Victoria was the second region of Australia we had tried busking in. The first was South Australia. It took at 10 hour coach journey to get from Adelaide to Ararat and the view did not differ much from this on the way. It was a huge change from living in Adelaide for a month!
We got to Ararat and tried a first busk on a Monday. I think in total there were about five people who passed us by. There was no pedestrian area here, so we were playing on the side of the road. Cars did not pass by too often, so this was not a big problem. Ararat was our first outback Australian town and the people here were really welcoming. This is also the town where we were introduced to a proper Aussie BBQ, along with Bundaberg Rum and coke (nom!).
We got a lift from Ararat to Warrnambool from an awesome pair we met at the pub in Ararat. Warrnambool was home to some of our first true Australian sights. At Tower Hill reserve, we were lucky enough to see wild koalas, boxing kangaroos, wallaby and emus inside of an old volcano. I’d definitely recommend this place to go Australian wildlife watching.
The busking here was not much more successful that Ararat had been. We did get to see the 12 apostles and the Great Ocean road whilst we here, including some black dolphins diving amongst the waves. There were many more cool coves to see and shipwreck history to learn about as well. We were taken by family and friends, so had our own personal tour guides!
In the middle of our week in Warrnabool we took a side trip to Port Fairy. Home to the famous folk festival, we expected much of Port Fairy, but it was definitely off season when we visited! A few generous donations still made it feel worth our while and the sea was nearby at Kilarney beach, so it was a great day.
We played in the Babushka Bar in Ballarat and received a free recording of the entire gig. You can listen to here. Ballarat was one of the bigger towns we’d come across, so we attempted a busk in the town. It covered the cost of the visit to Ballarat, so no loss here! We walked to the gold museum thinking we might be able to have a look around but tourism was high here and so prices were also. After hanging around the entrance for five minutes we ended up turning back to the hostel.
St Kilda feels completely different to Melbourne. It was very relaxed and colourful and we liked it, but there was also a bit of a darker side to it. For example the street sign advertisement nonchalantly looking for ‘Women for Porn’.
While we were there we played a few Open Mic nights here at the Branch pub and received a free pitcher of beer for our tunes. Tom also played some original music nights at the Vineyard and the Espy.
We busked next to the tram stop, which we initially thought was a stoke of genius on pitch placement. Then no one really seemed to care that we were there. There were a few other buskers around here, the most notable one was a guy who played both guitar and drums by sellotaping drum sticks to his legs.
St Kilda had Twilight markets while we were there. They were full of lots of street folk, fire breathers, sword dancers, musicians and street traders. This was a cool evening and it was nice to enjoy other street performers for a change.
We caught the tram from St Kilda into Melbourne to live in the city for a while. Immediately, we realised how expensive hostels were here, compared to what we were used to. Any event in the city meant that the hostel prices increased and ‘event’ meant as little as showing the tennis on a large screen in the park. Some of them did come with free welcome ‘sausage sizzlers’ (BBQs) and ‘cocktails’ (slushies) though! This did mean however that there was always something going on in Melbourne and there was lots to see.
It was Chinese New Year so the streets were full of red. Also, a few days later the F1 taking place near St Kilda so it was also full of race cars. The hostel prices and the bedbugs they came with meant we made the decision to find a house sit. We got lucky and found on in the north of Melbourne, taking care of three cats and a garden.
We bought a busking licence from the council, but annoyingly we weren’t asked for it once. There are so many other buskers in Melbourne. On our first busk in Melbourne we even made it on to the news, being interviewed about busking. A few times we ended up on one of the tall bridges over the river where we had seen a bagpipe player the day before. That meant you could play as loud as you like before you bothered a single shop.
In our spare time we mainly visited the free sights of Mebourne, which included visiting the Shrine of Remembrance war memorial to see a great view of Melbourne, the Botanic Gardens and the art gallery. We also went for a tour around the Maton guitar factory and watched a guitar get made right from the beginning wood to the finished instrument, including a custom guitar workshop.
To be able to play on the main Bourke Street Mall you have to have been busking in the Melbourne for a month. They also have a booking system in place there. That means you can probably only play around once a week if you’re lucky. If you are staying in Melbourne for any length of time, the monthly travel pass is totally worth it. It gave us unlimited train travel that was worth the price.
On the last few days of our month here we exchanged busking money for NZ dollars as Auckland was our next destination. We caught the train to the airport (by far the cheapest way to get there!) to start the New Zealand leg of our adventure!