Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls please take a seat, strap yourselves in tight and remember to keep your head, shoulders, knees and toes (knees and toes) inside this whirlwind of a blog update at all times. I haven’t yet figured out how but I am about to talk you, the very lucky reader, through a whole month of my life including incredibly questionable revision techniques, travels in not one, not two but THREE different Australian states, visits to some of the most iconic places people around the world associate with Australia and overly detailed discussion about food all intelligently broken up with pictures (which you can click to enlarge) to please your eyes and to trick your brains into thinking there isn’t THAT much to read.
Now that I’ve appealed to roughly a fifth of my readers (thanks, mum) and put pressure on myself to actually explain all of the aforementioned (I could just delete the ones I don’t do, maybe I did?) let’s begin.
February was an incredible month. I must apologise for not updating at all during February but as I said in my last post, I simply did not have the time or the access necessary to provide an update. Going into this one I do feel like I have so much more to cover than ever before and hey, I don’t have a word limit here, I could just keep going but I know nobody wants to be faced with a wall of text. So, here’s a picture:
On the off-chance you haven’t yet worked it out, this is me with the Melbourne skyline in the background. I’m going to begin this post (three paragraphs later) with a reminder that I am going into my second trimester here at Deakin University in Melbourne on an International Experience Placement from Bangor University in North Wales. This month I finished the first of those two trimesters, meaning that I am now half way through my incredible journey. At the beginning of this month I had two exams to sit and with the requirements given to me being what I would describe as “exceedingly achievable” my motivation was not at its highest. I had four units/modules which I was studying and two of those did not have exams and I knew I’d already done well in them and achieved the exceedingly achievable. Having received results, I can relatively exclusively reveal that I achieved 84% and 76% in those two units – Australian studies and Capitalism respectively. I scored 71% and 65% in criminology and media relations – both of which involved exams. I would tell you what grades they are but as the Australian grading system makes sense to roughly three people there’s really no point, but I’m very pleased with those. Especially when considering how much meaningful revision actually went into them. Criminology was okay in terms of preparation but the type of exam was really throwing me. I’m used to writing essays in exams, two or three per paper and that’s the exam. That’s the nature of history and archaeology. So to suddenly have to write ten definitions, 5 short answers followed by 2 essays all in 2 hours was something of a challenge to me but one that I clearly rose to. Media relations was a completely different story. Eighty multiple questions followed by two short answer questions… So of course I worked out I needed to get 23 multiple choice questions right to pass the unit and once I worked that out that was the rest of my dwindling motivation gone. I read some conclusion chapters from a text book that was one edition earlier than the recommended text book then proceeded to revise social networking by talking to my friends on the internet. As Einstein said, “Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.” and who am I to argue with Einstein? And he must have been right because I passed fairly comfortably in the end.
I can’t say I particularly recommend this approach. After all, everyone learns differently…
The end of trimester three does unfortunately mean that my lovely lovely German friends (and even some of the British ones) have returned home.
This leaves me with a grand total of five friends in the Southern Hemisphere at present but I see this as an exciting opportunity to throw myself out there at opportunities once again to meet some more people. It was sad saying goodbyes particularly to Sarah, Julia and Ben for who knows how long? But I know I’ll likely see them again and I have so many wonderful memories with them.
I know that those of you who have been following my adventure out here and keeping up with me elsewhere or keeping up with my family will know that the past 780 words have been not at all what you’re looking for. Which is why I put it at the start. As many of you know, my parents and my little brother came over to visit me and it was an incredibly enjoyable three weeks and I know we all had a wonderful time. I could write a lot about our time over the past few weeks but…. Actually, no. I’m going to write a lot. “How was your time away?” “It was really nice thanks” doesn’t quite cut it with our trip, I think it deserves more than that.
So, at risk of déjà vu and maybe 6 and a bit paragraphs later, I’m going to start at the beginning. Melbourne. The most liveable city in the world. Much of what we did I’ve already done and already written about – we did Phillip Island, travelled on trams with ease around the city, went to a free outdoor concert performed by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, they did a walking tour and visited Melbourne Museum whilst I sat an exam, we visited the Shrine of Remembrance, Federation Square, Docklands, Fitzroy and St. Kilda amongst other places. The city of Melbourne and it’s nearby areas treated us well. If you want to know more about Melbourne, my other posts will go into more detail. Whilst they were here we did things I hadn’t done before here such as do a tour of the MCG and a tour of Parliament House. Parliament House was made much more interesting by the tour guide who was so full of life and knowledge it almost felt as though the walls of the building itself were talking to us about the past events which had taken place and what they’re used for.
I apologise for the lighting in this picture but you get the idea. I did promise overly detailed discussion about food and there’s a picture of food here so here comes the discussion. This burger was not food, it was art. This masterpiece consisted of two steak fillets, two rashers of bacon, a fried egg, beetroot, cheese, pineapple, hashbrown and a potato cake sandwiched between two floury bread buns served with thick potato wedges and some salad. If you look at the size of the plate and try and mentally compare that to my head that gives you a vague idea of just how big that thing was. I ate most of it, finished the beer and could walk at a normal pace the next day. From memory, Dad had a kangaroo fillet and mum and Simon both went for paella. I think. Magnificent food.
We flew from Melbourne up to Sydney in the state of New South Wales where we visited some of the most iconic sites in Australia.
We took a tour of the Sydney Opera House, we walked over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, we spent hours at Bondi beach taking a beating from nature as she hit us with wave after wave letting us bob around in the water with many others, we caught a firework display at Darling Harbour where ‘Love month’ was being celebrated, we saw stunning sunsets, we visited Paddy’s market where they had everything from authentic kangaroo testicle bottle openers to massage parlours, we travelled on buses, trains and ferries, Simon tried to eat an ice cream (he get it up his nose, over both hands and pretty much everywhere in between) and we even had a meal up the Sydney Sky Tower. That was posh. The Napier Hotel was better and it’s put dad off towers in a non grumpy way because he’s given grump up for lent.
For just £250 per person (ish) you can climb one of the Sydney Harbour Bridge arches but why do that when you can walk along the path and then simply walk up about 200 steps up a pylon for around $10 per person to get the same views and save a few hours? Top travel tip there.
The Sydney Opera House tour was good. The Opera House is a result of a competition to design it. The bloke who won the thing (I think he was Danish) had no idea how to physically construct it and a lot of time was taken once he’d won the competition to work out how to build the thing but it was still built quicker than Pontio. Pontio isn’t even pointy. Less glamorously than the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge was constructed by the same company from Middlesbrough who constructed the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle – Dorman Long. I have now ran out of facts I know from the top of my head that are relevant. The other iconic spot we visited in Sydney – Bondi beach, was just wonderful. The sand was perfect and the water was just the right temperature when we went. Sort of like when you’ve been in the bath a while and you feel the water start to go cold but it still feels nice…. Okay so it was nothing like that. But it was nice. After a cooling break from the hot weather in the sea we walked along the coast before getting across to Bronte beach. The water there was different to Bondi in that it was relentless. Big, strong, powerful waves hitting every maybe 15 seconds or less, leaving you tired and clinging onto your shorts for fear of a potentially embarrassing malfunction. Public transport in Sydney was pretty easy to use. Ferries were included in Sydney’s public transport system and like Melbourne’s MyKi system, Sydney uses Opal to be used on trams (not as good as Melbourne’s trams), buses, certain ferries and trains. There was something exciting about catching a ferry which was part of a public transport network and the ferries helped us get out to Watson’s Bay for the sunset behind the Sydney skyline as well as to some other beaches.
Apparently fireworks in Sydney are quite frequent, and when we were there there happened to be a display one night at Darling Harbour as part of the ‘Love month’ celebrations which were largely taking place at the harbour. Earlier in our visit we had visited Darling Harbour to find a huge buzz around the place with boat races on the harbour. We went to the tourist information centre nearby to find a Welshman working there making him the second Welsh person I have met whilst out here in Australia.
Next up was Adelaide. We flew from Sydney over to Adelaide which took around 2 hours. We picked up our luggage and Konstantinos the taxi driver took us to the hotel. We actually found it a little difficult to find things to do in Adelaide so ended up visiting the South Australian Museum which was incredibly interesting. The museum held artefacts about settlement, the aboriginal way of life and other lifestyles and cultures from other islands such as Fiji and Papua New Guinea. After that we struggled. We looked around some shops and walked along the river. The Fringe Festival was in Adelaide though and the buskers lining the streets were often people who were performing at the festival at a later date trying to draw in a larger audience and work for some extra money. We listened and watched to a few of these performers but one Canadian lady stood out. We’d found ourselves a comedy show in the middle of a closed road and everyone who watched cried from laughing, it was great fun.
We made a short walk from there to look at the Adelaide Fringe Illuminations which looked great and each display on each building had a different theme. They were displayed onto a couple of museums and the university, too.
We picked up a hire car in Adelaide and drove across to Kangaroo Island which quite simply, was stunning.
The island itself was beautiful and we saw wild kangaroos, wallabies, koala bears and various species of seal. It was amazing.
We had a couple of days there taking in all of the sights the whole time being followed by a tour bus and a grumpy elderly couple. Kangaroo Island was incredible – we all agreed it was a particular highlight of the time we all had together and it’s somewhere I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to visit had my family not decided to come and spend time here, so I feel very lucky indeed for that reason.
We left Kangaroo Island to go and spend a night in Victor Harbour where we simply got food and Simon and I had a swim in the hotel with the pool, jacuzzi and sauna all to ourselves which was lovely. We left Victor Harbour the next day to drive down to Mount Gambier. There were some amazing salt flats on the way which used to be lakes so they were interesting but that was the only interesting thing of note. Literally the only thing. Unless you’re particularly interested in fields, straight roads and have a hatred of all civilisation everywhere ever. If that’s the case then Victor Harbour to Mount Gambier is the drive for you! The next day we drove from Mount Gambier to Port Fairy after seeing the Blue Lake and a Sinkhole garden at Mount Gambier. The Blue Lake was a lake that was blue. The Sinkhole garden was a garden situated at the base of a sinkhole. Hope I’m not wasting anyone’s time here. From Port Fairy we drove down to Apollo Bay. This was the exciting part and the whole point of all of this driving.
The Great Ocean Road. It was a stunning drive taking in iconic rock formations such as The Twelve Apostles (or at least the seven that remain due to erosion breaking up the others), The Arch, The Razorback, London Bridge, Thunder Cave and that other one…. The name of which escapes me. I have been looking forward to doing the Great Ocean Road for so long and it really did not disappoint and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have finally gone. From Port Fairy we continued along the Great Ocean Road taking in some of these sights before spending the night at Apollo Bay and travelling back to Melbourne.
I had missed the city of Melbourne whilst travelling around. It’s such a lively city it’s hard not to. To get food that evening in Melbourne we walked down two streets and came across a silent disco walking tour, a wonderful atmosphere around Chinatown with the Chinese lanterns lit up, a fitness instructor up on a stage with a crowd of passers by joining in her routine and being encouraged to bump bottoms with the person next to them as well as a salsa dancing class on Federation Square amongst buskers oozing talent along the way. As we walked back I couldn’t help but think that as much as I’m going to miss my family, I’m not ready to leave this wonderful city just yet. Saying goodbyes wasn’t enjoyable but there’s plenty to look forward to. I find it amazing that although I’ve done so much I’ve still only covered that small corner of Australia. How much more of that map I can cover remains to be seen!
I’m hoping to update this blog one more time this month and then my girlfriend is here and we’re heading up to Sydney for a few days in the time she’s in this part of the world. It’s currently 26 degrees in my room and my family have just returned home to -1. I think I’ll stay here for a bit until Britain decides to warm up a bit, that seems like the sensible thing to do.
I’ll be writing again here soon, thanks for reading!