No more bundling up to go outside, no more sleeping under six blankets at night, no more shirts under sweaters under shirts under jackets. I have officially shed my winter layers and exchanged them for flip flops, tank tops, and shorts.
Summer in January? Yes please, thank you.
After I landed in the Melbourne airport, I made my way into the city and was greeted by the most cheerful city employee who was quite eager to assist me in finding my hostel. He even gave me a bottle of cold water, which was a refreshing treat after the stale (and warm) water that I had been carting around with me all day.
Don’t worry Mom—I made sure that the water bottle was sealed. I wasn’t about to get abducted on my first day in Australia. I’ll save that for my 9th day.
After riding the tram and walking for 10 minutes, it was already 1pm and I could feel the 101 degree sun relentlessly beating down on me. My water was already gone and I was ready to settle into my new hostel and take a cold shower.
I walked up to the hostel and turned the handle.
The door was locked.
I peered inside.
Not a soul around.
Confused, I walked down the road to a quaint little art gallery to use their phone and take a break in their air conditioning.
I met a sweet older man named Ross, and his pup. While I waited for the hostel owner to get back from the post office, Ross and I had a wonderful conversation about art, books, and family.
The next day, I went to St. Kilda Beach with a new friend, Tim, for (quite possibly) the best part of my trip so far.
Penguins!! Yes, that’s two exclamation points that you’re seeing.
We didn’t go to the zoo or an aquarium. We saw them in the wild. PENGUINS. Wild penguins in their natural habitat, calmly swimming up to the rocks for their nightly slumber.
I was clearly very excited to see the tiniest penguins in the world so close with no glass or barriers between us. I was almost close enough to snatch one up and take it home as a new pet.
My pictures of the actual penguins aren’t great because it was past dusk and flash photography is (understandably) not allowed.
I was working on figuring out the best way to get up to Sydney and someone suggested that I use Gumtree. It’s very similar to CraigsList; you can post and search for jobs, things for sale, relationships, and browse their ride sharing (AKA hitchhiking).
After perusing the ads, I thought that they were a bit dry. Here’s what I posted:
Hello, I am looking for a ride up to Sydney on the 3rd or 4th. I am an American and my English is… pretty good?
In exchange, I am willing to offer:
-dead silence (if that’s your preference)
I will also unwrap pieces of gum for you so that you can focus on driving. Yep, I’m super helpful like that.
I connected with a middle-aged Australian woman named Libby, who was driving north to see her sister.
My other riding buddies were Matt, his son, Dylan, and Dylan’s girlfriend, Miranda. The three “kids” rode in the back of the van while Libby and Matt alternated driving responsibilities. I ended up paying about $18 USD to pitch in for gas.
Libby was an interesting character. It was a real treat to sit in the back and listen to her talk about how the Internet is affecting animal behaviors, her smoking habits, and the van’s inability to go faster than 60 miles per hour.
But hey, at least we had roadside assistance (which she proudly announced at the commencement of the trip).
Six rest stops, 545 miles, and 10 hours later, we made it into Sydney.
My first Gumtree experience was a success! I wasn’t murdered, left stranded on the side of the road, robbed, or otherwise harmed. Plus, I saw kangaroos!
The chances that I’ll see these wonderful people again are slim… but then again, who knows what the future may bring.