Monday, 23 March 2009

I get around

I've tried a few alternatives:

Car hire: Flexible, and cheap if you can get fellow travellers along for the ride. Except I ended up doing all the driving because said fellow travellers a: couldn't drive, b: could but hadn't brought a licence, c: could, but were nervous driving on the 'wrong' side of the road. Which meant that had to put up with the occasional glitches that arise from me going for the clutch and discovering I'm driving an automatic so it hasn't got one. They were calmer about it than I would have been. Also got a lift with another car hirer, and thanked her by breaking one of her keys in the bootlock - sorry Katja! Not everyone likes hire cars. Alas the photo above isn't easy to read on the blog, but says (in several languages) "Don't even think about blocking these gates. Our elephants will stomp your wretched hire car down to the hubcaps. Your cooperation is appreciated." Which I would have taken more seriously if the sign had been in India rather than Tasmania.

Public Transport: I've become attached to Melbourne's trams, looking forward to trying Edinburgh's new system in - er - about 2030, at the current rate. But using buses on Tasmania was hit and miss, there were nice attractions around Deloraine but no buses before mid afternoon, so I tried...

Hitching: ...and got a lift from an old couple who chuntered at each other a lot - "There's that place. We should stop." "What?" "That place recommended in the book. We talked about it this morning." "Remind me." "It's got [long description read from book follows]" "That sounds ok, let's go to that." "OK, turn around, it's 3 miles behind us now..." But despite this, got to walk to Alum cliffs (the old chap Dave was as fast on crutches as I was without) and visit the Chocolate Tasting Centre with them, which was as good as it sounds!

Ferry: Overnight from Tassie to Melbourne in 'ocean recliners'. A lot of grumbles from fellow travellers, but to me it feels like being in 1st class on an airoplane, so quite enjoyable.

Tours: Risk is you're not in control. My latest one was day trip to Cradle Mountain, most popular national park in Tassie, but some of my fellow travellers had to be back at their cruise ship by 2:30, which meant a quick drive in and out. Our guide took us round more local attractions (where he lives) later on as compensation, but asked what my Rough Guide to Oz says about them and unfortunately I told him - it describes the relevant coastline as 'unremarkable' and some of the street sculpture as 'tacky', which put him in a huff.

Shanks Pony: All purpose shoes standing up well, but Milford Track in a couple of weeks will be their real test

Cycling: I've hired/borrowed 4 bikes so far. Not really tested myself since Hobart, Melbourne is very flat. Can see muscles getting a shock when I try cycling in NZ.

This is the last missive from Oz for the moment. Recent highlights include:

  • the Australian Ballet,

  • the huge Melbourne botanic gardens, and

  • discovering the Melbourne central library has a special chess room with a huge bequest of books and boards set out for casual players.

Recent lowlights include:

  • Australian cornflakes (immeasurably worse than ours),

  • lack of foreign news/sport in Aussie papers (it's not just UK and US who are myopic about what goes on abroad), and

  • the AFL changing their ticketing policy for the Aussie Rules Footy game myself and German pals planned to attend at MCG this Thursday, which means tickets are no longer available on the day.

One impression is how much every town, village, club, etc in Victoria and Tasmania (and maybe everywhere else in Oz) commemorate their wars. Their memorials seem much bigger and more plentiful than ours. Surely we've fought more wars than them? Maybe we need to enter a few more. Not complaining about this military tradition, best meal I've had was in an ex-serviceman's club in St Helens, Tasmania.

The other thing they've got far more of than us is statues of Queen Victoria, Edward VII, and George V, I guess because they wouldn't see them in person so needed reminders of who was really in charge. Think they lost the royal urge after that, or didn't need statues after TV arrived. Maybe statues have been replaced by urge to install street sculpture, there's almost too much of that in Melbourne, it's good but the place seems cluttered with it all.

This is already the longest I've been away from the UK since 1992, and will overtake that trip (Europe by train) soon. No homesickness yet, though if Scotland had good rugby news to celebrate I might feel some. But back in the real world...

1 comment:

  1. Love the comments about the old couple and hitching. Those are the kind of characters you remember.

    Sorry 'bout the corn flakes. Try Rice Crispies.