After a mere 14 hour flight from LA to Sydney, Australia (not to mention a 4.5 hour flight from Chicago to LA), Zach and I made it to Australia on Sunday, October 15. Despite the length of the flight, it was not all that uncomfortable. We had a friendly (although slightly large) gentleman sitting betwen us on the flight -- it could have been much worse. For future travelers, I strongly recommend Ambien. Both Zach and I slept for about nine hours on the flight; much more would have been tough.
After arriving in Sydney, we transferred to a domestic Qantas flight that brought us to Melbourne after a much more manageable 1.5 hours. Melbourne is located in the state of Victoria, in the southeast quadrant of the country. Our first day in Melbourne was primarily composed of checking into our hotel, showering, and walking around the "City Center" -- the main hub of life in the city. We had our first authentic Aussie meal (fish and chips for me, bangers and mash for Zach); got our GSM phone unlocked and connected to the Vodafone network; and managed a light dinner before crashing at 8pm.
Before I go much further, I should comment on what a great hotel we managed to find. The Westin Melbourne is beautiful, comfortable, and the staff is amazingly helpful (we might set a record for visits to the concierge desk). If not the Westin, I very strongly encourage Melbourne visitors to stay at a hotel in the City Center.
On Monday, Zach and I took the challenge of driving the Great Ocean Road, which runs from just west of Melbourne to Adelaide on the southern coast. I say challenge, because Australians drive on the left side of the road and on the right side of the car. More on our 10 hour trip shortly, but we both made it back alive -- without getting lost (at all) and no accidents or problems.
The Great Ocean Road is typically billed as a can't miss experience in Australia and after our trip, I have to agree. Most of the road runs along the ocean, providing outstanding views, and the parts that do not run through beautiful forrests and parks. In many ways, the trip was reminiscent of Cape Cod, with sleepy little towns along the way. As we navigated the twists and turns, we encountered the famous surfer paradise, Bells Beach, had lunch in Apollo Bay at a small cafe, saw the 12 Apostles, a famous lighthouse, several sleepy koalas, and more. As mentioned previously, this is a can't miss experience. I would strongly encourage travelers to drive the road themselves -- its not that difficult, car rentals are under $50 US for the day, and you can go at your own pace. One caveat, one could take several days to explore the Great Ocean Road, so you may want to consider booking hotels along the way and eventually ending up in Adelaide -- it took 3+ hours for us to get back to Melbourne from Port Campbell (just about the midpoint of the road).
Today, we decided to further explore Melbourne. To me, Melbourne has a very European feel. There are numerous cafes (everyone is always drinking coffee or cappucino), great restaurants, and tons of shopping. There is also a free tour bus that carries tourists to many of the major attractions around the City Center. Among my favorites for today: the Queen Victoria Market (an open air market) and the Observation Deck at Raialto tower. Tonight we will be heading out a beer and dinner.
Tomorrow, we depart for Alice Springs in the Red Center.