Australia 2004, Part 1: Sydney and Brisbane

We visited Australia for the first and, so far, only time in the summer of 2004. It was something we had looked forward to for years and we expected it to be memorable, which indeed it was, but not always for good reasons as you will find out as my story unfolds.

We arrived in Sydney at 6am one morning, having flown from Glasgow via Heathrow and Bangkok with no stopovers. It was my first time travelling Business Class (thanks to airmiles) which meant we got some sleep on the journey, but I still spent the first week with severe jet-lag. We had three nights in Sydney and spent large chunks of the time wandering around the harbour area in a complete daze.

One of the things that strikes me looking back over this whole trip is how few photographs we have compared to the number we would take today. John had a digital camera, but I was still carrying a camera with film. I’m not sure why, especially as many of my pictures replicate the digital ones, though there is an advantage to that because I have carefully labelled them on the back with exact locations. As an example of this lack, on our second day in Sydney we took an early ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, walked the Manly Scenic Walkway to Spit Bridge, and took the bus from there back to the city. I remember this walk being lovely, but we have only two digital images and a handful of prints!

On our final evening we climbed to the summit of the Harbour Bridge, which was a great experience. I remember climbing a ladder, putting my head through a hatch and feeling a train whizz past. It felt like inches away but I’m sure was at a much safer distance!

The following day, we flew to Brisbane to stay three nights with my aunt and uncle, Elspeth and Ian McKay. Elspeth is the middle one of my father’s three younger sisters, and although she and Ian had lived in Australia all my life we had met at various points over the years. Some of their spells back in the UK were quite lengthy, and I remember Elspeth looking after Dad and me when Mum was in hospital having my younger sister.

The highlight of our visit was the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which we discovered also housed kangaroos and a variety of birds and reptiles.

Ian died a few years ago, but it would be nice to think we could visit Elspeth again some day. If we do, it will be at the end of the holiday when my body has recovered from jet-lag and I’m less likely to disgrace myself by falling asleep every evening!

From Brisbane we flew to Cairns for the next part of our adventure: visits to the coral reef and the rainforest. Things were about to go wrong …


  1. Anabel, It is definitely fun for me to read about some of your earlier adventures. Especially since I only started blogging two years ago. You do remind me how the digital age has changed the way we take photographs. We had a major Europe trip in 2002 and our photo experience (and costs) were significantly different.

    The “Climber Certificate” made me smile. I love the photo of you and your husband noting the bridge climb. Actually, all of the photos make me smile.xx

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  2. Ooh, I’m looking forward to reading about the misadventures! (Not happy to you had to go through them, but they do make for the funniest stories after the fact!) Definitely jealous of your business class travel, even though it doesn’t seem to have helped much. I was stuck in economy the whole way to New Zealand, and we were lucky that the longest leg of the flight was pretty empty, so I was able to get a row to myself and lie down for a bit, because there is no way I would have made it just sitting upright the whole time. It was miserable enough as it was, since it ended up being 39 hours of travel!

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    • Because John travelled so much for work we were able to use business class several more times after this on his air miles. It definitely helps having a bed (of sorts). I don’t think I could contemplate a journey that long in economy, though when we’re both retired we can take time out to stopover somewhere which would break it up. Assuming, of course, that the world ever gets back to normal.

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  3. It is a shame about the jet lag which for me is random but it does recede the more you travel.. I do recommend stopovers as a partial cure .. there are many great options. I hope your upcoming misfortune is not too bad and look forward to reading more. Also, surely time for a return visit?

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    • You’re definitely right, but we only had 3 weeks and stopovers would have eaten into that. We had given up waiting on a time when we could take longer over it, essentially retirement. I’m there of course, and John is easing towards it – but look what’s happened! I’d love a return visit, but can’t see it happening any time soon. I did conquer jet lag eventually, it doesn’t bother me so much now, though we’ve never travelled that far again. Mostly North America.

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  4. Looks like a seriously great trip. You were so brave climbing up the bridge, wonderful memories of a classic place. Really liked Sydney when we visited but for us Brisbane outshone it completely. Great city with lovely people.

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  5. You’ve brought back some happy memories for me. I visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I was surprised by the feel of a koala’s fur – it was more like a dense scouring pad than the soft fur I’d imagined, and the emu’s feathers felt crisper to touch than they look. Stroking the kangaroos was just like stroking dogs I thought. 🙂

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