Day 31, Melbourne, Australia (Thursday)
The only real thing I did on my 31st day, the first day after the InterNoise conference, was to amble about the Royal Botanical Gardens. There was actually some interesting history to be had there. Apparently early in its existance a new director came in with a philosophy that the gardens should look as natural as possible, and that concept stuck. There are very few straight paths and large open lawns. Instead there are many sloping and curving paths and all the areas of the garden blend into each other to create a continuous natural look. When I got to the cafe in the middle of the park I stopped for a muffin and a small pot of tea. I burned a knuckle of my pinkie finger getting the pot outside. I was quietly enjoying the scenery when the people at a table nearby left their table and scraps. A flock of various birds instantly descended on the table. Near the end of my circuit I also came across a fascinating man made hill reservoir which had a detail of the water circulation and filtration system, which the engineer in me loved. It also discussed how keeping the gardens became extremely difficult when the falls in the Yarra river were destroys, since their primary water source was then brine. This was overcome after many trying years by joining into a public water system. I thoroughly enjoyed the views and consequently took very few pictures. In the evening Woutijn took me to the Crown Casino for a little roulette and to see the balls of fire that the columns outside shoot out. It was pretty intimidating.
Day 32, Melbourne, Australia (Friday)
I had been aware for a while that Woutijn was leaving for another conference on Friday and as such I would have to find other lodgings. As such both of us got up early. He had a flight to catch and I had new lodgings to find. I didn’t get my stuff together before he had to grab his cab, but I was out the door shortly after him. With all my stuff with me (except an electric toothbrush charger) I took a tram and walked to the hostel I would be staying at for the next few days, the Melbourne Metro YHA. I went to put my bags in a locker because it was too early to check in and failed twice to actually shut the locker. The first time I inserted my $2 coin and turned the lock like you would lock a door. Quarter turn clockwise and quarter turn back. At which point it had eaten my coin and was now open again. On attempt number two I successfully locked it and took the key out; however, I failed to close the locked enough for the lock to latch so it was locked open. The third time I was sufficiently embarrassed with myself and succeeded with locking my luggage away.
The second fail of the day came from my fruitless attempts to get some WiFi. I walked a few blocks from the hostel to find a coffee show with free WiFi. I passed a couple with no sign indicating that they provided internet to their customers and the third had the anticipated sign, so I went in. I also had one of my great internal struggles, because they had reusable glass and plastic coffee cups in the store. I had gone through many disposable coffee cups while at the conference. I had planned to use my thermos, but that plan was thwarted when they used espresso machines for the free coffee at breaks rather than drip coffee machines or carafes of hot water for tea. A 20 oz thermos just doesn’t work for an 8 oz coffee or cup of tea. After my usual hemming and hawing I got a small glass and silicone cup, which came with the first coffee free. After being served I asked how to connect to their WiFi and got blank stares. The eventual verbal response was that they were covered my the University of Melbourne’s WiFi so they no longer had their own. With a smidgen of annoyance in my voice I pointed out the sign and they apologized and said they would take the sign down, but that’s all I got. I couldn’t even ask for them to refund my coffee without being a complete jerk because I had gotten it in the new glass cup. *sigh* I sipped my coffee outside, they removed the sign, and I walked on.
I then walked through the University of Melbourne, admired their book store, and went back to the hostel. I went up to their rooftop patio and napped until it was time to check in. I checked in, repacked my stuff slightly, and was off to the ball game… er, the cricket grounds rather for a One Day International (ODI) match between Australia and South Africa. Before leaving I made sure to lay claim to one of the beds my making it (hostel beds are generally unmade, minimizing labor) so I wouldn’t disturb anyone when I came in late from the match. I took a tram down to Flanders Street, where I knew there were two trolleys that went down to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). When I got on the tram a lady sat down in full South Africa regalia. Since I didn’t know when to get out I decided to befriend her. She was a serious South Africa fan and we chatted all the way to the gate.
I thoroughly enjoyed the cricket game and still maintain that while it is not the most exciting of sports, the 20-twenty form or ODI games are more exciting than American Baseball. I took several pictures during the match, but one of the most fascinating was that of a poor fielder getting beamed in the head with a cricket ball.
Further on in the game I decided to see if I could walk around the oval stadium. About three quarters of the way around I hit a sign saying members only. I talked to the gent in uniform and he told me that there was a slice (about 30 degrees I’m guessing) of the stadium that was reserved for club members only. I ignorantly and innocently asked if I could walk through as I was visiting and wanted to walk around the entire stadium. He paused and looked at me (I later discovered there was a dress code for the members section, of which I was in complete violation with sandals, shorts, and a t-shirt) and finally told me I could pass through this one time as long as I didn’t stop or dawdle on the way. Victory. I finished me lap. I also later picked up my second pocket game of the trip, pocket cricket. The game involves six specialized dice and has complicated rules. I look forward to trying to figure it out with someone.
The second half was the most exciting, witch Australia trying to beat South Africa’s score for the first half. I saw a batter score a century, which does not happen in every game, and then the birds arrived. In this form of the game the ball is white, and the players had no control over the hundreds of white and grey seagulls that decided the field looked warm and inviting.
The end of the game was very intense with Australia winning with just a few pitches (called bowls) to go. I got back to the hostel via a couple trams and found a Chinese man sleeping in the bed I had made. So much for that plan, I guess I need to leave a bag or jacket on the bed in future. I tried to be as quiet as possible as I made the bed above him and went to sleep.
At this juncture windows explorer has stopped working on my laptop, so there will be no more photos on the blog for the near future. My apologies.
Day 33, Melbourne, Australia (Saturday)
This was a bit of an empty day so I purchased internet from the Hostel. I generally hate places where you need to purchase internet because you can only connect one device (I need to choose between my laptop and my iPad) and often the internet is just as bad as free places. That was the case here. The internet was slow and spotty making booking anything difficult.
I decided to wander off the the Victoria Market. I wandered the market for most of the day. I purchased very inexpensive fruit and veggies and made lunch that day out of that raw produce. I found a guy selling Barmah hats. I love the one I bought six years ago and take in on many adventures, that is one of the reasons I did not take it on this trip. What caught my eye was the prices. I bought mine at a semi-tourist store. No, I’ll be honest I bought it at a fully tourist store, but the prices were comparable to online. This booth however was selling them for almost half what I bought mine for. Sad, but to be expected. They are not cheep hats.
I then passed into a different section of the market where I found an Indian chai stall. It looked completely authentic and was run by a lady who said she operated it with her father. The chai was spot on and she said they had opened it to remind people of India. They succeeded. I sat on a curb and relaxed for a bit and watched the crowds. I then decided after walking through the rest of the market to get a coffee at a street side cafe, sit down, and read a book. I was there for quite a while and they started packing up the street tables by the time I moved on.
I was not sure what to do, so I decided to explore the parks up near the zoo. The entrance to the parks that are around the zoo was a short tram ride away. I found some very elaborate public restrooms and made use of them. I walked up to the Grass circle. The whole park had signs through it indicating where dogs were not allowed, where they were allowed on a leash, and where they could roam free. It was interesting to see all three zones in one continuous park. There weren’t many people there, but those who were had dogs happily socializing with all the other pets.
I started to walk toward the zoo and saw a local cricket group playing across the street in traditional white uniforms. As I watched a batter was caught out and had to take the long walk back to the pavilion. I got to the entrance of the zoo around 4:30 pm, which seemed reasonable for me on a Saturday. Unfortunately it was closing at 5 pm and I felt disinclined to pay the $30.80 AUD admission for half an hour. I took the tram back into town.
Since I would be traveling all Sunday I decided to go to a Saturday evening Mass. I got there early and took some photos of the church. At the entrance there was a man begging and I told him that I would gladly buy him some food after church if he was still here. He was there and he got a few meals worth of food out of me. He was clearly mentally disturbed or an exceptional actor.
I tried to use up my remaining groceries, which made for a really bland dish of scrambled eggs. I played some Tantrix and called it a night.