Location: Victoria (VIC), Australia
Dates: 20th – 27th March 2018
Reason for visit: Formula One
Base: United Backpackers, Flinders St.
After travelling for 50 hours, my first evening in Australia was a very easy one consisting of unpacking, shower, getting some food and having a nice early night.
With the jet lag kicking in, I was up at around 5am before falling back to sleep and waking at 8.30. I’d arranged with a girl from my dorm to go and grab breakfast together as our hostel offered free pancakes every morning.
After breakfast I finished getting ready, packed my day bag and sat in reception waiting for the walking tour to come on by and pick us up. I had little understanding of what this walking tour would entail but decided it would be a great way to the city and hopefully meet some other backpackers and it certainly did. Leonie picked us up from our hostel on her hostel pickup route and then directed us to the meeting point. Once at the meeting point we registered ourselves (ready for the photo) and got to know one another. As there was around 60 people waiting for the tour (pretty average as the tour isn’t aimed at backpackers but anyone visiting Melbourne) we were split into groups of 15 with our own tour guide. My tour guide was Evan and he was absolutely amazing at his job! Over the three hour tour he poured all his energy into telling us the history of Melbourne, the landmarks and how the city came to be. He explained the different colours of the Eureka Skydeck building and what they stood for, he explained how the street art became a part of the city, he colourfully told us the story of Ned Kelly at the prison but mostly he took us to a great coffee shop. I love coffee. The tours are ran by Walks 101 and although I’m not here to review I would definitely recommend taking one of these tours; they’re ran in Melbourne and St Kilda (details on St Kilda later in this post) daily. After the tour completed we went to the pub where Ned Kelly was held before his execution, the Captain Melville, for some food and drinks.
I then went on some street art exploration with two girls who I’d met on the tour, Anja and Heini. We had a good laugh walking the streets of Melbourne getting lost but we also came across some amazing pieces of work.
After that I then headed back to my hostel as the jet lag was kicking in again and I knew I had to be up early for F1 the next day.
Thursday – Sunday
The next four days in Melbourne involved me sleeping, getting up early, spending several hours down at Albert Park and then sleeping.
Due to when I bought my ticket I had Gold GP Member Advantage and I can honestly say this made my experience go from great to absolutely amazing. Included with this advantage was early access to the track (apart from Friday), a pit walk, pit roof access, main straight walks and our own private bar and seating area.
Thursday I got to the track nice and early for the pit walk which was amazing. Being able to see into the garages, look at the cars and just generally be much closer to the sport I love felt amazing. Whilst I was there I bumped into a member of the F1 Family (twitter really does help connect you to people), Fern. We wandered the pits a little longer before heading up to join a queue to enable us to get wristbands for an autograph session with one of the big four teams (and obviously I went for Red Bull). Here Fern introduced me to another of her friends, Beth. It was amazing getting to meet people and especially so early on in the day as it helped me discover what was available at the track but it was even nicer to have company. We spent the day together going to the Melbourne Walks to meet drivers and consistently queueing up for autograph sessions with some of the smaller teams so we could again meet the drivers. That day I managed to get 10 signatures and meet Daniel Ricciardo which honestly was the most amazing ever. During the queue at the session for Red Bull I met another solo traveller, Jordan, who turned out to be staying down the corridor from me in the same hostel! We ended up spending a lot of the weekend together as well.
Friday was another day of trying to meet drivers, have some fun but also get our first bit of on track F1 action. Now, I must point out that there are a good few support series at the Australian GP, including the V8 Supercars. For those who weren’t as bothered about meeting drivers (possibly me if I get tickets next year) having the support series there is a real bonus as unlike any other race I’ve been to, these guys started their on track action on the Thursday which certainly meant you were never bored. I also managed to meet another member of the F1 twitter family, Andy, between FP1 and FP2!
Saturday turned into a major wash out. After arriving early for the main straight walk and getting some photos (before the rain worked its way in), we headed to the Melbourne Walks to try and meet some more drivers. Well the heavens opened and we saw about five drivers but it was far too wet for photos or autographs. Fortunately when it came to FP3 and qualifying the rain disappeared and we could sit and watch the action from the stands and if you were me watch Bottas put his car in the wall.
Then came Sunday. It was the first race day in four months since the season finale in Abu Dhabi in November. The excitement was there and I couldn’t wait and what made it even better? I got to meet Daniel Ricciardo again. I was shaking so much afterwards and couldn’t stop grinning. I also met Lachlan, my new photobombing friend who’s also another member of the F1 Family from twitter. I’ve got some beautiful shots of him (see below). Here’s just a few of some of the drivers I met.
After all the excitement and some food it was time to take our seats in the stands for the pre-race build up including the national anthem and the flyovers. I’d managed to bag a seat on the main straight right by P7 and P8 on the grid (oh hi Dan!). Getting to see, feel and breathe in the start of a race is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life and although I didn’t get to see Dan on the podium I did get my Ferrari win which was a nice feeling!
After all the excitement of the Australian GP, Monday was a day for relaxing and wandering around Melbourne CBD along with getting caught in a rain shower. After popping back to my hostel to pack I hopped on the tram down to St Kilda for another Walk 101 tour. This time the tour was ran by Marc and again he was an amazing guide who has a serious passion for the place he lives. This tour took us around St Kilda including visiting the community garden (I met Groot), an amazing gelato shop and explained a little about how St Kilda came to be. Again, I would totally recommend this tour as it’s a quick yet friendly and informative way of exploring a new area. Here’s the link to check them out: walks101.com
After the tour I went with some of the others from the tour to watch the nightly Penguin march on the pier where the penguins come in to settle for the night amongst the rocks in safety. Now I love penguins and I’ve been to Boulders Beach in South Africa so to get to experience watching penguins in the wild again made me so so happy. Come around 9pm the penguins were beginning to settle so we headed back into St Kilda for a few drinks. The pub we ended up at, Iddy Diddy Bar, had some tables with old school video games in them. Well me and Amina (one of the girls from the tour) just had to put some dollars in and have a few plays on Pinball, Pacman and Space Invaders. It was awesome.
I then hopped on one of the last trams back to Melbourne where I got settled into bed, had a good nights kip before getting up and heading off to the airport!
Next stop: Cairns.