Tuesday, 27 November 2007


I like it here, but not enough.

It's a very nice city and I'm sure it's a great place to live, but I don't find it offers enough touristic entertainment of the sort I seek. Besides, it's not too backpacker-friendly (compared to Sydney), lacking in facilities and services.

Anyway, most things I would really want to do are not in the city proper, but somewhere else in Victoria. They all require ridiculously long hours on a bus and cost too many hundreds of dollars to allow me the indulgence.

But all of this doesn't mean I don't like Mel. It's a great place, full of huge beautiful parks, full of life and entertainment (and trams! I love trams!)

Of the few things I've seen, the Victoria Market is a great place where to get cheap food, and where to spend some very fun hours ambling among stalls, through the shouts of merchants announcing their wares. The parks are lovely and huge, especially the Botanic Garden. The tourist tram is cool and free. There's nice architecture and a great atmosphere. And I'm told you can't beat the restaurants, but I'm not one to waste money on food.

Actually, I wanted to stay here a couple days more. The problem is, I kinda screwed up my schedule.

Consequences of not planning more thoroughly and of taking important decisions on-the-spot, heavy-lided and pressed by the passing of time.

Actually, not all of it is my fault. It helps that the Aussie train services are run in a thirldworldishly chaotic fashion, and that public transport over any significant number of km is much overpriced, more so in the case of flights.

But yes, I screwed up. So goodbye Melbourne, it didn't last long.

Tomorrow, I'm hopping to... Tasmania!

Local fauna

I've already become well acquainted with "the Aussie salute". Imagine you're walking the streets of, say, Melbourne, and everyone you pass by invariably waves at you, in a manner conveying "what a terrible smell". Don't worry, chances are you don't stink that much. They're just trying to get the flies away from their faces.

With little success, that I can tell you. Aussie flies are nothing if not perseverant, tenacious and fearless. They're also very stupid. Getting on your face and driving you nuts is not enough, no; they have to get into your nose and mouth and ears to prove their worthiness to the rest of the clan. Their survival strategy seems to be based on your inadvertently eating or squashing them.

You can also just kill them purposefully. Let them settle for 2 seconds and grab them, they won't see you coming. Same with mosquitoes.

On Sunday night, I was sitting in Sydney's Hyde Park, and as I brought out some bread I was charged by a creature out of nowhere. I first identified it as a cat, but turned out to be the marsupial equivalent of a squirrel, a "possum" I think. It just ran to me and started sniffing me up and down as if I was just an interesting chocolate statue. Someone else could have just grabbed it by the throat and called it Supper. Me, I had to very purposefully nudge it, then kick it to get it running on another scent trail.

I wonder what warp in the space-time continuum or perturbation in the Force is preventing Natural Selection from working here.

Monday, 26 November 2007

It's a long way to Wagga Wagga

Fortunately, I had great company along the way. Cheers, Neil.

For long stretches, the train just crawls on painfully, clattering and puffing. And this is the train between Sydney and Melbourne, overwhelmingly the two most important cities in Australia. But well, that's the OZ way*: no worries, no hurries.

The landscape constantly morphs along the way, from the absolutely British around Sydney, with green forests and British Rail-like train stations, to the near-outbackish around Wogga. In between, lush forests, cattle farms, and different carhttle farms. They appear to have those iconic wind pumps everywhere around here.

It's a long way to Wagga Wagga, and a longer one to Melbourne. It's a long way to anywhere in these parts.

* OZ = Aussie

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Getting bored of Sydney...

would require a preposterously huge amount of time and a very limited cash availability.

Most people I've talked to are staying there for 20 or more days. This surprised me at first, but now I see the wisdom in their ways. Three days is much too short a stay, in a place so full of amazing things to see and do.

But for now I have to move on. At least I have seen the sights, even if I have not yet done the deeds. That I have to leave for next time. My Sydney checklist as of today:

- Walk around all the CBD (done)
- Paddy's Markets (done)
- Sydney Aquarium
- Wildlife World
- Sydney Zoo
- Climb up Sydney tower (done)
- Boat trip of the bay
- Cross the bridge to Kirribilli (done)
- See the Opera House from every conceivable angle (done)
- Sydney by night: city lights (done)
- Bondi Beach & Coogee
- Tour of the Blue Mountains
- Take a look around Glebe and Bondi Junction
- Ingest ludicrous amounts of alcohol in merry company

Loads of things To Be Done. I hope I'll get the chance to put a few more ticks on the list.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Sydney by night

I can only think of 3 words:


Friday, 23 November 2007

One hour in Bangkok and no mollusc in sight

Very brief stopover in Bangkok. The landing was smooth, but the sudden difference in pressure between 11277m and ground level put my aural equipment in agony.

Just as you arrive, a big bold slogan greets you:

I thought: gosh, they’re really into Elvis in Thailand. It later turned out they meant this other guy:

King Whatever-his-insufferably-long-unprounounceable-name, the third.

The airport is surprisingly sparkling clean, technologically top-notch, and glittery enough. However, the good impression quickly vanishes when you bang your head on Thai stupidity. My point: transit passengers are required to pass through the same security controls as all other passengers.

This means, in practical terms, that you have to:

1. Leave your plane. You can’t just stay on board

2. Walk some 300-400 meters to the first available stairs

3. Go to the 2nd floor

4. Wait in line for 10 min

5. Pass again the same idiotic, insulting, no-liquids, drop-your-pants security control

6. Walk 300-400m back to your boarding gate

7. Pass another no-liquids control

8. Go through another passport/ticket control

9. And another

10. Board the same plane, with the same boarding card, sit in the same seat

11. Do it all in 30 minutes

I saw a guy who by step 7 had to leave behind a 300ml bottle of perfume he had bought duty-free at Heathrow. I say this scores pretty high on the stupid-o-meter, even by Asian standards.

I'll come back here. But now for the second leg of my journey: a bit over 8 hours to Sydney.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Britannia 2007 - Afterthoughts

This trip’s been a pretty serious thrashing. My first 5 days home I had to spend on just sleeping. My batteries had run out, I was completely depleted of energy. For much of the trip I ran on willpower alone. Twenty days of just running from place to place, walking, climbing up and down, eating on £2 a day, catching up on lost sleep in trains, all the while dragging my bulky backpack behind. I can’t complain; I chose it myself. But I’ve learned a bit of a lesson for next time.

Even so, I’ve had some the most fun I can remember. I’ve loved every day, cherished every moment. (Okay, make that every day but two. If you’ve read the previous posts, you know why.)

Traveling on my own has been an incredible, wonderful experience. I can hardly wait to do it again. It sure does get lonely at times, but I say it’s a small price to pay for the freedom you get. Important decisions take seconds. Plans can be made on passing whims and instant curiosity. No discussions, no quarrels, no need for agreement, no resentment, no getting tired of your company, no feeling tied to anyone.

Just Express Tourism, the way I like it. Hop off the train, walk about, visit the local landmarks, take your pictures, hop on again. Conjugate that with the hostel experience: meeting some new, very interesting people in every new place you get to. Occasionally, add a few beers and shake, don’t stir. I know, that doesn’t make for a very comprehensive experience, but it’s just what I wanted to do on this trip. Getting the complete feeling of a place, really mixing with the locals, requires you to spend much, much more time there. This I don’t feel like doing right now. For now, it suffices that I have Been There, I have Done That.

And now for something completely different.

Britannia 2007 - Route map

Britannia 2007 - Photos

Rejoice! Here comes what you were waiting for: the Britannia 2007 "best-of" photo compilation.