The day started very early at 3:30 am; I had gotten up early to pack my bag for the trip. Would have preferred to sleep for a little more since I had a few drinks too many during the previous night. I reached the airport by around 5:45 am and was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of our training program participants from China. The two participants were going on a vacation like the other 34 of them who were also traveling during their mid course break; in fact, I planned my vacation to coincide with their training break. The ill effects of the indulgence from the past night was evident to me after I got myself through the security gate and realized that I was in the wrong terminal; quite silly indeed! On board the flight, the flight crew announced that the flight takeoff was delayed (by 15 minutes) as a result of some paperwork being sorted out by the airline.
From the Melbourne Airport, I got myself to my friend Ashwin’s place in Melton, a western suburb of Melbourne, after an expensive ($85) and longish taxi ride (about 45 minutes). The driver was a fairly chatty Vietnamese gentleman who had lived in Melbourne for over 25 years. When I mentioned to him about my upcoming trip to Alice Springs, he related an incident that happened with him in Alice Springs when a couple of (drunk) Aborginese men asked him and his friend a part of their KFC meal & then followed it up with a Samuel L. Jackson style request of having some of their cola to wash down the fingerlicking good piece of chicken. This fits in with the various news reports and second hand narratives of rampant alcoholism among Aborginals in Alice Springs, Australia’s Red Centre.
I reached Ashwin’s home and borrowed from him some cash so that I could pay off the taxi driver without incurring an additional 10% surcharge applicable if I paid with my debit card. Ashwin was just finishing up his morning prayers and then immediately after he cooked us all a steaming hot South Indian breakfast of crisp dosa and potato curry. After our breakfast, we gathered all the stuff we needed for the trip including Ashwin’s handycam that he had charged the previous night. We dropped off Ashwin’s wife, Shubhangi, to Melton station and proceeded to our destination for the day: the Great Ocean Road (GOR).
We drove via the city of Geelong; home to Geelong Cats, the 2009 winner of Aussie Rules Footy Premierships. We stopped at a servo (that’s Aussie for service station) to refuel. After that we drove non stop till the start of the GOR; the GOR Memorial Arch. The information sign at the Memorial Arch said that the GOR was built by returned servicemen using picks and shovels to honour their fallen comrades in WWI. That of course is the hagiographic account of the real reason why the road was built. But still, it seemed remarkable that a bunch of servicemen would work on building a road and dedicate that road to honour their fallen comrades. I wondered if there was any place in India with a similar story.
We drove through the arch and I was happily clicking pictures and admiring the beautiful views of the Ocean drive. After a while we stopped for some mints, potato chips, chocolate rolls and beer from Foodworks. I neglected the beer till the time we reached Apollo bay since the roads were winding and I felt a little queasy. We reached Apollo Bay and quickly had our home cooked lunch of Puliyogra (Tamarind infused rice, a rice preparation I have had very rarely ever since I left Hyderabad more than ten years ago) and curd rice (accompanied with thin potato chips) that Shubhangi had thoughtfully cooked for us that very morning. After that we went on the beach and played Frisbee and Cricket. We were puffed in less than an hour and after that we purchased some drinks (Bacardi Breezer for Ashwin and Pure Blonde beer for me) that we consumed in the car. After a drink each we drove away from there and I felt quite drunk (maybe because of the previous night’s indulgence and lack of sleep).
We stopped at a scenic lookout and admired the view and clicked some pictures. While returning to Ashwin’s car, a fellow tourist asked my friend to click a picture of him and his wife. Ashwin handed me over my camera as he was trying to click the picture for the couple with their camera. I clicked his picture while he clicking the couple’s picture. Just a little while later, I sensed something was amiss and I realised that I was not in possession of the camera cover. We searched for a while in the area where we had taken pictures. I gave up and proceeded towards the car and found that the cover was stuck on the rear viper of the couple’s car. The cover had slipped off from my hand when I was clicking Ashwin’s picture. A similar thing has happened with my sunglasses once before wherein I have felt that something’s amiss and at that very moment is when I have realized that I am not in possession of it. On that occasion too, as with this latest occasion, we had driven back (from the parking lot of a mall) with my friends to the previous place (a furniture store) we were visiting to find the sunglasses. Eventually, I found my sunglasses in the parking lot albeit in a crushed condition. The sunglasses must have dropped off as I got out of the car and immediately after that was when I realised I had no sunglasses. Wonder what’s the point of this story? It’s actually a note to self that I should pay closer attention to my instincts and intuition.
After this our next stop was the Twelve Apostles; giant rocks in the Southern Ocean a few metres away from the shore. Since the sun was towards the same side as the rocks, the pictures we shot weren’t clear. Incidentally, the couple from before helped us to take pictures against the backdrop of the Apostles; the guy was particularly careful to ensure visibility of our faces.
It was about 5:30 pm by the time we finished there and then Ashwin decided that we would go to Loch Ard Gorge before we made our way back to Melbourne. After we got into the car, we finally got around to using the webcam and fooling around. I discovered that the Gorge was named after the ship Loch Ard that ran aground nearby in late 1800s after a journey from England killing all but two people on board. We had a look around and saw eroded limestones of the rocks nearby. After some fooling around and a brief chat with a family visiting from Queensland, we decided to start the long journey back to Melbourne.
On the way back we refueled at the same servo we had filled in earlier at Geelong. While Ashwin drove, I transferred the pictures and the videos and had a quick look in the car. Ashwin decided to take some sweets home and then decided to go to a sweet shop called Sweet India on the way at Hoppers Crossing. The girl at the counter was a Teluguite. She wore an interesting cap and spoke with Ashwin as well as the other customer in the shop in Telugu. I always welcome and look forward to hearing languages other than English; of which I read, speak and hear enough of. We asked for a few suggestions about where to get Indian Takeaway for dinner and the girl suggested Curry Guru at Werribee. We found out the number of the restaurant after calling Telstra’s 1234 information service. We ordered some Baingan masala and Shahi Paneer along with some Naans on the phone, picked it up and headed back to Ashwin’s home. We spent the remaining of the trip conversing in Telugu and I probably spoke my best Telugu ever. I must remember to keep polishing my Telugu language skills. We reached around 10 pm and the two of us along with Shub had a late dinner. I was fast asleep after that, tired from the exertions of the day and the lack of sleep from the previous night.