Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Melbourne the Melbournite way

Right, first off, I'm not sure if that's how you call Melbourne people but Melbournites sound way cooler than Melbournians.  So this is my entry on my 3rd visit to Melbourne, this time following the paths of friends living in Melbourne - yes, no more the very touristy sight seeing of visiting Federation Square, or great ocean road or St Kilda's beach or Botanic Gardens - All those been there done that.  This time I wanted to do something different - be active, adventurous - so that was kinda what I did, although mother nature wasn't too kind to me most of the time but she was good enough. 
What I did - cycling tour, diving trip, surfing trip, hiking trip! And of course ate ate ate.  And I loved it!  People always compare Melbourne and Sydney and which do you like best.  Of course each has its own merits.  I like Melbourne because it offers much more culture, nature and adventure.  Of course, maybe I didn't explore Sydney as much as I did Melbourne so maybe I'm not the best person to ask.  But to each his/her own.  Sydney feels much more vibrant at times while Melbourne has a laid-back charm and of course wicked weather.  Oh weather - you gota hate it or love it.  I arrived with great weather, sunny and not cold through the week while I was working, only to be greeted with rain over the weekends, then sunny again on weekdays, to rain on weekends.  You can't really have the best of both worlds can you? Still I got some pretty good weather on weekends intermittenly which was good enough for me.  And food.  Yum food.  That'll come later in the post.
Lilydale-to-Warburton-Rail-Trail (click on the link to learn more about the trail)
This is a 27km one-way trail, you can either bike through or walk.  And along the way, you'll pass by wineyards and farms.  It's a nice trail to enjoy!  Wineyards are at the start of the Lilydale trail so drink up while you can, cos further down, there are none.  The trail follows an abandoned old rail track, so it's mostly flat, on gravel road.  Good for beginners and people with not much cycling experience - like me!  We stopped at one wineyard and had our fill of wine!  Weather was fantastic! 

Wild Cattle Creek Wineyard
Wine tasting at Wild Cattle Creek

Took us about 4-5 hours (stopping and cycling along the way) to get to Warburton, by then we didn't have time to cycle back again.  So we left the bikes for pickup by the bike shop.  Full day rental + pick up cost AUD55.  Not cheap man, not cheap! 
Diving in Melbourne
Granted, nobody really goes to melbourne to dive. It's not a touristy thing to do.  But I had to do it - for experience of diving in temperate waters.  Renting gears in Melbourne is a hassle though - i warn you.  They mostly DO NOT rent masks, fins, hoods, booties - as they say these are personal items.  So luckily for me, I brought my own masks and booties, and I kinda convinced the shop to throw in the hood (thank god for hood!) and borrowed fins from my friend.  Diving in Melbourne without your own gear is VERY EXPENSIVE!  Rental for BCD, regulator, wetsuit (7mm thank god) and tank cost you AUD80 per day - minimum, depending on the shop.  So imagine if you are going on a boat dive, that'll easy be upwards of AUD100.  That's why people in Melbourne lug their own gear and even TANKS! Yes, tanks!  You get refills for like AUD7. 

7mm wetsuit and hood and all

Spider Crab!

How was the diving in Melbourne? Maybe I was unlucky.  We went Blairgowrie Pier and it wasn't much to shout about.  Yes the experience of diving in 16 degree celsius water is something to announce but there wasn't much to see.  And if not for the hood, I would not have lasted more than 20mins.  I lasted 60mins.  Proud of myself.  And to be honest, the water wasn't as cold as I imagined it to be.  Was cold after 40mins, but not like you have to jump 5mins into the dive.  And we were lucky cos the sun came out when we surfaced and that immediately warmed you up!
Surfing in Melbourne
I told myself, and my friend (thanks Coralie!) that I wanted to try surfing in Melbourne.  Like I've only surfed once (and 1 hour at that) but I really really wanted to try it again.  And finally we did!  4 surfing mermaids - Kristina + Smitha.  We drove to Torquay for our morning surf!  The weather was good - raining and a little chilly but the waves were pretty alright, good for me as a beginner.  Rented the wetsuit and board (we paid a discounted price thanks to Kristina AUD30) and off we went.  I got a soft board, which was supposedly good for beginners.  Probably should have gone for a hardboard and a smaller one.  I used a hardboard when I learnt in Philippines.  So it went, was hard for me to balance and straighten the board cos it was pretty light, and just got bumped around by the windy conditions and waves.  Was kinda disastrous first half of the surf trip as I tried to get used to the soft board, but eventually I did it!  I surfed, I stood, I rode the waves and white wash.  It was bloody hell fun!  No, there was no 5m high waves, but I'm glad for that too cos it gave me the opportunity to surf.  And how I wish I have the opportunity to surf more often, but nope, not in Singapore. Darn!  Surfing is a kind of sport where you need constant practice to improve, else you lose the skills.

Hiking in Melbourne
We were supposed to do the Wilsons Promontory - camping overnight for a 2D1N trip.  And that place is really awesome and beautiful.  But as I said, weather was against me.  So that was cancelled, but we still did a day hike at Werribee Gorge.  A nice 8km (though advertised as 10km) walk in the park!  It's not a hard hike, with some up and down hills.  And weather was great!  This is an easy to do hike with great views and not too far out from Melbourne (about 1H drive) so I recommend this if you're thinking of doing a short hike.  We took about 2H to complete, with stops along the way.

My partners in crime!!

A really short section where we had to grab cables.  Really really short
Food in Melbourne
How can you not talk about food?  I did my research and found great restaurants to try out in Melbourne and not disappointed with the choices!  It's better to let the pictures do the talking. 

Crispy Plaintain - these are amazing!

Corn on cob with spice and cheese - I really love this

Fish tacos - they're good but still not the best I've had

Gazi (Greek):
The beetroot dip is the BEST

Too much food!

I love cheese, and this grilled cheese is just  unbelievable!

400 Gradi (best margherita pizza in the world!!):
This is IT! But I give it a 7

The gnocchi is really really good! Melts in your mouth

Death by chocolate??

Dumplings with ricotta cheese is so delicious and the skin just melts in your mouth!

Seafood medley is also really good!

Movita next door
Prawns! They're good but portion is too small
Bomba - Pork and potato croquette

Ice cream stack!

The meat and wine co:

Kangaroo steak!

Lemon meringue - which is too sweet for my liking
This place has amazing thick hot chocolate!!! And I had one with spice in it
Wish I had more time in Melbourne, or went during another month with better weather.  So much to do so little time!  That is my kinda city - where you have the city, and also surrounded by nature and ocean where you can do so much!  Just like San Diego, where you have the ocean and mountains within reach, but Melbourne may be just slightly more expensive in certain aspects - Food mainly.  Did I mention we went chestnut picking (FOC) in Dandenong area! So fucking cool - 6.5kg in total in less than 1H of picking!!
Me and the chestnuts!!