Saturday, March 27, 2004

Adelaide, Australia--Alice Springs, Australia--Days 57/58

Today I woke up and had a few hours to kill before getting my bus up to Alice Springs. I checked out of my hotel and left my bags at the hotel while I went to the post office and over to the Quantas travel center to get my tickets sorted out since I changed my departure city to get to Sydney from Adelaide to Alice Springs. I first walked over to the post office but found that it was closed, so I hopped onto the free bus in the center and rode it over to the Quantas center that I had seen yesterday when getting the bus to the zoo. The bus ride was less crowded than yesterday (no school children!) and I found the Quantas center and sat down to wait my turn. I was finally called up and as it turns out, the can’t do ticket rerouting on the weekends, so I would have to wait until Monday to do so. Unfortunately I will be on my Ayer’s Rock trip on Monday, so I won’t be able to actually go in and get it changed until Thursday when we get back into Alice Springs. The woman said that this would be ok since my tickets were already changed in the system, all I would have to do would be to go in and it wouldn’t take long to reissue the tickets on Thursday.

So I set off back towards the hotel so that I could drop off the cds and tickets back at the hotel and not have to walk around with them all day. Afterwards I decided to get something to eat and walked over to the weekend market near my hotel. There were lots of shops set up and I walked around for a little bit then found a little café to have some tea and something to eat. After finishing, I decided that it would be a good idea for me to get a haircut, since my hair has gotten to be pretty much a mess lately and in need of some help. So I found a hairdressers and walked in, asking if I could get my hair cut. The woman at the desk (who had very noticeable hair that was bright blonde with a huge pink stripe in it) said that there would be time for me to have my hair cut, but not necessarily dyed today, if that was ok with me.

Sounded good (I wasn’t sure if I wanted my hair dyed anyways) and so I waited for the hairdresser (whose name was Sarah!) to come over. Soon a girl who also had bright blonde hair but with dark streaks in it came over and introduced herself as Sarah and brought me over to her chair and sat me down, taking a good look at my scraggly curls. She said that she thought that evening out the cut would be good, and that we could add a few bits of blonde highlights if I wanted, which would look really good, showing me a picture of a girl with really pretty hair with just a touch of blonde in her hair. With all of this traveling that I had been doing, I have been feeling pretty disheveled and so the idea of freshening up my hair sounded like a good idea.

So I agreed and Sarah got to work, leaving me to read a magazine while she went off to mix up this blonde color that she was going to put in my hair. She came back and started pinning and foiling and painting my hair with this white mixture which, when finally finished, took about 30 minutes for my entire head. Now I was getting a little concerned at this point because these foil things were not just a few, but basically all over my head with little bits of brown sticking out through the aluminum. She told me that she was going to make the brown bits in between a little bit more brown so that I had some contrast in my hair which would help make my hair back to its natural color (you have to wonder how dyeing your hair really gets it back to its natural color, but never mind). There was little to do at this point so I agreed and she applied this other brownish mixture to the hair, then another brown mixture after that so that now my whole head was covered in dye.

She left me for a while and came back occasionally to check up on the progress of my hair and seemed really please with what was going on. I could only just keep my fingers crossed and hope that it really did look as good as she said it was going to be.

Finally it was time to wash it all out and while she was doing so she kept saying oooooh! You are really going to love this! And other things like, ooooh! No one is going to recognize you when you get home!!

This is when I started to worry.

She brought me back to the chair and I pulled the towel down off of my head so that I could take a glance at my hair while she was rummaging around getting her scissors and things and only one word could ever describe what my hair looked like:


It was awful and as she started to comb and cut, all I could do was to sit there and try to come to terms with what had just happened on top of my head. It looks, um, good! I tried to make myself sound happy and pleased with what she did, but it was all I could do to keep myself from wanting her to chop the whole thing off.

By this time all of the other customers in the shop had left and they were closing things up so she basically didn’t really cut my hair just sort of thinned it out which is definitely not what I wanted but again felt helpless about saying anything. She finally finished and put some gooey stuff in my hair to make it less frizzy (as if thinning it out doesn’t make it more frizzy!) and before I knew it I had paid and was sent on my way with poofy, thin, zebra striped hair.

I know that everyone has a bad experience at the hairdressers sometime in their life, and this was definitely the peak of all of my hair disasters. All of the shops around were closing down so I ducked into the ladies bathroom to get a good look at what was up on my head. I found that no amount of light, or pulling my hair back or leaving it forward could fix this mess and I was mortified. Not only was I going up to Alice Springs on a 20 hour bus ride (with potentially a lot of people on the bus who would see me) but on a three day camping trip in which I would have to spent three long days trying my best to put up with the zebra stripes. To make matters worse since just about everything here likes to close over the weekends, especially on Sundays, there was no chance that I could really get things fixed now or tomorrow up in Alice Springs since how many hairdressing salons are there going to be in the Outback of all places?

So I didn’t know what to do, and could hardly go back to my hotel and have to face the bell boy there who would surely get a laugh out of my new look when I asked for my bags back. I looked at my watch and realized that I had spent THREE HOURS ruining my hair.

I was hungry and upset, so I went and grabbed some lunch at a café down in Adelaide’s shopping center which I walked to from the weekend market, and then tried my best to find internet cafes to post my blogs. Two internet cafés later and still no luck so I walked around a bit more and found myself in the area near the zoo again and found what I thought was a museum but turned out to be the library. Surely they would have internet here with USB ports so that I could post my blog! Again, no luck and as I plugged in my USB drive to the computer a big ERROR message popped up and warned me that the library staff had been informed of my illegal actions. Hmmm. I pulled my plug out and made it out of there as quick as I could!

I then found the Museum of South Australia which had some unusual exhibits which included a large collection of stuffed animals, including, much to my shock, a mother Nile hippo and her baby! I took pictures just for documentation sake and walked around the rest of the exhibits before heading over to the Australian art museum nearby, which I only had a few minutes to walk around before they closed. By this time it was 5 o’clock and I decided to walk back over to my hotel (after trying to get a bus back but realizing that they stop running at 5 o’clock) and got back to the hotel, got my stuff from the bell boy (who wasn’t the one that I had talked to earlier so he wouldn’t notice that my hair looked shockingly different) and got a taxi over to the bus terminal where I checked in and waited for my bus along with several other passengers. I located my head band and put it on as quickly as I could--if I couldn’t change my hair at least I could cover it up!

The bus arrived and we all boarded and I was lucky to get my own seat next to the window. After we all boarded we set off on our 20 hour journey. The bus journey itself wasn’t all that bad since I was able to lie down and sleep for a good portion of the trip. We watched two movies and made several stops along the way, getting dinner at a sort of sketchy bus stop along the way around 11pm and getting breakfast at a significantly less sketchy place around 7 am. I ran into a couple at the breakfast stop who had spent a few days in the Outback already and were on their way up to Alice Springs via 4 wheel drive and were extremely excited about drinking “something else besides water and seeing civilization.” I tried sitting outside for a while but it was only a short time before the flies realized that I had plenty to offer them sitting there without anything to swat them away. When I couldn’t stand swinging my arms around trying to keep them away, I moved inside with the others, taking note of a woman with a green hat with a fly net attached to it who was happily sitting outside. Note to self: buy fly hat as SOON as possible.

We pulled into Alice Springs around 1 o’clock in the afternoon and I was greeted by the hostel driver for where I was staying (more like shown were I should wait to be taken) and soon we were off to the hostel were I was dropped off. I checked in and got my keys and found that I was the only person in my room which was designed for six people so thankfully I wouldn’t have to worry about having other people around. I decided to lock up my things and head into town in search of a fly hat and if lucky, something to fix my hair with. I had to walk for quite a while since where I was staying was quite the ways out of town and stopped off at an internet café on my way (again, no luck with the blogs!) and then realized that I should get on my way about finding a fly hat because since it was Sunday the chances of anything being open were already slim, and it was getting late in the afternoon so things that would be open would be closing up.

I found an outdoor clothing shop that was open and found a hat, much to my relief, and bought it and inquired about any other stores being open. The woman told me that there was a K-Mart in town that was just a few blocks away. K-Mart! What luck! So headed off to K-Mart and was able to find a pair of shorts and a nice big bottle of light brown hair dye to fix my disastrous hair. I figured that at this point there was nothing that could be worse than having white chunky stripes all over my head so dying it all brown would at least cover up the streaks. I got a taxi back to where I was staying at since it was just starting to rain and headed straight to my bathroom to “fix” my hair.

Ten minutes later I now had brown hair, which was a little bit darker than normal but a thousand times better than the look I had going on before so I was happy (well, at least happier). The rest of the afternoon I spent reading a bit and watching the news on the TV in the lounge, then getting a buffet dinner which was actually really good. I sat down by myself and a few minutes later had a family come over and want to sit with me. It was a dad and his two kids who lived in Sydney but were originally from Sri Lanka and were spending a few days up at Alice Springs. So we talked for a few minutes and before I knew it I was invited to their house in Sydney, offered to be shown around Sydney by them (even though I told them that I had a friend that I was staying with in Sydney) and was even offered to stay in their room at the hotel. Hmmmm. I politely excused myself back to my room, but wasn’t able to leave before first locating a pen (which meant having to go to their room) and writing down my email and getting their various email and home addresses in Sydney, promising to call them when I got there.

Back in my room I watched a little bit of TV then went to bed, as my ride was coming at 5:45am to pick me up for my three day camping safari!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Melbourne, Australia--Adelaide, Australia--Day 56

March 26, 2004

Today I flew from Melbourne to Adelaide and was picked up by the same driver who dropped me off when I arrived. He was disappointed that I “didn’t call” to get a ride to the zoo (I totally spaced on where I wrote down his number) and also disappointed that I didn’t go out on the town (a.k.a. go drinking) in Melbourne, but I told him that I had fun anyways.

My flight was short and sweet, they played the morning news and served us a breakfast snack even though it was only an hour long flight. Made it to Adelaide and was picked up by a driver who didn’t quite believe that yes, I was Sarah Galbraith, thank you very much. We headed into town and he dropped me off at my hotel.

After checking in and settling things, I headed out to the zoo which wasn’t too far from where my hotel was (about a 20 min walk) and very close to the University of Adelaide. I took the free bus over to a spot nearby the zoo and walked through campus to get to the entrance, so I just blended right in with my backpack. The bus ride was great-- a free bus! What a concept. At one point it seemed like hundreds of little school girls boarded (they were on a field trip) and so it was very cute seeing them all decked out in their sun hats.

I walked to the zoo and found the hippos with no problem. The only problem was that they both kept swimming around in the water from one end of their pond to the other, so I was literally running (no joke) to catch them come up on one side to take a breath, and then on the other. The school children around me thought that this was quite funny and one could say that I pushed a few kids out of the way to get a good shot. It was more like a light bump. 

The hippos were in full swing and kept coming up to a water faucet that was filtering water into the pond and cleaning their teeth with the blast of water. It was so funny and water kept squirting up everywhere. After a mad rush of small children and their teachers left, I was left alone with the hippos and the zookeeper who magically appeared somewhere in all of the excitement. He told me that the hippos were named Susie and Brutus, but used to be called Victoria and Albert. Hmm…

I got all the pictures and then hit the gift shop, then walked back into town. I got some lunch at a Thai food place (not as good as Thailand really) and then walked around the shops and eventually found out where I was on a map, which was good. I wasn’t too far from the hotel. I stopped by tourist information center and was able to figure out a short trip over to Ayer’s Rock in the next few days before I have to go to Dubbo. It works out perfectly and I was able to get it all arranged and will be setting off tomorrow night on a long, 20 hour bus ride! Oh joy!

After settling things at the tourist office I finally mailed back things that I had acquired along the way in Japan mostly as I was getting nasty looks from the air stewards with my like 6 carryon items. I then boarded the old trolley down to the beach, which was about a half hour’s drive. The beach was great, if not a little bit too windy, and I didn’t swim but I walked along the pier and got some ice cream to eat and watched the sun go down. Then I got back on the tram back to the city center and changed, then went back out on the town, only to find that not only was it Friday night, but it was like student pub crawl night so everywhere was packed. I looked through a few shops and witnessed the most amazing drama unfold in front of me where a girl was almost hysterical saying that she couldn’t go out the door of the store because “he” was out there (I was in Target btw) and she was with like 6 of her friends. So they got a security guard and was trying to work out the best escape route to take. Hmm…who knows. I then grabbed a gyro and then luckily found a movie theater so I went to Girl with a Pearl Earring, which was good, and that’s about it for my day!

For the hippo lovers out there, there won’t be anymore hippo updates until I go to Dubbo in about a week’s time.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Melbourne, Australia--Day 55

March 25, 2004

Today I boarded a 7:50am shuttle in downtown Melbourne to go to the Great Ocean Road, which is regarded as one of the most scenic coastal roads in the world. I met several other people, most of which were backpackers, and we headed off with a great guide named Glenn. On the way to the Great Ocean Road, we first stopped at Bells Beach, which is near the town of Torquay and is the surfing capital of Australia. (remember the movie Point Break?). I didn’t see any huge waves (or Keanu Reeves), but they were setting up for the national surfing championships that are going to be next month. There were a few surfers out in the water, but mostly they were just body boarding.

After Bells Beach we drove down to see some wild kangaroos near a golf course and stopped to take some pictures, then we began our trip down the Great Ocean Road. As we drove along the coast, I couldn’t believe just how magnificent the scenery was and how clear the water is. It was absolutely unbelievable. After driving for a bit we stopped off in Angahook Lorne State Park and found some wild koalas to take pictures of in the trees, which was really neat. We got back into our shuttle and made it over to Apollo Bay where we stopped and had lunch, then through the rainforest as the “coastal” track moved about 2 km inwards.

Our main destination was the 12 Apostles, which are really impressive limestone rocks standing out of the ocean, as well as the second most photographed site in Australia (second to the Sydney Opera House). Of course I took tons of pictures, along with the hoards of other tourists, and then we headed further down the road to a sight of a shipwreck (you couldn’t actually see the ship however since it is, well, sunken) and heard the perhaps glorified love story between the ship’s only two survivors. More pictures.

Our last stop on the trip was at a rock formation called “London Bridge” which was renamed that after one of the original double archways collapsed while people were on the rock. Luckily no one was hurt, but two people were stranded on the other side and couldn’t get off and had to be rescued by a helicopter.

We then set off back towards Melbourne, stopping for a snack about halfway back. All in all the day lasted a good 12 hours and was great. The tour guide was fantastic and even played theme songs all throughout the trip (including such favorites as “The Koala-I’m-not-a-Bear Song”) which made the trip really fun. Tomorrow its off to Adelaide and then to Dubbo!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Melbourne, Australia--Day 53

March 23, 2004
Today my alarm did NOT go off for some reason, but luckily I woke up early enough. I called over to the Werribee Zoo to check about the possibility of having a photo tour and they informed me that they only run on weekends. I went ahead and booked a photo tour for this weekend, even though my flights didn’t allow it, just in case things had to be changed. I figured that I could head to the zoo and then see what the hippo circumstances were like, then change my flights if necessary.

I got ready and headed downstairs and spoke with the concierge about getting a train over to Werribee, rather than taking a taxi. He showed me the way on the tram and then to the train, and I set off. I caught the tram down into the city center with no problems at all, and boarded the train to Werribee, again with not any problems.

It took about an hour to get to Werribee, where I would then catch a short taxi ride over to the zoo from the outside of the train station. I went outside and got something to eat, then headed back over to where the Taxi stand was supposed to be. I waited. And waited. And waited. No taxis. It didn’t seem like Werribee was the taxi capital of Australia, and I didn’t see ANY taxis drive by in the fifteen minutes or so that I was waiting. I saw a sign with a big “I” for Information and an arrow, so I thought I should go see where the Information Center was and then call a taxi from there.

About ten minutes of walking completely around the block and up, I finally found the Information Center and a nice volunteer who happily ordered a taxi for me, and was shocked to find that I could get one from the taxi stand. She told me that she’s never NOT seen a taxi there.

Finally I make it to the zoo. I buy my ticket and opt for a “joint” ticket, which meant that I could look at the Werribee Park Mansion and all its glory afterwards, which is located right near the zoo. I was told that the hippos were only shown on the side of the tram, which I was directed to by the woman working at the cashiers desk.


So I head over to the tram and am able to hop onto the tram that was just leaving at the gate, despite that my tram was supposed to leave 20 minutes later. I even got an entire bench seat to myself which was incredibly lucky considering that the tram appeared to be packed. I wasn’t complaining and felt much better. At least I wouldn’t be confined to one side of the tram and then have the hippos on the OTHER side!

So we set off and the man directing the bus was very pleasant and much to my surprise, the hippos were one of the first main attractions. We bounced over the gravel road and headed into hippo territory. There were two hippos and I snapped away, looking through the camera with one eye, and scanning the hippo enclosure for other hippos with my other. These two hippos had an incredibly huge space, and being an “open zoo” was designed much like what they have in the wild. The two hippos, one mother and her baby, were out of the water on the grass (what luck!) and Mom was eating while Baby was sleeping. Snap snap snap.

We then turned the corner and saw the Male hippo on our left, who was more than happy lying around with his back and head just peeking out of the brown murky water. Snap snap snap. We stopped for a while and I was able to get some good shots, although Baby was not showing its head and I wasn’t sure how they were going to come out since the tram was very shaky, even though we were stopped.

We set off again and I crossed my fingers in hope that the pictures would be ok.

Over the next hour we covered the rest of the park, driving our bus right up to rhinos and giraffes, and zebras. It was really neat, and to get that close was awesome. I definitely thought that I should take the safari photo tour over the weekend to get some closer shots of the hippos

When the tour was finished, I headed back to the information desk to get the names of the hippos. The women working at the front desk were very helpful and didn’t look at me like I was nuts, which is close to being a first. One girl radio-ed in to the keeper who gave me their names: Harold (the male), Brindabella Primrose (the mother) and Tulip (the baby). I thanked them and then asked if it would be ok for me to go on the tour again. She said of course (acting as if this was the most normal of things for me to ask---thank goodness) and soon thereafter I was back in line waiting to get on another tram.

This time I miraculously was first in line (there were about 15 people ahead of me but somehow I was let on first) and so I got a seat right where I knew the Baby hippo would be the best seen. This time there wasn’t nearly as many people on the tram so I again had my own seat. We set off, and this time there was a young, enthusiastic woman who was our guide. She cheerfully warned us to “hold on” on our “safari” and watch out for wild animals, hahaha.

We made it to the hippos and this time Mom and Baby were in the water. Snap snap snap. The Male looked as though he hadn’t even moved, but I still got some more pictures of him. We stopped for a while but not enough for the hippos to really move around at all since they were happily basking in the sun, and I asked the driver to pull up to get a better look of the baby. Everyone on the tram turned around and looked to see who shouted out to the driver. We stopped for a little bit and I snapped away, and then we set off on the rest of the tour.

The second time around wasn’t actually all that boring (unlike going around the Singapore Night Safari so many times) and I learned totally new and different things about all of the animals. We managed to get even closer to the rhinos and giraffes, which was pretty cool. All was going just great and I was happy with my new pictures until I overheard our guide talking to one of the other tourists. She was talking about how they were looking to expand the hippo enclosure (my ears perked up of course when I heard the word hippo) and that they want to make it accessible via walking path in the near future (good idea, I thought). She says that they want to do this all when the baby is a little bit bigger so that there can then be three females in the enclosure, since the other female is away from the others.

What OTHER female?!?!

I started to worry. What do you mean there is another one?? We pulled up back to the entrance and everyone got off of the tram, and I headed over to speak with the guide. I asked her about this other mystery hippo, and she says that it is separate from the others since the baby was small and they didn’t want the mother to get too freaked out and territorial having a new baby and another female around. Could I see the other hippo? Nope, she’s off limits. But, um, please could I see her and take a few pictures? No, she is TOTALLY OFF LIMITS. My guide told me that not even the people at the zoo were allowed to see her at the moment and that my best bet to see the other hippo would be to come back in a couple months.


After the tour was over I headed to the restaurant and grabbed some lunch, then heading into the gift shop and then over to the exit. I was told by the gift shop owner how to get to the mansion, and about ten minutes of walking later, I was there.

The mansion was quite interesting, and had a sculpture garden and large rose garden on the premises as well. The mansion itself is spartanly the largest residence in Victoria and you could get these headsets for each room and listen to an audio narrative about the family that lived there. It was interesting, but very long so I skipped a few rooms and just looked in them without listening to the full family saga, and a few times had technical difficulties with my headsets and could only work if you stood in certain places, like getting reception on a telephone.

After touring the mansion I went into the rose garden to have a look around, which was very beautiful then called for a taxi to take me back to the train station. Soon thereafter I was back on the train heading towards Melbourne happy with my hippo pictures and with my day out in Werribee.

When I got back to Melbourne I stopped at my hotel to drop things off, then went back into town to find St. Kilda, which has a nice beach as well as good places to eat. It took about forty five minutes to get there on the tram, and the sun was just setting as I made it to the beach to take a few photos. I got dinner at a Thai/Malaysia/Vietnamese place and was sat down right next to the man that was across from me on the tram the whole way. We exchanged laughs and I had a great dinner and chatted for a while with this man. After dinner I got some ice cream then boarded back onto the tram system only to find this man on my tram again. We laughed again and I got off in the City Center then headed back to my hotel where now I am writing this! Tomorrow its off to the Great Ocean Road which is supposed to be one of the best and most scenic drives in the world.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Tokyo, Japan---Melbourne, Australia--Days 52/53

Tokyo, Japan to Melbourne, Australia

The past two days I have traveled from Japan to Australia, spending the two days around my nighttime flight taking in two wonderful cities. I woke up this morning after sleeping for an ungodly amount of time after being completely exhausted after the departure of Sonja and Valerie. I got up and spent the entire morning after breakfast at the hotel organizing hippo photos and getting the pictures ready to send off back to the States. After finishing them and checking out of the hotel, I bought my ticket for the airport shuttle and left my bags at the hotel and had about four hours in between to do some more sightseeing and pick up some souvenirs. The only problem was that it was a total DOWNPOUR outside and so with umbrella and rain jacket in tow, I headed out to conquer the Tokyo subway system on my own.

After a bit of confusion and standing at the wrong platform, and buying a new ticket due to my mistake, I was on my way to Asakusa, where after making my way out of the subway I found the Senso-ji Temple. It is at the end of a long touristy stretch lined with gift and food shops so after perusing through the shops a bit (which meant opening and closing my umbrella a zillion times) I made it over to the Temple which was really interesting and took lots of pictures, of course.
There were hundreds of people there, both Western tourists and Japanese temple-goers and it was actually quite difficult to walk around without running into someone with your umbrella up. There are some small gardens and smaller temples around the larger temple, so I walked around those a bit and tried to take pictures while holding my umbrella, which also proved to be difficult.

After seeing the temple and shopping for a bit I went and got a great sushi and tempura lunch and then tried to track down a post office to send all of my things back home, which meant that I walked around for quite a while since my guidebook didn’t quite have the right location down for the post office. When I got the post office I got a number and sat down, then a man came up to me and tried talking to me, asking me all sorts of things about the post office that I really couldn’t follow. I kept telling him that I didn’t understand, but that didn’t stop him from trying.

Finally it was his number that was up so he went off so then I realized that I was sitting in the banking area of the post office, so maybe that was what he was trying to tell me? Anyways I got up and went to the post office side (who knew there were two sides!) and attempted to get a box for my things but then realized that I didn’t have enough cash on me to send it all back so I would have to find a bank first.

No luck, there were no banks around so at this point it was getting late and I needed to catch my bus to the airport so I had to take all of my stuff with me, which was sort of a hassle since it was still pouring outside and this meant that I would have to bring it all on the plane.
I got back to the hotel and wrote a few postcards before getting my shuttle to the airport which took about an hour. I checked in just fine and waited for my flight by checking email at a Yahoo Computer Station.

On the plane I was sitting in an isle seat next to a man, and the man in the row in front and to the right of me leaned back and practically insisted that I sit next to him. He had the whole row to himself and said that I could move there and have more room, so he said that I should give him a book or something so that he could save the seat for me so that I could move when we were up in the air.

Umm, ok, but I didn’t really want to move. It was sort of an awkward moment but I handed him my book anyways. I didn’t end up moving since I had a great seat anyways since I could see the television and get up whenever I wanted to so about halfway through he handed me back my book. Unfortunately I didn’t get any sleep on the plane and wasn’t all that comfortable so ended up watching the movies and listening to music since I couldn’t keep my eyes open to read.

We arrived in Melbourne and I was so excited. I can’t believe that I am back in Australia!! Its so exciting. I met my driver and he was really nice, and was about my age, and he dropped me off not too long afterwards. I checked in then had to take a nap since I was so out of it. A couple hours later I got up and decided that I should check out the Melbourne Zoo to see if there are hippos there (its not on the list but I thought I should check). The hotel had brochures on the zoo and there on the front was a picture of a hippo!

So I got a taxi to the zoo and paid my entrance fee only to find that there are pygmy hippos, not Nile hippos. Then why was there a picture of a Nile hippo on the brochure? Maybe I’m just losing it but I could have sworn it was a Nile hippo, but then again it was an underwater and up close shot so I could have been mistaken, but do pygmy hippos REALLY look like Nile? I don’t think so.

So basically I walked right out of the zoo again to the other side and waited for a tram to take me into town, or at least I hoped that is where it would go. There were other people around so I asked them and when the tram came I didn’t have enough change so I ended up getting a concession ticket, although I am not a student, and got off where this couple from New Zealand told me to.

I found myself in downtown Melbourne and walked around for a long time. I got some lunch at a café which boasted the “best juice in the world” (I got it and it was really good) and then got my Australian guidebook. The rest of the afternoon was spent just walking around Melbourne which is an amazingly clean and green city. After a couple of hours I actually found the tram that I was supposed to take to get back to my hotel when one of the restored vintage trams pulled up, which is a free tourist tram that takes you all around the city. So I hopped on that and was taken down to the docklands and around which left me quite far from where I was supposed to be. Anyways this meant that I had to walk around some more to figure out where I was and by this time it was dark so I got some dinner at a great Greek restaurant and then got a taxi back to my hotel!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Tokyo, Japan--Day 51

Today we went to the Imperial Palace and luckily it wasn’t raining at all. In fact the weather was just really great. After eating breakfast we were able to walk to the Palace which you can only see just a little bit from the grounds, but you are able to walk around in the gardens. After taking a few pictures of what you could see of the Palace we walked around the gardens which were great, and the cherry blossoms were just barely coming out, so a few trees here and there had flowers on them.

After this we walked back to the subway/train and hopped on heading to a smaller shopping area. We got off of the train to find the street packed with people which made for plenty of people watching. We walked around and then got a snack at a coffee shop (we had churros, which neither Sonja or Valerie had ever seen!) and then found a Japanese entertainment center where you can get these instant photos of yourself. It seems like THE thing to do and Sonja and Valerie were telling me that their students have book and books filled with these photos (which also double as stickers). So of course we had to do it and there were tons of booths in the room where you could get it done. We waited and when it was our turn had a lot of fun taking the pictures then adding on silly things like crowns and stars and things onto the pictures before our time ran out and the pictures were taken.

By this time it was getting late and they had to catch their train back up north. So we went back to the train station which was an absolute mad house of people everywhere, but we managed to squeeze onto a train. We only had to go one stop which was nice and so we then got on the subway which was much less crowded.

We got back to the hotel and I said goodbye to Sonja and Valerie then went back up to my room. It was about 5 o’clock or so at this time and so I thought that I would take a nap and then go get something to eat for dinner. I didn’t realize how tired I was until I woke up the next morning, fifteen hours later.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.