Thursday, 16th April 1987
“I see you have been in Australia before” the immigration officer at Sydney Airport said whilst examining my passport. “Yes, I, erm…,” I said, wondering what I should add in order to avoid a long grilling. Before I could say anything he replied “It’s good here isn’t it mate?”, stamped my passport and waved me on.
I caught the airport bus back to Central and a train from there back to Bondi. By the time I got there it was raining hard and I sheltered on the landing at Braemar till Sean came back. I went off in search of John and Al and eventually found them, got drunk with them and ended up sleeping on the floor in their hostel room at Kings Cross.
Friday, 17th April 1987 – Good Friday
I had a coffee at Braemar and a chat with Sean about New Zealand. I went window shopping all day. I cancelled my plane ticket to London at the travel agency and bought a bus ticket to Melbourne.
I ended up on the floor again in John and Al’s room.
Saturday, 18th April 1987
I went with John and Al to the Powerhouse museum. We found it a bit boring, didn’t linger and went straight to a pub.
I said goodbye John and Al at the bus stop just outside Kings Cross. They had been great friends and they had helped make my stay at the hostel in Kings Cross after Christmas much better than the stay at the house at Bondi Junction. I would miss them.
I boarded the bus just before 7pm. It was to be a 12-hour overnight trip down to Melbourne. I had remembered the horrible overnight bus trips in the USA and I wasn’t looking forward to it at all.
In the end the bus was a lot better than its American counterparts. It was almost comfortable although they did overdo it a bit with the announcements. At 10:30pm we made a stop at Goulbourn. The café had a house-sized model of a Merrino Lamb on the top of it and there was an equally large Australian flag next to it. I jumped off to stretch my legs. I bought a chiko roll (a heavenly roll of processed chicken coated in breadcrumbs and then deep fried) and quickly returned to my seat.
Sunday, 19th April 1987
We arrived in Melbourne on time at 7am. It would be unfair to say that my immediate impression was that it was a cold, quiet and empty place. It was, after all, Easter Sunday. I found the youth hostel quickly. It was actually three terraced houses linked together. I was able to check in at 8am. The warden was a plump English girl who, I quickly learnt, had a reputation for holding drunken parties when the hostel was closed during the day.
When the hostel did close for the day at 10am I ventured out to explore. I was accompanied by two girls from Brisbane and a lad who had just arrived from London. We boarded the Victoria Street tram and got off at Bourke Street. We had a meal at Hungry Jacks (the Australian name for Burger King) together before splitting up to explore a bit on our own.
I walked along the muddy River Yarra, around the war memorial and into the excellent Victoria Museum. I got another tram at Flinders Street Station and ended up at St Kilda, a seaside suburb that also had a reputation as a bit of a red-light district.
I was tired though after the overnight bus ride. I headed back to the hostel as soon as I could. I cooked spaghetti in the evening and then fell fast asleep. I was woken up at 2am by a guy shouting in a Liverpool accent that he had lost his bed, but otherwise I had a long peaceful rest.
Monday, 20th April 1987
Bank Holiday Monday.
It was sunny and cold. I bought a $2.30 all-day pass for the tram, train and bus network and spent another day exploring and getting to know the city. I took several trams and also had a ride on the brand new underground system. I now decided I liked Melbourne. There was lots of Victorian architecture, long tree-lined boulevards and it was all enhanced by the quaint old green and yellow trams.
It had a nice bohemian feel to it and it was cosmopolitan too; there were big Greek and Italian communities. I took in a few coffee bars including one that had a mini-juke box perched on every table. I wandered by the University in order to try to look up an old friend from but found it, not surprisingly, closed.
Tuesday, 21st April 1987
With everything open again I headed to Drakes Agency at the centre of town. The manager, Grant Brooker, a politics graduate from New Zealand, assured me there would be work available and that he would look out for something for me. He told me that I should call him the next day.
I trundled off again on Tram 8 to the University but found it still closed, so I headed to the trendy South Yarra district instead.
Wednesday, 22nd April 1987
With the promise of imminent employment I decided to check out of the youth hostel and head to another cheaper place I had heard about.
Hampton House was in St Kilda which was almost like coming home to Kings Cross again. It meant living in another suburb of druggies, sleaze and tarts, but it promised to be cheap. On the phone they offered me a price of 45 dollars a week for a single room. I gathered my stuff and jumped on the tram.
The landlord of Hampton House was called John and he had no teeth. He spluttered and spat at me as he showed me up to a dingy little room on the third floor. It had a single window with a beautiful view of the fire escape. It smelt of TCP too. I told John I was very happy with it and paid him the rent in advance. As soon as John had left me alone I noticed blood stains on the floor and half way up the chest of drawers.
I popped into the TV lounge on my way out. The only person in there was a small fat woman. She was probably in her 40’s. When I said hello and smiled at her she turned to me and revealed that she didn’t have any teeth either. I supposed I was in some kind of house for derelicts.
I headed out and had a longer walk around St Kilda. It didn’t seem quite as sleazy as Kings Cross. There was a mixture of fast food takeaways and some better looking restaurants. Most importantly, for the budding temp agency worker, it was well connected to Melbourne’s transport system. It was at the end of a train line and was on two tram routes.
I jumped on a tram and headed back into the city. At 3pm I called Drakes, spoke to Grant and he told me that I would be packing cassette tapes at the BASF factory starting the next morning.
I had fish and chips on he way back and, dreading who I would meet next, headed to Hampton House. As I entered the TV room again I was relieved to find that almost all the other residents were the same age as me and most of them were travellers just like me. I chatted to Steve, an English lad who was about to go to Hull University to read chemistry, about life in Melbourne.
I got an early night. It might not have been the nicest room in Melbourne but at least I had a single room for the first time in ages.