AUSTRALIA TRIP

This is our first trip Down Under, and we hope not our last as there is so much more to see.

Driven by a surfeit of snow in the UK this winter, we have limited ourselves to one coastline of one country where the weather is warm,

On the top we have put a photo of a warm summer in Provence to remind us of what we have to look forward to on our return.

Preparations underway… even wearing in new shoes since last summers fell to bits. We felt we should wait to shop till we got to Thailand as so much is made there but unlike the trip last month to London I don’t want to wear my snow boots on the bus.

I can’t promise to post an update with any regularity or that they will be gripping but as a blog virgin I will do my best.

    ITINERARY

The trip will be from Wales to London to say goodbye to family.

    GETTING STARTED

This morning we caught the National Express bus from Newport to London.The journey started with an altercation between the driver and a pie eating passenger. Once the lanky student, who claimed he was eating his breakfast, managed to ram the entire crust in his mouth he was allowed on the bus and we set off.After a couple of miles the coach door eased open and we had to make an emergency stop on the hard shoulder of the M4. After much cursing and thumping the door was shut. The driver announced we could continue but everyone needed to wear their seat belts in case the door flew off and we were all sucked out.

The joy of public transport is the opportunity to eavesdrop, so the time passed quickly. The great frustration in France is that my lack of skill with the French language means I miss so much.

I must buy a notebook at the airport to jot down notes so I don’t forget any of the characters and stories along the way.

    LONDON VISIT

We spent the stopover in London in CHINA TOWN stocking up my daughter in laws cupboard for Chinese New Year We then got a head star on the holiday by lunching in a Singapore restaurant where Jessie helped us chose from the menu.I had to try three desserts just to be sure of my favourite.The flight from Heathrow was so long and I am full of admiration for people who do the whole thing in one go on a regular basis.Only the cheery Aussie crew kept us going.

    BANGKOK

Not sure what time of day it is but we are in the business suite of th Intercontinental.Just been to an international music festival in the main square and wandered round a night market.Up early for busy day tomorrow.Traffic is manic but people serene.

We had a marvelous time in city.Used public transport so a real adventure and very hot!!! four showers a day as hotel very central.The taxis are bubblegum colours, shocking pink etc more cheery than black,

Used public transport so lots of adventures.Went to evening show biggest stage in Guinness book, real river, fireworks, thunder-storm dancers and real elephants for history of Siam, brilliant ,but kidnapped on way home by drunken taxi driver !!!!!

Thought we had covered everything but Lady boys….. then guy arrived to take us to Airport,sure he had an evening job in the show.

    SYDNEY

Dumped bags in hotel and had breakfast on side of Darling Harbour which is where the hotel is located . Kept going all day thanks to great seats on plane …well done Andrew.Spent time on harbour cruise Tarronga Zoo then nap before dinner overlooking Harbour. Brilliant city young ,exciting and friendly , the Australianns in France must get really home sick.

Spent enough time in city so went out to Blue Mts,absolutely beautiful.

For Kids

Saw Avator on IMAX wow!!!!

You must promise if you emigrate we all come together

For Foodies

BEST DESSERT sweet potato in coconut milk

BEST DINNER red snapper steamed in a banana leaf with ginger and lime.

food is yummy

For Friends

get well soon to Judy and Liz

To All

yes we really are here and promise a photo with us in it tomorrow

Off to Brisbane in the morning!

    BRISBANE

Spent the day “doing” the city, mainly by using the city catamarans that run up and down the river.

Tried Barramundi and Moreton Bay Bugs for lunch.Tried one of the oldest pubs and found it was where two women libs in the 70s had chained themselves to the bar and demanded service as it was a male only establishment… I drank to their health but probably was the only woman in there! Just on way to riverside restaurant then pack for train tomorrow.

Boarded the train on Sunday morning and arrived at Cairns Monday afternoon. The first class section at the front with twelve passengers.We each had a sleeping compartment, couch by day , bunk beds at night.There was a dining car with high reputation for food and viewing lounge. I could post photos of passing kangaroos or flying foxes and amazing scenery but thought you would enjoy the food more!!!!

    CAIRNS

Cairns was very hot we stayed at a Colonial Club which had apartments grouped round a man-made lagoon.We indulged in a late night swim and poolside cocktails but the city itself reminded us of Melbourne Florida and as we did there we hid in a shopping mall to escape the midday heat.We were happy to reach the port and embark on our boat ,home for the next four days.

    GREAT BARRIER REEF

Spent four days on the reef, still feeling the ground sway but the water was flat, glassy and clear. The boat held about 30 of us we sailed as far North as Lizard Island. Built up confidence on reefs off tiny islands on first days, always only boat moored so beautifully quiet, then headed off to Ribbon reefs.

Two stops per day , first dive about 8-00 am then lunch and break before second dive. Trip on glass bottom boat with marine biologist each time to point out best spots. Saw multi coloured coral and fish.

On the first day the captain gave us a quick briefing then issued masks and snorkells. Just as we gathered to transfer for the first dive the chief diving instructor arrived dressed in an all body black stocking.!!!!!!!!!!! He pointed out that it was deadly jelly fish season so he never went in the water without a STINGER SUIT …. needless to say there followed a brisk sale in these unattractive garments and much hilarity as the men in particular struggled to get into them. Sadly the suits were not shark proof and we saw five reef sharks. We also met a potato cod bigger than our six foot guide, he was harmless they told us…. the fish that is.

The animator for AVATOR must be a diver the underwater jungle was just like the film. We are tired but a life changing experience .

But look what I caught for Dinner

    PORT DOUGLAS

Now in a beach front studio in Port Douglas.The whole place is so laid back ,full of interesting bars and restaurants many promising live music we will enjoy the main street after dark.Pleases we have such a nice pool because although the beach is beautiful to look at it is frequented by man eating crocodiles… isn’t OZ great!

Sunday stroll along Four Mile Beach.We couldnt walk in shallows because of the deadly jelly fish, avoid the estuary and the man-eating crocodiles. Do not pick up any shells some are toxic and lethal.

Do not go too far inshore because of the risk of falling coconuts,Even the mango trees drop over ripe fruit and can ruin your hairstyle. All that apart we had a chilled day doing very little.

The town is full of very nice restaurants but for fun we found this bar. They run Cane Toad races every night. When you go in you queue at the kitchen hatch to order food and set up a tab.You are given something that looks like a remote control.The walls are covered with TVs showing different sports channels and maybe one or two music videos,completely different music is blasting through their speakers. While you attempt to down your jug of Tasmanian beer , the remote explodes in flashing lights, buzzing and vibration.This means your Kangaroo or crocodile steak is ready and you need to go collect it from the kitchen, if you can circumnavigate the noisy pool game and toad race which is now taking over most of the bar.As you stumble back juggling plates ,cutlery and sauce you apologise to large hairy under-dressed Aussies (some of them men) .All you hear is “No worries!”

    KURANDA

Today we discovered what they mean by the Wet Season.We have travelled just ahead of bad weather all the trip and heard tales of floods and storms that hit cities just after we left.It finally caught us up.We set off after breakfast in a mini bus that aqua planed down the coast to the train station.

There is a scenic railway that climbs at a steep rate inland through the rainforest.Very dramatic and the sun broke out for good photos of well filled waterfalls.The village at the top is full of tacky tourist shops but one or two Aboriginal owned galleries.

Richard decided it was more interesting to follow the jungle track.He was disappointed we only sw a large black bird with a red head like a turkey and one large spider high up in a tree.I was not disappointed at all and happy to return to civilisation for my daily Mango Smoothie.

We traveled down over the tree canopy in a gondola with an older lady who was a linguist and had worked for twenty years with the Aboriginal tribes,It was a very educational trip.Port Douglas had been deluged with torrential rain all day so we ate in the hotel.

By the way every now and again the tree outside our balcony explodes with a cloud of green ,red and yellow squawking parrots.In the rain we tried Aus TV, for those who care I can only say ‘poor Libby!”

    LAST NIGHT IN PORT DOUGLAS

Last night in Port Douglas… the bags are packed .In a parallel universe I would stay , wear plaits , beach clothes and no shoes.I’d work with the old lady in the Aboriginal school or local restaurant it is so chilled here it is hard to leave.We went out today to buy a piece of Aboriginal art but originals cost thousands so we settled for a signed and numbered print as a souvenir of a wonderful holiday.We have had yummy food, great experiences and met such kind and friendly people .I hope we get the chance to come back.

    SINGAPORE

We flew from Cairns to Darwin then on to Singapore arriving early evening.Its like the Epcot version of Hong Kong.

FOR EXAMPLE

In Australia public ladies loos are particularly attractive to large spiders ( maybe they get a buzz from high-pitched screams)t

The advice is , don’t look up, get in and out fast and remember to hover.The reasons being the biggest spiders like to crouch on the ceiling.Looking up you might forget to hover and land on the seat ,This will upset the other big ones who lurk between the seat and the bowl.Disturbing these the dash for the nearest dark shelter which might be your trouser leg or worse.Visiting the loo could be stressful.

In Singapore they boast the latest Japanese high-tech loo seat.I expected a high level of cleanliness BUT…….

these sense the loo has been used and spray your nether regions with warm water then a blast of warm air to dry you off,(loo and bidet combined)I wondered how many recent travellers from Aus have a heart attack through fright after this on slaught.I think I prefer the spiders.

    SINGAPORE DAY OUT

Richard has been here on business so was a little over enthusiastic to discover the history and tourist spots in the place.We set off early with train maps and bus time tables ,no wimping out with organised tours.The first challenge was the Commonwealth War cemetery, A strange choice but it was at the end of the line and we had the adventure of a bus that was heading for Malaysia and not keen to stop!…. more later.

Coming back we emerged in a shopping mall and had trouble finding our way out.There are hundreds like it, I got distracted in a shoe department, a huge one and had a feeling it was as is I was examining a grain of sand on a beach …life is too short so we moved on.

We ate wraps from an old lady at a stand who really needed a good dentist but her food was good .Tried an avocado smoothie.

We trawled the streets for old buildings and found the Raffles Hotel, we had tea and scones and felt very colonial.

Tonight a river cruise and dinner in town, last day tomorrow!

    LAST ABROAD

Got Richard to play the tourist and take taxi this morning, we went to the Botanical gardens, fabulous orchids growing in situ clinging to trees not in pots,,, brilliant

Found wonderful old museum in China Town of Chinese life in Singapore

Visited their prestigious museum of Asian life which was air-conditioned and very interesting in the way it dealt with cross cultures.

End of Chinese New Year celebrations so having a chinese banquet tonight before catching flight.

To all of you who have taken the trouble to read this especially those who have commented a big THANK YOU it was fun and a new challenge.Hope to see you all soon.

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