First New Year’s Eve in Melbourne

The following blog was originally posted from my old blog, The Geejay Journal:

My first ever New Year’s Eve spent in Australia was in Sydney 2000 (as in 31 December, 2000). It was a glorious fireworks display. In March of that year, I moved to Canberra and spent two New Year’s Eve celebrations there. To my disappointment, there were no fireworks. My neighbors were all asleep even before midnight!

Last year, in order to experience some sort of fireworks display, Raquel and I spent our Christmas and New Year’s at the Gold Coast, Queensland. The fireworks were by the beach. It was pretty good but I think it’s only because we were both deprived of two New Year’s Eve’s worth of fireworks.

Well, now that we reside in Melbourne, we took this opportunity to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks display right in the CBD along the Yarra River. There are multiple vantage points from which to view the fireworks so we were hoping that there’d be no crowding. Or at least, the crowding would not be as bad as what I had experienced in Sydney 2000.

All public transportation was free from 3pm as an incentive to everybody to leave their cars behind. When we got there, I discovered that only a fool would bring his car to the city. The roads were impassable to cars due to the number of people filling the streets.

The vantage point we selected not entirely by choice was Birrarung Marr. It was the east most area where the fireworks could be viewed. We originally just wanted to walk around at first to find a suitable vantage point to stake out. The first of the areas we looked at was Birrarung Marr only because we were thinking of looking at each area starting from the east most area first.

But when we got there, we found this sweet spot that is very near the barge that holds the east most fireworks. And from the same spot, we had a clear view of the next barge to the west near Federation Square. So we thought that if we stayed there, we would be able to see the fireworks display close-up from the nearby barge and a long-shot view of the fireworks from the barge east of the Yarra River.

There weren’t any benches in that spot but fortunately, we bought these two foldable stools recently. It made it a lot easier and convenient to stay there for the next three hours. I remember the remark of this kid that was standing nearby, “Mum, that’s what we should’ve brought: chairs!” Sorry, kid.

We also brought something to eat and drink just in case there wasn’t any place to buy food and drink when we got there. As it turned out, there were lots of stalls that sold fried food and softdrinks.

No alcohol though as there was an alcohol ban being enforced. $2,000 fine if you are caught with alcohol. Sure. We still saw drunks tonight. Probably mixed their “soft” drinks with alcohol.

We didn’t bring a proper Media Noche feast (a dinner we Filipinos traditionally celebrate when the New Year rolls in at the stroke of midnight) though. It would’ve been too heavy to carry around in a backpack. We did have some lumpiang shanghai (ground pork spring rolls) in the bag along with bread and chicken spread, just in case those weren’t enough. We also each have a 600ml Diet Coke.

All though we had food and drink, we barely touched them. Reason being that as far as we know, in that whole Birrarung Marr place, there is only one toilet! And by one, I mean one unisex toilet cubicle for the disabled. Everybody was lined up for this ONE toilet. Who planned this event?! There were like thousands of people there that will be waiting for three to four hours for the fireworks. Did they expect them to not drink while waiting? Unbelievable. I suddenly appreciated the fact that events I go to while I was in Canberra usually have portable toilets (notice, toilets as in PLURAL).

Anyway, there was the 9:30 PM fireworks display for the kids. Indeed, at the time I was watching it, I thought, the fireworks are kiddie-sized! It failed to impres me. Well, there was still the actual fireworks display at midnight.

Unfortunately, even though the midnight fireworks were pretty amazing, it seemed to lack umph. I cannot help but compare it to the Skyfire fireworks display we went to while we were still in Canberra. The fireworks were timed with the music played on the FM104.7. The fireworks seem to be bigger and better, too.

Still, I’m just happy to smell the gunpowder from the fireworks. It reminded me of New Year’s back home in the Philippines where everybody would light their own fireworks in their backyard and out in the streets. That smell would’ve been inescapable. I just wished I didn’t have to smell cigarette smoke though. I absolutely hate the smell of cigarettes.

After the display, we walked back to Flinders Street Train Station. Everybody was wanting to go home, too, so it was very difficult to get there. Soon, we got to the point where the people were no longer even moving forward. We decided to take a detour and hopefully avoid whoever or whatever was blocking our path.

There were many revellers that stayed behind mainly because there was this popular Australian band, Cat Empire, playing in Federation Square. You can see these scantily clad ladies dancing away supposedly not drunk (right!).

Soon, we were at the station however, the actual train platforms were one level down and you can only access them through the escalators which were apparently being blocked by unknown entities. The train is coming yet we cannot reach the stupid platform. We could see that the platform was almost full yet there were still room for more people.

It was a fortunate that we know the station well. We went down a different platform and used the stairs near the end of the platform to go to the platform we really wanted to go to. And just in time too as the train arrived when we got there. Whew.

And now we’re home. Although it was nice, we’re now convinced that next New Year, we’d probably just stay home and watch the fireworks broadcasted live on TV instead.

Published in: on January 1, 2005 at 3:01 pm  Leave a Comment