So ... my previous blog talked about how I bought the ticket to Australia in spite of what seemed a 'non ideal' situation to make a travel plan abroad. I can't thank myself, and of course my friends Gowri and Swathy, enough, for finally booking the tickets! It was a fantastic holiday!
I took off from work for two whole weeks what seemed like a year when I returned! Once we booked the tickets, Gow and I called each other several times, exchanged many mails and messages about what we should do, where we should go, what to prioritize, and every conversation would end with 'OMG, i can't believe we are doing this. Yay!'. And, we had the best host! - Swathy was so excited! - we were the first ones from home (India) visiting her for this long, including her family! She created a list of 'things to do' and an excel sheet on google docs. I love how she categorized things to do into 1:adventure\places to visit, 2:Bars to visit in Melbourne,3:Food places to eat at! and 4:Shopping! We were super kicked with the list and the funny bar names ('Sorry Grandma!'). Gow and I added to the excel sheet after a lot of research and discussions. We had a whole month and half to plan and we were doing the best! At the end of all the planning, this is what the sheet looked like :)
Swath lived in Melbourne. So our base was Melbourne and we decided to visit Sydney for the fact that its Sydney! and also to Goldcoast since we wanted a beach-y few days. So we had 6 days in Melbourne, Melbourne ->Sydney, 2 days in Sydney, Sydney -> Goldcoast, 3 days in Goldcoast, Goldcoast -> Melbourne, 3 days in Melbourne and back to India. I alone was travelling back to India though. Gow was heading for a week to New Zealand. Only Gow and I were travelling to Sydney. Swathy was joining us straight at Goldcoast.
We had exactly 2 days to spend in Sydney. This definitely was one thing I wish we had it different. We wanted to cut our stay cost in Sydney and believed this would suffice with the few things we were doing in the city and a day at Jenolan caves, but later found a beautiful place to stay at Gow's very hospitable relatives' home. What messed our plan was when our afternoon flight to Sydney from Melbourne was cancelled by dearest Tiger Airways for no real reason. A flight an hour later after ours was on schedule to go to Sydney! So they offered us to travel the next day - that would give us just 1 night in Sydney and increase our cab travel cost by twice since we had to go home and come back to the airport, or we could wait for the next flight an hour later, or the next one 3.5 hours later and hope for last minute availability. After many angry customers making no difference to the very composed staff, Gow and I decided to take a chance with 6 more competitors to STAY and WAIT! We were so bummed but we had no choice than to take a chance.2 seats were available for the first flight and it was taken by a one who said she would lose her job if she didn't go, and the other was going to surprise his girlfriend. It didn't matter that we spent all our savings to come from India and had just 2 days to spend in Sydney. We shut up and waited patiently not wanting to make any scene. But we were rewarded for the patience! The next flight 3 hours later had enough seats to accommodate all of the 6 of us who were waiting! We had a huge smile, quietly thanked the rest of the angry passengers who decided not to wait and rushed before we thought they announced otherwise!
So we called our host at Sydney and informed them of the change, hopped on to the flight, put on our eye blinders, spoke nothing to each other and slept!
We were picked up in Sydney and taken to a beautiful home facing the bay, the family served us a hearty Indian meal and very diplomatically questioned our decision to spend just TWO days in Sydney :) and very enthusiastically made a lot happen for us in those 1.5 remaining days. We visited the Jenolan caves, Bondi Beach, Darling Harbour, watched a movie at Imax, saw some scenic spots from driveways, ate macaroons from McCafe and learnt of the legendary 'Tim Tam Dunk'! We couldn't have done so much without our lovely host who did above and beyond for us to see as much Sydney as we could in that short span <3
The Tim Tam Dunk\Tim Tam Slam is a method of using these biscuits as a straw to suck up a hot drink (coffee) and then eating it before it explodes. The biscuit is a stroke of genius -chocolate cream inside a chocolate-covered chocolate biscuit!
After a very hectic and disciplined holiday at Sydney sticking to time and plan, we were off to Goldcoast for nothing but relaxation. Okay, it was more than that. We rewarded ourselves with 'Lavish'! So this was Goldcoast - Reach a beautiful sea facing serviced apartment, SLEEP, wake up, walk to the beach road, eat, lay on the beach, walk back home, Await Swathy's arrival, head out for a ladies night at a pub, walk home, sleep, wake up, head to Wet 'n' Wild water amusement park (not a great plan), do few fun rides 'cuz even though its a weekday, its a school holiday and hence very crowded, come back home AND, <here comes the lavish>, get dressed to hop on to a freaking 'Hummer Limo' (Thanks Gow for this awesome plan) that was going to drive us around GC for a while and then drop us off at the first pub that would start our pub hop for the night.
There are lot of pub crawls and limo drives that happen around GC and Brisbane. We booked one with the Wicked pub Crawl company. We wanted a pink Hummer Limo, but had to settle for a black one ;) but nevertheless, served us for a very rich memory, quite literally! We enjoyed the time inside the limo with wine, music and as many pics as we could take while being chauffeured around like some rich celebrity kids. Of course once that was done, we were back down walking to the pubs :(
The next day we went Snorkelling in the cold waters in Goldcoast. If the waves were stronger, we could drift our way to New Zealand :). The snorkelling though was a bit of a disappointment as we could not spot much fish and the water was very unclear. I compared this to my first snorkelling experience in Srilanka in the beach and that one was amazing. Anyways, after the snorkelling, we had a good lunch and were ready to go back to Good Ol' Melbourne that had somehow become 'home' to us by now.
I spoke about Sydney and Goldcoast. But 'Melbourne' was quite something. It was 'familiar' even at the first sight. It was welcoming, and warm (the sentimental warm, definitely not warm by climate - they called it the start of summer, there was no heat whatsoever! damn!!) Gow and I absolutely loved Melbourne. Swathy gave us a great first day at Mel, introducing us to the 'Myki' card which we held onto very dearly till we left, the local tram and train, the library, the RMIT campus, and also got us a local sim to keep her informed of our whereabouts while she was at work. We spent very non touristy time in Melbourne and that's what got us bonded to this lovely city. We learnt which routes to take on the tram; accompanied Swathy to her rowing club, saw a bunch of men and women running and rowing and decided to run back on the roadside track to make us feel better about binging all along in our holiday!; visited the DFO, Direct Factory Outlet for shopping; watched tiny penguins that quietly come out in the evenings at St. Kilda's Pier on a very windy evening; had yummy thai food and tried my first Sushi and wasabi (vegetarian ofcourse); visited some fun pubs - 'Somewhere', 'Lala land', 'Lucky Coq'; shopped for the cheapest wines at the store (budget holiday remember?); visited the Queen Vic market.
The highlights however were the stuff we did around Melbourne, in the state of Victoria. We had Swathy's very sweet friend who drove us all the way to near Mornington to take us for a Horse ride around the winery after a sumptuous lunch, and also for the very relaxing Natural Springs in the evening to soothe our bodies from the cold. The Peninsula Hot spring was just the most beautiful spa experience ever. We could be there for 3 hours, that was long enough time, and we hopped from one small springs pool to another. I relished the experience hardly talking and literally sinking in the hot mineral water. BEST.EVER! Thank you Servane and Swath for taking us there! The Horseback winery ride was another amazing experience. We were given very basic instructions, they assumed we would be sensible and learn, you know, on-the-job! So we sat in our horses, mine was called 'Hercules' (woohoo), Gow's was called 'Bugsy', Swath's was called 'Dodo', Servane's was called 'Twistee'. There were about a dozen others who were riding along with us on other horses, but as luck would have it, Gow's and my horse - Bugsy and Hercules were the LAZIEST. Bugsy to add to it loved Eating! So Gow and I had a tuf time keeping the pace, had to kick them quite a no. of times, and Bugsy would continue to arrogantly eat. But it added to a very good story with all the expressions of irritation we could see on Gow's face. Haha. Great memories. We were riding for almost two hours with two winery stops, where we could taste Cider and Wine and bask in the breathtaking views. We bought these packages through Groupon Australia. I would suggest you to look up the local groupon website of the place you are travelling to find good deals that you can plan on! We also visited a sanctuary nearby and could feed kangaroos, wallabys and pet a cute Koala!
So that was our Australia trip of September 2013. Here is a summary of -
What worked great for us:
- Cheap Air flight tickets - the carrier doesn't really matter. Plan in advance, take off a day or two more, do a transit. Fly cheap.
- Custom and Great planning - Excel sheets that were edited across 3 geos with quite an amount of detail, lot of googling, lot of excitement, finally peaceful consensus!
- Accommodation taken care of - An awesome friend with a great apartment that could fit us both
- Horse Riding around the wineries
- The Dip at the Natural Hot Springs in Mornington
- Hummer Limo Drive at Goldcoast=)
- Darling Harbour Visit in Sydney
- Koala petting and Kangaroo Feeding
- Spending all that time together after many years!
Why I would visit Australia again:
- To spend a week long vacation at Great Barrier Reef, Cairns - Dive, Snorkel, Bask in the sea!.
- To do Shark Cage Diving at Port Lincoln, near Adelaide! - To have my heart skip more than just a beat, what the hell, love isn't happening anyway!
- To drive a car through the Great Ocean Road in State Victoria - and also to Philip Islands to see the penguins!
- To backpack to Perth in Western Australia.
- To take a cruise to Tasmania
Down Under got our spirits High! All Hail!