2017-18 Magellan Ashes Series in Australia
Tour Managers’ Reviews
England may have struggled on the pitch, but the Howzat Travellers certainly made the best of Australia off it! Helped by special appearences from Michael Vaughan, Mike Hussey, Ian Healy, Geoff Boycott and Glenn McGrath to name a few, this was a fantastic tour to be a part of… See what our tour managers made of it:
Des’ Tour Review
When visiting Australia, one has to realise from the outset that this country is actually a continent and that the words “distant” and “distance” mean exactly that. One wonders why the word “far” is such a short word. The land is unique in many ways with probably more natural things that can kill you than anywhere else in the world. They even lost a Prime Minister, Harold Holt, in 1967. He went for a swim and never returned and is presumed drowned. The good people of Australia commemorated a swimming centre in his name!
This knowledge did not deter our intrepid Howzat Travellers from enjoying themselves to the full in a land seemingly perfected founded for a holiday and watching cricket. The programme was to be a busy one with hopes riding high for an Ashes Test series win away from home.
Not surprisingly, all the main cities are situated on rivers or water which is a precious commodity down under and our first port of call was Brisbane on a lovely river unimaginatively named The Brisbane River. The water taxis and ferries made up for the name by offering a great alternative means of transport to various popular spots around the city.
The Gabba promised a very good game of test cricket for the first two days and it looked like England was getting on top. Day three undid all the good work and assured an easy Aussie victory. This did not dampen the spirit of our group who found other ways of being cheerful enjoying the city lights or visits to the Crocodile Express and Australian Zoo or the Lamington National Park and many restaurants and bars.
We were all looking forward to the first Day-Night Ashes Test between these old rivals using a pink ball. The lovely walk across the Torrens River and immediately entering the stadium was most enjoyable. This was another game England let slip away from them from a winning position and with stumps being called around 10 pm or later and the stadium only half full we walked away with mixed feelings about this format of test cricket. But the spectators present don’t count for much in the bigger picture of TV cricket it would seem. Anyway, it made for late nights and late breakfasts the next morning. But we do have bragging rights having witnessed a first!
Visits to Kangaroo Island, The City Highlights, Adelaide Hills and Hahndorf and the Barossa Valley Wine lands kept us informed and in good spirits.
We know that from outer space the Great Wall of China and the Great Barrier Reef are the most visible. Howzat decided we could only manage one of them so off we set on the Quicksilver ferry to start our adventure to the Reef. After a glorious hour’s sailing to the huge platform in the deep sea we eagerly donned our latex-like wetsuits to explore this phenomenon of a different world under the water’s surface equipped with goggles, snorkel, flippers and life jacket.
We discovered a glorious silent world populated by different coloured fish and marine species all seeming to live together in perfect harmony. The water was as warm as toast and the viewing superb with even the odd turtle slowly paddling by. The semi-submersible vessel proved to be a highlight for viewing the corals close-up in a world full of peaks and valleys with so many schools of fish darting in unison or merely sitting waiting.
Some went on a helicopter flip to better view the Reef from a different and wider perspective and they reported that it was fabulous. For one couple it turned out to be so enjoyable they returned to Port Douglas by helicopter!
The Kuranda Scenic Railway journey met all expectations meandering through hand-hewn tunnels and crossing bridges spanning huge gorges and pausing to view a beautiful waterfall. We went on and saw kangaroos, wallabies, Koala bears, crocodiles and even threw a boomerang. The informative journey through the indigenous forest and lake in an amphibious Army Duck followed by ancient Aboriginal dancing depicting stories of Islander history was great.
The return journey in a pod on the Skyrail was truly spectacular viewing the Rainforest canopy from a considerable height and being able to see for miles around.
Two days touring that was hard to beat!
Beautifully situated on the Swan River and boasting the biggest inner-city park in the world Perth had plenty to offer. With the port of Fremantle, a mere 20 minute ferry ride away down the Swan River and a plethora of restaurants, shops and malls there was something to suit everyone’s taste.
I’m afraid we lost this test rather soundly, but we did set another record. We saw the last Ashes game to be played at the WACA. A new stadium has been built across the river and looks very smart indeed.
A happy bunch of Howzat Travellers set off for the between-tests break to see some of the countryside South of Perth in South Western Australia. After visits to the Kodja Gallery featuring Noongar paintings, boomerangs, didgeridoos, pottery and a lunch not overlooking the Australian Rose Maze we travelled to the Stirling National Park Sporting Bluff Knoll (1095m) we arrived in Albany in time for some to go into town for some thirst quenching beer.
After breakfast in the town we called in at Torndirrup National Park for some splendid viewing of the rugged coastline complete with a naturally eroded rock bridge and blowholes. The interesting Anzac Centre is a must for the military minded. A splendid lunch at the Boston Brewing Co. with beer tasting paddles was most welcome. The Giant Tree-top walk was enjoyed before we stopped for overnight at the beautiful Karri Valley Resort on a lake.
The next morning found us at Cape Leeuwin the most South-Western point of Australia where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet. After an excellent wine tasting and lunch at the Leeuwin Estate we saw more trees and a mammoth cave full of stalagmites. We arrived at the Pullman Bunker Bay Resort after a visit to Margaret River and Surfers Point.
After a photo stop at the Busselton Jetty (1.8kms long) we found our way back to Perth Airport having covered many miles. Remember Australia is a big place!
The iconic MCG was waiting for our patronage. Those lucky enough to be hosted in the Pullman could walk with ease to the cricket a mere 300 metres away. It is always a special occasion to be present on an Ashes Tour Boxing Day Test Match to hear the buzz and roar of 90,000 voices and this was no exception. Some big scores were recorded, and did we not half enjoy Cookie’s contribution. The drop-in pitch proved to be a batsman’s paradise, so the result was a draw. The authorities ruled the pitch to be sub- standard which does not really help at all.
Melbourne, a true city, beckoned with trips to the Great Ocean Road and 7 apostles, Phillip Island, Puffing Billy, wine country and lots of pubs and restaurants.
Our Christmas Lunch, hosted by Bob Bevan, was a wild success held on the lake within the Grand Prix Circuit.
Some say one can judge the intelligence of a city by the degree of difficulty of its newspaper crossword puzzles. Sydney does very well by this yardstick! There is something for everyone here- from opera to outdoor living it remains hard-pressed to be beaten. Take the Nanny State factor away and it’s wonderful.
The SCG is both pretty and practical but the only thing England won at that ground was the singing. (The Aussies still don’t understand that one supports one’s side through thick and thin. They leave the ground when losing!)
From the beach of Bondi to the Blue Mountains, from Darling Harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House to Manley or the Botanical Gardens, from water taxis and ferries to a city transport system that works, add a temperate Mediterranean climate and surely there is only one conclusion to be reached? It’s a great city.
A highlight for many was certainly the New Year’s Eve fireworks Extravaganza. Imagine being on a boat or ashore at a restaurant close to the bridge –the epicentre- and wining and dining and dancing away awaiting the bewitching hour of midnight to be heralded in by this unique fireworks display? When it happens it takes one’s breath away. One can feel the reverberations through one’s body from the delightful explosions and one abandons one’s camera to merely stare in awe at the myriad colours in the dark sky accompanied by shrieks and roars from the million plus onlookers. Precious moments.
If I were informed that on a cricket tour to Australia that our Guest Speakers were to be Ian Healy, Mike Hussey, Geoffrey Boycott, Mike Atherton, Adam Hollioake, Bob “The Cat” Bevan, Michael Vaughan and the cherry on the top Glenn McGrath I would be ecstatic. I still can’t believe Howzat made it happen!
Hope to see you all soon!
Yours in cricket and touring,
Nick & Carole’s Tour Review
By the end of our Christmas Eve drinks event we felt like a group of old friends gathering for a family Christmas! Most people had only just enough time to settle into their very well equipped and spacious suite at the Clarion, Melbourne before we all gathered together. (A few early arrival tourists had managed a trip up to the MCG to see the team’s training and several took the stadium tour which comes highly recommended.) Our venue that evening was the hotel bar, it soon became our social hub, a place to have a coffee, a beer, a glass of (as you can imagine, fantastic..) Australian wine or bubbles each evening.
Christmas Day mixed the tingle of the actual occasion itself, with the anticipation of what was to come the next day. A splendid venue in Albert Park, with a meal to match, accompanied by the humour of Bob ‘the Cat’ Bevan was a great prelude to the match.
Boxing Day arrived. A sea of Howzat shirts filled the lobby and the MCG beckoned. What a walk it is to this breath-taking venue – passing through the Plaza riverside glitz towards Federation Square and then along the famous ‘fans walk’ with the MCG in front of you……and that’s before a ball is bowled!!
The pitch was not favourable to the bowlers and consequently lots of runs were scored. Many of the tour party felt privileged to watch Alistair Cook achieve the highest score made by an individual batsman on that ground. They can all say, ‘I was there.’ The match was a draw but included some interesting cricket sessions where at times the England players were on top.
Melbourne offers a variety of ways to see the city, plenty took advantage of the free ‘hop on hop off’ tour tram but to our knowledge nobody braved the Sky Tower where you can walk out, hopefully with your eyes open, on the clear deck miles up in the sky. Little did we know at the time they were saving themselves for the Sydney Harbour bridge climb! Further afield, a day trip travelling up the Great Ocean Road provided some of the best views you’ll ever see in Australia, until of course, you fly on to Sydney…
Just over an hour’s flight saw us settling into our new abode, Rydges Central, complete with a new social hub centred round the Italian restaurant and bar. Situated right by the metro, if the 30-minute walk into the harbour areas was too far then just two stops on the double decker train (an experience in itself) was ideal.
On New Year’s Eve some of the party set sail on brightly illuminated boats on the Sydney Harbour, some stayed on the shore but all with wonderful views of the midnight spectacular. When we got back together the next day, there were fabulous stories about fireworks and parties. Sydney on NYE, is certainly the place to be.
With the Test match having been pushed back a day it gave welcome time for exploring, both nearby and further afield. A simple ferry ride across the harbour to Manly, passing the Opera House, and dropping in at some of the many bays on route was declared a tour highlight by many. It also lit the flame of the hale and hearty who took on the famous bridge climb, all with success, even those who climbed in the rain! They were however, justly rewarded with a stunning rainbow over the Opera House which was surely a piece of true magic.
Trips to the Blue Mountains or out to the Winelands or learning about Australian food and farming in the outback were all sampled by various members of the group, with experiences being shared and enjoyed over our early evening get together.
Another excellent waterside setting, this time in Darling Harbour, was the venue for a Q and A when we welcomed a new face for Howzat tourists, Michael Atherton, who having given his own resume of the tour, answered some very interesting questions put by members of the tour party.
Soon enough the Fifth and final test was upon us. The SCG with its old, almost romantic, wooden members pavilion sitting comfortably alongside the newer stands, is a stark contrast to the enormity of the MCG. Also in contrast was the day we experienced being in the hottest place on the planet! Who can forget the third day spectacle where the ground turned pink in memory of Jane McGrath and everyone was on board in raising funds and awareness for the family foundation.
The test match was a very, very hot affair with pitch temperatures exceeding 50 degrees centigrade. The Australians produced another flat wicket which did turn late on in the match. The Australian batsmen played a little straighter and with more patience than their English opponents, regrettably it was another defeat.
Far too quickly the end of tour dinner was upon us. Yet another fabulous waterside venue, a splendid meal, the company of our new and old friends and a wonderful guest speaker in Glenn McGrath. One of our tour party summed up the evening quite simply saying ‘it was an honour to be here tonight,’ and it was, it was something rather special.
Our day of fond farewells was also special. Some of us flying home, some going north to the Sunshine Coast, some south to adventures in Tasmania and beyond. We left the tour richer for our experiences and richer for our friendships, with our fingers itching to start searching the Howzat webpages for the next exciting adventure!
Jenni’s Tour Review
I was thrilled to once again be working with Howzat Travel as a tour manager on the 2017/18 Ashes series in my newly adopted home of Australia. I joined the rest of the crew in Perth after the first two tests with high hopes that my arrival would turn the tide for England’s fortunes and that after two defeats, things would improve.
Things started well at the WACA for England, but an unseasonably wet couple of days in Perth played havoc with the pitch and a suspicious wet patch had to be dealt with on the morning of day 5, which involved various contraptions resembling leaf blowers being trundled out periodically as the England fans anxiously scanned the ominous looking skies in the hope a hefty downpour would stymie Australia’s best efforts and that a draw would have to be declared. Sadly, that wasn’t the case and as the skies and the pitch dried up, England battled valiantly but alas, Australia once again won the test, and therefore regained The Ashes.
The following day, a reflective but philosophical group of us headed to the Outback to experience the hospitality of the Red Centre. We enjoyed a wonderful evening at the Earth Sanctuary in Alice Springs where we learned about the ecology of the area whilst dining on succulent steaks and then a real highlight, a chance to gaze in awe at the clear night sky and hear about the various constellations, many of which are not visible from the Northern hemisphere.
The next day, after a look round the main sights of The Alice, we moved onto Ayers Rock, now known as Uluru. Another highlight was the sunset nibbles and sparkling wine at the rock, an evening we’ll always remember, especially the rousing rendition of Waltzing Matilda on the coach back to the hotel!
With spirits restored we moved on to my home town of Melbourne in time for Christmas festivities ahead of the iconic Boxing Day test at the MCG. A splendid Christmas day banquet was enjoyed by all, then it was with eager anticipation we retired for the night, hoping for an improvement for England the next day. A near capacity crowd at the MCG were in attendance to watch as Australia chose to bat first. Things looked promising for England as Alastair Cook made a double century but bad weather intervened and a draw was declared.
Then it was on to Sydney on New Year’s Eve in time for one of the most spectacular firework shows on earth over the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. Many of our guests had front row seats on various floating vantage points in the harbour, and a good time was had by all. A couple of free days after this extravaganza allowed everyone to recover from their excesses by joining trips to some of Sydney’s most famous landmarks, such as Manly and Bondi beach, before the final test began on January 04. Rain delayed the start of play, Mason Crane made his test debut, and Alastair Cook became the youngest player to score 12,000 Test runs. Sadly however, despite their best efforts, Australia once again outclassed England and went on to win by an innings and 123 runs.
Despite the disappointment of losing the series, our merry band of Howzat travellers all enjoyed a wonderful stay in Australia. A lovely mixture of cricket and sightseeing, combined with the excitement of spending the festive season in warm sunshine rather than cold, damp drizzle meant that this was really a trip of a lifetime for many of us, and here’s to 2019 when we will surely be able to regain that precious urn on home territory!
Stephen & Karen’s Tour Review
As intrepid, optimistic and expectant as ever, the Howzat England cricket fan journeyed Down Under hoping to see the urn retained, reputations enhanced, and Australia put to the metaphorical sword of superiority. Some may have thought it “the sword of Damocles”, or were travelling with more trepidation than confidence but having invested a substantial part of the winter, plus substantial amounts of money, one must always look on the bright side of life – and of English cricket, regardless of reason and recent experience.
Whatever, the sun shines, the natives friendly and the food and wine very acceptable. Howzat hotels are always good with a comfortable bed, excellent location and a hostelry on site or close by for post play interrogations over the odd glass of amber nectar, with everyone becoming more knowledgeable, insightful and a much better tactician than the professionals as the evening wears on. These amusing, sometimes light-hearted, sometimes opinionated discussions are one of the great highlights of a Howzat tour and bring fellow travellers close together with many new friends being made. These friendships, many from people that have not met before, are one of the pleasures for clients and tour managers alike and endure for tour after tour. They help make Howzat cricket tours such friendly and sociable occasions and are a key to the success and enjoyment of all concerned.
There was plenty to discuss during promising starts for England in Brisbane and Perth, Anderson magic under lights in Adelaide, periods of dominance in Melbourne and Sydney – but ultimately all for nought as Australian (very) fast bowling and the immovable object known as Steve Smith wrecked England’s ship of hope on rocky Antipodean shores. Simply, the better team won.
The many included Howzat experiences overcame much of the disappointment with excellent guest speaker evenings. “Sir” Geoffrey was honest, forthright and belligerent as ever in his opinions on the administration of English cricket. Mike Hussey and Ian Healey gave a well-balanced account from the Australian perspective. There was an outstanding Christmas Day event in every way, particularly the superb location and brilliantly hosted by Bob “the Cat” Bevan, new to many but a wonderfully genial and comical character.
The farewell dinner in Sydney was also truly memorable for the venue overlooking Darling Harbour, excellent cuisine and superb wines but mostly for the appearance of a true cricketing great, Glen McGrath. A real gentleman, he spoke from the heart about his cricketing background and successes and about his personal tragedies. The uplifting story of turning the loss of his wife into a charitable foundation in her name touched all present. It was an honour to be a part of the event and appreciate the generosity of the Howzat clients in raising over A$20,000 for the charity. A remarkable evening and a fitting finale to another great Howzat cricket tour.
David’s Tour Review
Having been on a few previous Ashes tours, this one felt a little different…
For a start, without wishing to be ironic, the weather was more typical of an English early summer than an Australian one. Brisbane was pretty much overcast throughout, and in Adelaide, particularly for the night section of the day-night Test, we were having to ‘layer up’ to remain reasonably comfortable through to close of play. With heavy rain at times during that Test, there was quite a bit of added time in the evening, meaning play did not finish till pretty late on a few days. This created an interesting dynamic for some customers. While time was limited for those who enjoy a leisurely three course evening meal, it suited rather well for the travellers who preferred their post-mortems to be in the pub!
Numbers were strong in our tour party for the first two Tests, requiring two hotels each for the red and blue groups, in addition to the platinum and white offerings. There seemed to be more ladies than on previous trips, both as couples and travelling independently – a most welcome development. When, after a week or so, in answer to an enquiry about jetlag, I confess that I’m still struggling with sleep patterns, one made me feel no better at all by saying in her best consoling voice: “it gets harder as you get older!’’
The scorebooks will show in years to come that England lost heavily. In fact, those who were at the Gabba, and the Adelaide Oval (if not so much at the Waca in Perth) can testify that England played very well in patches during the early Tests. Unfortunately, in key sessions they did not score enough runs or take enough wickets – and at the end of the day, that is what it is all about. And, Joe Root will take a long time to live down that decision to insert the Australians on the first morning at Adelaide. Very few supporters among the Howzat group thought it was a good decision at the time, and they were proven to be correct.
Among the highlights of the first section of the tour were several terrific talks to the tour party from the likes of Mike Hussey (a most lively and enthusiastic presence), Geoffrey Boycott, Michael Vaughan (who was impressive in backing up his opinions with statistics and detail), Ian Healy and Adam Hollioake.
For myself, it was a pleasure to be present and assist members of the blue group in particular, who to a man and a woman rolled up their sleeves and got stuck into all the good things about touring life and the special country that is Australia.
Gordon’s Tour Review
Having only been a Tour Manager (TM) with Howzat Travel on two previous occasions it was a great thrill to be asked to do all five Ashes Tests looking after the Platinum Tours groups.
This would be a new group for me, however as with Howzat Travellers I have met on every tour so far, it wasn’t long before the whole group had gelled. I soon realised that the word “cricket” was the common bond in Australia as it had been in Cape Town, Antigua & Barbados, irrespective of which tour people were on.
Many of the Platinum travellers knew some, or in some cases several, of the other tourists and old friends meeting up again made for a very good group experience. Single travellers, and indeed couples who didn’t know anyone else were soon sharing an after-match drink or arranging to have meals with others. It was a delight to get to know them all.
I’m sure the England players were as disappointed with their performances as the travelling fans were. There weren’t many English highlights, however, when Alistair Cook made 244no in Melbourne, there was a palpable sense of relief for a great player from the touring fans, as well as joy with the England total.
From our hotels in the five cities, bars, restaurants and sightseeing opportunities were only a few minutes’ walk away, a bonus for those who wanted a quiet relaxing evening/meal after a long day at the cricket.
The Q&A sessions were very popular with the guest speakers. Mike Hussey in Brisbane, Geoff Boycott in Adelaide, Ian Healey in Perth & Mike Atherton in Sydney, all as good as the last. Farewell functions were held in Adelaide with Michael Vaughan, in Perth with Adam Hollioake & the Final Farewell dinner with Glen McGrath in Sydney. Again, these were all special events in wonderful venues – and all included!
The informal cricket evenings, exclusively for the Platinum Group (one during each test match!) with a leading cricket personality were extremely popular. They afforded an opportunity for the group members to speak one-to-one, get an autograph and/or have some photos taken with the guest.
We were lucky enough to be entertained by Jonathan Agnew in Brisbane, Vic Marks in Adelaide, Mike Atherton in Perth, Adam Hollioake in Melbourne and Michael Vaughan in Sydney. Four were early evening functions, travellers enjoying a refreshing drink with some stimulating conversation after a day’s play. While in Adelaide, the Vic Marks event was held over morning coffee because of the day-night test, a wonderful way to fill the morning before play!
The location for Christmas Day Lunch at the Carousel Café was spectacular, looking from an outside deck across a large lake within the complex where the Australian F1 Grand Prix is held each year. The weather was simply fabulous making it a Christmas Day to remember albeit a little strange for Brits to have wall to wall blue skies and sunshine on 25th December! The guest speaker was Bob “The Cat” Bevan who kept us royally entertained with his mixture of life stories & jokes.
For New Year’s Eve in Sydney there were three Howzat Travel optional extras with other revellers doing their own thing. There were two boat options, giving participants a special view of the fireworks from the water – while some preferred to stay on dry land at Pier One. Sydney on NYE is certainly a fantastic sight, especially if you don’t have far to walk home!
The final dinner was held at the Dockside, Cockle Bay Wharf in Sydney and was a fantastic evening. During the tour the Howzat Tour team & tourists had been fundraising for the McGrath Foundation. Several items were auctioned during the evening to swell the amount raised during the tour to over £20,000!
The highlight of the evening was when Glenn was interviewed by Daniel Norcross, who is part of the BBC’s TMS Team. The pair had worked together and their interaction with one-another made for a very memorable session. It was a privilege to meet & listen to Glenn, a great man as well as a great cricketer. It was a lovely touch at the end of the event, when Ian Kerr from Howzat Travel handed Glenn the cheque for the current amount, Glenn thanked all from Howzat on behalf of the foundation.
I think I can sum up my Ashes 2017-18 experience in the words of one of the Platinum tourists as he said his farewells, “It was a pity about the cricket and some of the weather but Howzat had no control on either. However, it’s been a great trip!”
Bob’s Tour Review
Expectations souring – let’s get going and make sure that little urn is staying at home …
Arriving early in the morning is a challenge as always, the best thing to do is to keep going all day to get back into a sleep routine with the 10-hour time difference. I’m first on the ground with Steve & Charlie from HQ – lots to do. My base for the next ten days is the Hotel Jen, situated about 40 minutes’ walk from the GABBA, however our match ticket includes free public transport which is right outside the hotel. The following two days are spent collecting our Howzat accreditation for the various stadiums, setting up notice boards and ensuring everything is ready for new and familiar faces arriving.
The highlight of any tour is meeting and greeting, looking forward to hearing guest’s expectations and getting know new people. The start of this one being met with great enthusiasm, a new Ashes tour, exploring the city, welcome drinks and an early night are the order of the day.
Our group is split between walking through town via the botanical gardens, Goodwill Bridge and on to the GABBA or catching the excellent free public transport. Teams out, anthems sung and its time to play… unfortunately it’s a 10-wicket hammering regardless of how tight the first two days were.
During our stay in Brisbane we spent an interesting evening in the company of “Mr Cricket”, Mike Hussey, who captivated us with his cricketing stories followed by a Q&A session.
I can never understand the odd 30 minutes time difference!
Arriving with a day to spare before the first day/night Ashes Test is time to explode this compact city. The day before the test, it fell to Geoffrey Boycott to entertain us in a way that only he can! Another plus point was the view over the Adelaide Oval from the new purpose-built convention centre.
Breakfast early/late, lunch yes/no, dinner? these are the questions everyone was asking on day one with a 2.30pm start hard to call.
The stadium has a climb along the impressive curved roofline of the Western Stand from where a choir sang the nation anthems. Australia officially won the Test on the fifth afternoon, in reality England had lost it in the first two days, when they sent Australia in and saw them make 442. In terms of the day/night test’s, I’m still to be convinced… When the sun went down it got interesting, although Adelaide was cold I personally had a flask of coffee to keep warm!
Our farewell lunch for the departing Boomerang Tour customers was with Michael Vaughan at a lovely venue in the centre of town. ‘Lunch’ this time as with the 2:30pm start, a dinner wasn’t possible!
I was lucky enough to Tour Manage a small group of customers to “Van Diemen’s Land”. It’s a dog leg of a flight via Melbourne to arrive late afternoon in Hobart and meet our guide/driver, who was the life and sole of our party always keeping us entertained.
On the way into the city we visited Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary before being dropped at our hotel for the night. An early start for the drive along peaceful roads with stunning scenery to Port Arthur, a former convict settlement its one of Australia’s most significant heritage sites. The night was spent at the Port Arthur Inn… the best that can be said about this establishment was the view, right in the heart of the site, a perfect location! As for the rest – ‘Fawlty Towers’ springs to mind!
Day three was a trip to Freycinet National Park, staying at the Lodge inside the park in an absolutely beautiful location and hotel. The Wineglass Bay Cruise was probably the highlight of the tour. Our final night was spent in Launceston before our flight via Sydney to Perth, where yours truly takes a break to become a Howzat customer until Melbourne.
Arriving early in the city from Perth, it offered me the opportunity to refresh my memories of what has always been my favourite Australian destination.
The Christmas Day lunch for all Howzat Travel guests was held at a venue overlooking Albert Park and the city of Melbourne where we were richly entertained by Bob ‘The Cat’ Bevan.
Boxing Day Test at the MCG – one of the world’s sporting highlights. Walking across the bridge with the vast expanse of the stadium in front of you with fellow cricket enthusiasts… unfortunately no one had told the grounds man! It started as a dead rubber and by day five rigor mortis had set in, even Alastair Cooks 244 could not lift our spirits and it all ended in a predictable draw.
The one light hearted moment occurred when the now familiar Hardy’s wine advert appeared on the scoreboard between overs and read: ‘Why can’t the Poms open a bottle of wine? Because they don’t have any openers!’ with Cook on over 200!
The ICC rated the MCG drop-in pitch as “poor”with only 24 wickets falling in five days, this is not the way to attract more people to watch the longer format of the game.
A smooth well organised Melbourne departure and arrival in Sydney, the Melbourne group were joined by another 50+ who had arrived for the final test. We had the pleasure of a few Australian players on our flight including “your captain Steve Smith”. With all that fame surely business class, and not economy, would be more fitting… come on Qantas here’s your captain for the Ashes!
Nothing is more spectacular than the fireworks over Sydney Harbour Bridge to celebrate the arrival of the New Year and our customers took full advantage of party boats, restaurants and various viewing points.
Cricket Australia had moved the start date to Jan 4th for the final test possibly to extend the English’s time in the city. Guests spent these three days exploring Sydney by foot, train, ferry etc. a few braved the heights of the famous ‘Sydney Bridge Climb’. I was lucky enough to take a small group to the Bradman Oval in Bowral, a small town about an hour from Sydney. A few of our party played for the local club side while others wandered the Bradman Museum and lunch and drinks followed.
As for the cricket Australia win by an innings and 123 runs and take the Ashes 4-0. It’s a very impressive performance, day four temperatures around the Australian city reach a high of 47.3C (117F), prompting some of our customers to retire to the shade of a local pub for a long cold beer!
Joe Root retires ill on day five after spending a few hours in hospital overnight. The closing presentation stage was a hand emblazoned with the Australian flag and holding up four fingers to signify the 4-0 series win as opposed to England’s closed fist, one of the local papers quoted…
“Really? How gross. I’m all for beating England at any known sport, but this is insulting triumphalism.”
Yes, Australia have some lovely people, one being Glenn McGrath, who joined us for our farewell Ashes dinner. This was the 10th anniversary of the SCG Pink Test for the McGrath Foundation, a breast cancer charity for which Howzat Travel had being raising money throughout the tour.
It’s just the final goodbyes to our guests most departing back to UK, others continuing on trips around OZ and the world… It’s been a fantastic tour, yes, the results didn’t go our way but we all will return home better for the experience. Thank you one and all for your company over the past seven weeks, as always, it’s been a pleasure!
Helen’s Tour Review
I landed ‘Down Under’ in Adelaide airport for the Second Ashes Test with hopeful anticipation. It was late in the evening on November 29th. I met up with Howzat customers in a very busy airport. It was good to reunite with familiar and new faces, taxis ferried them to their respective hotels. I was to be working with Karen Newman for the first time and was looking forward to doing so. She made an instant impression thrusting a gin and tonic into my hand! The Hilton had been recently refurbished since my last visit three years ago, so the scene was impressively set. I enjoyed a drink with some of the Howzat Travellers to welcome me to the tour.
Once the customers had been greeted at the airport, welcome drinks shortly followed the next evening after ticket distribution. It didn’t take long to rekindle and establish friendships. We had everything to look forward to…
A Q&A session with Geoffrey Boycott was held at the newly completed Convention Centre on 1st December at 8pm. The venue was spectacular overlooking the water to the Adelaide Oval. I escorted a small group on a scenic route around the lake to attend. It was terrific to meet up with other Howzat tourists and again reunite with friends from what feels like the Howzat family. Geoffrey Boycott was his usual contentious, entertaining self and did not short change us on time. I meandered through the balmy Adelaide night with Robert Peacock chewing the cud. We were eagerly anticipating the day/night game to be held the following day.
The cricket was disappointing, Root’s decision to bowl first was contentious and the decision allowed Australia to win convincingly. However, we cannot allow a game to spoil a good holiday! On Wednesday 6th December, the Farewell brunch was held at the Hilton for departing Boomerang customers at 10.30am. Michael Vaughan was giving sound advice eloquently in measured tones and was compered masterfully by Dave Stewart.
After Adelaide, customers went in different directions all over Oz, I took a group of 18 to Sydney to stay in the Grace Hotel. I felt privileged to be staying there between the tests. It certainly lived up to my expectations. The un-spoilt colonial characteristics of this old hotel, the superb service and the close accessibility to all the major sights certainly helped define the ingredients for a wonderful holiday. We were to enjoy the iconic sights of Sydney. We met in the piano bar each evening for those who wanted to, it was an atmosphere of relaxed luxury. We arrived in a Christmas party atmosphere, people were certainly dressed for the occasion and everywhere was buzzing.
The customers took in the sights at their own pace. Gordon and Margaret Smart were escorted to their rendezvous for a dinner cruise and the very next morning, Stephen and Anne took a flight over the harbour. Robert Hitchings and Kevin Bartlett climbed the bridge and visited every possible sight. David Halfhead visited family and friends cramming in all the fun he could in the time. Meandering through the Botanical Gardens, sitting drinking wine on the water’s edge, visiting ‘The Rocks’ and watching buskers in Circular Quay in the warm sunshine whilst freezing temperatures were endured back home somehow made it all the more enjoyable. Ferries across the harbour to Manley and Congee were all worth visiting in the glorious sunshine. Museums and art galleries were available in abundance. A fabulous meal in the Centrepoint Tower with Keith Gibson in the revolving restaurant looking at the spectacular sights of Sydney at night time was memorable. Many went on guided tours of Sydney Opera House and walked the pedestrian pathway across the bridge to Marling Point, perhaps enjoying a drink in a roadside café. Transport in Sydney was particularly easy and tourist open top buses, ferries and trains used the same opal cards. I met most of the group most mornings at breakfast where we could compare notes. Robert Hitchings even fitted in a guided tour of the Opera House on the morning we left.
It was then off to Perth for the Third Ashes Test at the W.A.C.A. which started on 14th December. This was to be the last test to be held at this venue, so was a historic occasion. I was tour managing with Ross Parry, a colleague who I had not officially worked with before. I was eager to work with him and to visit Perth again. Onwards and upwards to a new adventure! I was staying at the Travelodge which I have visited before. I knew the bar, the location to the ground was really good and the laundry would come in handy. Welcome drinks provided an easy way to relax and catch up and breakfasts in the hotel provided a meeting place as Howzat Travellers prepared to walk to the match passing through the idyllic “Queens Gardens” on the way. Some group photos were taken on our way. “Gloucester Park’ race track was opposite the WACA where some groups met at lunch time for a drink when the cricket allowed them to. The temperatures were less scorching than we’ve experienced at the WACA in the past, so something was in our favour!
Ian Healy was the guest speaker for a Q&A session. He led an interesting session especially considering Australia’s convincing lead in the series. He was extremely diplomatic.
Despite a good partnership by Malan and Bairstow and a good performance by Stoneman; Australia won by an innings. I will leave the grueling cricket details to those who want to dwell on them. However, this did not interfere with our enjoyment of the tour.
The farewell dinner for Billabong and Kookaburra customers was held in the luxury of the Hyatt Hotel. Festive decorations added to the atmosphere. The food and service was superb. Adam Hollioake was the guest speaker and was extremely informative.
We were lucky enough to see the Western Australia Symphony Orchestra perform in the park by the water’s edge, this was spectacular and could probably compete to some degree with those in Sydney for New Year. We met at The “Lucky Shag” on the same evening. Howzat customers were out in force which unfortunately turned out to be a wet one. It was lovely to see so many faces who wished me an early Happy Birthday which was really appreciated.
Howzat had a really enjoyable staff meal on 19th December which was a lovely way to end this part of the tour. I appreciated it as a birthday celebration. Many customers left to either return to go home to Blighty or to move onto their next part of the tour. I saw many off hoping we would meet again. I left my tour managing role on 20th December with a little sadness in my heart.
Howzat Travel, a Cricket Australia Travel Office Licensed Travel Operator for the Ashes Series 2017-18. CATO Licence Number – CATO1718/050.
The Cricket Australia shield device is a trade mark of, and used under licence from, the owner Cricket Australia by whom all copyright and other rights of reproduction are reserved.