24th Oct - 2nd Nov (Australia here I come, you ripper!)
My final day of diving in Tioman was a little dissapointing after such a great dive two days ago, a wreck of an old fishing boat which attracted one big school of fish and not much else. I took the 13.00 boat back to Mersing which had to stop offshore due to the low tide, and smaller boats came out to transfer us to the jetty. Over a couple of days spoke to STA travel and Qantas and eventually managed to bring Melbourne flight forward so that I could be there for the weekend. I hadn't really spoke to anyone much for a few days so I was looking forward to meeting Karen and Christophe in Oz. Bryan Robson has joined Steve Mcmahon on the ESPN team. The 11.00 bus to Singapore dropped us at the Malaysia border for a very quick exit stamp, back on the bus for a couple of minutes then dropped us at Singapore immigration where we queued for an hour before getting back on a bus for the rest of the journey to the centre (and I thought Singapore was super efficient). I took a taxi to the very nice YMCA which was full so walked as far as the Hawaii hostel and stopped there as it was about to rain; not a pretty place but cheap. My room consisted of two bunk beds, my room mates were two Japs and a local guy who was quite friendly. I found a nice restaurant then came back and watched 'Domino' starring Kiera Knightley on the local chap's portable VCD player.
After a McDonalds brekky, I went to the Qantas office to discover my flight from Rio to Blighty doesn't look possible as they are all booked as soon as they are available; STA hadn't told me this when they said all I had to do was ring and tell them what date i needed (I couldn't book it at the time because the computer system cannot book flights more than a year ahead). I'll make some more inquiries with STA but it looks like i may have to pay extra and fly via Madrid. Singapore is one of the best and cheapest places to buy electronics so if I was going to replace my damaged camera anywhere it had to be here. After much deliberation I came away with a nice new Fuji for 450 dollars(S), about 150 pound. I took the excelent metro to the excellent airport where i had a much needed shower for $9. Sat with an aussie girl called Karen on the flight and spoke to her quite a bit in between eating a good in-flight meal, watching a decent aussie film 'Train to Freo' and listening to a good in-flight cd 'Sergio Mendes - Timeless' (kind of R&B samba) which I have since acquired onto my mp3 player along with the Killers new one (thanks to Christophe). I tried to sleep, I even used the eye mask, but not a wink.
I had arrived in Oz and collected my luggage by about 05.45 and the 06.00 bus to Melbourne centre was quick due to the lack of trafic which meant I got to Karen's house far too early and sat around in the freezing cold until Karen woke up. I didn't expect any cold weather in Oz but for the first couple of days the skies were clear blue and the wind made it feel like winter. Karen is an old Swindon friend and Christophe is soon to be her husband, their place is nice, spacious and really central. I spent some time putting photos onto my blog using Christophes computer, slept for an hour, went for a massive burger and bought the Oz lonely planet for full price (they didn't have any fake copies!), went back and started planning. After a couple more hours of sleep, I went with Karen to a Japanese restaurant for my first taste of sushi which was ok. Christophe joined us later for a few beers and we talked until late.
My first full day in Melbourne was a Saturday. Christophe, Kaz and I went to the Queen Victoria market where we bought Shrimps for the barbie! (among other things). Chilled out for most of the day, ate some Spag bol, drank red wine and later met up with Roo and Belinda for drinks (Roo is a friend of Richards who is a good friend from my uni days, Roo moved over here recently to be with his aussie girlfriend Belinda). Christophe, Kaz and I went for some Japanese food but this time i wasn't so adventurous and had chicken.
On Sunday, the three of us took the tram to St Kilda beach, had lunch and a good look around before returning for a BBQ with Roo and Belinda and Christophe's friends, Andrei and Anna. Kangeroo steak is very nice and according to Christophe, very similar to horse meat, the dirty snail eating b@startds! as Catherine Tate would say (no offence Christophe!) I ate until i thought i might explode.
The weather heated up from Monday onwards and over the next few days I went to the old Gaol where Ned Kelley was hanged (I listened in on a school party's guided tour), the immigration museum, the aquarium, the excellent view of Melbourne from the Rialto tower, the amazing 'earth from above' exhibition (I recommend you see some of these pictures - they may be on the internet) and the Melbourne museum. In the evenings we ate food, drank beer and wine, talked and watched films; 'The Castle' is good aussie humour, 'Wolf Creek' is scary and 'Supersize me' is scary as well!