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Match day – First Test

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!!

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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!!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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What a day tho?!!! Cuddled a Koala, hand fed a Kangaroo & my favourite – stuffed a Wallaby!!

First few days in Brisbane

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!

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We have the most amazing breakfast place where Sophie & I have had the same thing every morning so far!!

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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!

Post meal drinks at Cha Cha Char

Post meal drinks at Cha Cha Char

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!!

The lo-o-o-o-o-n-g trip over

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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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