Australia. Australia. Singleton to Melbourne

Saturday, March 7th, 2009 - Friday, March 13th, 2009

Melbourne, Victoria

Two facts:
  • FACT #1: at some point, in the not so distant past, Melbourne was named the world's most "liveable" city (REFERENCE; also note that Canada rocks the liveable list!)
  • FACT #2: the Kings Cross region of Sydney is mostly certainly NOT the world's most "liveable" anything
In our continuing adventures, we experienced these two facts back-to-back, and found them magnified by their proximity..

So the story began because it was time to leave Singleton. We wanted to go to Melbourne. Melbourne is not particularly close to Singleton.. So we devised a plan that combined feet, cars and trains to get us from Singleton to Melbourne via several way points (numbered for later reference):
  • 1: feet bring us to car (situated in Singleton driveway; ~30 seconds)
  • 2: car brings us to train (in nearby city called Maitland; ~1 hour)
  • 3: train brings us to other train (in major city called Sydney; ~2 hours)
  • 4: other train brings us to Melbourne (traveling by night to diminish the whopping 13 hour commute!; ~13 hours!)
4 steps. Assuming each step had a modest 95% success rate, then the overall journey had a success rate of ~80%. Meaning, hypothetically, if we made the journey 5 times, then 4 of those times would be successes. Meaning 1 in 5 would be a failure. Now, it's pretty obvious what a success would be, so lets walk through what a "hypothetical" failure would be.. Most journey's don't begin with failure, so lets take step 1 as being successful. Moreover, most good failures occur because of reasons that are out of the subjects / victims control -- so lets take step 2 (the car) as also being successful because the subjects are still in control (~"sort of"). Thus we are on step 3, and have only 2 chances left to fail.. now seems an appropriate time. Train accident? Too "big" to be simply termed a failure.. Robbery on the rails? Too dramatic.. Missed train? Appropriate. But again, a good failure is out of the subjects control. Let's say the train was missed because of track renovation that our victims inquired about earlier during their planning phase, but were cordially reassured (by a train representative) that renovations did NOT exist and would NOT affect scheduling, but in fact renovations DID exist and DID affect scheduling (by ~1hour), thus forcing our subjects to reschedule their night train to Melbourne for the next morning (a surprisingly easy and affordable affair -- thank-you Country Link Trains), which in turn forced them to spend a night in Sydney on (perhaps) the busiest night of the year: Gay Mardigras (as in homosexual), which fills the streets with a curious mix of tights, trannies, and teens, that are all very leathered, very pierced and VERY gay (as in happy), which is cool, but all these people need places to stay, which makes choices for accommodation limited, forcing our subjects to return to the hated Sydney Cooee hostel (damnable meat-thieves! [REFERENCE]), the crowds also make accommodations sell at a premium, which translates into prices doubling (stupid, crappy $40 dorm bed.. I hate you bed!), and finally ending in a sleep that is broken by gay noises (as in both homosexual and happy.. ...) that are not conducive to our subjects' sleep (subjects like ours who have had a long day and could be quite accurately termed "party-poopers" do not like noises!). Following the (hypothetical) failures of step 3, step 4 arrives and likely completes successfully (except that instead of sleeping a blissed-out 8 of the ~13 commuter hours, the happy subjects are able to observe the sun's exciting (and painfully slow) ascent and descent. Luckily, there's an 80% chance that the hypothetical failure that has just been described above did not happen to Jenny and I.

Arrival in Melbourne. Initial thoughts:
  • air filled with smells that are completely unlike urine -- good
  • less gayness (as in happy -- unsure about other gayness) -- neutral
  • subway's maps and electronic timetables fairly accessible -- good
  • accommodations near to subway; somewhat expensive, but include toast, cereal, fruit, milk and various hot breakfast beverages (CEREAL! FRUIT! HOT BEVERAGES! In the immortal words of the Counting Crows: "you don't know what you got till it's gone") (also clean linen -- thank-you Claremont Guesthouse) -- good
  • nearby stir-fry place (cheap and delicious -- thank-you Smiley Thai) -- good
Initial thoughts on Melbourne? Not unliveable.

Other noteworthy events:
  • a hippie restaurant that lets the customer decide the value of their meal: Lentil as Anything -- more difficult than you may think..
  • finally confirmed that the McDonalds in Australia provide free WiFi (but sadly do not offer McGriddles)
  • egg tarts -- Jenny has been quoted as saying: "mmm" in regards to these
  • We re-united with some friends from our Croatia tour who really talked up Melbourne and we helped them win at trivia night -- free pitchers of beer for everyone!
  • Parmas are delicious and an Aussie specialty -- breaded chicken with cheese, ham and spaghetti sauce, no pasta is served with it here, only mashed potatoes and veggies. Mmmm.....
That's all,

Tyler and Jenny

Australia. Australia. Katoomba to Singleton

Monday, March 2nd, 2009 - Friday, March 6th, 2009

Singleton/Hunter Valley, New South Wales

When people think of Australia, Singleton is not often the town that comes to mind, but it was actually a nice place to visit. We never would have seen it otherwise, but my good friends from Edinburgh, Renee and Kempy have settled down there and had a free bedroom for us to crash in. Who could say no to that? It was so nice after the camping in Katoomba and the unpleasant hostel experience in Sydney to go and stay in an actual house with fresh, real, non-travel towels, a tv, a Wii nintendo and all the other luxuries we had at home.

For those of you who don't know, the Hunter Valley is one of the big wine regions in Australia. Many people cruise around the area and go visiting/sampling at all the wineries. They have notices in all of the wineries warning about not being able to serve you if you are intoxicated. I think it must happen a lot. But they were happy to give you a sample of whatever you wanted, it was amazing! And we even had some cheese and bread sampling too. We learned the difference between dry, sweet and fruity wines (just because it's sweet does not necessarily mean that it's fruity). And dessert wines are terrible - that's what I learned, too sweet for me anyway. We tried some sparkling red wine and it was pretty delicious, you can even serve some red wines cold.... as crazy as that may sound to you, it's true. So we're becoming quite the connoisseurs. :)

Aside from being great hosts, Renee and Kempy chauffeured us around town and took us to see Newcastle, a great coastal town in New South Wales. Beautiful beach and waterfront. It would be a great city to live in, not too big and lots of beautiful scenery. And they also took us to Kempy's parents house in a town called Tea Gardens. It's mostly full or retired people who wanted to get away from Sydney in their later years, a nice quiet community on the river/waterfront. The river connects to the ocean so it's saltwater. And I saw my first real life dolphin there, just swimming into the harbour. Amazing!

Renee and Kempy also introduced us to some crazy Australian movies and tv shows and the local cuisine. We went 'yabbying', which involves setting nets to catch yabbies (crayfish-like creatures). We boiled them up and ate them for dinner along with lots of barbecued meat. Before you boil the yabbies you have to rip their bums out so that was kinda gross, but it's better that we don't eat that part of them. We learned that what we in Canada would call 'cocktail weiners' are referred to in Australia as 'little boys'.... but not when you order them over the
counter or you might get some funny looks. Also, fried eggs are delicious on pizza and burgers, Australians try to add eggs to whatever they can. Breakfast pizza is a must! And tim-tam slams are delcious (tim-tams are the popular chocolate cookie here and you eat opposite corners of the cookie then dunk it in your coffee and sip the coffee through the cookie. So bad for you, but delicious.

We came from Singleton/Tea Gardens well fed, better educated on things Australian and extremely comfortable. And we may even be going back if Kempy gets us a job pruning grape vines for his friend. We'll let you know. :)

On to Melbourne!

-Jenny and Tyler-