I was describing the exhilarating landmarks of the upper reaches of the Yarra River when a large brown snake swam into my purview. Its head was popped above the surface like a snorkel with eyes, while it’s lithe body did the gymnastic ribbon routine below. About 1.5 metres long it seemed pretty intent on getting to the nearby bank, probably to kill a duck or a jogger. With Google activated I determined that we had just witnessed a Tiger Snake, native of Tasmania but often spotted in the wetter reaches of South Eastern Australia. And it’s venomous! My first brush with actual dangerous Aussie wildlife, what a rush!
With all the European architecture and Manhattan sky scrapers, it’s easy to forget where in the world you are in Melbourne. Just cockatoos, occasional snakes and the organised chaos of AFL to remind you. Another good indicator is the non-stop parade of festivals and events that are held every other day. Construction teams spend so much time assembling and disassembling temporary stages and stands it’s a miracle anything made of brick has actually been erected.
Last weekend we had the Moomba Festival, which involves water skiing and extortionate carnival rides. I’m instructed to tell tourists that Moomba is Aboriginal for ‘let’s get together and have fun.’ According to my colleague who looked it up it actually means, ‘up your bum.’ So every March you are cordially invited to the River Yarra for the annual Up Your Bum Festival.
Before this we had White Night, whereby the city’s museums stay open all night and various buildings of note are illuminated by elaborate light displays. The Exhibition Centre in Carlton Gardens hosted an Aboriginal interpretation of the seasons, complete with massive crocodiles and flocks of birds cascading across it’s façade. It was jaw-dropping. We took the opportunity to hit up the NGV and pay half price for the Ai Wei Wei and Andy Warhol retrospective. Poor Andy didn’t weigh up too well to his Chinese contemporary. Ai Wei Wei’s pieces were more intricate, more striking and had a lot more to say. His art comes from a more angry place, I suppose because he has a lot more to be angry about. By the end of the exhibition, Warhol seemed indulgent and unnecessary. However, the overlying impression was that without Andy we wouldn’t have gotten Ai Wei Wei, and in fact the art world, for better or worse, wouldn’t be the same either. Even at 3am it was a welcome dunk into modern art.
But enough of the culture, the single best thing about Melbourne is Messina Ice Cream and I am still working out ways to extend my visa so I can keep stuffing my fat, red face for eternity with it. We took our Argentinian mate Jo there recently and his face was a picture, like a war-stricken child tasting chocolate for the first time. Incidentally he had chocolate ice cream and made a noise that can only be typed as, “oooooooohhhhhhhhhwahhhhhyjaaaaaajaaawaooooo.”
The Tiger Snake is an easy trade-off.