Down under

Category

Victoria High Country

The north-eastern bit of Victoria isn’t a place I’d ever visited and the Easter holidays made me strain at my leash a little just to get outdoors. The entire Great Alpine Road journey – from Wangaratta to Bairnsdale – felt like the answer to it, though the full journey (from Melbourne to Melbourne in a roughly circular route) was way too much for just a short 2-day trip up north and back again. From Wangaratta to Metung or a whopping 339 km/211 miles, it’s a non-stop ride in the car on sealed roads would just take about 5 hours. I didn’t feel that brave or eager to do it all...

The merry, brutal world of Melbourne property rentals

My rude and green introduction to the world of Melbourne rental properties started one early Saturday morning in January where at least 30 desperate, harried and stressed people turned up for a property inspection in Brunswick West. All that I’ve read about renting in Melbourne had been overwhelmingly negative—about prices, the high season (exactly the wrong time to enter it, as I did), the ugly bidding wars—and thus far, I was proven right. Getting a rental home started to feel just as bad as searching for employment. Despite the property downturn, rents were still soaring, simply because demand outstripped supply. What I’ve learnt so far: That the reasonably-priced apartment a...

Getting a Car Down Under

The search for a used car is always daunting. Waltzing into a car showroom and pointing a gnarled finger at a spanking new, fancy vehicle is not something my budget allows, so it’s back to the drawing board (hard research) before looking up private car sellers and dealers. But as extensive as the public transport network is in Melbourne, getting around without a car can be frustrating, particularly if it involves too many changes and roundabout routes that take over an hour. A browse through forums is a useful way to get started. Forums like reddit provide threads of conversations that can range from meaningful and thoughtful to downright silly....

The Settling-in Process

I waffle on big decisions. To pick a place to settle in – at least for the next few years – isn’t an easy decision, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made a few choices, did several turnarounds, then chose again and am still wondering if I’ve done it all correctly. Fickle, fickle, fickle. Melbourne (Australia, not Florida) is it for now, with the partner, which sort of makes things easier and not, with also the view that this might just be a temporary location before we pack and move again. An apartment in the Docklands via Airbnb for about a month and a half is what...

Short winter days in Melbourne

I’m entirely unused to spending just a few days in a place that will probably take years to know inside out. Having been to Melbourne several times over the past two decades (nothing like the passing of the years to show how much mileage you’ve gotten along with it), this has by far, been the longest gap in which I’ve eschewed one of the world’s most liveable and coolest city in favour of other far-flung places. With four days, there was just too much to see, too much to eat, so little time. The rich, cultural diversity of this place can’t make it any swankier honestly, and the inner-city ethnic...

Pans and injuries

In the time that I’ve been away, I’ve managed to: scrap the knees and shin on the same leg twice, cracked half a toenail, somehow contract an infection of a nail cuticle (probably caused by hang nail) that made the finger swell, got a gash across my hand from the toilet door (!), grew numerous blisters and ankle bruises from walking too much, suffered a mild heatstroke and a sunburn on the face in the Australian sun. Also got my hiking shoes ripped good, tore some other parts of my clothes. The maladies of travel, as small as they are, remind me that I’m still partly enjoying myself and still...

Sydney the great

Ah, Sydney, the consummate city, to which I was introduced not via its famed beaches and tacky surfing stereotypes but via the bad traffic and even bad-der drivers. “I don’t have to give you any way, you’re in my lane,” the old lady driving the van vented defiantly at another van as she wove her steady way through Sydney’s frustrating crawl. The ready expression of frustration was a welcome reprieve after screaming children monsters (indicative of stupid parenting as well) on the way-too-long 3 hr flight into Sydney from Christchurch. I laughed and thereafter, she launched into a rapidfire list of sights to cover, ending with a certain place that she thought...

Memories

Kathryn the proprietress embodies the resilient spirit of those living in Christchurch who were badly affected by the quake yet chose to remain amidst the city’s reconstruction efforts. The long term effort, as she insists, is eventually good for the economy and employment prospects, with the added advantage of social bonding in the years to come. Yet she believes that she’ll probably not live to see the day the remodelled Christchurch is ready once more; her own property repairs will take as long as 5 years. Driving to Christchurch, one seldom encounters smooth road surface; the land shifts constantly and containers lining rockslide areas attest to that. Half the street...

Whale of a time

Tourist tours thrive in Kaikoura, a small coastal town with a huge variety of marine life to boast of – it was for this reason that I wanted to see whales, after being severely disappointed that the tours had been cancelled for a few days. With nothing else to do, the seal point at Point Kean became the regular hang-out to look at seals who were probably just as bewildered to see humans staring at them. Some looked hung-over after a delirious frolic, others looked apprehensive at the increasing number of visitor vehicles and all of them were plain smelly. The snow-capped tops of the Kaikoura range came into view...

Cloudy bay, cloudy skies

I’ve never driven onto a ship before until yesterday and it was fairly disconcerting not only to see huge 20-wheelers on board parked next to my tiny rental, but also to be treated like cargo freight for a moment. The miserable weather remained miserable just like an irritable old man on the road from the moment I departed Wellington for the South Island at the unholy hour of 7am. The 3.5 hr long ferry ride across the Cook straits in the massive, lumbering hunk of an Interislander ship that was thought to be one of the most scenic rides in the world turned out wet and cold. The boat slowly...