Melbourne and Puffing Billy!

Arrived in the port of Melbourne at about 8am this morning!  It’s a fabulous skyline!  A fringe of beaches, green trees and lowrise apartments, then a Manhattan like skline behind.  Growing…growing….growing!

We were booked on a 1/2 day Cunard trip to leave the city and go up into the Dandenong Hills.  It was a lovely drive up through rolling hills and then forests of enormously tall eucalyptus trees.  There are many, many types of eucalyptus in Australia, and these ones are called Mountain Ash locally because in spring when the new growth comes, it is bright red.  The trunks peel back the bark like other eucalyptus though and reveal smooth cream wood.  Spectacular and very Australian.

Our first stop was at Belgrave Station high in the hills where we were picking up the Puffing Billy steam train.  This is a narrow gauge steam train running along a line first built in about 1900 and now kept going by a host of volunteers.  The carriages are open with seats in the middle facing sideways towards the windows.  We road as far as Menzies Creek, a journey of about 30 minutes.  The train putters through forests with hillsides falling steeply away.  The forests are a mix of eucalyptus and also many tree ferns.  Its absolutely lovely.  At times the train crosses deep gullies, going across wooden trestle bridges.  Many people sit on the window ledges of the train dangling their legs over the drop!!!!!  Well… in all honesty, everyone did except our aged rider carriage!!!!  The train goes along really slowly.  I would love to do the whole ride.

The journey was over too soon and we got back on our coach.  We then went to two stopoffs.  One in Sherbrook forest which was another lovely green wilderness.  Would have been lovely to walk through at leisure.  There were lots of white and yellow Cockatoos up in the trees.  Near the ranger station they have got used to being fed birdseed and will come down and let you feed them.  Bob and I both fed them.  They were pretty big, and make a cawing noise.  That was fun.

The second stop was atop Mount Dandenong where there was a lovely garden and a viewpoint over the Melbourne plain.  It was quite hazy and you could just make out the city centre in the distance but not enough to photograph.  We walked through the garden and admired the specimens and also the carvings on display.

The coach dropped us off in central Melbourne at about 1pm and we spent the afternoon wandering around.  It was so so so busy.  There are lots of Chinese people here and of course its New Year so lots of lanterns were out and many people celebrating.  We wandered around the Victorian arcades and shops and went into a pub for lunch.  Used the wifi there to catch up on some admin.  I managed to find a nail bar and got a much needed pedi to replace the “barely still there” shellac on my toes.  It was about a third of the price on the ship.  I need a haircut desperately but couldn’t find anywhere open on a Sunday unsurprisingly.

My IPhone battery is also completely rubbish.  You can almost see it running down.  So we have bought one of those portable power chargers.  Really need it as only my phone has a contract that allows free calls and data in Australia.  Bob’s much newer IPhone doesn’t work here.  Or rather it does work but at enormous cost.  So, hopefully, this charger will help when we are on land in less than a week now!!!!

Really like Melbourne, but not as much as Sydney.  To me, it has all of the buzz and bustle of the big city, but it doesn’t have the charm of the harbour and the closeby beaches.  Given the choice, I would live in Sydney.

About 800 people got off the ship today, and of course about 800 got on!  We are now in the mode of short taster cruises for Australians.  When we sail tonight, we have a day at sea, then a day at Kangaroo Island, then a sea day, then another day in Melbourne where there will be another unload/load.

We are really beginning to count down ourselves now.  Less than a week to go before we get off in Sydney.  Its gone so fast, although the first ports seem ages ago.  I’m excited for Australia but I could equally easily go on.  Not in the least fed up with the ship and being at sea.