Things in Melbourne began pretty slowly to say the very least – on our first day, we could hardly bring ourselves to get into town, only going in (truthfully) because we were offered a lift. The weather did nothing really to entice us out of the house either, with an overcast and cold day making it feel altogether a little bit too close to home. In town, we began our tour of the city at ‘Crown’, walking from there towards the aquarium, along the river, to Federation Square – basically anywhere and anything that involved moving through the cold quickly and offered a few moments to stand inside – before trying out the City Circle tram. The city circle tram is another of Australia’s many free inner-city transport services much to the great benefit of anyone visiting – the only thing is, unlike the CAT buses in Perth, the tram is extremely dated and somewhat lacking seating, which is really a necessity given the speed it travels around the city at. There are seats of course but as locals and tourists alike all cram on, and inevitably most seats end up going to the elderly (which I’ve nothing against, more that there’s so few seats to begin with), we found ourselves sitting down and then getting back up again literally every third stop, until we hopped off at Central Station, having spent the last few moments of the journey with someone’s ass literally in my face, as a bunch of girls discussed how it was good luck to drink with an Irishman on St. Patrick’s Day. Indeed.
The next day or two went similarly – struggling to get up in the morning followed by a lengthy debate about whether to go into the city centre or not. Friday night saw us heading into town for a few drinks and a bit of clubbing, and a chance to check out the Melbourne nightlife scene, which is incidentally almost identical to the Dublin nightlife scene.
Having got to bed around 4 in the morning, we were woken up again at the crack of dawn, 7:30am, for our trip to the zoo. I’d be lying if I said I jumped out of bed anxiously, excited to see all the Australian wildlife. Rather, I stayed put and made some primitive grunting noises to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with this early start, growing louder until I was making full on moans about the lack of sleep. I doubted any drive to a zoo could really need such a long time, or that it could be really that great at the end of it all – whatever, we were still sitting in a car at 8:30 driving out of lovely Sunshine. The zoo we were in fact going to was in a place called Healesville, which it turned out, also had some strange carnival on that day too, which included, according to the sign posted just on the verge of the road for all to see, ‘train rides today – at the train station’. The zoo itself was more of a sanctuary and as we rounded the corner into the place, there were emu’s making horrible burping noises like they’d drank too much beer and needed to release some gas, as you do, followed by a garden that you could let yourself into in which a bunch of kangaroo’s lazed around, not up to too much damage so early in the morning. Many in fact, were lying flat out, seemingly also exhausted by their respective Friday nights’. One however, which we were able to identify throughout the day, stood in the corner in an apparent sulk, sort of hiding behind a tree with its arms clasped together.
And it began to occur to me that Australian wildlife, aside from probably being worth the early start, is so much different to the rest of the world and in a way, so bizarre. Kangaroo’s for example, just look like someone hiding in a costume, even when they’re real. They’ve the same sort of movements when they’re standing – like clasping their arms together – and then, when they move, they always look like they’re up to no good. Like spies, stupid as it sounds. Speaking of spies, an ugly bird of some description had also started tagging along behind us, which it continued to do right throughout the day – or so I thought – until we found that there were actually bundles of them stationed in various places throughout the sanctuary. There was a bird show as well, featuring all sorts of birds of varying sizes and intelligence, ranging from a parrot that was answering questions like it was on the final round of a game show, to a variety of birds of prey. It was a great show to be honest and the final touch was a half-Scot, half-aborigine (his words, not mine) showing us to how to play the didgeridoo before demonstrating – and selling – boomerangs. Needless to say, we all came home that day with a boomerang between us which went on to cause many hours of strain trying to actually get the thing to return to us. Even still, where it’s now secreted in my kitchen in Ireland, it continues to cause some disbelief that it can, in theory, work as it should. If it ever does though, you can bet I’ll have a video of my great success on Youtube.
From the bird show, we went up to the animal hospital for a look, before returning back around to the cafÃ© and a strange bouncing castle-type thing for kids, that we all wanted desperately to have a go on. We returned to the kangaroo’s to find them, still, lying out flat taking in the sun, or alternatively standing around the place randomly looking as if they were up to no good. We moved along to see the koala’s next. Again, aside from how detached from reality and slow they appear to be, what struck me most was how they also seem to stare as if they know your darkest secrets, which, coupled with the kangaroo’s and their apparent spying, was beginning to make me slightly nervous. Moving away from them, there were also lizards, more birds, and a few more of the ‘spies’ I’d seen earlier apparently following us around, before we reckoned it was time to leave. As it turns out, Healesville had something in store for us – as we tried to leave, it became apparent that a number of the road signs, if taken literally, force you into a square around the town, which can be done over and over any number of times if you fail to learn from your earlier mistakes. So, as we rounded the church for the 3rd time, I began to wonder would we need to bed down in Healesville for at least a few nights while we plotted an escape – before, thankfully, we finally found our way out, back towards Melbourne. And, as luck had it, the sanctuary was more than worth the early morning – even if I’m still convinced that the kangaroo’s know more about my darkest secrets than I know myself.