On the day Ari was set to arrive, I wasn’t thinking clearly.
I was awash with emotions and invasive thoughts – “Will she still like me after not seeing me for 6 weeks?” (She does)
“I hope Sim and Cata get along!” (They do)
After some stern reminders of common propriety from my coworkers, I went to the airport to surprise Ari, who was thrilled that I came to pick her up. (Again, thank you to Andrew, Deon and Nes who all gave me a serious look and talking to after I indicated that Ari, “would be fine getting to my apartment in Melbourne on her own,” – sometimes I need help connecting the dots)
Like the champ she is, Ari immediately wanted to get out to see the town. After a short walk down the Southbank promenade, we had some dinner then planned for the next day.
Just like old times, Ari fell asleep in my arms seconds after her head hit the pillow (Note: This is not jet lag related, that girl can fall asleep in an instant and it makes me supremely jealous as I do my usual 1.5+ hour ‘Brendan falling asleep routine.’)
The next day, we got rolling early and took the train out to Upper Fern Tree Gully Station to get to the Kokoda Memorial Track, or 1000 steps, in the Dandenongs Ranges.
“Plaques along the trail depict the lives of the soldiers who fought and died on the real Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea, during World War II. The steps represent the ‘Golden Staircase’, a name given by Australian soldiers to the 2000 steps cut by the Australian Army Engineers and others into the track between Uberi and Imita Ridge.” (https://visitdandenongranges.com.au/1000-steps)
As if to welcome Ari to Australia, a plump kookaburra was waiting right at the trail-head to meet us.
The beautiful, but physically taxing trail, cuts through the temperate/cloud rainforest of the Dandenongs, giving us the shocking colors I’ve come to love and expect in Australia.
Closer to the top, we were greeted with views of Port Phillip Bay and greater Melbourne – I’m still stunned that so much nature can be offered so close to an urban landscape.
After riding the train back to Melbourne and a quick rest back at the apartment, we made our way into Chinatown stopping down some of Melbourne’s famous alleys for some graffiti viewing and finishing things off with heaping plates of Dim Sum.
The next day, it was a typical fall day in Melbourne – cloudy, chilly and rainy. Nevertheless, we made our way down to my favorite spot, the botanical gardens.
Again, Australia rolled out the welcoming committee of wildlife to ensure Ari quickly acclimatized.
Showing Ari around the peaceful gardens was a treat – if only to see her reactions to some of my favorite spots – including a quick visit to my birthday tree.
Following the trip to the gardens, we walked across South Melbourne to their famous market. I had pegged this location as a likely candidate for Ari’s favorite spot in Melbourne and I wasn’t disappointed by here reaction. (“Oohh, look at all this fruit! Oh my god, these bowls are only $6!? How many bowls do you think I can fit in a carry-on?”)
After loading up our shopping bag with some healthy veggies and meats, we made our way back to the apartment, just as the rain started to come down.
After a nice salad for dinner, and my body rejoicing at the end of a truly horrendous streak of the finest fast food and/or ravioli for dinner, we tucked in for some Westworld and bed – Just like old times.