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Trip Report Our really quite big adventure, Part 1: overture and beginners please!

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Well, here it is, the not so long-awaited trip report of our recent adventures in what are still sometimes quaintly called the Antipodes, with a bit of Hong Kong thrown in for good measure. As the vast majority of the trip was in what Fodors calls Australasia, I’m going to post this introduction and the main parts of the report here, with a brief stop-over in Asia to cover our stop-over in Hong Kong - just like the trip itself. So anyone who wants to skip the who, why, when, and where, and/ or Hong Kong, can just stay here, and wait for the TR proper. If, OTOH, you’d like to know who we are, and why we ended up doing what we did, keep reading.

Who, what, where, when and why. [not necessarily in that order].

Not quite in the twilight of our years, but having rather more time [and dare I say money?] on our hands than previously, and wanting desperately to escape the wind and rain of the Cornish winter if at all possible, DH and I were set an example by our DD a couple of years ago, when she went on a 4 month trip with a friend round the Far East and Australasia. If she could do it, we could, but we couldn’t afford quite so much time away, so we took our first baby steps by spending 2 weeks touring Sri Lanka last year, and finding that we rather liked the sensation, decided on the plane back that we would plan a longer trip for the next year. Which means this year - 2013. But where and when to go?

We then realised that England would be playing an Ashes series in Australia in the winter [at cricket, for those readers of a non-sporting or North American persuasion]. As we both love cricket, and DH, having done some scuba diving, fancied diving the Great Barrier Reef, and we were both keen to see something of New Zealand, the trip was beginning to take shape. But we needed some advice on what we could reasonably accomplish in the time we were likely to have, and when exactly to go, so I naturally turned to my fellow fodorites. What they had to say and how our ideas emerged into a fully-fledged itinerary can be found here for anyone who is interested in our thought processes:

In summary, we decided that we wanted to go during November and December so as to miss what is usually some awful weather [and the ever-decreasing daylight] of the cornish autumn, see a test match, and be home for Christmas. Following the advice we’d received, we realised that we needed to put diving the GBR as early in the trip as possible due to the temperatures we might experience in Northern Queensland. This made picking the first test in Brisbane as the one we would actually attend an easy choice, especially as we were warned, rightly as it turned out, about the likely temperatures in Perth, which was the only real alternative as the 3rd test was scheduled at what would be the end of the trip. Also this would leave us with what we then wrongly assumed would be plenty of time for New Zealand in the middle. Finally, we decided that we’d like to stop over somewhere on the way out and way back so as to break up the 20+ hour flight. Ideally we’d have liked to see both Hong Kong and Singapore but we were informed by all the agents we spoke to that this is no longer possible on a standard ticket due to arrangements between the airlines. So after much playing about with the itinerary, we ended up with a 3 night stop-over in Hong Kong on the way out, and a 3 hour stop-over in HK on the way back. Not ideal, but we would have to live with it.

As the flights were looking a bit complicated [to us, at any event] we contacted a number of travel agents who specialise in this sort of trip, and like DD, found Trailfinders the easiest to deal with, so used them to book the flights, which for those who are interested, cost about £1,500 each for our 6 flights. Not cheap, but actually better than we had hoped. This was traveling economy class - we only became aware at the end of the trip that premium economy for the long flights would probably have cost relatively little more [about £100 per leg of the long flights out and back] and we would willingly have paid that for the extra space and leg-room we discovered this would have given us, when we were upgraded for the first leg of our return flight. Oh well, next time!

Fitting in a prior commitment at the beginning of November, and wanting to be home for Christmas limited our trip to just over a month, which we thought was probably the most that we could manage, given that we’d never previously had a holiday of longer than 2 1/2 weeks. Just as importantly we would be leaving our [grown-up] kids in charge at home and though we trusted them implicitly, we didn’t think it fair to leave them with the responsibility of looking after the dogs and chickens for longer, not to mention the preparations for Christmas! so 5 weeks from mid November to mid-December it was.

This, then, is the itinerary we ended up with:

3 nights HK
5 nights Port Douglas
1 night wild-life tour with fodorite and wild-life expert, Alan Gillanders, as recommended by Toucan2
5 nights Brisbane [with tickets for days 2 & 3 of the test]
17 nights NZ, flying into Auckland and out of Christchurch,
5 nights Sydney

In retrospect we could have managed with one night fewer in both Brisbane and Sydney; we would have added both nights to NZ, for which 17 nights was definitely not enough. But the deal we were offered on the flights was, we thought, too good to miss so they were booked relatively early on in the planning process, in April. Another time we might well delay booking flights until later on in the process, but because our return was going to be quite close to Christmas, we were nervous that we would not get the flights we needed. And I find it quite difficult to plan seriously until I know that the trip is actually going to happen, which for me means that the flights are booked and paid for.

Enough of the preliminaries, let’s get on with the trip proper.

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