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

Australia’s Red Centre – Day 3

After being late for the bus the previous day I was determined not to make the same mistake again. It was a 4am pick up this time and I needed to pack and check out so I set my alarm at the unbelievably early time of 2.45am. I made the bus comfortably….

In my last day in the Red Centre I was visiting Kings Canyon. This necessitated a circa 4 hour coach journey. I felt shattered and tried to catch some sleep on the bus before sunset. We made a brief breakfast stop at Kings Creek Station before arriving at the Kings Canyon car park. I ordered a bacon sandwich and a flat white.

the tour guide presented us with two options. Option 1. A 3 hour walk around the rim of Kings Canyon. The walk started with a 500 step climb and those wishing to participate were required to sign a disclaimer. Although the walk started at around 9am when it was relatively cool it was forecast to reach circa 40 degrees C by midday. Option 2. A shorter and easier walk within the Canyon itself. Following which was the possibility of a helicopter flight….. Now since a misjudged appearance in a 5 a side football match back in early October I have been nursing a sore achilles. It has improved but is still not right so I went for Option 2. It was a lovely walk into the canyon with nice scenery. 3 of the party who had gone for the rim walk option reconsidered after attempting 200 out of the 500 steps and joined us. It was obviously pretty tough going….

The start of the Kings Canyon Rim walk

The start of the Kings Canyon Rim walk

Inside kings canyon

Inside kings canyon

Viewing platform looking towards the "Garden of Eden"

Viewing platform looking towards the “Garden of Eden”

After finishing the walk we were driven into Kings Canyon Resort. Me and 2 others from our party were keen to go on the helicopter flight. we plumped for the 15 minute flight option which took us over Kings Canyon, Kings Creek and over to Carmichael Crag. It was my first time in a helicopter. I was excited if a little apprehensive. It was absolutely fantastic. An exhilarating experience with amazing views. I can’t wait for my next helicopter flight.

Does it look like I'm the pilot or what?

Does it look like I’m the pilot or what?

The view over Carmichael Crag.

The view over Carmichael Crag.

Kings canyon from the air

Kings canyon from the air

The chopper. It's a Robinson R-44 apparently...

The chopper. It’s a Robinson R-44 apparently…

After the exhilaration of the flight I needed a beer and headed off to the bar with Julie who I shared the helicopter flight with. Julie is from Grantham, works in Paediatrics, and had been staying with friends in Sydney before flying into The Red Centre. We enjoyed a Victoria Bitter or 2…. and then lunch before it was time to get back on the bus.

After a 6 hour journey I was dropped back in Alice Springs. It had been an amazing 3 days and an unforgettable experience.

Australia’s Red Centre – Day 2

I set my alarm at 4am ahead of a 4.30am coach pick up at the hotel. When I appeared at the front of the hotel at 4.32am the bus had already left! Given how ridiculously early in the morning it was I was half tempted to go back to bed! But I didn’t want to miss the sunrise at Uluru! After picking up at my hotel the bus then collects at the other 2 hotels on the resort. I managed to relay a message to the bus driver and they came back round for me…. I was on the receiving end of some ribbing from the bus driver after this though!

The sunrise was a disappointment as the sun rose behind a cloud so the photos I took were nothing like as good as the night before. After the sunset we were driven to the base of the rock and taken on a walk which included the Mutitjulu waterhole and a cave with aboriginal symbols marked within. The waterhole is a beautiful spot. I have to say the tour guides that AAT kings use are absolutely fabulous. We got a fantastically well articulated explanation of the geology of how Uluru and Kata Tjuta were formed.

Me in front of the Mutitjulu waterhole.

Me in front of the Mutitjulu waterhole.

Our guide explaining the aboriginal cave markings

Our guide explaining the aboriginal cave markings

After the walk, back on the bus and a drive round to the Uluru climb. There was a section of Uluru on the way round where photos are not allowed as it’s a very sacred area to the aboriginal owners of the national park. A foreign couple sat in front of me flagrantly disregarded this and I was fuming. So disrespectful. Me and a number of fellow passengers tried to stop them but to no avail….

The climb up Uluru - CLOSED!

The climb up Uluru – CLOSED!

Sign requesting tourists do not climb Uluru

Sign requesting tourists do not climb Uluru

The climb was closed due to the forecast temperature being above 36 degrees and also it had rained the night before making the rock potentially slippery. It can be a dangerous climb. 40 people have died climbing up it. The indigenous tribe. Anangu, do not wish tourists to climb Uluru as it’s such a special and sacred place for them. There are also environmental implications from some tourists going up there and, ahem, relieving themselves… fewer and fewer tourists are doing the climb. It’s likely in a few years time it will be closed.

we spent an hour at the Anangu culutural centre before returning to the hotel. I was starving and luckily breakfast was still going. The Aussie girl who checked me in for breakfast asked if I was going to the cricket in Adelaide. I asked her how she had guessed? Perhaps the Barmy Army tee shirt I was wearing was a clue… She recommended an area in Adelaide for me to go eating out. Googer street? This is just an example of how friendly and helpful the people working in the service sector in Australia seem to be.

during the day a couple of elderly Canadian tourists asked me what the Barmy Army was? They are involved with the Salvation Army. I explained that the Barmy Army was a bit different….

After a kip I headed out for an afternoon/evening tour to Kata Tjuta. It’s another amazing looking rock formation very different to Uluru with 36 different domes. It was red hot at 41 degrees! In these temperatures we did 2 hour long walks. One walk was through the valley of the winds. More spectacular scenery but I got very hot and sweaty! You had to be careful not to get dehydrated and drink lots and lots of water. After the walking, another sunset viewing with wine and nibbles and an excellent sunset!

Sunset at Kata Tjuta

Sunset at Kata Tjuta

Another sunset shot of Kata Tjuta

Another sunset shot of Kata Tjuta

Another fab day!

Alice Springs – England v Chairman’s XI

When I was planning this trip I noticed that England were playing a two day game in Alice Springs. I decided to add this game to my itinerary as it gave me the opportunity to see more cricket and also experience the Australian outback. I leave tomorrow for a 3 day tour to Uluru, Kings Canyon and other Red Centre highlights. The last two days have focused on the cricket.

The match gave the opportunity for England to get some match practice ahead of the second test which starts in Adelaide next Thursday. In particular it gave some of the back up batsmen opportunity to put their name in the spotlight with a good performance. There is now a batting vacancy following Jonathan Trott’s withdrawal from the tour due to a stress related illness.

The match was held at Traeger Park which handily is directly opposite my hotel! the cricket ground is named after Alfred Traeger who is an Australian inventor who invented the pedal wireless used by the flying doctor service. It’s a very different stadium to the one I visited in Brisbane. There is one permanent stand seating 250 people. The remaining spectators sat on grass banking or in temporary stands. I took up a seat at the back of a covered temporary stand. Given temperatures were forecast to reach close to 40 degrees shade would be very welcome.

It really was an idyllic setting with views of the McDonnell ranges.

On day one I met two Aussie guys – Jim and Chris who lived in the northern territory. They were great company and treated me to a sausage sandwich. Thanks guys! They are keen cricket fans and along with many other Aussies living out in the northern territory were very excited that England had come to town. The local paper “Centralian Advocate” had published a souvenir edition to mark the occasion. As the day commenced i became increasingly distracted/entertained by a group of Aussie guys who had travelled here mostly from Sydney for a lads weekend. The volume level increased in line with number of tinnies of Carlton cold that they had consumed. It was all in good humour though.

Back to the cricket……. England batted. The Australian chairman XI consisted of state players who in most instances were second XI players. They were far from household names. On paper England had by far the stronger side. A succession of England batsmen got in and then got themselves out. The main player to do himself justice was Zimbabwean born Gary Ballance who scored a confident 55 before being run out after a mix up with Ian Bell. England declared at 212-7. The Chairman’s xi reached 16 without loss at close of play.

On day 2 I resumed my seat. It was going to be another hot one! I was sat with a couple, Phil and Rachel, from Sheffield. Phil had been out on the ashes tour starting with the warm up games and had been joined in Brisbane by Rachel. Phil had taken redundancy from a job as a civil servant. Rachel is a part time GP. Following redundancy, Phil had essentially retired and handed me a business card which stated “Sheffield United and Yorkshire Cricket fan. England Football & cricket tourist”.Phil and Rachel had seen England play cricket in Australia, South Africa and India. I must admit to being very envious of Phil’s lifestyle apart from Sheffield Utd bit!

The Chairman’s XI managed to score 254-8 before declaring. England’s seam bowlers Finn, Rankin and Stokes didnt impress but the spinners Swann and Panesar took 7 wickets between them.

England then batted for an hour to reach 47-1 at close. The match was drawn.

the barmy army used the day to try out some new songs. my favourite was “Carberry fields forever” although the Ben stokes song “hokey stokey” needs more work…

England failed to impress with a number of players still clearly off form. I do not feel particularly optimistic for our chances in the second test but England do have a history of underperforming at the start of a tour before turning things around. My team for the second test is Cook, Carberry, Bell, Pietersen, Root, Bairstow, Prior, Broad, Swann, Bresnan ( if fit enough), Anderson.

I have brought loads of books with me on this trip. Many given as gifts. By the time I get to India I need to be travelling light. So as I finish a book I will be leaving it behind. I hope those giving these as gifts dont mind too much…. The first book I have finished was Simon Briggs’ “stiff upper lips and baggy green caps”. It is a really entertaining history of the ashes with some great stories and characterisation. I highly recommend it.

So tomorrow I go to Uluru. Am very excited!

Traeger park with the McDonnell range in the background

Traeger park with the McDonnell range in the background

My vantage point for the match

My vantage point for the match

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Mike Atherton being interviewed by sky sport's Tim Abraham

Mike Atherton being interviewed by sky sport’s Tim Abraham

My new t shirt!

My new t shirt!

A red gum tree near my hotel in Alice

A red gum tree near my hotel in Alice