Julie's on a research trip to Australia, organized by our friends at Gold Medal. As we receive her updates, it's only polite to share…
Ozgram #1 OK guys, two days into my trip so sorry for the delayed entry with the diary it's been a bit of a whirlwind. After the incredibly long flight on Monday - we have spent two nights in Alice Springs where we have seen the amazing Red Centre scenery – looks like Mars! Our last night at "the Alice" was a real highlight where we enjoyed a super outback barbecue with delicious dining under the stars and superb rustic entertainment. The hosts were the most warm and friendly bunch who really made us feel at home and even cooked freshly baked bread for us while we watched. It was a real campfire experience with a fab astronomer pointing out the amazing show of stars and all the visible planets and an insight into the Aboriginal cultures. It's now early morning and we are making our three-hour journey to Kings Canyon, so I'm signing off now.
Ozgram #2 G'day sports! What a wonderful day of adventure in central Australia. It started with our early morning walk around the rim of the Kings Canyon - 500 steep steps up followed by the 6km hike - what an achievement with my bad ankle! Did not think I was going to do it but lots of laughs along the way. We continued on to the marvellous Uluru with the view of the magnificent rock - after a tour around the national park and a quick freshen up in our hotel we were treated to the famous 'Sounds of Silence' dinner.
It began with us watching sunset over the rock with a glass of Champagne - we even witnessed a marriage proposal - what a romantic setting (my husband proposed to me in Pizza Hut!). Anyway after a beautiful dinner and stunning bush entertainment we headed back for a good night's sleep as we had an early start to watch the sunrise. Today is the day we leave Northern Territories for tropical North Queensland, where we are looking at temperatures of 28 degrees - a far cry from the 4 degrees watching sunrise over Uluru. Bring on the sunshine! Before we do, a select few of us were treated to a special viewing of the ultra-exclusive, prestige property Longitude 131. It's so very, very private - guests are met by staff and taken by private road to their special luxury tents. Ultimate peace and quiet. Everything upon everything is included - even all the day tours. You are met by your hosts while they talk you through your tailor-made itinerary - all the while you're taking in the magnificent view of Uluru. No wonder this place was the property of choice for Kate and William in 2014 on their monumental visit to Oz!
So it's goodbye Red Centre, hello North Queensland where the temperature is 28 degrees with 90 percent humidity.
Lovely, except for the hair which is a permanent mop of frizz! A real low-key buzz as we arrive in Cairns with a welcome from Liz Webb of the tourist office who treats us to a lovely Indonesian meal in the Bay Village Tropical Retreat. After a night's rest it was up to Port Douglas for a 2-night stay.
What a lovely place! A little resort town with a quality selection of apartments on a stunning four mile beach - simply marvellous and all within a stone's throw of the famous Daintree Rainforest. I am sad that our trip is coming to a close. What wonderful adventures we have had – the Karanda Skyrail trip where I held the cutest koala called Samson and saw the most stunning scenery in the cable car and sipped champagne on the old wooden train, and the cherry on the cake was snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef!
Still pinching myself at that as we watched the reef shark swim below us. Brilliant memories - the flight back is long and tiresome but would I return to the land down under? HELL YES! Get me there tomorrow!
I'm sitting on a flight to Lanzarote - precisely one row back from the aircraft toilets – when I start to reminisce. The soundtrack is 'Waltzing Matilda', which flings me back to my recent journey to the Australian Outback, and a very bad first day. It started when I arrived at Heathrow waiting for the others, when I noticed a small hole in my suitcase. The fabric had just come away from the handle. Great start, I thought, everyone's going to see my thongs before I've even touched a drop. The chance of it surviving the seven flights round Oz looked slim, and as sure as church on a Sunday, we land in Sydney to watch as on the first circuit, the handle falls off and then on the next go, the whole case flies off. Panic ye not! The ground staff at Qantas were amazing and along with the lovely ladies from Northern Territories Tourism, they scored me a new swag bag within 24 hours. That's just one memory of many. All of our group bonded so well, especially me and my roomie Alex. Like two peas in a pod, even if one of them was ten years older. The funniest time was our sunset camel ride around Uluru. Half the team were stressed trying to tame nature, but I couldn't move beyond my camel's name: Trevor. In the past I have made quite a few bookings to Australia, but never did I imagine how much I would truly love it - the diverse landscapes were truly world class and the people are so welcoming and friendly. I will return.