The Last Post

I write this having been back in the cold, wet and windy UK for a couple of weeks. This has given me time to adjust to what is, quite frankly, a far more mundane existence. It has also given me time to reflect on my trip.

My trip has been an amazing experience and I have many memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Pretty much everything I have done on the trip has been fantastic but there have been two real highlights that stand out.

The first is the 6 days I spent on the South Island of New Zealand. I loved the wonderful scenery and doing some amazing things including whale watching, a heli-hike onto Franz Josef Glacier and jet boating.

Whale watching at Kaikoura

Whale watching at Kaikoura

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Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

The second highlight was the week in India touring the “Golden Triangle” with G Adventures. I loved travelling through such a vibrant country seeing some amazing sights, experiencing the culture and eating some absolutely fabulous food.

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Jaipur

Jaipur

Palace of the Winds

Palace of the Winds

Trying to make a puri

Trying to make a puri

Amber Fort

Amber Fort

I have seen some amazing sights Including:-

Uluru

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The Taj Mahal

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Sydney Harbour

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The cricket obviously didn’t go according to plan. I watched every one of England’s losses to Australia and became increasingly resigned to the entirely predictable nature of these defeats. Disappointing as the cricket was it gave me a base to explore the great cities of Australia. I was part of the world record attendance for a test match at the MCG on Boxing Day.

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Some stats!! My trip took me away from home for 79 nights. I travelled in 5 countries – Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, India and the United Arab Emirates. I went on 17 flights and travelled with 8 different airlines. I stayed in 20 different hotels. So making all these flights certainly means I have had an impact on the environment. All the air miles equate to 4.85 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The driving I did in New Zealand, 1095 kilometres, added a further 0.26 tonnes of CO2 emissions. I am investigating what I can do to offset this.

Best airline – QANTAS. I flew with them more than any other airline. Great service delivered by “real people” not the archetypal young “trolley dolly” you find elsewhere.

Best airport – Dubai. Space age. Roomy. Waterfalls!

Worst airport – Goa International Airport. Dirty toilets and rowing cleaners. Make sure you scan your luggage first! I also had issues at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport with baggage coming off the wrong carousel and lengthy queues for biosecurity checks.

Favourite hotel – The Point, Brisbane. Great service and a room with a fantastic view. Well located for the Gabba and the free boat service into central Brisbane. I also had fantastic service and food at the Resort Terra Paraiso in Goa. Excellent towel and pillow art by housekeeping!

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

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Housekeeping art at Resort Terra Paraiso, Goa

Worst hotel – Great Southern Hotel, Sydney. Room very dated and felt claustrophobic

Favourite cricket stadium – Sydney Cricket Ground. Blends futuristic new stands with well preserved old pavilions.

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Worst cricket stadium – The WACA, Perth. Little shade and needs urgent redevelopment.

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So would I do it again??? The trip has been very much a once in a lifetime opportunity. It has cost a pretty penny and I now need to start earning again. 11 weeks away is a long time and there were times particularly around Christmas and New Year when I was really starting to miss family. Keeping in touch through instant messaging, email, FaceTime and Facebook has been invaluable. When you can talk to somebody and see them on screen the world does not seem such a big place.  I have loved experiencing the different countries and cultures and a much better climate. So yes I would definitely do a big trip again but not for as long.

Has the trip changed me??? Well I don’t feel any different. It may have given me a different perspective on a few things. The trip has definitely given me the desire to travel more and explore further some of the places I have been to.

A successful trip can only take place with help from others. I have had great support from friends and family. They seemed to think my trip was a much bigger deal than I thought myself and showed this with a great send off before I went away. I was worried about my house being left empty for an extended period of time. Thanks to Mum and Dad and my next door neighbours Kathryn and Steve for keeping an eye on it for me whilst I was away. My house remained totally intact whilst I was away but ironically suffered storm damage within a week of my return!

A big thank you to my travel agents, Round the World Experts, and in particular Nigel Wright for turning my dreams into reality.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog. I have enjoyed writing it and it is something I can always look back on. The blog seems to have generated quite a lot of interest – It has had over 4300 views and over 100 comments.

Finishing the blog helps me put the trip “to bed” and allows me to focus on the next phase of my life which starts with the search to generate an income.

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

My Welcome to Melbourne

So after my weeklong adventure in New Zealand I headed to Melbourne via Jetstar from Queenstown. It was an excellent flight and we touched down at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport on time.

Your first impression of a city or country is often it’s Airport and I have to say my experience here was not good.

Queues for passport control. OK I understand border controls are important but it felt like I was being herded like cattle.

The baggage reclaim was a joke. The monitors said our luggage was coming off at carousel 4 but after waiting for a while it emerged it had come off on carousel 3!

Now the next queue was for ensuring Australia’s bio security. The queue was being administered by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests. Now having been to New Zealand I totally understand the need for bio security. New Zealand’s birds are being ravaged by non indigenous mammals that have been introduced such as stoats and possums. The possums came from Australia and there are around 30 million in New Zealand! The irony that these possums came from the country I was now queuing to enter was not lost on me. I also remember stories in the Northern Territory about non indigenous camels that were introduced to help construct early transport and telecommunications being left to roam free when they were no longer needed. The camels also indirectly introduced with them non indigenous plant species from seeds which were within the saddles of the camels. In a way it feels like Australia are trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted! My bio diversity questionnaire was of course completed truthfully and as a result the trainers that I got wet in a river in New Zealand the previous day were inspected following a wait in queue no. 3! The good news is I was allowed to keep them. So I queued for a total of an hour before I managed to get out of the airport.

Rant over!

There is an excellent value skybus service which takes you straight from the airport into the centre of Melbourne at Southern Cross Station. They also offer free hotel transfers when you get into the city. My hotel is so close to Southern Cross that I could walk but the directions I got on reaching the station were not great and I got lost whilst wheeling my luggage round Melbourne and had to ask for directions. So a five minute journey turned into a half an hour one!

I like my hotel. It has been on this site since 1866. It was originally called Alexanders family hotel but in 1928 it was rebuilt and marketed as the “first strictly modern hotel in Australia”. Between 1954 and 1974 it was renamed the Savoy Plaza and became a favourite of the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong when they visited here. In 1974 it was converted to a police cadet training school but more recently has been restored to its former Art Deco style glory.

My Melbourne hotel

My Melbourne hotel

My first impressions of Melbourne are good. I like the trams and the Southbank area with lively bars and restaurants. I am looking forward to spending a week here.

A Melbourne tram

A Melbourne tram

A view of Melbourne CBD from the Southbank

A view of Melbourne CBD from the Southbank

Aussies win the Ashes

So I found out about the Aussies winning the Ashes whilst sat in the departure lounge at Melbourne Airport. I have not witnessed any wild scenes of jubilation here at all. It feels like any other sort of day…

it was great to hear that Ben Stokes completed his century today. At lunchtime when we were 6 wickets down I dared to dream. But once he was out then defeat was inevitable.

Well done Australia. They have comprehensively outplayed and outfought  England in this series. England need to review what has happened. I am not one for knee jerk reactions but I feel that some of the old guard need a long hard look at themselves and decide if they have the necessary hunger to continue playing for England.