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World Travels by Casey

I come from the land down under

It seems like it's been a long time since I last posted any stories. 
Traveling life hasn't dulled down at all, that's for sure and we are now in Australia. This is a place I thought of going to for my 30th birthday, two years later and I'm finally here. 

We arrived at the Melbourne airport and went through Immigration and baggage security checks. There was a good majority of Asians on our plane and others that had just landed. In fact there is a good chance half or more of the people in line with me were Asians. Before I go any further let me just say, I'm not racist at all and I have many friends who are Asian.  

Now... After my Melbourne airport experience I have seen a huge difference in culture. The ones we were in line with for about 2 hours were so rude! They were pushing into us from behind while we slowly made our way through the maze of barricades. They also cut in front of us if we weren't looking, especially the men! They clearly didnt understand what a single file line means. Alicia and I had to stand next to each other and basically make ourselves as wide as possible to keep them from passing us. It was incredibly frustrating. 

We had a Melbourne contact through my cousin, Fran. The contact was a dermatologist named Jim, his anesthesiologist wife, Gail and their 20 year old daughter Sarah. 

Alicia had a place (friend of a friend) where we could stay in Melbourne but it fell through. The back up plan was on my end.

I emailed the Dr. to ask if we could stay with them for a few nights. 
Long story short they put us up in an apartment style hotel just a block away from them for 2 nights. It was luxury compared to how we had been traveling.

We had a queen size bed to share in a bedroom with a nice bathroom, a small kitchen & dinning room as well as a living room. When we arrived at the hotel we had good intentions of dropping off our packs and heading right out to explore. The reality was, we were pretty tired after the airport craziness. Then there was the transporting by public bus and 2 trains in a new city and the rain mixed with humid temp. to find Jim's office, so we stayed in & relaxed. 

Jim was a very well known dermatologist in the area, much like my cousin Fran is in Portland. He is extremely considerate but also a little quite and was a bit hard for me to understand. Meeting him for the first time was interesting. I didn't know what he looked like and his office was in his home. He owned two (kind of Victorian) homes connected to one another. One side was his home and the other (downstairs) was his office and the (upstairs) the guest apartment. The apartment was where Alicia and I would have stayed but their daughter Sarah was currently living there. 

Jim had recently broken his arm playing Royal Tennis. It was a bad break (I say this as an expert on broken arms) as he had it operated on and it wasn't going to be casted due to the swelling. So the broken arm, we found out was a reason he didn't want to have us staying in his home.

**Royal tennis is the sport American Tennis was born from, so Jim tells me. This type is indoor with similar rules but when you serve, you serve up on a sloped wall. There is a lot of strange rules to the game, in my opinion. 
Inside the royal tennis club.

We were invited by Jim, to come out that night for trivia, food and drinks at a local pub (with high quality food). I had goat and Alicia had duck, to give you an idea of the menu. Trivia was fun and we met Sarah and her boyfriend as well as Jim's wife and a few of his friends. We also saw a more relaxed side of Jim. Sometime during the night he asked me if we had found accommodations for the nights following our 2 in the hotel. I told him I was working on it and by that I meant we'd stay in a hostel or couch surf but I didn't tell him this.  He handed me a sticky note with some info on a house to rent for only $160 a night but we needed to book it right away. He did mention that he didn't know if that was in our budget or not. 

Nope! It wasn't at all! 

I graciously took the paper from him anyways. 
After dinner the 3 of us walked down to his tennis club so he could show us around and teach us a bit on the sport. We had a fun time there trying to learn the sport and seeing Jim's sporty side. 

Alicia and I went on a 6 mile run from Richmond to St. Kilda the next afternoon and in the early evening we went by street car to the Queen Victoria night market in the city. The night market was amazing! 
Standing outside the main covered area. 

A market similar to pdx's Saturday market but 3x bigger and around 60 food carts of food from all over the world! We had dinner plans with Jim and Sarah, again that night but we couldn't resist the exotic foods so we bought some tasty Turkish eats to hold us over. Good thing we did too! 
Our Turkish dinner! 

We headed back to Jim's with plenty of time but got seriously lost on the tram system! We kept asking tram drivers and locals for help to Jim's address and everyone thought they knew but didn't! The last tram driver actually drove us to a police station. We arrived with a load of people in the tram and the driver said, go inside and they will help you.

We went inside, looking at each other thinking we don't have time for this! If anything we need wifi to message Jim and tell him we were on our way and safe. 

So we walked in (this was 9pm) and when no one came out we decided to leave. As soon as we walked back on the street the tram was still sitting there and the driver yelled at us to go back in. "Wait" he said. "They will come out, just wait." Ugh! We didn't want to! But we went inside and waited and a female officer came out. Turned out we were now within walking distance from Jim's. 

All the people on that tram probably thought we were in some kind of trouble when the driver dropped us off there and then made us go back in! 

Arriving at Jim's, the door was open and he and Sarah were sitting in the living room worried about us. We apologized abd told him our story then walked a few blocks away to dinner. 
Our feet were so tired! 

Dinner was at an unexpectedly, very nice place! There was a large group of retired professional Australian football players eating in the corner that caught everyone's attention. Well, everyone except for the 2 American girls who had no idea who they were. 

Jim told me that this was John Storrs (Fran's late husband) favorite place to eat when he visited. He then proceeded to tell me a few stories from years back when Fran and John would visit together. 

While looking the menu over we were informed that this would be a 2 course meal. I was a bit confused by his comment but soon learned that he wanted us eating a lot. He must have thought that we were dirt poor and starving! 

We each ordered an appetizer and then he ordered an additional for everyone to share. We each had our dinner course and then he ordered 3 deserts, not to mention the bottle of wine he and Alicia shared. 

When Alicia couldn't finish her seafood platter I took it over (I love seafood) not wanting it to go to waste. Being the only one left eating dinner I made a funny comment about being Alicia's food disposal and he said something back, along the lines of "well this is good, eat more. I don't want you on the streets starving."
I found this funny. He was getting such an interesting first impression of me. Much different from the impression he would have had he met me in Oregon. 

On our third day in Melbourne we took the bus out into the country to visit the Healsville animal sanctuary. We had to wake up early and be out the door walking with our packs to the bus by 8am. This was the bittersweet check out day from our nice hotel. 

We had about a 15min walk to the train station and then we would have 2 busses to catch until we arrived at the sanctuary. 

Alicia and I stood on the train platform waiting for the lilydale train that the digital screen said would be arriving in 3 min. 
Then we noticed 5 min had passed and our train didn't come! Or did it? 
We panicked a bit as we had scheduled the sanctuary arrival time perfectly so that we could have a kangaroo encounter. 

An Aussie next to us on the platform overheard us and mentioned the Lilydale train doesn't always come. What!? How does a train say it's going to be here in 3min and then just not show up!? Well, that's just what it does. 

I don't think that would fly in Portland, if the max just didn't show up sometimes. 

So we caught a different train and 
thankfully the buses were right on time so we arrived with a few minutes to spare until it was time to feed the kangaroos! 

The admission was cheap compared to waft it could have been. 
$30 and $25 with a school ID, which I had so the lady assumed Alicia had one to and she let us both in at that price and $12 each for 10min with the kangaroos, feeding & petting them. The lady took our big packs thru her small ticket window, they barely fit and then held them there for the day. 

Feeding the kangaroos was an incredible experience! They were so cute and had funny personalities. I spent most my time with one little lady in particular. She liked to put her hands on me and occasionally would grab my wrists and pull me closer to her so she could take giant bites out of the food I had. 
My little friend for all of 10min.

They had a koala bear encounter as well as others all for $12 each. Koala's were the ones I really wanted to pet and hold but in Victoria (a state of Australia) it's illegal to handle the little grey bears. In the state of Queensland it's allowed so perhaps ill get another chance then. 
The bear I couldn't touch. 

We spent the entire day outside on the beautiful property of the sanctuary. We did every exhibit, had lunch, went to almost every talk about the animals that were offered and even found a wifi spot. They had a few fun playground structures for kids a couple cafés, an animal hospital with a viewing area for visitors, and even an area for weddings and bbq's on site! 

We saw Tasmanian devils, wallabies, a platypus, emus, koalas, kangaroos of course and many other Australian animals. 
A wallabie 

The park was closing down and we ended up missing a bus by only a few minutes. So we had only one more bus to catch or we would have been a bit stranded. 

We did end up catching the last bus and traveled back into town. This night and the following night we were staying with a couch surfing host. The location wasn't ideal as it was way out of town a ways and kind of reminded me of Gresham, OR.
Kind of nice but a bit ghetto! 

We caught a train that dropped us off a stop to soon but it was the express train so it wasn't even going to stop where we needed it to!  There was a girl and a guy around our age on the train next to us. They weren't together but they both engaged with us in conversation. The girl was asking us about backpacking and where we were traveling. She told us the name of some place just as she was getting off the train and said, go there, you'll like it! 

The guy started chatting it up with us, when he realized we didn't really know where we were going. He was from Wyoming and moved to Australia 2 years ago now, with no intentions of ever leaving. He has a music degree and makes really good money teaching and told me one can start anywhere from $45,000 to $70,000 a year teaching music at a college. 
He said he's got more of a future in music here then he would in the states. 

It's expensive in Australia but it just depends how you spend your money. The minimum wage here is around $14 but most get paid more then that. 
He also told us that the place the girl on the train told us about was a place for free food. 

What!? 

We thought it was a museum or a tourist place. It was where you go to eat for free, basically and then you pay them what you think it's worth in the end. 
It seems everyone thinks we are starving ourselves. 

The Wyoming guy walked with Alicia and I for a few blocks while he looked up the address to the couch surfing house we were going to. We had the address and had taken screen shots (pictures of the screens of our phones) of the map to get us there. 
Now we were at a slightly different area since we had taken the express train. 
As we continued to walked he also told us this wasn't the best area of town. He's telling us this as it's almost 9pm and we are walking with all of our belongings.  I was Convinced that he would have invited us to come stay with him had he not been on his way to music rehearsal. 

We walked, now just the 2 of us for about 45min, hungry, somewhat lost in the dark and in this weird industrial area. We felt like we were getting closer because we stayed on the street that followed the train line. When we saw the station we should have gotten off at we turned away from the station and started walking towards a neighborhood. 
We were walking along the side of some fabrication building that blocked the moon light from lighting our sidewalk. I was looking down at Alicia's path just as she was stepping down and I yelled at her! "Rat!" She jumped back screaming "oh God!" And then a "is it alive?" As we had already scrambled past it. It was clearly alive, very fat, standing up right and suspiciously not moving. 

The house WAS just around the coroner. Finally! 
It was dark up at the front of the house but I followed the lights around to the side and saw a lot of young people hanging out inside. We knocked and when the door opened we asked for Sam, who wasn't there. No one seemed to care that he wasn't home or who we were so we just went in and they pointed to a bedroom for us. It was like a Tetris game of beds and a pull out couch inside the room. 
It was a nice place but a total party house. It reminded me of a fraternity house in a college town. 

5 people lived in this house and they had one bedroom dedicated to couch surfers only. This house thrived off travelers. 

It was a night of games, funny stories and meeting new friends. For me it was a couple from Houston, Texas; Chapman and Bianca. We were all off to bed after a bit and I quickly claimed the couch in the living room. I didn't want in on the Tetris action of the bedroom. 
Only 4 people in this picture actually live at the house. The others were surfing. 
I don't totally understand the writing that was photo shopped in, either. It's got a long back story to it. 

Alicia and I woke up early to catch the train and meet Sarah at her house. She offered to give us a driving tour of the city since she had the day off. 

originally we had planned on doing the great ocean road tour but we were talked out of it due to the beautiful beaches that are ahead of us on our travels. Saving $99 each and we didn't have a lot of time to see Melbourne so this gave us a better look. 

We arrived at her place and left in her Subaru right away. 
It turned out to be a lot more driving then Alicia and I thought it would be. 
We started out by going to the USA foods store. Sarah thought it'd be funny to show us the store that sells American things you can't get anywhere else in Oz. The prices were crazy! $9 for a package of Oreo cookies, as an example! 

We saw a lot of places but Sarah didn't want to walk around as much. She mostly just drove us through the outskirts of the main city. Overall though it was low key and fun to see with her. We went to Huxtaburger for lunch a place Sarah raved about and said it was quite popular. 
It was good but nothing compared to Ferg Burger. 

Well that sums up this blog post. I have more to write so expect another post soon! I'm surprisingly getting messages from friends and family back home asking me why I haven't posted anything lately. I was taking a bit of a break and I didn't have great wifi access. 
It's nice to know people are actually reading these stories and enjoying them. Thanks for your time! 
Nate KComment