28 December 2018

Australia - Diwali 2018 (Kesari tours)

This year the plan was to visit Australia – best time to visit is November. Hence, we sacrificed our usual May vacation and saved our leaves for the big one. Unfortunately, our usual travel companions could not make it at this time. My mother was eager to join though.

With an 8-year-old, and a senior citizen, we figured we needed to join forces with a competent travel companion to ensure a smooth vacation. That’s how we sought the services of Kesari tours. Turned out to be the best decision!

Landed at Melbourne airport at 8 AM local time after a journey of 18 hours. Since the check-in at the hotel was at 2 pm, we freshened up at the airport, had breakfast and proceeded directly for sight-seeing!

Temperature in Melbourne was 14 degrees, with quite a bit of wind chill. The bus mandates seat belts for all and no eating/drinking on the bus. Hence, we could focus on the sight-seeing fully :-) Since we had armed ourselves with data at the airport, some were busy clicking pictures or whatsapping their family already.

Melbourne is quite an old city yet does not feel ancient. The personality is that of leisurely royalty; the pace is not quite as hectic as other old cities viz. London, Paris or New York. Post our morning sight-seeing, had lunch at an Indian restaurant. Started getting acquainted with our fellow travelers (there were 22 of us + 1 one guide). Proceeded to the hotel for check-in at 2 pm. Accommodation was decent and finally availed of some much-needed horizontal rest. We were given a few hours of rest before we headed out to the famous Star casino, dinner and an early night.

The following day, after a hearty continental breakfast, our first stop was the Melbourne cricket ground. Though I am not a fan of cricket myself, I could certainly sense the tradition and heritage of the iconic MCG. A guide was assigned to us for an hour long tour of the entire MCG. We were lucky to be able to watch an ongoing Test match too.

After MCG, we proceeded to the Shrine of remembrance built in honor of the 89000 Australian soldiers who fought in World War 1. Post lunch we took the tram to Victoria station and saw some more of Melbourne highlights. We took a horse buggy ride and checked out St. Paul’s cathedral.

After this, we proceeded to Phillip Island. The plan was to watch a parade of penguins that flock in droves around 8 pm from the sea. No cameras were allowed there so no pics of the same. Before the parade began, had a burger + soup early dinner at a cozy bistro. One of the best hot burgers I have ever had and quite sumptuous too!

We had been advised to carry all our woolens for the Penguin sighting. It was quite chilly there and the warm clothes served us well. The parade was not what we had expected (a choreographed dance by penguins). The penguins were a bit late arriving(IST :-)), so we were literally shivering in anticipation. It was an experience trying to spot the penguins in the dark as they kept disappearing in the bushes (were probably scared of all the human noises and smell). One of them somehow took to us and kept following us all the way as we were trudging back on the boardwalk – presumably it was trying to find its family.