So, on Tuesday I set off on a coach tour to Melbourne. The company was called Stray Cat, and it was pretty good, though I saw so much in those three days that most of it is a blur.
The first stop was Canberra. On the surface Canberra appears to be the most boring city in the whole world – it has the same vibe as Milton Keynes, though I presume something happens behind the ordered, dull exterior. We did a tour round Parliament House and watched the Melbourne Cup, the Aussie equivalent of the Grand National, but there were no politicians in the house because of the race. We also stopped off in a shopping mall in Canberra to stock up with beer, which reminded me of the film The Stepford Wives where they replace all the women in the town with robots, and nobody notices. It felt slightly eerie, to be honest.
From Canberra we headed into Namadji National Park, and stopped off in a field full of kangaroos. What funny creatures; we all got off and stalked around, and they were really quite cautious. They'd just look at you until you got a certain distance away, and then they'd lollop away, stop, and start staring at you all over again. I felt miles away from it all.
Not quite as far as I felt when we got to our stop for the night, though: Bolaro sheep station. Talk about the middle of bloody nowhere; you couldn't see any civilisation for miles in any direction. We made a fire in the main building and all settled round with our beers, just like real bushrangers. I nipped outside for a cigar, and you'll never guess what I saw: a full rainbow, right in the middle of the night. I thought it must be the beer, so I popped inside to get someone else and showed them first before getting the rest of the team; yes, it really was there. I suppose the moon was just doing the same thing as the sun when you get a daytime rainbow, but it sure looked weird sitting there. Perhaps you get a pot of silver at the end of moon-bows...
Into the Mountains
Wednesday was mainly spent driving through Mt Kosciusko National Park, where Australia's highest peak stands, shrouded in cloud. We stopped at these gorgeous little towns like Adaminaby, Jindabyne and Thredbo, which are the main resorts in the Australian Alpine area, and as a result they're beautiful, but deserted in the summer. We passed Lake Hume, which is a man-made lake that stores water in the winter so the Murray River, one of the main rivers through southeast Australia, can be kept at a reasonable level through the summer. The lake fills valleys that were once filled with gum trees, and quite a few of the trees are still there, dead but standing, making it look like a ghost lake. It's pretty spooky stuff.
Our stop for the night was in Bright, one of the most picturesque places to visit and, fortunately, void of tourists. We had the mother of all barbecues, and guess who got roped into the cooking? I'm now the world's foremost expert on the Australian Method of Cooking Sausages. One thing that was weird is that Aussies cook chopped pumpkin on their barbies, and it tastes likes smoked carrot. I think I'll stick to salad in future.
The last day of the trip we climbed Mt Buffalo – the view was amazing – and visited the place where Ned Kelly and his gang used to hang about. In the town where he lived there's this huge model of him wearing his homemade armour, and it's possibly the tackiest thing I've ever seen; it didn't stop us all having our photo taken round it, though like good little tourists.
And that night we arrived in Melbourne...