I was hoping not to start a single blog post with an apology, but here we go. I was hoping to update this on the Monday before Christmas with a few things and then update it again very shortly after the beginning of 2016. Due to wildly unforeseen circumstances you’re all left with this update in between every idea I’ve had for this time of year. Starting where I was hoping to end, I hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas this year, however you celebrated it! Since I imagine most are curious as to how exactly I spent mine this year away from my family for the first time for Christmas, I think I’ll dive straight into there.
This may not come as a surprise, but Christmas this year was a little different to how I would usually spend it. After waking up on Christmas Eve and putting important items into my rucksack such as a Christmas jumper (unused regardless of the temperature only being a chilly 38 degrees), the infamous Bolton Wanderers Santa hat and a Santa beard, I met with Ben, Sarah and Martin (all German) at the tram station, where we eventually (after several traffic delays) ended up at St. Kilda with the intention of spending the day at the beach.
It was so warm that my phone displayed a message indicating that it must cool down before it can be used. On Christmas Eve. After Ben had decided to share some of his Christmas spirit with me in the sea and we were getting a little tired of the beach, we headed just across the road to Luna Park.
Luna Park is a theme park which generously gives you free entry before ripping you off for everything else. We rode on the 103 year old ‘scenic’ roller coaster and then left to find comfort in a cold McDonald’s drink. It was the closest place with air conditioning, tasty liquids and fully functioning toilets. Upon leaving, we headed back to our accommodation finding crucial consumables such as beer, vodka and doritos for the next day.
I woke up at 7am to Skype my family back home on what was my Christmas Day and their Christmas Eve and opened presents which they had sent me in front of them, which was nice. Thank you, internet. After finishing talking to them, I left my flat just after 9am with my Malaysian flatmate, Kenny, with all sorts of things crammed into a rucksack and a plastic bag.
We got a tram from here over to Flinders Street Station, near Federation Square, home of the previously mentioned largest LEGO Christmas Tree in the Southern Hemisphere. I have a good picture of it now. We caught a train to take us towards Sandringham for us to get off at Brighton Beach station and head on down to the beach itself. We were first there, so by the time one of us put suncream on (with the other regretting it a little later) my two American friends joined us with questionable Christmas music (Sara, I will never forgive you for skipping Fairytale of New York.) some fruit and Santa hats. After two of their Australian friends later turned up, we had quite a good group together ready to head back to prepare for the evening and night ahead after some pictures had been taken.
We left the beach to go back to Sara and Colleen’s house to shower, change and cool the various beverages we had been carrying around. Sara and Colleen had proudly presented me with a Christmas stocking containing some chocolates and a toy dinosaur which I loved, and by 6pm Sarah and Martin (Germans) had arrived at the house ready for a Christmas dinner consisting of an all day breakfast which was a little different to the usual Christmas dinner I suppose. After dinner we played a traditional game either called King’s Cup or Ring of Fire depending on where you’re from. I didn’t say it was a traditional Christmas game. For those unfamiliar with the game; it’s a popular strategy game with the popular strategy being to enable your friends to feel their alcoholic beverage more than you can feel your own, with the usual outcome being that everyone feels their own alcoholic beverage just as much as everyone else. It’s also a great game to play if you’re a particularly large fan of cleaning. After the game had fizzled out hours later, I’d managed to grab a quick Skype call with my girlfriend and one of my best friends back home before being thrown up on twice, putting one to bed and then eventually sleeping on a hard wooden floor using the Welsh flag as a duvet. It wasn’t very good as a duvet and the next day I woke up with a slight headache but all in all Christmas Day this year was an unforgettable, fun filled day and night in what turned out to be quite a forgettable sense. Boxing Day was understandably significantly tamer. It consisted of finding a cafe for brunch the next day, getting a taxi home and having a shower long enough to move the state of Victoria into a drought before watching Harry Potter films for the rest of the day, building LEGO (thanks, mum!) and eating rubbish food. Just how it should be.
Of course, the last two or three weeks hasn’t all been Christmas. On the first Sunday after my previous blog post, we hired a car and drove for 3 hours over to the Grampians National Park where after buying food and water at a supermarket, we parked up and walked up to the top of The Pinnacle (the link will take you to the Parks Victoria website with further information should you want it) at Halls Gap in the Grampians.
It was a very hot, over 30 degrees and pushing towards 40 – as if the walk wasn’t hard enough as it was. Uneven terrain with narrow paths and as if it wasn’t blindingly obvious, it was all up hill but certainly worth it for the views at the top and exploring the rocks was a lot of fun. Koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, snakes, lizards and other animals roam the Grampians, although we only saw lizards and I saw a mouse. After going down back to the car, we drove around looking for Mackenzie falls. After losing our way a couple of times, we eventually found the falls and had to walk down to them from the car park before finding the amazing waterfall.
On the return journey from Mackenzie falls we acted on a tip that kangaroos are commonly found at a park somewhere on the way back, so we went to see if we could see any kangaroos and it didn’t disappoint.
There were about 15 kangaroos just in this single field, with some of them being tame enough to let you touch them, others just hopped away. Kangaroos are basically like short haired dogs only with weird feet, unfamiliar with the rules of fetch and deemed more acceptable to be eaten in the Western world. Other than that, they’re exactly the same. Exactly. The same.
The next day, we still had the car so took it out for a little road trip across Mornington Peninsula towards Sorrento beach. We visited any number of beaches between 6 and 8. I lost count at the time and it was two weeks ago. But they all had sand and copious amounts of salt water. (Click on the pictures to enlarge).
After spending some time at the first beach and deciding it was time to go, I managed to cut my foot open on a rock, where two weeks on I still have some sand lodged in my right foot. Similarly, I have three…. things (I really have no idea what) stuck in my left foot from the beach on Christmas Day. So Australia is in fact getting smaller. Sorry about that. Other than that, this was a great day spent with Ben, Julia and Sarah and as it’s only a one hour drive away from Melbourne it was certainly well worth it.
So far this has been quite picture heavy which I’m sure the majority of us could agree is probably quite a good thing. Unfortunately, that ends right about now as I took zero good pictures from one of my favourite trips out to date which is really quite frustrating. Ben’s housemate, James, happens to be a part of a family who own a beach house on Phillip Island. Myself, Sarah, Julia and Ben were asked if we would like to spend a weekend there on Phillip Island with some of James’ family. The answer was, of course, yes! So we headed out there on the Saturday – 3 Germans, an Australian and myself. We got there, bought some food to take book to the house and then met James’ parents who were hosting us. After being treated to sandwiches and water, we walked 5 minutes down one road to the nearest beach where we spent the day. We went in the water and swam around, played around with a ball and some water pistols then got drenched by intermittent rain with thunder and lightning storms around us (we got out of the water for those due to a rare occurrence of common sense). The state of Victoria was under a total fire ban due to high temperatures and extreme risk of wildfires. We were on the beach looking across the sea to another part of Phillip Island where we watched one fire break out and then a second fire break out nearby, which was…. Odd. You don’t get those in Wales in December. Or July. Or at all, really. Later on we walked along the coast a little to a pier which had clear blue water below and was deep enough to jump down into. So we did, I mean, why wouldn’t we? So some of us (myself included) jumped off the pier and then swam along over to the stairs to pull ourselves back up to the pier. There’s something oddly satisfying about jumping 20 feet into freezing cold, salty water. James’ parents had cooked on the barbecue for us later that day for tea (not dinner, I mean tea. Because dinner is wrong.) which was lovely. Afterwards, we went outside to relax with two bottles of vodka and some lemonade because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Not quite ready for bed, myself Ben and James walked to the beach at 1am listening to some acoustic music from a bluetooth speaker we had carried with us and relaxed there a little which was lovely from what I can remember. The next morning and a headache later, Julia and Ben prepared French toast breakfast with a berry and rhubarb mix… thing. Which was much appreciated before setting out to a surf beach. We had borrowed three body boards kept at the house so whilst Julia and Sarah soaked up the sun, James, Ben and I got soaked in the sea surfing some waves over and over again. And that, readers, is how I caught a little cold in Australia. It’s cold work waiting for those big waves but worth it for the fun. I had a great time on Phillip Island once again and I really can’t wait for the next time I go back, because I’m sure I will again. After showering and changing back at the house, we got in the car and headed home and from that moment there really isn’t too much to report. I’ve watched every single Harry Potter film, invested in some more plasters, did some laundry, ignored washing up responsibilities, found out I got 100% in the criminology assessment I submitted a while back (it was a pass or fail assessment and I was writing about myself but still, 100%!) and spent some time down at Docklands just to browse around but it’s just boats and stuff. Nothing noteworthy really happened. I also went to watch my second Melbourne Victory game (if shirts were cheaper I’d probably have one by now) which they drew 1-1. Both goals were penalties. So in my two games I’ve so far seen 5 goals – 4 penalties and a free kick, so still nothing from open play. Maybe next time.
For now though, I think that’s it. I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and I wish you all the best for 2016 – the year in which I see most of you reading this again!