Monthly Archives: June 2013
Match day came around once again and my nerves were in full flow! The not knowing for definite if I had a ticket for the match combined with the actual nerves for the big match itself was making my tummie rumble something chronic. I had a catch up call with Fliss on how the day was going to work and what we have been up to and checking in that all of my group are ok. Thankfully she confirmed that we definitely both had match tickets for this evening – one less thing to be nervous of! She also said that we are two tickets short for the final test and that as Vic wanted us both there I needed to go out and find two.
Cue MASS panic.
Down I went to concierge to find out where the Australian equivalent of Ticketmster office was so that I could go down and buy two on the credit card. They also looked up for me that there were some available but that they were single tickets and couldn’t see from the online booking system where they were, as in how far away from each other. I found out where it was and, in Challenge Anneka mode, off I went searching the streets of Melbourne for the office. Well it wasn’t where they had told me but I went into the theatre where I had been told it was to find out where the office really was, they pointed me in the direction of the office that is located on the edge of China Town which shut at two.
Now most of you already know I don’t do running as a rule. But if it was a case of getting a ticket for the final test or not, running it was going to have to be! So I ran, and I mean RAN (like running for my life ran), across town to make sure that I got there before anyone else got the tickets and the place closed for the rest of the weekend. I was possibly the actual colour of the Lions shirt by the time that I reached the shop and dripping with sweat & gasping for breath. On further looking it transpired that the two single platinum tickets that they had were not only one behind the other but they were also both on the aisle. Could not be more perfect if we had tried. Done. Bought. I confessed my undying love to the elderly gentleman behind the counter who did look somewhat bemused with my admittance. Tickets in hand I gently strolled back to the hotel, taking in some very big breaths to try and recover from the over exertion of the trip to buy the tickets! Happy to have the tickets not only in my pocket but also confirmed for the final test. Once back at the hotel I had to have a lie down to try and recover and get my heart rate back down to something resembling a normal rate!
Pre match hospitality was in a venue space in the Docklands area which was pretty much bang next to the Ethiad Stadium. It was rather a random place and not the easiest to find – I was very glad that Fliss had given me a few directions as to where it was once we got off the bus as it was not easily labelled! We had an open bar for 2 hours before the match and some sensational nibbles including individual portions of fish & chips. As Sophie & I had fed up with pasta pre match I was not really wanting much to drink. I got very edgy as I didn’t have my ticket in my hand still whilst we were in the Black Sail Bar until very late. The obligatory photo of it was of course taken and posted on Facebook!
Having played ‘heavy’ on the door for the majority of the evening it was lovely to be able to mingle for a little for the last hour or so before the match. Shared the joyous news that I had in my hand the ticket and if I recall was to be seen stroking it and kissing it at one point! There’s always one!! Lovely to see some of those that have been further afield and to catch up with the couple that I was sat next to at the welcome dinner on the first Friday night in Brisbane, which now seems months ago.
We headed on over to the Ethiad Stadium, a short walk along the dockside and the masses swelled as we got closer with the atmosphere booming and becoming more intense the closer that we got. It was amazing. There were loads of people handing out #seaofred try signs and red face paint – a brilliant idea I have to say. But I’m not sure that it will quite top my face painting efforts in South Africa?! We managed to pick up a few of the Australian bright yellow hats that were being handed out in a hope of stopping the Stadium being the sea of red again! The chants coming in had me in stitches – #you’reonlywearingyellow’cosit’sfree. We purchased the desired programmes and made the trek up to our seats stopping off at the facilities first – the ladies I never had to queue for in the stadium, but the men’s were absurd!!
In my seat I just soaked it all up again. Looked at the sea of red, took in how little effect the yellow hats seem to be having. Pinched myself that I was actually here, that this is all very, VERY real and savoured the moment. I still, even though I am in the middle of it, can not believe that this is all happening to me. That I am actually doing this, it’s all still very much like I am in a dream and that I am going to wake up every moment to Geri nuzzling into my neck as my early morning wake up call like she does.
Then the photos for the mementoes started.
I was sat next to Soph for the match which was fabulous. I was so nervous in anticipation about what was about to happen on the pitch in front of us, just in the bottom of my tummie I could feel this horrible notion that we weren’t actually going to be able to do it. I could see it being like so many of the Bath disappointments that I have seen over the years. When on paper we should be able to, but when it comes down to it – nope. Just wasn’t pulling together.
Sadly come the end of the match that was exactly what happened. We were unsuccessful & theres a stadium full of Australians that were over joyed. Man, was I thankful that I had actually run out this morning to go and buy the two extra Sydney tickets. There was no way that there would be any left now!
My group were all present, correct and waiting for the nod that the taxi was here, we had no stragglers or anything and I had them all on the bus and singing songs whilst we sorted out what the others were all going to be doing. All a job well done on the organisation front, lets just hope those on the field can be as well organised for the final test, hey!!
Funnily enough this was the most popular of the tours for those wanting to book on with me. In total there were 10 of us that headed out of town and into the scenic Yarra Valley for a spot of wine tasting for the day. We had 3 Australians on the bus as well who were quite quiet initially but warmed up throughout the day as the tasting went on!
It did feel somewhat wrong to be starting a wine tasting tour at ten in the morning?! We tasted 12 different wines, but I was a little bemused that we weren’t shown how to taste the full flavour and so on. We were just given a bit in the bottom of the glass told what the grape was each time & carried on. I think at the first vineyard, Oakridge, we tasted a total of 12 different wines – 6 white & 6 red. I tasted them all, of course, but was not drinking all of the tasters of the reds.
Loosened up on we pressed to the delicious cheese shop from the dairy farm in the valley, little samples of goats cheese which, were I staying longer, I’d have purchased the full piece of. It was simply delicious, so creamy and fresh tasting.
Our second vineyard of the day was Coombe Farm where again we tasted around five or six of the red as well as the whites.
The lady telling us the details of all of the wines was a wonderful character and full of great humour. I clicked part way through that Lord Vesty is one of the other syndicate members in a couple of the horses that Dad has had an interest in over recent years. His daughter as well, of course I was at junior school with – Flora, but hardly remember her to be honest. Small world and all that! She reminded us of all the horrendous bush fires of 2009 and showed us where the fires came up to on their property, many of the vineyards in the surrounding area were badly damaged but thankfully the wind changed JUST as the fires had come up to the edge of the property the winds changed and blew it in a totally different direction. It was not far from here that the picture of the fireman giving the koala some water was taken.
We headed on to where we were going to be dining (the Rochford Winery). No buffet here, instead we were treated to a delicious choice of main meals of which I chose a slow cooked beef off the choices. First though we had another wine tasting session. This would have, in my view, been far better placed AFTER we had eaten as we were all feeling rather topped up on the old vino already! Kay & I for one were incredibly giggly at nothing much in particular & she couldn’t stop at one point!
The lady giving us the wine tasting session was teaching us the way of doing it and helping us through the whole process a lot more than previous vineyards. Smelling it, swirling it, swooshing it spitting it which as I am sure you can possibly gather had us in stitches even more!
Our last stop was the Australian version of Moët & Chandon (the name escapes me at present & my guide book is not currently to hand) After a full glass of wine at lunchtime I was feeling pretty full of wine and so decided to be sensible and not actually taste all of the different ones here and only tried the first sparkling before passing quietly and nipping outside to soak up the sunshine and the views.
On the way home we stopped in on a chocolate shop and partook in a few samples, but managed to refrain from buying any to take home! The views were still stunning of all the vineyards out in rows, ok wrong time if year to see them growing but you could imagine the scene in summer time and how very different but yet even more beautiful the scenery would be.
Thursday was my really long day with the 0710 pick up to head down the Great Ocean Road and see some of the stunning scenery down there that I had been told by several sources that I simply HAD to do. Thankfully the weather was fine, a tad overcast but the main thing was that it was not raining so I am not complaining one little bit. It was a smaller group than the previous day but a long old journey down to the sights.
The traffic coming out of Melbourne, the daily commuters was horrendous and we were very thankful not to be stuck in that! When there is pretty decent public transport, certainly puts the UK to shame, in the city – I do wonder why people choose to sit for hours nose to tail on a motorway every morning.
The Great Ocean Road basically hugged the coast line heading south and reminded me of the road in South Africa where Dad had a freak out over the vertical drop over the edge of the cliff owing to his vertigo. There wasn’t that much of a drop though on this really. The road had been man made as in the had been a group of workers in the 1920’s that went along with dynamite blowing some of the rock face up to enable a smooth driving surface could be created along the edge.
As you can imagine, there were many stunning views along the way of the rugged coastline as well as some of the most sublime looking beaches, some of which had surfers on, I could imagine the area being absolutely heaving in the summer months as it is just so picturesque and some of the beaches just seemed so huge! The road would become a total nightmare when there is a rock fall as the road would be totally cut off and there were not too many roads leading back into the countryside that I spotted on route and so I can only imagine that the diversion could be a hell of a lot of miles!
We stopped off at a spot that our guide for the day/driver, Max, knew there were possibly some koalas in the wild as well as some rather tame birds that he had brought some bird seed for. I’m not talking any old birds, lorikeets, parakeets beautifully coloured and they would come and eat put of your hand. Just as we came close and without any food in our hands they all started swooping down and landing on us – our heads, or arms, shoulders & hands. Incredibly scary at first until you got used to it as the feeling of them landing and there being so many it really was quite unnerving. Can’t help but shriek and swear. Once I’d got a little confidence up I asked for some bird seed and let them all descend on me as they fed from my hand. Amazing experience & I was lucky to come away with a clean coat & head!!
We stopped for lunch at the Cape Otway Lighthouse, a quick sausage, potatoes and salad before hitting the road again before spotting some more koalas in their natural habitat just asleep in the trees, they just look so random! We headed on further down to first of all the Otway Rainforest which has som of the tallest eucalyptus trees in Australia in it. The peace and tranquility of just listening to the water trickling through was so serene it was blissful. We had about twenty mins or so walking along the broadwalk before it was back in the van and off to Gibson’s Beach, which would have easily been the Australian setting for Broadchurch!
From there we headed down to Gibson’s Steps which lead down to Gibson’s Beach which is pretty much the gateway to the 12 Apostles. The huge foaming sea was very strong and you could tell that there were some vicious currents out there damned nearly got caught at one point!! The beach isn’t patrolled and so not recommended for swimming obviously, the tide seems to come in pretty quickly and so it was easy to see how people would easily get caught out there!! The steps were originally carved into the cliffs in the 19th century but have been replaced by concrete steps.
From here it was on again to the main sight of the 12 Apostles. The weather over time has eroded away the limestone and has helped to create a wonderful series of blow holes, rock stacks, gorges and arches. Even though it is named so there are actually only 6 apostles that are visible from the impressive snakes of the broadwalks out to give us better views of the coastline.
I once again bumped into the couple from the Royal Oak who were obviously doing a day trip too. But on the way back in to the bus and walking though the visitor centre, pretty pointless I have to ay, not a patch on the one at Stonehenge which is the same sort of thing., I bumped into a Pink Leopard from Dubai that I met out in South Africa on the Gulliver’s trip for the last lions tour. (Brian & Roger) my god it’s quite scary how small the world really is?! The views were amazing despite the slight sea mist that was starting to appear. The sea was still an amazing colour and I could, honestly have taken photos all day of that view!
We moved further on down again into Port Campbell National Park and visited the Loch Ard Gorge and again headed down to sea level. Known as one of Shipwreck Coast’s most notorious bits as it has taken out so many boats and the stories are the only thing that are left. We headed back after this one as it was by then a good 3 hours to head back into Melbourne. The vies today though will stay with me for quit a few years. I can really see myself coming back to this area to do a bit more exploring and just chilling out in the slightly warmer weather.
The morning after the Rebels match meant a lie in for me – perfect! Certainly needed after my only night of a fair few beers with friends & not far to walk back to the hotel on my own! I took it very slowly as I had a busy few couple of days coming up with a number of trips out booked for the following few days with some early starts!
The first was a half day trip which was concluded with a visit to the world famous Little Penguins of Phillip Island. After being picked up at the hotel just after lunch in a massive coach we picked up more on route and headed off to Churchill Island initially. The day was beautiful, blue skies and thankfully not too cold. We have been pretty lucky with it all things considered. The scenery was amazing with the water so calm and quiet – so serene. The photographic opportunities were a plenty with some beautiful reflections on the water.
We headed to a Koala Conservation Centre which was very different to the environment that we last saw the koalas in at Lone Pines in Brisbane. This time they were in much more of an open environment and way up in the trees so it was a case of trying to spot them as there were tree top boardwalks around a specific area where they were living which was quite a way off the ground. They really are amazing animals and so seriously cute! Also spotted a Kookaburra and a Wallaby hopping around in the park.
Our final stop of the day was Penguin Parade. Described as a world phenomenon, it is where the Little Penguins return from the sea to their burrows each evening at dusk crossing the beach at a waddle to do so. There are no photos to show of this as cameras etc are obviously banned so as not to disturb the penguins.
Here is a YouTube clip as we weren’t allowed to take any photos or videos or anything.
It was an extraordinary experience which I feel privileged to have seen. It was pretty nipster as you sit on the pavilion overlooking the beach staring at the stretch of water in front if you awaiting the little things to pop up & start their waddle across the beach to the safety of their burrows. After watching this beautiful sight I then slowly made my way back up to the visitor centre where you could see, from the walkways, the penguins arriving back home and having a natter with their neighbours and friends.
They are so called the Little Penguin as they are all around 33cm high, literally tiny and simply adorable. Despite seriously feeling the cold I could have stayed there for hours just observing the beauty of nature in all it’s glory. Thankfully I resisted the temptation to buy a stuffed one to take home, as soft and cuddly as they were!
Decided to eat in the hotel bar as the price wasn’t too bad, I could catch up with any of the others from the group and I wouldn’t have too late a night as I had a somewhat ridiculous 0710 start in the morning!
Caught up with James, who I first met out in South America back in 2001, on Sunday morning before we headed to the airport. We walked down Southbank and went on the citycat before having a coffee & a bite to eat at a little place in Teneriffe before he & Michael dropped me back at the hotel.
Managed to get everyone checked in & through security no problem, thankfully! Noticed that Kev had been on his wifi moments before & so messaged as I was sure that they said that they were flying down to Melbourne that afternoon too. Yup they were in the airport so legged it down to where they were as we were slightly delayed boarding, caught up with them & what they had been up to – amused to say it wasn’t hard to spot Kev as he too was in his Bath Shirt!
Spent the first couple of days in Melbourne being quite lazy in regards to sightseeing. I had a good read through who was going where post Melbourne as I was starting to get myself VERY confused. After popping to the Visitor Centre in Federation Square and researching what we could do and so on, I went ahead and booked the tours that I had been talking about with others in the group. I managed to pop into a couple of sports shops to see what the prices of the Lions tops where & if they had any other merchandise that we didn’t have in the UK – OMG the strip is $120 as are all the other official strips, that’s absurd. I couldn’t find much other merchandise that we didn’t have in the UK. I found a fleecy blanket and a stubbie holder which I got.
Spent the afternoon sorting out the transfers and bits & getting my head around the next week or so! I also did more research on the possibilities in Cairns for my group as there are several expressing an interest in some of those similar to things I’d like to do. Just found out timings and so on & if there was space on the days that some wanted. I washed some of my clothes in the sink – not paying laundry in the hotel for my socks & undies?!!
Match day came round again & prepared for the colder weather it was the most beautiful day & of course, in the shirt rather sticky!! We had prematch hospitality in Transport Bar, literally bang smack in the middle of Federation Square & we had a private are for our group once again & once again sharing it with the Trevor Brennan Group. I enjoyed being a ‘heavy’ on the door banning people without bands! With it starting from 3pm & make your own way there, we had them all turning up in dribs & drabs to the bar but you could tell as the kick off came closer & closer by the sheer volume of red shirts all around!
Originally Sophie wasn’t going up he going to the match as one of her group wanted an extra ticket for their son & so it would be hers that she would have given up. In the end tho it was decided that she should be with her group & I was without a ticket. My tummie went. I know it’s not a test match & ours were never guaranteed, but I just so wanted to be there. Thankfully it was all in hand, I had a ticket I just wouldn’t be sitting with our group. No bother, I had a ticket – sitting on my own did not bother me!! I ended up behind the posts around 8 rows back, surrounded pretty much by Rebels fans which of course meant I’d just have to shout more!!
The Lions chant in the stadium was phenomenal and of course we nilled them! A couple of very sloppy passes from our backs I must say, thankfully Faz’s kicking was right on target though! Zebo was also being chanted at one stage too, it must be such an amazing feeling for the players hearing that – both as a team & individually!
Headed back to the bar post match having managed to cram onto a tram & narrowly avoided getting stuck in the middle of some harsh words in the carriage. As I went to order a drink as I got there, who should be standing next to me but Lou! & they had not even got my texts telling them where I was! As there was no post match hospitality it was a free for all so I introduced them to some if the group & caught up with them for the evening – a total added bonus!
Match day finally arrived & after discussion last night, I was going to put the suggestion forward of anyone coming with myself & one of my couples to visit Lone Pine Koala Park after everyone had collected their match tickets from me in the lobby. I managed to round up a group of 9 of us in total to share a cab up there including Sophie as well. Having read & realised that you can cuddle a koala & hand feed the kangaroos & wallabies I was as hyper as anything like a kid in a candy shop!! This greatly amused everyone I think, and they certainly seemed to feed off my enthusiasm!!
I was taken for a fool by some of them that told me that there was a bird in one of the cages that sounds like it was saying ‘Emma’ – fell for it hook line & bloody sinker. The buggers had got one of the keepers who was cleaning in one of the bird pens & was hiding behind a bush to say ‘Emma’ just as I walked past. I could see that I was never going to live this one down as I sucked it up (I thought it was like a parrot that repeated what people said – hence my excitement & utter gullibility, in my defence!!)
Seeing the koalas for the first time was phenomenal. Really, honestly, breathtaking. I was in utter heaven. They are SO cute its absurd & some of the positions that they sit in is ridiculous?!! It can’t be comfy – surely!!! They sleep for 18-20 hours a day so I guess if we were visiting them in a Zoo there would only be a couple of them but here there were over 100. The sanctuary started off with 2 in 1927 and has grown and grown ever since. With the retirement home, kindergarten and variety of other areas where the koalas were we managed to see loads of them. It is sad that we were at the wrong time of year for the joeys to be climbing on the backs of their mums, but hey – you can’t have everything! Instantly boosted to my favourite animal EVER. I really had to stop myself from buying a $35 large stuffed toy of one!!
Of course I HAD to have my photo taken with one as did a few of the others. I had to move my hair out of the way before I could do any cuddling as it would need to see where he could hold on to. I cuddled Matt after being shown how to put my hands and that I was not to bring them up & that he would just sit there. I had the professional photo taken as well as loads on the iPhone & the camera so I’m most definitely not short of images!! I might have gone a little OTT with them, but hey!!
We moved on from here to go & feed the kangaroos & wallabies which was again just fabulous. We had the most beautiful day for it I have to say! Having purchased the food we were keen to hand feed them but as most were in the rest area we were not allowed in to there were only a few that were interested in being fed outside of the area. We tried regardless! And posed for multiple photos!! I hardly got many of the kangaroos to eat anything that I put out in front of them so wandered off a little & found a female sitting quietly in the shade without loads of people around her and so I went down to see if she was at all interested in the nibbles – got a wonderful photo of her as I lay down feeding her! Their fur is so soft it’s amazing, I could have stroked her all day!
Thankfully my group were all on time ready to get the bus to the pre-match entertainment that we were sharing with the Trevor Brennen Group as we will be for all pre & post match entertainment. Thankfully I did ask everyone to check their tickets, as in that they had them & for the right match?!! ‘Shit!!’ As one of mine disappeared back up to his room to get it! Driving the short trip through town was fab, seeing all the bars bursting at the seams with Lions fans as far as the eye could see & not so many Wallabies in sight though. Nearly every pub had a group in full song which we could hear from the inside of the coach! We were the first of our group to get to the bar & finding the function room was a little tricky but managed to locate the wrist bands that everyone needed to be wearing & led the group inside through a very busy bar.
I was buzzing, I had all the hairs on my arms standing on end & seriously couldn’t stand still – which was good as we were meant to be floating around the room checking everyone was ok in our group & generally mixing – networking almost! The beers were flowing for everyone & thankfully they were in sort of just over half pint glasses so no one seemed too inebriated, thankfully. I was getting really itchy feet as Sophie had been given her ticket but I hadn’t & I was DESPERATE to hold it in my hands & soak it all up pinch myself that this was actually really happening!! It was my golden ticket & once it was in my pocket I had the BIGGEST Cheshire grin on my face & had to pinch myself on a couple of occasions to check it was all happening (as well as running to the loo to take a picture of it to tweet & put on Facebook – the excitement was almost too much!) As one of the last out the bar to ensure everyone was out I could almost hardly walk, let alone talk with the sheer excitement.
Walking in the stadium & up the stairs to the level where our seats were, I heard an Irish voice that I recognised – only the couple that I met in the Royal Oak a couple of weeks ago?! Not really a small world I guess but still, quite amusing!
Walking to my seat was amazing, taking in the pockets of red everywhere all over the stadium & trying to see how much of an impact the yellow colonial style hats were having – very little to be honest! I was on my own as such in that I had none of the VU group next to me but Fliss & Sophie were in front (Sophie’s first ever match of international rugby??!!! – what a way to start!!) I was buzzing & fidgety & everything you’d expect that comes with both nerves & excitement!! I was trying to be cautious of the amount that I was shouting, we all know what I can be like at times! Thankfully I was also able to refrain from screaming abuse of any form at either the re for the wallabies only encouraging words were uttered from my lips (took a lot not to I have to say, there were a couple of very close calls). Come the second half though I realised that I actually must have been shouting quite a bit as my throat was quite sore & I was sounding rather husky!
The match was tense, we seemed to be all over them statistically at half time but yet only a few points ahead – it didn’t seem right? The match ended with our hearts in our mouths as a final penalty was given away in the last couple of mins. We have A LOT to thank Kurtley Beale for – slipping when kicking the penalty causing him to spectacularly missing thus leaving us with the win!! The screaming & jumping around & the run back to the bar, it was all exhausting! I was trying to get on the phone to send pictures FTC out on social media sources as well as whatsapp – little success as the battery was dying on everything! I did it when I finally got back to my room. Conscious that we had a reasonably early check out of 10am & I hadn’t packed or got my head sorted as to timings for transit day at all.
What a day tho?!!! Cuddled a Koala, hand fed a Kangaroo & my favourite – stuffed a Wallaby!!
Well I’m in Australia!!! Feels very weird, which I guess I can really only put down to jet lag but then it is also shock I think. After all I’ve been through, reality is starting to settle that I am actually out here?!! Just feeling kind of all out of sorts. Got REALLY sleepy during the day yesterday & had a kip this morning/afternoon but still feeling a sort of spaced out I guess. Seem to be in a total daze at the moment. Do hope it jogs on pronto.
Met up with others to run through the tour together, how things were going to be working and so on and all seems fine. Got sorted with a portable wi-Fi device which is blooming handy, as well as an Australian mobile which takes me HOURS to text on as I try to work out how to use it!!
We are staying in an apartment, kind of like a serviced apartment block here in Brisbane & I’m sharing with Sophie who is looking after another VU group. We have a room each & share kitchen & living area. It’s on the 30th floor and we are in the City area if the town. Not really done any sightseeing at all yet. Was going to do some today but the weather is pretty rubbish, raining but not too cold. The idea on getting a water hopper up & down the river to see a bit if the city in this weather did not really appeal when weather for next 2 days is bright sun & nearer 20 degrees!
I spent my evening at the airport last night, as you’d expect to be honest with my role! Welcomed in two sets of people but 3 different flights – was there for at least a couple of hours!! Some of ‘my’ group and some that were heading to the same hotel as Fliss & I jumped in the last transit back to my hotel as there was thankfully room for me. Everyone seems lovely – all in high spirits but shattered! Spotted rather an odd sight at the airport – you can kind if see in the photo below, arriving off a plane headed to Wellington that had been diverted was this guy who was wearing a t-shirt, shorts & gum boots??!!! Now that’s a random choice of attire for a flight if ever I saw one!
We have the most amazing breakfast place where Sophie & I have had the same thing every morning so far!!
Feeling mighty full after that! I have managed to get the avo stuck up my nose on both occasions so far though – attractive!!
Friday I was all ready to go out exploring but it was cold and damp and so I opted for an extra kip after breakfast & had a late lunch with Fliss & Sophie after Fliss had dropped the tickets off for me to hand out to my group for all the matches that they would be going to in the morning -good to get them handed out & make them no longer our responsibility!!
Turns out we were sat next to George North in the little place that we had lunch in – knew I blooming recognised him & he kept turning round after the bloke who he was with, assume his Dad, commented a couple of times as I was wearing my Bath shirt (obv!!). What with that & the Sky boys all in the hotel too – Barnsey, Wallace, Greenwood, Quinnell & Alex Payne it was true to say that we were in the hub of the action!
Friday night was the welcome dinner = dress time!! We met before in the Pig & Whistle which was heaving, unsurprisingly & full of red shirts. The location was Cha Cha Char and the food was divine! We had David Campese there too as well as, later on, a couple of other retired Wallabies. It was lovely meeting some more of the group, even though I was sat on a table with only 2 of my group having been moved last min. Great company and a real giggle! They were also quite keen to go out to the Koala Park in the morning which I was planning to do on my own, they suggested seeing if anyone else wanted to join us and so suggested asking around at ticket collection in the morning. Easy enough to do!! Afterwards we headed up to the Bavarian Beer place above the restaurant where we had one more drink before we headed home, I was starting to get pretty excited about a cuddling a koala but mainly the first test the following day!
The news today gets better though – I’ve definitely got a ticket for the match tomorrow night, James is feeling better, been in touch with Kev & Lou & Timmy & Sue & hopefully catching up with them perhaps tomorrow or Sunday morning before we fly down to Melbourne. All go!!
After a fairly late night (all things considered) having decided that my toe nails needed painting just as I was about to crash, I woke earlier than the alarm. Excitement brewing! Looking at my bags I am not actually sure that I’ve packed enough – looks like I’m off for a week not 3?!
At check in I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief, having failed to have weighed my bag one final time, I managed to come in at 19.7kg – the stupidly light allowance is 20kg for travelling this distance with a possible 4 seasons to pack for!
With my stomach rumbling something chronic with a mixture of both excitement and nerves, we headed to get some food after passing through security. I’m fine with flying but the mere idea of being sat on a plane for just shy if 13 hours, followed by a seven hour flight was not a pleasant thought. I never sleep on planes, no seriously – NEVER, & as per usual I couldn’t select a meal to cover my allergies so I knew damn well all the food would be riddled with peppers & shell fish or just look mighty unappetising!
Of course we were boarding during the match (National Shane Williams Day – as confirmed by the Dai Lama on twitter) with about half of Wales on our flight, primarily all in made up tour t-shirts with their dodgy given nicknames on the reverse, it was hardly surprising that huddles could be seen as we approached the gate – groups of people all crowding round iPads to try and catch as much of the match as feasibly possible before being called to board. We boarded at 0-5 to the Brumbies.
The plane was MASSIVE & as I was advised by Helen’s Dad the night prior – it would be very spacious. It was indeed, with a window seat just behind the wing and clearly right over where the wheels came up I was sat next to a couple who were flying home to Perth. They were very nice, didn’t smell, weren’t obese &, most importantly – didn’t have screaming kids. All obvious nightmares averted!
After fiddling around for a whole getting myself sorted & comfortable I settled in to the journey and looked at the film options that I had for the flight. I’d looked on the Singapore Air website prior & not seen too many that I actually wanted to watch, thankfully there was a far wider choice & so I was a happy girl – movie marathon and a half ahead!! I think in total in the first flight I managed 6 – let’s see, Identity Thief, Life of Pi, Parental Guidance, Quartet hang on that’s only 4? Oh no I give it a year too – ok 5, all in a row!! I make that pretty bloody good going!!
As predicted the food was pepper infested but having the food earlier at the airport I was not really too bothered.
Don’t worry, I didn’t take a photo of every meal I ate!! The non-slip try was a bonus, as was the proper knife and fork – larger than the one that we had breakfast with at Heathrow?!! Didn’t even try sleeping on this flight though as the timings were all a bit screwed. We arrived in Singapore at like 8 in the morning, it was already 28 degrees – SWEAT CENTRAL! Man am I glad I had the foresight to pack a change of top & undies in my hand luggage!!
We had a 2 1/2 hr stop over only in the airport which by the time we had wondered around to stretch our legs, visited the Butterfly Garden (no, really!) checked out the price of a massage & sat in a wifi area to touch base with home to let everyone know that leg 1 was done safe & sound and of course checking in on the rugby score. Thinking back that’s possibly not entirely true, there was a GOD ALMIGHTY bang about 5 mins before we landed which sounded like the wheel beneath is had fallen off or something – pretty bloody alarming! Then as we came in to land it felt smooth until we actually touched down which was more than a bit jolty – kind of like he’d forgotten to actually land it in time even tho he was bringing it down smoothly?!) we sat by the Koi Pond too – there I was spotting all the greenery everywhere, living walls & a shed load of large leaved green plants in the smoking area to take away the pollutants!
The onward leg was on a smaller plane & I was stuck in the middle, thankfully there was a spare seat next to me as the man on my right decided to sit with his legs a kimbo – not exactly very comfortable to sit next to! I decided to watch The Fall which I had downloaded the series of from iPlayer and as it was a 7 hour or so flight I managed to watch all of it, infuriating ending I must say, but I guess that it opens it up for a second series? The food was riddled with peppers once again & so all I managed was cheese & biscuits & 3 Ferrero Roche on the flight – very filling!! Thankfully it seemed to pass quite quickly though & I think I must have slept for an hour as when I woke with a start I felt suddenly hanging!
Coming through immigration was not too much of an issue & although my bag was last of our small group to come off the carousel, I thankfully was not waiting too long. Coming through customs I was in a line to be sniffed by the dog with all of my stuff – scary as, even if the pooch was only a black lab! Transit to the hotel was only about 30 min after dropping others at the 5* accommodation & I made it up the 30 floors to my apartment which I was sharing with Sophie, another tour co-ordinater. Very swish I have to say. I jumped straight in the shower pretty much & hit the sack hoping that sleep would happen after a brief chat with Sophie (who I hasten to add I’d never actually met before then!) Must remember to check in the morning if the water does go down the plug hole the other way as totally forgot this evening!
The mid week match saw me back in the pub again across the road form work. This time though I had a partner in crime as Steve (from Roman Candles) joined me in the Lamb and Lion taking a break from what sounded like a hectic day in the shop. We partook in breakfast whilst watching the match. It was more than one sided to say the least but a very surreal feeling to thing that in a weeks time I would be on a plane slowly making my way out there!!
The remainder of the week was of course spent trying to remember all the things that I would be likely to forget and regret once I was on the plane! I attempted packing, realising that it was only a restriction of 20kg I was very strict with what made it into the bag! If I haven’t got enough warm clothes – I’ll just have to buy a jumper or two out there!
Watched the last Saturday match before the tests in the Royal Oak again. Thought the plan was a few drinks and a spot of lunch after & was really looking forward to it, sadly it didn’t happen. I felt really bad for telling Mum and Dad that they couldn’t come over and see me before I went as they really wanted to, as I had made other plans – which never materialised. Story of my life! Guess I should have arranged to see them regardless, you would have thought I’d have learnt by now – history repeats itself yet again!! I had tingles throughout the majority of the match as departure day comes closer & closer.
Spent the majority of the rest of the weekend curled up with my furballs and doing the last min packing and hoping that I actually have all hat I need. Sleep on Saturday night was pretty sporadic and I have a feeling that it will be the same again this evening and certainly tomorrow night!
The first of the Saturday matches against the Reds spent in the Royal Oak, with friends needing to be in work to cover an audit taking place over the weekend it was only going to be a quiet one. Several others in the pub as always & a couple who fly out on Tuesday who were, like me, trying to work out how many clothes the crowd were wearing so as to work out how many warm clothes we need! Didn’t manage to be very successful in working it out as it was also raining.
Stuart Barnes had, once again, clearly been using a word of the day loo roll as this week he managed, somehow, to squeeze in impresario – not quite sure how it fitted in?!!
Love the Sky Sports as for the Lions which I’d only really taken in today, I can’t find a clip of it on YouTube at the moment which is really annoying me but will add it at a later date if I can find it
Two weeks and I’ll be in the very same city that the match was played in today – even if I don’t actually make it into the stadium :o)