Surfer's Paradise to Melbourne

For whatever reason, I woke up super early Saturday morning. I couldn't sleep so I got up early and sat outside on the balcony one last time. The sun was barely up so there was hardly anyone on the streets. It was extremely peaceful. I sat there and I thought about all sorts of things. I lost myself in some deep thoughts before Matthew brought me out of it. He had came out on the balcony to let me know it was time to get ready and make our way downstairs. We chatted for a minute and he explained that the couple sleeping in the bed next to us had came in last night while I was out at the night tour. Matthew had a short conversation with them before they went out themselves. Apparently they crawled into bed at some point during the night, I must have been sleeping pretty hard because I never knew it. Matthew said the girl was from Belgium and the guy was from somewhere else but they had met while traveling and were now a couple.


 I packed my things and went downstairs to check out and wait for Mandy to pick us up and take us to the airport. We had an hour drive to Brisbane where we would then get on a two hour flight to Melbourne. From there we had arranged a rental car that we would drive around Melbourne and then in a few days we'd take it down the Great Ocean Road and turn it in at a rental car place in Adelaide. I had made all of these arrangements back at Johnny and Maaike's in New Zealand before we left.


Once we got to the airport and made it safely and incident-free through security, we had two hours to kill so Matthew worked on his computer and I finally caught up on some writing. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and once I got on the plane I wrote some more.

Despite my constant nausea I was pretty proud of myself for making it through a whole plane ride without getting sick. We had landed and were slowly coming to a stop on the runway when it hit me. My jaw tensed up and my saliva thickened. I felt my body go warm and shaky. I reached for the barf bag in front of me and I could see in my pariphial vision that Matthew had scooted over a seat and was trying not to watch.

Then like I had felt many times before, my stomach heaved and up went whatever had previously been in there. Fortunately I hadn't ate anything but a small bowl of cereal several hours earlier and I had kept my water drinking to an absolute minimum. I may not have a cure for motion sickeness but I have the contributing factors and symptoms down to a science. I heaved again and felt my esophagus burn and ache. Tears were now leaking out of my eyes and I could tell people around me were standing up and grabbing their overhead luggage with no idea of what was happening to me.


I was grateful that we were on the ground and that no one was sitting next to me. I was even more grateful that everyone was moving and talking so my vomitting sounds were not being closely listened to. Keeping the bag to my mouth, I pointed at my purse and asked Matthew to grab my Kleenexes. I then heaved one last time, this time much smaller and I could tell I was done. Actually, my body would have kept going but my stomache had informed my brain that there was nothing left to get out. Now I was weak, I was shaking from being sick and my esophagus had an awful burning sensation to it. The voice I barely had seemed to be even weaker now. I wiped my face, gathered my stuff and slowly made my way down the aisle. At this point everyone else had already left the plane so there was no waiting to get out into the terminal.


After grabbing our baggage, Matthew and I made a pit stop at the nearest restroom so I could wash my face and scrub my teeth with my disposable tooth brush that my mother had put in my purse. I was so grateful for that little toothbrush.


We then walked across the street and after taking pictures with giant letters that read “Melbourne”, we walked into the rental car office. I was still feeling a little sick and I didn't want to push it so I quietly read some brochures while Matthew did the talking. In a few minutes he told me to come up to the front where he was talking with the clerk. Apparently the online company we had booked through failed to tell us that if we returned a car in a different state than what we picked it up in, we would be charged an additional $400. The clerk explained that this was a rule because the company still had to drive the car back to the original pick-up location. Matthew and I were shaken by the amount of money this guy wanted from us. We asked a few questions and finally without much hope, the clerk said we might look into flying from Melbourne to Adelaide instead. We asked if we could have some time to think it through and the clerk said that was fine, even though he seemed inconvenienced by our delay.


Matthew and I hauled all of our luggage outside where we sat on a bench and weighed our options.


“I want to drive the Great Ocean Road. I'm not skipping that.” Matthew was pretty set on this adventure so I thought about what choices we had left. That definitely cancelled out flying. I made a comment that there were four other car rental offices right in front of us so while Matthew went in and out of each car rental office—asking questions and comparing prices—I sat on the bench and googled the best ways to travel the Great Ocean Road in Australia. Pretty quickly I landed on some bus tours going down the GOR. I looked at a few but one was extremely expensive and the other one was a one day trip that began and ended in Melbourne. We really needed to get from Melbourne to Adelaide by way of the GOR. When Matthew came out of the fourth rental car office with defeat on his face, I told him of the bus idea and said I had found a few that sounded promising but none that were fool-proof yet. He began looking on his phone too.


Within five minutes he had found a bus tour from Melbourne to Adelaide on a three day trip through the GOR. It had leather reclining seats and a USB port under each seat. Food and accommodations were provided and there didn't seem to be a strict luggage guideline. We both agreed that it sounded perfect and so I got on the phone and asked the important questions:

Can you pick us up: yes, from Southern Cross. How much luggage are we allowed to bring?: one big bag and one small bag. Can we depart this Tuesday?: Yes.”


The itinerary fit perfectly into our plan. We would reach Adelaide by Thursday night and still have a few days to see the town before heading to Kangaroo Island. I looked at Matthew for confirmation and he gave me the nod. I told the friendly lady on the phone my credit card numbers and she said she'd see us Tuesday at 7:15 a.m.


Our next mission was to cancel the car we had rented so we could get a refund, and then find a way to get from the airport to the house we were staying at in Melbourne. While I wrote down confirmation numbers Matthew went back in the original rental car office and quickly came out asking me for the address of our Melbourne accommodation.

Apparently, the clerk had softened a bit after watching us sit on a bench for an hour with horrified looks on our faces. He told Matthew that there was a public transport system that would get us anywhere we needed to go in Melbourne. He even pointed us to the bus stop where we could purchase our transit cards. He then told us to email the online company we had booked our car through, explain the situation and ask for a full refund.


Within a matter of minutes we were back in action and heading across the street to the office where we were to purchase our bus tickets. The tickets were $16 each and that would last us a few trips, the lady said.

We walked around the corner of the office and a busman was instructing us to get on the bus. I lugged my huge suitcase up the step on the bus and found that there was a big spot in the middle of the bus where people were putting their luggage. There were lots of backpacks and a few smaller bags but none as big as mine or Matthew's. I felt a twinge of embarassment as I tried to lift my heavy suitcase up on the shelf but failed. Fortunately, Matthew stepped up and through both of our suitcases on the shelf and I took a seat near the back of the bus.


I was still queasy though I knew there was nothing in my stomach that I could possibly throw up. The bus was nice and bouncy and full of lots of brakes; none of which are good for motion sickness, but what choice did I have? We'd soon be at the AirBnb house and I could rest my uneasy stomach.


When we got to Southern Cross Station we were, as Matthew says, “lost as a tater.” We walked through the doors and looked around until we saw what looked like a bus stop. There we read the front side, the back side, the map and the mobile app. Each piece read something different.

Matthew was studying hard and I was very confused so I kept an eye on our suitcases. As I looked around I saw tons of people going this way and that. They all looked very confident in the direction they were going. The only people with luggage were backpackers. And yet, here sat two Americans with four suitcases and two backpacks between the two of them. I felt like we stuck out big time. Even though it was a stressful situation and I felt horribly sick, I had to laugh at the scenario so I took a picture of our luggage sitting on the street corner and I coined the phrase “American Backpacking.”


After a few minutes Matthew decided we needed to take the 307 to Box Hill so we waited at the stop for about five minutes until the 207 rolled up. On the bus we took two seats towards the front in the handicapped section. I chose these seats because it was the only place where all of our luggage would fit. The entire duration of this bus ride was 20 minutes, but in those 20 minutes I felt sicker than a dog. My empty stomach was sloshing around and the nausea from the morning had never worn off.  After a few breaks and bounces I had laid my head down on my suitcase and was forcing myself to breath and swallow, breath...and're going to be fine. When I looked up I noticed a woman my age had sat down just in front of my suitcases. I felt sorry for her. I hoped very hard that I would not get sick and throw up on this innocent passenger.


Just when I couldn't take it anymore, I heard Matthew tell me we were at our stop. I grabbed my backpack, my duffle bag, my suitcase and my purse and found my way off the bus. When I got off the bus and looked around I thought it was odd that we were kind of in the middle of nowhere.  Luckily Matthew has a sense of direction and he said we just had to go down a street and around the corner to number 40.  I winced a bit when I saw what the sidewalk looked like. It was a steep downward hill with a curve at the bottom, similar to the one that I had crashed my skateboard on a few years earlier. Matthew started off with his suitcase, having a few bumps at first and then comfortably finding a groove for balancing his luggage on the downhill slope.


I, on the other hand, had a bit of trouble. First my duffle bag kept falling off of my roller suitcase so I had to stop and strap it in better. Then my roller suitcase was running away from me. I was relieved to not have to push it, but I was close to falling on my face because I was jogging downhill behind a suitcase trying to keep up with its speed. So I stopped again and decided I might do better rolling the suitcase behind me. I took a couple of steps and found the weight of my suitcase quite pushy.

Now it was pushing me down the hill and I was back up to a jog again—trying not to fall on my face. I forced myself and the suitcase to stop once again while I caught my breathe. I looked ahead and saw Matthew had stopped too, but only to laugh at me. He asked if I needed help and I said no. I told him this was between me and the suitcase and the suitcase would not get the best of me, at least not today.


I thought for a minute before finding my solution. I turned around and put the suitcase in front of me and walked backwards down the hill. This way I had total control of the suitcase. When Mr. Suity would get antsy and try to push past me, I would firmly push it back and redirect it to a nice, safe pace. This worked perfectly until we got to the bottom of the hill.


“We missed it.” Matthew said.

“What? How?”

“I don't know but this is 213.” he pointed at the house in front of us.

“But the one back there is 40.” I pointed to the house just behind us. Matthew shrugged and I told him there was no way I was going back up that hill.

Around then a middle aged woman with a dog walked by on the sidewalk just over our heads. Matthew hollered at her and asked which house was number 40. She told us to wait a second. I then watched as her head disappeared over the hill for a few minutes and then came back. She hollered back and pointed to a few houses in front of us. We thanked her and then stopped to laugh. We had an uphill climb to tackle before we could get to this house.


I had some firm words with my suitcase before I pushed it in front of me and squatted down low to push it up the rest of this hill. Luckily the hill was only about 30 yards long, but when you're squat-pushing a suitcase that is long enough.  At the top of the hill I stopped and panted for a second before following Matthew and dragging my suitcase down two steps and then up three more to the front door of this house. An hour ago I had texted our host and told her we were an hour away. I checked the time on my phone and told Matthew to go ahead and knock.


It was quite funny really, being at a stranger's doorsteps with lots of luggage and confusion written all over our faces.  I wonder if this was as awkward for her as it was us.


A teenage boy answered the door. He was very dark and had a hip hairdo, the one where the sides are shaved and the hair on top is long and looks like it was just piled up there randomly. He smiled warmly and welcomed us into the house. He had a foreign name I couldn't pronounce but he was very sweet. He introduced us to his friends who were sitting on the couch behind him, playing video games. There was a girl with strawberry blonde hair and another boy with glasses and freckles. He seemed to giggle when he saw us, like he was excited by the thought of strangers dropping in. The foreign kid showed us around the house and told us where they kept the key. He said we could smoke on the veranda if we wanted and said he would pick up his beer bottles from the night before. We were pleased with everything he said but we had one question.


“Is there a place nearby where we can grab some food?”

“Sure. Take the sidewalk around out that way and you'll run into a few shops with food.”


Matthew and I threw ourselves on our beds as soon as the boy left the room. I felt relief and comfort surge through my body. I had never felt a better bed than this one. I was so tired and so hungry and so over the day. I told Matthew I was going to sleep and he said I couldn't do that until we ate. I agreed.  I was hungry.  Without wasting any time we walked out the door and up the sidewalk one more time.


Sure enough, around the corner presented us with two eating options. The first option was a nice looking Thai cafe and the second was a burger joint. We aimed for the burger joint but found out it was closed.  Thai food it was. The Thai cafe was warm and friendly. It was a small space but the huge windows made it seem bigger. I ordered Pad Thai and Matthew got rice and curry. Our meals were both amazing and under $20. We agreed it was nice to be away from Surfer's Paradise where everything was priced for locals and not tourists.


After dinner we walked the short trail back home. I fell on my bed once again and told myself I would just lay there for a minute before showering and changing into my pjs. My feet were black from running around in flip flops. I felt dirty and gross from being in so many public spaces and I reminded myself that I had thrown up earlier in the day and I desperately needed to brush my teeth. All these thoughts made me really want a shower but when I woke up it was 10am the following morning.