I had been planning a trip Down Under for some months and like any big trip, funding was the major issue. The money I pick up from my travel blogs was nowhere near enough so I had to do a couple of months of night shifts stuffing shelves at Lidl and Aldi stores. Nightfill! Good money, bad lifestyle!
This Australian trip was going to take me to Melbourne then onto Ararat by train, a country town about 150 km from the city. I have a friend there and we had been talking about the possibility of hiking The Grampians over a two-week period in October. I would have preferred September but my friend Max is a mad keen Aussie Rules football fan and September is when they play the finals. I can understand that, being a crazy football fan here in the UK. They call our game ‘soccer’ in Australia. Don’t ask.
If you book early the fare return to Melbourne is just over £600 but the airline is China Eastern and you have a stop in Shanghai. None of that ever worried me, and that flight was a better alternative than travelling Royal Brunei and stopping at Bandar Seri Begawan and not being able to buy a beer! Whichever way you went the trip time was 27 hours.
Australia in October is a beautiful place to be if you like sunny, warm weather. Not too hot at that time. An airport bus to Southern Cross railway station and a nice leisurely trip on the V/Line train to Ararat gave you the time to relax and steal a few hours of much-needed sleep and attend to that jet lag. I was lucky that Ararat was the end of the line as I was fast asleep until the porters came through to wake me up.
Max lived a little bit out of the central part of town on a nice property of about 7 acres, with three dams that had ducks and geese. The real bonus for us was that it’s a 40-minute drive from his place to the Grampians, about 50 km. We were sitting on a couple of chairs on the timber landing that juts onto the biggest dam, cold beer in hand just chatting about life in general. I hadn’t seen Max for a few years and mentioned that he was nicely set up here. His car was new, a Toyota 4WD which he had opted to buy using an ‘easy on the pocket personal loan’, is the way he put it. He didn’t want it tied in with his mortgage which seemed the way people tended to borrow money these days.
As the afternoon sun headed down west, I was just about nodding off to sleep in my chair. I would have been quite happy to have slept in the chair next to the water but Max nudged me and said the mosquitoes would carry me away if he left me there. A couple of days’ rest and we would be off on our Grampians adventure trek.