Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Our trip to Australia: Melbourne

We flew from here to LAX on 12/29, then onto Sydney, and finally, Melbourne. We landed around noon on New Year's Eve. Our travel agent had arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport and take us to the hotel. I'm glad she did! There's no way I could have driven on the left side of the road or would have been comfortable with Max doing it either.

Our driver, Joe, was an old white gentleman dressed in a suit. Very kind and sweet man. As he took us into the city, we talked and answered some of our initial questions about Australia. We were off to a great start!

We stayed at the Rendezvous Grand Hotel Melbourne, practically on the Yarra River and just across the bridge from tons of restaurants and shops. The weather was a little cooler than I had expected, just based on the temperature, but 79°F feels different without any humidity. Like jeans and long sleeves without being hot if you're from the DC area.

We walked around the city for a few hours but then went back to the hotel to "take a nap" which then turned into "fell asleep" because of jetlag. We were woken up hours later by the fireworks going off at midnight, watched them from our hotel window and then went back to sleep.

At 4am, Nick from Global Ballooning picked us up and we were on our first hot air balloon ride with Kiff and his daughter a little while later. What an amazing experience!

An hour in the air above the city, watching the sun rise over the clouds, the cool wind steering us horizontally, the hot air lifting us vertically and the only sound aside from the burner was a few dogs barking while everyone else was still sleeping. I didn't see any people until we landed. There were two people walking their dogs, that was it. For Max, this was the highlight of the trip! It was for me too until we got to Silky Oaks Lodge but more on that later...

Our second tour was later that day, starting with a 2 hour bus ride out to Phillip Island. We saw wild wallabys and little penguins. The little penguins (Eudyptula minor) are the smallest species of penguin, dark teal and white - the colour of the ocean with a patch of sunlight. They spend all day in the water and only come out after dark when they are safe from preditors. Watched them leave the water in groups of 20-50, waddle across the beach to their burrows and (because it was mating season), their babies. So cute!!

On January 2, we went on a tour of the Great Ocean Road, south of Melbourne. We saw surfers out on the water in the early morning wearing their wetsuits, a beautiful little beach I could have stayed at all day, a lighthouse near the southern most point on the continent, wild koalas in eucalyptus trees along the road, and beautiful rock formations along the coast including the Loch Ard Gorge. It was during this tour we heard the song, Land Down Under. Which was actually the only time we heard it while we were in Australia.

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