Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Melbourne Visitations.

Hello folks, the absent blogger is back! Not just blogging but in Japan. Over the next couple of blogs I will try and cover some of the things I got up to whilst home in Australia for three weeks.

Journeying back to Australia for a break is quite a different experience from coming back after a holiday. With three weeks and a list of things to do and people to see as long as the arms of an octopus combined, I was never going to achieve everything I wanted to. One thing that was high on the list of priorities was visiting my grandparents. They are both into their nineties and still doing pretty well considering, so I was bundled into the car for a trip to Kyabram.
Hitting the road, country Victoria
Getting a lift in, around and out of Melbourne is a good thing when you have no car, especially considering public transport in Melbourne. It’s generally agreed, Melbourne public transport is poor and a nightmare for tourists to navigate. Hell, I’m technically a local and it was difficult for me. But enough of that – for now!
Kyabram is a little country town around three and a half hours drive from Melbourne. Once you’re out of Melbourne, the roads are pretty free unlike Japan and you can move at a decent pace, but you do have to be careful most places in Victoria – speed cameras abound and there’s plenty of police with radar around too. In Japan the police are pretty lenient if you’re not doing more than say 10km over the limit, in Victoria, Australia they nab you at over 5% over the limit I think it is now. And that’s only to allow for error.
Well. The Victorian countryside was looking in reasonable nick. There had been a bit of fire here and there, and a very hot dry summer but the trees and grass had a distinct green tinge to them. That’s always something people like to see in Australia. Not a lot to see in Kyabram I guess, but a nice couple of days away nonetheless.
Ardmona Shepparton, a worthwhile stop in rural Victoria!
Shepparton park/lake/swamp area with boardwalk.
We stopped at the Ardmona factory – or what was the Ardmona factory, on the way back. Well, this warehouse has lots and lots of food very cheap and in bulk. Shepparton itself is rather pleasant with a beautiful lake and surrounds, but I think this place is the highlight! You can buy boxes and boxes of tinned fruit, but there’s all sorts of jams, tomato sauces and most things you’d use to stock a good Italian restaurant. Great place for a bargain!

Back to Melbourne and I spent a day near the Yarra River at the wonderfully named Andrew’s reserve. The city is all around, but there in the suburb Kew if you looked the right way and ignored the cyclists you might think you were out in the Victorian bush. Wonderful relaxing place to spend the day – a place I had no idea existed beforehand.
Travelling back home from the city by train I rediscovered Melbourne’s transport woes. My train was 10 minutes late. That’s one out of one late. Then, because it was late they announced it wouldn’t be stopping at most of the stations on route – so that they could claim it was on time by the time it reached its final destination.  So three quarters of the people waiting patiently for the train sat back down and had to wait for the next one. I was lucky, mine was one of the stops it was keeping. I was ten stops at least down the line, but it only stopped once before my station!

As if that isn’t bad enough, then there is the ticketing system.
‘Myki’ has had problems from the very start, I haven’t met anyone who likes it or indeed understands the payment structure, plus billions and billions put on it to get it to work right. It seemed to work ok when I used it, but I understand there are still chinks in the armour. If you are tourist heading to Melbourne you do well to read up on the system before you arrive! – rant over, this is one topic that has got a lot of (bad) press already.
Next blog I will cover my trips with some great friends down the Great Ocean Road, one of the most stunningly beautiful drives in all of Victoria. Stay tuned!

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