10 June 2009

Australia 25 things...

After a pretty positive response of 25 things I learnt through Asia, here are the things I have picked up from my last 90 days Down Under.

1) In Australia, when a sign says 'No Swimming' it really means No Swimming.

2) If you tell a Western Australian that a bin is on fire, don't expect them to react in an alarming way. Eventually it will get sorted, it may just take a few hours.

3) Outback Australian life can be summed up in the sentence 'It's pretty warm. And the flies can be a problem.'

4) German people actually do have very good sense of humours.

5) Oil tastes nothing like water.

6) Arriving at a campsite to find your neighbour, the only other person in a 40km radius, is fully naked, taking a shit and owning appearance similar to the killer in Woolf's Creek is not a pleasant feeling.

7) If Uluru (Ayers Rock) is Australia's heart, then Port Hedland is Australia's arsehole.

8) Karratha is what the arsehole produces.

9) Sunbathing on Broome's famous Cable Beach can be limited to before 9am and after 6pm due to the searing heat there.

10) Raves are not my scene.

11) Seeing a shark in the flesh is a rather scary experience. Even if it is just a baby.

12) Ningaloo Reef is better than the Great Barrier. That's definitely not a bitter comment.

13) When boarding a flight, always check weather conditions in the place you are arriving too. Which leads me to point number 14...

14) Melbourne is much MUCH colder than anywhere else in Australia (except Tasmania)

15) The English accent really does work, if you are prepared to milk it.

16) Aussies have all sorts of strange names for things. Flips flops - thongs. Sandwiches- sangas. Sausages - snags. Sweets - lollies. And are prepared to 'rip the shits' for your 'improper' use of the English language.

17) Phillip Island is colder than anywhere else, possibly in the world. And the penguins there are not visible to the human eye.

18) Ramsey Street is smaller than you would expect.

19) Grill'd burgers are perhaps the greatest in the world. (Bird & Brie if anyone is stopping by Melbourne soon or, ahem, is heading to London soon and fancies bringing me a gift.)

20) Tasmanians refer to Australia's mainland as the 'North Island.'

21) $4 pizzas are $4 for a reason

22) Fat Yak is the greatest beer ever made

23) Transport services in developed countries are not always better than in Asia.

24) The average stopping speed in a 1982 Toyota Corolla with tyres that came when the car was made is roughly the length of Britain.

25) Despite all good intentions, a night on Goon will be followed by an unproductive day.

Melbourne Living

I guess it's one of life's dilemmas. Two things. Opposites almost. Half the population will go for one, and the other half the other. Blonde or brunette? Fact or Fiction? Sydney or Melbourne?

There is no question that Nick is a blondes man, while I will go for brunettes everytime. Nick prefers to read books based on facts while I prefer to lose myself in a novel. And then there is the question of which is the greatest Australian city. Nick maintains that it is Sydney, while I will argue until I am blue in the face (where the hell did that expression come from by the way?) that Victoria's capital city is the greatest city down under.

It is not that I dislike Sydney at all. In fact the official Harbour - Circular Quay as it is known by locals - is one of the most striking in the world, with the incredible Opera House on one side of the water and the domineering Sydney Harbour Bridge across from it. And then there is Darling Harbour, just around the nautical corner from it's famous cousin, and it is here that I have enjoyed probably my favourite beer. Chilling out with my travel buddy, watching ships enter the harbour looking back on a brilliant last three months in Antipodean land.

But, for me, that is all Sydney has to offer. It is made up of two streets, George and Pitt, that are quite possibly the longest in the world. You walk and walk and walk along these streets all the while feeling like you are getting never close to the end. If it wasn't for the endless amount of pubs that support that long walk along George Street I don't think I ever would have made it to the end. In fact, now I come to think of it, I don't think I ever did. But that may have actually been due to the pub's presence not absence.

Well then how about Melbourne? Admittedly it may be due to the fact that I have spent 6 weeks getting to know the city that I am so fond of it, and it is the only place in Australia that I could honestly see myself living in.

The climate may have something to do with it. Unlike most other places here, you can walk further than ten metres without needing to dive under the nearest piece of shade. But I arrived in Melbourne from Darwin and, unwarned of the near-arctic conditions by my contact there, arrived in attire that had seen me through the last two months of plus-30 degree. In a t shirt, boardies and flip flops (or 'thongs') I left the airport building, but not to blazing sunshine and women in skimpy tops, the sort of sights that I had got used to. No, all the Melbourne skies offered me were a dull, cloud-filled sky and 15 degree weather. I could have had this at home.

But a climate with a likeness to home is not all that Melbourne has to offer. In fact, as the signs dotted around the city proudly announce, it was recently voted the 'World's Most Liveable City', and that may have something to do with the amount of exercise that Melburnians tend to do. The sports presence in the city is more obvious than any other place in the world. As soon as you arrive you are met by the hugely impressive MCG, the famous 110,000 seater stadium that has been host to some of the world's most famous cricket matches and also hosted the Olympic Games way back in 1956. Added to that is the endless amount of cyclists and runners that run around Melbourne's streets throughout the day.

But nothing compares to Melbourne's love for that strange, strange game Aussie Rules. A game played by blokes in skimpy tank tops ('singlets') and shorts tighter than a Scotsman in a pub, at first glance appears a mess of a game. But I eventually took a liking to this game, still undecided between Fremantle and Essendon by the way, and I have an irrational hatred for Hawthorn Hawks. Every weekend during the season, the city hosts at least two games a weekend, sometimes up to five, and each game attracting at least 50,000 spectators. In a city of just over 3 million people, that is a high percentage attending just one sport. In fact most Melburnians will ask you the same thing on meeting you 'Who do you barrack for then?' All those that speak English out there, that translates as 'Who do you support?'. Add to this the fact that Melbourne is host to the Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne Cup and Australian Open Tennis then there are very few cities in the world that rival this place as a sporting capital.

Federation Square is also a brilliant focal point for the city, alongside the stunning Flinders Street station, and also host to a pub that serves the world's greatest beer Fat Yak. The city centre is also small, compact and easy to get around and you are never more than a five minute walk from one of the many stunning parks. Although when the weather is like it was when I got there, just head for Fed Square for a nice pint of Fat Yak.