Catch up time.
Our flight tickets are only good for a year, and as I sat in Thailand and considered this unfortunate fact, I realized I should probably use a few more of the flights before they all expired, leaving me trapped in…paradise. Can’t have that now, can we? So I hopped on a flight to Sydney to meet up with two very good friends of mine, Sophie and Dieter, who happened to be in Australia for a convention from his workplace in Scotland. But he’s Swiss. And I met him in England. But I visited him in Germany this summer, and we were in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany simultaneously. Not that any of this matters. On with the post!
Sydney is a nice city, but coming from Thailand everything was too cold and too expensive. So I flew to Melbourne to check things out over there, met up with Tristan who was kind enough to play host and show me around, introducing me to his crazy friends and teaching the strange method of eating Aussie style fish and chips, and even found me a wombat to pet. But it wasn’t in a wheelbarrow like he promised. Although we did see a koala in an akubra hat (think Crocodile Dundee), which made me surprisingly happy.
No plates, no forks, just FISHNCHIPS!
I call him Wombie.
The unfortunate side of Melbourne was that it turned out to be even colder than Sydney, and raining for some reason. I don’t know about you, but I heard Australia was hot and dry, and here I was cold and wet. And alone. And hungry. It’s funny when I travel alone, I forget to do certain things…like eat. So I bought a few rolls of sushi, called up Dennis and begged him to fly to Melbourne and meet me so we could rent a camper and drive the south coast, see the sights, and get the hell out of there to somewhere warmer.
So we did! We rented a campervan and drove around all day in our boxers (I can’t remember why exactly, but it was fun checking out some of the lookouts with no pants on).
Dennis without pants on…no surprise there.
We saw some local wildlife, as usual blitzed out of their mind off eucalyptus leaves, and even witnessed one grumpy koala roaring at another one (they are actually quite loud and aggressive sounding). He then proceeded to climb down his tree, attempt a leap to another one, and fall flat on his face. Laughter ensued.
The very first wild kangaroo we saw was while driving in Victoria, and it actually hopped out between me and a cop car coming the opposite direction. So of course I slammed on my brakes, and the cop turned on his lights to warn me not to hit the kangaroo. Or so I thought. Because as soon as he passed me, he chucked a U-ey and pulled me over! I wasn’t sure what this had to do with kangaroo safety, but I thought I had better oblige. He walks up to the window and asks me “Do you know how fast you were going?”
“You were going 115.”
“Oh………is that bad?”
“The limit here is 100. How long have you been in Australia?”
At this point he took my invalid drivers license (oh yeah, my license expired a few months earlier, which car rental companies don’t seem to mind) and went back to the car to check his criminal database. After a few minutes of me sweating like a hooker in church, he determined that I should get off with no ticket somehow. Works for me! Zoom zoom zoom!
We headed over to Adelaide to visit Kirby, another Aussie friend from Waterloo. A few days of sightseeing, catching up, and ‘How I Met Your Mother’ later, we headed on the inland route back to Melbourne through the Grampian mountains. Don’t worry, we took some pictures along the way.
We hit some van-eating potholes.
And found some ferns. I love ferns…more on that later.
The Great Ocean Road – Southern Australia
By some miracle we managed to synch our schedules with Miri and Nico, our German friends from California. We shared a few meals and a few too many boxes of goon, to the enjoyment of all. By the way, goon is the term for dirt cheap, really nasty wine that is the backpacker booze of choice. Count me in! Until the hangover at least…
Cooking with Miri in our camper!
Some lighthouse and some Germans.
Dennis falling off a cliff that looks like an iguana.
Up to some mischief.
Taking in the view.
World’s scariest koala. That saved us from a gasless fate.
We managed to make it back into Melbourne in one piece, and we already had our next travel plans worked out. Imagine! We were going to head to New Zealand for a month before it got too cold, and then head back up to the East Coast and roadtrip with Ryan, Andrea, and Sophie! YAAAY!! Just as our wonderful Aussie Adventures were coming to a close, however, fate had something else in store. We rock up to the airport a good 2 hours early, expecting an easy check in and a relaxing rest in the airport lounge. “Oh wait”, the desk attendants tell us. “Dennis doesn’t have a ticket.” “Ohhh yes he does,” I reply, having been through this in Bangkok and forced to miss my flight due to an airline error in the past. “You have to cross-check the Quantas database with the American Airlines database.” Duh. Well, it seemed to work. But by that time we had other problems. “Um, do you guys know that neither of you have visas in Australia?” Heck yeah we do, darn tootin, we gots us some fancy E-LECtronic visas, activated as soon as we stepped in the country! But they don’t buy it. They call up immigration. “Ok ok…you have visas. But they’re only good for re-entry into Australia for one year from PURCHASE, not from first ENTRY.” Which gives us…two days. We were flying to NZ on March 19, and if we wanted to be allowed back into Australia, we had to be back on the 21st. Or face deportation. But the attendants decided to step it up a notch. “Well sir, if New Zealand immigration thinks you will not be allowed back into Australia, he may not even allow you into New Zealand. You may find yourself back in Canada by the end of the day.” WHAAAAAAAAAT just happened to our lives!?!? Our little kiwi adventure turned into a deportation nightmare!
“What can we do?!” We beg and plead. “Well sirs, you will have to go to New Zealand and apply for a new Australian visa. But you will have to do it within the next two days, because we have to change your flights to March 21 so they will let you into New Zealand. That’s IF they let you in.” Wait a moment. The desk attendants are trying to tell us that we can’t get into New Zealand without a valid Australian visa, and we can’t get a new Australian visa without getting into New Zealand. I’ve always wanted to read Catch-22, I’ve heard it’s a very interesting book.
So we follow their advice, pull off a massive last minute flight change, go through several small heart attacks and all-out sprint across the airport for our departing flight. We made it into New Zealand alright, and double check the fine print on our visas. Turns out they were wrong. We were fine all along. Grr.
No harm done, we managed to change our flights back to their original dates and all is well in the world. But that poor Kiwi immigration officer will never understand why that strange Canadian dude was only visiting his beautiful country for two short days. He warned me it wouldn’t be enough. It wouldn’t have been.