And just like that it came to an end. 29 days on our Very Best Tour of Australia with stopovers in Singapore and Bali. In total 4 and a half weeks of unadulterated pleasure travelling in good weather (despite Melbourne) and with great company. This was a celebration for my 60th birthday, a trip I didn’t really get excited about at all with all of the concerns that precipitated that; Coronavirus, bushfires and terror attacks.
If you want to see Australia there are so many ways of doing it. When you are young backpacking is the only way that is likely to work; reasonably cheap and unstructured. As a couple in the early thrusts of love, perhaps a camper van or converted transit, when all you need is a bed and wheels, is for you. As a family you are probably more likely to visit places where family or friends have relocated but as a retired person, or for special occasions, this tour would be well worth every penny you spend. How else might you visit every major city in Australia with the minimum of fuss, the maximum of opportunity and the finest hotels?
In addition to being the most excellent of all Tour Guides our Tigress was a stickler for detail giving us the greatest confidence in her ability to deliver. We could not have asked for anyone better because she managed this trip like a military operation and we were enabled to be tourists without a care in the world while this all went on behind the scenes. This tour also balanced a busy trip with the right amount of Freedom days to do as you wish. Four days is often enough to see a City, but the Tour incorporated several worthwhile escapades that were included in the price as well as offering additional trips, if you were inclined to see more. The finely tuned arrival and departure from each venue was seamless and even the 9 flights we took on the entire trip did not feel daunting or difficult in any way, because we had the Tigress.
In addition to this being an interesting tour, with fantastic trips and wonderful experiences; the Great Barrier Reef, the Sydney Bridge Climb, the Aboriginal People, the Wine tour and the Wildlife trips, one of the best aspects were the people we travelled with. Twenty Eight of us in total. We all had our personal reasons for being on this trip, but we had the option of finding out whether we shared these or not on the many occasions we spent together over a glass of wine or a beer. I found the welcome invitation of a group of people sitting in the bar at the end of our night a treat, never feeling isolated on our holiday we always had someone to speak with. As we progressed and got to know each other this was one of the most memorable aspects of the holiday. It became important to have joint meals as we headed toward our last day. Many people doing different tours suggested the last day in Australia had taken on a new significance as we hung on to our fellow travellers with a little bit more love and affection knowing it was the last we would be together as a group.
The Tigress was going on a well earned break back to Melbourne, we were off to Bali, but it was clear we had no idea what lay ahead for us when we arrived home. Coronavirus was a threat at the beginning of our holiday and now even more so four weeks after we had left home. As we sat in the bar on our last night, everyone arrived for a departure drink, many with sadness at leaving but some ready for home. This was a magnificent group with many memorable aspects that added considerably to our journey and the memories we will treasure. To spare their identities but they will know who they are they have been given animal names.
The Antelope was heading directly to London, this elegant lady in her senior years was involved in Haute Couture all her life and worked with the greatest designers her style and grace was part of who she was and travelling alone we wanted to be sure she had someone looking out for her. The Jaguar and the Spectacled Bat had been in New Zealand before joining us. The Jaguar shared a common role to my work that would see us bonded through shared interests in protecting the vulnerable when we made it home. The Rabbit and the Sea Lion were off to Singapore, this beautiful woman with the delightful smile and her hubby had been together since they were teenagers, and he was still besotted with her it was clear. The Hamster and her Guinea Pig were off to hire a car, a formidable character, the hamster and I shared a love of swimming and I loved to hear her articulate her stories; she had a truly engaging lilt and tone to her voice. Her partner a fine gentleman with a permanent smile was delighted to be finding his roots in some of the Australian cities we visited and taking off to explore them further in Sydney when we left.
The Lynx and the Daddy Long Legs loved the sun and shared our passion for catching the rays whenever we got the chance. They both had a birthday while we were away and the Lynx was to celebrate hers in Bali by staying an extra day. The Swan and the Peacock shared our outlook on life, the Peacock off swimming in the sea, the Swan making sure everyone was okay on our trip her emotional antenna often on alert, an affable friendly pair whom we shared much in common. The Leapord travelled alone, a kindly but fiercely independent character she was the most travelled among us with many trips under her belt. I loved her humour, and although often willing to offer her aid, she often kindly reminded me she was more than capable of helping herself and she was! The Lark and the Rhino were recently married, their love of horse racing took them off in their own direction on most days exploring the racing times and form. The Lark often volunteering to take part in activities that saw her aiding the Blacksmith and starting a fire for the Aborgines.
The Horse Whisperer and the Hyena will remain with me in my heart for ever. The Hyena looked so much like my father it gave me such comfort to be in his company. The fact that the Horse Whisperer loved my blogs was such a privilege as I know they will also remember me with that link. The Kanga and Roo, seemed very active to me when we first met them, they had been cycling. But the Kanga was worried about her health as I learned on this trip and had to be more cautious that she wanted to be as we travelled around. Like me they love Kenmore and Aberfeldy in Perthshire and so we bonded over our love of my favourite place. The Bear and the Zebra liked to sit at the front of the bus, I don’t know the reasons why this was important but it was something they enjoyed. Staying on to visit family in Brisbane it was the Bear who often had to fix out the WiFi for me when I couldn’t get a signal, I don’t know what I would have done without him.
The Panda and Giraffe were a quiet and reserved couple, slow to engage but with so much to offer. I loved the togetherness of this couple, so in tune with each other, I am sure they had more than a few laughs at our antics on the trip and the Panda always inquisitive, hungry to find out more about you. It was a welcome opportunity to develop a relationship on a more personal level. The Rabbit and Platypus had the energy of youth, perhaps the youngest on the tour they were often off exploring, taking amazing photographs and enjoying every bit of the trip. His love of football meant we could relate to his need to watch the match in the middle of the night, and we shared our Sky Rail experience with them in the rainforest.
The Eagle and the Albatross had also visited New Zealand before they came to Australia, the only other pair from Scotland but who were English by birth. The poor Eagle must have my forgiveness because for so much of the trip I called her the wrong name, mortified I rectified this at the Great Barrier Reef. Another one who cared for the vulnerable I was so sad we didn’t get to say a proper goodbye at the end.
So to the Koala our tour guide in the outback, the Parrot our assistant in the Ghan and all the wonderful bus drivers, porters, pilots, stewardesses, train drivers, captains, waiters, waitresses, cleaners, cooks, bar tenders, guides and people we met along the way. We loved it all, we cannot thank you enough for the wonderful experience Australia delivered. Thank you everyone, thank you Australia ❤️🇦🇺