Australia Part 1 – Victoria and New South Wales

After our early morning flight from Hobart to Melbourne, we headed out to conquer the city.  First stop was Victoria Market – a huge (one of the largest in the southern hemisphere) outdoor market selling everything from organic produce to outrageously expensive Nikes imported from China to the ever stylish “Bill Cosby” sweaters.  It was unbelievable that the asking price for a pair of cheap Nikes (which may or may not have been knock-offs) was $100 US; what was more unbelievable that people were actually buying them at that price. Nevertheless, it was an interesting place to wander around and people watch. 

Federation Square is the eclectic modern art center of the city.  Not being an architect, it may be harder for me to appreciate the “beauty” of the buildings and other random pieces of permanent art set up, but to me it seemed odd to have a classic looking church overlooking the stainless steel, slanted building with electronic message boards running messages about how much water a waterless urinal saves each year (1 million liters apparently).  Regardless of your taste in architecture, Melbourne has something that nearly everyone can appreciate, and I can even more so now that there hasn’t been one available on every other street corner – 7-11.  Not only did the city have the “real” 7-11, but they even have slurpees

After a couple of days wandering around Melbourne, we picked up another rental car and headed out to the Great Ocean Road.  The GOR is a Pacific Coast Highway type road; that winds you around the southern coast which has some pretty spectacular scenery.  The main attraction are the Twelve Apostles (only eight left though) a collection of limestone formations that have been formed by erosion. 

The Blue Mountains, a national park about two hours outside of Sydney, was the next stop on the  itinerary.  Right outside of the hostel (literally I was woken up by them) were dozens of wild cockatoos.  For those not familiar with parrots, these are fairly expensive pets at around $1500 a piece in the US, so you can imagine my surprise at seeing eight or so of them munching on a berry tree three feet from the car.  I probably wouldn’t have even noticed them, but Matt slammed the car door and spooked a couple of them who took off.  On further inspection, the park housed probably hundreds of the wild birds, many of which were bathing in the waterfalls.

Sydney came next, and provided a relatively long stop of six days, which was nice to feel a little less like a gypsy for even a brief period of time.  As luck would have it, on our way to see the famed Opera House, we stumbled upon the Australian Flugtug.  This first annual event, involved homemade “vessels” that attempt to “fly” off of a 20 foot platform into the Sydney Harbour.  As expected, most of the attempts involved the people transporting it, also falling or many times intentionally jumping off of the platform in front of a crowd of tens of thousands of cheering fans. 

Then there was of course the typical Sydney attractions, the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, the 2000 Olympic Park (sadly, mostly abandoned), but nothing too exciting happened and I’m tired of writing for today. 

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