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Sunday 23 Nov 2003
Melbourne, Australia

Phew its freezing here though!

In complete contrast to my last entry, Ive become enveloped in a cold rainy spell since I arrived down at the Victoria border and.. well.. I LOVE IT!!

Its just like Ireland on a rainy day - grey skies, heavy rain falling on endless green fields in gusting winds...
hell the whole of coastal Victoria is just like Donegal or Meath!

Im just thankful to not have to swelter in the van anymore. Bliss!

Out with the el shorts and singlet and in with the "troosers" and cardigan!

20th Nov

Left Adelaide and drove down past the elongated reef structure of Coorong National Park on the Princes Highway.

Drove past a remarkable "Pink Lake" whose lilac waters are cause as a result of strong saline content mixed with various natural chemicals.

Eventually arrived at Mt Gambier. The namesake of this town is a large dormant volcano that contains a lake "Blue Lake" (funnily enough!) which has vivid turquoise blue waters in November.. good timing! The countryside quickly started becoming lushious green as I drove down.

I stayed at a camping ground, only 5 dollars, since it saved me wandering around trying to find a parking space! In a stroke of coincidence I met Bill and his father (the two Irish guys I met in Port Augusta) again on the camp ground...

21st Nov

Left Mt Gambier and drove through into Victoria state via Nelson and onto Portland. Nothing interesting so I continued on and started the drive across the world-famous Great Ocean Road - regarded as one of the greatest coastal routes in the world.

I passed some lushious pine and eucalypt forest on this trip (and the day before too) .. looking rather how I imagine the trees on our farm in Leitrim would look in 40 years!!

I soon decided to camp while driving through the Otway National Park.. I eventually found a spot near the Cape Otway lighthouse.. a little hidden green patch just left as you go through the gates.

22nd Nov

I left my camping spot at Cape Otway lighthouse (with an exquisite view of the Bass Strait sea in the morning it has to be noted) and proceeded to continue along the Great Ocean Road highway.

This is when the rain really started falling! Heavy! And probably not the best time either, since the road I was about to take is a winding mountainous one that hugs the edge of sheer cliffs towering over torential seas. Needless to say, this section of the Great Ocean Road has the most dramatic cliffside scenery and views over the Southern Ocean, which cannot be missed since the road has to be driven slowly out of necessity due to its sharp winding nature.

Along the road are several small townships, of note in particular is Lorne which looked like a nice surfing community with a very chilled out vibe and lined with trendy restaurants and cafes. Rather like Byron Bay or Airlie Beach (though seemingly with less tourists although thats just a first glance opinion).

Unfortunately I didnt really get the chance to snoop around or watch the brave surfers on the 5 metre waves since the rain was horrendous!

I also passed by the famous "Bells Beach", reputed to have the best surf in the world (according to a Patrick Swayzes character in the 1991 movie "Point Break").

I braved the rain and precarious roads and sure enough I eventually arrived into Melbourne.

First impressions: crazy road-rage-driven drivers. Especially the taxis. People were even honking impatiently eveywhere I went, not necessarily at me though!

The road system is a bit of a nightmare, mostly left-turn-only roads compounded with a tram system that has right-of-way (and wont stop even if you are directly in the firing line).

Even once you realise you are in the wrong lane its "unthinkable" that you be allowed to move back into the centre lane (amidst honking of course).. Im afraid manners is a lost concept on the Melbourne driver.

Ah theyre not all bad.. in fact the pedestrians are rather nice people! Although, like most Aussies, theyre fiercely patriotic about all things Aussie and wouldnt criticise the road system themselves.

Another thing about Melbourne... its FULL of Irish! In fact most Irish that come here seem to spend most of their time in pubs and arent bothered about "the bigger picture" that is Australia... which I think is rather sad.

This is probably why I didnt meet too many Irish on my travels (except in the hostel bars obviously!!).

I also met up with my old pal Jonny, who arrived out from Ireland 5 weeks ago. The poor lad is stuck in the "sleep and drink and sleep" cycle too so Im gonna try to kick him into doing something different and were gonna share the trip up to Sydney taking in the sights along the way!

Went out to local hostel bar last night...full of smoke - something else which seems to be unique to Melbourne (plus some weirdo Mayo culchie tried to start a fight with me while we were watching the Oz v England game.. claimed all Dubs were English or something pathetic).

Used showers in Jonnys hostel.. this saves me a lot of searching!

Parked overnight nearby to Jonnys hostel, the street (Francis Lane) is pretty dodgy though (as I was soon to find out) with drugged up baseball cap-wearing "scumbags" (as we would call em in Dub) wandering out of a nightclub that ended up pounding hardcore dance beats all night long and well into the morning when I finally decided to leave (around 9am!). I reckon I slept about 4 hours...

One thing thats good for Melbourne, Ill have to say, is the nightlife - unlike Perth, not everything closes at 10pm!

In general Melbourne reminds me strongly of London. In fact its EXACTLY like London, down to the drivers, the buildings, the grey skies, the countless homeless walking the streets and the people in general.

Ill take a look around town today and scope out something positive about this place. Skies are still dull and grey... certainly beats the heat though!

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