From Sydney we got the sleeper train overnight to Melbourne. Sleeper train essentials: a) book b) water c) eye patch d) ear plugs e) heavy duty sleeping pills! Nothing like being knocked out for 8 hours of your choice. It's even possible to ignore the fact that your carriage is swarming with an army of kids.
On arrival Melbourne treated us to a slight drizzle of rain, miserable skies and a bit of a breeze. Now this really was like home, we felt quite homesick! Melbourne seemed a lot more arty than Sydney, there are lots of galleries, edgy architecture, cultural things and shops crammed full of stuff you don't need but can't help wanting. And kids doing parkour classes in some of the public spaces, which was quite cool. Excitingly, we met up with Hannah (who wedding-goers may know as Bridesmaid Orange), for a few days of touring and culture. Well that was the plan but it ended up more like drinking, eating and a bit of touring. We spent a couple of nights in Melbourne, hanging out in trendy bars where the kids wore short skirts, clumpy shoes and bows in their hair (and that was just the men), drinking cocktails called Dictatorship of the Proletariat (really), and also seeing the worst band IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. They were called the Night Terrors, and if you ever get the opportunity to miss seeing them we would recommend that you grasp it with both hands.
After a few days of the city slicking we hired a car for the day and drove down to Philip Island. PI is a little rural enclave a short drive and a bridge away from Melbourne. It's a bit like the Isle of Wight, but with better animals and slightly fewer old people. We saw some koalas (very cute - TEDDY! - but like strippers you're not allowed to touch them, only they can touch you), wallabies (super cute - happy to hang on to our hands and eat the food we bought), kangaroos (similar but larger, slightly intimidatingly so in fact), tasmanian devils (we were very excited to see them but they were a little underwhelming, and we felt sorry for the poor buggers as they were literally shaking with fear!), and finally the PI Penguin Parade. This is a nightly penguin ritual where the birds which have been hanging out at sea eating for a couple weeks come home for some R&R. They bob around in the surf for a little while, slowly coming to the shore. When they are washed ashore they will hang around in the surf line, being buffeted by the waves all the time, until their group reaches the critical size that they are happy to make a break for it when they dash across the beach to their little homes in the grassland. It's very cute, their indecision as they wait for their mates is hilarious, especially as they are pint-sized little things, 30cm at most. We also visited a chocolate factory, which was very exciting as it had been tricked out like Willy Wonka's, all complex machines and things for little hands to fiddle with.
Once we'd had this wildlife bonanza we needed a bit of sustenance. By sheer chance the hotel we are staying at had an excellent little bistro around the corner, where we polish off three and a half courses and a bottle each of white, red and dessert wine. Raa! We drove back to Melbourne slowly the next morning, suitably chastened and sufficiently late that we didn't manage to go to the Giant Earthworm exhibition.
We had another couple of days of living it up in Melbourne with Hans (including going to an AFL match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground - an amazing education in institutionalised off-ball violence) and then, very sadly, it's time to say goodbye. We had a great time seeing Hans, it was like a little slice of home from home. After we left Hans we visited Angi's uncle and aunt Chandumama and Meeramami, along with their hyperactive puppy Sonny, who put us up and took care of us handsomely. Hopefully it'll be less than 27 years until we see them the next time...
n.b. still having photo woes... if i'm not on a mac which doesn't like this site it's a PC which refuses to read the memory cards. Sorry. I still have photos from Bolivia which need to go up!