Saturday, 3 March 2012


After I picked up my box and put it on a trolley, a customs official asked me what was in it and upon hearing the dreaded b word he sent me to a special area. However, when another official here looked at my immigration slip, he told me I'd been sent to the wrong place and I was free to go. You mean my bike was scrubbed and scraped to within an inch of its life for nothing?! Neil at the bike shop won't be pleased when he learns that he toiled in vain. I think perhaps the man in the special area didn't realise it was a bicycle in the box and I wasn't at pains to point it out and have every piece interrogated by men in spacesuits. Managed to reassemble it all by my unhandy self and squeeze all my stuff into the three panniers. I really wasn't up to cycling 20 km into the central business district (CBD) along a main road in heavy rain after all that flying and lack of sleep. So we travelled in style, on a bendy bus. Didn't think much of what I saw of the city from the bus, although most cities are drab when viewed from a main road through the hinterland, especially in the rain. It looked like an American city, without the pizzazz. The people I watched toing and froing at Southern Cross Station didn't do much for me either; wholesome and healthy, yet lacking something. Casually or even crazily attired, but not well-dressed. I should give it a chance though - sleep soundly on it and have another look in the sunshine. Sent on a wild goose chase by various staff here... You need to get a tram... You need to get a train... You need to go up a level... You need to down a level (with a heavily laden bicycle). At length I purchased a train ticket and was dispatched to platform nine. At platform nine the screen displayed the message "No trains depart from this station." Back up the escalator. Told to get another train from platform (back down the escalator) a couple of stops and then take a replacement bus through the 'burbs, where Melbourne had smartened up its act. They're very good about taking bikes on buses here. A fat goth of indeterminate gender was drinking a can of 'Mother' in gothic script. I later learned from my host that it is an energy drink and short for 'motherf***er'. Walked the last few blocks in the pouring rain; I haven't cycled at all yet.

Peter is my friend Lucie's son and I am staying with him in the Abbotsford neighbourhood, a few kms from the CBD. Peter is a student and shares a bohemian house (similar to mine, with its high ceilings and fussily sculpted features) with a fluctuating number of flatmates and a cat who lost half her nose to skin cancer. Do pets have to wear suncream too? Finally, a shower, a change of clothes and clean teeth! Peter took me for a circuitous walk along by the brown Yarra River, the main watercourse here. Peter explained how the white people asked the indigenous people what it was called and they replied "Yarra", which is Aborigine for river. He told me there was a hill in Cumbria called Torpenhow Hill, which is quadruple tautology and shows how different races have moved in and supplemented the existing placename with their own. Soon we reached a local Vietnamese restaurant, where I also hooked up with Simon, a Couchsurfer I'd stayed with previously in Liverpool. It's not quite accurate to say that Simon lives here now, because he is a compulsive traveller who doesn't stay in one place long. He has his own IT business and still has the the same customers he had in the UK, who can phone a British number and get through to him over here. He says some of them think he's making it up when he says he's at the Malaysian Grand Prix, or wherever he happens to be. Peter told me how the area we were in was infamous for herion and he has been propositioned with the phrase "Are you chasing?" Only he thought he was being asked if he was Jason.

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