Back across the Tasman

5 January 1997 United 842 Melbourne to Auckland, Business

The new year upon us, the holiday continued. Unlike Europe, where the public transport closes down almost completely on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, Australia and New Zealand are not like that. This is altogether a Good Thing for travellers, for it means that you can carry on unaffected by what the local people might be doing, carrying on enjoying what you, as a traveller with only a short time there, want to be doing. Today it was the hands-on science museum at Science Works, and a watery journey from Williamstown to St. Kilda. The journey by boat was rough enough to be interesting but not rough enough to be distressing. A lady on the boat near us would have disagreed, however. She spent most of the journey telling her party how she was definitely going back by bus. I thought it quite a relaxing journey, looking around at the skyline of Melbourne and surrounds. I proved not to be too keen on St. Kilda. I wouldn't like to say exactly why I wasn't taken with it: there are some places that I have warmed to and some that I have not: St. Kilda loses out.

By contrast we were thrilled by Ballarat, our next trip. Ballarat made its name from the gold rush, but now makes almost as much money from tourism, principally at Golden Hill, a reconstructed mining area. Down the middle of the complex runs a ruver, where you may pan for gold. If you are like my son, you will be thrilled by this opportunity, but won't actually find any gold there. The time he spent there as not in vain, however: he collected a $2 coin, an achievement in itself. He spent the coin wisely, buying a small pan so that he will be able to try his luck elsewhere in future.

Next day to see the penguins. Every night, penguins swim ashore to return to their nest, watched by enormous hordes of tourists who have paid well for the privilege. What is the name of the place where this takes place? Hmm, good question, I'll get back to you on that one. It's a long bus journey from Melbourne and at first hearing, the news that you will watch penguins swimming ashore at dusk doesn't sound too exciting. However, it is one of the most spectacular natural phenomena that you ware likely to encounter, as hundreds of penguins swim back after a day of fishing and collecting, and waddle back up the shore to their nests, burrows or whatever we might care to call their homes.

Too soon, it was time to come back to New Zealand. A taxi to the airport, a flight back across the Tasman Sea and a long drive saw us back in Hawkes Bay around 1 o'clock on the Monday morning, my first day back at work, with no more trips planned, but the expectation of a visit from my wife's parents, making their fourth trip across the world to see us.

The author, Ian

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