I’m writing this post from the Mt. Whitney Trailhead campground near Lone Pine, CA. This is the place where many people set off to summit the highest point in the continental USA, Mt. Whitney. Neither Alison nor I are planning to do this, instead content to venture on day hikes, spend time with our dogs, Duke and Spike, and relax in one of the most spectacular campgrounds we have ever seen.
We have a spot right on a mountain stream, in the shade of tall ponderosa pines and cinnamon colored incense cedar trees that somehow manage to thrive in the sandy soil. Stopping here was a fluke, but a welcome fluke at that. Our original plan was to drive to Mammoth Lakes, but thought taking a detour to get a better photo of Mt. Whitney would be worth it. It was. We will spend two glorious days and nights here.
The trend continuous that traveling without firm plans is working to our favor. Since we are traveling with our dogs, we take turns hiking. Yesterday I did a four hour jaunt up a mountain valley en-route to Meyson Lake. I ran out of time (the sun was setting) and didn’t make it to the lake but still got world class views of the desert valley below. While I was hiking, Alison hung out at the camp site.
Today, Alison is doing the first portion (6-7 miles round trip) of the Mt. Whitney summit trail, while I hang out and catch up on blog posts. There is no cell or wi-fi here, so I’m writing this post offline and will post it who knows when. Our sense of time is definitely warped, or maybe now our sense of time is normal and it was warped before we left our careers???
Anyway, back to Melbourne….
We arrived in Melbourne after a long multi-day drive from Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road. The weather was great, albeit hot. We dropped off our rental car and made our way through throngs of people and bad traffic to the tram car stop, bound for the St. Kilda neighborhood. We St. Kilda it was the cool neighborhood to be, so we found a hostel there. Turns out St. Kilda used to be the cool place, and the really cool place nowadays is on the other side of the city – doh!
Regardless, there was a nice area to walk around with shops and such, including an upscale vegetarian restaurant that we tried (it was decent, but not amazing). We also found a few other high quality (and less costly) vegan spots around town.
However the traffic was horrendous and our hostel was about a mile from anywhere interesting. The hostel itself, while very highly rated, was overrun with the 25 and under crowd. Nothing wrong with this in itself, but in the evenings the lobby and lounge areas were packed with people playing beer pong, flip cup and otherwise being loud and sorta obnoxious. We have learned that when a hotel has a high rating (on sites like hostelworld.com), you need to read the comments carefully, as many ratings come from young travelers looking to party and hang out, not from people like Alison and I looking to see the sights, exercise and get a good night of sleep!
The coolest thing about Melbourne was the long beachfront right next to city center. It is well developed with parks, fitness quest areas (what we call adult playgrounds with various fitness equipment, they are numerous in Australia). Kite boarders and wind surfers were catching air right next to the city skyline.
Traffic aside, the city itself was gorgeous and well planned. There was a river flowing through the main business district and plenty of trees lining the sidewalks, with grassy park spaces and plenty of restaurants with outdoor seating.
Our major adventure here involved bikes. Melbourne has a great city bike system with stations all over the place with bikes and helmets. The bikes don’t cost much to rent for an hour or a even a entire day. There is also a trick. We learned that once you check out a bike (via credit card, it costs just a few bucks), as long as you dock the bike every 30 minutes, you don’t have to pay any additional fees. Otherwise, you pay by the hour. We decided to see how far we could make it, hopping from bike station to bike station without paying overage fees. We made it pretty far, but despite furious pedaling, a few red lights kept us from reaching our goal (the city center) on the cheap.
It also turned out to be the F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne while we were there. You could here the whup-whup-whup of choppers filming the trial runs and the screeching of tires and whirring of engines throughout the area of the city we ventured in. We thought about going to the event, but it was expensive. The cheapest tickets were around $100, and this was for viewing practice laps and the time trials, not even the main event! More than the cost, we just preferred to see the city instead of a sporting event.
After two nights and three full days in Melbourne, we caught a flight to Tasmania, where our friends Cassie and Guy recently moved. We’ve already blogged about our adventures in Tasmania, it was a great time and we hope to be back there soon. As for Melbourne, it was a nice city, but preferred the more laid back feel of Adelaide and outdoor lifestyle and terrain of Tasmania.
Enjoy the photos below…