Melbourne, Australia was our next stop in this amazing “Blind Date With the World”, as Bill Chalmers, the Founder of the Great Escape Global Scavenger Hunt, likes to refer to it.
The beginning of this Par Two leg was when Kate and I began to realize that we didn’t really want to sacrifice quality of the scavenges for quantity of scavenges required to win this competition. We are traveling with some seriously competitive folks who try to complete every single scavenge on the lists and let me tell you, they are numerous and many of them are challenging in one way or another. The scope of options is extensive, very well chosen and well planned out and my hat goes off to Ol’ Bill! We decided the first night in Melbourne, after getting our book of scavenges, that we were going to complete as many as we could, starting with our favorites first, then we would see, but trying to win quickly left our thoughts. Actually, we are already winners getting to go on this incredible journey! Ok, on to our Melbourne experiences.
This is a wonderful city! It reminds me of a cross between San Fransisco and New York, two of my favorite cities in the world. There are some lovely structures here, with an abundance of intricate wrought iron on many of the historic homes and buildings. It is very well layed out on a grid and fairly easy to navigate with a friendly public transportation system. We all checked into the Langham Hotel located on the South Bank. We arrived very late because our flight was delayed, just one of those possible annoyances that can and will happen if you travel often enough. Anyway, this hotel is awesome. It is in a great location and the amenities are fabulous. The breakfast, wonderful and very plentiful, is also included.
The morning after arriving, we immediately went across the bridge to the station and purchased a Myki Card, which is a pass for the trams, buses and trains. We got the day pass that we could reload if needed, as we were there for two full days and a half on this leg of our journey. Then, we rode the free tram that circles the middle of the city to acclamate ourselves and get our bearings.
After that, we sat in on a session of Parliment, one of the many scavenge options. They were discussing euthanasia, which will be up for debate soon and one woman spoke eloquently against it. We stayed about half an hour, inspecting the beautiful building and listening in on the session.
Then, we got on the 96 and we were off to St. Kilda Beach where several scavenge options were located. We enjoyed some incredible “continental cakes” which are delicious pastries and some fabulous coffee. Melbourne prides itself on its coffee and we did enjoy many wonderful cups over our time there. We walked all the way down to the end of the pier to see the penguins, and had a chat with some locals, getting info we needed.
As we were headed back to catch the train to Brighton Beach, we spotted the Great Scenic Railway! In case you don’t know, our new favorite show is The Murder Mysteries of Phryne Fisher, an Australian show and winner of many awards, filmed in Melbourne. Kate and I discovered the first two seasons on Netflix a few months ago and immediately got hooked. Anyway, there is an episode where Phryne and Jack ride the Scenic Railway, so of course, we had to as well! It is a fully restored wooden roller coaster dating back to the early 1900’s, and offers quite a bumpy but fun ride.
We then headed to Brighton Beach, where one of the challenges was to change in a “bathing box” and have a swim in Port Philip Bay. These bathing boxes are iconic structures there in Brighton Beach, dating back to the early 1900’s and are all privately owned and very valuable, worth as much a one million Australian dollars each! They are brightly painted and very small and used for changing into swim wear. Also, another episode of “Phryne” was filmed on this beach and included the “bathing boxes” which made it all the more fun! The question was, how were we going to get in to one? This is the beginning of winter here and they were all closed up, besides being privately owned. There were a few people laying on the beach, so we approached everyone we met, but no one was an owner of a box, until we made it the the other end, where, voila, there was an open box with a gentleman sunning in front. We slowly approached, explained what we were doing, traipsing around the world completing challenges and trusting strangers in strange lands, and he was delighted to help! He let us use his box for changing before and after our freezing cold dip in the ocean. Then, we met his family who will be traveling all over the U.S. this summer. They were delightful and that experience again reminded us of what this whole thing is really about.
After our swim, we had a long hike to Middle Brighton, enjoying looking at the beautiful neighborhoods and homes along the way, in this very wealthy area. We did several other smaller challenges throughout the afternoon and then ended back in the city where we tracked down some kangaroo steaks and cooked them on the barbe without utensils. We also added lime juice as per the advice of the grocer and made sure to keep them rare. We then proceeded to eat them with our bare hands, as we didn’t really want to buy knives and forks. Another challenge completed and enjoyed. Then, it was off to the casino to collect a chip and then up to the top of the Eureka Sky Deck to take in the amazing night view of this beautiful city!
On this leg, as with all others, there are many food and beverage taste tests, which we are always happy to do! Kate and I both love to eat and try new things and Kate can eat a lot, even though she is no bigger than a minute. I love to eat, too, but I am definitely bigger than a minute, perhaps two!
The next morning, after that wonderful breakfast, we headed to the Melbourne Zoo to catch a photo of ourselves with a Kangaroo. They are located way in the back, so we enjoyed many of the other animal habitats along the way, including the gorgeous butterfly sanctuary. There are species in there we certainly don’t have back home! They also have a baby gorilla and Mom and Baby were doing fine. The giraffes are always a favorite of mine and now Natalie Kate, my precious granddaughter, loves them, too. I bought her the cutest giraffe baby backpack that is just her size and she’s going to love it! We were in a bit of a hurry, so we didn’t get to see everything we wanted, but I highly recommend that zoo when you are in Melbourne.
On the way back, we stopped at Victoria Market for more challenges. We saw a whole croc skin in perfect condition. I don’t condone that sort of thing, but it was impressive and cost $2000. We also bought a boomerang and had a go at throwing it. We don’t have the hang of it yet, but we will practice at home.
At the noon meeting with the group, we turned in our score sheets for peer review and found out we are headed to… BALI!! What can I say? We are so blessed to be on this amazing adventure around the globe and we are loving every second of it. We are actually just leaving Bali, which was Incredible!! We will hit those highlights as soon as we get a chance. I am not telling where we are going now, not yet!!