Sydney, Australia

I was on a Round the World trip to Australia and New Zealand. It was my first really big trip and I was very naive. Flying in from Hong Kong I arrived first in Sydney. I had booked a cheap hotel in Kings Cross and found out why it was such a good deal when I got there. I knew nothing about Kings Cross (it’s the red light district area) and when I arrived a guy was standing in the doorway wearing a leather mini and a blonde wig. I got take-away and stuck a chair under the door handle. I was crippled with jet lag and when I found myself down by the opera house the next day it was dusk and I was very muzzy headed. I walked back across Victoria Park and only later discovered this was a big no-no for single females.

I went up the Sydney Tower for views of what was purported to be the largest natural harbour in the world.( It may have lost its title recently due to some land reclamation) and took a boat tour of the harbour stopping off at Bondi Beach. Other must sees are the aquarium and the mono rail that runs that way.

Adelaide

Next stop Adelaide to stay with friend Jenny. Her spare room had a water bed. Weird. She had only just commenced her one year teaching exchange job in Australia , so I pottered round the city while she was working. It was chic and easy. Mini opera house, botanical garden, bo-ho shops. A place you could live I thought. I also took a bus trip to Kangaroo Island to see the… penguins. And a few kangaroos. Jenny took me to a park to see the koalas, so soft... though I was rewarded by a pellet down my dress as part of my cuddle. We drove round the Barossa Valley, sampled the wines and sailed up the Murray River in a paddle steamer. I bought a koala toy with hat bobbing corks It sang Waltzing Matilda. How could you not?.

The Red Centre

Then I flew to Alice Springs for a bus trip to Ayers Rock. The trip took all day and we stopped for English scones, jam and cream once on each leg - the scones were enormous. Strange the things you remember. Ayers Rock was stunning in its rich glowing redness, with never to be forgotten views of the rock and the neighbouring bulbous Olgas from a helicopter. My first flight in one. In those days there was a steady procession of climbers scrambling up the almost vertical face of the rock. It was surprisingly windy at the top, threatening to topple those who had made the ascent. Nowadays climbing is not allowed at all, in deference to the native peoples who venerate the site.

Kakadu

Next stop, up the Top End – Darwin and Kakadu. My best memory of Darwin itself - unexpectedly small - was making an impromptu visit to the feeding of the fishes in the harbour. Crowds gather at high tide to lob handfuls of bread into the sea, which is almost instantly churning with huge fish who fight for the scraps. The most common attendees: milkfish, mullet, catfish, bream, batfish and barramundi.

Kakadu itself was wonderfully memorable. Beautiful lakes, (I dived in, forgetting I still had my sunglasses on and my Oakleys sank to the bottom). The Aboriginal rock art was incredible. Best of all, this definitely was atmospheric, a trip up the remarkable Yellow Water Billabong, in a flat bottomed boat to see the crocodiles, buffalo and jabirus.

Cairns and The Barrier Reef

Cairns for an extraordinarily memorable day out on the Great Barrier Reef in a catamaran. My first proper snorkelling experience. I was so excited I forgot to come in for lunch. And it was seafood. Cairns is very much a seaside Come and Kiss Me Quick type of place. But I managed to acquire a taste for Fosters while I was there. I’ve never been one for bitter beer.

Port Daintree and Kuranda

Side trips up to Port Daintree. Where the rainforest meets the ocean and there are huge salties in the river. And the Kuranda Scenic Railway from Cairns ascending the Great Dividing Range to Kuranda at the top, in the Atherton Tablelands. 15 tunnels and over 37 bridges.

New Zealand next.

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