Melbourne and Mountains, Beaches and Breaks / by Callum Lamont

Sadly, this last month has not been the uber efficient storm of work usually seen during my PhD (erm..). Travel, inter and intra continental, has separated me from my lab for weeks.

The first of these expeditions was down to my country of origin, Australia. The transition from the brisk London Spring days to the chilly Melbourne Winter days was almost seamless. Now, for some reason I can never categorise a visit home as a “holiday”, so my goal was to maintain my regular work schedule, albeit shifted forward by 9 hours, while maximising family/friend catch-ups. The catch-ups were successful, the regular work schedule less so. But thankfully my want of work was filled with the need to remove every single item from the family home in preparation for renovations. Fortunate timing. The next stop on the itinerary was Hobart, to watch my cousin transmorph from a Ms. to a Mrs. This was a much more pleasant experience than having to remove every single item from the family home in preparation for renovations. So overall, a successful visit home; well worth the flights, jet lag and missed European summer days.

While I was able to ease into the advanced timezone of Australia with grace, the reversal of this proved much more awkward and unachievable. It is as if my circadian rhythm wanted to spite me for throwing so many mixed messages over the course of two weeks. C’mon we’re on the same side here, circadian rhythm. There is both anecdotal and scientific evidence demonstrating that eastward travel is harder for your body to adjust to. I must combat this and state, even if the total recovery period for jet lag is shorter for westward travel, its direct effects on daily schedules and social commitments is far more devastating, at least for a morning person such as myself. Long-story short, the 1.5 week interval between Australia and my next trip was a foggy and inconvenient melatonin induced haze.

After a partial adjustment to my new timezone I was off to my Balkan adventure. First stop, Montenegro, second stop, Croatia. There are only two stops. The rest of the Balkans will have to wait till another time. The first thing I noticed hopping off the plane in Tivat airport was the heat and humidity. Montenegro was sure to press this fact over the next week. However, after not being able to wear shorts for the last 8 months, this was an agreeable condition for me. From the airport I shot off to Budva, the beach and party capital of Montenegro! While very enjoyable, the town certainly let me down on two fronts, that being the beaches and parties. To be fair, the main club, Tophill (located on the top of a hill it just so happens), had not opened its doors for the summer season yet. So we were relegated to a confusing mix of open air bars/clubs which all silenced their speakers by 1 am.

We then moseyed over to Kotor, the eye candy of Montenegro. Situated by the Bay of Kotor, this small town is nestled within quite a spectacular fjord, though Wikipedia is now telling me it is technically a “ria”. The best views are located on top of the surrounding mountains, however we were not able to make it up there ourselves (this is what it looks like apparently) With lower temperatures, I could imagine many enjoyable outdoor activities to pass away a week here. Sadly, it was too hot and the time too constricted, necessitating a move to the final destination, Dubrovnik… Oh wait, no, our next destination was the Montenegro-Crotia border control, in which 90 minutes were spent in a car slowly edging up to a singular border control officer. (could you imagine if passport control in an airport was similarly managed?) Also, Europe, I know you’ve got your reasons but.. you’re not doing this open-borders thing right anymore..

Ok, now Dubrovnik. I must say, if you rocked up to this city completely oblivious to Game of Thrones, you would be one confused camper. Any tour, or even chats to the hostel/hotel staff will inevitably end in a discussion of the show and what was filmed here and who died there. Thankfully, outside of the unending GoT trivia, the city really speaks for itself. It definitely has the most impressive Old Town I’ve seen in my jaunts through Europe, with a continuous city wall to boot. The 2-4 degree temperature drop, fresh breeze and active nightlife also made for a enjoyable end to a dizzying month and a half of adventures.

And so we come to the inevitable journey home, never the highlight of any holiday, though, often made worse by the lingering effects of the “final night of the holiday (woo!)”. This one was a particular challenge. Despite note eating dinner the night before, we figured we’d skip breakfast at the hostel to make sure we got to the airport on time. Our adult-like responsible behaviour was rewarded with a particularly dire security line. The queue of helpless souls was pushed outwards into the main lobby, around the escalators and back towards the main lobby, like a perfectly executed game of snake, after which it dipped down the escalator (which had to be stopped to accommodate the unending source of bodies) and across the check-in queues on the floor below. Needless to say, we were not able to get our feast, which we sorely needed, before being urged onto the plane. I’m not shattering one’s view of reality when I state that the confines of a budget airline are hardly conducive to a moderate/severe hangover, and the confused nauseous hunger eminating from my digestive tract hardly improved the situation. Thankfully, these matters were perspectivised (new word) by the short (20-30 min) delay from an incorrect headcount, followed by the long (+ 1 hr) delay of being granted a new flight window, required due to the aforementioned headcount delay. Don’t really know what to say about the rest of the flight, it was pretty shit.

Nevertheless, the travels and adventures of the past few months have been great. I’m banking on the memories of that flight fading faster than that of the holiday. And now being back in London, I can look forward to something else: Routine.

P.S. A limited selection of shots (ones I thought worth keeping) can be found on my snaps page.