En cours


Australia Posting

2023-08-27 23:07 UTC+12: The day before (AKL)

When you're handed a two week break and very few obligations during it, you make the most logical decision: make some slight commitments, have them all fall through, and end up on Google Flights searching for the cheapest way out of Auckland. For me, this happened last Wednesday (2024-08-23; four days ago), finding a whirlwind route through Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, over four days (more like uhhh 76 hours). A requisite part is a train—the overnight route between the two cities that lets you avoid the cost of accommodation for that night. And, of course, how could you forget a sudden realisation the morning before that you booked your outbound flight on the wrong date. It isn't a huge fee to change, so you do it, but it sure is inconvenient.

You haven't understood the concept of backpacking, always thinking that so many people were literally hiking around Europe instead of just cheaply travelling around it. It's effectively what you're about to do, travelling with only a couple changes of clothes and minimal toiletries, even using a tramping1 bag to pack and travel. This will be fun!

However, you do have a 4am (5 hours from now) go time. Happy trails, camper.

2023-08-30 19:33 UTC+10: Basically done (SYD)

Holy shit. That went by really quickly. I know that I didn't really discuss this with anyone but I think this may have been too quick a glimpse, or maybe just enough to whet my appetite. Let's recap, because I didn't actually journal in the past two days (fairly, I think).

2023-08-28: Day 1 (MEL)

You wake up so early. Calling it waking up helps, but you didn't sleep. Your fitful lying in bed has been restful, at least, and now you're up, showered, dressed, fed (using the last of your perishable food), and in a taxi at 4:05 (UTC+12), wayy before your expected go time. You rock up, waddle through security as it opens, get the dilators inspected (as always) and recommended to put them in your checked luggage. You do not have any checked luggage. Then you're in then terminal. Then a plane! It is half empty—you are in the dividing row, before you is full, behind you is empty. What an ominious flight. Finally, you find sleep.

It is thick fog over Melbourne. You've been ahead of schedule but the holding pattern means that you arrive perfectly on time. Australian customs are as easy as NZ—it's all e-visa for you (wow magical international surveillance cooperation), but you bother a customs officer into giving you a stamp ~for the vibes~ and now you’re here! You're out, free in the waiting sidewalks of Melbourne International Airport. You begin your transit adventures: a bus to a train to a train to The Most Incredible, Pretentious, Tasty coffee you have ever had at Disciple Roasters. It's a small garage, with a piece of tape across the floor separating the roastery from the 3 tables, espresso machine, and homemade earthenware mugs and pour-overs. You spend the most money for two coffees you have ever spent (and you got two cheap ones). Then you're on to a tram on to University of Melbourne campus, where you mooch off of their publicly available Eduroam wifi and bathrooms as you search for some food (you are highly caffeinated, very tired, and quite hungry). You have a bagel. It is fine. You are still hungry. You find a sandwich shop and shut that shit down (in ur belly mmmm yummy). You are full and spot a museum hosting Art at CERN, but it is closed today (this will be important for day two). You take another streetcar downtown. You are starting to drag. You drop your camera in front of the National Gallery of Victoria, breaking its built-in lens cap, but it marches on (and so do you). Thank god for the free coat check at every museum you go to, freeing you from the burden of your own stuff. You like their impressionist paintings (Pissarro is always delightful) and their strong focus on design (you enjoy when museums have furniture on display, though you always wish you could interact with it and see just how comfortable those beautiful Bauhaus creations really are). You nearly fall asleep at a multimedia screening, but are awakened by someone snoring behind you. You collect your things and rest in a park.

You check into your room for the night. It's cheap as fuck (80AUD), and Not a Hostel (tm), just shared bathrooms, and you're pretty sure you pay your university nearly as much for a smaller bed + room. You dilate (it has been 18 hours eek!) and breathe. You are all alone in a big new country. Beyond that, you feel truly, meaningfully, alone, no longer deluding yourself into pretending that the acquaintances you've made in NZ are thinking of you.

This is wrong, you missed something.

You write postcards, ask helpful staff at the station for paper maps of the transit system (girls love a good map), you remind yourself that there are people you love and those who love you and though you are far away it is okay. You are safe, you are warm, you are loved.

You have Thai food for dinner. It is really good. You eavesdrop on The Cool Aunt (or maybe their mom, but they speak so frankly) catch up with her niece and nephew, the intricacies of their grade 10 social dynamics. You walk to a wine bar, it is good, but quiet. Everyone else there is in pairs. The bartender is playing some of the horniest music you've ever heard in a public place. You walk to another bar2 and hear the same story, though they do make a nice Fernet sour. You walk home lonely, catching a saucy final tram of the day and sleep for 10 hours.

2023-08-29: Day 2 (MEL)

You sleep in to 8. You shower (good water pressure, too, goddam), dress, dilate, and dart down to a cafe for breakfast before you have to check out. It's nice. Vaguely greek? You have a delicious soft cheese (maybe yoghurt? some kind of soft dairy spread) and poached egg dish. They nearly forget your muffin, but you're very full now and get it to go. You are filled with a sense of wonder (this new city is delightful) and a reminder that you are alone. You grab your stuff and decide to see a weird transit thing, but take your time getting there. You decide to walk through the Fitzroy Gardens and text your parents and friends, stopping to identify the Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen), Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca), and Maned Duck (Chenonetta jubata) as you witness them. There's a train you've been thinking about catching (to see the aforementioned odd transit thing) but realise you would have to run to catch it, so you don't. As you meander towards Flinders Street Station, you're stopped by a Little Raven (Corvus mellori) and give it a piece of that muffin you were too full to eat (but have been picking pieces off-of while you've been walking all the same). It doesn't want to get that close to you, so you keep walking and see it gently hop over to eat it as you continue. You are filled with determination.

As you walk by a tram3 stop, you see her: a class W6 tram (this isn't a joke I'm being genuine here i had a little gasp when i saw her face). These are an icon of Melbourne, and after a day of confusing yourself about what class you've been taking you finally see a genuine W class. It is majestic, with a charming green and cream livery with plenty of wood. You run to the stop and manage to hop on. You understand why there are better and brighter trams than these, aside from the baseline standards of accessibility and efficiency: the W class is harsh, with unforgiving wooden benches and a very effective braking and acceleration system, josteling you as the driver accelerates and responds to traffic. It is darling. As the driver darts out at Parliament station (for a brief break?) you wait for a couple minutes, get impatient, and look at the car from the outside before deciding to begin that funky transit journey you were thinking about earlier.

You too dart into Parliament station, delving deep down the many escalators, eventually making your way onto platform 4. But this isn't the Glen Waverley service you need—this is a Lilydale (to Blackburn?)! You catch it anyways, deciding to transfer at Southern Cross (you want to scope out your future departure station, anyways). But wait! You get off the train, explore the station a bit, and find rentable luggage lockers! You needn't lug all your shit with you for the full day! You decide to tuck it away. This will have no future repercussions. You dart back to the platforms, making up your mind to finally go see this weird transit thing. What else do you have to do? You jump on the Glen Waverley to Kooyong with a massive group of school boys (like genuine, real to life school boys. they all have the same preppy uniform). They get off at Kooyong with you, both going about your day with very different goals in mind. Finally, you see it! One of the two remaining at grade tram / train crossings (wow, look how the wires cross!). On another trip you'll learn these are called either tram squares or train squares, depending if you're talking to the railway or the tramway. There's still a signalman here to change the power in the square, flopping between electrifying it for the railroad and the tramway. The metal frogs (railroad term) in the middle of the crossing are intense—you hear the massive clunk clunk as the streetcars cross through. After witnessing the crossing, you get a nice little custard donut from the bakery on the corner of the crossing, not knowing that a future lover friend lives just a block away. You cover yourself in powdered sugar as you sit, waiting for your train back. It's nice, again, going back into the city, and you decide to walk around Flinders St Station to see if you can find a transit-specific store (you don't, alas). You take a tram up towards the University along the busiest tram corridor in the world and get a call that you weren't expecting: a coordinator from Restore Passenger Rail who helps you plan exactly what you're going to do the rest of the break. Your previous plans have fallen apart (due to someone else's breakup) so you decide to spend way more time in Wellington than you expected. After that, while it's on your mind, you call a friend you'd been planning that other trip with. You agree to maybe do something later (and end up going camping together towards the start of Month 4). You linger on campus a bit (once again enjoying the free wifi and bathrooms) and head towards the Science Gallery, the place that was hosting Dark Matters by Art at CERN. The exhibit is so cool—they have a homemade muon detector (and instructions on how to make one yourself!). You get a rizzed up by a gallery attendant and connect by discussing transit (of course you do). You're getting along really well, but they have to do some work and you're Hungry. You get a lil snack and call a friend from home about it all—you've been here for so little time and so much has happened (i mean. you're reading gestures wildly all this). You're still texting with the museum person, and end up going back to chat some more in person. You make plans to do dinner together when he gets off work while you decide to take his advice for a particular new transit adventure.

2024-03-19 22:42 UTC-4: Oops, time to finish this (MTL)

You ever start writing something, get a bit of the way through it, and then leave it as some big project that you swear you'll do soon, really, this time is when it's actually gonna happen? I had that happen in a big way, writing most of Day 1 and Day 2 while getting wine drunk alone after a rainy evening at the hostel in Sydney. Combined with the mindfuck of sitting on a bunch of vlog footage from the trip and not doing anything with that yet either, it was hard to work on this entry both while I was in Auckland and in the time since. So, here's me finishing it, right here, right now.

2024-08-29: Day 2, cont. (MEL)

You wind your way towards Eltham (where you'll later learn another friend lives, funky how that works), changing at Greensborough station for another Hurtsbridge service that continues onwards (hurray for peak hour short-stopping services!). You cross a genuine wooden trestle bridge (the reason you're here) that's been carrying trains since 1902 (and it's electrified)! You get off at Eltham and walk around a bit, admiring the mighty timbers and just missing the library's open hours. It gives you time to send it on the little outdoor rock climbing wall before heading back into the city for your dinner date (but like in a totally platonic friend way). Your energy is flagging a bit but the long train rides to and fro help you recuperate a bit.

You meet your new friend for dinner at Easey's, an American-ish style restaurant (hamburger ... french fry ...) with seating in three old Hitachi train cars that have been put on top of the building. It fucking rocked. You talk and get along so well. You film a little segment together for your transit vlog (hey how's that going btw?), share sips of your sour beer, and talk about life. You make plans to go interrailing together in Europe (eventually) and discuss the possibility of crashing at theirs if you're ever back in Melbourne. They offer to accompany you to the train station and you take them up on it, slowly rising to catch a tram towards the station. But wait! You lost track of time! You're barely going to make it in time!! You sit in tension next to them on the tram, planning how this will happen (not to mention grappling with the butterflies in your stomach that they've been no help with). As you approach the station, you're in agreement: he will make a dash to the train to ask the conductors to hold the train for you (just in case) while you run to the opposite side of the station to grab your bags and dart all back to your platform. The tram stops across the road from the station and you dart out, jaywalking over many lanes of traffic as you send it through the station. Your heart is in your throat, it's hard to breathe in this mask, you're running running you enter the code and throw on the bag and you're running running running running how is your blood this loud right now god please let me make it (and stop imagining what will happen if you miss it and have to crash with the cute australian) please. You make it to the platform. Your friend is chatting to a conductor and everyone is chilling (the XPT is not in much of a rush). Your internal commentary is going bonkers, now, full of adrenaline and doubt and conflict. Do you kiss them? No, seriously, do you kiss them ???? It's a beautiful little meet cute you're contractually obligated to kiss here. YOU DON'T??????? CMON WHAT'S A SHORT STINT IN AUSTRALIA FOR GET IT TOGETHER WHAT KIND OF MAIN CHARACTER ARE YOU. Ahem. Sorry, pardon me. You hug them goodbye, thankful for the kindness this new friend has shown you, knowing this will not be the last you see of them. You make your way to your seat, unfortunately assigned the aisle one, and watch them film the train as it leaves.

The XPT is full of characters: you chat with the lady next to you about the Adelaide fringe festival (it sounds cool and you want to go) while a man up the car belligerently insists that the conductor should let him keep his bottle of wine he's been nursing. You didn't realise there wouldn't be electricity on here—you're kinda screwed power + charging wise. You have a hard time getting comfortable and have a rough night of sleep aboard the train. There’s no signal along the route, either (all you want to do is text the cute new friend and those back home), so you watch the twilight views of the bush glide past.

2024-08-30: Day 3 (SYD)

You sleep poorly. It cannot be overstated how poorly you sleep. You do technically sleep, though (and promise your future self to always spend the extra 15$ on 1st class on the XPT in the future. or a sleeper bunk, while they still have those). You watch dawn break over the rolling bush outside the window (still devoid of cell service) before mimicking those around you and putting down the tray table to slump on top of it. This last bit of rest is your most solid as you pull into Sydney Central Station just at 7:50am. With your dwindling phone battery, you wander towards a café for some brekkie and then onto University of Sydney's campus, settling into their library to once more use some deliciously free wifi and electricity. After recovering here for the better part of an hour, you move out to the quad (it's a beautiful sunny day, after all) and people watch, seeing students going about their classes and others touring the scenic parts of campus. You visit the Chau Chak Wing Museum which has a private event on in one wing and spot a first edition of Issac Newton's Principa hanging out on display next to an early edition of Galileo's foundational text. You wander the sights for a while before setting out once more, this time in search of food. You stop at one of the classic Taiwanese restaurants in Chinatown (unfortunately forgetting exactly what you got) but it was real tasty! After that you head for the Powerhouse museum and get your fill of live steam (nobody does it like steam...). You stare a little too wistfully at the massive pistons and cranks thinking "god I wish that were me." You find Sydney's antique train departure board in the next hall, complete with an enter-able signal box and a mock space station???? Yeah sure, fuck yeah dude. Then there's a bizarre series of maze-like rooms arranged by colour with a menagerie of knick knacks of other historical regalia scattered asunder. Multiple pianos, gowns, crowns, and a gorgeous bass occupy the space. You stop in the gift shop (of course) for more postcards to keep the writing to others flowing. It's a bit later now, so you make your way back to Sydney Central station and acquire a black Opal transit card and head to your hostel. It's quiet there when you arrive and the room is perfectly adequate. You take the most enjoyable shower you've had in a while. You rest in your bed for a bit, still caught up in your horrid night of rest, but decide to venture back out into the city. You're only here for another 16 hours, right? You pop by the post office for some stamps and it has started to rain.

Sydney, as a city, has been nice so far. Perfectly fine and city-like. But something in Melbourne bit you (and not just the new friend you made), something more fundamental. Maybe it's the trams, maybe it's the place, maybe it's the people, but you've fallen for that city, and poor Sydney is spoiled by your shit sleep and brief window to glimpse it. You do your best, though, taking your Melburnian friend's advice and getting a top-level window seat on a train across the Sydney Harbour bridge, gazing out towards the opera house. You venture all the way to the new Sydney Metro that will eventually carve through the city centre but now sits entirely in the Northwest suburbs, taking it from terminus to nearly terminus. You switch to an old intercity train (that has the reversible seats!!!!) and take it as it rolls express all the way back to Sydney Central once more. You catch the Light Rail that is definitely not a tram (but only barks and wags like a tram) and you end up at a nice chicken place for dinner. It's tasty and apparently early for Sydney despite the sun having definitively set for the day, you eat alone and quickly, sharing compassionate glances with your waiter as they deal with a sloshed group of five two tables over. You wander through the dark and rain afterwards, deciding to catch a bus to put you at five unique modes of transit for the city (suburban train, metro, intercity train, light rail, and bus; six if you count the XPT). It is slow, but nice. You end up alone in the hostel, journaling in the common room just off of the kitchen next to a sign announcing the evening's barbecue has been cancelled due to the weather. You drink a can of wine you got in Melbourne and reminisce on it all (woah meta xd!!). You call it a relatively early night, dilating semi-comfortably behind the curtains on your bunk, and sleep soundly through the night.

2024-08-31: Day 4 (SYD)

You wake up pretty early (7am). Sleep has done you so much good; you feel like a real person again. Alright. You have about four hours until your plane departs (call it three hours to be at the airport just in case). Let's see a bit more of the city in this better state, eh? You dart through a shower and try to be as quiet as you can in the dorm room, and hit the town. You take a train towards the Rocks (again on the advice of your friend. it really helps to meet a local!) and wander a bit through the business district as it begins to wake up. You stop by a little statue of a cat (who was unfortunately a coloniser on a British colony ship) and get a lovely coffee and croissant dipped in chocolate, pausing a bit in the early morning's sun to settle for a moment, write some postcards, and enjoy the lovely Australian weather. You decide to walk to Dawes Point and get a lovely view of the Opera house and the Harbour bridge—it's marvellous from down here. You call your parents briefly and update them about the adventure and your mishaps. You've done so much in 72 hours!

And now it's time to head towards the airport. Luckily, it's conveniently transit accessible, and you decide to have a little bit of an adventure to try and game the system. Normally, you pay a higher fare to exit at the airport station, but if you're coming from the adjacent station it's a much reduced fee. So, you get off at the stop before, get a coffee from the most lovely man in the city of Sydney who delights in making small talk with you, and jump back on the train. All's going swimmingly. You reach the fare gates to tap out at the airport, the weight of your journey bearing down upon you. The screen flashes red: top up at least $8.33 to exit. It looks like your little ploy didn't work. Nothing that a sexy lil following someone through the very easy to follow-through fare gates can't help. The airport is speedy: you have to check in at the ticketing desk (woo sketchy budget airlines {AirAsiaX for anyone interested}) and the ticketing agent is a doll. You have an extra can of wine you can't take through security and you leave it with her with a gentle "I can't take this through, so I'm leaving this here and you have plausible deniability with what to do with it". You pass through the e-gates of customs on your way out (no exit stamp for you this time) and find a postbox in the terminal, perfect! You send this morning's postcards on their way, call a friend from back home (who's with her partner! hi katie and snow!), and have a smooth ride home. It's bizarre; this 96 hour trip has felt longer than the entire past two months you've spent in New Zealand and so fulfilling. You'll let it drive your sense of discovery and adventure, to not get set in the present too bad (after, of course, the blankness of month 3).

I'll see you again soon, I'm sure.

2024-08-31: Day 4 (AKL)

Oh, you thought we were done? That Australia Posting would be limited to Australia? C'mon, get real. It's such an odd experience to be back in Auckland already. It's the evening and it's winter so the sun is setting as you take the AirportLink bus to Puhinui and then the train back into town. The walk from Parnell is off-putting—you meander through the student housing you tried to transfer into (and were denied) and think of the almost friendships that live nearby, all that you wished you were invited to over the break and ultimately were not. Auckland is cooler than Australia was, but that doesn't stop your back from sweating as you climb up the hill towards 'home'. You rest briefly, fix yourself some cheap ramen for dinner, and fulfil one final desire: to share your view of the moon with another. You call with Laura and walk through the hills of Parnell, nursing a bottle of soju as you sit and watch the moon and stars together, half a world apart.

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