Monday, 18 March 2013

Making the most of Melbourne and discovering Phillip Island

This was an awesome week! On Wednesday (Feb. 20th), we went to a performance of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the Sidney Myer Bowl, an outdoor amphitheatre, in the heart of Melbourne. It was a beautiful night – Brad had packed an awesome supper and we took the train from the station near my school. There was a great festival-type atmosphere and the performance as the sun set, with the temperature in the low 30s and 10,000 Melbournians all around us making the most of the weather and the opportunity to kick back in such a beautiful setting really brought home how lucky we are to be here and to be a part of the life of this great city! I think I fell in love with Melbourne that night.

The weekend brought our first exchangee get-together in Inverloch on Phillip Island. On Friday after school, we hit the road, stopping to pick up a fellow exchangee from Vancouver, grabbing supper and heading to Inverloch, to an informal drinks-and-appie style get-together hosted by a family who had been on exchange previously. There, we met Leith and Jamie (science and art teachers) and their kids Seth (8) and Caleb (10). Leith and Jamie had volunteered to billet us for the weekend so we headed to their place and, while the kids played, we heard of Leith and Jamie’s adventures kayaking between the islands east of Vancouver Island. They had great stories of their month of living out of their kayak, their tent and off the land and sea…

Saturday was a busy day that began by meeting up with everyone at the local info centre/sea museum and then taking a bus (driven by one of our hosts, Peter) to a beach scavenger hunt at Eagle’s Nest (Bunurong), lunch in a nearby town (happened to see them feeding the pelicans and a stingray that happened by) and then we went to a koala sanctuary… The koalas (who usually sleep for 20 hours/day) were extremely active – fighting, moving about, taking over the boardwalk (one guy was captured by the ole burlap-bag-over-the-head-trick and carted off, the bag flailing! Given that the temperatures that day were in the mid-30s, the staff were surprised at all the activity. Additionally, we saw an echidna snuffling through the grass looking for bugs and ants, and in the fields beyond the sanctuary, a kangaroo was hopping about and a couple of his buddies soon joined him!

After the koala sanctuary we went on a GORGEOUS hike (or deathmarch from hell (due to the heat)... you call it) through the blazing afternoon sun. The 7km hike took about 2.5 hours (so not really that bad length-wise) and brought us along the coast as we walked the sea cliffs. About halfway, the trail brought us to the beach and we had a splash and a cooldown in the ocean before heading along. As we came near the end of our walk, a few of us were lucky to see a troop of kangaroos (kangaroo lingo for herd) bouncing along, stopping as they came over the rise to check us out. We stopped and watched as they bent down and looked up, playing a game of hide and seek with us for a few minutes before hopping off!

Our meeting at the pub at the end of our walk was a welcome chance to have a beverage and some snacks before getting back on the bus and heading back to our billets’ homes to clean up before meeting up again for dinner with all the hosts and exchangees. We were certainly a tired group after our full day but the laughs and tips offered by our hosts for proper ways to speak “Aussie” were helpful and SOME of us left with prizes!

The next day, our surf lesson became paddle boarding as the usually-predictable surf didn’t get the memo for the morning! After an interesting start with some high-level dives and belly-flops into the water/off the boards, we began our 2hr trek along the beach, keeping eyes open for stingrays as they often come out and swim under the boards, looking for a visit…

The weekend wrapped-up with lunch and good-byes. Our hosts in Inverloch were extremely generous and we left the weekend richer for the time we spent with new friends and deepened friendships that developed.

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