Courtney to get in touch with TD and Visa and get my some cash access before my last $6 ran out!
After that, I snuck down to the room to shower, climbed up onto my bunk bed and had my worst night since arriving in Australia. I was tired, cash-blocked, heartbroken, homeless, lonely, living out of a suitcase with useless “travelling” clothes, wishing for snow, wishing for a hot chocolate, Christmas movies, crackling fire, twinkle lights, and family. So, in bed at 9 pm only to wake up about 57 times worrying my iPod alarm wouldn’t go off (had never tried it, and of course, didn’t think about needing an alarm clock, or the fact that I used to use my phone I no longer had as an alarm for the last two years!), and then up at 6:40 am to gobble breakfast and use the last 30 minutes of my internet to see if Courtney, my lifeboat, had rescued me. AAAAHHHHHH – of COURSE she had! My Visa and debit were up and running and everything should be fine! What a HUGE relief and weight off my shoulders, by 7:30 am I was ready to take on ANYTHING the day had to offer.
…..Until we arrived at the chairlift at the bottom of the mountain. Ok, fine, I was warned it would be “cold” but it was the middle of summer in Australia, I didn’t really know if their version of “cold” was true cold. I mean, really. And hey, I’d been on top of Whistler wandering in the snow in a tank top and shorts – capris, a t-shirt, hoodie, and hat would be MORE than enough to keep me warm. Right……..? Um. No.
First of all, the chairlift ride was nearly unbearable – so windy, and of course, the sun at 8:00 am (when it decided to peek out from behind the clouds) didn’t have much power behind it. Upon arriving at the top of the chairlift, the group started off up the constructed, raised pathway…slowly. I knew I’d never survive the 5 km trip at that pace, so blew past them, put my head down to hide from the wind and was practically running! I was very, VERY seriously about to give up, turn around, and wait at the chairlift miserably for the rest of the group to return. At that moment, I happened to think to myself about someone who would definitely not have been up for such a horrible adventure, and would certainly not have bothered to make the effort to complete it – and suddenly, I had the motivational push, sense of determination, and freedom to make that atrocious walk on my own terms. My “1,2,3 – 1, 2, 3” mantra to keep breathing in and out quickly adjusted to a four count of “moving forward, moving forward” both literally and mentally/spiritually/emotionally or whatever you want to name it. Every now and again I’d alternate it with, “I can do this, I’m CANADIAN – I can do this, I’m CANADIAN” Ha. It helped a little. At the two viewpoints, I hid from the wind behind a rock (see photo) and it was actually quite tolerable. The walk back down was positively inspirational as the wind slowed a little, the clouds sailed away from the sun, and I had DONE it and not frozen my legs or had my heart stop from the frigid wind!
An hour drive or so later, we stopped at a quaint mall/market/square where the shiny, glimmering ATM spat me out some money without hesitation and I purchased the most delicious, magnificent sandwich and Coca Cola that ever existed!!!! (BTW – the bun had bits of real bacon on the top, forget sesame seeds – bacon is brilliant!)
Back on the bus it was a wildlife-filled afternoon – I saw an echidna rambling across the road, a kite hunting, a sulphur-crested cockatoo, later a wallaby leaped across in front of us, and I just barely missed the two kangaroos do the same! We drove about two hours on an narrow, old, dirt cattle road through into Victoria (sad photo of the sign from inside the bus) and arrived at Lakes Entrance at 6:30 pm. We had a lovely dinner at a small cafe, showered up, internetted to book a hostel in St. Kilda area in Melbourne (thanks again to Courtney for finding a few possibilities for me), and made it back to the room JUST at the rain pelted down and we all thought it was going to rip through the roof! It was another terrible sleep and up at FIVE TWENTY for a random breakfast of cereal juice and plenty of conversations around us in German….
We hit the road by 7:00 am and I basically slept until we stopped to buy lunch for at the beach and then just kept on sleeping on the bus! At Wilson’s Promontory we pulled our hoods up and huddled from the wind again to spot some kangaroos and found a rock to hide behind at the windy beach to eat our picnic lunch. Back on the road until we were dropped in Melbourne at 5:30 pm, got into my private room at the hostel and nearly cried in relief!
Sydney – check.
Road trip #1 with Aussie wildlife spotting included – check
Melbourne – here I come!