Tigers hiding in the grass?

Our claim to fame is flying home with the Australian Olympic BMX Team, it means we are almost Olympians.

After the apprehension of a 12 hour flight and 7 hour time difference the flight was almost pleasant compared with the outward journey. With our limited experience of flying long-haul it looks like Quantas is a good choice.

Many thanks to Ken, Kim’s Dad, who got up a 3am to collect us from Heathrow. We were out of the airport in less than an hour from touchdown and home in less than two hours. That must be some sort of record or have border controls been relaxed for the Olympics?

Thanks also to Diane, Kim’s mum, for filling up the fridge so that we came home to bacon and mushroom sandwiches for breakfast but we did have to cook them ourselves which came as a bit of a culture shock! Despite all this, they let themselves down – the grass is only half cut and the weeds are having a party! Any volunteeers for gardening while we sleep??!

We’ve had a fantastic time, although the kitchen looks awful, which brings us full circle back to where we started.

Our bags are packed and we’re ready to go

But in the meantime it’s non alcoholic (Gunner) cocktails by the swimming pool!

Our final day and we’ve had to vacate the room, we still have four hours left until we head for the airport so it was a choice of a shopping mall or asking nicely if we could retain the use of the hotel facilities which luckily the hotel agreed to.

Despite our good intentions to eat breakfast out, we succumbed to the luxury and air conditioning in the hotel before wandering back into the city to see some of the buildings and sights we had previously missed.

Today’s adventure was using the MRT, Singapore’s underground system, which was cheap, quiet and very clean. The platform is sealed from the track with doors that open on both train and platform once the train comes to a stop, it was so much easier than walking in the heat.

See you all soon x

China Town, Raffles and the Singapore Flyer

The Market Cafe at the hotel does the most amazing buffet breakfast, it’s almost worth the journey and humidity just to experience it! Certainly a civilised way to start the day.

Apart from the usual extensive range of fruit platters, cereals and continental pastries cheese and meats. Cooked options include strange items such as vegitarian noodles, chicken sausages (very aneamic looking) and fish fingers which were defintly not from Captain Birds Eye. Asian choives were, Indian Roti Prata with Dahl Curry, Dim Sum, Pork Congee and Fried Carrot Cake with pickled raddish. All this for breakfast! It was hard and exausting work but we had our moneys worth.

Next stop was an indoor market where we experienced our first determined barter style sell of the day. We innocently wandered past a camera stall and were pounced on, we would get an exclusive special price as first customers of the day. Matt asked a simple question and an hour later came out with a lens converter, significantly cheaper than the original quoted price. Despite several attempts to leave we never quite managed to escape but agreed the vendor had worked hard for the sale and we’d enjoyed every minute!

It’s amazing what can be purchased in the markets, all types of strange food (seaweed flavour crisps were a disappointment) and medications for every ache and pain. Then there are the ‘fake’ goods, Mp3 players which are exact copies of iPods at £20 instead of £150 in the UK, Blueberry (rather than Blackberry) phones and many other items all at a fraction of UK prices.

Next stop China Town. It was fantastic, little shops and market stalls selling everything and anything at bargain prices, particularly if you need 36 keyrings for $10! it was almost worth buying them, just because we could…

Lunch was in the China Town complex where we were brave and ate ‘proper’ chinese food and fresh fruit juices. All for under £3

The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing by the pool before tarting ourselves up for a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel. We were relieved of £60 for three drinks but John and Matt did get to play a game of snooker in the Billiard Room. Very grand and so evocative of a different era – a beautiful building in a very modern city.

Our final destination of the evening was the Singapore Flyer, a revolving observation wheel bigger than the London Eye as we were constantly reminded. The city, rivers Marina, bridges and buildings all looked amazing at night and we wondered at the ingenuity of the minds that had designed it.

As we had spent so much money on just three drinks earlier in the evening, a value dinner was required to balance the finances so we ‘dined’ at a ‘Subway’.

Ice cream was our traditional night cap, you should have seen John’s face when he tried his Durian flavoured ice cream. It was a picture. He had chosen the most revolting flavour ever, the taste of which lingered long after the ice cream had been binned!!


We arrived last night to 33 degrees and over 90% humidity which came as something of a shock to say the least even though we were expecting it. We had been tempted to continue on our journey home by staying on the plane rather than stopping in Singapore and were beginning to wish we had.

We had been told about how clean and safe Singapore is with no litter or chewing gum allowed, and there are no ‘Ali Ba-Bas’ as they have all been locked safely away. As a result of this there are very few police officers as they are not needed. We are sure there is a flaw in this arrangment but so far its not obvious.

Our hotel overlooks the river and Clarke Quay which is THE place to be, but only if you’re 18-30. Lots of bars and restaurants which were noisy and heaving with people and loud music. It was all a bit much for Kim and Matt who were muttering about not leaving the hotel again until the heat and humidity get a little more accepatable, which as we are less than 80 miles from the equator won’t be any time soon.

From over a land down-under

As we fly over Australia on our way home, a few thoughts before it all becomes a distant memory.

Would we want to be one of the £10 Poms? We understand these were people from the UK who were offered the chance to move to Australia for £10 , including moving their furniture and subsequent hostel accomodation for up to two years. In summary probably not, while the weather is tolerable at the moment (winter) all of the indications are that heat and humidity in the summer months would be unbearable for us and we’d be eaten alive by the insects.

With a climate capable of growing most crops, together with substantial oil and mineral reserves (highly sought after by China), used wisely there should be a buoyant future in Oz for a good few years.

Therefore the ideal situation would be a double aspect apartment overlooking both Sydney Harbour and the Opera House with the wealth to fly ‘First Class’ for holidays. We just missed one of the apartments, it sold to a Mr Russell Crowe for only $17 million.

There is no doubt that Oz is a very expensive place to visit, $9 for a small bottle of beer in one bar! Most items appear to be about twice the cost when compared with the UK apart from petrol which is 30% less.

We don’t have much luggage with us as we are supposed to be travelling light, to make it easier on public transport. So is the bulge which has appeared in Kim’s suitcase a pair of shoes, a kangaroo or a can of petrol?

Bye bye Brisbane

Today’s our last day in Oz and we’re starting to feel ready to come home.

Yesterday we asked a simple question about how long the South Bank had been developed, only to find that it had been completely devasted by the flooding, here, 18 months ago. In fact the river rose so high that it reached our hotel foyer and brought Brisbane to a standstill for several weeks. It’s difficult to imagine, our hotel is at least 500m from the river and 20m higher. The clean up and restoration was completed in only 8 months and the whole area looks fantastic.

Breakfast at Poppy’s, as usual, while we psych ourselves up for our public transport adventure to the airport. The new Airport tunnel opened yesterday but it’s the Airtrain for us! It sounds very futuristic and we have high hopes of gliding silently through the sky.

We hear rumblings of strikes and delays at Heathrow….perhaps we’ll stay here after all!!

Ice cream rules!!

Another warm sunny day in Brisbane so we decided to hire bikes and cycle along the river boardwalks. We had a 30 minute walk to the cycle hire, past pirates at the Maritime Museum and an unusual pelican sculpture in the river. When we got there, we were treated to some of the worst maintained hire bikes ever!

Nonetheless, we spent the morning negotiating determined cyclists, runners and pedestrians as we made our way along both sides of the Brisbane River . Kangaroo Point looked lovely and could win the vote for the place we’d most like to live in Oz.

Two weary Brays spent the afternoon snoozing by the hotel pool while the athlete made full use of gym and pool facilities.

Our final night deserved a good meal in a lovely Chinese restaurant on the South Bank, Obsession. Dessert was ice cream overload! We wandered to Movenpick, had two scoops of ice cream each before deciding that we needed to indulge in the deluxe tasting plate of 6 more scoops!

We waddled back to our hotel for our final night in Oz. Next stop, Singapore

Some other Pom…..

Last night was spent watching the sun go down from Fraser Island before an early night. We had to be up at 6.30 to make our transfer back to Brisbane!

We caught the ferry before 8am and had a great time chatting to the Island’s resident photographer. He kindly rang a mate to find the final results of the Tour for us. Apparently a couple of Poms came 1st and 2nd and some other Pom won the stage!!

We were met by a lovely cheery coach driver who made the 4 hour drive a real pleasure. He shared his local knowledge throughout the journey and was a joy to meet!

It’s good to be back in Brisbane, lots of cafes that stay open later than 8.30. we’ve missed the hustle and bustle although after 2 hours in a shopping mall the beach did seem appealing.

It may be the cafe life all day tomorrow or we may hire bikes. Only time will tell…

I’m not a celebrity but get me out of here!!

Our last night on Fraser Island and we feel we’re ready to return to civilisation. This place has the most wonderful breakfast which is a very civilised way to start the day…

After sorting out our nourishment we hired a 4wd to visit Lake Mckenzie which is fairly spectacular. We did find ourselves comparing it to Lake Windemere. We shared the journey with a lovely young Irish couple that we met on the first night whilst lost trying to find our room. It was great to have some company other than ourselves!

We’re back to civilisation tomorrow and will relish the internet, cafes that don’t close at 8 and (Kim never thought she’d say this) no sand between our toes!

We’ll upload some photos when we’re back in Brisbane. In the meantime please have some sympathy for us, we’ll be up by 6:30am tomorrow to catch the 7:50 ferry back to ‘Mr Grumpy Tours’. We really didn’t plan this part of the trip very well at all!!

We’re glad we did Fraser Island but feel no need to come back. If we want remote and quiet, we can stay at home. If we want hot,sunny pools, we can do the Med….

ust checked the weather in the UK, good to see you’re having better weather than us. We hope it last til we get home

Fraser Island redeems itself

Daylight dawned and the sun came out. we are staying in a room on stilts with views over a creek, across to the ocean. We had a lovely leisurely breakfast in a very calm relaxed environment. It was wonderful.

Matt went off on a guided canoe paddle around some of the creeks while Kim and John settled down to toast by the pool. Most visitors come to see the stunning scenery and wildlife so disappear off the day leaving the resort lovely and quiet. A warm relaxing day was just what was needed by the older Brays.

We wandered down to the jetty for the sunset which is meant to be spectacular. Not tonight though, the sky had clouded over but we were treated to the sight of a dolphin swimming just off the beach.

We should have checked the map!

Friday started in a lovely sunny Brisbane. Breakfast in Poppy’s Deli was followed by a walk along the river, around the pools and artificial beach. This is Kim’s type of city – clean, lots of cafes and a day that doesnt seem to start until after 10am. Very civilised.

We drove out to the airport to pick up our transfer to Fraser Island and were met by the world’s grumpiest driver. We were expecting a 2 hour drive, after 2 hours Mr Grumpy let us leave the coach for a comfort break. No more than 10 minutes or he would leave without us! 4 hours after leaving Brisbane, we arrived at Hervey Bay. We were abandoned with ‘your bus will pick you up here, don’t know what time but you’d better be waiting for it’. Off he went into the sunset leaving us rather bemused, tired and hungry. We were in big trouble with Matt because we’d assured him the journey was not much further than Australia Zoo!

It felt like we’d been abandoned in some backwater trading post from a wild west movie.

Currently we’re waiting patiently, hoping the stage coach arrives, we wouldnt want to spend the night here…….

Fraser Island, finally

We arrived at 8pm after a 2hour wait in Hervey Bay and a 45 minute ferry ride. We were shown all the sights, in the dark, and given the good news that we’d be unable to get a meal after 8.30! We were tired, hungry and then lost! The resort doesn’t do directions and we found ourselves, along with several other new arrivals, heading out along a boardwalk into the dark. With warnings of dingos in our minds,we finally found our new treehouse and ran to the nearest restaurant just before it closed. Not a great start to our stay!!

We all went to the zoo, zoo, zoo

We had a surprisingly good night in a hotel sandwiched between a main road and railway line and with bricks for pillows.

We started on our journey to Australia Zoo. The satnav got us lost and we had two unecessary trips through a toll tunnel. Is it a conspiracy with the fuel companies or city council? Finally we found ‘Bruce Highway’ and followed the road North to the Sunshine Coast.

We arrived at the zoo with no further mishap, past some stunning mountain scenes. A great day was had by all, including John ‘I don’t really do zoos’ Bray!

We saw the Wildlife Warriors Show. The crocs were impressive but the birds stole the show, particularly the Jabirus. On to feeding time with the Asian otters, before wandering off to get up close with koalas. The last show for us was with another croc, amazing creatures!

We’ve seen giant tortoises, a whole variety of lizards, snakes, wombats, cassowaries and, of course, the lovely Roo. John still needs convincing that we need one in the garden although he concedes that it would be preferable to a croc in the river!

Off to Fraser Island tomorrow and, despite coming back here afterwards, wish we’d allowed more time to explore this City. According to Dave and Ann who have lived here ‘there’s nothing much to see’ but it seems that we could have filled a few more days.

Dinner tonight was in a Chinese restaurant with a jazz trio playing, the sort of place with plenty of atmosphere that Pete would have made a bee line for. Al fresco eating with good food and great music!

We’re not sure if Fraser Island has wifi, John has just announced that we may not have flushable toilets…..

The Big Chill

We said goodbye to Palm Cove on the most glorious day, 28 degrees and 65% humidity. The beach and cove looked fantastic as reluctantly we departed for Brisbane. A visit to Cairns is definitely recommended if only to experience the wonderful airport which is small, clean and very efficient. Palm Cove was, pretty, very laid back and well worth the trip.

We were dressed for the tropics and touched down somewhere that felt like home, cold and wet! We picked up our upgraded hire car. All this way for british weather and a Ford Focus! We followed our Aussie voiced satnav to the Little Stanley area on South Bank and only got lost once! The hotel is very modern and we have a lovely spacious room complete with washing machine tumble dryer and kitchen diner, Kim was thrilled, she’s becoming rather obsessed with laundry facilities.

Of course we’re here specifically to visit our friend Dave. Oh no, we can’t!! He came back to the UK after we’d booked the trip, Whether this was a deliberate move may be the subject of our next poll.

Despite the rain, the South Bank looks very razzy with lots of shops and restaurants. They even have the equivalent of the French Autumn Gourmand and every other eating establishment is a chocolate restaurant, we shall enjoy exploring

Off to Australia Zoo tomorrow to fulfil one of Matthew’s dreams

Every home should have a kangaroo..

….they are fantastically cute animals. Anyway, back to our day. Our third early start in a row and we’re desperate for a lie in. John said Kim had booked too much in, Kim now reluctantly agrees.

Off to the Daintree River and rainforest and Cape Tribulation with Billy Tea Safaris. Our first stop was Mossman which processes the sugar cane that is grown in this area. The cane is transported from the plantations on its own railway and the steam from the processing factory can be seen for miles around.

Our next stop was a cruise up the Daintree River to learn more about the native plants and animals. We were treated to the sight of several snakes basking in trees, kingfishers, herons and….ta, da!! Estuarine Crocodiles! We saw the whole range from two week old to the alpha male, Scarface. A reptile to be treated with respect and caution ( much like our tortoises!). We were glad that he was happily dozing on the bank rather than trying to protect his territory from us. Measuring 4.5m long,he was a fearsome sight.

We left the boat for a drive up through the rainforest, ending with a guided walk. The history of this World Heritage Site is fascinating and almost as interesting as seeing trees with buttress roots. I know, we’re easily entertained.

Back to the 4wd for a short drive to our lunch stop. Despite our hunger, we had to feed the rescued kangaroos and wallabies while our barbie lunch was cooked by our guide. The small group of animals are very used to human contact and were lovely – big eyes, soft fur, very gentle and surprisingly light on their feet.

After lunch, it was a short drive to Emmagen Creek where swimming, Billy Tea, a fruit tasting and Damper were on offer. The creek was lovely and clear but, despite assurances that we were safe from crocs, the Bray family decided to stay on dry land. We’d experienced enough water to last a lifetime yesterday! The fruit tasting, led by our guides Matt and Drew, was great, the Billy Tea not a patch on Tetley and the Damper significantly improved by a good slug of Golden Syrup! The highlight for Matt was finding his first snake unaided. All we can say is it was a snake, as to what type? we’d have to make that up!

Our final stop of the day was Cape Tribulation, the slogan is ‘where the rainforest meets the reef’. The beach and its surroundings were spectacular, not even Cornwall could compete with this.

Finally three weary travellers returned for the final night in the tree house. John’s verdict on the day:’That was a bloomimg long way for an iffy cup ot tea and 34 mossie bites’

Finding Nemo……..

Another early start for our day out at the Barrier Reef and another cloudy day. The coach took us along the Captain Cook Highway to Port Douglas accompanied by some fantastic ocean views which were almost as spectacular as Cornwall.

We boarded the boat with a warning from the crew that we might like to take travel sickness tablets once on board as it was going to be a bumpy trip, Kim and Matt exchanged horrified looks and began to wonder what they’d let themselves in for.

Tablets and a cuppa later we were on our way on a very bouncy journey. John was smug, apparently it was no worse than riding a motorcross bike or driving an old British Sports Car, Kim and Matt concentrated on not embarrassing themselves!

An hour and a half later we arrived unscathed at our first of three dive sites on the Agincourt reef. Matt was off the boat snorkelling in a flash, Kim wasted time for half an hour before deciding to leave the boat, and where was John ?? Well, he needed to stay on the boat to make sure we were Ok and help us in and out!!

Luckily the next site was only 10 minutes on the boat and Matt was again off the boat in a flash, slightly cold but nothing was going to stop him getting the most from this experience (unlike his weedy parents)

A lovely lunch was provided. We couldn’t have done better in our kitchen, let alone in the narrow confines of a boat!

A short trip to the final site saw both John and Matt in the water despite the wind and cold. Matt was off like a fish, with his underwater camera, despite being blue with cold, following the tour guide around the reef. The views through the clear blue water looking at the coral, fish and other wildlife are indeed spectacular in an almost surreal way.

It was then time for another hour and a half of torture on the far bumpier return trip to Port Douglas and finally the comfort and stability of terra firma.

The reef is over 2000km in length and visible from space, but spectacular as it is, we are not in any great hurry to visit it again until they move it to dry land with a John Lewis and Pret a Manger, in fact Kim did say ‘no one told me it would be wet!!’

Back to the tree house for a much needed shower and glass of wine!!

Wot, no steam?!?

Early start for our trip to Kuranda, the morning was damp and overcast. In fact, rather similar to our driver. We were treated to his views on British politics and a detailed description of his motorbike which we were keeping him from riding!

The Kuranda Scenic Railway station was like a step back in time, lined with carriages and reminiscent of Victorian stations back home. The train trundled in on time and…… no pleasant aroma of steam!! At the helm was a diesel electric locomotive that wouldnt win any environmental awards. John was disappointed to say the least,
having been subjected to visiting many Welsh narrow gauge railways as a child , this wasn’t what was expected.

It remained wet and cloudy journey through the rain forest up to Kuranda, with just the occasional break in the cloud to see some of the stunning views across the Barron River. The railway was built to assist towns which were struggling with the gold rush but is now just a tourist attraction. By the time we reached Kuranda, the sun had worked it’s way through the clouds, yippee. Kim and Matt don’t get up early to spend a day in the rain.

We spent an interesting couple of hours, wandering around the markets in Kuranda trying the local Mango wine and liquorice flavoured ice cream which tasted as bad as it looked, before catching the sky rail cable car back. We had been advised by one local to make sure that we came back down using the Sky Rail partly because of the views, but also because over an hour of screeching brakes on the train tends to produce headaches of gigantic proportions. We were so glad the weather had cleared as we were treated to some fantastic views across the rainforest and the ocean beyond

We returned to our tree house to be greeted by our first serious incident of the holiday….. No Teabags!! Yes, we had survived flying on Friday the 13th, but no teabags is very serious. Luckily we have an international athlete with us who, seeing the look of panic on Kim’s face, sprinted to the shop. Choosing which type of teabag proved too much for him and he returned with salt and vinegar crisps instead. He is now an International Athlete with a limp……

Electric ants – how scared should we be??

the Chill Cafe bekoned us for breakfast with excellent poached eggs and Neil Young playing on the stereo in the background, it had the makings of a good day. I think we all know that it was John who noticed the music, Matt and Kim were too focussed on the menu.

We made our way into Cairns for the David Todd Memorial run, which is a practice run for the state cross country championships. Matthew won the race comfortably and we are very proud parents of an international athlete! Although we are in Oz, it’s a small world as we met a former commonwealth and Olympic runner who is a friend of the Dee family that Matt runs with at home. When we returned to the tree house that is our accomodation Matt had been left a nice letter of congratulations to go with his medal.

People at Palm Grove are taking the Aussie lifeystyle seriously, they barbecue their food on the beach and in the grounds of the apartments in the evenings and walk everywhere barefoot. We on the other hand are not so well prepared and, without a car, a little limited. This evening we sat on the balcony of our tree house with take-away noodles envious of the barbecue aroma wafting upwards from below.

On the bus into Cairns, earlier, we noticed the large signs ‘Beware the Electric Ants’. In common with UK wildlife concerns, a new non native is creating havoc in Queensland destroying vaarious wildlife in the area and it’s……..an ant!!! There are signs along the highway forbidding us from spreading them. We’ve now done our research and are reassured that we’re not contributing to the local destruction of flora and fauna.

Matt has adapted well to the lifestyle, we’re not sure how he’ll ever manage without a pool and hot tub. In fact, our next poll could be ‘pond’ or ‘hot tub’…….

£10 Pom and rainforest

We said a reluctant goodbye to Sydney this morning, took the most effortless flight of the trip to Cairns where we were met by our first £10 Pom, Roger. He came over to Oz with his family and furniture in 1970 they were provided with hostel accommodation for two years and has never looked back. On leaving the airport, we were hit by the change in climate, hot and humid. Luckily not as bad as HK or we may never have left the airport!

Palm Cove is very tropical and we’re staying in a small resort amongst the palms with the beach just across the road. It’s like an upmarket Center Parcs and we’re staying in a glorified tree house. It’s a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. As you can see from the photo, both the boys are full of life.

Luckily the Stinger season is over so we can bathe in the sea without wetsuits, but we have been warned to look out for salt water crocs. Apparently they can turn up at any time but there’s no need to worry!!