Finally, the day was here: I was leaving Melbourne and heading back to the alpine region, to Bright, where I’d finally realise what I’d been dreaming about doing for the last 12 months. Travelling anywhere new, or at least less visited, almost always excites me, usually resulting in me being ready for the journey way earlier than I need to be. Up at 6, I was a bit early for the free breakfast that the International Hostel on Elizabeth Street puts on, but the guy looking after the reception was nice enough to drag the breakfast set out early for me so I didn’t have to endure a few hours of my stomach screaming at me. The train wasn’t due to leave till 8.15 but, partly due to my airport-conditioning to always be early, and partly due to getting to use the trams for free as part of my train ticket, I was in the station not long after 7.30 and so begun my day of unnecessary waiting.
About 30 minutes on the train, I was getting settled in as the train slowed down – presumably for the first station – thinking that $27 was pretty good for the distance I was going compared to the prices back home, especially since it covered trams in the Melbourne as well as a train and a bus to get to Bright. A minute later, the train was now clearly not slowing down but just coasting to a stand-still, although the engines were still running. Two hours later, still sitting on the train that the driver and a few engineers now admitted wasn’t just blocking most trains north-bound from Melbourne, but was also completely broken down, we finally got to jump off and switch to a bus that would complete the leg of the journey that the train so miserably failed to over. 4 hours and a comically expensive taxi fare later (comical, as it cost more than what all the people on it would have paid V-Line for their tickets), I was in Bright.
In the evening, as people came back from flying and working, I met a few of the more long-term residents of the hostel, namely Steve, who was also finishing off his paragliding licence course, and Steve, who was working for the local fire service. Next day I cycled to the landing paddocks with Davide and met Ted, owner of Alpine Paragliding, before we drove to the top of Mystic – a hill overlooking Bright which offers consistently good thermalling, and the place where most flights take place on – to watch Davide launching into the air. The view from the launch at Mystic’s peak is stunning, and watching Davide pulling the wing into the air, then so fluently stepping off the hill and floating into the vista was awe-inspiring, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t for a second doubt that I could pull off such a stunt in two days.
Friday was spent wandering round town, which really was quite beautiful, even before the autumn colours came on and turned it into what it looked like in all the postcards. There are so many parks and, in keeping with one of my favourite Australian traditions, each one had numerous bbqs as well as plenty space to chill out and contemplate, in ever increasing excitement, that tomorrow, I was going to learn to fly.