Day 22, Auckland, New Zealand – Melbourne, Australia (Tuesday)
The time had come to go to Australia. I got up early and packed in three bags instead of the normal two because I had to check my main bag. Terry very kindly got up early and dropped me off at the airport before returning home for breakfast. The flight was direct and actually pretty easy. I had the proof of my flight out of OZ ready just in case, but it was never asked for. On the other side I declared everything as normal and they waived me through. At the information booth on the other side of customs I asked how I could get to town. They said I should take the direct skybus. I asked if there was public transportation, and I was informed that I would have to take a bus and a train to get downtown and it would cost me as much as the direct bus because I needed to buy a reusable public transit card called a Miki card, this is essentially the same as the Charlie Card in Boston, MA, USA. I took the long circuitous public transit route without a problem and arranged to meet my grad school friend, Woutijn, for lunch outside the Melbourne Library.
We went to a local restaurant that had Thai teas, a reminder of our Grad School work lunches. Then Woutijn took me to his lab at the University of Melbourne. He had work to do, and I also had work to do, so we both sat down at his cubicle and were productive. Even after so little time out of Grad School, I miss researching and checking journal articles. I wrote up some of my research for hearing loss and motor-sports.
After Woutijn was satisfied with his work he gave me a tour of the department. All of the testing facilities were very impressive and certainly would have made my Masters research much easier. Then Woutijn gave me directions on how to take the tram to his house as he had to drive his motorbike home. It worked out well and we both reached his front door at about the same time.
Upon entering his apartment I met his first flat mate, Mehreen. Woutijn showed me to the corner market where we picked up a few things for dinner. Woujitn cooked and Mehreen contributed as well and joined us. After dinner and tired from a long day’s work Woutijn decided to visit his apartment complex’s hot tub. I joined him and we brought a couple Aussie beers down with us in Nutri-bullet mugs. Little did I know that Woutijn and his flat mates regularly joked about the blender. After chilling in the hot tub both Woutijn and I showered in turn, I was introduced to the third house mate, Gabby, and we all went to bed.
Day 23, Melbourne, Australia (Wednesday)
I got up early, but laid low until I heard others stirring. I had some museli and a kiwi (fruit this time) from Woutijn for breakfast. I decided to tour Melbourne and the War Memorial had been recommended to me as a starting point. Unfortunately I was too early to rise and the memorial wasn’t open yet. I did however get some cool pictures, including the highest building in Melbourne.
From the war memorial I walked north past fountains and gardens. I got to the information center, saw a billboard for a cricket match. The information center was huge and had a number system for talking to a staff member about tourism opportunities and bookings. I grabbed a couple pamphlets and decided to start by wandering west.
After several blocks I could tell I was getting near the edge of the central business district, CBD, so I decided to walk a north-easterly cross section of the city. I found a cool little cafe to grab a small sandwich and a coffee at and eventually hit China town. This part of town has some phenomenal street art, here are the day’s photos.
I was told that this art is replaced quite often, always with work of similar high caliber. At this point I needed a bathroom fairly badly. I’ve learned that when you are in a city, public restrooms are not always easy to find, but in any westernized city there is a mall or food court with a rest room. I found Chinatown’s food court and the bathroom at the back easily. Before relieving myself I forgot a very important travel habit that I need to cultivate. Checking for toilet paper, or even better, carrying your own. I was out of luck and had to use the traditional Indian wipe and washed my hands extremely well. Then I dried them on my pants because there were no paper towels either.
I then went on a wild goose chase for the public restrooms marked on my Official City of Melbourne Tourist Map. They either didn’t exist or had a perception filter on them. I then walked up to the Melbourne Museum. On the way I passed a government building with tons of students cramming outside and a couple of food trucks. It was apparently the date for some sort of important standardized test. At the museum they had a really fascinating exhibit and the building was gorgeous, but I didn’t feel like paying to walk around exhibits on such a nice day. I did however avail myself of their pristine bathrooms.
I then wandered west again toward the university and found a really quirky coffee shop. I asked the server for recommendations and ended up ordering too much food, but it was good food. Although some did go to waste, I was full and the food was tasty. I then walked south to the State Library, where I had met Woutijn the prior day. I saw signs for an exhibit on Les Miserables and was excited. Les Mis is both my favorite book and musical. To my great sorrow I was a few days late and the exhibit had closed. They did have a very nice exhibit on the history of books, but it wasn’t the same. Overall the library was very impressive. The only thing that surprised me more than the large study stations was that they were being used.
From there I crossed the street into a mall. The mall didn’t seem to end, it went on for blocks. There was nothing here that I was interested in buying, but I was really excited to see a lending library in the mall. I think a lending library should be a requisite for all malls, especially since physical book stores are going out of business. Melbourne seems to have a large literary crowd. There were several small quirky book shops I saw around town. One with a maximum price of $10 set for the store, another with all modern books. Another book store I saw an advert for turned out to be quite contrary to what I expected. I saw a sign for the “Liberated Bookstore” and a statement that it had moved. My first impression was that is was a philosophical book store, akin to the liberated mind. Unfortunately when I found the store it had an opaque red door in a run down building with no windows and several signs saying XXX and adult. Oh well, I’ll continue to hope for the best.
I was now back to the river and crossed to the “Southbank” region. I followed the river back to Woutijn’s apartment. When he got home we went out to a premium burger joint where I had a Mediterranean Lamb Burger. When we got back to the apartment Mehreen mocked us, asking if we were going to have another romantic Jacuzzi together. We both were spent so we took turns showering and went to bed.
Day 24, Melbourne, Australia (Thursday)
On Thursday I sort of slept in, I kept waking up as to not impose if they wanted to use their common room. Inspired by our prior nutribullet discussions I had a banana smoothie for breakfast. Mehreen, Woutijn, and I discussed green smoothies. I appeared to be the only one who thought they could be both healthy and tasty. I exercised a little and was fortunately in the apartment when Mehreen got back from the gym as she had forgotten her keys. I worked on my travel journal and planning.
I had a little grocery shopping to do, so Mehreen offered to show me to the nearest proper super market. She took me through some more amazing street art:
When we got to the supermarket she parted ways so she could get some chores done. It was tough, limiting myself to what I could carry back to the apartment, but I managed.
Day 25, Melbourne, Australia (Friday)
I finally made it to the inside of the War Memorial. From the outside I would have never guessed that there was a museum underneath. The most fascinating part was a dynamic infographic. It should be no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’m a fan of infographics. This one had violence statistics for every wold country, each country’s Global Peace Index, and how the global peace has varied over time. It ranks 22 metrics including violence in society, military expenditure and prison population. Unfortunately the USA ranks 101 out of 162 countries, not a good score. While we are not a police state, we do suffer from our status as the world’s police. It also continually polled on very thought provoking questions. You can view a very similar interactive demonstration at the Vision of Humanity website.
I then walked down to Luna park, it was a bit over-cast and chilly and the walk was longer than I had anticipated, but overall it was a nice experience. It was also my first close experience with Australian Magpies. These are massive black and white intelligent birds. I would be walking along with them near just fine. I could even stop and look at my watch and they took no notice. The second I looked their direction or pointed my camera at them they looked directly at me, squawked at me, and flew away. These birds can apparently be quite aggressive and have been known to attack people.
I took some pictures of Luna Park and then walked along the beach. I decided to lay down and rest for a bit before finding a tram and heading to meet Woutijn near his university.
After getting off a stop too late, I found Woutijn and we walked toward the Fitzroy district of Melbourne. He had arranged to meet up with a couple of his friends for drinks. He sent them a message that we should meet at the bar Naked for Satan. This place was a microbrewery and had great beer, but the best part was the rooftop terrace they had built. The patio above the existing building couldn’t be seen from the street, but had a phenomenal view of the skyline. After a couple drinks, we decided to grab dinner somewhere else. One of the two guys that joined us said he knew of a place with $5 pizzas. This is quite hard to believe even for personal size pizzas in Melbourne, so we let him lead. We arrived at a place called Bimbos. He led us across the main dining area, up a flight of stairs, down two hallways and to a busy outdoor patio. This was definitely a patio that you have to be given instructions to find, yet it was packed. That’s probably because it did have $5 pizzas and they were great. It took two for me to be satisfied, but that’s still cheep for dinner in Melbourne.
After a long time at Bimbos, Woutijn and I started to head home. About half way there Mehreen sent Woutijn a message begging him to come meet her at a bar. She had apparently been talking him up to one of her friends. It was actually close to where we were and I said I was game as long as there was no cover, so we went. The bar was large and deep, with a DJ and cool blue lighting. Mehreen met us outside and seemed amazed that we actually showed up. She asked me to take a couple pictures of her with a moose head that was on the floor. She forbade me from posting them on social media because they made her arms look large, alas, but she didn’t say I couldn’t talk about it.
We proceeded inside and she introduced us to her friends. There was one who was shorter (but taller than Mehreen) and quiet and another that was taller and more vociferous. Both had a very cool if not cold attitude toward us. We got drinks and tried to start conversation, but it wasn’t flowing. Eventually Mehreen decided to lighten up the mood by hugging the taller one, also getting close to tell her something. Just minutes before Woutijn had handed her a glass of water, which was still in her hand. I watched as the glass of water started pouring down the poor lady’s back while the hugger seemed oblivious to the wide eyes and clenched body language of the hugee. I quickly stepped in and grabbed the glass while it was still half full to prevent the whole volume from running down the lady’s back. After the initial panic wore off she turned to me, gave me a glacial look in the eye and said “The least you could have done was apologized.” She quickly turned away, though I have to admit I was so taken aback that I had nothing to say. I figured that she wasn’t my friend and I would let Mehreen (who had now realized what had happened) try and let her know the truth. Suffice to say none of us stayed much longer. The two friends left and Mehreen came back to the apartment with us. It had been yet another fascinating day.