Wandering friends in Australia and a peek into Victoria [Jan9 – Jan16, 2012]

The recent news: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. And so, my Journey 2011 has come to an end. It has been wonderful celebrating my first Chinese New Year at home in ten years. Meeting up with family and friends has extended my traveling high, and postponed the post-traveling low for a while longer. One year ago today, I was in Sharm el-Sheikh, walking along the hotel and beach chair infested beaches there, removed from the commotion in Cairo.

As I have mentioned before, the people that I have met is what I value the most from my trip. I have been asked what I have learned from this trip, and I cannot pinpoint a single lesson that outweighs the other lessons. I can say that maintaining friendships or acquaintanceships is something that I now put more weight on. My time in Australia proved to be a wonderful wrapup of my journey, and a nice reward to my keeping in contact with wandering friends (and some non-wandering friends as well).

After almost a year of traveling, I reached Australia, my final country. My initial plan was to spend four days in Sydney seeing the major sights before heading home. The original reason for even stopping in Australia was because my Round-The-World ticket routed me through Sydney anyway, so I decided to take advantage of the stopover. After meeting so many Australians on my journey (most-represented country among travelers), I felt that it would be great to catch up with some of my wandering friends, and thus Melbourne became a new-year addition to my schedule. If I had more time, it would have been fun to also meet others in Perth, Adelaide, and Darwin, but my first Chinese New Year at home in ten years beckoned.

Row 1: Ben R met in Granada, Spain; Jessie R met in Granada, Spain; Andrea J met in Kotor, Montenegro; Ming G met in Oxford, UK.
Row 2: Jesse F met in Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina; I-Hua L met in KL, Malaysia; Vee Ann T met in KL, Malaysia; Sam H met in Langkawi, Malaysia.
Row 3: Mauricio HL met in Quito, Ecuador; Matt S met in Mostar, Bosnia Hercegovina; Luke R met in Cabo Polonia, Uruguay; Stephanie BQ met in Granada, Spain (only non-WW sign).

Since I lost my wandering cap, I had to think of something else cheesy that I could convince my wandering and non-wandering friends to pose with. So I included them in my gang and told them to skin the “WW” sign as a fellow wondering wanderer…

I was welcomed in Melbourne by Jesse F, whom I met and traveled with in Bosnia Herzegovina. I stayed with him in Melbourne, and we also went to visit wineries in the Yarra Valley and the White Rabbit brewery on the way back to his home town in Kilcunda, off of Phillip Island in the South of Victoria. Jesse and his family were extremely kind hosts, and he certainly made a strong case for Melbourne as the place to be in Australia.

Melbourne itself was a really nice city. There is some sort of rivalry between Sydney-siders and Melbournians as to who has the better city, and I may wait until I blog on Sydney (if I get to it) before adding more. I will say that I did like the layout of Melbourne and its diversity. The graffiti culture in Melbourne is evident in the city center. In terms of diveristy, in how many other non-Islamic countries can you see a picture like this in the center of the city in the middle of the day?

I was quite fortunate to see a fair amount of Australian animals outside of a zoo. Well, the koala reserve may only be slightly better than a zoo, but I needed to see a koala in Australia. I was lucky to catch a swamp wallaby in the reserve too, as well as wild kangaroos and wild echidnas elsewhere. Unfortunately I could not check off wombats, platipi, or kookaburras. I have to save some things for next trips, right?

The final highlight of my time in Melbourne was going to Day 1 of the Australian Open. If you know me outside of my traveling mode (and on occasions, during even), I am a sports fan in pretty much whatever sport is accessible. Even though I did not get to see Federer or any of the other big names, it was still quite a treat just to be walking amongst Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena, and more than a dozen other courts. The scorching sun was quite unpleasant, even though it should have been a welcome change from what Jesse claimed was “the coldest week in January” ever in Melbourne.

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