Melbourne, Day 5: A Nighttime Visit to the Shimmering and Magical Luna Park

Monday, December 27, 2020

adventure awaits us through the big mouth of Luna Park

This morning we awaken in our train car to the screeching and chirping of what sounds like hundreds of birds outside, which is apparently a normal sound for the Australian countryside.

We pack our things and walk around the Codrington Gardens Bed and Breakfast property a bit, exploring the gardens. There are two younger female guests doing the same, holding bowls of cereal and meandering. We have a hard time finding reception to drop off the key, but finally find it in a building behind some hedges. Inside, there is a dog that appears happy to see us but also shakes in fear when I try to pet it (yet it doesn't run away). We hear a faint cat meow but see nothing other than a partially set dining room with a few stray newspapers on the ground. The scene honestly looks abandoned and feels a bit eerie. A sign outside says to "call George" if no one is there, but we just toss the key behind the counter and leave. Weird. I actually secretly wish we didn't see those two women outside so it would give this place an even creeper abandoned vibe, with lots of cars but no hosts or guests.
not a soul.

if the birds could speak, they might ask to escape

We hit the road, this time taking a much shorter route back to Melbourne which avoids the lengthy Great Ocean Trail. Instead, it takes farm roads through little towns with ten person schoolhouses and tiny brick chapels.

We return to Warrnambool where we stop for brunch at Bohemia Cafe. Bill mentions how his American roommate Katie has mentioned a few times how there aren't little greasy spoon restaurants here in Australia, and I have to agree. In my limited time here, I haven't seen anything less than a place that owns a full espresso machine and gluten free and vegan options. The food is great, don't get me wrong, but sometimes you just want to spend less than $10 on some bacon and eggs in a place other than McDonalds. Perfect example is here at Bohemia Cafe, wherein we both order cappuccinos, Bill orders an acai yogurt bowl and I get breakfast tacos served on a small plank of wood.

brunch at Bohemia Cafe

We hit the road again, taking the highway back, instead of the winding Great Ocean Road that we took yesterday. Despite the pretty dull scenery of today, I am easily amused by the kangaroo or koala crossing signs along the road. No actual sightings of the animals, unfortunately.

When we finally get home, we pack up a little, as Bill is traveling at the same time as me tomorrow for work. Bill offers up some kava, to be made from the powder I brought him at the start of the trip. I am surprised he wants to use it so soon, but he shares that he's excited by the fact that he can have a shell with a Vanuatu friend in Melbourne, and that unique opportunity can't be missed.

While he works on that, I run to the grocery store across the street to get food souvenirs like chocolate and taco fixings for nearly 1/5 the price that I can get them for in Vanuatu, to bring back as basic groceries to eat back home there. I return to find Bill with a plastic bottle of kava that he has mixed and ready for us to drink out of some coconut shells. The flavor is just as gross as the fresh version, and is surprisingly strong. With a light kava buzz, we head off to explore for the evening.

Bill and I hop on public transport to take us down to St. Kilda, a popular place for backpackers. Bill informs me that it's actually a popular place for everyone, from backpackers to prostitutes to people seeking attention in their beefed-up hot rods. Basically, lots of people come here because there's a little bit of everything.

Bill first takes me to St Kilda Beach, beside Port Phillip Bay, which attracts locals and tourists alike for penguin watching. We don't see any, penguins but we do witness a magnificent sunset, which makes even Bill feel like he is on vacation in a foreign destination. We walk to the pier, then back towards town to seek out food.

sunset over the beach

After seeing my breakfast tacos, Bill confesses that he has had a craving for Mexican all day. We eat at Radio Mexico, a Mexican restaurant and bar tucked in a row of restaurants. Tonight they offer two-for-one margaritas, so we have to indulge. We order a handful of tacos and some guacamole and chips. Its surprisingly good...I say this because to both locals and tourists, Mexican food in Australia leaves a lot to be desired. For example, they charge a dollar just to get some taco sauce. In the USA, you would get six bottles on the table to pick and choose from, for free. A few of the tacos are thus a little dry, but it is all still very good.

After dinner, we walk over to Luna Park, an amusement park in St. Kilda that originally opened in 1912 and gives me the same magical vibes that Tivoli in Copenhagen did. It's small and quaint, but still has charm. We have one hour before the park closes, and we are going to make the most of it. We each buy two ride tickets, and after getting wrapped in wristbands, we are free to roam the park.

we're here!

The park itself is quite small and quaint, but has its fair share of offerings. The blinking lights and cheerful music emanating from the rides made the crisp night feel like a classic summer evening. Since it is a holiday and tomorrow is a weekday, the park is open until 11pm, yet there are only visibly about a couple dozen customers roaming around. I was a little worried that one hour would only be enough for two rides with lines and crowds cushioning time between them, but it looks like I am wrong. I immediately knew I wanted to go on The Great Scenic Railway, a wooden rollercoaster that circles the perimeter of the park, perched atop the white walls holding the amusements inside and giving a great 360 view of the bay and neighborhood surrounding the park. Fun fact: it's the world's oldest continually operating roller coaster! We ran to the ride and were queued up at the cars shortly after. Bill and I had a blast, giggling like children, daring each other to keep our hands off the handlebars the entire time.

tall clowns and vampires playing brass instruments because...amusement park!

the merry go round

We hopped off and ran to the next ride, the Supernova, a set of swings that spins fast enough to pull the swings outward at 45 degrees, giving an even higher view of the surrounding bay and neighborhood, with a height reaching 32 meters.  Bill and I were the only two passengers on the ride. The teenager running the controls jokingly asked if our last will and testaments were in order, but Bill and I were too giddy to fall for that last minute scare. The ride lifted us up, and up, and up, far above the wooden coaster, overlooking the surroundings, and spun away. Bill didn't release his hands from the handlebars as he jokingly told me, "it feels like we're going in circles!" I grinned while commenting that it was too chilly to be spinning so fast.

With both tickets used and thirty more minutes til the park closed, we decided we would each get one more ticket. We ran through the empty park back to the gate, got our tickets, and then raced back through, running to the Spider, a giant arachnid-shaped ride with cars at the end of each leg that spin individually as the entire ride spins. The young female ride operator was very excited to have guests on her ride, telling us this is "the BEST one" while enthusiastically taking our tickets and ushering us to an empty car. "It spins faster if you sit together!" she tells us gleefully. I laugh at the idea of getting on this completely empty ride and forcing Bill to sit in his own chair...of course we're sitting together. Two young girls get in another car, and the ride operator gives us a couple freehand spins in the car before starting it up. "You guys chose a really good night; there's no lines!" She is thrilled for us, for the kids, for everyone. This young woman loves her job. Off we go, spinning more and more wildly as the ride goes faster, both of our giggles drowning out the sounds of nearby rides.

After that adrenaline rush, with still 25 minutes until the park closes, I beg Bill for one more ticket. "How much money do you have?!" he jokes, but he says he is surprised at how much fun he is having himself. How could he expect anything less than utter delight?!

Despite enjoying the Spider, as we spun, I was eyeing the ride next to us, Enterprise. I tell Bill that's the one, the last one. He obliges. We go to the gate, run through the empty ropes, buy two more tickets, and run to the Enterprise. From forty feet away, the teenage male operator sees us and asks if we're coming to his ride, and we run and yell in the affirmative. He lets us through and asks if we will share a car, to which I say yes... But when I see the cars, they appear to be one-seaters, with only two cars occupied. Bill suggests that we have to "sit in the birthing position." I tell him "you mean like a sled?! Ask the ride operator if it's 'birthing position' and see how he reacts." Without our prompt, the guy comes over and says "one sits on the other's lap." Ah, that too.

The ride spins us, and with the cars free to tilt and the arm going from horizontal to 87 degrees upright, we spin so fast that the centrifugal force holds us in as we go completely upside down. Bill and I scream with delight.

Finally, we hit up the gift shop before finally exiting through the shimmering entrance of the park.

When we first arrived, the ticket seller offered some sort of buy one get two deal, wherein you can use the second on any future Thursday or Friday. Bill scoffed at the idea, doubting he would ever return. After the fun we had today, I feel like he regrets that decision. If I lived here, I would definitely come frequently.

On the tram ride home, a busker hopped on and started strumming guitar. After a couple songs, the tram driver got on the loudspeaker and stated that he had a request: "Down Under," by Men At Work. The busker obliged, and the musical moment of riding a tram through South Yarra in Melbourne was the perfect conclusion to this Australian vacation.