10 Things I Never Thought I'd Do in Australia

by phillipsauve on May 29, 2010

Here are ten things I never thought I’d do in Australia along with a few pictures:

  1. Get Locked up in Gaol (pronounced jail) or Come Face-to-Face with Ned Kelly
    At the Old Melbourne Gaol you can come face-to-face with the death mask of Ned Kelly, the infamous Australian bushranger.  After his capture in 1878 Kelly was held and later hung, here at the Melbourne Gaol.  Kelly was a famous bushranger, which is to Australia what Jesse James and the outlaws of the Wild West were to America.  Kelly’s fearless acts in defiance of the police made him an icon and a legend, much like Jesse James, and Kelly has been portrayed in almost every form of media imaginable.  On screen, the part of Ned Kelly has been played by the likes of Mick Jagger and Heath Ledger.

    You can also experience getting locked up in the city watch house, just like all the other drunks and disturbers of the peace who were held there before the place was moved to a new facility in the mid-1990’s.  There are still all the original poems and artwork scratched in the cells of the watch house.

  2. Eat Emu & Saltwater Crocodile Pizza
    Australia has a great deal of animals that aren’t normally found in other parts of the world, many of which can be eaten.  Next to our hostel in The Rocks neighborhood in Sydney, was the Australian Hotel, one of the oldest pubs in the city with a great selection of beers.  It is also home to some fabulous pizzas, including the emu and saltwater crocodile pizzas that I tried.  Emu meat is a red meat that is similar in flavor and texture to beef.  Saltwater crocodile meat is sort of like chicken, but not as heavy.  The pizzas were delicious!
  3. Watch Australian Football (aka footy) While Having a Meat Pie
    When we were grabbing lunch one day in the Gold Coast we caught a few minutes of a footy game on TV–it was fast and physical.  After watching the game I wanted to know more about the sport and to see it live.  Having had no previous exposure to Australian football I was very excited to check out this ‘new’ sport.  Well, the sport has been around for over 150 years but it was new to me anyway.  It turns out Melbourne is the de facto capital of footy– nine of the sixteen teams in the league are located there.  You cannot go to Melbourne without going to watch Australian football at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG); and having a meat pie while watching footy at the MCG is like having popcorn at the movies– they just go together.
  4. Enter the Matrix
    A trip to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) was not on my list of things to do in Australia, but ended up being a wonderful find.  My friends and I found ourselves needing to kill time one day as we were milling around Federation Square and decided to duck into ACMI for a respite from the street performance outside.  In addition to the various unique exhibits and films that they show here, on the lower level they have a free exhibition entitled Screen Worlds. Screen Worlds is the best museum someone with a short attention span could ever visit.  There is a very thorough and educational walk-through of the history of the moving image, starting all the way back from when people payed pennies to watch what was little more than a flip book just over a century ago.  There are also several video games to play spanning across the ages, from Pong to Wii Sports.   In addition, you can try your hand at their many wonderful interactive displays.   One that we liked was “Timeslice”, which allows you to channel your inner Keanu Reeves and perform your very own Matrix ‘bullet time’ sequence in front of thirty-six cameras and you can then email it to yourself for free.
  5. See Six Lebanese Restaurants Next to Each Other
    Looking for Lebanese food in Sydney?  Then head to the intersection of Cleveland and Elizabeth Street in the Surry Hills district of the city.  Here you’ll find at least six Lebanese restaurants on the same block (after a while we lost count).  With that sort of competition next door the food is bound to be good.  After being somewhat overwhelmed by the number of restaurants serving the same dishes, we decided on our original choice, Nada’s Lebanese Restaurant located right on the corner.  I had a delicious, succulent beef shawarma with an excellent smooth and creamy hummus and unlimited pita bread.
    No slides are available.
  6. Ride on the World’s Largest Tram Network
    I’m a bit of nerd when it comes to mass transit.  I wanted to ride the tram in Melbourne just to see what it was like.  Trams used to be the main form of public transportation in many cities long, long ago.  I had no idea that Melbourne’s tram network, Yarra Trams, is the largest tram network in the world until I came back to Motoyoshi and looked it up.  It has 250 km (150 miles) of track and over 1800 stops!  The trams are so popular that cars must heed to streetcar traffic–the city is the only place in Australia where drivers have to perform a ‘hook turn’ (cars wait in the far left lane for all traffic to clear to make a right-hand turn) in order to give the trams right of way.
  7. Eat Kangaroo Steak
    When I tell people here in Japan that I had a kangaroo steak they are shocked.  “Why would anyone want to eat kangaroos?” I was asked.  It seems to be a cultural difference that is misunderstood by people not native to Australia (although it’s ironic that eating endangered whales in school lunch is okay here in Japan, but when it’s a kangaroo it seems shocking and sad).  In each state only a certain number of kangaroos are allowed to be commercially hunted each year, which keeps the population stable.  Kangaroo meat is much healthier than beef (only about 2% fat), and kangaroos don’t release the same amount of CO2 or kill native grasses the way cows do, making kangaroos a more attractive choice environmentally as well.  These combined benefits have even led to the creation of a new diet, the kangatarian!
  8. See the World’s Smallest Penguin
    I was originally interested in going to Phillip Island because of its cool name.  Then I read in my Lonely Planet guide that penguins come to the island from the ocean and I thought that would be awesome to see, since I’ve loved penguins ever since I was a little pipsqueak in elementary school.  These aren’t just any ordinary penguins though–the little penguin (also called a fairy penguin) is the smallest species of penguin in the world, only growing to a height of about 40 cm (15 inches).  Watching as a pack of these little guys swim in from the ocean will make anyone feel warm and fuzzy inside.  Usually, one or two of the little squirts will make it to land first and wait for the rest of the group to show up.  Waves will come and wash them back into the water, at which point they have to swim and waddle back up the beach on their tiny little feet.  The penguins can be easily spotted by predators when crossing the beach, so they adhere to the classic rule of safety in numbers.  When the rest of the group arrives at the beach, they scurry quickly across the short beach area and head up through the grasses toward their burrows, some of which can be up to 1.5 km (1 mile) away from the beach.  That’s a long trek for these little guys to retire home, especially when you consider their legs are no more 2 or 3 cm long!
  9. Have Wasabi & Vegemite-Flavored Chocolate
    We had Australia’s beloved Vegemite on toast for breakfast one morning.  When an appropriate, i.e. small, amount is spread on toast it can be pretty good.  However, during a trip to a chocolate factory we had a chance to make our own chocolate bar and it seemed silly not to try an adventurous flavor combination.  I mean, chocolate and strawberry, I know what that tastes like!  So, we decided to go as wild as possible with our ingredients and we ended up with, you guessed it wasabi, chocolate and Vegemite.  But when Vegemite is put in chocolate with wasabi it’s just plain awful and should not be fed to anyone!
  10. Listen to Didgeridoo-Infused Techno Music in Sydney Harbour
    This music caught me pleasantly by surprise.  Right by the ferry terminal in the Harbour there was an Aboriginal man playing the didgeridoo while a techno beat bumped from the speaker alongside of him.  With the Sydney Opera House across the way and the Harbour Bridge in the background, the music helped create a distinctively ‘Australian’ vibe and a pleasant atmosphere in which to soak up the surrounding beauty.  There were many people watching the performance, relaxing in the nearby park and leisurely strolling by all of whom seemed to be enjoying the day and the funky beats.
  11. Walk on My Street and See My Island in Successive Days
    Ok, ok, so Phillip Island and Phillip Street are probably named after Arthur Phillip, the captain of the First Fleet.  But it’s still fun to pretend.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine May 30, 2010 at 6:19 am

Hey Pip! Would like to hear the didgeridoo-techno sound. Please post pics of the cute penguins!
love Chris

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phillipsauve May 31, 2010 at 3:24 pm

There is no picture-taking allowed at the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island because of the effects of the flash on the little penguin’s eyes. There is one pic I’ll post soon though…

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