Monday, 26 September 2011

P...p..p...p...pick up a penguin

My friends, it has been a while.

The reason I have not posted anything for some time is because not a lot has been going on to be honest. It has been a case of living a relatively normal existence except for the fact that it is on the other side of the world.
But do not worry bloggers, I have been working hard to save up and book some flights to embark upon new travelling adventures just so that I can keep you guys entertained!!
That is how selfless I am.

Before I list my travelling plan for the next 8 months and beyond I will fill you in on the past couple of months.

Obviously there has been the bore that is work. I do not need to go into it except to say that I have brought the end of my contract forward by 3 weeks and I will be leaving the world of the 9 to 5 as of November 3rd. Sweet!
Moggy, it wasn't The Enemy's 'Away From Here' that inspired me this time, just the lure of more travel.

There has also been the football. The season has now ended and I must say that I had a great time playing for the mighty Ashburton United. It wasn’t the most successful of seasons but we ended the season with a run of only 2 losses in the final 12 games to ensure that we finished in a respectable mid table position.
Last Friday was the Ashburton presentation night and it was a very civilised and all round nice night out. The club gives of a real family feel to way it conducts its business and if I ever move back to Melbourne (a possibility) I think I would play for the team again (depending on their league position and if another team higher up offers me cash to play for them!!)
One of our younger players actually has a trial for Melbourne Hart this week, which is the equivalent of a premiership team in England, although not the same standard of course.

If you would like to see some photos of me in action and a little 4 second clip of me looking pretty damn good on the pitch you can check out Ashburton on YouTube. Type in Ashburton Soccer 2011 and enjoy the ‘show’. My clip is precisely on 3 mins and 10 secs.

In the past couple of months you will not be surprised to read that I have done a lot of drinking and socialising, but also a lot of running, the reasons of which we will go into in a minute.
I did manage to get to a gig recently as The Kaiser Chiefs were in town, so a few of us went along and I don’t mind admitting that I got wasted. It was one of those days where it just hits you and I was ruined. ‘Nuff said.

A few weeks ago I went to see Cadel Evans – Australia’s first Tour De France winner – as he took a victory ride through Melbourne. I am not really into cycling but it is one of those things you need to go and see isn’t it.

What else have I been up to?

Oh, I went to my first Aussie Rules game. The game was part of the Finals series which culminates in the grand final this weekend, which is the same as the FA Cup final in England. Aussie Rules is a funny sport as it essentially dominates only one State in Australia; Victoria. It is absolutely huge here and is on multiple TV channels every day. There are about 20 teams of which only about 6 teams exist outside of Victoria and of those remaining 14 teams, most of them are solely in Melbourne. This is even crazier when you consider the sport has just signed an approx $1bn TV rights deal. That is a lot of money to have floating around in one city in Australia.
There was a 3 hour TV show on last night just to present the player of the season award and the first hour was taken up with the WAG’s on the blue carpet, which was some huge event in itself.

This Friday sees the Finals parade taking place. It seems odd that the city will come to a standstill so that the 2 teams to play in the grand final on Saturday can do an open-top bus tour before the actual game is played. I will go along and watch as you have to soak up everything that a place has to offer so that you can really take in the culture and vibe of the city.

Anyway, back to the game that I attended with a footy mate who is a fellow Englishman from Grimsby. He is a really good guy and definitely one of those people that you meet on your travels who you know you will stay mates with.
He has led an interesting life up to this point as well. He is a journalist, travelled all over the world as the writer for the Barmy Army, penned the official song for Graham Swann that was recorded and he is in the music video (very funny), has an ex whose mother left George Best for Frank Worthington (now that is class), and has just signed a contract to have a book published next year.
But best of all, he likes to have a scotch and coke with me for breakfast after we have had a night out.

Back to the match itself, Hawthorn Hawks vs Sydney Swans, the Hawks won, that’s all you need to know as it wouldn’t make any sense to you anyway. So it’s a big tick for going to an AFL game and another tick for going to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to watch it.
The MCG is an awesome and iconic stadium in Australia. It holds approx 100,000 people but seems much larger than Wembley. I think this is because the Aussie rules pitch is an oval and covers a much larger surface area so the opposite side of the stadium is much further away. There was an attendance of 55,000 people at our game and due to its size it looked like there were only 20,000.
The only other thing to say about the MCG is that the beer is awful; flat and expensive, but at least you can drink in your seat.

Now back to why I have been doing a lot of running. October 9th will be my 1 year anniversary out of the UK (I can’t believe how quickly that has gone) and I couldn’t think of any better way to celebrate this fact (stupidly) than to run/walk/piggy back on an unsuspecting child’s back/crawl the Melbourne Marathon.
Why I decided to do this I do not know but I do have a constant desire to push myself to the limit. I echo this sentiment by letting you know that whilst most people give themselves about 6 months training for a marathon, I decided 5 weeks ago to do it! Ha ha!
Last Sunday I took part in a half marathon as part of my training and I won’t say that it was easy, but it wasn’t hard. As I finished I did wonder if I could run that entire thing again and that is when I got scared, really scared!

I did the half marathon with Arancha and Nadia. I am sure you are familiar with them by now – sexy twins that I met in Nepal and met up with them again once I moved to Melbourne.
I say that I did the race with them, but technically I didn’t. The reason for this is that Arancha and Nadia don’t always listen to instructions!!
If they were with me I would like to think that they would have started at the right time and place but I was lucky to start the race on time myself. Runners like to go for a poo before a race, a combination of nerves and getting rid of some extra weight, so I was stood in a big queue (for a poo) waiting to use the Chesney Hawkes (one and only) cubicle.
By the time I got to the start line the 5km and 10km runners had departed and the half marathon runners were getting ready to go. I couldn’t find the girls anywhere and I was never going to as they had already started, in the wrong race.
A few minutes into that race the girls realised that they were the only runners with a blue number and so had to stop and wait like a pair of identical divs for our race to begin and then jump over the barrier to join us.
The race website has a good photo of 2 blue numbers amongst a sea of yellow and green ones.

I finished the half marathon in 1hr42mins. I was happy with the time and if I can keep a consistent pace that is a 3hr20min marathon. Obviously that is not going to happen, but all I want to do is finish it in less than 4 hours.
One thing to aim for with the marathon is that the finish line is at the end of a lap of the MCG, which will be a pretty cool location to accept my medal.

I want to give a big up to the girls for their race times. They weren’t far behind me and given their couple of additional years on me it was a top effort.

If you would like to view some pictures of me looking like a pasty Leicester inbred who has just rocked up for a run in his vest and shorts then please follow the links below:

I promise you that I did have a tan when I got to Melbourne in April, but the winter has washed it all away.
I will have to try harder when I get back on my travels.

One other weekend that I do have to tell you all about was my trip to Philip Island.

Philip Island is on the southern coast of Victoria, about a 2 hour drive directly south of Melbourne and is home to Australia’s most famous wildlife attraction, the Penguin Parade. Every sunset, wild Little Penguins emerge from the sea from a days fishing and waddle across the beach to their sand dune burrows.
My self and Arancha headed to Philip Island after work on the Friday and by 7pm we were booked into our Inn in the island’s main town of Cowes.
As it was a Friday night we decided to hit the ‘town’. At dinner I asked about the nightly entertainment that was to be had on the island to be informed that the only pub in Cowes had recently burnt down! However, the local hotel had a bar / ‘club’ attached to it and that would be the best place to go.
I can’t say it was the best drinking establishment that I have been to and the crowd was rather eclectic, but after a few shots it looked like any other hole that I have managed to get tipsy in.

The next morning, still a little hazy, I drank drove to the Information Bureau to sort out what we were going to do with the day before the evening penguin bonanza. I thought I was fine to drive but it soon became apparent that this was not the case (it was my parking that was the give away). All good though my friends because the island is very small and I couldn’t cause too much damage.
After some much needed breakfast and a strong black coffee our day began in earnest.

Stop 1 – the chocolate factory. As with Tasmania I was to be disappointed; there was no sign of an Umpa Lumpa or even an enslaved penguin worker. In fact we took one look at the reception area and decided to give it a miss all together

Stop 2 – A Maze N Things. Now this place was worth the visit to the island alone.
It is an attraction that incorporates optical illusion rooms, puzzle rooms, a maze that covers of 2kms and mini golf.
Now it sounds rubbish doesn’t it, but it wasn’t! Let me explain why:
• A mirror maze – it was bloody good fun alright
• When you are in a room that if you stand at one end, someone at the other and the photo gives the illusion that one of you is a giant and the other is a midget, this is good. It is even better when you pretend that you are a monster, your bottle of pop is your penis and on the photo it is as big at your bird who is at the other end of it looking terrified
• There was one of those vertical slides. This was great once I had done it, but I did get scared at the top as you had to climb over the edge and hang in mid air before you let go. My hands were sweating and I couldn’t grip the bar but once did I still couldn’t let go when the guy told me too. It took me a few more seconds to build up the courage.
Now that is entertainment, is it not?
• The puzzles were pretty good too. For example, we had to work out how to get to pirate treasure through a number of rooms and gates. See, fun for the mind as well!
• The maze also kept us busy for about an hour. There were 4 flags that you had to get to, so it was decided by Arancha that we should race each other. Through sheer tenacity and scrambling over a couple of walls, I won!

After those fun and frolics the rest of the day was taken up with visiting various look out points over the Southern Ocean, visiting a shipwreck which we couldn’t see, visiting a vineyard and tasting some local wine, plus some bonus sightings of the local wildlife.
At one point Arancha went a little off road and found herself standing over the tail of a Copperhead snake.
This snake has no known anti-venom but the bites rarely kill humans. Still, if it had got her it wouldn’t have been nice as I would have probably had to go to the parade on my own!!
I wanted to venture into the bush to see it, but as I was only wearing shorts and flip-flops I decided to let this nature sighting pass me by.

By early evening it was time for the Penguin Parade.
The majority of the paying public go to the huge grandstand that overlooks the beach so that they can view the penguins coming in to shore and leaving the sea. We decided to upgrade to get access to another area that was just off of the beach and would provide much better views of the majority of the penguins when they make their way to their burrows.
We got there early so were able to place ourselves right at the front and we were rewarded with an amazing experience.
As darkness descended and the penguins started waddling up the beach, we were literally 30cms away from the nearest ones behind the barrier. It was really interesting to watch them as they herded themselves together and then in groups of 15 or so would make their way home in the safety of these little groups. Once one group got to the point at which we were sat, the next group would then set off, and this pattern continued for about an hour as over 1,500 penguins made their way home.
On the way back to the car park you walk for over 1km alongside the penguins as they head for their burrows that can be located as far at 2kms in land. You even have the check under the car before you leave to make sure none of them are taking a break.
It was a very cool experience.

For the rest of that evening we drank from the bottles of goodness that we purchased at the vineyard earlier that day.

The next morning we took in one more wildlife / lookout point before heading back to the city. The amusingly named Nobbies is an area at the south-western tip of Philip Island and is the home of some pretty dramatic landscape, an awesome blow hole, as well as home to more penguins and also some seals.

Overall it was a great weekend away and it was nice to get out of Melbourne and see some of the Victorian coastline.

So that is what I have been up to in the past couple of months, so now onto the exciting stuff of what is to come, and let me tell you it is gooooooood.

Oct 1st – BBQ (I hope there are shrimps on it) to watch ALF final, England vs Scotland at the rugby world cup, Merseyside Derby
Oct 9th – Melbourne Marathon – scared
Oct 29th – Derby Day – day at the races
Oct 31st – my first Aussie wedding
Nov 1st – bank holiday for the Melbourne Cup (Australia’s version of the Grand National)
Nov 3rd – work contract finishes
Nov 4th – fly to Port Lincoln.
For my birthday Arancha has bought me the best present I have ever or will ever receive. We are going to South Australia to the place where some of the Jaws movie was filmed to cage dive with Great White Sharks. This is the number one thing on my bucket list so let’s hope that irony doesn’t pay me a visit
Nov 7th – fly to Sydney
Nov 8th – 26th – Latner and Egg arrive down under. I am very much looking forward to hanging out with 2 of my best mates and exploring the east coast of Aus on our 3 week road trip that will include my 32nd birthday
Nov 28th – Dec 8th – fly back to Melbourne and then I will walk the Great Ocean Road with Winslow (Grimsby lad)
Dec 9th – attend Arancha’s work Xmas do / leaving do
Dec 17th – road trip with Arancha along the NSW coastline up to Sydney
Xmas day – dinner at Arancha’s mums!
Dec 26th – Dec 31st – fly to Tasmania to take in the Taste of Tasmania food and drink festival with my uncle, and then attend the Falls Music festival for 2 days camping to see the Arctic Monkeys amongst others
Dec 31st – fly back to Sydney for NYE at the Sydney Harbour Bridge to see the fireworks
Jan 1st – 5th – my self and Arancha fly to Alice Springs so that we can visit Uluru (Ayres Rock)
Jan 5th – Feb 16th – fly to Broome in Western Oz to begin a road trip around that part of the country
Feb 16th – drive back to Melbourne as part of the mammoth road trip as Arancha has an art exhibition. Whilst in Melbourne we will attend a friends 30th birthday and then it is a big birthday for Arancha and her sister the following week
March 3rd – May 10th – my 1 yr Australian visa expires so I fly off to China with Arancha and we will travel around and make our way down to Tibet
May 10th – back to the UK for Bob’s wedding on the 12th after 17 months away
May – Dec – take in the Euro’s, the Olympics, get a 6 month contract in London to get some more $
2013 – fly to Canada to ski for a month or 2 and then on to South America for however long we can afford to

That is the grand plan. Everything up to May 10th is organised and paid for, so that is definitely happening.
As for May onwards, that is still in draft.
Whatever happens, as of the November 4th the blog will once again get much more interesting.

You see Bloggers, I put myself through all of this just for you.

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