Saturday, November 09, 2013

Australia road trip day 1 - Intro and Arthur's Seat

Viv and I always try to go on two trips a year - a short one somewhere nearby and a longer one to a distant land with lower temperatures and new experiences. Early in the year, we went to Phuket on a short holiday and enjoyed it immensely. We were still undecided on what to do about the second trip when Viv had a brilliant suggestion. He had been wanting to take his cricket-crazy dad to a high-profile match sometime, and the Ashes seemed like the perfect choice, especially considering that his dad's birthday was coming up. However, I was very clear that if it was going to just a cricket trip, I would very much like to be excluded. I can barely sit through a 20-20 on TV. To imagine watching a test match live, without close-up shots, without action replay? No way. But Viv suggested that we could perhaps make it a road trip through Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane (where they would be watching the match) and if I wanted, I could come back before the cricket section of the holiday started. Now that was tempting.

However, we still had a lot of considerations, Xena's frequent bouts of bronchiolitis requiring hospitalisation and oxygen being the main one. I was also worried about how she would cope with the cold weather there, and whether she would be willing to sit in the child carseat for long hours. (We don't have a car so she's not used to sitting in a carseat at all.) Besides, she's the mother of all picky eaters and without a kitchen to make the khichdi I make for her, and all my props that I use to feed her, I was worried she'd lose weight during the trip. There was also the worry that since I had just about toilet-trained her, she would not be able to cope with long car trips. We gave it a lot of thought and decided to go ahead with our plan, but prepare well for it. We got some solid travel insurance for her that would cover any health issues, packed all her medicines along with her oximeter, nebuliser, and medical history booklet, etc. I hid her favourite toys for a few weeks before the trip so they would be 'new' to entertain her on the road trip. We also stopped taking her to the playground and school a week before our trip, just to be safe. We decided to put her back in diapers for the trip, and I bought Cerelac and Heinz baby food (yes, the kind that 6-month-olds eat, sigh...) to see her through.

In parallel, we were also planning to make the cricket part of the trip a surprise for Viv's dad (henceforth referred to as Appa). We thought of not telling him anything about the trip itself and just whisk him off to the airport from here, but he would need an Australian visa so that wouldn't work. So we decided to tell him that we were taking him on a holiday to Australia, without any mention of the Ashes. He applied for his visa and got here.

Xena had been on holidays thrice before this, but now that she's two, this was the first time where she had her own seat instead of just a bassinet! This, of course, also meant that her ticket was almost as expensive as an adult's. It was a late flight, and even though she did not sleep off before boarding as we had hoped/expected, she behaved very well on the flight. The air stewardess gave her a Warzol toy and a blanket, and she loved the toy so much, it served as a life-saver later, especially during the longer trips on the road. She fell asleep soon after the flight took off, and Viv also attempted to sleep because he had to drive as soon as we landed. I was not able to sleep for some reason, so I decided to catch up on my movie-watching. I stayed up all night and ended up watching not one, not two, but three Hindi movies! Well, 2.75 to be exact because though I finished watching Lootera and Ranjhanaa, the flight landed before I could finish Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani. The Emirates crew was the most racially diverse crew I've ever seen on a flight. The pilot also announced later that the crew spoke a total of about 12 languages.

We landed in Melbourne early in the morning, and Viv decided to get a local sim card before we headed to the car rental place. And this is when I realised how laid-back Australia is and how much Singapore's efficiency has spoiled us. It took 45 minutes of queuing before he got his sim card. The car rental company had us picked up from the airport and taken to their office, where our car was ready for the long trip ahead. It was dark blue (bleah) and apparently, we could choose the make but not the colour. Fine. Hmmmmph. Viv got behind the wheel, Xena got into her car seat and  all of us got into the holiday mode. Wheeeeee!

We stayed at Viv's uncle's place in Melbourne. He had visited us in Singapore with his family last year and Xena had really enjoyed playing with them. She didn't recognise them, but she was happy nevertheless and enjoyed playing soccer with them. By mid-afternoon, I decided to put her down for a nap. I collapsed right next to her as my lack of sleep in the flight was kicking in. We woke up, refreshed, and Viv's uncle suggested that we could go to Arthur's seat in the evening. He drove and we followed him.

Arthur's seat is a hill located 75 km from Melbourne, so it took us a good hour and a half to get there. The entire time, Xena kept saying the two girls, "Where is the ball?" I suppose she would have preferred to continue playing soccer at home rather than sitting in the car seat for so long. I didn't count how many times she asked that question, but it was surely 30 at the very least. After a while, bugged of saying "It's at home." 30 times, I asked her to count instead and that kept her occupied for a while. When she got to 40, I'd ask her to go back to 1.

Xena in her carseat

Soon, we were at Arthur's seat. It was bitterly cold when we got out of the car. I actually felt my jaw locking up, and I couldn't talk! We walked up to the open grassy area where kangaroos apparently roamed free. Just as I told myself that there had better be at least one kangaroo to make staying out in the cold worth it, I saw a few of them! Just like that. Roaming free. Wow. Needless to say, Xena was THRILLED. 

We even saw a kangaroo with a joey. I had shown her joeys in books, but this was the first time she was looking at one herself. She pointed at it and said, "Joey is soft. Xena wants to touch the joey."

I told her that she couldn't touch it, but we could take a photo with it. She didn't complain. 

Soon, she was saying, "It's too cold, too cold." so I took her inside the car. Honestly, I was happy to get out of the cold too. Viv, meanwhile, went further to the Arthur's seat lookout point to take a look at the view that the place was famous for. Luckily, he took the camera along, so I could see the photos later. 

Arthur's seat was named by explorer and seaman John Murray in 1802, for an apparent resemblance to the hill of Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh (which was his home city). Murray was the first European to discover Port Philip, the bay on which Melbourne is situated. 



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