Amidst the hustle bustle of crowd trying to jostle for space in the Metro, Neha could not help but notice the book that was lying on the empty seat at platform, “Fat Chance-Margaret Clarke”. She flipped through the pages, and found it interesting. She decided she would read it, after all the next train would arrive after 30 minutes. Neha could relate with the central character of the book, Lisa Trelaw. Lisa was fat just like Neha, and was overly concerned about her weight. The story was set in suburban Melbourne, Australia. Neha had always wished to visit Melbourne some day. Neha’s sister Rima was already in Melbourne pursuing a management course and also working at a local café to meet her expenses.
Neha was getting engrossed in the story, it kept reminding her of endless conversations she had with her sister early in the morning on Skype. Rima was adventurous and liked exploring new places. She would tell Neha about the places she had visited in Melbourne, especially her visit to the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
There was something about this arena, popularly called by fans as “The G” that fascinated Neha. She did not realise how she was transported from reading a book at the Metro station directly in the middle of an India vs Australia one day international. She held on to the book, cricket did not impress her much. But here she was watching her favourite player bowl, Brett Lee. As Lee ran in to bowl to Tendulkar and the crowd roared with excitement, Neha realised what she had been missing all this while. Just then a ball smashed by Tendulkar was headed towards Neha she ducked to save herself, when the floor beneath her disappeared. Neha was now falling at a rapid speed when she suddenly landed on top of a hot air balloon.
The sun was rising in the east and Neha with the book in her hand was enjoying the view from top of the balloon. Just then she heard someone call out her name. It was the captain calling out her name. They got Neha down somehow. Neha was always afraid of heights and now here she was right on top of the Melbourne city; it was a moment of a lifetime for her. The stunning panoramic view just took her breath away. When the balloon landed all passengers moved to popular breakfast joint Birdman Eating.
Neha quietly followed them there. There was a delicious fully cooked breakfast spread out for everyone including champagne. Neha was hungry and tired too. Neha opted for coffee and a popular breakfast Bloody Mary.
With her tummy full, Neha was all set for taking a trip in this beautiful city Melbourne. As she was flipping through the pages of her book she felt someone tuck her skirt a little. She turned around to see a cute little girl pointing her towards a stadium. The stadium looked familiar. Of course it was the same stadium from where she landed up on top of the hot air balloon, The MCG. The little girl quietly held Neha’s hand and took her inside a huge room full of sporting collections. It was the National sports Museum, Australia’s most comprehensive sporting collection, showcasing more than 3500 objects related to the greatest moments in Australian sporting history.
Each and every memorabilia in the museum filled Neha with a sense of inspiration. So many legends all brought together in one huge museum. Neha decided that very moment to pursue her passion of playing basketball, even though Cricket was the most popular sport in India. Neha was thirsty; she saw a water cooler next to the entrance. She said bye to the little girl who brought her to the museum and headed towards the cooler. The water was freezing cold, Neha too felt the chill.
She did not realise when the water cooler actually started dispensing ice and her glass was now overflowing with ice. The museum had disappeared and Neha was now in the midst of snow everywhere. She was at Mount Buller.
It was a pleasant afternoon and people were enjoying skiing. She could see ski enthusiasts from across the world were enjoying their run with their snow boards and skiing equipments over 300 hectares of terrain.
Neha wanted to try her hands at skiing. She made the painful walk uphill, geared up to take plunge she started skiing slowly at first, gaining speed gradually and then she was flung high in the air. She loved every bit of this experience; she did a summersault and then landed at the sea shore. She was amazed herself. Those vast expanse of snow field disappeared and now she was facing the Southern Ocean on Victoria’s coastline.
The sound of the sea was very soothing. It was there that she saw the famous 12 apostles. Created by constant erosion of the limestone cliffs of the mainland beginning 10-20 million years ago, the stormy Southern Ocean and blasting winds had gradually eroded the softer limestone, forming caves in the cliffs. The caves eventually became arches and when they collapsed, rock stacks up to 45 metres high were left isolated from the shore. Neha was now witnessing the 12 Apostles at sunset as they changed colour from brilliant sandy yellow under to dark and foreboding in shadow. How could she have missed this all her life, this natural beauty that lay right in front of her. She decided to relax for a while at the beach as the sea washed her feet gently as if calling her out to take a stroll. Neha thought she will give in to this invitation from the sea. Little did she know what was in store for her next? As she stepped forward she could feel the sand underneath her feet disappear and the next moment she could feel herself being pulled underneath.
She could now see the huge sharks and stingrays all around her; she tried touching them but could not. All she managed to do was touch the glass. Where was she? She wondered. She could now see many visitors walk in to that place. The logo on the t-shirt of staff read “Melbourne Aquarium”.
She breathed a sigh of relief. The sharks had scared her, but now she felt safe at the 360 degree Oceanarium which housed giant sharks and stingrays. She was glad and amazed by the way this Oceanarium was built, non intrusive she thought. She felt like camping at the Oceanarium for the rest of her life. Neha was slightly tired and sat on the bench to get some rest. The moment she sat on the bench it started spinning.
When the bench stopped spinning, Neha found herself in the middle of a huge park. She could see lots of people and animals enjoying together at the park, Kangaroos, Koalas and wallabies. She could hear a strange sound of bird, it was the sound of endangered creature, the strange-looking bush thick-knees bird whose call hadn’t been heard on the Mornington Peninsula for more than 60 years. Neha was at the Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park.
Inspired by the work of famous British conservationist Gerald Durrell, Moonlit Sanctuary was now home to 50 Australian species. Neha loved the natural habitat that was provided to the animals at the sanctuary. She got her pictures clicked with the Koala. She was happy to hold that big ball of fur. It gave her peace that she had always wanted, reminded her of the teddy bear gifted by her dad. She closed her eyes to soak in the moment all for herself. When she opened her eyes she could hear her mom screaming at her.
She was amazed, was it all just a dream? She looked by her bedside, the novel was right there. Her mom told her she came back from college and went to sleep while reading the novel. Neha smiled and called her sister Rima “I so want to visit Melbourne” and her sister giggled at the other end saying “Yes babes, it’s your time to visit Melbourne NOW!” www.visitmelbourne.com/in