Backpacking doesn’t always go smoothly and we ran into a good example of that in the Christchurch airport. We had a 6:00 AM flight, so we slept in our clothes, got up at 3:00 AM, packed our bags, returned the rental car and got to the airport at 4:00, exactly as planned. Then the problems began. First we tried to check-in at the self-service kiosk, but it told us we had to go to the desk. The lady at the desk informed us that our travel agent (cheaptickets.com, which is apparently just as dodgy as it sounds) had booked us on a flight that doesn’t exist and we would have to contact them. Brad called them on a pay phone and argued with them for about twenty minutes. They put us on a 5:00 PM flight, but that was all the help we got from them. Luckily, Air New Zealand is the best airline ever and a super nice lady at the service desk was able to get us on a flight to Auckland right away with a really tight connection on to Melbourne. We had to literally run to the international terminal in the Auckland airport, but we made it to Australia!
We spent three enjoyable days walking around Melbourne, a very cosmopolitan city with a population of 4 million. We saw the Royal Exhibition Building, which was built in the late 1800s and is now a World Heritage Site. We took an interesting tour of the Parliament House and learned a bit about Australian politics. We went shopping, walked through China Town and saw the Old Melbourne Gaol (jail), where the infamous Australian criminal Ned Kelly was hanged. We also visited many parks and gardens, including the Carlton Gardens, Treasury Gardens and Queen Victoria Gardens.
But Melbourne isn’t really known for sightseeing. It’s famous for sports and food. We didn’t have much to do with the former (except for listening to the Brewer game online, so exciting!), but we enjoyed a lot of the latter. Our last day in town was our designated food day and we started it off with the Queen Victoria Market. This market is one of the best in the world. I thought it was pretty similar to the Pike Place Market in Seattle. We spent the afternoon winding our way through the various stalls, taking in the sights and eating quite a bit of fresh, delicious food. Then we went to a chocolate shop and had really yummy chocolates. We also went to a candy store and tried a few Australian treats. Our plan was to end the day with a sushi dinner, but by then we had spent so much money, we held back and just had pizza. Still, it was a very fun and rare day of indulgence!
Now we’re about an hour away in Torquay, excited to spend the next couple of days driving on the Great Ocean Road. After that, we’ll be going north to the Grampians National Park, then heading back to Melbourne briefly before we go up to Sydney! So check back here frequently because I’m sure Brad’s going to have some awesome pictures to post!