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Amazing Australia - Special Departure Australia Day - 8 January - 5 February 2018
Post: #1
There were 23 of us in the Group – 6 male and 17 female.  Not everyone travelled from Heathrow so the entire Group, apart from Maggie who was already in Australia, met on arrival in Perth.  Our Tour Manager was Sarah Wrightson.  She truly was an excellent Tour Manager.  She had prepared a summary of the holiday programme from day one to the last day and also handed us all ‘Welcome to Australia’ holiday information, which included travel tips, information about landing card, water, electricity plus timings of the first day.  She also provided us with her Australian mobile number.  An information sheet for each destination giving the times and what was happening on each day was also prepared by her.  This was very useful as you did not have to refer to the itinerary in Just You documents.  To provide such detailed information would have meant that Sarah spent a lot of her personal time to ensure we had a wonderful time.  She also always recommended places to eat and gave suggestions on things to do in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne where we had free time, especially for those not doing the optional excursions.
 
I am not going to provide a day by day review, but will try and give as much information I can for each destination.
 
Perth, Swan Valley and Freemantle
 
We arrived in Perth in the early hours of Wednesday 10 January.  Sarah had organised a ‘Welcome’ meeting for 09:30 where she provided us with lots of information for this Tour.  We left for City sightseeing tour at 13:00.  Stops were made at Kings Park and the beach.  Weather in Perth was lovely – not too hot and with a cool breeze.  We returned to the hotel around 17:00 and met in the bar for complimentary drinks before dinner at 18:30.  Dinner was at 19:30.  This was an exhausting day due to the long flight so an early night was on the cards, especially for me.  On Thursday 11 January we left at 09:00 for a full day excursion to Yanchep National Park and Swan Valley.  This was an optional excursion but worth every penny.  We saw a few Kangaroos, koalas high up in the gum trees and a variety of birds.  The park was beautiful.  Next stop was at AQWA (aquarium) followed by some free time before heading to wine tasting.  We all went out to dinner where the food was delicious.  We started Friday 12 January with a cruise on Swan River before disembarking at Freemantle (this too was an optional excursion).  We had a short orientation tour by coach where places of interest were pointed out before being dropped off.  Sarah, being a great Tour Manager, had switched the days of Yanchep and Swan River Cruise to make sure we had a chance to visit the local produce market in Freemantle.  A few of us visited Freemantle Prison, which took up most of our time in Freemantle so I only had very few minutes to visit the market.  We did have an option to stay longer in Freemantle and get a train back to Perth if we wanted to do so.  Some decided to stay on, but I came back with the coach.
 
Darwin
 
We had an early start at 06:30 on Saturday 13 January to travel to the airport for our 08:30 flight to Darwin.  The hotel had provided us with a ‘breakfast box’.  On arrival at Darwin, we first had an orientation tour with a couple of photo stops before checking into our hotel.  It was hot and humid in Darwin.  Dan, our driver and guide for the next few days had a wealth of knowledge and we all learnt a lot about the history of Darwin.  We left Darwin for Kakadu National Park at 08:00 on Sunday 14 January. En route we visited Windows on the Wetlands and Bowali Visitor Centre.  It was a long drive to Jabiru, where we were staying the night but the route was scenic and we were spotting lots of different birds.  On reaching Jabiru Dan took us to see the Uranium mines before we checked into the Kakadu Crocodile Hotel – it really was in the shape of a crocodile!  On Monday 15 January, we left the hotel at 08:00 and first visited Nourlangie Rock where we viewed Aboriginal paintings followed by a cruise on the Yellow Waters Lagoon.  We saw some birds but alas no crocodiles.  It had rained a lot and due to the water levels, we were not able to do the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise on East Alligator River.  Overnight stop was in Katherine.  We left the hotel on Tuesday 16 January at 08:00 to travel back to Darwin.  We started with a cruise through Katherine Gorge, saw Edith Falls and visited Adelaide River War Cemetery arriving at the hotel in Darwin around 17:00.
 
Alice Springs – The Red Centre
 
We left the hotel in Darwin on Wednesday 17 January at 05:15 to catch the 08:10 flight to Alice Springs.  I did not expect to see much greenery in Alice, but there was a lot of greenery.  First stop on arrival was Anzac Hill followed by the Telegraph Station.  We then visited the Flying Doctor service and after lunch visited the School of the Air.  Everything was very interesting.  There was a good opportunity to post a postcard at the Telegraph Station to get a special frank/postmark.  In the evening there was an optional Bush BBQ to which the whole group went.  We had lots of fun trying our hand at boomerang throwing.  We witnessed an amazing bush sunset.  After enjoying delicious food provided by our hosts – pudding was damper cooked in the fire, we did a bit of star gazing.  It was lovely sitting around a fire in the bush – amazing experience.  On Thursday 18 January, half day optional excursion was to Western MacDonnell Ranges and Standley Chasm.  First stop was Simpsons Gap, a stunning gorge followed by Standley Chasm. This was another lovely excursion and we were lucky to see some rock wallabies.  We then had a ‘surprise’ breakfast of freshly baked scones with jam and cream, fresh fruit and cakes before returning back to the hotel.  Afternoon was free.
 
Uluru / Kata Tjuta (Ayers Rock and the Olgas
 
Friday 19 January was an early start at 07:30 to travel to the Ayers Rock resort.  This was a long drive but again ever changing scenery made it a pleasant drive.  We made a brief stop at a camel farm where a few of us took an opportunity to ride a camel.  It was a very short ride around the yard, but for me it was a good experience having never been on a camel.  I enjoyed the ride very much and wish it was much longer!  I was very lucky to see about half a dozen wild Emus on the way to Ayers Rock resort.  We made a few photo stops on the way and on arrival at the resort we were dropped off in the square to have lunch whilst our bags were taken to the hotel.  After lunch we went to Kata Tjuta, but it was a very hot day with temperatures into 40s.  There were very few flies around – maybe half a dozen, but we had fly nets.  I personally did not go all the way and decided to turn around half way because of the extreme heat.  You were getting the heat below from the stones and above from the sky.  On returning to the hotel we just had enough time to freshen up before heading to Uluru for sunset and the Sounds of Silence dinner.  We were served drinks and canapés while we watched the sunset over Kata Tjuta and the changing colours on Uluru.  We then sat down to dinner and after dinner we had a talk on the stars.  We returned to the hotel quite late and I was exhausted due to the very long day.  The next morning on Saturday 20 January we were on the coach at 5.00 for the Uluru sunrise and the base tour.  It was worth getting up very early.  After the sunrise we had a tour at the base of Uluru with a couple of very pleasant walks.  Again hardly any flies at all.  We finished the morning with a visit to the Cultural Centre before returning to the hotel in time for breakfast and a bit of relaxation before our 14:35 flight to Cairns.  It would have been lovely to be able to climb Kata Tjuta in the morning instead of early afternoon, but I know this is not always possible unless you add an extra night at the resort.
 
Cairns – Reef, Rainforest and River
 
Sunday 21 January was the trip to the Great Barrier Reef.  We left the hotel at 09:30 and returned back at 17:30.  Unfortunately it was a cloudy day, but not cold.  I had planned to do scuba-doo but since I had taken some travel sickness medication and was still feeling a bit drowsy, decided against it.  I did regret the decision afterwards as those who did it had a lot of fun.  I went in the semi submersible and saw some fish, but the coral was bleached.  It would have been lovely to see colourful coral, but I knew about the bleaching so was not too disappointed.  Lunch on the pontoon was included.  On Monday 22 January was the day of optional full day Kuranda excursion – Skyrail, Rainforest and the Train.  We first took the Skyrail over the rainforest canopy and had time for board walks at two rainforest mid-stations. On the first board walk we saw a small python curled up in its nest.  We then had free time in Kuranda.  I visited the bird sanctuary and the koalas where you had a chance to cuddle one.  I also enjoyed the visit to the bird sanctuary – most of the birds were free flying and if you wished, you could hand feed them.  I had a few parakeets land on my back (I did not have any bird food) and looking at the photo taken by Maggie, I noticed that the birds were pecking at my pink and red beaded necklace – perhaps they thought it was bird food!  What an amazing experience!  We returned back on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, which made a photo stop at Barron River Falls before arriving at Freshwater Station where we disembarked and joined the coach for the journey back to the hotel.  This truly was a lovely day.  On Tuesday 23 January, there was another full day optional excursion to Daintree.  First stop was Port Douglas where we had morning tea of freshly baked scones, jam and cream.  We then departed for 4 mile beach lookout point and also visited Mary’s Church.  This was followed by the Cruise where we did spot crocodiles.  We stopped for lunch at a small tea house run by 2 lovely gentlemen.  They provided us with a delicious lunch and fresh fruit juice.  This was followed by a visit to Daintree village.  Our driver/guide gave us a short tour of posh Palm Cove residential area.  We also saw lots of sugarcane plantations and palm trees and as usual there were a few photo stops on the way back.  On the way back to Cairns there was a tropical downpour but we were on the coach so it did not affect us.  We also saw hundreds of wallabies grazing in the fields, but unfortunately there was no way the coach could stop for us to take photos.
 
Sydney
 
Flight to Sydney was at 12:20 on Wednesday 24 January.  The hotel was in a very good location with a rooftop with great views of the harbour, the Bridge and Sydney Opera House.  We met on the rooftop at 18:30 for a drink and then those who wanted dinner went out.  On Thursday 25 January we did a City Tour and after lunch stop optional sightseeing cruise.  Unfortunately it started to drizzle and the breeze picked up, which sent some of us scuttling downstairs.  The cruise would have been lovely if the weather was nicer.  Some of us were doing the Bridge climb so Sarah walked us over straight after the cruise.  This was a thrilling experience.  Friday 26 January was Australia Day.  Again, Sarah swapped the day for the trip to Blue Mountains so we all could enjoy Australia Day.  A few of us did a helicopter flight first thing in the morning and then the rest of the day was free.  I walked over to the Harbour and managed to catch the ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ – it was fascinating to watch the boats and the helicopters ‘dancing’ to the music!  Most of us opted for the barbeque dinner at the hotel and then we watched the fireworks from the rooftop.  Optional trip to Blue Mountains and Featherdale was on Saturday 27 January.  The day started a bit cloudy but then it became hot and humid.  We drove through the Blue Mountains to the Three Sisters where we stopped for photos before departing for Scenic World where we had a ride in the scenic cable car with views of the Jamieson Valley and rode on the world’s steepest incline railway.  You had an option of riding up and down if you wished.  We rode down.  Again, an amazing experience.
 
Canberra
 
We departed for Canberra at 07:30 on Sunday 28 January.  The weather to start with was not very good and we had some rain on the way.  It soon cleared up.   On the way we stopped at Gold Creek Sheep Station for lunch.  Before lunch we had a demonstration of dog work and sheep shearing.  Delicious lunch was provided by a lovely family.  On arrival in Canberra, we had a tour of Embassies and High Commissions before visiting the War Memorial Museum.  We also had a chance to attend the Last Post Ceremony which took place at 17:00.  We then made a stop at Mount Ainslie viewpoint before arriving at the hotel soon after 18:00.  Our flight to Adelaide was not until 18:00 on Monday 29 January so we were very lucky to have extra time in Canberra.  We did a tour of the Houses of Parliament and then visited the National Museum.  ‘Song lines – Tracking the Seven Sisters’ exhibition was on so I opted to see this and found it very interesting.
 
Adelaide
 
On Tuesday 30 January we first went to Barossa Valley for the wine tasting.  Our driver made a stop at Bethany, an old settlement established in 1842 for us to have a look.  This was followed by a photo stop at Mengler Hill where you had a lovely view of the valley. First wine tasting stop was at Wolf Blass winery followed by Jacob’s Creek where we had a tour of the vineyards before tasting followed by lunch.  We could eat the grapes when we did the vineyards tour and they were so tasty!  On the way back we stopped at Mount Lofty for a view of Adelaide.  It was very blustery.  I spotted a wild koala up a gum tree which was swaying wildly in the wind.  You did not get a good view as the branches were in the way due to the wind.  After leaving Mount Lofty, we all were on the lookout for wild koalas when I spotted one quite low down on the tree.  The coach stopped and we all crossed the road to take photos.  It was so nice to see a wild koala so close up.  It certainly made our day.  We did a City tour of Adelaide on return from Barossa Valley.  Wednesday 31 January was a free day and I spent over 5 hours at Adelaide Zoo and had a very brief time in the botanical gardens before walking back to the hotel.
 
On Thursday 1 February we left Adelaide at 07:30 to travel to Warrnambool where we were staying for one night.  We had some scenic stops along the way including Koorong and the Blue Lake at Mt Gambier.  Lunch stop was at Robe.  We also had a chance to visit a sink hole garden.  Warrnambool was chilly.
 
Great Ocean Road – Melbourne
 
We left Warrnambool on Friday 2 February at 08:00 to travel to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road.  It was overcast and cold when we left.  The first surprise stop was at the harbour to watch the horses being exercised in the sea.  We made quite a few scenic stops at Bay of Islands, London Bridge, 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge.  Lunch stop was at Apollo Bay.  The route was very scenic and there were some windy roads along the forests.  We arrived in Melbourne early evening.  On Saturday 3 February we had City Tour in the morning with stops at Captain Cook’s cottage, War Memorial, Cricket Ground.  The rest of the day was free before leaving at 15:30 for the optional Phillip Island and Penguin Parade excursion.  We first made a stop at Cowes before travelling to Phillip Island.  We did a board walk where we saw a few penguins in their burrows.  We also saw some geese and rabbits.  On the way to Phillip Island we saw some black kangaroos.  The penguins were very late coming back – after 21:00.  Despite being told not to take photos, some Chinese visitors kept on trying to do so.  On the way back to the coach and along the board walk where the penguins were going back to their burrows, they were still trying to take photos and I personally stopped more than half a dozen of them taking a photo.  There were too many people, noisy children and noisy adults.  Not sure if all this is good for the penguins – perhaps they should limit the numbers and not allow any phones or cameras and increase the number of rangers.  We did not get back to the hotel till about midnight.  Sovereign Hill optional excursion was on Sunday 4 February, but I had to miss this as I was meeting a friend who I last saw 8 years ago.   The Celebratory Trolley Car dinner was tonight and again we did not get back to the hotel till midnight.  At least we could have a lie in on Monday 5 February as our flight was in the evening.  We had to check out of the rooms by 11:00 and then had the rest of the day free to do what we wanted.  A few rooms were available from 14:00 onwards to shower, freshen up and change into travel clothes.
 
This truly was an amazing adventure from start to finish. We had a wonderful Tour Manager who went the extra mile to ensure we all had a good time.  All Quantas flights were very good with friendly crew.  Given a chance I would not hesitate to do this Tour again. 

Best wishes

Jaya
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Post: #2
Hi Jaya,

I’m delighted to hear that you had a lovely time on your recent JY holiday to Australia. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with the wider Just You community.

I have forwarded your comments on to our Customer Care team here at JYHQ.

Kindest regards,
Amy
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Post: #3
Hello Jaya

Thanks for your super review and I am glad you had a great holiday. I am yet to venture to Oz but will keep your review to hand for when I do. Where to next?

Regards
Sylvia
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Post: #4
Great review Jaya, it sounds as if you had an action packed time, lots of early starts and some late nights too, but it sounds as if it was all worth it.

No doubt another one to add to my wish list!

See you when we have tea with Jan Leeming, really looking forward to that.

Best wishes
Rose
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Post: #5
Hi Jaya

a fantastic detailed review I read it all albeit it took up all of my dinner break, glad you had such a fantastic time on this amazing tour, it's brought back such memories for me, as for the Chinese at the penguins I could just imagine, we had loads on the blue mountains trip and I didn't do the penguins as we were told we could not take any photographs except from a certain viewing point, I opted to chill out in Melbourne, watch some cricket at the magnificent MCG and take in a football match believe it or not, I too would do it again given half the chance

look forward to hearing more over the coming weeks and months

all the best

Dave
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Post: #6
Hello Jaya,

Lovely review and I am pleased that you had a great time. I went to Australia with Just You three years ago and it brought back many happy memories.

Regards Julie
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Post: #7
Hi Jaya,
Thanks for this brilliant review. But I think it will remain a dream as I don't think I could cope with the getting there.
Regards,
Roger
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Post: #8
Jaya

It sounds as if you had a fantastic time, Sarah was my TM on the NZ toura few years ago, she has been my best TM by far excellent, so I know you were in safe hands and she would sort out things for you.
Your review bought back many memories of the tour I did, so thank you..my whole purpose of going to Oz was for Uluru I loved every second, I got to see 2 early mornings and 1 late afternoon/evening colour change it’s amazing..I managed a helicopter flight over Uluru and the Olgas brilliant.

So, where are you off to next then..

Cindy
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Post: #9
Hi Jaya

It sounds as though you thoroughly enjoyed your special Australian trip! Thank you for sharing your adventure - it brought back many happy memories for me too. Where next?!  Smile
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Post: #10
Hi Jaya

Wonderful review.  

I had booked Australia in 2008 with Just You but it was cancelled due to insufficient numbers.  Would love to do this trip in a couple of years.  You mentioned several barbecues, did they have lots of vegetarian dishes?

Regards

Sue
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