In Melbourne, In My Dreams
The hot air balloon I was soaring in developed a snag… it was descending rapidly! Thud! The basket I was clinging on to tightly touched ground… Now what?
There I was middle of a vast flat green patch. Not a single soul around, sun was almost disappearing, it started to drizzle too. The mobile battery had to give away now, I cursed my fate. I was clueless where I was; though I vaguely remember my last map read something like ‘flying over Australia’, between some latitude and longitude. At a distance I could make out the silhouette of a huge cottage.
Soon I was standing in front of it like a lost child, shivering with cold. A kind woman took me in as I explained my situation. This welcoming rural family quickly adopted me and made me feel at ease. I contacted my base; with few phone calls my return was arranged. I still had four days in hand. I wished to shift out as soon as possible, but they insisted I treat this cottage as home stay. I was treated like a member of the clan, which had six grown up children, youngest being nineteen. I was eating at their huge kitchen table, doing dishes and other chores too. They took it on them how best I could spend the next four days.
Day 1. Drive Along Great Ocean Road
The family was going out on a drive along the Great Ocean Road. After a sumptuous breakfast of corn fritters, smashed avocado, crepes, baked eggs, we set off. What a drive! Truly one of the greatest drives of the world! The sight of the sweeping vistas of the magnificent coastline as we wended our way along the winding coastal road mesmerized us.
Plenty of stop off points, good lunch along the way, several halts for sightseeing, only thing one needs to have is a strong stomach to handle those curves. The third in the sibling order Mike, displayed good control over the wheels overtaking the slow, long tourist coaches moving at snail’s pace along the road. After around four hours drive along the Great Ocean Road we sighted the famous 12 Apostles. The silhouettes of the Apostles, magnificent rock stacks, seemed to rise up majestically from the Southern Ocean on Victoria’s dramatic coastline. Not at all like how it looked in postcards, I thought! We visited the wreck sites with markers leading down to the beaches where survivors of wrecks died because they could not climb out. Returning to Melbourne at night, which was dazzling with colorful lights, was another scene to lock up in my heart! A quick ‘good dinner’ we were back to the warmth of our cosy cottage.
Day 2. Healesville Sanctuary
Before I could recollect, arrange and rearrange the memories of the day, I heard whispers on how the day would unfold the next day. They meant to keep it as a surprise… and I was truly surprised the next morning when I found a Koala staring straight at my face. So! We were at the Healesville Sanctuary!
Like a kid, I lapped up every show, every event, and every talk. I always believed wombats, wallabies, echidna, platypus, koalas and kangaroos were fairy tale characters, meaning I knew they existed in real but since I never had an opportunity to see them real, I comforted myself with that thought. That false belief flew out of my brain as I sat feeding a kangaroo. She actually ate from my hands! The visit to animal hospital there was memorable… a tiny koala was being examined after its bad fall and an abandoned baby wombat was being fed.
If there is anything called overload of sensory nerves, I experienced it here in Melbourne. Be it food, sights, natural beauty, history, friendly people, culture, colors all capsuled so well here.
Day 3. Sovereign Hill
My adopted family wanted to wind back the clock for me by a few centuries! How is that going to be possible! I wondered and I kept wondering till I reached Sovereign Hill, a living museum of 1850s.
The gold rush era! My mind screamed! I remembered reading about it in school days. This museum has been groomed so well that today it is famous as Australia’s foremost outdoor museum. Ballarat’s first ten years after the discovery of gold in 1851 has been recreated here. Chinese settlement, miners’ shacks, the Red Coats, local police patrolling the streets, the horse drawn stage coach and wagons to ride on, these were real I almost thought. Activities like gold pouring, going down a gold mine were out of the world experiences.
between all these activities we halted for lunch. As I savoring the raw
mushrooms marinated in lemon and herbs, Lucy, youngest of all recited Henry
The night too quickly passes
And we are growing old,
So let us fill our glasses
And toast the Days of Gold;
When finds of wondrous treasure
Set all the South ablaze,
And you and I were faithful mates
All through the roaring days.
Henry Lawson,The Roaring Days, 1889
listened to their discussion on diggers’ defiance and open disdain of
authority during this time and I could sense how strongly they felt about the
whole episode that occurred centuries back. Everything seemed so authentic and well maintained. The setup did arouse their national pride. It felt good to be with such youngsters! Watching people from different trades at work was a learning experience. We got a photo done here and I looked great in it. This would be something nice to show off when I get back home, I thought.
Day 4. Hot Air Ballooning
The last day of adventure; this day the plan was to go hot air ballooning over Yarra valley. All excited and thrilled at the prospect of getting aerial view of Melbourne, we woke up early and set off for the launch point.
Weather was pleasant, we involved ourselves in setting up the balloon, and finally we soared up.Up, up and away… the feel was familiar, I prayed hard for an ‘accident, incident free flight’. Breathtaking views of mountains, crisp morning air brushing my cheeks, corridors of grape vines along Yarra River, we were now at an altitude of 3000 ft. A wine tasting session waited for us down there, I was pleased with myself. The past four days had been adventurous, thrilling and enlightening too, I was reminiscing to myself.
All of a sudden I could sense a fast descent, this balloon too developed a snag… not again I prayed hard, I didn’t want this sweet experience to end… as I touched down, I rolled over and thud.. I was flat on ground. Where was I now? Where are my friends? Everything seemed familiar… it didn’t take long to realize I was in my own house. It was a dream after all!
That can’t be true, that photograph I took in Sovereign Hill is a proof, and I tried searching for it. ‘Hopeless search’ I knew. That would have been an ideal piece of memory I could bring back from there I wish I could visit all those places in real life and live those experiences… I wish… I wish… I wish!