Australia is mahoosive. The UK could fit into it 31.4 times. It’s one of the world’s most urbanised countries and the 3rd least densely populated. 24.5 million peeps live there, mainly in cities around the edges.
So, we spent two weeks in Melbourne, one week in Sydney and one week in Umina, a beachside town an hour’s train ride north of Sydney.
Our adventures in Asia left us feeling a bit ambivalent about Australia. Would we miss the craziness? The colour? The culture? Judging by the lack of photos taken in Australia, I’d say yes.
Picking out differences in a culture so close to our own is tricky
But, a shopping trolley is called a trundler. Many parks and public spaces have signs acknowledging the (once) aboriginal custodians of the land. Woolworths is still around, as a food retailer. Sports and leisure wear is worn like we might wear jeans and tee-shirts and there’s always a public barbecue close by. Scruffy eucalyptus trees dominant the land, shedding their bark like strips of old skin until their trunks are smooth and good-looking again. We saw snake catchers and the boys very much bore in mind the deadly spiders.
Though food was pricey, it felt good to know what to do with the stuff from the supermarket and we cooked at home a lot. We were rid of the nightly hassle of getting the kids out to eat – yay! Our first meal was cauliflower cheese, potatoes and green beans – a combo I’d been craving for the previous three months.
Everything seemed expensive, cleaner, more organised, less spontaneous and more formal after South-East Asia. And so many refined leisure opportunities! Melbourne was awash with events, in particular the Australian Open. Theatres bulged with top-notch shows, art galleries dripped with world-class exhibitions, sports venues buzzed, St Kildas beach thrummed with kite-surfers, Federation Square pulsed with street entertainers, water slides and sports on the big screen.
Not knowing quite what to do with ourselves, we tightened our belts (after buying the boys yet another pair of replacement trainers each and a new tee-shirt for me) and played a lot of frisbee in the parks.
I did my 50th parkrun in Melbourne and dragged my unfit arse around Albert Lake and the Tan as many times as I could.
We ventured out of Melbourne just twice
We visited a couple we’d met during our safari in Kruger National Park who took us to the Australian Garden. They served us pavlova and a chance to enjoy extended conversation with other adults apart from each other (something we’d not done for 3 weeks). For our second trip, we borrowed a neighbour’s car via an app called CarNextDoor to see koalas, kangaroos, dingoes and wallabies at a wildlife park.
Sydney was chockablock with Sydney icons. Thomas took an alternative view of the Opera House, describing it as ducks’ arses. I ran the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a whopping 26°C heat at 5.45am!
But I’d had my fill of expensive, leisurely, city life and was ready to head to Umina to enjoy the beach, the sea and some fresh air. The boys played for hours in the play park and took tennis lessons there.
I asked Fraser if he’d been bored
‘Yes, perhaps, just a little’ he replied. I understood what he meant. Our experience had been a bit dry. I admit I was hanging out for New Zealand… it was up next and waiting.