Australia, land of hopping rats and Shane Warne.

Firstly, happy new year everyone 🙂

I left on the 16th for Australia, departing from Durban’s little backwater airport mid-morning and arriving at Johannesburg an hour later, then had to put up with a 5 hour wait at the airport. Yay for my MP3 player. Then it was on to one extremely cramped 230 seater Airbus for the flight to Perth.

And herein starts my first rant. The plane wasn’t too large and was extremely cramped. The in-flight entertainment wasn’t adequate. The food was terrible. Shame on you, SAA.

Next time, I’m saving up for a business class ticket.

Anyway, I got into Perth the next day at around 09:20 Perth time (02:20 SAST) and got greeted by my aunt and cousin who live there. Most of the day was spent trying to acclimatise, but in the evening we all headed off to Carols by Candlelight, which was really, really great. The next day was spent being shown around Perth and I was taken bowling by my cousin in the evening.

The next day I hit a real brick wall – jet lag had caught up to me big time (damn 7 hour time difference) and I was feeling rather dehydrated. It’s quite hot there – nothing I’m not used to coming from Durban, but it’s a dry heat rather than Durban’s humid conditions, which means you dehydrate quicker – something that I wasn’t quite prepared for. So, the day was spent lying in bed and watching DVD’s. Until the late afternoon, when my uncle took me to fly his model aeroplanes. He hooked up two controllers to let me take control of the plane, and he flicked it back to his control whenever I got the plane in a death spiral. So it went, until we succeeded in nose-diving the plane into the ground directly after take-off (we blamed the wind). It was a home built plane, so it wouldn’t take long to repair.

That night my cousin took me to watch Eragon in Gold Class. Gold Class, for those of you who haven’t been to Australia, is really awesome. The cinema consists of around 40-50 reclining seats, every two seats sharing a table. You order your food (I had pizza and beer) before the movie starts and you tell them when in the movie you want them to bring you the food, and sure enough it gets brought to you while you watch the movie. That was really great. The movie itself was really good too. Now why can’t we have something like this back in South Africa?

The next day (Wednesday) was spent at a theme park just south of Perth, and the day after that I was off, on a flight to Melbourne. Just a little 737 to get us there (3 hour flight), but it was quite comfy and the in-flight entertainment was of the best quality. Unfortunately plane food is, well, plane food. ‘Nuff said. Anyway, I got into Melbourne in the middle of 35 degree heat, and was picked up by my cousin (who’s 13 years older than me). It was her birthday that day, so we all went out to dinner.

Early on Friday morning I watch the news. It’s a 30 minute news bulletin, with 25 of those minutes dedicated to Shane Warne, who had just announced his retirement from cricket. (He comes from Melbourne, which partly explains the bias in the news builletin.) I was taken to the local train station, and told “take this train into Melbourne, off you go and get on with it”. So that’s what I did, and I spent the best part of the day exploring the city centre and shopping for presents to take home.

On Saturday we didn’t do too much in the morning, but in the afternoon we went for a walk along the banks of the Yarra river looking for koalas. You just have to look in the tops of the gum trees and eventually you’ll see one – koalas spend 22 hours of the day sleeping, and they’re extremely sluggish when they do wake up. Those things are worse than sloths. After that, we took a drive in the country looking for Hopping Rats (aka kangaroos).

That evening, we took a drive in the suburbs admiring all the Christmas lights. In Melbourne, the residents compete as to who can put on the best Christmas lights display. Some of the displays have to be seen to be believed – I’ll be posting the photos later this week, and then you’ll see what I mean. Then it was back into the city for a look at the city lights.

While I was in the city, I had a “hook turn” demonstrated to me. Melbourne is known for its tram tracks, which run in the middle of the road. To stop cars turning right from being taken out by a tram, Melburnians have devised the “hook turn”. If you want to turn right, you go in the far left-hand lane and you stop in front of the traffic coming in from the side. You then wait for the lights to turn green for the side traffic before turning and going across the intersection. Sounds confusing, but it works.

The next day (Sunday – 24th December now) I was up early for my flight to Sydney, and was then taken two hours north of the city (Maitland) to where my other aunt, uncle and two cousins were staying. We had a big Chrismas Eve party that night, yet I managed to get up early on Christmas Day to head off to church. After the present opening we all headed off to a wine farm an hour away for lunch.

Boxing Day was spent being shown around the area, and watching Day 1 of the Ashes test. In the late evening I also managed to get coverage of the South Africa vs India game back home in Durban. The 27th was mainly another big souvenir shopping day.

On the 28th (Thursday) my cousin went back to his grotty little flat in Sydney, and I went off with him. Most of the day was spent just getting there (lots of traffic), but in the evening we went on a cruise around Sydney harbour. I think the photos I took there are the best of the whole trip. On the 29th (my last day before leaving home) we went up into the Blue Mountains for some sightseeing and walking, and in the evening more Sydney sightseeing.

The 30th deserves little mention – it was a 27 hour ordeal to get back home to Durban, once again aboard that blasted Airbus.

All in all, it was a thouroughly enjoyable trip, and I look forward to my next visit. I can just see myself living there if Jacob Zuma ever comes into power. 😛

I’ll post some of the photos later this week, once I’ve recovered from the jet lag.

UPDATE: Just saw how much business class tickets cost – nearly fell out of my chair in shock and horror. I think I’ll rather go for sleeping pills instead. Much cheaper.

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