Getting wild

Australia Pt 2
My first impressions of Melbourne were very good. From there things seemed to only get better. The tour to Grampians National Park was an all day affair with lunch included. The park is a three hour drive from Melbourne, though. We had to start out at 7 a.m. and pick up all the other people on the tour along the way. One of the first people to get picked up was a young Korean guy haha. He looked so lost when the tour guide tried to talk to him, so at the next stop I started speaking to him and translating important instructions. It was not too long before another Korean was on the bus and she overheard us talking. When we all stopped for breakfast she took the chance to join in, followed by a German woman traveling on her own, and soon we had our own little group within the group. The tour took us to some magnificent sights all across Grampians. The highlights had to be Reed’s Lookout and McKenzie Falls. We started at an aboriginal cultural museum with a little background on the groups of people who used to live in the area. Then we walked around in the area to see kangaroos and an emu. Reed’s Lookout is at the top of a relatively small mountain from which you can see Lake Wartook and the surrounding landscape. A great place to sit and think. The flatlands surrounding the mountain range seem to go on and on and were just calling to be walked through. Time was short on this trip, though, so we kept going. McKenzie Falls was a little dry due to the time of year, but still gave a thrill, since I was able to climb out to the very edge of the water along the rocks. The sun was strong, also, which showed off rainbows at a couple different spots. Our group had also branched out to include a couple of Japanese women and occasionally a woman from Singapore. So when we reached the final viewing point, the pictures were full of smiling faces. The Koreans, the German woman, and I went out for dinner and beers afterwards (while I translated). A bit exhausting in the end, but I was happy to help and felt a little more comfortable as I slowly transition between worlds.
Friday night was also when I was able to get in touch with my friend’s cousin who happens to live in Melbourne. She, her boyfriend, and some others came from Wisconsin and are working at a hospital doing IT work. But Saturday we were just meeting up to have a beer and for me to pick their brains a little about Melbourne and Australia. They were very welcoming and shared some great ideas. Also was able to make a plan to meet up with one person later on at a jazz cafe in Fitzroy. But first everyone else went back home to rest and cleanup from an early morning snorkeling session, while I headed over to the Moomba Festival, since we were already basically there. Moomba Festival is a yearly event on Labor Day weekend in Melbourne. Live music, carnival rides, some street food, games, and fireworks make it the place to go for four nights. I did not stay for too long, since I needed WiFi to make final plans for the concert at the jazz cafe, nonetheless, I was able to see a band play on the main stage and check out a balancing act in the tent.
Finding my way over to the jazz bar just in time, I missed my chance to meet up with my friend early on. After only meeting once earlier in the day, I did not recognize her from across the dimly-lit room. So I stood and enjoyed the first set of the featured trio, then grabbed a table with her and her roommate for the second set. There we watched as the band featuring a piano, drum, and bass played a solid and diverse collection of tunes. Nothing to jump and jive to, but enough to keep toes tabbing and the audience engaged.
After the set, we ad-libbed some dialogue for an old film playing in the background before heading home. My night was not quite over, though. At the tram stop, a woman decided to take a pee on the sidewalk, apparently not noticing I was there. Then on the ride back, I missed my connection only to come across the Koreans from the Grampiens tour, plus some more. We headed out to hunt for some drinks and back to the hostel where most of them were staying to chat. The night ended a lot later than I intended, but still nice to randomly run into people you know on a street in a new country. Maybe I will get some sleep another day…

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