Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 228-237 – Australia – Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road

On our arrival in Melbourne we caught the airport shuttle over to the main train station before dragging our fully-laden selves down to hostel we’d booked into for a single night. As we were in a many bed dorm there wasn’t much point in staying put so we wandered out for a couple of beers and a bite to eat before returning to crash. As it happens Fi was kept up all night for a number of reasons – some interesting and some more typical – while I, as always, slept through all.

After check out we wandered back up to the bus station to make our way to the office where we were due to pick up our short term rental camper van.

We wandered down to a catch a train and bumped into Julian – one half of Karen & Julian – friends from back home who’d moved out here and with whom we were planning to meet up with the following day. He was on his way to work and after a quick reunion we agreed a time to drive over on the morrow.

Encumbered by all our luggage we then embarked upon a long journey to the van rental place in arse-end of nowhere via train and taxi. For some unknown reason – most likely related to a seemingly good online offer – we’d decided to book a Cheapa-Camper Hi-Top van from Apollo (our campervan Nemesis). Perhaps we thought that because it was a different brand we’d be alright. Our foolishness was underlined when we were informed that the van didn’t come with bedding and we’d have to pay a per-day-per-person rental cost.

Let’s take a moment here.

A campervan.

That you can’t sleep in.

Without hiring separate bedding.

With much frowning, headshaking and FFS’ing we stumped up the readies so that we COULD SLEEP IN THE CAMPERVAN and were naturally overjoyed to discover that we had to pay via credit card which would of course incur an additional surcharge.

The van was fine enough – though no better than any other hire company – and we eventually got on the road and cruised back into Melbourne. We were bound for a reunion with our friends Anthony & Katie whom we’d met back in ‘Nam and also enjoyed Ubud in Bali with. They’d settled here on a working holiday visa and recently moved into a shiny new pad which they shared with housemates Corey & Danielle. After a little driving we found it and parked up. It was awesome to meet up again after our travels around Australia and great to meet Corey & Danielle. They all kindly offered us the couch for the night which we gratefully accepted as indoors is always better than in-van. We set out for essential supplies and grabbed a crate of lager before doing what we do best – sinking most of them. Suitably warmed up a wander around Melbourne’s much lauded Fitzroy district came next where we joined up with Dizzy & Bex – two more of Da Lat’s magnificent seven – who’d also taken up residence in Melbourne on working holiday visas. Thus ensued a fine night of pool, pizza and far too much beer.

We awoke the next day duly suffering for the evening’s excesses. Anthony & Katie had left for work so we pulled ourselves together, wandered locally for some form of breakfast and eventually jumped back in the van for the short drive to Williamstown where Karen & Julian reside. Despite our best efforts to be a mess we arrived early so parked up and Fi took a nap while I braved ridiculous icy temperatures and foolishly wandered to the water’s edge (Williamstown is a coastal suburb) to play some guitar. It wasn’t long before my fingers had stopped working and my head had indicated imminent death from pain so I returned to attempt to also sleep it off.

On their return Karen & Julian chanced upon the van while wandering by. Much rejoicing followed before we decided to take a trip back into Melbourne to see some of the sights. Our partners in crime had their sights set on some retro photo booth action and upon finding one in service we crammed in for some black and white shots. From here it was on to the ACMI and the Independent Games Awards exhibition. This meant a whole host of award winning and innovative games all available to play for free – colour me a happy bunny.

It had reached that time. Time to do what Yorkshire folk do best. Off t’pub.

A few beers later and the excesses of the previous evening forgotten like a bad dream we decided to take the train back to Williamstown and visit their local, wherein we were treated to an awesome meal by our hosts. Our visited coincided with quiz night but unless you were a local – or at least a national – you stood no chance. After the briefest of efforts it was collectively decided that our efforts may be better expended on ale and Tequilas so we took to it and had a great night.

We awoke in the van and popped into Julian & Karen’s flat to get cleaned up. Poor Karen was up and out for work and we were once again suffering from a fair hangover. After we’d got ourselves back to something like alive over coffee & a fantastic shower we decided to take wander local for an awesome Fish & Chip brunch with Julian before heading off to begin the Great Ocean Road.

By the end of the uneventful first afternoon’s driving we’d reached Torquay which on at least a few pieces of promotional material was stated as the start of the Great Ocean road. It also happened to be surf outlet city and so with Fiji just around the corner we took a look around before crashing at a nearby holiday park for the night to munch on delicious lasagne kindly donated by Karen & Julian.

The Great Ocean road is all about the drive so the next day we cruised through Airley’s Inlet (home of the Round the Twist lighthouse which I’m led to believe by Fi was apparently exciting), Lorne, Apollo Bay (where we stopped for lunch) and onward. We stopped at points throughout the day but the weather was decidedly grey so nothing really held our attention until we reached the 12 Apostles for sunset. If I remember rightly there are only seven left these days and while they’re not exactly mind-blowing they’ve got that kind of celebrity appeal that keeps you looking at them and taking pictures without really stopping to wonder why.

After we lost the light we took off up the road to Port Campbell where we found an excellent campervan park for the night.

We awoke to better weather so it was back to the 12 Apostles for the morning after breakfast. After taking far too many photos of the admittedly spectacular surf it was on to Loch Ard Gorge, the Bay of Islands, Warrambool and finally Port Fairy. We’d pushed for Port Fairy on recommendation but it didn’t really do anything for us. The Milton Oz phone had been buzzing with alerts informing us that legendary travellers Robert Kershaw and Gillian Pennack had been spotted in the area and so in the hopes of perhaps getting to meet them we turned around and blazed a trail all the way back to Port Campbell. There we succeeded and had another great evening together.

Our paths once again led in separate directions so we parted company and took our van back to Melbourne via Cape Otway and a few hours spotting wild Koalas. Anthony & Katie had agreed to kindly put us up for the rest of our time in Melbourne despite us having engagements arranged with loads of other people; this was nothing short of incredible generosity and saved us an absolute fortune not to mention providing us with a really comfortable place to stay. We dropped the van back off and made our way over to their place. We met Anthony and thanked him profusely but then had to get cleaned up and head out to meet Rob & Gilly for the start of Gilly’s Birthday celebrations. Gilly had chosen a night at a Burlesque Bar as the perfect way to kick off her birthday weekend and we had a fantastic time with our host Auntie and the girls. Gilly even got serenaded for the last dance of the night by Auntie herself. The whole vibe is something like what you’d expect – a mix of comedy and risqué that puts the ladies – both those performing and those enjoying – in the driving seat. It was a cool few hours and had us all in hysterics on more than one occasion.

Next stop of the night was somewhere both Rob and I had been intending to visit since we arrived in Australia – The Mana Bar. The place is a bar filled with big screen TV’s hooked up to the latest consoles where you can free play against anyone else who fancies taking you on. They serve beer and a whole host of game-themed cocktails. One of the owners is a famous game reviewer on the internet known for his rapid and brutal approach hence our knowledge of the place before we arrived. While it wasn’t as grand as I’d expected the vibe was still good and the place was packed when we arrived. We put away some Mana Potion amongst other treats and dabbled on few games before we did an almost unheard of thing and called it a night early to get back and see Anthony and Katie while Rob & Gilly went off to meet their couch-surfing host and paint the town red until the early hours. On our return I fell unconscious while Fi stayed up drinking Goon with Katie to predictably regrettable effect the next day.

After enjoying a lazy Saturday morning with our hosts our busy Melbourne social calendar took us out to see Karen & Julian for a nice chilled afternoon meandering around some cool kookie bric-a-brac shops and enjoyed some great beer & nachos before we had to sever the wonderful Yorkshire bond we’d enjoyed and say goodbye – until next time of course. Our next port of call was where Rob & Gilly were couch-surfing for Gilly’s Birthday party. Their host is a man of unrivalled generosity with both long term and short term guests that at the time numbered 6 in a 3 room flat of that could not have been called spacious. He’s also a great bloke and we had a great time eating homemade pizza and drinking lots of wine before saying our seemingly final goodbyes to Rob & Gilly and taking the last tram back to Anthony & Katie’s.

Feeling mighty guilty about having spent 2 nights at their place without actually seeing them we rustled up a cooked breakfast for the house the next morning before Anthony & Katie took us out to see the street art of Melbourne. We had a really cool day just gassing, wandering and of course supping a few tasty beers together when we felt like we were flagging. Later we went back to where they used to stay and met some other people before we all went for curry.

The next day we had a ridiculously early start for our flight to Fiji. Doing our best to leave in silence we slipped out and waited in the lobby for our pre-booked taxi. A fella pulled up and we jumped in. Not long after we got a phone call from a tired and bemused Anthony who’d been woken by our actual taxi driver buzzing the flat – we were apparently in a chancer’s cab and mighty pissed off with him for causing the whole flat to be woken up. We caught our first flight to Sydney where we had a 9 hour layover spent in the Airport working and watching movies. Upon reaching Brisbane we had another 6 hour layover doing much the same as before. W eventually boarded our flight to Nadi and arrived in the very early morning where we were greeted by Elliott from Bamboo Hostel and met Sophie who had also just arrived.