Gala Day – Geelong

Geelong is a small town approximately 35 miles from Melbourne. It is built on the hills running down to Corio Bay and has a classic English style seaside resort pier. It was once dependant on the wool trade and there is now a museum telling the detailed story. There is a good selection of wineries, as they are known rather than vineyards, as there has been in almost every town and city we have visited so far.

I made contact with the MG Car Club the first morning after my arrival and as at previous towns they have been tremendous. I had dinner with John and Sandra Bennett the first evening. John is President of the club.

It has been arranged for Bridget to lead a gala procession on Saturday as a guest of honour. This is an annual fund raising event for the local hospital. I thought it would be a good idea to get some signs for Bridget so that people would at least have an idea what we are about. John immediately contacted Peter Smith who is liaising with the gala organisers on behalf of the MG club and Peter in no time at all had arranged for a company to make the signage for me. So Bridget now has the web address on either side of her body and signs saying “Round the World Drive” on both bumpers.

The official organisers also contacted me and have arranged for the local press to do a photo shoot and interview with me, so we should get some exposure for UNICEF.

I have extended our stay here by two days as there is a MG club event on Wednesday 26th November and I have been invited to meet many more of the members there.

Melbourne is a busy and apparently thriving metropolis. Like the other cities so far visited it has a mixture of Victorian (the period not the state), Georgian, colonial and contemporary architecture. There are one or two particularly notable buildings the Eureka Skydeck, the State Library, Victoria Parliament building, the Gothic Bank and Stock Exchange and the Shot Tower. The last of those listed was a lead pipe and shot factory that the authorities wanted to preserve but was in the way of a new retail development. With the usual ‘Aussie’ adaptability they built the retail development around the old factory producing a building within a building. They’ll never need to worry about the roof leaking!

Additionally there are a host of church buildings, some dating back to the mid 1800’s.

The city boasts its own ‘Eye’ similar to the one in London and has reintroduced trams.

Saturday and the weather looked bleak for the gala, however the rain stopped long enough for the procession to go ahead in the dry even if the wind was a little blustery. Bridget led 18 other MG’s which carried some of Australia’s Olympians and Para-Olympians from the Beijing games. Afterwards I was treated to a typical ‘Aussie Barbie’ where I had the chance to meet more of the MG club members.

The weather in Victoria has been anything but typical, with heavy rain and strong winds. The Victoria Alps has even received some snow and during the week areas of Brisbane were flooded and buildings damaged by storms.

The weather cleared up early in the week and on Tuesday I returned to Lorne to go walking in the Rain Forest again. I had a tourist map and set out along the Garvey track making for the Sheoak Falls. However the map is a little misleading and I was some 3 miles past the location of the falls when I came to Sharps Track. I was now ‘off the map’’ but used some logic and followed the Sharps Track believing it would take me back to my starting point eventually. This proved to be correct but instead of a relaxing 5 mile walk I completed a slightly more tiring 11 miles.

Whilst in the rain forest I came across an animal with a strong resemblance to a hedgehog except that it was much larger, with long black spines touched with yellow. I am told this is a Spiky Ant-Eater. Amongst all the greens, browns and greys of the forest vegetation there are constant flashes of brilliant red, blue and green caused by parrots in flight, but they proved very difficult to photograph as they wouldn’t stay still long enough.

My last day in Geelong I was honoured to be a guest of the MG club at their Christmas bash. They presented me with a club cap, jacket and, very kindly, a donation for UNICEF. It can be very difficult leaving places when you have been made to feel like you belong.

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