2011 KFC Twenty20 Internationals and
Commonwealth Bank Series
The 'Wombat Tour' Diary
Howzat Travel Director Steve hosted a group of intrepid travellers on a tour that commenced immediately after the Ashes, taking in the two Twenty20 matches and the first three ODI's between Australia and England.
Steve was in Sydney for the fifth Vodafone Ashes Test Match and this diary picks up from the Ashes tour diary, which you can read here.
Saturday 8th January
After a bit of breakfast, I jumped in a cab to the airport to collect a group of customers on our ‘Wombat Tour’, who had arrived in Australia to witness the Twenty20 and ODI series, which commenced in a few days’ time. The group arrived into Sydney tired after a long flight, and we bussed them over to the Four Points hotel, so they could check in and sleep/explore the city as they saw fit.
Early in the evening, I headed back to the Four Points for a few drinks with the Wombat Tour party – who had spent the day either sleeping or exploring.
Sunday 9th January
With my new tour group departing for Canberra at 9.00am this morning, plus some of the group heading to the airport for their onward travels or journeys home, we were up fairly early so I could finish packing my bags. I had some breakfast, said ‘goodbye’ to Jenn, then headed over to the Four Points to meet the group, who had hopefully enjoyed a good first nights’ sleep in Australia. On arrival at the hotel, I did find out that new Howzat Traveller Jim – whilst trying to find the toilet in the night – had found himself locked out of his hotel room wandering the hotel corridors in his underwear! It reminded me of an old Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes TV advert!
The ‘Wombat Tour’ group initially consisted of 15 people, although more were to join us as we made our way around Australia following the cricket. The coached departed on time – on our way to Canberra, via Bowral. The reason we were going to stop at Bowral – a small town in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales – was to visit the world famous Bradman Museum and to catch a charity cricket match being played there, due to feature many celebrities and ex-England and ex-Australia cricketers. However, as we left Sydney on the coach, the weather deteriorated and be soon had huge doubts that the match would go ahead.
As we had feared, the weather in Bowral was miserable and wet, with little sign of things improving in the few hours we were due to spend there. The cricket match – featuring Mark Nicholas’ ‘Chance to Shine’ XI vs the Australian’s ‘Bradman Foundation’ XI – unfortunately fell victim to the weather. It was to be a star-studded affair (more details here: www.internationalcrickethall.com/chance-to-shine-celebrity-cricket-match-bradman-oval) with the coin toss conducted by Sir Michael Parkinson and it was a real shame that the match did not take place. We did however get a good look around the extremely impressive Bradman Museum. Sir Donald Bradman is a cricket legend, not just in Australia but around the world, with a career that clearly places him as the greatest batsman of all time. Bradman grew up in Bowral, and the museum – which features lots of artefacts, imagery and information about him and the history of Australian and world cricket, is a must-see for any cricket fan. As the match did not go ahead, we were also treated to an entertaining Q&A session with some of the stars who were due to play.
So, with a little disappointment, we boarded the coach at made the second half of our wet journey to Canberra. On arrival in Canberra, the rain had slowed but we all had to admit that the weather and general blandness of the city (we all remarked that it reminded us of Milton Keynes back home) made for a grey start to our two-night stay in Australia’s capital city. We all checked into the very pleasant Rydges Capital Hill hotel and soon discovered that the England team were staying there. A few were to be found strolling around the hotel.
That evening, we had organised our tour group welcome meal at the restaurant in the hotel. We all enjoyed some delicious food and nice wine, and it was a good chance for those people who had not yet had the chance to meet to do so. It was also a good opportunity for me to hand out tickets for tomorrow’s PM’s XI v England match. For most, the meal was followed by a few drinks in the bar – a very enjoyable night and a great way to start the tour, despite the disappointment of the cancelled cricket match earlier that day.
Monday 10th January
We awoke to a fairly bright morning, but weather reports were claiming that showers would come and go over the course of the day. After breakfast at the hotel, everyone made the short walk to the nearby Manuka Oval to watch the PM’s XI v England, unsure if it would start at the schedule time of 9.45am as rain had come already.
The ground was delightful and we took up our seats. England fielded a team that would look very much like the team due to play the Twenty20 matches in Adelaide and Melbourne in the coming week. Today’s match was supposed to be a 50-over, but it was eventually shortened to 33 overs and the score determined by D/L as a result of a couple of rain delays. We all enjoyed the match and the atmosphere in the stadium was great.
England won thanks to a superb 124 off 102 balls, and Trott scoring 48, to take England to a 225-3 score (33.3 overs), beating the PM’s XI score of 254-9 (43 overs). Yardy and Shazhad were the pick of the England bowlers, taking three wickets each.
After the match, we all headed back to the hotel to freshen up, then some us headed back toward to the ground to the nearby Kingston Hotel, which had been recommended by Peter our bus driver the day before. The pub was busy and full of cricket fans. We all had something to eat – some of the group choosing the ‘cook your own steak’ option. We all had to laugh as John T spent much longer at the grill than everyone else, and we thought he was cremating his dinner! He claimed he had to cook it longer as it was larger than everyone else’s…
After a couple of bottles of $10 wine (very cheap for Australia!) and a jokes and trivia session, we made our way back to the hotel, bypassing the hotel bar and heading straight to our rooms.
Tuesday 11th January
Today, we were departing the hotel at 4.45pm, so the group had the opportunity to explore the city before we left. However, the miserable, wet weather we awoke to today meant that most people’s plans had to be modified.
Although Canberra has a reputation for not being the most exciting of cities, it does boast some very reputable and impressive museums – the National Museum of Australia and the Australian War Memorial Museum. The poor weather made a visit to the museums the ideal way to spend the day, and those who did so came back to the hotel with glowing reviews.
Personally, I was planning to go into Canberra, but instead decided to stay in the dry of the hotel and catch up with some work, including re-scheduling the plans of one of our customers – Pete – who was currently in Queensland experiencing the awful weather. We managed to re-arrange his itinerary and get him to Melbourne two days earlier.
At 4.45pm, we boarded our coach and headed to the airport for our (very bumpy!) flight to Adelaide.
On arrival in Adelaide, we checked in at the Grand Chancellor on Hindley and headed straight to the hotel bar for a drink, after which I joined Gordon, Lynn, Raymond and Joy to go to the Stag pub at the other end of Rundle Mall. We rounded the night off with a kebab! How very civilised…
Wednesday 12th January
After breakfast at the hotel (alongside the England women’s team, who were also staying at the hotel), my first task was to head to the nearby Intercontinental Hotel to pick up a few more tickets. After I had returned back to the hotel, a group of us headed to the coastal resort of Glenelg, taking the tram. We enjoyed a relaxing morning and lunch strolling around the marina, sea front and promenade. We also bumped into some more of the group, some of whom had relatives and were meeting them for the day before going off to the cricket later. We enjoyed a few lunchtime beers and a spot of lunch, before heading back into Adelaide on the tram, and on to the Adelaide Oval to catch the second half of the Australia v England Women’s Twenty20 match, which England won.
The Adelaide Oval – now even more impressive than ever with the addition of the new Western Grandstand – filled up over the course of the afternoon, and by the time the men’s match was due to start, the stadium had filled and the atmosphere was superb.
The match itself was amazing, as I’m sure I don’t need to tell you. To witness England winning with the last ball was truly magical and we all left the stadium absolutely buzzing! A world record Twenty20 win – against the Aussies – in a beautiful stadium under floodlights… you couldn’t script it!
Celebratory drinks were in order, and most of the group made a beeline to a nearby bar where we enjoyed some beers and banter with some locals into the wee hours…
Thursday 13th January
Just as what had happened in Canberra, we awoke on our second morning in a city to rain – and it didn’t stop! Most people’s plans to explore the city and walk along with the river were dashed and they had to make do with exploring the shops or simply relaxing with a book in the hotel after they had checked out. Again, I took the opportunity to catch up with some work and set myself up in the business centre at the hotel for a few hours.
We departed the hotel at 2.30pm for the airport. The flight was straightforward and we when we landed, we found Melbourne to be even wetter than Adelaide! We jumped on our coach and made our way into the city to check into the Mantra on Russell hotel. I immediately met up with a few more customers who had already made their way to Melbourne – Pete, Nigel and Lynn – to let them have their tickets for the two cricket matches taking place here in Melbourne.
Despite the awful weather, some of the group still ventured out to explore and find somewhere to have a drink. I personally had a relaxing evening and popped downstairs, out of the hotel and into nearby Chinatown – to pick up a takeaway.
The rain came down throughout the warm and humid evening, and we all hoped that it would dry up in time for tomorrow’s Twenty20 match at the MCG.
Friday 14th January
Well, the weather we were faced with when we awoke on our first morning in Melbourne was dreadful; torrential rain that looked like it would never end! It was not much fun going out as you got drenched immediately, so I personally decided to catch up with a few jobs, including some laundry at the nearby launderette. Amazingly, the rain cleared by 2pm and even the preceding women’s match at the MCG was able to be played, albeit in shortened overs. England women won again!
I made my way down to the MCG later in the afternoon, to soak up the atmosphere for a couple of hours before the second KFC Twenty20 match commenced. The awful weather earlier in the day had clearly put quite a few Australians off coming to the MCG, so the stadium was a long way off full at the time the match started. However, it did fill up over the course of the evening and the official attendance was 58,000-odd. The MCG is a truly remarkable sporting arena, and watching a match under the giant floodlights made the experience even more enchanting.
In terms of the match, the wet weather had clearly affected the playing surface and the pitch was very slow. Australia won the toss and chose to bat, knocking up a seemingly-reachable score of 147-7. We were all confident that England would win again, and in more comfortable fashion than in Adelaide. However, it was not to be and England pulled up short on 143-6. Another close match that came down to the last ball again!
On the way back to the hotel, a few of us stopped at the James Squires pub on Russell Street to enjoy a couple of ales. This was a watering hole discovered by some of the boys who had highly-recommended the selection of locally-brewed beers available. It was a Friday night in Melbourne and the pubs were busy, and after two or three drinks, I made my excuses and took the short walk back to the hotel to hit the hay. The guys stopped out for another one, and headed back not too long after me.
Saturday 15th January
After breakfast this morning, we had a few more customers joining the tour – I met Margaret and Barbara who had just flown into Melbourne from the UK, and let them freshen up in my room as theirs was not quite ready yet. An hour or so after that, I popped downstairs again to meet Vicki – who had been with us in Sydney for the fifth Test Match, and since then had been doing her own tailor-made itinerary in New Zealand. After welcoming all three new tour group additions to Melbourne, handing them their tickets and some useful information, I got myself ready.
My friend from home who now lived in Sydney – Ben – was joining me in Melbourne for the weekend, and he arrived mid-morning. We enjoyed a day in the sun, catching up with some food and drinks on the South Bank, and a trip up the ever impressive Eureka Skydeck – the highest viewing platform in the southern hemisphere.
The rest of the Howzat Travellers spent the day in various ways – either exploring the city, or heading down to St. Kilda. Some of the boys even walked the 4.5 miles to St. Kilda, enjoying a well-deserved few drinks in a pub on their arrival. It was a gorgeous day to spend outside enjoying what Melbourne and the surrounding area has to offer.
Ben and I met up with my friends Jules and Kate later on, and enjoyed drinks in some bars we never would have found ourselves, including a couple of rooftop bars. Our night was finished off by a Chinese meal in Chinatown then a drink in the nearby German pub…
Sunday 16th January
Today was a beautiful day and I woke fairly early in preparation for my morning jobs. After breakfast, I headed down to Melbourne Park to pick up some extra Australian Open tennis tickets, then made the very pleasant walk along the south bank of the Yarra River to the Crowne Plaza hotel to greet a new customer – Gerry – who had flown in to Melbourne for a nine-night stay specifically to watch the tennis. After having a good chat and providing him with his tickets, I made my way back up to the Mantra on Russell to meet Ben. After a quick trip to the supermarket to stock up on supplies for the day, we then met Vicki back at the hotel and three of us walked down to the MCG and took our positions for the first ODI between Australia and England. The rest of the group made their own way down and joined us in our sun-drenched seats.
When the match started, the MCG was again far from full, with just 36,000 people in attendance, but the atmosphere was still good. It was a very hot day – one of the hottest we’d experienced yet on tour – and we all made sure we had out sun cream and hats on. Today was exactly 40 years since the first One Day International was played – and coincidentally at the MCG – so there was a retro theme to the game, with many of the crowd and even the players at the start, sporting retro clothes, wigs and moustaches. It was a very funny sight!
The shock news today was that Collingwood had been dropped as a result of his recent form batting form, with Trott coming in. The match started with England winning the toss and electing to bat. They amassed a score of 294 –their highest total against Australia on their turf. Pietersen struck 78, Strauss 63 and Davies 42, but it was not enough to go up against awesome performance of Shane Watson who put in what was described by Strauss as “one of the great one-day innings” after he scored a superb 161 not out, leading Australia to 297 for 4.
We all walked out of the MCG disappointed with the result but acknowledging that when faced with such a performance as Watson has given us, it seems only right that he was on the winning team. Some of the group popped into the James Squires on the way home – while most continued back to the hotel with the aim of getting a good nights sleep in preparation for the tennis tomorrow.
Monday 17th January
After breakfast, we all took the walk down to Melbourne Park to attend the first day of the Australian Open Tennis. It was a slightly overcast and cooler day, so no repeat of the intense heat we had experienced the day before.
We all had Rod Laver Arena tickets and excellent seats, and were treated to matches between Maria Sharapova and Tamarine Tanasugar (Sharpova won easily 6-1 6-3), women’s world no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and Gisela Dul (Wozniaki won 6-3 6-4, despite a spirited [performance by Dul), and then the mighty Roger Federer against Lukas Lacko, in which Federer put on a masterclass performance to win 6-1 6-1 6-3, despite Lacko playing very well himself. Everyone enjoyed the day at the tennis, which was a nice variation from the cricket we had primarily come to Australia to watch.
After the day session in the Rod Laver Arena was over, some of the group went back into the city, whilst others headed out into the grounds of Melbourne Park to take in some of the other matches. A few of us witnessed some of the Tomas Berdych v Marco Crugnola match, which Berdych won 6-4 6-0 6-2. Alison and Joy had tickets for the Rod Laver Arena night session, so they had that to look forward to. After the Berdych match, Ben and I then headed back to the hotel for a quick turnaround, then back into the city along Collins Street looking for some bars that had been highly recommended to us by some of the group, who had found this highly-recommended mini pub crawl a couple of days previous… so, we went in search of The Charles Dickens Tavern, The Sherlock Holmes Inn and The MitreTavern. We found them all, and although we were too late to order food, we enjoyed a few ales then headed back toward the hotel and enjoyed some Thai food, washed down with some BYO wine.
Tuesday 18th January
With nothing in the diary today, I took the opportunity to stay at the hotel and spend the day catching up with work. Seven of the group had taken up the option of a second day session at the cricket, and as I chatted to some of them over breakfast I discovered that today they would get to see Rafael Nadal play Marcus Daniel. In fact, as it turned out, the three matches scheduled for the Rod Laver Arena were very one-sided and over very quickly, so the organisers moved one of the other matches originally due to play in one of the outer courts, into the Rod Laver, and everyone was thoroughly entertained by a gripping three-set match between Molik & Vinci.
Back at the hotel, I saw off one of our group, John E, at 2.30pm. He was heading back home after being out in Australia since the start of the Sydney Test. We both had to laugh when his airport transfer turned up – a stretched white limousine! We were only expecting something like an executive saloon, so were surprised to see that the chauffeur company had sent such a vehicle. John did ask the driver if there was any champagne in the car, but alas, there was not.
Some of the group had used the free day to explore the city and also do the MCG tour, which they thoroughly enjoyed. Mark and Jo did the Penguins, Koalas and Devonshire Tea tour, which they also said was excellent…
Wednesday 19th January
Today we leave Melbourne, and after being here for six nights, most of the group have thoroughly enjoyed their time here but are ready for a change. We all had a leisurely morning, taking our time over breakfast, checked out of our rooms and decided how to spend our last morning here.
I went for a walk in the city, then enjoyed a coffee whilst doing some work. Some of the group spent the morning looking around the shops or walking along the river, whilst others had saved a trip up the Eureka Skydeck until their last morning. Vicki – who was following us to Hobart on a later flight – had an extra day at the tennis…
Our mid-afternoon flight was fine, and we landed in Hobart immediately noticing the drop in temperature, which is unsurprising as we’d flown further south. “Much more British” was the way that a couple of guys described the climate! Having been to Hobart back in June, I was very happy to be back here – it is a beautiful, picturesque place with striking scenery – a world away from the hustle and bustle of Melbourne.
We checked into the lovely, historic Hadleys Hotel – the oldest in Hobart and built by early convicts shipped to Tasmania. It was ideally situated in the centre of Hobart and most of the group dropped their bags off and went to explore the small and quaint city.
Hobart was lively tonight, with the ‘MONA FONA’ festival seeming to take over the dock and Salamanca Square area. Apparently, a ‘Museum of Old and New Art’ was opening in Hobart this weekend and there were celebrations leading up to it. The city certainly had a festival feel to it and the pubs and restaurants were filled with revellers old and young! Some of the group enjoyed food and drinks at the Barcelona Bar in Salamanca Square, followed by a few night caps at a pub conveniently located two doors along from the hotel – the Victoria Tavern – which was also showing the final throes of the Federer match from the Australian Open Tennis.
We all made our way to the hotel fairly late, in good spirits after an enjoyable night and looking forward to a couple of days in Tasmania.
Thursday 20th January
Today was our free full day in Hobart and I’d organised for the group to go on a boat cruise, so I was very happy when I woke up and saw that the weather was gloriously warm and sunny. A leisurely breakfast (with poached eggs instead of the now-all-too-familiar scrambled – much to the delight of some of the guys!) was in order, and then we all met in the foyer later that evening to walk down to the harbour together.
We were booked on to the delightful Peppermint Bay Cruise – a five and a half hour trip aboard a luxurious 23-metre catamaran. It took us from Hobart’s ‘Sullivan’s Cove’, through the harbour, the River Derwent, the d’Entrecasteaux Channel, on to Peppermint Bay. We had booked ‘Captain’s Upper Deck’ seats, which meant that we were treated to prime position leather seats a the top of the boat behind the captain, and took in the spectacular views whilst enjoying tea, coffee, biscuits, wine, fresh local lunch, wine, cheeseboard and some more wine… What a day! The weather was beautiful, the company was good and the crew of the catamaran treated us like royalty. It was so relaxing that Raymond even found time for a few zzzzz’s – much to our amusement. After Dave had taken up waiter duties on the journey home – dishing out the delicious Tasmanian wine much to everyone’s amusement – we passed under the Tasman Bridge and back into the harbour.
On the short walk back up to the hotel, we all remarked how enjoyable the day had been, and that it was perfectly timed at this stage in the tour. We just hoped that we would be as lucky tomorrow with the weather for the cricket – but the forecast was not looking good at all.
I had an early night tonight, but some of the group did reconvene in the hotel bar for a few happy hour drinks, all still on a high after what had been an excellent day!
Friday 21st January
The first thing everyone did this morning was open their curtains and check the weather. The forecast all week had said that today was going to be a wet day, although the locals in Hobart we’d talked to yesterday had told us not to worry and that any showers would blow over pretty quickly. There were some clouds in the sky but it was dry, and I even remarked to Alison at breakfast that it looked like we might be OK. I’d spoken too soon – by the time I’d finished breakfast the rain was coming down and the clouds looked full of rain. Nevertheless, we all got ready to meet in reception a little later, most donning rain jackets and wearing hats to keep the rain off.
I had organised for the group to transfer to the second ODI at the Bellerive Oval by boat taxi. We made the short walk down to the harbour, sheltering for the rain under awnings as went, and then boarded the boat to make the short trip across the River Derwent to the Bellerive Oval – a ground in one of the most attractive settings in the world. Again, our boat driver said that the weather would clear up and we’d get to see some cricket. Let’s hope so…
Once we got off the boat at Bellerive, most headed to the bar on the dock for a few pre-match drinks, whilst others had a stroll around the port. After a short while, we walked up to the Oval, and unbelievably, the skies began to clear. As it happened, that was all the rain we were to see that day; the sun came out and it ended up being a fine day. Clouds still blew overhead from time to time, but no more rain… we had yet again been lucky with the weather – just like in Adelaide and Melbourne! It was shaping up to be a good day…
The cricket started promisingly too, with at one point the Aussies at 142-8 – Shahzad the pick of the bowlers taking the wickets of Watson, Haddin & Smith. I was contemplating calling out boat taxi to get them to pick us earlier than our scheduled 10.30pm slot! Good job I didn’t bother… Shaun Marsh’s superb century rescued the hosts to 230 all out. Even still, it was a reachable score and we were all hopeful that England would win. However, England’s batsmen soon dispelled those ideas and we were all greeted to a dull, slow, unadventurous batting performance – one more suited to a tense Test Match rather than an ODI. England were poor and as the sun went in, the floodlights came on and the temperature cooled, the excitement had been sucked out of the match and our enthusiasm waned. Shahzad’s run out on 184 seemed to sum up the match, and we all spilled out of the Oval feeling disappointed and let down. We walked back down to the harbour to catch our return boat taxi crossing – back over the river to Hobart.
What a shame… As Jim said to me as we walked back up to the hotel; “Steve, I’ve had a lovely day… apart from the cricket!”
Let’s hope for a better performance in Sydney.
Saturday 22nd January
We had a morning transfer to the airport at 10.15am today – our next and final destination (for most of us) being Sydney. Vicki was leaving the group to head back home to the UK, so after I’d waved her off at 8.45am then finished packing my bags, I met the rest of the Howzat Travellers in the foyer.
Following a smooth transfer and flight, we landed in Sydney in the early afternoon and boarded our coach to the Rydges World Square hotel – back to where I had been staying during the Ashes Sydney Test. It felt strange being back after a couple of weeks away – the time had flown by, but when I thought back to everything we’d done and seen, it seemed longer than two weeks!
After we’d all checked into our rooms, we went off in separate directions to make the most of the rest of the beautiful, sunny day in Sydney. The Rocks, the Botanical Gardens and Darling Harbour were the choice of place to spend the rest of the afternoon for most of the group.
I headed down to Darling Harbour to meet some friends, and spent the evening with a few bottles of wine and some nice food. Being a Forest fan, I even managed to catch some of the match taking place at home on Saturday afternoon – away to Derby. A 1pm kick-off meant that it started at 12am here in Sydney, and I had every intention of listening to the whole match on internet commentary. The drink and tiredness caught up with me and I think I fell asleep about 20 minutes into the first half!
I awoke at 4am, had a quick look at the score (we won 1-0!), then went back to sleep…
Sunday 23rd January
So, the penultimate full day in Australia for the main tour group and the day of the third Commonwealth Bank Series ODI between Australia and England at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The news reports were full of injury new to both Australia and England (Bresnan and Pietersen), so we would see some changes to the teams today. Strauss had been bemoaning his lack of seamers but did say that England has simply not been good enough so far in the series – a sentiment very much shared with the travelling supporters. We all hoped for an improvement today.
Some of the group gathered in reception to take the 30-minute walk to the SCG together, whilst others made their own way there after deciding to use the free time in the morning to see more of Sydney. Having made this walk a few times during the Sydney test, there was pleasant familiarity to it, and I hoped that we’d be walking away from the ground at the end of the day with the same feeling of jubilation as I did the last time!
Taking our seats in the ground, some decided to seek some shade before play commenced, but by the time the match started, the sun had moved behind the stand and we were out of the baking sun. England had won the toss and decided to bat… and we suffered the loss of our first wicket in the first over! Prior went for a duck for the second match running… can he retain his place as opening batsman in this ODI team any longer?
Trott managed a pedestrian 84 not out off 119 balls, and managed to run out Strauss in an awful mix up as England were on 38. Bell went for 10 and Collingwood was bowled out for 1. All in all, England never really got going and a score of all out for 214 didn’t fill most of the England supporters with much confidence that we’d start a comeback in this series here in Sydney. As it happened, despite some decent bowling from Collinwood and Tremlett (two wickets each), the home side reached 215-6 and won by 4 wickets.
It did look promising at one point in the evening as we sat under the floodlights of the SCG and the wickets of White and Haddin fell on 92 and 100 respectively, but it was not meant to be. Three matches, three losses. The Aussies had regrouped effectively after the Ashes loss, and in the five matches played between Australia and England since the Sydney Test, they had only lost one – the Twenty20 in Adelaide, and that was by just one ball.
Again, we spilled out of a floodlit stadium to make our walk home to our hotel, bemoaning the negative elements of England’s play. It was fairly late by the time we reached the hotel, so most people headed to bed, whilst a few went for a few drinks and drown their sorrows…
Monday 24th January
I was undecided what to do with my day today. Speaking with the group at breakfast, it seemed that everyone had very different plans – for most it was their last full day in Australia so they wanted to make the most of it exploring places they had not seen yet. A few went over to Manly on the ferry, whilst others explored places like the Olympic Park or Watsons Bay.
After breakfast, I jumped on the free shuttle bus down to Circular Quay. I’d promised myself that I’d explore a couple of areas of Sydney that I’d not had been to – Observatory Hill and the Botanical Gardens. I jumped off the bus then walked around the quay, through The Rocks and up to the Observatory. It was a really hot and humid day a walking up the hill was harder work than I’d expected as a result! The Observatory, which has free entry, was a fascinating place with lots of interesting information and exhibits. It also has air-con so I was able to cool down a bit!
Upon leaving the Observatory, I made my way back through Circular Quay, round past the Opera House and into the Botanical Gardens. I spent an hour or so walking through the beautiful gardens, then up to the famous ‘Mrs MacQuarie’s Point’, where I enjoyed some amazing views of the harbour, Opera House and bridge. I made my way back through the city to the hotel, calling in a few shops on the way.
In the evening, I met up with Dave, John and the two Geoffs and we went for a few drinks initially to a pub near the hotel, then down to Darling Harbour in search of food. After a very pleasant evening – nice food and good company – we made our way back to the hotel.
Tuesday 25th January
Departure day! For most of the group – me included. Everyone was leaving Sydney today, except Alison who had decided to stay for the rest of the week and Dave who was staying for an extra few days with his son who lived in Sydney. Margaret and Barbara were going to Adelaide for the next ODI tomorrow, Raymond and Joy were off to Brisbane to visit friends and family, and Gordon and Lynn were off to Cairns on the next step of their own self-tailor-made trip.
First off were Margaret and Barbara, who I met in the hotel foyer to wave them off at 10.30am. Everyone else was leaving at 1pm on a coach to the airport for their afternoon flights. After packing my own case and checking out of my room, I caught up with some work and emails on the computer, and then met with the group in the hotel foyer to board the airport transfer coach. On the coach, I said a few farewell words to the group on the mic, and when we got to the airport, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways – me to catch a train back into the city (my flight was not until later) and everyone else to their check-in desks.
As I made my way back into the city, I reflected on what had been a great trip – thoroughly enjoyable, great company and lots of fun. The only downside had been that we hadn’t seen some more successful cricket, but this is how things go sometimes… you have to be philosophical. Everyone had still thoroughly enjoyed themselves despite the cricket, and it had been a pleasure hosting them for the last two-and-a-half weeks.
I look forward to seeing your all at some point in the future!