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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Bushfire safety warnings in Victoria Australia

Forest fire is a major concern all over the world. They destroy forest and forest animals and also endanger motorists passing through the forest.

Victoria country side in Australia is often prone to forest fires (referred to as Bush Fire). Administration has set up several precautionary measures and safety guidelines to predict/avoid/minimize impact of a forest fire.

Along all the highways, there are sign boards indicating current probability level of a bush fire. The display looks like below and a needle would be pointing to one of these colours. If you notice the chart carefully, there is no status that says "No risk" Low/Moderate is the minimum, which means on any day of the year there can be bushfires. I am told few months ago the great ocean road had to be closed for couple of months due to extreme bush fire (Read this news) and even now, I read that firefighting is on at some parts of Victoria [news]. When we went for great ocean drive last Saturday we had the status as "High", just one level above the lowest possible rating. We were lucky, as your tour plans might get cancelled if roads are closed due to high risk of bush fires. Anything above Severe, it is recommended that you don't venture out unnecessarily near the woods or country side and stay within town limits. If it is Code Red, all parks and other such public attractions in the bush fire prone zone will be closed for visitors.
And there are several guidelines residents, tourists and vehicle drivers must adhere to. Certain types of gas/fuel shouldn't be used for BBQ on days of Total Fire Ban.

 Below- a picture from great ocean drive, with lots of dry trees prone to forest fire.
I appreciate the high state of alertness maintained by the administration in this aspect. Forest fire happens in India too- Bandipur forests in South, Nilgiris etc. With better preparedness, safety measures and public awareness, 

Melbourne Star Observation Wheel-night pictures

The Melbourne star was the first attraction in Melbourne that I saw as I took skybus to city from airport. Next day night, me and my host went to Docklands area where this giant wheel is located. It was too late for a ride and I wasn't very keen on a ride either, as I had seen top view of Melbourne from Eureka Skydeck 88 and had a ride in Singapore flyer earlier. So I was happy to walk around and click pictures.

 The cabins are smaller compared to Singapore flyer.
Melbourne start is clearly inspired from London Eye and Singalore flyer- there were displays hinting at the same. Ticket prices start at AUD 35 onwards. (Refer Melbourne Star's official website for latest details) . Melbourne star is open from 10 AM to 10 PM (9.30 last ticket sale)- Note that during off peak months it will open late and close early-keep an eye on their website.
Decorative lighting makes Star of Melbourne a treat to the eye just to watch and click, even if you are not planning a ride. Docklands area has lots of shopping complexes and eateries as well to complement your visit.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Melbourne to Sydney by Bus vs by flight: Which is better?

I went from Melbourne to Sydney by bus and came back via flight. This post lists pros and cons of both options if you are planning a commute between two cities. Booking a flight is easily the cheaper and convenient option, but I intentionally tried road transport one way, because I felt that I can save one night stay expense, get to explore another city (Canberra) on the way. Greyhound had free on-board WiFi and USB charging, which made the travel a lot more convenient. Instead of booking direct, I booked two separate tickets- Melbourne to Canberra and then Canberra to Sydney. I kept a 5 hour gap in Canberra so that I can go into town and visit key attractions. Canberra attractions will be covered in separate posts.

Flight (TigerAir Australia)
Bus (Greyhound Australia)
Travel Time
90 min flight + 2 hours for airport formalities + 30 min for airport to city commute= Total 4 hours approx
About 12 hours
Overnight bus means loss of time may not be much as you can sleep in bus instead of hotel and save on hotel rent

Bus can go faster, but there is 110 kmph max speed limit.
AUD 60 onwards (tiger air Australia cheapest fare as I have seen) + AUD 35 for airport transfer in Sydney and Melbourne, total about 100 AUD onwards (luggage extra, fare is higher if not booked early enough)
About AUD 110 onwards, city centre to city centre, baggage included
One night hotel rent can be saved

USB charging and free WiFi provided- so can work during travel
Key benefits/advantages
Quick and cheap
  1. Can explore Canberra during transit
  2. Save one night hotel rent
  3. USB charging, WiFi and baggage allowance
  4. See a bit of Australia country side
  5. City centre to city centre coverage
  6. 2 pieces of luggage allowed free

Key disadvantages
Airport transfer can cost as much as a cheap flight ticket.
Flights are more prone to delays than a bus
No night flights
3 times more time
Bus is convenient if you don’t want to fly during day time or don’t want to rush to airport early in the morning. Or when you have lots of luggage
For locker facilities in Canberra bus terminal, check this post.
Greyhound buses (referred to as coaches in Australia) are well equipped with enough leg room, seat belt, a spare plastic bag (may be for use in case of vomit like situation) etc. Recline is pretty good (much more compared to economy seats in flights). For my Melbourne-Canberra leg a seat was assigned to me as the bus was full, but Canberra-Sydney leg was free seating as there were just a few passengers.

Saturday night Melbourne to Sydney bus was filled up for all seats. Tuesday evening Sydney-Melbourne flight was 75% full. So there are patrons for both modes of transport. You can pick one based on your convenience and pros and cons listed above.

So, happy journey. Read all my Australia posts under this label. Tiger Air ticket booking experience covered in this post.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Slingshot-Reverse Bungee jumping in St Kilda beach, Melbourne

I saw this reverse bungee setup by the beach side of St Kilda beach in Melbourne- it suddenly reminded me of the reverse bungee ride available in Singapore’s Clarke Quay.

If you have missed the ride in Singapore, you can try it in Melbourne. While Singapore one could seat 3, St Kilda one can seat only 2. But it appears a bit cheaper at 35 AUD per person per ride (Singapore one costs more now at 45  SGD)

The setup was closed when I visited it around 4 PM. I think they get majority customers during evening hours, so might be opening late. I couldn’t see operating hours displayed anywhere.

Apparently Melbourne one seems to have better spec than Singapore's G-MAX Reverse Bungee. Melbourne Max height is 70 meters as against Singapore's 60, top speed is 160 as against Singapore's 100 kmph. So if you have an option, prefer the Melbourne one.
They seem to give your photos/videos of the ride for an additional charge, but I can see lots of confusion in below board.

I didn't try it as I had recently done it in Singapore. If you are visiting Melbourne and have some quest for adventure, add this to your plan.

Check other Australia posts here and more posts on Adventure here

World famous landmark-Opera House, Sydney

Opera House Sydney is counted among one of the most distinctive man made buildings. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and gets listed among almost every listing of must visit attractions.

I finally had the opportunity to take a look at it first hand. Besides walking around the building upclose, I could take some more pictures from the ferry and harbor bridge. This post shares the picture of Sydney Opera House from various angles. I think the best view is of course from top- from an helicopter or drone, which regular tourists like me can't afford. Watch Dil Chahta Hai or other movies for a top view.

Below two pictures of Opera House are clicked from Harbor bridge.
Public are not allowed inside. Only when concerts are scheduled, one can buy rather expensive tickets and go inside. Even then photography/any form of recording is not permitted. The shops inside the Opera house sell photos which include the interior view, which is very grand. My host showed me those photos. I had to be contempt with that.


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