Saturday 28th January
We left Chepstow on the National Express Coach at 12.40 after being waved off by Laura & Ian and Chloe & Sam in bright sunshine. Hard to believe they had snow forecast for the next day (did you get any?). We arrived at the Heathrow Terminal 3 drop off point 10 minutes early and made a beeline for the café for a 'nice cup of tea'! Several hours later we had been through all the security and they let us on the Qantas plane, taking off on time at 22.30.
Sunday 29th January
Luxury! We had individual screens in the back of the seat in front with free headphones. The entertainment system gave us a choice of around 10 newly released films, around 20 older ones, a selection of episodes from numerous TV programmes, Qantas radio channels, and lots of CDs from artists of different genres. Each seat also had a little pillow, a blanket, an eye mask and a mini toothbrush and tiny tube of toothpaste. As well as a meal and breakfast during the flight (both very acceptable) we were given a snack bag with crisps, biscuits, water and polo mints.
As daylight broke, the flight attendants insisted that the window shades were pulled down even though it was daylight outside and we assumed this was to help us get adjusted to a different time zone. Martin had his TV screen tuned to the 'Flight Path' channel all the way, which showed real time information about where we were above the world below. At certain points he would lift the window shade to check the view. Although we were above the clouds most of the time we were able to see Kazakhstan, and the snow covered mountains in Siberia really clearly in the brilliant sunshine. Each time the shade went up the light shone across the inside of the cabin. It seemed wrong that we were being lulled into sleep in the darkened cabin when there was all this outside the window to see.
Martin managed some sleep, but I wasn't comfortable or exhausted enough (yet) to sleep properly, although I did doze off a couple of times during the second film I watched (Contagion) and didn't see the ending. The first film I watched was 'The Help'. A very thought provoking film about 1960's domestic American life. A young author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maid's point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis. I would recommend this film to Chloe (taking Media & Cultural Studies).
5 hours in Hong Kong airport went by quickly. There were free electric charging points everywhere, free wifi, and the usual bright & shiny shopping areas. Everything was so clean and spacious. There was a row of individual shops that included Versace, Gucci, Prada and similar names. All these shops were empty of customers though.
We knew we should have eaten Chinese food while we were in Hong Kong, but we went conservative and opted for the very chic Pizza Express Restaurant. I ordered one of the 'specials' and had Smoked Salmon, Asparagus and Capers on mine. Yum!
Our cases were automatically transferred onto the next Qantas flight, but the security process was more strict with signs everywhere about not taking certain items (ANY food or drink - although I was allowed to keep the Polos we were given on the last plane - seeds, plants, drugs, items made of wood, soil etc.) into Australia otherwise heavy fines and jail sentences were promised.
A window seat again for Martin. This time we were not asked to put the window shades down as we were actually travelling through the night so it was dark anyway. We had the same type of screens, pillows and blanket etc. Another nice meal and breakfast too.
Monday 30th January
Before breakfast we watched a deep orange sunrise above the clouds over the western coast of Australia. Although we had been gone from the UK for over 24 hours it was only now that I felt my holiday had begun.
The plane arrived at Perth Airport about 30 minutes ahead of time because the wind was blowing in the right direction. A nice strong wind, which meant that that as we came down below the clouds it was nice and bumpy until we landed :os
After collecting our suitcases we went through the immigration and security checks joining a queue of people hoping we wouldn't be chosen to open our suitcases after we and they had been through the Australian scanners. But for some reason a guard seemed to think he had spoken to us earlier and we were waved through to the exit doors without even going through the scanners! No one else had done that. I think I felt more guilty then , than if I'd actually had something in my suitcase; we bypassed the long snaking queue of waiting passengers and out into the arrivals area.
It was 8.30am and weren't in any hurry to get out of Perth airport as we knew our room at the Kings Park Motel might not have been available. We sat in the airport and had a 'nice cup of tea' and a doughnut :o)
We rang the Motel shortly after to say we had arrived and they said our room was ready for us whenever we wanted. We got a taxi and had a few hours 'proper' sleep.
After our sleep we walked (slowly, as any faster would bring you out in a sweat) into the 'strip' of Subiaco (pronounced Soobee-ackoh) which is the road where all the shops and restaurant were. The equivalent of our High Street in small towns I suppose. Went up one side of street and down the other to before choosing where to eat. Lovely meal at the Witches Cauldron (slightly expensive but in Perth most things are expensive apparently).
Tuesday 31st January
Up early. We knew beforehand that the temperature in Perth was going to be very hot at around 30 degrees Celsius as we had been watching the weather forecasts on line, but the forecast today was 38. (Later that evening the news said it was the hottest place in the world (cities) that day!)
Our Motel was outside of the centre of the city on the edge of the 1003 acre Kings Park, chosen because we wanted to visit the park. It is the largest inner city park in the world. Outside the Motel instead of pigeons in the trees and wandering around the verges there were white Cockatoos. We walked through the Park, from a family park area with play and picnic areas with free gas barbeques (everywhere was extremely neat and clean, no rubbish or graffiti anywhere,) on into the bushland part of the park along tree lined roads called Honour Avenues. Each tree along the avenues has an individual plaque dedicated by family members to Western Australian service men and women who died in World War I and World War II. The Avenues took us to the Botanical Gardens in the Park, nearer to Perth Centre. There were fantastic views over the city from the escarpment on which the Botanic Gardens were planted. In the Gardens was a metal and glass tree top walkway also with spectacular views. After lunch in the Gardens we went into the city on the Sightseeing Bus. Sky scrapers surround the older buildings dotted around the centre. Very hot day but a lovely breeze; the Fremantle Doctor is a wind that blows through the city every afternoon like clockwork. It is a very upmarket laid back city, the people are dressed well, and walk sedately (too hot to rush anywhere) to and from their business.
We had done too much walking today to want to go out to eat so had homemade microwavable roast dinners from the Motel. As well as tea and coffee making facilities there was also a microwave, toaster and fridge in the room.
Wednesday 1st February
Today we took the Ferry (1hr 15 min) from Perth down the Swan River to Rottnest Island. On the river we passed 'Millionaires Row' where some of the most expensive houses in Australia are, including the most expensive at $85M. We also passed the sand bar where the black swans, after which the river is named, nested. Rottnest Island (six miles by 2 and a half) is a 'holiday island' with 23 beaches and 60 bays. A small bus took us round the island in 45 minutes. The beaches were almost empty as we were out of the main holiday season. We sat on the main beach at Thompson Bay and ate lunch. Suddenly there was a brief rain shower! I went paddling in the Indian Ocean. There was an area cordoned off from the boats and yachts for swimming. Just outside the floats of the cordoned off area we could see a triangular fin above the water. It looked like a shark fin not a dolphin! There are sharks in the area and a fatal attack took place a few months ago. A couple of people swimming threw something at the fin and it disappeared. Very hot again today and before the Freemantle Doctor arrived it was very uncomfortable out of the shade.
We opted for a Chinese takeaway delivered from Fast & Delicious down the road. One portion of what we had would have fed three people and we had two between us!
Thursday 2nd February
Up really early today to get a 6.45 taxi from the motel to the airport for our next flight to Adelaide. We arrived in plenty of time despite being advised by Reception to book it so early because of the rush hour. Rush Hour?? They don't know the meaning of the words… 3 lanes on the road and not enough traffic to fill even one of them! Another nice Qantas breakfast on the plane. Arrived in Adelaide Airport after 3 hours and collected a Mitsubishi Outlander for our drive to Melbourne.
The car was an automatic so I suggested a drive around the car park for Martin to get used to it. Unfortunately the direction we took was along the one way system straight out of the car park and onto the highway! Away we went down the road out of Adelaide towards our stop for the night - Murray Bridge. Signposting was very good so we got on the right road immediately. Martin got the hang of the automatic stuff quickly, but tended to indicate with the windscreen wipers.
Not long after we left the city we spotted a tourist sign for 'Mount Lofty'. We turned off and were rewarded with far reaching views over Adelaide and the surrounding countryside, although a tour guide (speaking to his minibus passengers) said it was a misty day and the views were not as good as normal. After an hour or so we resumed our journey to Murray Bridge. The road was a dual carriageway and was virtually empty of traffic even though it was the main highway. The countryside was almost 'English looking'; gently rolling hills & fields. The only difference was that the grass was parched and yellow and the trees had white trunks and branches visible through the leaves instead of brown ones. We arrived in Murray Bridge and found the hotel easily due to a printout from google street view. We booked in to the Balcony On Sixth Lodge, and were given room 12. 'The Balcony' as it is known locally, is situated on the upper floors of a listed building. The room had a colonial style to it in dark wood, with a high ceiling and an old chunky ornate four poster frame around the divan. We walked down to the riverfront and ate in a restaurant surrounded by trees that the white cockatoos were roosting in.