Travelling in Victoria, Australia
Visiting a Western country after a while was like a nice little holiday. We had potable tap water, a functional public transportation that was almost never late, relatively clean streets, sidewalks, and public toilets that had toilet paper.
The weather was a surprise. We headed to Australia in January to be sure that it would be warm. Indeed, the first three days were fantastic: almost 40 degrees Celsius which reminded us of the lovely summers we spent in the French Riviera and in Sicily. After a few days, however, the temperature dropped to 18 and at night to 12. We were wondering where does the image of Australia as the land of beaches, surfing, and suntanned people come from.
Deadly Sun and Expensive Living
The sun in Australia, as well as in New Zealand, is piercing thanks to the hole in the ozone layer. Sunblock is an absolute necessity from early morning till late afternoon. The annoyance was comparable to malaria mosquitoes in Africa. Fortunately sunscreens are sold in huge economic packs and they are cheap. We bought a big bottle to take with us to South-East Asia.
Almost everything else is ridiculously expensive, much more so than in most parts of Europe. This doesn’t make Australia a tempting tourist destination at the moment except for world travelers for whom high salaries and the friendly working visa policy are an attraction. Even Australians find it cheaper to vacation overseas. Probably the American and European economic crises will hit Australia at some point and this might make Australia a more lucrative choice for tourists again.
Austria, The Country Of Kangaroos
We spent most of the time in Melbourne, but explored also surroundings. In Mansfield, 200 kilometres northeast from Melbourne, we had an awesome hike to the Australian Alps and we also had a chance to spot some kangaroos.
In Dromana, 60 kilometres south of Melbourne, we experienced lovely countryside with lots of blackberry bushes and plum trees and a popular beach called Safety Beach. The name comes from sharks that the beach used to abound. In the old days, there were abattoirs that threw their leftovers to the sea attracting a bunch of sharks to the beach. When the practise ended, the beach was named Safety beach to assure people of its safety.
Do you know where does the name kangaroo come from? According to a long-standing myth, James Cook is supposed to have asked a native “What is that?” He replied “Kangaroo,” which means I don’t know in aboriginal language.
Customer service in Melbourne was very good. People are not in a hurry but have time to be nice to each other. Melbournians are in fact pretty gregarious. Strangers started to talk with us and engaged in long conversations. A few times we stumbled upon people whose husbands or mothers had been Finns.
Victorians come from pretty much everywhere in the world, nowadays especially from Asia and Russia. This means that you can also get all kinds of groceries in ethnic stores—although of course with Australian prices. Also wine and spirits are expensive although Australia is a wine-producing country. This is due to high taxation. Despite of the cost, Australians love to drink. There are plenty of supermarket-sized liquor shops even in smallest suburbs and towns and some of them are even drive-in ones.