Melbourne vs Sydney & The Great Ocean Road

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Melbourne

Ok Melbourne, straight forward you didn’t impress me much.
I don’t understand what all the fuzz is about between Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, so maybe it’s a good thing Canberra got the title of being capital city of Australia, although I don’t know much about Canberra since I haven’t been visiting the city and when I talked to other people locals and tourist they all told me there is nothing interesting to see.
Alright who cares, maybe Melbourne will be nice right, nope forget it, it’s overrated or maybe its me who don’t get easily impressed by another big city.

Melbourne

I started with the free walking tour, just like I did in Sydney to get first impressions and to revisit the parts of the city that I like the most later on. The tour starts at the State library of Victoria at Swanston street. Before the tour started I went inside to see the interior, it’s amazing, with a great view from level 4. I was surprised how quiet it was in the reading room and in the computer room, so many people and such a silence makes it a good place for reading and studying. There are also exhibitions rooms with free art galleries.

State Library of Victoria

View from 4th floor

During the tour I saw old buildings mostly churches, not so old as those in Europe but still nice ones and old enough for Australia I guess, a prison with a nice story, but then again I visited Alcatraz so nothing is going to beat that, however the guide did his best to promote his city, to tell about the different buildings, good commentary added with some knowhow about the past and recent history. Overall the tour was good, but nothing really did stand out to me.
In the tour we make a stop at Hosier lane suppose to be great for its street art and graffiti, really haven’t seen much art or great graffiti , it was disappointing. Later on my Australia trip I was surprised to find the best street art to be in Brisbane. It’s not the most important thing to see in a city, cause street art and graffiti no matter how great some of it can be, a few months later that great wall graffiti that you took a picture off most likely will be gone, covered by some other graffiti, so what’s the point anyway.

The most interesting building that I saw in Melbourne wasn’t even on the free walking tour since it was to far from city centre, so went to see the Shrine of remembrance myself.
When you enter the monument there is a museum about all the wars that Australian soldiers got involved in.

Shrine of Remembrance

 

The Great Ocean Road

The other best thing you can do from Melbourne is to do the Great Ocean road tour and that’s for me personally the only reason why I would recommend someone to go to Melbourne to start from there your Ocean road trip. It can also be done from Adelaide in the opposite direction.

Entrance of the Great Ocean Road

South Pacific Ocean

Before I continue about the Ocean road let me just say this, the arguments from people who like Melbourne more than Sydney are from me as a European tourist completely hard to understand.

The Melbourne vs Sydney thing 

The locals prefer Melbourne because of the good vibe, the food, restaurants, bars etc,… Then some of the backpackers are just like parrots and instead of thinking things through a bit they just copy the same arguments as the locals do.
Locals always see it different from tourists, well mostly;
First of all, there is good food, restaurants and bars in Sydney aswell. When I had a talk with two French girls their arguments were great coffee shops and vibe. I told them you have this in Paris too, why you come to Australia ? You come to Australia for this really, to taste the coffee ? Maybe you should book a flight to Colombia or Costa Rica if you want good coffee.
I don’t even know why I waste my time talking to stupid people. Since when does coffee or vibe make a city better than the other ?
Sydney has the Harbour bridge, the Opera House and great views.
Melbourne doesn’t has the views, they might have good restaurants, but so does Brisbane Every Aussie should be proud of a city like Sydney instead of looking down on it favoring Melbourne because of food and coffee seriously. To those parrot backpackers repeating whatever they have heard without any knowledge or valuable arguments, go home and pour yourself another cup of coffee, may i suggest Colombian probably won’t disappoint you.
Anyone from Melbourne reading this, don’t be angry cause Melbourne is a nice city but it’s not a “must visit place” when coming to Australia. If it wasn’t for the Ocean road I would have skipped it from my itinerary.

Apostle 13 🙂

Back to the Ocean Road

The highlight of the tour is the 12 Apostles, the rock formations at Victoria’s coastline that rise from the ocean. Wind and water from the ocean eroded the limestone cliffs to this spectacular formations. Another nice place on the westside of the 12 Apostles is the Loch Ard Gorge, cliffs with blowholes and narrow openings to the sea. Also the London bridge which used to be a double stone arch connecting the land untill the sea made it colapse. Till this day only one arch remains.

12 Apostles

Loch ard Gorge

London Bridge

 

Kayaking in Antarctica yes or no ?

I read a lot about kayaking in Antarctica on the internet prior to my trip and eventually decided to give it a chance. I never done kayaking in my life, so it’s special to try it a first time in a place most people don’t start their kayaking career to say the least.
Kayaking was fun and much easier than I thought it would be.
It was a great experience however since I was in Antarctica on a 9 days trip with only 4 days in Antarctica itself (because the other days you spend on the boat making the crossing over the Drake Passage) I don’t recommend it to anyone who’s going for a similar trip, here is why, first of all it’s not cheap and in a short period, kayaks only go out a few times, when weather conditions permit, this means no heavy wind, snow etc,…
Also you have to make a choice and this is the part I didn’t like.
If you go kayaking, other people go with zodiac on land making a continental landing for example. If you come so far to Antarctica, the last thing you don’t want to miss is a continental landing, so you can actually officially say you set foot on the Antarctic Mainland. I only have been kayaking once and enjoyed it, but in my opinion its more worth considering doing kayaking if you go on a longer Antarctica cruise, those of 12 or 13 days, these cruises visit more Islands and you can skip a zodiac excursion to one or more islands and go for the kayak option then to skip continental landings on a short expedition like the one I did.

The thing is, I read on the Internet on several blogs, that it’s a must do, and that it’s a great experience, to be honest for me the experience of kayaking was indeed great as it was my first time ever.
Is the wildlife, the snow, the ice, the water nicer seen from kayak then from a zodiac?
In my opinion not, the views are a bit different cause you get to see things from a different angle or get up close to wildlife, like seals sleeping on the ice shelfs  then you see it from the deck of the ship or while you in a zodiac.

Kayaking boat were for 2 persons

Kayaking boat were for 2 persons

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Here I am in the front saying hi, to the camera

Once you go for Kayaking, you get the gear from the kayak crew leader.
The green life jacket that I have (picture below) is only for kayaking.
You get another life jacket when you go on zodiac excursion and there is another one in your cabin for use in case of emergency on the boat.
The gloves are with holes so you can shove it over the paddlestick and they protect your own gloves against splashing water. You also get a rubber suit, with rubber kayak shoes.
The kayak shoes you only use when you go out kayaking, when you go out with a zodiac on land , you take other boots which is also provided by the crew the first day when you are on the ship. So when you go for a Antarctica cruise, you just come with your regular shoes as the rest is provided anyway.

Still on the boat in my kayaking gear waiting for the kayaks to be pulled out

Still on the boat in my kayaking gear waiting for the kayaks to be pulled out

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picture taken with my phone

Penguins on ice

Penguins on ice

seals sleeping, they don't seem to care about our presence

seals sleeping, they don’t seem to care about our presence

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Paradise Bay

PARADISE BAY – BROWN STATION

The first visit to mainland Antarctica was the continental landing at Brown station, an abandoned Argentine research station along Paradise Bay, recognisable by its Big Argentine flag painted on the roof aswell as the side walls of  some of the cabins.
Here I set my first steps on Antarctic land and spotted the first penguins on land.
The ortelius boat was anchored and with a zodiac I arrived on land.
After walking around for a few hours admiring the scenery, observing the behaviour of penguins around people, I knew it was something out of the ordinary and it gave me a privileged feeling of being at a spot not many people have visited yet.

This visit was in the afternoon, as in the morning I have been kayaking, one of the options you can subscribe yourself for when going on a Antarctica cruise. More here

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Brown station

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Argentinian flag painted on the roof of the main cabin

arrival by zodiac

arrival by zodiac

Gentoo Penguins at Brown station

Gentoo Penguins at Brown station

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Mountain reflecting in the water, just like a mirror

 

great view on Paradise Bay

great view on Paradise Bay

Expedition Vessel Ortelius waiting for us to come back by zodiacs later

Expedition Vessel Ortelius waiting for us to come back by zodiac later

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Chinstrap Penguins

Chinstrap Penguins

Chinstrap Penguins jumping out of the water on the rocks, amazing

Antarctica The 7th Continent

ANTARCTICA

Antarctica, the white continent or 7th continent as it is called would be my first trip to a Polar region. After getting interested more and more the past 2 years I decided to go for it and to book a trip and prepare myself to this epic journey to the south of our planet.
Like most people I flew to Ushuaia (more here) and stayed there 3 days before embarking to the vessel leaving for Antarctica the Ortelius. After leaving the Beagle channel you soon be in open sea passing the Drake passage which in most cases can be a rough passage, with big waves crashing against the boat or even on the deck. The crew of my expedition told us that they were glad that the Drake has been good to us and everyone was happy about it, cause a rough sea is no fun at all when many people get seasick or when you have to lay down in your cabin bed for 2 days barely able to sleep well with all the shaking and bumping of the ship. It’s the roughest sea in the world but this time it was calm. Passing the Drake is about 2 days before finally entering Antarctica and spotting the first icebergs and different birds flying around the ship like the many Wandering Albatrosses.
Most expedtionships do one continental landing where you actually set foot on mainland Antarctica instead of the many Antarctic islands. I was lucky to have 2 continental landings one at Brown Station in Paradise Bay and one at Neko Harbour.

Port Ushuaia from where Vessels leave for Antarctica

Port Ushuaia from where Vessels leave for Antarctica

Drake Passage, let the adventure begin

Drake Passage, let the adventure begin

The bridge from the ship seen from the main deck

The bridge from the ship seen from the main deck

first Iceberg in the distance

first Iceberg in the distance

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Passing the South Shetland Islands

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more iceberg, I'm getting closer

more iceberg, I’m getting closer

the first penguin spotted on a ice shelf

the first penguin spotted on an ice shelf

our ship got the attention of a seal

our ship got the attention of a seal

reaching Antarctica !!!

reaching Antarctica !!!