As you may or may not know, my father, Mr Tony Mant has recently been on a tour of Australia and he has been given a guest author spot on this very journal.
Here it is. ENJOY!
'Jake and David invited me to contribute to their journal as a guest author. When Jake and my paths crossed in Melbourne towards the end of my trip, we spent the time watching cricket and tennis and did not get the opportunity to compose/insert anything. So my contribution is from home, having arrived back at Heathrow at 06.30 on Saturday the 26th after a super didgeridoo stop tour of Australia (the Aussie equivalent of a whistle-stop).
I arrived in Sydney on the 2nd of January and started off badly by confusing a $50 note for a $20 one and significantly overpaying the taxi driver. This hurt and the excuse is that it was dark, an unfamiliar currency and my brain was addled by the 24 hour trip. Jake looked after me for the next two days, taking me to Manly where the group spent Christmas, a half hour ferry trip across Sydney harbour, and to the Blue Mountains where they had also spent some time. I met the girls and David briefly in their hostel in Kings Cross.
I then set off for Cairns, with recommendations from the lads about what I should do up there. I had only pre-booked a hotel for my first 3 nights in Australia, which was quite a way away over the harbour bridge and about £50 a night. I picked a hotel from the automatic accommodation system at Cairns airport. This turned out to be excellent value, at about £40 per night including breakfast for an en suite with television, fridge etc. I spent a couple of days in the Atherton Table Lands, staying overnight in a Lodge where I was asked if I minded sharing a dormitory with 2 young ladies. I did not but made some adjustments to my nocturnal habits. We made a few forays into the rain forest, swam in a volcanic lake and a waterfall pool and did some mountain biking and canoeing. With great patience, courage and fortitude, which included walking though mud and long grass in bare feet after being told how many of the deadliest creatures in the world lived around there, we spotted a cassowary, platipus and tree kangaroo in the wild. The full, difficult-to-spot set. When I got back to my Cairns hotel, I had been upgraded to a bigger room in a newer part of the hotel.
The next day trip was to Cape Tribulation (Captain Cooke was getting a bit despondent when he was around there the first time) which included some croc spotting on the Daintree river. My snorkelling trip to The Reef had mixed success. I regained the knack (after 25 years) quite quickly when swimming from a sandy cay, but was less good swimming from the back of the boat with a less well fitting mask in choppy water. I booked accommodation from Cairns airport at Ayers Rock (and in fact all the rest of the hotels on the trip) with the aid of a travel book that Cathie had given to me for Christmas.
I was surprised at the price, for what turned out to be a fairly basic room - twice what I had paid in Cairns. But this was in Yulara, which is a purpose-built resort close to Ayers Rock, with no competition. Alice Springs offers a wider range of hotels and hostels but is about 270 miles from Uluru – the rock. I visited Uluru at dawn and then made long walks in the spectacular Kata TjuÃ…£a (Many Heads or the Olgas) and the next day to Kings Canyon, both of which had been justifiably recommended to me by one of my dorm b****es.
I liked Perth and had a memorable wine tasting trip up the Swan river. At lunch the male deck hand played cool modern jazz piano and the female one sang jazz standards, there and on the trip back. The captain assisted waiting on table. Just the job for a wine supping, jazz fan.
I made a brief stop in Adelaide where I cycled along the river to the beach and visited old friends of Cathie’s. My hotel was in the red light district and the seediest of the lot. I met Jake again in Melbourne and we had an excellent day out at the Australian Open, watching 7 hours of tennis in the second covered arena for about £12 each. Jake left the next day for Alice Springs via Adelaide.
My last few days were in Sydney in the YWCA (for which my mixed dorm experience qualified me) another excellent-value, city-centre establishment. I did a lot of walking, visited some other friends of Cathie’s near Manly (for which my trip with Jake had prepared me) climbed a harbour bridge pylon and visited Bondi beach.
By design, I avoided the Barmy Army and got less stick than expected from the Aussies about our cricket team’s performance. I never quite found an beer that suited me; some that tasted wonderful after a 3 hour canyon walk in 40 degrees did not taste as good in other circumstances. I learnt a lot about the fauna and flora from knowledgeable and enthusiastic, generally young people and that thongs there are worn on the feet and not up the bottom.
It was a terrific trip and maybe the lure of the wildlife will persuade Cathie to come next time'