|Next stop Melbourne. Melbourne is the capital of the State of Victoria. It is Australia's second largest city and a population of more than 4.5 million. Melbourne was founded 50 years after Sydney but unlike Sydney which had been built with the blood and sweat of Britain's outcasts, Melbourne's streets never echoed with the clank of chains and shackles. The new colony was built on the banks of the Yarra River by free settlers keen to establish a prosperous life for themselves.
It is a green and welcoming city. It is famous as being home to lots of sporting occasions, including Australian Open Tennis, Formula One and the Melbourne Cup and numerous others. I also know it as the home of 'Neighbours'!
We have a day at sea first and have continued our winning streak in the quizzes by winning two more bottles of fizz as we sail away from Sydney.
The following day we attend a lecture given by John McCarthy. He was the young journalist who on his first foreign assignment was abducted and held hostage for 1943 days. Believe or not that was 30 years ago! He is a very good speaker, describing the terror he felt as he was captured. He was actually on the way to the airport as he realised westerners were being targeted. He paints a picture of what it was like when he was looked in a filthy room, 6x3ft, in solo confinement and hearing another 'prisoner' tortured and killed. Even under such extreme circumstances he finds humour and makes lifelong friend with fellow hostages amongst them the Irishman Brian Keenan. He is doing another talk in a couple of days time describing his release and life after. A very interesting and inspiring man.
Two more quizzes that evening and two more bottles won. Ian's been keeping a tally and says we have won a total of 26. Hope we continue to win them after Easter when I can drink them!
We arrive in Melbourne at 8am and we're off the ship before 9am. We take the free shuttle into the city centre and then a free tram to Federation Square. Today is a bank holiday as it is Labour Day. Melbourne has the Moomba (aboriginal word for party) Parade and we walk along with everybody else to watch the start of the Parade. We sit on the grass beside the Shrine of Remembrance. This is a huge monument for the dead of the Great War. In the gardens around there are trees with plaques commemorating the fallen of many different regiments and wars.
Eventually the parade begins. It comprises of a mixture of cars, people in costumes and fabulous floats. It is truly a spectacular display. An ethnic smorgasbord in the glorious sunshine all singing and dancing.
We carry on towards the Royal Botanical Gardens. The gardens were founded in 1846 and comprise of 38 hectares of garden beds, tranquil lakes and sweeping lawns. We wandered around the cactus gardens and marvelled in the splendour of the indigenous plants. We then went for a punt on the lake. The man doing the punting also pointed out the wildlife and different plants. It was a very relaxing way to spend 30 minutes. (Ian wanted to punt the craft himself, but firstly they insist that their man does it and secondly I am highly dubious about his abilities when it comes to things nautical after being capsized out of a dingy several times a number of years ago.)
All to soon it was time to return to the ship and shower ready for dinner. We now have three days before we reach our next destination. Dunedin, New Zealand. On the third day we sail pass Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusty Sound. Arguably some of the most beautiful places in Earth!