The Holiday Of A Lifetime - Andy Double's Six Week Tour of Australia

Monday 18 April 1994

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I left Ipswich in my nice little Nissan Micra that I had hired from Eurodollar for the day and headed off to Heathrow. Within 2 hours I was in Terminal 4 waiting (four hours) for the aircraft to take off. I was booked in to fly with British Airways, on one of the new Boeing 747 400's and was put upstairs in a comfy seat which had loads of leg room. It couldn't have been a better flight (unless it no longer took a day to fly to Oz). The plane left Heathrow at 17:40, re-fuelled in Bangkok, and landed in Perth at 20:15 (local time) a day after leaving the U.K..

Tuesday 19 April 1994 - Perth, Western Australia

Perth It was 8:15pm when the plane landed and I hadn't booked up any accommodation prior to leaving England, so I headed to the accommodation notice boards in Perth airport. I was met there by the owner of a backpackers hostel who offered me a quiet, self contained room for 15 a night. I took her up on this and booked in for two nights. Of course, being a backpackers hostel (full of youngsters looking for a good time) I was kept awake until 3am by the other residents - not what I needed after a long flight.

On the Wednesday, I telephoned the Oz end of the company that I booked my flights through (Austravel) asking them to find me somewhere to stay that would be cheap and quiet. By this stage I was very tired and anxious to find somewhere where I could catch up on my much needed sleep, and was asked to phone back after two hours to find out what had been found for me. Within a couple of hours I was in contact with a lady who supervises after Perth's B&B accommodation and she offered to collect me the next day and take me to my next home - my prayers answered!

Perth Guest House The house was in North Perth (10 minutes out of the city by bus) and had been renovated by the lady owner (Maureen) and had since been featured in a nation-wide magazine of house renovations. I stayed in that house for my final five nights in Perth and was given information of where to go, what to do, maps etc. by Maureen - which was really nice.

For the rest of Thursday I caught a bus into the city, booked up two trips with the tourist board and caught a oldie worldie tram around Perth which ended up in Perth's Kings Park which overlooks the city. I wandered down the road from the B&B that night and tried out the local Irish pub. There didn't appear to be one Irish person in there, but I stayed as it was nice to sit down for a while. I had VB (Victoria Bitter) or two, and not a single Guinness.

Freeman On the Friday, I caught a train from the city (spotlessly clean, automatic, on time etc.) to Freemantle where the Americas Cup yacht race passes through. I spent the day wandering around Freemantle (temperature whilst in Perth area was around 24-26 degrees Celcius every day - not bad for winter) and took a few photos. That night I walked into the Perth City night life area (took me an hour) and went into one of the pubs.

Saturday, I went on a river cruise on the Swan River to the Sandalwood Vineyards where I met a wacky Aussie and his newly wed American wife. We downed lots of wine at the vineyard before being driven by double decker bus to the converted farmhouse for a three course lunch with yet more wine. By the trip back down the river 10 - 15 of us were in the front of the boat singing and dancing to the Captain's tapes and making regular runs to the back of the boat to collect yet another tray full of glasses of wine. The Aussie/ American couple invited me back to their hotel later that night (The Sheraton) for a few drinks in the bar - was I wasted by the time I got back or what?

Quokka Sunday, I again caught the train to Freemantle where I boarded a ferry to go to Rottnest Island. I hired a bicycle and spent the day on the island cycling around the island (getting sunburnt in the process) and saw the local unique animals - the Quokkas (cross between a rat and a small wallaby). The Quokkas were really cute little things which came out of the tree areas whenever anybody stopped, to try to get some food. By the time I got back to the B&B I was very tired and late for the barbecue that Maureen had invited me to. The next day was a public holiday to celebrate Anzac Day and so I walked around the city (just catching the end of the Anzac Day Parade) before heading to Kings Park for the rest of the day to sit outside and read my book.

Tuesday 26 April 1994 - Alice Springs, Northern Territory

Tuesday, and I flew from Perth to Alice Springs (a four hour flight) where I checked into the YHA (Youth Hostel Association) hostel which cost me 6 a night. As with all the hostels that I stayed in (all YHA hostels) they were all very clean, had large kitchens, TV rooms, toilet facilities and rooms of no more that six people. To my disgust the rooms were not mixed and so I spent my whole holiday sharing with blokes!

That first afternoon I got talking to a guy from Singapore and we both walked through the town to Anzac Hill where we had a lookout over Alice Springs. The guy from Singapore (I can't remember his name) had booked himself on a three day camping safari to Ayers Rock, the Olgas and Kings Canyon, whereas I only had the time to do a two day coach/hostel trip to Ayers Rock and the Olgas. Both of us left the next day for our respective trips so off I headed on a six hour coach trip to Ayers Rock Resort where I checked into the hostel, before re-boarding the coach three hours later to go and take a look at the Olgas.

The Olgas & Ayers Rock

The Olgas Around the Alice/Ayers Rock area you soon get to learn the 'Aussie wave' because you are forever swishing the flies away from your face. I bought a fly net for my head and got around the fly problem although I looked a bit silly - still, no flies went up my nose. We were let off the coach at the foot of the Olgas to wander around and take pictures before re-boarding and heading to an Ayers Rock viewing clearing in time for the sunset.

I was up at 4am on the Thursday morning in order to catch the 5am coach trip to Ayers Rock, where I was to do the dawn climb up the rock. What an excellent idea to climb the rock while it was still cool and before the flies came out! I didn't realise how steep the rock would be and just how big it was until I started to climb it. The further up that I went, the thinner the oxygen and the shorter my breaths - I thought I was going to die climbing it! After climbing to the top in 1 - 1.5 hours I flaked out on the top, saw the sunrise, took some photos and then began my descent. I felt so good knowing that I had climbed Ayers Rock and then had great fun watching the stream of people trying the same thing but in the full sunlight. I got talking to a few people on the way down and had a good time winding up those people who were then beginning their climb, about how much further there was to go.

Ayers Rock Back at the base of the rock we got driven around the base, taken for a walk, and also shown ancient Aboriginal paintings and caves, before the drive back to Alice Springs. I spent one more night in the Alice Springs hostel where I met a guy from Colchester (Simon) and agreed to see him in Cairns (I booked a twin room in the next hostel for the two of us) before getting a Minibus to the airport for my flight to Cairns.

Friday 29 April 1994 - Cairns, Queensland

Friday, I flew from Alice to Cairns (once again I had a window seat - as I did on all my internal flights) and arrived two hours later in the tropical zone. I spent the next day and a half wandering around Cairns (shops etc.) and generally taking it easy. On my first full day in Cairns, Simon turned up and along with a Dutch guy. We walked around Cairns before hitting a cheap pub that specialised in cheap drinks and meals for backpackers (2.50 for a plate full of food and a jug of beer). Simon and myself then booked ourselves on four trips for our stay in Cairns.

Barrier Reef

Sunday, Simon and myself were collected from the hostel at 7:30am and driven to the harbour where we boarded the 60ft yacht for our trip to the Great Barrier Reef. There were only seven people on the yacht (not including the two crew who were a good laugh) and so it was a friendly if very choppy trip. It took us two and a half hours to travel the eighteen miles to the reef through some quite choppy water. Needless to say I was clinging on for dear life and didn't feel too well for this trip.

Once at the reef, the waves disappeared and three of us prepared for a scuba dive. I had considered learning to scuba in Ipswich before heading to Oz, but the two introductory dives at the reef only cost me 30 so I think I made the right decision to wait until the holiday. I was quite nervous on my first dive but managed to cope and saw lots of colourful reef and fish in my twenty minute dive before we all came up to the surface. Our scuba guide said that I had used the tank of air quicker than anyone he had dived with before and I was then the butt of the jokes until the next dive. We then had a buffet lunch on the boat before we kitted ourselves up again in wet suits etc. and clambered onto the diving dingy. This dive was much deeper and we were taken down to a depth of twelve metres, still stopping each metre to equalise out the air pressure in our ears and give the instructor the thumbs up signal that all was well. The instructor pointed out lots of things to us, notably a flat fish (Giant Ray) that was fifteen feet in diameter and which made it look as though the floor bed was lifting up when it moved away. We also saw a clam standing upright which was not much smaller than me and the instructor put his arm in it to get it to close up - really impressive. Other things included lobster type things and various giant eels.

After our second dive, we headed back to Cairns under wind power. As soon as the sails went up, the boat tipped on its side and up and down we went again. This was all too much for me and I spent one and a half hours in the loo before after much encouragement I came up to the deck and sat on the side. The trip back to port was the low light of the holiday. That night we cooked in the hostel's kitchen and had a few beers whilst talking to people.

Water Hole Monday, we were collected from the hostel by a 4WD minibus and taken on a trip into the Daintree and Cape Tribulation National Parks (rainforest regions). As with all our trips, the driver gave ongoing commentary on the wildlife and history of the areas and took us on walks into the forests. We then went on a trip up the Daintree River looking for crocodiles. At lunch we were taken to a freshwater watering hole, deep in the forest and six of us went for a swim before being taken back to a lodge for a barbecue lunch. The day ended at 7:30pm and so we really got our money worth from that, as with all our other trips.

Tuesday, the two of us caught a Catamaran over to Fitzroy Island where we planned to relax and do a bit of snorkelling on the coastline. Within an hour it rained and the waves were too strong to snorkel so we hid under the trees and when the rain had stopped we did a walk around the island. That night we again cooked dinner and had yet another brand of beer while talking to people.

Wednesday (my last day in Cairns), we went on a 4WD tour into the Atherton Tablelands (through rainforest, over the mountains until we reached the tablelands where a lot of fruit is grown). We ended up at a place called Kuranda where we were to later catch the scenic railway back down the mountain into Cairns. Before that, a Scottish guy and I went into a place called Nocturnal World where the days' cycle was reversed so that whilst it was day outside, inside it was night. In there we saw a number of rainforest creatures and were in time to see them all being fed. It was hard to pick things out until they started to get excited about getting their food. That night a few of us from the hostel went to a pub/club for dinner and cheap beer. I met a nice nurse from Leeds, but I was leaving the next day and couldn't help wishing my flight was a couple of days later. We all got back into the hostel at about 2:30am where the others were then going to get up three hours later to watch Arsenal in the European Cup Winners Cup Final (mad or what?).

Brisbane Thursday 5 May 1994 - Brisbane, Queensland

On the Thursday I flew from Cairns to Brisbane, flying over the Great Barrier Reef and various islands on the way. The flight only took two hours and I was soon on a bus heading to the Brisbane Transit Centre where I then had to walk with my two backpacks to the next hostel. After checking in, I went for a walk into the city and got rained on. Back in the hostel I met Thomas from Switzerland and the two of us grabbed some food from the restaurant before heading into the city to find some life. We didn't really find much life but had a few beers anyway. The two of us then spent the next day together wandering around the city, river and Botanic Gardens (where we sat in the sun for the afternoon). That night we hit some more pubs and a club (lots of people in the city having fun) before creeping back into the hostel in the early hours of the morning.

Saturday 7 May 1994 - Surfers Paradise, Queensland

Saturday, I caught a bus and headed to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, where I had a previously booked motel waiting for me. Of course I did a three mile hike with my two backpacks where if I had turned right instead of left it would have taken five minutes to find the motel. The motel cost me 15 a night and the room had two beds, bathroom, TV and coffee/tea facilities. A two minute walk from the motel took me to the golden beaches, blue sea and blue sky every day and I had a nice time walking past the local women - they were all blonde, tanned and had quite lovely shorts and tops on.

The next day I was collected by coach from my motel and taken to Seaworld. Seaworld seemed to be a lot like the one in Florida, water-skiing shows, dolphin and sea-lion shows, underwater aquariums and sharks etc. The weather was again really nice and I had a pleasant day wandering around seeing all the attractions. That night I went to the local pub for a meal and ended up talking to two old Aussies for the remainder of the happy hour session. I met up with those two for the remaining two nights and even went round to their flat for breakfast on my last full day in Surfers. The breakfast consisted of XXXX beer and an omelette - I didn't feel like doing much for the rest of that day except stock up on yet more T shirts.

The day after Seaworld I went to Warner Brothers Movieworld where they film a few things, and spent the day wandering around the recreated streets, going on tours of the studios and watching a couple of stunt shows (Police Academy & Wild West). On the 11th I caught the coach back to Brisbane and the hostel as I was to fly out of Brisbane the next day.

Thursday 12 May 1994 - Sydney, New South Wales

Thursday, I flew from Brisbane to Sydney which took one and a half hours. At the airport I boarded yet another minibus which again took me to my hostel. This hostel was more like a hotel as it had 250 beds and was a little less personal. I ended up in a four man room and shared with an American, Japanese and a British guy from Bishops Stortford. All three had been there for about three weeks and were planning to stay for a year, getting temporary jobs along the way. As soon as I plonked myself on my bed the interrogation began. Apparently they had had three weird room mates before me and wanted to check me out. The three previous occupants I heard about were as follows. One left one day leaving a pile of child porn magazines behind - he was a teacher from Newcastle, another one woke up each morning with a good morning sound and the third guy showed great interest in hearing about the gay sector in Kings Cross, Sydney. He took a couple of others to a club where people were in cages being whipped etc., the other two left quickly but this guy came back to the room at 5am wearing a dress and women's underwear - he left the next day - not surprisingly.

My room mates in Sydney were a really good laugh and took me out on my first night to Darling Harbour where a club was selling drinks for 50p. We stayed quite a while, boogied away and then caught a taxi back to the hostel in the early hours of the morning.

Friday, I walked miles. I went to Darling Harbour (buying a couple of Sydney 2000 sweatshirts on the way), grabbed lunch in the city, tried to get into the Telecom Australia building, went to The Rocks, went to the Sydney Opera House, walked through the Botanic Gardens, Domain Gardens, visited the Hard Rock Cafe before buying dinner back in the hostel. That night three of us went into The Rocks area of Sydney where all the pubs and clubs are and caught a bus back to the hostel at 2am.

Saturday, I had a one and a half hour bus ride to get to Palm Beach (where they film the beach scenes from Home and Away). I walked from one end to the other, up to the lighthouse and took a few pictures before sitting down on the beach. Whilst there an old guy started to talk to me about my travels and invited me to his beach house for a beer. After a bit more walking I went to the beach house (massive place full of windows facing onto the ocean) had a few beers and even used his phone to call British Airways to confirm my flight home. When I got back into the city I saw Cool Runnings at one of the many cinemas before getting back to the hostel. The next day three of us caught a ferry to Manly and spent quite a while sitting on the beach watching a surfing contest (we sat directly in between the commentator and the surfers). After a while 30-40 surfers gathered around us complete with television cameras from the national channels - it was apparently some big surfing competition and we sat amongst some big surfing stars and even ended up on the national news that night!

Monday 16 May 1994 - Flight Back To U.K.

On the 16th at 3:30pm my flight home left Sydney. Once again we flew via Bangkok taking nine hours to do so, stopped for an hour to re-fuel etc. and then flew off again for the remaining twelve hour flight to Heathrow. At 5:45 on the 17th we landed at Heathrow to the temperature of 8 degrees and pouring rain. It was nice to be home, but the weather could have been better.

How Much Did It Cost & Was It Worth It?

All in all the holiday cost me 2,300 and I got through eight and a half films. I don't think that I will go back to Oz for a few years as I have been everywhere I want to visit now, although if the right opportunities arose for me out there, I'd be on my way to Australia like a shot.

I can thoroughly recommend going to Oz on your own as you will meet so many people doing the same thing and spend hours talking to them over the odd beer or two. I will be only too happy to show you my photos, tell you where to go, what to see etc. If you've considered a trip to Oz, but have never actually made the decision, just do it - you will not regret it.