Melbourne Australia –
Hey all – G’day from Melbourne. I am wrapping up two weeks staying with Kristen Pedroja (KP) and Matt Strachan who have been amazing hosts. They have a sixteen-month-old girl named Orla who is cute as a button and with whom I have shared many adventures in the Melbourne area. Turns out the little one is an excellent travel companion.
My first five days were filled with the Australian Open, the first of four professional grand slam tennis tournaments within a calendar year. (KP and Matt let me borrow their bike to go to and from the tournament site on the first four days.) Sunscreen required as the sun beated down on me all day with temps in the high 90s., but by mid week, evening matches could be quite chilly.
I am not normally a huge tennis fan, but for a week I just binged, taking advantage of the opportunity to watch matches all day for the first two rounds. Because I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the names, I just followed around after all the American players. By the end of the second round, most Americans had bowed out. I wasn’t able to watch some of the big matches in the two main arenas with just my ground pass, but I saw enough tennis to last me a while.
Matt is Scottish and we followed the progress of Scot tennis player Andy Murray as he made his way through the tournament to the final – unfortunately he lost to number one seed Novak Djokovic.
On the first weekend, Kristin and Matt drove me out to the Yarra Valley and we visited a number of wineries. The landscape was lovely and reminded me a bit of Tuscany or Northern California, which makes sense of course seeing that this was after all wine country, the only difference being of course that kangaroo road signs dot the roadsides.
On Sunday, Matt and I saw Star Wars on IMAX 3D – Intense!
Throughout the beginning of the second week I tried to prepare for my trip to Tasmania where I will be doing some full-out camping on a six day backpacking trail called the Overland Track. I have had to buy more equipment, but I will be able to use it for my Appalachian Trail thru-hike that starts in April.
Tuesday January 26th was Australia Day, which commemorates the first Australian colony. It’s a holiday that is a bit controversial, much like our Columbus Day, because of the mistreatment of aboriginals by the members of the first colony, and indeed by Australians for many years after. Kristin and Matt hosted a nice barbeque for the three of us and for their Australian neighbor Judith, an older woman from whom I learned quite a bit about Australian sport. We could hear the fireworks from downtown.
Despite a lot of rainy days, KP was able to fit in taking Orla and I to the Melbourne Library, a beautiful building that has a great collection of very old manuscripts along with 2 million books. We also visited the Botanical Gardens, a masterpiece in terms of experiencing nature in the heart of a city.
On Sunday the 31st, we celebrated my birthday with a bike ride down the beach to St. Kilda. Then KP and Matt treated me to a terrific lunch at an old-style pub that I quite liked. (Much of Melbourne embraces a more modern style, but I prefer the older quainter look.) Melbourne loves their “chicken Parma” and if it is all as good as my lunch today, I can see why. The day finished up with another trip into city to watch the final tennis match.
It’s on to Koscioszko National Park next to trek up the highest peak on the continent. Thanks KP and Matt, and Orla too 🙂 for such an amazing stay!