Honeymoon pt 5: Australia

Back in 2007, I spent a great deal of time in Australia living in Melbourne. Six years later, I returned with Sophie on our Honeymoon. As we arrived at the airport, we were reminded of just how strict the customs and quarantine control was in this country. Before entering immigrations, everyone was asked to drop their bags in the middle of the hallway and stand in a line while 2 dogs came through sniffing the luggage and then everyone as well. Finding nothing, they let us carry on. Immigrations was much easier.

We took the familiar Skybus into the city where we had booked a private room at the Greenhouse Backpackers. This was a slight upgrade from the Flinder Station Hostel that I lived in for 6 months in my mid 20’s. But we did pay a visit to my old home and the infamous bar downstairs, The Joint. On our first night, we went up to the Brunswick area to meet up with an old high school friend of mine from Vancouver, Andrew, who was also over for a trip in New Zealand and Australia. He was travelling with his wife and new-born in a campervan on the North Island and had been in Melbourne for a few days. We compared road stories, had a few drinks and a shared a few laughs.

The next day we explored the city through the vibrant alleyways, beautiful arcades and boutique shops on a hunt for pavlova cakes. Apparently, Australia is the place to get it, although New Zealanders will dispute that they invented it. Just a few alleyways up from our hostel we quickly found Chokolait and it’s chocolate pavlova. This tasted even better than it sounded.

From there, we caught one of the free city bus tours, which took us around to Federation Square, Melbourne Cricket Grounds, Chinatown, Melbroune Museum, Lygon Street, University of Melbourne, Queen Victoria Market, the Docklands, Southbank and the Botanical Gardens. And although we didn’t get to stop at all these places, it was a good overview of the city for Sophie to see.

In the evening, we met up with some old friends who lived in town. Annette, Beck, Janet, Joel, Nadeen, Nathan and Stephanie all came out for a dinner and drinks at Cookie and the rooftop bar. It was awesome to see such great friends again and it reminded me of the wonderful time I had in Melbourne. Sophie was quite impressed with the city and especially liked the laid back European feel to it.

Apart from visiting old friends, our other goal in Australia was to see penguins. So we rented a car and drove down to Philip Island for the evening Penguin parade and were not disappointed. As the sun disappeared along the horizon of the ocean, hundreds of little penguins emerged from the water onto the beach. One by one, they would waddle back up to their burrows where we were waiting on wooden walkways. Some males would battle for the attention of the females, while others would get back safely to feed their families after a day of fishing. It was quite a sight.

Naturally, we were the last to leave and drove back late at night through Melbourne towards Geelong. In the morning we paid a visit to Bells Beach in Torquay before we began the beautiful Great Ocean Road drive along the coast. We were told to head to the Golf course in Anglesea to see Kangaroos. And to our surprise, there were kangaroos lying around on the practice course and many hopping around on the main course as well. We were able to get within a few meters of them before they would maintain their distance. Would they be able to hop away from the golf balls quick enough?

Further down the road, we followed Annette’s instructions to turn into the Great Otway National Park towards the lighthouse. She guaranteed that we would see koalas in the wild. And after what would seem like an eternity, we finally spotted one sleeping on a tree. We pulled over to examine further and then spotted 4 or 5 more. They were either sleeping or making unusual mating calls. One was even lumbering across the road to climb another tree. So within 24 hours, we had completed the grand tour of Australian animals. Check.

Another hour of driving put us at the climax of the Great Ocean Road, the 12 apostles, and just in time for sunset too. There were less than 10 people around, so the only thing we had to battle through for good photos were the heavy winds and all the flies. The sights were amazing.

At the nearby town of Port Campbell we had pizza for dinner. I asked the owner where the nearest petrol station was and she warned us that we wouldn’t find any open after dark. I looked at our fuel gauge and it was almost empty. This was going to be interesting. We thought there would be something in Port Campbell as this was the largest town since Apollo Bay 2 hours ago. But we carried on.

The light came on as we were leaving Port Campbell. I dropped the speed down to a consistent 40 km/hr and turned off the radio and air conditioner to try to save fuel. The next larger town was Warrnambool, which was supposed to be an hour away, but not at the rate we were going. Sophie and I were both quite calm though, trying to distract each other from the situation. Were we going to make it? It seemed like this has happened to me before.

The kilometers to Warrnambool couldn’t tick down any slower. As we got closer though, a sense of relief was starting to build. There was a slight decline on the road, so I put the gear in neutral and coasted down at least 2 kms before we arrived at Warrnambool, where there were 2 petrol stations open for us to chose. We pulled into the first one and filled up the tank with 59.86 L. I then checked the manual for the car and saw that it had a 60 L tank, so we narrowly escaped that one. We made it to Mount Gambier just after midnight and decided to rest up before continuing to Adelaide.

In Adelaide we returned our hired car and were picked up by my mate Gus, who took us back to his place. He had moved to a nicer place since the last time we saw each other and gained 2 little ones as well. It was a joy to spend time with his family. Sophie asked about Victorian architecture in the city so he tried his best to show us around town. We ended up in the city center for dinner where we met up with another mate who was in town as well, Tom. It was good to reminisce and catch up as we had all been through a lot of exciting things in our lives in the past few years.

After dinner, we headed out to the Gaslight Tavern, where our good friend Ben had specially scheduled a show for his band on our arrival. It was a Halloween show and he was dressed in an interesting Robin costume. I’ve travelled with Ben throughout Canada, US and Australia and he was usually the one with the guitar providing us with endless entertainment. So it was nice to see him play a show with his band Costanza. “This guy travelled here all the way from Canada just to see us play,” he told the crowd. “He must really like me.”

On our only full day in Adelaide, Gus drove us up to the Barossa Valley, where we tasted some wine at Wolfblass and Jacob’s Creek and met with Jennifer Sando. We had worked with Jennifer over the course of 2 years to bring her photographic story taking a portrait of Eddie Vedder into a book form. It was great to finally meet in person and she even brought the proof copy of the book that was shipped from the printers. We flipped through it page by page and were very proud of our work and involvement with the project.

The next day at the airport, we ran into Ben and Tom again. Tom was flying to Melbourne and Ben was flying to London. We had one final beer before parting ways. Sydney was our next stop.

We would visit our friends from Croatia, Iva and Mario, who were not able to make our wedding because they had just moved across the pond. However, they gave us one of the most amazing wedding gifts, via fellow Croatian friend Sidonija and the creativity of the talented Niko and Igor. On top of the gift, they graciously invited us to stay with them at their lovely apartment in Balmain.

Sitting just across the harbour, Iva and Mario’s place had a spectacular view of the Sydney Harbour bridge and the city. What a dream location. Just at the footsteps was the dock for a ferry across to the city. We checked out the Rocks, Darling Harbour and Circular Quay, then took up on a place that former local, Hinn, recommended, Mamak for delicious roti and Malaysian food. It was yummy, but he failed to tell us that we couldn’t get beer at the restaurant.

But our hosts took great care of us. Iva had breakfast waiting for us on their lovely balcony each morning, including home-baked muffins. At night, she made us a typical Croatian stew called Pasticada which tasted amazing with her home-made gnocchi. We could not have asked for better hosts. And any friends of theirs thinking about visiting them should definitely go.

We visited the Taronga Zoo to see all the unique and lovable animals from this isolated country. Sophie’s highlights were the platypus and the wombat. We also took a bus out to Bondi Beach to meet with some old friends of mine from Vancouver, Christine and Romain, who now lived in France but were also on their own around the world honeymoon. We congratulated each other and hung out for a bit before they had to get to the airport to fly out. We also found time to meet up with another good friend, Julian, who came all the way out to Balmain to have a drink with us.

Our time in Sydney was only for a few days but, with the exception of the Croatian meal, Sophie and I would keep going back to Mamak for their roti everyday. We knew we could trust Hinn on food suggestions.

Overall, Australia was a great trip. And after seeing almost no one in New Zealand, we were able to spend quality time with some good friends. After all, this is what travelling is all about. We said goodbye to our Croatian hosts, thanked them for everything and headed to the airport for yet another flight. Hawaii was calling.

Continue to the next honeymoon post Honeymoon pt 6 Hawaii >>


Here is some footage we captured in Australia

We filmed this live performance for Ben’s band Costanza


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