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 …