I was needing an excuse to check out Australia and my good friend Torry had some free time over the 4th of July holiday and also wanted to check it out. The plan was to meet in Warrnambool, Victoria and then drive the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne. Torry has a friend living in Woomera, Australia’s equivalent of Area 51, so he first headed to Adeleaide. I wanted to explore Melbourne, so I spent the weekend there before heading on a train to meet him.
After spending so much time in Auckland, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be in a ‘proper’ city. Melbourne is definitely a ‘proper’ city, actually reminding me of Santiago. There’s a life to the city—it’s a living being, not just a destination to drive into for work and then leave after a day’s work. It’s brimming with life, culture, food, universities, people, and activities. Oh yeah, it also has beaches! It’s the kind of city I’d like to live in one day.
The train ride was pretty uneventful—it left Melbourne and went through the countryside. Probably what caught my attention the most was the train network and how many people used it. It reminded me of my time living in Spain. And to boot, the trip from Melbourne to Warrnambool only cost $30 USD! I arrived about 30 minutes earlier than Torry but when we met up in the evening, we wandered the town of Warrnambool in search of food and found a small pizza and pasta place with delicious food. My pizza had the perfect crust—not too thin and not to thick, crispy outside and chewy inside. It was a nice feed after a long day of travel.
We headed off the next morning, first checking out the nearby Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, where I saw my first Kangaroo, Koala, and Emu. Then it was east down the Great Ocean Road toward the 12 Apostles rock formation. Overall, the Great Ocean Road was very reminiscent of California’s Pacific Coast Hwy, with windy roads following the natural terrain along the ocean side.
I had picked up a guide to the Great Ocean Road, which had different options for side trips, such as gastronomic tours that went to cheese, wine, whisky, and chocolate producers, as well as more natural excursions, and driving roads. We made our own path, visiting a variety of each, taking plenty of time along the way to take in sights. Torry made all the reservations for budget hotels and hostels along the way and one night we ended up in a ‘hostel’ that was in reality more like someone’s house. When we first showed up, the address given was literally someone’s home that could have been on an episode of Hoarders. The guy that greeted us said he was just ‘filling in’ for someone else, but seemed to have as good knowledge of the place as anyone. He said that the place we arrived (the Hoarders home) was full, but down the road was empty. We followed him and I immediately noticed the ‘For Sale’ sign out front. It seemed like these guys were renting out homes for sale. The cupboards were full of food, even with fresh milk in the fridge. I was tired and didn’t feel like putting up much of a fuss. We stopped by the grocery store and self-catered for the night.
The final leg of the trip led us into Melbourne. After driving the Great Ocean Road, we took a flight to Queenstown, New Zealand. We planned a few activities, such as snow shoeing, taking a jet-boat ride, and off roading, but unseasonable warm weather prevented us from snow shoeing. The jet boating ride was along Shotover River and was amazing. The river forged its route through a canyon and the driver tried to get as close as possible to the walls. Since it was a jet boat, basically a giant jetski, it was able to spin on a dime. We only got a little wet, but it would be really refreshing on a hot summer day!
We considered taking a 4×4 tour of the area but after reading a review ‘You are picked up from your hotel in a comfortable 4WD Minibus,’ we agreed that we’d be better off renting a 4×4 than paying to ride in a ‘comfortable 4WD Minibus’. So we rented an AWD Toyota Rav4 and went on our own routes. It was probably the most comfortable way, as we were able to stop and take pictures whenever we wanted. We didn’t get the Rav4 stuck, even though Torry thought I should have tried harder.
After a few days in Queenstown, it was time to go back to work. Sadly, just as we were leaving, the snow began to fall. The morning I left, all of the hills were covered in snow and would have provided plenty of interesting snow shoeing opportunities.
I can’t wait to return to Queenstown in the summer!