Day 182: Dum, Dum Dum Dum, De De De De Dum

Mon. 11th February 2013

The start / finish straight is not quite ready yetYes, the title of today’s blog post is the song The Chain by Fleetwood Mac. This, of course, is the theme music used by the BBC for their Formula 1 coverage and the two are now inextricably intertwined in my mind. There have been some musical references in the last few blog posts and so it seemed appropriate to have a song itself for today’s title – especially as we have been cycling around Albert Park, the site of the Australian F1 Grand Prix.

Speeding around the Grand Prix circuitWe have enjoyed our cycling on this trip and we’ve generally found bicycles to be a good way of covering more ground than we can by foot and with more flexibility than you get from public transport or a car. (We have failed to find any Segway tours, but that is another story). Before the cycling though, we had an appointment with a travel medicine clinic to discuss malaria tablets. We have managed to avoid malaria zones for the first half of our trip but after we leave Australia and hit Indonesia, Malaysia and then Africa there is no avoiding it. So, we are now stocked up on tablets and will soon have to start taking them for the rest of our trip.

War memorial in King's DomainWhen we got to the cycle rental shop, I spot that they also rent out tandem bikes and I suggest that this might be a good idea to Janet. After due consideration of approx. 0.00007ns, the answer is a flat “no, not under any circumstances!” Apparently, we don’t ride tandem. The bikes we hire are fine and we head out of town past the King’s Domain (park) and pause at the war memorial before heading on to Albert Park.

Palm trees with skyscrapers in the backgroundThe Australian Grand Prix is the first race of the new season (17th March) just the week before the Malaysian Grand Prix for which we have tickets. Whilst we had seen the banners for the Grand Prix in the city, it was still a bit of a surprise to see that preparation work had started with the erection of some of the fencing and stands. The park is centred on a lake (complete with swans, sailing dinghies and rowing boats) with paths and public roads all around. It is the latter that are used for the Grand Prix and we have some fun cycling around sections of the track and taking some of the iconic photos with the palm trees in the foreground and the city’s skyscrapers in the background.

The pier at St KildaWhen we head on round the lake and the track we get to what will be the start / finish straight. Here they are constructing the temporary buildings that will be the pit garages along with some of the big grandstands. We are still on an open public road and are outside of the fences that demarcate the construction areas, but still, when we stop to take some photos, we are told to move on and “to use your common sense, don’t take photos of construction sites”. We’re still a bit baffled by that one.

Olly enjoying the beach!We continue to head on out of town and end up in St Kilda, where we came out to on the tram yesterday. There is now no sign of the festival that was just getting up to full swing when we left – and no ladies playing beach volleyball either. It was, however, a very pleasant spot to stop, find a bit of shade, have lunch and just enjoy the sea air and the sights of the beach.

Empty without the cruise linersThere’s no rest for the wicked though and soon we are back on the bikes and heading up the coast back towards the city. There is something that is captivating about the skyline of skyscrapers that gradually creep closer. Our next stop is in Port Melbourne where the cruise ships dock. We had seen the liners docked earlier in the week but the pier is empty today – it would be really dwarfed by some of the big liners when they dock.

Looking down the Yarra River towards the cityThe recommended route on our map then takes us back in to the city on a cycle path that runs alongside the tram tracks. We do like the way that there is space in the city for trams and for cyclists and that both are kept separate from cars and pedestrians. We get back to the Yarra River at South Bank and the cycle path turns to run along the river banks. Myf had warned us that this stretch would be busy – and it was. Even more so because part of the path was cordoned off for the clean-up activity following the Chinese New Year (Lunar Festival) celebration.

Rock climbing wall under a flyoverThe cycle hire shop is on the river, by Federation Square. However, we still have some time – and some energy – and so decide to continue out of town along the river and see a little more of the sights. Just like the Thames outside Oxford, the banks are lined with boathouses for various rowing clubs. It seems as if the schools are just getting their rowing clubs going again for the new academic year (whilst logical, it still seems wrong to start the school year in February). The last rowing we watched (on TV) was in the Olympics and the standard of co-ordination was a step or two lower here. (I have rowed in a four once and so I do understand that it is not as easy as it looks).

They do like their pieces of artIts not just the rowing that reminds us of Oxford and home. The cycle path out along the bank of the river with the noise of traffic somewhere in the background – audible if you listen out for it but easy to blot out. You don’t have to cycle very far before you feel like you are out in the country. After a few kilometres, we cross the river and head back along the other bank.This seems to be more distinctively Melbourne – at one point the cycle path is on a floating pontoon; we come across some climbing walls built up on the pillars of a flyover that we cycle under; and there are the ever present pieces of artwork.

Every evening we were entranced by the sunset over DocklandsWe get back to the apartment feeling like we’ve had a good cycle in the sunshine. We are just lightly toasted and happy that we’ve got our money’s worth from the bikes. We have covered perhaps 35km during the day. Enough to feel that we deserve a cold beer and a warm shower. We’re not sure when we will be on bikes again – our itinerary for the second half of our trip doesn’t really include places noted for cycling. We need to send a box of stuff back to the UK and this will probably include the cycle helmets. They’ve been with us for so long that our backpacks will feel odd without them.

It is another glorious evening as with sit with Myf and talk about the day and more good memories of Melbourne. Each sunset seems to be more spectacular than the last and we just can’t get enough photos from the balcony of the apartment. It’s almost enough to convert me to city living!

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