Hello from Sydney-07 (20th January 2010)
We are back in India after a wonderful trip. I had been trying to share the excitement with you. This letter covers our activities in Australia in the period from 5th Jan 2010 to 16th Jan 2010. The first 5 days were very quiet, but the tempo of activities picked up keeping us very busy till our departure to India on 16th morning. We saw three Hindi classics Do aankhen barah haath, Asli Naqli and Baiju bawra as well as a few old Tamil movies. On 9th Jan we were taken in the morning by Charles to see how homes are constructed in Australia. The builders have a sort of permanent exhibition of homes in different stages of construction, so that the buyer can actually see the materials used as well as the final product. In the afternoon, we went in two cars (Raghu's and Charles') to an alpaca farm about 50 kms away. Alpacas are south american animals famous for their wool. They have the features of different animals like camel, goat, horse etc. and are very interesting. The farm is maintained by a friend of Raghu.
Since 10th Jan was our last Sunday in Australia, it was the day for last minute shopping. I went with Raghu to Harvey Norman, a famous electronic store while the others went with Chandra to Parklea market. Sunday evening went in preparing and packing our food for our Melbourne trip.
On Monday (11th Jan), we left the house at 6.45 AM with Nitya who dropped us at Westmead railway station. From there we reached the domestic terminal of Sydney airport by changing at Sydney Central. We had booked by Tiger airways, a budget airline. We had got an excellent deal as we paid only 388 A$ (about Rs. 16000/) for the return flights for the four of us. Our flight was on time at 9.30 AM and we landed in Melbourne at 11.00 AM. The moment we stepped out of the plane, we had the feeling of being roasted as the outside temperature was 430C. We were fortunately intercepted by Chris, a taxi driver (more about him in my travelogue) who dropped us in Victoria Hall, our hotel. It is an accommodation meant for economy travellers. We had booked the family room, which was air-conditioned, had a LCD TV and had a 2-bedded cot, a single bed and a bunker bed. The bath-rooms were outside. Everything was very clean. The magnetic key that opened the room was to be used for opening the bath-rooms also and this prevented any unauthorised use. The heat forced us indoors and we left the room only at 4.15 PM to the tour operator's office. The Grayline bus left at 5.00 PM for Philip Island for the famous Penguin Parade tour. The penguins did not disappoint us and lots of them came back from work in the sea from 9.15 PM onwards. Their walk and the antics of the young penguins that came out from the burrows to greet them were all very interesting. Unfortunately photography is not allowed except in the small museum which is part of information centre. We left back for Melbourne at 10 PM and were dropped in our hotel at 12.30 AM.
Tuesday was also a busy day as our tour was to start at 8.00 AM. The Great Ocean Road tour which included visits to Bells Beach, Apollo Bay, Gibson steps, Loch Ard Gorge, Port Campbell and the most famous Twelve Apostles was very interesting. The only discordant note was the weather. Because of rains, the temperature had dropped to 20 deg. The wind was also heavy. Fortunately, the rain stopped when we reached Twelve Apostles (more about it in my travelogue). The highlight of our Melbourne trip was that Hema and I decided to take a helicopter ride over Twelve Apostles and felt the trip was worth its money paid. Geoff (the driver) was very good and his commenary was absorbing. I hope to write about him in my travelogue. On the return journey, a film based on an incident in that coast was shown. It was very good. All in all, the Great Ocean Road tour was excellent.
Our return flight to Sydney was at 4.30 PM. So we had a half day at our disposal for seeing some places within Melbourne. We chose to visit Botanical Garden, Shrine of Remembrance (War Memorial) and the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Both Botanical Garden and Shrine of Remembrance were very good and very well-maintained. MCG was also the Olympic stadium and has a very good sports museum covering cricket, football and athletics. I could just spend about half hour, mainly in the cricket section. It was very good and was value for money, unlike Bradman Museum, which was a bit of a disappointment. Melbourne is the most tourist-friendly city I've visited. It has a free tram as well as a bus service covering important places. We also realised that one should spend at least two full days in Melbourne to really enjoy the city. I hope I get a chance to visit it again. I purchased chole and rice from an Indian restaurant, which we ate sitting on a bench in Russell street. When we reached our hotel, Chris was waiting with his taxi. The return flight took off on time, but was delayed as a storm hit Sydney. We landed more than 40 minutes late after hovering in the air. Nitya picked us from the airport and we reached home by 8.15 PM to celebrate Bhogi (with poli)
When Mukund and family had gone to the zoo, it seems one of Chandra's colleagues had said she could get a free pass for the zoo. So Chandra got a Gold pass which gave free entry to 4 (the cost otherwise is 41 $ each). The pass was to be received only on 14th Jan. So we kept Thursday (14th) for celebrating Pongal as well as packing and repacking. All of us (especially Hema) had luggage well above the 20 kg limit which was what is shown in Singapore Airlines' website. We had been assured by regular trvellers that there would be no problem up to 25 kgs. So we had kept the weight of each booked luggage piece at about 25 kgs.
The day started early on 15th Jan, as the ladies had to celebrate Kanu before Vidya and Nitya left for office. After eating the variety rice, we left the house at about 11.30 AM and went by train and ferry to the Tarronga zoo ot Sydney. It is not a very big zoo compared to the ones I have seen in London and Hyderabad. But it is very good and had two shows listed- one by the seals and another by the birds. We saw both the shows as well as a lot of animals. It is interesting that we saw a bird show in Jurong Bird Park, Singapore on the first day of our trip and ended our 55-day visit with a bird show in Sydney. We returned by the cable car from the zoo to the ferry wharf. We took the ferry and the train and got off at Westmead. Charles picked us from there and took us to his house (which is owned by Vidya). The house is very good and very well-maintained by Charles. We were dropped home by Charles. We had our 56th game of mail that night.
We left the house at 9.00 AM for the Sydney airport in two cars (Raghu and Charles). Vidya had to leave early as she had to drop Hari (son of Vasu and Jayanti, family friends of Raghu and Chandra) who was leaving for India by an earlier flight. The lady in Singapore Airlines counter was very good and we had no hassles at all in boarding. All of us heaved a sigh of relief. But Hema's sigh was very audible as she was carrying over 40 kgs (27 kgs as booked luggage, 7 kgs as cabin baggage, 3 kgs as reading material and more than 3 kgs in her commodious handbag). Raghu, Chandra, Nitya and Charles took leave of us in the security area (except in India, one can go inside the airport to ee off someone). Our flights from Sydney to Singapore and then to Chennai were all on time and the food was also good. The chaos began as soon as we landed in Chennai. It took us an hour to locate one of our suit-cases (it would have been 45 minutes had some inconsiderate passenger not kept it out of the conveyor belt). The toilets were dirty and there was total chaos outside due to the construction activities. But it was a happy feeling to be back in our home at Arumbakkam where Prasad and Rupal were awake to receive us.
Our 56 days' stay still is like a dream. Thank you Raghu, Chandra, Vidya, Nitya, Charles, Raman, Asha, Hari, Vasu, Padmapriya and everyone else for making it so memorable.
With regards and enquiries,
Click here for the earlier mails and photos sent from Sydney
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