Vacation should have an element of unpredictability. A new place that has not been ventured out is always an ideal place for a vacation. However, a season traveler in me does not rest until I spend a lot of time in researching about the place before I plan a vacation. I did the same when I narrowed down to visiting Melbourne – Sydney by car along the coastal route. My concern was unknown territory, onset of winter and travel with 14-month baby.
I rummaged “lonely planet Australia’, surfed www.tripadvisor.com, www.virtualtourist.com, www.wayn.com and read many travelogues of those intrepid adventurers who took on Australia by road. I went ahead with a tentative plan, confirmed my hotel booking at Melbourne, Sydney over successive weekends and car rental during the week. I kept options open between Melbourne and Sydney. Choice was Wilson Promontory, Eden, Jarvis Bay, Central Tilba, Lake Entrance, Bateman’s Bay and Wollongong. I decided the best way would be to confront the situation as we hit the road. In the process, I became familiar about the possible hurdles but I was not prepared for some of the unexpected things such as ‘Avis don’t offer GPS outside the city’ ‘In Australia – night descends by 5pm and everything gets deserted’.
Friday Noon May 30th: Singapore: With just three daily flights from Singapore, people at emirates lounge appear overeager to entertain their guests. Akshta made sure that she gave them many opportunities while we enjoyed the privileges of grandeur and luxury of the lounge. The aircraft was delayed by one hour but that meant our arrival in Melbourne turned out to be at unearthly 2am. I ruled out traveling by taxi and instead opted for airport bus. A lone diver with two and half passengers arriving at the downtown bus station to be greeted by wailing sirens, ambulance with a woman collapsed on the footpath did bring memories of safety net of Dubai and Singapore. As we drove by taxi to hotel CitiLimit, tipsy rowdy boisterous youngsters at every corner kicking Beer cans, trash boxes littered around the lanes shattered the elite, urbane Melbourne image during the day.
Saturday May 31st: Melbourne: Why would a modern city of 21st century have noise of horse hoof tapping and dragging of carriage on cobbled streets? Was I dreaming of Australia during medieval Victorian era? As we got down the hotel lobby confronted by breezy yet sunny chill of Melbourne, the quandary was resolved as we learnt that those were special horse carriages for Melbourne tourists. A free ride in the tram that circles down town took us around familiar places of botanical garden, medical college. We got down at Federation square and walked around Yarra River not forgetting our staple meal at McDonalds. Not long ago, I used to deride Americans who did not look beyond Mac in any foreign city. How easily we have adapted to their taste. Melbourne welcomes all types of artists, magicians to perform along the street, but it has more influence of trapeze masters, guitar players, soap bubble creators and artists who draw fascinating portraits on footpath by colored chalks. Melbourne is similar in many respects to San Francisco. We spent time leisurely at Crown entertainment center – admiring dancing water droplets to the tune of Bach and Mozart and then walked along immigration Museum Bridge stopping at India Plate seeing the history of Indian immigrants. We realized the word ’little’ that precedes the name of every street has nothing to do with the length but the width of the street. Every street has another neighboring street named after the same name with the addition of 'little'. Burke has Little Burke; Russell has Little Russell and so on. Moreover, these street runs from one end of the downtown to another. With a map in hand, we decided to grab food at 711 and return to the hotel on foot that was on Little Burke Street. Little did we realize we entered exactly at the opposite end. Battling cold weather with food packets in one hand and Akshta on another, we decided to forge ahead, but that turned out to blessing disguise. We passed through busy China Town overlooking Her Majesty Theater and some of the famous shopping avenue of the Melbourne. In the evening, we managed to spot three Indian restaurants nestled to eachother. Food was nothing exceptional but the pricing was. These restaurants do not accept credit cards and one is expected to fetch drinks from the cooler.
Sunday June 1st: Time to go to Avis and fetch a car. On the way, we passed through Melbourne Library. We got Hyundai-Accent instead of Toyota Corolla with instructions to get past the city without passing through tollgates. Melbourne and Sydney don’t have manual toll gates, one has to buy a card and even if one pass without paying toll gate, one can pay in next three days. We passed through Kings Way, Queen Road Street passed through St Kilda, Monash University and on princess highway and reached Dandenong by lunchtime. At Dandenong mall, we saw many Indian families. With a lunch at food court we hit princess highway but soon realized that we missed our way as we reached Berwick and Beaconsfield. We stopped at the petrol station for help and I was surprised to see Gujju managing the store with another fellow desi customer. Thanks to them, We took detour through Cranbourne Narrre Warren Road to hit South Gippsland Highway. This road let us feel an Australian way of living in big houses with courtyard. Prices of Apartments at Queen Road with lakeside view at A$400K started plummeting to A$120K at Cranbourne. M420 S Gippsland was safe with marking of Phillip Island until it was diverted to A440. Journey went past Loch, korumbarrra-overlooking plains followed by tables of mountains. We passed through Leongataha. Menniyan, Foster. With fading light on our side, we had to take a quick decision. Should we stay at Foster or head towards Wilson Promontory? We decided to go ahead in the direction Yanakee , driving through winding roads that had grazing cows on either side, we reached a shop that stood straight out of cowboy American movie alongwith a next-door garage and few barren houses. A dust road joined small motorway that had no streetlights. A lady at the cow boy asked us to take a chance at guest houses just outside the Wilson Prom. Having come all the way in forlorn place, we decided to take a plunge. Fortunately, my blackberry was still functional. We were at the southernmost tip of the Australia and as the cover of darkness spread across; singing night crickets had started arriving. With few unsuccessful attempts, we managed to enter a cottage manned by old man and his two wild dogs. My mention of Indian triggered his passion of Cricket. A Black Cockatoo one bedroom luxurious cottage with Kitchen fitted with microwave, fridge and nice cutlery. We realized that if we did not rush back to our cowboy shop in time, we might have to spend night in the company of sleeping black cockatoos with hunger pangs. We were soon at cowboy shop to fetch pasta, wine, and fruits and had fabulous evening overlooking farmland nestled between either side of peninsula under the cover of darkness and shining stars. Soon chill weather, eerie silence of dark and effect of wine snuggled us to sleep only to be awakened by golden basking of sunrays and chirping of birds.
Monday June 2nd Wilson Promonotary http://www.promcountry.com.au/
Early morning sunrays made us realize the fascinating nature of Yanakee. Out lodge was located overlooking rolling farmland just before the 'Prom'. We could see the beaches at nearby Corner Inlet and Shallow Inlet is located on either side of the peninsula. We drove inside prom and eager to see wild animals. But alas!! All we saw one rabbit, one emu and four birds! As we reached inside, we could see two Caravan Parks on either side of the peninsula with many B&B's and self-catering accommodation premises. However, from this point onwards, one could only take a walk inside national park leading to Tidal River and beach, we decided to head Sydney via Foster.