Australia

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Keppel Falls Trail

The Keppel Falls Trail was one I proudly completed by accident. Having parked gamely at the Steavenson Falls and doing a small circuit of what the waterfall, we gave in to the temptation of just going up a little bit, just to the first lookout to see how the trail’s like. Of course we wouldn’t finish the hike. We’ll just go back down again after that, in time for lunch. These were the famous last words that we told ourselves.  From there onwards, it became a silly game of ‘just to the next lookout point’, until we realised we were truly and seriously halfway around the trail and to go...

The Warburton Valley and Marysville

During the long AFL final weekend, it was easy and blissful enough to pack up some things and do a drive eastwards towards Warburton and Marysville for the great outdoors while many stayed in Melbourne clad in yellow and black. The Yarra Valley touring map is a good indicator of what’s worth seeing, though I was more interested first and foremost, in what the walks were. Skirting the Yarra Valley – I figured it was best to do the hard walks and all first before hunkering down with gourmet food and wine – and heading to Marysville via East Warburton (on the C511/C513), the drive through Warburton began peacefully enough...

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...

Down Under in Winter

A 6-month layover and I’m ready to roll again – to a destination that I visited nearly a decade ago. For one moment, it appeared that there were no air tickets available under $1900 – whether to Europe or Canada, or anywhere down Down Under. A listless search on the internet one Saturday morning last week had me quivering in excitement when Scandinavian Airlines offered a ridiculous price for a 2-week sojourn in the far north, while Qantas offered – only with a 3-week advance booking – something similar price-wise for a traipse through New Zealand with a stopover in Sydney. It was surprisingly, a very difficult decision to make:...