Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - Auckland to Melbourne, Australia

5:30 a.m. Well, we made it to Auckland, New Zealand, but that wasn't our final destination. We had a three-hour layover before our flight to Melbourne, Australia. On Monday evening we left LA, 13 hours elapsed, and we arrived on Wednesday morning. That Date Line can really mess with your head. Poor Tom - Since we didn't go through immigration in New Zealand, he couldn't leave the building and smoke. No fair!

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Layover in Auckland

8:30 a.m. One last flight on our journey west. For breakfast ANZ announced they'd be serving "bubble and squeak," which gave me absolutely no information as to what I'd actually be eating. It turned out to be some sort of hashbrown with bits of ham and green peas and maybe some other stuff mixed in there, too. Pretty good, actually.

10:20 a.m. Finally, finally, finally we made it Australia. Tom's good mate Dean was to pick us up at the Melbourne airport. Since they hadn't seen each other in nine years, I asked Tom if he'd even be able to recognize his old friend after so long. But no worries. I'd never met Dean before, and even I knew the Aussie with the bright eyes, the cheery smile, and the bald head festooned with a Cat-in-the-Hat-style Uncle Sam top hat had to be him! And Dean hadn't come alone. His fantastic dog Choco was waiting for us in the car as well.

Dean drove us to his home via an indirect route, hoping to show us Australia's national symbol, the kangagroo, on our first day here. But they're most active at dawn and dusk when it's not so hot, so no luck. We took a picture of a kangaroo crossing sign instead. Dean offered to get the sign for me, but I declined. Was he kidding? I thought so at the time, but now I know probably not.

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Dean and Choco

Arriving at Dean's place in Lilydale, an hour outside of Melbourne, we sampled a couple of local beers, Victoria Bitter and Carlton Draught, while he showed us around the place. Dean and Catherine have a lovely home on a beautiful 10-acre piece of property with extensive flower gardens, mature trees, and a dam (pond). He drove us around the property on the back of his tractor, Tom and I riding in a seat usually reserved for little kids, but for us he made an exception.

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Dean and Catherine's home, Lilydale, Australia

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Seat of honor

Dean made us some cheese sandwiches and then gave us a taste of the extremely popular Australian bread-spread vegemite, a dark brown food paste made from leftover brewers' yeast extract and various additives. It's extraordinarily salty and slightly bitter. I barely managed to choke down a fourth of a slice of bread with vegemite without gagging. Aussies eat it like peanut butter.

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Mmm... Vegemite!

2:00 p.m. Dean headed to work and left Tom and me to nurse our travel fatigue. Actually, we felt remarkably good, though not quite normal, considering the 22 hours of flights over the past two days. Though a nap would have felt nice, we forced ourselves to stay up and be moderately active. Had we laid down, we likely would have slept straight till midnight and then been wide awake. We spent the afternoon meandering around the property in the bright sunshine and sampling the local radio. It was a bright sunny day in the mid 80s, but it felt much hotter in the direct sun.

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Some of the gardens

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The dam

Dean and Catherine are self-sufficient on water. They capture water for watering their gardens in the dam. Household water, including drinking water, comes from rainwater that runs down their corrugated metal roof into a guttering system and is stored in a cistern. It comes out of the taps as needed, just like yours and mine. Dean claimed it was unfiltered as we were drinking it, but he may have just been screwing with us. It's hard to tell. We drank it nonetheless.

7:00 p.m. Catherine came home from work and we introduced ourselves, having never met before. Then Catherine fixed a nice "tea" of chicken and veggies over rice while Tom and I fought off sleep. In Australia and New Zealand, if someone invites you over in the evening for "tea," you really being invited for the evening meal. A cup of tea need not be involved.

Catherine helped us with Metlink information and logistics for our plans for tomorrow, and at 8:45 I finally crashed out hard. It was time to lay down anyway since we had to get up at 5:00 a.m. for tomorrow's tour.

 

Continue to Day 4

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