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Tuesday 25 Feb 2014
St Kilda, Australia

Hot springs and hostels

Erin’s carefully planned itinerary of the tourist sights continued to fail spectacularly, the next day, when we discovered that the locals’ pass she’d renewed for the Hepburn Bath House was now no longer valid on Mondays.  We’d planned to go after her shift at the op shop, but she sent me a text telling me to have a lie in instead.  I spent the day planning out the next stages of my trip – booking a tour up the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide, hotels and hostels in Melbourne, and another couple of hours butting heads with my phone company trying to get a straight answer on my lack of working SIM card.

Hepburn Springs is known for its natural springs, as the name suggests, and the area contains the majority of the mineral springs in Victoria.  We finally got to the Hepburn Bath House the next morning.  They’ve just undergone a major facelift, redesigning the car park and landscaping the entrance area.  Sadly, they didn’t get around to landscaping the muddy rubble-strewn slopes at the back of the spa - the ones right outside the bathhouse’s huge picture windows.  Oh well.  In spite of the views, the water was toasty warm and full of nutrients from the natural springs and we spent a pleasant couple of hours soaking in the pool and Jacuzzi.

After the Spa, I packed the last of my things and headed off to the station.  I’ve had a really lovely week with Erin, seeing her artistic corner of Aus and getting to know her family.  She was great company on our Myanmar trip last January and just as much fun here too.  I shall take away lasting memories of eating hummus, drinking sparkling wine and giggling like schoolgirls at terrible Australian cookery shows.  Thank you very much for having me, Erin! I hope I can return the favour sometime in the UK.

Melbourne’s Southern Cross station was only an hour away, where I was greeted by a giant poster of the ‘Dumb ways to die’ characters.  As part of the latest rail safety initiative, they’ve got a cartoon full of singing cartoons killing themselves in stupid ways, such as sticking forks in toasters, swimming with piranhas and messing around on train tracks.  The Aussies know how to give you the facts in a simple but memorable way.  I’ve been trying to save the characters in the iPhone game for the last few months, so it made me smile to see the characters in all their glory.

I had treated myself to a private room in the hostel for the first night, even though I probably could have got a small hotel room for less – when paying for a private room by yourself, you still have to pay for 2 people so it usually costs at least double the price of a dorm bed if not triple, as prices are inversely proportional to the number of beds.  I joined in the pizza night and pub quiz at the hostel and got chatting to a group of Brits, Peter, Tom, Christina and Melody.  We won ourselves a bottle of warm cheap fizzy wine, but backpackers are nothing if not resourceful and managed to scrounge some ice from somewhere, before heading over to the club in the Base hostel up the road.  This included the usual backpacker drinking games and ritual humiliations… I’m starting to feel too old for this malarkey now!

I had a nice lazy lie in the next morning and enjoyed my room as long as possible before moving downstairs to a dorm room.  I got the tram over to Albert Park and had a delicious Vietnamese Pho for lunch, then hunted out the Indonesian Consulate to book my visa.  It turned out I was not able to book a 60-day visa in advance without being an Australian citizen.  In my case, they’d have to post my passport and application to London to get the visa issued there.  I also discovered I would not be able to extend the 60-day visa with an additional 30-day visa in Lombok, as I had been planning, so I gave up on the idea and will just get the visa on arrival instead.  

I walked back to St Kilda and followed the seafront back to Luna Park, the old amusement park with its sinister moon face doors and deserted rides.  I’m sure it looks great lit up at night, but in the mid-afternoon on an overcast day, it was quite creepy.

I spent the next day up at Federation Square on the edge of the CBD (commercial centre of the city) intending to visit a Dreamworks exhibition, but found it didn’t start until the following month.  Instead I went to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI).  They had a free exhibition charting the history of the Australian film and television industry, which turned out to be very good.  There were lots of interactive displays and screens showing clips of old movies and TV shows - Neighbours had a huge screen and an entire section of its own – it followed through to the introduction of computers, video games and the growth of CGI animation.  Toy Story will be 20 years old next year! How is that possible…?  Today’s demand for social media interaction with live TV shows how far things have changed and dictates the way many new shows are developed.  I could have spent several more hours in there but the doors closed at 4pm, so I sat out in Fed Square watching a free live music show for the next couple of hours as the sun shone brightly.

Back at the hostel, I joined the same people again and headed up to Luna park for another free festival, complete with food, drinks, jugglers, fire-breathers and hippy stalls.  We sat out on the grass until after midnight, before ending up in Base again and McD’s at 3am for late night munchies.


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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #4 New Zealand and Australia

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