The long flight of almost 14 hours from Dubai to Melbourne was quite enjoyable for me. Seated in one of the last rows I was lucky enough to have a three seat row all by myself. Therefore, I slept really good laying on all three of the seats. At the airport there was no problem whatsoever with entering Australia. My couchsurfing friend Joseph lives in St. Kilda where I now had to get somehow. A taxi was too expensive so I started walking. After one hour I realized it is way too far to get there before sunrise. So a taxi it was. Joseph greeted me around 3am with a welcome beer and we talked for a while until we had to get some sleep. So there I was - my adventure in Australia could begin.
Withing the next days I mostly explored the city and got the important stuff done, like getting my Australian Visa card, getting a local phone number and so on. St. Kilda is a beautiful suburb of Melbourne and a former red light district. Now it is the hippie center around here.
I managed to get my bank account all done pretty easy and was just waiting for my TFN (tax file number) so I could work here legally. Meanwhile, I went too the beautiful beach of St. Kilda, walked around in the green parks of Melbourne and wondered around the city seeing lots of interesting architecture and art. Melbourne is famous for the art here and also for the many amateur music artists who play their songs around the city almost everyday. On my second day here , I found myself quite lucky: I haven't done any sports yet so I walked around, asking gyms for a free trial workout. At one gym, not too far away from Josephs apartment, I talked to the gym owner and she offered a deal to me after I told her where I'm from. For a few German lessons I could workout a couple of time for free - deal!
Four days and three nights later, I moved to a hostel in the CBD of Melbourne. It is close to an Aldi which is one of the cheapest supermarkets here and going out is way easier being so close to many of the pubs and clubs. In my room were three other Germans, two Britons and two Dutch. We had some good times here and got along pretty well. To improve my chances for a job later, I took a RSA class (responsible service of alcohol), which is required to have at any restaurant, hotel, bar, etc. During dinner time the shared kitchen looks like a battlefield and that's exactly how you need to act when you want to get your meal done. Everyone is fighting about the only five forks, the one certain pan or even steal from others to get ingredients they don't have. And as far as I can tell, the only ones who washed their dishes where Germans and Dutch. My dinner always included some sort of meat, some veggies and rice. For my first night here at the hostel, I treated myself with a 800g rump steak.
Here it was that I did some laundry for the first time since I left Germany. After dinner we usually chilled at the giant been bag cinema in the hostel, went down to the hostel-owned bar or went out in a pub. A really interesting place to see around here is the Victorian Market. There you can get anything you need and don't need.
On Saturday, I started a two day trip along the Great Ocean Road and into the Grampians National Park located a couple of hours north west of Melbourne. I had to get up really early for the pick up and surprisingly my tour guide was German as well. His name is Henning. Among the group were a Norwegian family of three, one French and a Russian guy, a Dutch and a Danish woman, three German girls and a Japanese couple. It was a small, private group. We left Melbourne driving of the harbor bridge. Henning told us that Sydney and Melbourne are always competing about which city looks better. That's why Melbourne built this bridge just a few meters higher than the Sydney Harbor Bridge. A tunnel would have been cheaper though.
Our first stop was a long beach about 90min north west of Melbourne.
It is a popular surfer beach for the locals and we spotted two even though it was still really early.
We kept driving along the Great Ocean Road which was built by veterans of WWI to create jobs and help get country out of a depression.
The view we had was absolutely amazing.
Long winding roads directly next to the ocean were leading us to our next stop; a small village where we had the chance to spot some koalas and parrots. Koalas sleep about 20 hours a day so we only saw them chilling up in their trees resting. Another thing Henning told us is that in the Aborigines language koala "the little man who walks" means. The parrots on the other hand were all excited to see us with bread crumbs in our hands and weren't shy at all.
What I didn't know before was, the oil of eucalyptus is poisonous and therefore koala meat is as well - just in case anyone is starving and the only food around is a koala
The next stop was Apollo Bay, a beautiful village further up the Great Ocean Road. It is a famous tourist city so there were many coach buses with lots of people. I really enjoyed our next stop - the 12 Apostles.
These are rock formations which were created by the ocean. Another stop was at the London Bridge, or as Henning said the now London Island since its collapse a few years ago. The funny story behind it, he told us, was that five individual people reported the collapse of the London Bridge to the local police officer because there were still people on it. He didn't believe any of them so a rescue helicopter all the way down from Melbourne had to come and rescue them - he isn't in charge of anything anymore, said Henning.
A beautiful beach along Great Ocean Road.
A rain forest was next on our list. Due to the different landscape here in the state of Victoria, there are many different zones of different climates. We stopped and hiked through the rain forest with its unique plants which only happen to exist here.
It got dark soon, so we headed to our cabins for the night which were in the remote little town Halls Gap, located in the Grampians National Park. We stayed in small wooden cabins, had two showers for all of us and a shared kitchen. I stayed with the Russian and French guy in a room. Before we went to sleep, we decided to go on a night hike around the area to look for some kangaroos. Most animal here in Australia are nocturnal, so is the kangaroos (it usually stays up until noon and only sleeps a little in the afternoon, so you can't really call it nocturnal). We actually found a big group of about twenty of them not too far from us.
They looked up, starred at us and kept eating their grass. That was the first day of the tour.
On our second day we had to get up really early again. Breakfast was at 530am and we were all really tired but excited for our upcoming adventures. Henning told us to be ready in the bus at 630am so we were in the bus at 630am. It was just a trick tho. He wanted us all together so we can talk about the day. He sent us off to a "photo shooting" with the kangaroos he saw pretty close to us. They were actually the same group which the French, the Russian and I saw the night before. While we ran around the kangaroos with our cameras like paparazzi, Henning cleaned the cabins.
Afterwards we drove to the so called Grand Canyon of the Grampians, even though there is no actual canyon. We hiked up to the Pinnacle and enjoyed a very windy but really stunning view over the whole area.
Hiking up the mountains, it reminded me a bit of Acadia National Park. They looked not too different at some spots. Probably halfway to the top, I spotted a black tail in the bushes. I asked Henning later what kind of animal that might have been and he said the only animal which fits the description would be a brush-tailed rock-wallaby. This species is actually endangered and Henning said I can find myself really lucky that I saw one.
After the hike we stopped back in Halls Gap for lunch at an Aboriginal Information Center. The Danish woman and I shared an emu pie and crocodile pie. It was definitely a new taste :D Henning drove with us to our next stop, McKenzie Falls. The Grampians had two terrible bush fires within the last years, one actually in the beginning of 2014. Most of the trees are still burned, but Australia's nature bounces back pretty quickly. So most of the plants growing up burned trees are some kind of eucalyptus.
Down at McKenzie Falls we took a photo of our amazing group. We got along really well and laughed almost the entire time because someone always had something funny on their mind.
Another hike was on our agenda and this time we hiked up to a spot called "Jaw of Death". Well, it used to be that, but now it is just called "Balconies" after someone actually fell and died. Sandra, the Dutch woman, and I climbed down there nevertheless and posed in the Jaw of Death for photos.
We had two more stops before we had to head back to Melbourne, an Aboriginal culture area and a vineyard. At the Aboriginal place, we saw a 20.000 year old painting of Bunjil, the creator. Aboriginals were giving the task to keep the earth and nature strong, so they have no desire to improve their culture like others did in Europe or somewhere else.
Alan, the manager of the vineyard invited us to taste many of his tasty wines and we all felt a little tipsy afterwards due to only having little to eat lately. The vineyard is the first one in Australia to produce sparkling wine (would be called Champagne but the French didn't approve).
All in all it was one of the best tours I have done, the group was fantastic, we laughed and talked the whole time, made jokes about the stupidest stuff and Henning was such a great tour guide. Back at the hostel the dinner-war had to be fought again.
The following days were pretty chilled. I found a couple of gyms where I can workout for free, hung out with friends from the hostel and enjoyed the sunny and warm weather of Melbourne.
Today, I'll pick up my car I bought yesterday and take off towards Sydney.