Morning lift to the airport, followed by an uneventful flight to Melbourne. In Melbourne, there's not much to do beyond spending six hours in the airport pub. So I do that.

The return flight to Qatar is a trial. I'm having all sorts of trouble sleeping and I've got the shits.

Posted Fri Jul 9 00:00:00 2010 Tags: Australia

Early start for a lift to the station on a rainy bonfire day. There may not be a formal midwinter festival in the southern hemisphere, but that doesn't stop it happening.

My plan for the day is to see the Muslim Cameleer exhibition at Melbourne's Immigration Museum, and I arrive at about opening time after carefully slicing my finger open while repacking at left luggage.

The exhibition is brief and to the point. It starts with a selection of "Certificates of Exemption from Dictation Test" which paint an interesting portrait, both of the men and of the personality of White Australia. The dictation test was a means for immigration officers to deny applicants entry to Australia. Granting the cameleers' exemption from this show how important they were to the Australian economy.

They turned up initially in the mid 1800s, to provide a means of supply to remote towns and stations, and help drive stock. The sums invested in bringing them and their mounts from modern day Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan were colossal, but so were their contributions to Australia. They were instrumental in some of the early expeditions including Burke and Wills, and most famously the construction of the Ghan railway from Adelaide to Alice Springs.

Weather's starting to happen as I tramp to Federation Square, which has Culture and Dangling Art. However I'm not partaking in the Culture. I head to the internet instead for a brief communication with the Outside World. And from there to the airport via the Southern Cross bus dungeon.

I've made the mistake of booking a flight during civilised hours, and the place is packed. The plane also has unannounced lateness, but we're soon on our way to New Zealand. It's a full flight, and my neighbour turns out to have the World's Largest Elbows.

Auckland welcomes visitors with gurt big carved wooden archway instead of a quarantine dungeon. It turns out to be slightly quicker to get in as an Australian than as a Briton, so I become Australian for the rest of my holiday.

Now, I'm not saying I've got catching up to do, but my accommodation for my first night in Auckland is the Shakespeare Hotel and Brewery. It's a brewpub which - judging by the suitably misanthropic manager's description - hasn't done very well in recent years but still refuses to die. Quite fitting then that it's showing the Lost Boys. The brew turns out to be excellent, and I decide that I'm actually still jetlagged as I stay up sampling the wares and watching New Zealand's excellent World Cup performance against Italy.

Posted Sun Jun 20 00:00:00 2010 Tags: Australia

I am taken for a trip down the Mornington Peninsula, which, according to my notes, features a pleasant beach and a nutty canal scheme. Being Australia, the public areas here all have barbecues.

I also take a little time to go photographing roos, just to prove I'm in Australia. But the combination of grey roos, grey skies and me only bringing my wide lens means they didn't turn out well.

Posted Sat Jun 19 00:00:00 2010 Tags: Australia

A pleasant day of shopping in Melbourne. I invest in some shorts, and some dive bits. I meet up with my aunt post clothes shopping, for a lunch of dim sum.

The unexpected bonus of the day comes when I'm reminded that I gave my aunt a bottle of single cask Laphroaig of Christmas, and would I like to try some?

Posted Fri Jun 18 00:00:00 2010 Tags: Australia

Doha International Airport has free Wi-Fi and Ardmore, but has absolutely no other feature to redeem a 7 hour wait. In comparison, the 13 hour flight is surprisingly painless despite the limited range of entertainment. The booze flows freely to make up for it.

The Australian quarantine boys make Saudi customs look like a bunch of weekend amateurs in comparison. Not only do they X-ray everything, they also look at the screens.

I had forgotten how European Melbourne feels - the city appear to have been built with the same interest given to how it looks rather than the emphasis on how much it costs which distinguishes so many British cities. And then there's the ubiquitous tram system.

It's evening time when I get into Melbourne's Southern Cross station. I'm strangely OK with the timezone so far, but it's still sleep o' clock and I head to my bed for the night.

The Pensione Hotel isn't as good as it thinks it is, but still perfectly acceptable for Late Rooms prices.

Posted Thu Jun 17 00:00:00 2010 Tags: Australia