Talbot Tour

Touring Japan and Australia.

Saturday 1st July 2017
Planning started. We will visit Tokyo and Hiroshima in Japan, then Sydney and Adelaiade in Australia. With our travel dates selected we have booked our flights. We are going to fly Emirates for the first time from London Heathrow to Tokyo Japan via Dubai. Then Tokyo to Sydney before returning home, Sydney to Heathrow.

With our route and dates sorted we will fill in the detalis and book hotels etc. over the next few months.

Monday 9th April 2018
Hotels and car hire booked for the Japan leg of this tour. Japan Rail Passes ordered and paid for, We just have to exchange the vouchers for Rail Passes when we arrive.

Test packing started, we plan to travel light on this trip so we need to reduce the spare clothing. We are not expecting to require formal clothes, so just jeans and T-shirt / Polo Shirts.

Sunday 22nd April 2018
After a lazy day we secured the house and departed for Heathrow airport. Parking in the long-term carpark we struggled to the bus stop. No provision had been made to allow passengers with bags to get past the parked cars. The sign in the bus stop said the next bus would be in five minutes. Another couple arrived in the bus stop and when we looked back at the sign it had changed to 15 minutes. When it finally arrived we jumped on the bus to Terminal Three. The Emirates check in desks were very quiet and we dropped off our bags. When we said about it being quiet, the lady on the desk said that it's a quiet flight. If we are lucky we may get some extra space on the flight.

Security was a breeze, although they were quite rude about Martins stone age notebook computer. We will have to consider a replacement before our next trip. Airside we settled down with a coffee before checking out the shops.

After a while we were called to the gate. Boarding our Airbus A380, we found our seats for the first leg to Dubai. The cabin crew told us we could move as there were many empty seats. So Martin moved into the row of seats in front of ours and we each had four seats. Putting the arm rests up gave us each a narrow bed. With four pillows and blankets each we were very comfortable.

Monday 23rd April 2018
The cabin crew were more interested in collecting our blankets and headphones than serving breakfast. We didn't get the advertised coffee and pastry. The landing in Dubai was delayed by traffic and we had to circle for twenty five minutes.

Arriving at 07:05 we only had 63 minutes until our connecting flight departed. With the gate closing 45 minutes before departure that only left us 18 minutes to get through security and board the aircraft. Time to do the terminal dash.

We were met by a young lady with a sign for Hanada at the top of the air bridge. Then we were off. Through the terminal at a very brisk walking pace. Up and down escalators and lifts. Terminal transfer on a monorail then a final dash to the gate. Boarding a bus we waited for a few minutes for the usual last minute stragglers. Then a five minute drive across the airfield to our plane. The bus drove around behind the aircraft and we could see our bags going up the conveyor belt and into the cargo hold. As soon as we were seated the aircraft started and we were off again on the second leg from Dubai to Tokyo.

This flight was a lot fuller, on the plus side the seat next to Martin was empty so we were not too crowded.

Arriving at Hanada airport in Tokyo at 22:35, we got off the plane and through immigration to the baggage carousel. Our bags were the last out and then we had to queue to talk to a customs officer about Jackies medication. Landside at last we went to the left luggage office. We had already located it on the internet before leaving home. Bad news, a sign saying storage full. Jackie managed to ask if there was any other storage and the man indicated there was another on the departures level. Rushing upstairs we found the other storage. Oh bugger another sign saying "Storage Full". We spoke to the lady and she signed that she could fit our case in.

Then we dashed downstairs to the tube station. Running out of time for the last train we madly fed the ticket machine with Yen. Tickets in hand we got through the entry barrier with the help of a member of staff. Arriving on the platform two minutes before the last train departed. On the train and relax, phew.

Arriving in Shingawa station we had to transfer onto the JR line. Fighting our way across a stream of other passengers we boarded the train and ten minutes later we disembarked at Shimbashi station at half midnight. A five minute walk through a red light district we turned down the ally that lead to our hotel.

Checked in we went up in the lift to the 15th floor and our room. After a quick shower and a fight with the Japanese automatic toilet it was time for bed.

Tuesday 24th April 2018
After a good nights sleep we got up and left the hotel by 11:00. Walking north brought us to a park and cutting across that we arrived at the Emperors Palace. Crossing the moat we walked through the gate and around to get a view of the private area.

Walking on we were strolling along the edge of a gravel square looking at the trees when we heard "Peep", "Peep", "Peep". Looking up we saw a police man waving his batton at us to move across the square. Acknowledging him we crossed and he beckoned us to go to him. Thinking we were in trouble we walked over. He then indicated for us to join a group of other people wating at the side of a road through the pedestrian area. After a couple of minutes a motorcade with police motorcycle out riders left the palace. That was Akihito the Emperor of Japan.

A short while later we saw another with Swedish flags on. Turns out that ead the King and Queen of Sweden going to meet the Emperor.

After that we walked through the Imperial gardens. Then we visited the Toyokawa Inari Shrine. There are hundreds of statues of Foxes wearing red bibs. They represent "Jizo", the protector of children and travelers. Then we walked back to the hotel. We have walked six miles today not bad for a couple of old crips.

Wednesday 25th April 2018
Waking up to pouring rain, we checked the weather forecast and the rain was expected to stop at eleven. So at eleven o’clock we left the hotel to go to Tokyo main station. Walking to Shimbashi station in the rain dodging the puddles we got a little wet but our pac-a-macs kept the worst off.

Arriving at the station we got two single tickets from the machine. J ¥140 (£1) each and jumped on the first train. Two stops later we pulled into Tokyo station. Finding the JR (Japan Rail) office we exchanged our vouchers for rail passes and booked seats on tomorrow's bullet train to Hiroshima.

Having recced the route for tomorrow we left the station and went into a large shopping centre. Fortunately several buildings were linked underground through their basements. Every cafe and restaurant was full with people queuing outside for a table. Realising that they would all be the same as it's office workers lunch time we left to walk back to our hotel.

Halfway back we found a coffee shop and as they had spare seats and tables we decided to stop for a while. Ordering a coffee and a cheese and ham mini beguette. The sun came out and the humidity jumped. On the way back we found a steak house that we may try tonight.

Well so far we are a little disappointed with Tokyo. We have been here two days and not once have we seen drift cars racing around the city. If you watch the movies they should be happening every day.

After an afternoon siesta we walked out for dinner. As it was rush hour we were swept along by the crowds of businessmen and office workers making their way to the station for the commute home. A good time to stay away from the station as they employ pushers to squeeze as many people as thy can into each compartment.

Finding a restaurant we got a table and were given English menues. How ever did they know we were English? On the table was a dome shaped item black with a white spot on top. Jackie pushed the spot a couple of times. Then we realised that the staff were staring at us. Ooops the thing Jackie had been pressing was a wireless call button and each time the button was pressed a bell sounded and our table number came up on a large monitor. Only slightly embarrassing.

We ordered a Japanese version of a burger, no bread roll, just a meat patte with onion sauce and spinach. We also ordered a side of fries but they came on their own with a sachet of ketchup as a starter. Having eaten we walked back to the hotel to pack for tomorrow's move to Hiroshima.

Thursday 26th April 2018
Awake early this morning to a bright sunny day. Showered and a breakfast in our room of banana and mini croissants with coffee we checked out of our hotel and walked to the local station. With our JR Passes we didn't need tickets for the ride to Tokyo main station.

We arrived in plenty of time for our Shinkansen Hikari 469 bullet train to Hiroshima. The train arrived and the passengers disembarked. Then the staff cleaned the train and reversed the seats so we could sit facing forward. Five minutes before departure the doors opened and we found our reserved seats in carriage 15 of 16, seats 2D and 2E.

The seats on this train are 3 and 2 and we have a two seat group so no sharing. Twenty minutes out from Tokyo we got our first view of Mount Fuji. A very impressive sight. Then we settled down for the three hour run to Kobe.

The etiquette on these trains is phones on silent, no loud music and talk quietly. A bit like a library really. Lucky us, when we pulled in at the first stop a family got on and sat in seats separated by a few rows. We got two 8-10 year old girls who didn't stop talking and arguing for the whole three hours. At least we weren't sat in the third of the row of seats with them unlike the poor Japanese gentleman.

Exiting the final tunnel we alighted at Shin-Kobe station. Walking down the platform to the information board showed us that we were already on the correct platform for our next train. After a Nizomi train arrived and left our train arrived. As each train only stops in the platform for about two minutes we made haste getting on.

Boarding the Shinkansen Sakura 559 we found our next reserved seats in carriage 8 of 8, seats 9C and 9D. As the seats on this train are 2 and 2 we were sat together again. The seats on this train have slightly thicker upholstery and broarder arm rests. Time to relax for the next hour as we speed towards Hiroshima.

Arriving in Hiroshima we found the JR office and reserved seats for the remaining three train trips. Then we left the station for the short walk across the river to our hotel. Checking into the APA Hotel Hiroshima-Ekimae Ohashi we found our room.

We spent the evening planning tomorrow itinerary. Looks like being a busy day.

Friday 27th April 2018
Up breakfast and out at half seven. A brisk walk to the nearest tram stop. Jumping on the tram for the seven stops saved us a mile and a half walk and only cost J ¥180 (£1.30), even if it did make Jackie a nervous wreck (She really doesn't like trams or cows). Arriving at the A- Bomb Dome we walked around the iconic ruin. The rubble is still laying on the ground where it fell. Crossing the bridge into the peace park we beat the school parties and tour busses into the museum. So we had it almost to ourselves.

There is an arial view of Hiroshima before and after the bomb. These obviously came from military recce and damage assessment photographs. Also in the museum are artifacts damaged during the attack including clothing and personal effects. It is a sobering reminder of the horror of that day for the people going about their daily lives.

Walking back out as the tours and school parties arrived was a great feeling. On our way back out of the park we stopped at the peace bell for a dong.

Crossing the road and heading towards the castle we met a party of five year old school children. It looked like about 100 all walking in two by two. Every single one on seeing the western people chanted "Hello", "Hello", "Hello". We smiled and replied "Hello" and "Kon'nichiwa" while waving. After 100 Hellos we got a thankful smile from the teacher at the back of the group. This happened on four more occasions before we got away from the area.

Walking through the castle grounds and on north we came to the JR Shin-Hakushima Station. Using our JR passes we jumped on the next train. Unfortunately the train was full and it took three stops before we could get a seat.

After half an hour we arrived at Miyajimaguchi Station. Getting off, it was only a short walk to the ferry pier. As our passes allow us to use this ferry for free we didn't have to queue for tickets. This allowed us to go straight to the boarding point. As the ferry was not in, we were at the front of the queue.

The ferry crossing to Miyajima Island diverts to pass the O-Torii Gate. This is a large red painted enterance to a shrine. This one sits out in the bay and is one of the most famous in Japan. (See photo at top of page)

Knowing this as soon as the ferry docked we went up stairs to the front right corner and tucked outselves in the corner. Ten minutes later as we passed the O-Torii Gate we had a perfect veiw and got some great photographs.

Getting off of the ferry we walked through the shopping area to the shrine. The town was bursting with school parties, this is "Golden Week" and obviously time for school trips. Stopping at a little restaurant we had lunch before walking down onto the beach. While we had been eating the tide had gone out and we were able to walk right out to the O-Torii Gate.

After a while we made our way back to dry land and visited the five-storied pagoda. Then it was time to head for home. Retracing our steps to the train we squeezed on to the busy carraige and managed to get seats after just two stops. We stayed on the train to Hiroshima main station as this is just a short walk from our hotel.

Saturday 28th April 2018
Time to move on. Today we travel to Himeji. As its Saturday of Golden Week the trains are busy. When we booked our seats on the Shinkansen for today, the train we wanted was fully booked. The lady asked us if we were happy to sit apart. We got booked on the 13:22 service and got seats 5A and 5C. "Not too bad at least we are in the same row". Looking at our tickets last night one of us is Car 4 Seat 5C, the other is Car 5 Seat 5A. Looks like a quiet trip, still it's only an hour.

Waking at seven o'clock we showered and packed before breakfast. Todays surprise is the sweet bread rolls with raisins had a centre filling of butter. Tearing one open allowed the butter to be squished around, quite nice actually.

With a 13:22 train time we decided to relax in the room wearing our dressing gowns and check out just before 11. Making our way out of the hotel we walked to the riverbank and sat on a bench . After a while we entered the station, brought lunch and got a coffee. While we were having our coffee an elderly couple turned up. Funnily enough it was the same couple we had helped off of the train yesterday.

After coffee our train came up on the board and we went to our platform. Right on time our train pulled in and we said our goodbyes. It will be a whole hour before we meet again at the exit.

An hour later we were in Himeji. Walking to our hotel for the next two days, The Wing Hotel Himeji only took 10 minutes. Checking in and dropping our bags in the room we went for a walk around town. There are miles of arcades through town and we walked most of them before food shopping. Dropping the food back at the hotel it was time for dinner.

Back out walking around town we found a little restaurant that did noodles. So we had a bowl of Udon noodles and beef in a Mirim broth with some tempura chicken. With full stomachs it was back to the hotel for the night.

Sunday 29th April 2018
Alarm clock set for 07:00 this morning as we want to visit Himeji Castle today and as it is Golden Week it is expected to get very busy. After breakfast covered in sun block we set out. Arriving at the castle twenty minutes before it opened we joined the already large queue.

When the castle opened we were in the second group to enter. Paying for our tickets we made out way straight to the Main Keep as it gets very busy. At the door we were given a carrier bag to put our shoes in as no footwear can be worn inside.

Climbing the steep wooden stairs up each of the six floors we were in danger of hitting our heads on the low beams. Looking out through the arrow slots gave a good veiw of the Outer Bailey and town. Back down we walked through to the West Bailey and the Long Connecting Passage. Entry into the Passage required the removal of shoes again. The passage is 300 metres long so we walked along in our socks.

Back out in the Main Bailey we sat and enjoyed the sunshine and veiw for a while before leaving. With the temperature rising we found a coffee shop and had a nice cup, before returning to our hotel.

After relaxing in our room for a couple of hours and avoiding the hottest part of the day we ventured forth again. After walking around the shops we had a bowl of beef and rice with soup for dinner.

Monday 30th April 2018
Moving day again. Off to Kyoto. Packing up after breakfast we checked out of our hotel and walked through the shopping arcade to the station. Grabbing a coffee we waited for our train to arrive. Boarding the Shinkansen Hikari 466 we found our seats in carriage 12, seats 8D and 8E. We settled in for the short, 1 hour trip to Kyoto.

Getting off at the main station we walked out and took the five minute walk to our hotel. We were much too early to check in so left our bags and went sightseeing. Retracing our steps to the train station we jumped a local train to Inari and crossed the road to Fushimi Inari Taisha Shinto Shrine.

The path up the mountain is lined with hundreds of Torii. It is a long steep climb and many locals do it in traditional kimonos to celibate the Emperor Showa's Birthday. Recently married couples also climb in their wedding clothes to be blessed.

Dropping back down to the station we hopped the next train to town. It was standing room only again by now we had got to check in time at the hotel so we returned to the hotel for the night.

Tuesday 1st May 2018
Up extra early this morning as we expected crowds again today. So at half seven we were already walking to the station. Showing our JR Passes we were through the gate and on the platform. As the train started here we were on quickly and bagged a couple of seats amongst the school children on their way to school. They were to cool to sit, we weren't.

Six stops later we got off at Saga-Arashiyama Station. Only a dozen other people got off with us. Having researched the route we needed to take we were off. We could hear the other tourists following us.

Hmmm. Were we heading the right way for the Bamboo Grove ? Oooo. There's a hint here.

Arriving we had nice quiet visit with no crowds. Having checked out the bamboo it was time to move on to the Macaques (Monkeys).

Walking through the gardens we arrived at the river and crossing the bridge paid our J ¥550 (£4) each and started the climb. Yes the Macaques are at the top of a mountain.

Twenty minutes of slogging up uneven steps later we arrived to a loud screaming and macaques running all over the path and trees. There was a ranger there and she just shoed them back to the trees and said "Boys".

We spent half an hour watching the macaques before starting the descent. Half way down we met three classes of primary school children coming up. After "Hello" duties we carried on. We thought they should have been singing "Nick Nack Paddy Wack" as it looked like a scene from the film "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness".

Walking back to the station the crowds got bigger and bigger. We were nearly crushed by a stampede of people exiting a train. We boarded our nearly empty train for the ride back to town. Glad to be leaving as it was getting very busy.

As we had finished our itinerary early we got off the train early at Nijo Station and buying an underground ticket rode to Sanjo Station. From here we walked down the Ponto-cho. Unfortunately it was too early as nothing opens until five PM.

So we cut across to Nishiki Market. We walked past the Cat Cafe but decided against paying J ¥1000 (£8) each for half an hour drinking coffee with cats. Carrying on we strolled down the narrow covered lanes looking at the different products and sea-foods on sale. After a coffee in a normal coffee shop we got back on the underground and returned to our hotel for a shower and rest.

After cooling down we went out again as the sun was setting. Going to the JR Station we ascended the escalators up to the eleventh floor and then took the stairs to the Sky Garden for the night time veiw of the city.

After walking along the Sky Walk we dropped down to the Porta Dining area and found a little Japanese style cafe for dinner. Beef curried noodles with tempura rice and cheese cakes.

Tonight the chopsticks were shiny black plastic numbers. Obviously for the professional diner rather than the wooden fast food chopstick we are used to. The noodles were very slippery and we had a real struggle to eat without embarrassing ourselves.

Martin was so intent on picking up a noodle he didn’t notice his glasses fall off of his nose into his noodles. We laughed so much we got looks from the other diners. Still at least we didn't ask for a spoon and fork like one couple.

With a pleasant full feeling we walked the night streets back to our hotel for the night.

Wednesday 2nd May 2018
Time to move on, that was our last night in an APA Hotel and we won't miss the 3D mesh pillows. We had to resort to bundling up the quilt to make a decent pillow. Back to the station for eleven o'clock and after a coffee, on to the Shinkansen Kodama 650. We found our seats in carriage 11, seats 7A and 7B. Today's journey was about two and a half hours. Eating lunch on the train is like a mini picnic.

Getting off of the train at Shin-Fuji we found the Times car rental desk and completed the paperwork. After a little confusion over the oneway hire payment we were ready to leave. The young man was most concerned to tell us that we should drive in the left and was suprised when we told him it's the same in England. Leaving in our car we headed north towards the lakes and our hotel.

Checking in we have a traditional Japanese Room with a veiw of Mount Fuji. While we were out for dinner the maid remade the room for sleeping. This will be an interesting night.

We are right at the foot of Mount Fiji. Unfortunately with the cloud so low we can't see it. Hopefully the cloud will lift in the morning.

Thursday 3rd May 2018
Waking up this morning we opened the paper sceen doors and curtains to see - Cloud. The weather is as bad this morning as it was last night. Over breakfast the cloud lifted slightly but bu the time we checked out we could still only see the bottom third of Mount Fuji Disappointed we headed towards our next nights accommodation near Kamakura.

After taking the wrong turning on three separate occasions we finally arrived and paying for car parking walked into the shrine. Only to find out when Jackie asked a traffic marshal, that we were in the wrong place. Driving out, we found the correct location but as it was early afternoon we couldn’t get a parking spot.

As it was now time to check in to our hotel we crawled through the traffic and back streets to get there. At the front desk we were told that we had been upgraded. Dropping our bags in the room we walked up to the cafeteria for a free coffee and mini doughnut or two. Back in our room we planned for dinner tonight and our itinerary for tomorrow.

Friday 4th May 2018
Last day in Japan so we got up extra early, checked out and drove to the Shinto Shrine with the Big Buddha. Arriving twenty minutes before it opened we pulled up to the car park entrance as the man was unlockingthe chain. We parked and joined the queue for tickets. They opened ten minutes early and we were in.

With that taken care of and a bright sunny day we decided to drive the hour and a half back to Mount Fuji as the weather had been so bad while we were there. We could see Mount Fuji one hundred and twenty kilometres away in bright sunshine against a beautiful blue sky.

Crawling out of town at 50kph we consoled ourselves that once we were on the toll road we would move faster. Taking a ticket from the machine as we entered we were soon bowling along at 100kph. Unfortunately we hadn't taken Golden Week into account. After 20 kilometres we arrived at the back of the traffic queue. It then took 45 minutes to do the next 17 kilometres. Eventually we cleared the queue and made good time to the lakes. It only took three hours instead of two.

Pulling in north of Lake Kawaguchi we snapped a few photos and enjoyed the grandure that is Mount Fuji. This more than made up for the disappointment of yesterday. According to the locals these days are rare especially on a bank holidays. After a quick coffee we jumped back in the car for the drive back to Tokyo.

Rejoining the toll road the return journey was smother than the trip out. As we are getting low on Yen we have been paying toll on the debit card. Unfortunately the last toll wouldn't take card. It was cash only. Digging through our purse and wallet we found enough cash to cover it. We spent the last twenty miles on edge hoping there wouldn’t be any more cash only tolls cos we were now broke. Off the toll road we trekked through Tokyo to Hanada Airport. Stopping to fill the car with petrol we pulled into the Hire lot. Within five minutes we were in the shuttle bus to the terminal.

Getting our large bag back we changed clothes for the flight and then had our last Japanese meal of pork and rice. We only had an hour to wait for check in to open for our flight.

On board we settled down for the nine and a half hour filght to Sydney.

Saturday 5th May 2018
Funnily enough we slept well for a flight. Might be something to do with our hectic schedule. Managed to watch half a film. Woke for a short time at 03:00 and found the TimTams at the back of the plane before going back to sleep.

Waking up for fruit salad and coffee before the descent into Sydney Airport. Getting through immigration was as normal, wait while they check Martin's record. Then bio-security, "Stupid Pom" declares shaving brush with natural bristles. As usual we are through faster than the nothing to declare queue.

Out of the terminal we phoned the car rental company and the shuttle bus collected us ten minutes later. Upgraded to a Nissan Qashqai we were soon on our way out of town.

Through the roadworks on the M4 heading west towards the Blue Mountains, we arrived in Penrith an hour later. As it was too early to check in we stopped in to see Dad and Jean. Later we checked in to our cabin for the next three nights.

After going out for dinner we had an early night.

Sunday 6th May 2018
After a lazy start, Martin got in trouble for not turning off his phone alarm clock and letting it ring. Martin's alarm is a recording of Australian birds, Kookaburra and Crows. It turned out it wasn’t Martin's alarm, it was the native birds outside the cabin.

Breakfast in the cabin, of Weetbix and Raisin Toast and tea. This is a reminder of breakfast in the camper on previous Australian trips. After breakfast we put on two loads of laundry. Using the laundrette is easier in English than Japanese.

With the washing drying in the cabin we went shopping for dinner stuff before dropping in at Dad and Jeans for another catch up session.

Monday 7th May 2018
Fun night last night. At two o'clock in the morning Jackie felt something crawling on her stomach. Knocking it off and trying to squash it at the same time didn't work, it just caused a worry that we didn't know where it was.

Turning on the light and stripping the bed we found that it was the little quality control sticker that was on the new nighty that Jackie was wearing. Laughing at the silliness of the situation we got back into bed and tried to get back to sleep.

After breakfast we went shopping for an Esky and to sort out our Australian mobile phone. Then it was time to visit Dad and Jean again. Back at our cottage we repacked because we are on the move again tomorrow.

Tuesday 8th May 2018
Up and checking out for the first leg of out trip. Heading south, down the coast to Merimbula for the night It is about 530 kilometers and should take about six hours. On the way we saw a mob of kangaroos loose in the top paddock. After driving for two and a half hours we stopped in a little sea-side town called Gerringong for coffee in the Beach Veiw Cafe. After a very nice coffee we were off again southwards.

Pulling in to the Merimbula Beach Cabins we checked in and went for a walk on the beach. Kicking of our shoes and socks we had a paddle. The locals must think we are mad as it's winter. Seeing a flock parakeets we watched for a while before finding dinner. Then back to the cabin for the night.

Wednesday 9th May 2018
Waking up before sunrise this morning we decided to go for a walk along the coast and watch the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean. Catching the rabbits out grazing we found a vantage point and enjoyed the sunrise. Walking back towards the cabin we heard something in the trees. We eventually caught sight of Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos. After watching them for a while and being screeched at, we returned to our cabin for breakfast.

Driving out we filled with fuel in Eden and carried on towards Melbourne. Today will be a five hour driving day. Stopping in Cann River for a coffee and comfort stop. We sat out in the sun sipping our coffee before getting back on the road.

Another hour down the road we turned south towards the coast. Driving along deserted roads we arrived in Marlo, Victoria and stopped for a photo opportunity. We were parked at the mouth of the Snowy River, famed in books and a film.

Rejoining the main Princes Highway we arrived in Lakes Enterance and stopped for lunch. The weather was sunny and warm but the wind was a little chilly, so we sat indoors looking out over the lake.

After lunch we continued onwards westward. Arriving in Stratford we changed into jeans as the weather is changing. Stopping in at Keith and Maureen's for a coffee and a catch up. It was dark when we left with about 50 kilometres to go to our motel.

Playing chase the local to see where they were going made the journey a little less stressful. Arriving to check in the manager informed us that he had been to our room and turned the heating on for us. Cheese and crackers with grapes and strawberries for dinner before bed. It's been another long day.

Thursday 10th May 2018
Leaving our motel we headed in to Melbourne. Leaving at half eight with an hours drive to town we hoped the worst of the morning rush would have passed. Due to the toll we had to drop off of the motorway and hack through town on surface streets. Dodging trucks and trams we made it back onto the motorway.

With Melbourne behind us we saw black clouds approaching. Soon we were in heavy rain and spray. If that wasn't enough there were miles of road works. Arriving in Colac we got petrol for the car and coffee and sandwiches for us. Parking near the lake we had lunch.

Back on the road stuck behind a truck in heavy spray we decided to turn off of the main road. That was much better, no traffic. After another five hours and 500 kilometer driving day we pulled into our motel in Warrnambool.

After settling in we went to the whale watching point. The wind was howling so we put our pac-a-macs on and braved the weather. With all the white top waves seeing a whale was impossible but we did see a rainbow. After a while we dropped into town for a steak dinner and a couple of drinks before returning to our room for the night.

Friday 11th May 2018
After a disturbed night due to strong winds and heavy rain we left our hotel and had a last chance hunt for whales. With the sea even rougher than yesterday we had no chance. Driving out of Warrnambool we headed along the coast to Portland. With heavy rain continuing overtaking was dangerous so we paced our speed to the other road users.

From Portland we turned north to Mount Gambier. Arriving in town we decided it was time for coffee. Whilst drinking coffee and checking social media we got a message to say that Rochelle and Nigel were also in Mount Gambier. So downing our coffee we drove out to find them camping at the Show Ground. After chatting for a while we left them and continued on our way.

Arriving in Millicent we stopped at a cafe for lunch. Then with full stomachs we carried on. On one straight a flock of emus crossed the road in front of us forcing us to slow down and veer onto the opposite side of the road.

Arriving in our destination for the night we checked in to the Meningie Waterfront Motel. We had a lake veiw room and could see pelicans from our room, much to the delight of Jackie who has a thing for pelicans.

After we had settled in we went hunting more pelicans and found a group fishing. Jackie managed to get quite close to a group by the shore without falling in. Then we grabbed a take away from the local cafe and ate by the water while watching the sun set over Lake Albert. Jackie went to put our rubbish in a bin, when she was frightened by an emu. Only a sculpture but in the twilight it was very realistic. Then it was time to return to our room for the night.

Saturday 12th May 2018
Driving out of Meningie for the two hour drive to Elizabeth, north of Adelaide. We arrived at Scott and Vesna's and spent the afternoon catching up. Olli and Julie arrived later and we spent the evening talking and telling stories. After a good evening we retired for the night.

Sunday 13th May 2018
Today we spent the day with Scott, Vesna and their family. Out for Mothers Day lunch. Someone cancelled the booking we had. So the restaurant staff had to shuffle people around to fit is in. We were only 45 minutes late sitting down. Service was slow but when it eventually arrived it was worth the wait.

Monday 14th May 2018
Saying goodbye to Scott and Vesna we drove out of Elizabeth and headed towards Broken Hill, our planned stop for tonight. After stopping in Peterborough for lunch we continued on.

On the road again, we saw flock after flock of emus. In the space of two hours we must have seen close to 200. Most were in the brush away from the road but others were crossing the road or even standing in the road.

Finishing the five hour drive and arriving in Broken Hill we checked in to our motel and then went shopping for food and fuel. Returning to our hotel for the night we prepared for tomorrow's eight hour trip to Dubbo.

Tuesday 15th May 2018
Up and out by 07:00 local South Australia time. That's 07:30 New South Wales time. With an eight hour, 750 kilometer drive today we couldn’t afford to mess around. Making a coffee in a takeaway cup we were on the road.

The driving instructions on our SatNav looked easy enough. 748 kilometers to go, keep right in 451 kilometres. It will take seven hours and fourty three minutes.

Driving into the sun was a struggle but we persevered. Dodging the nights road kill we saw kangaroos, emus and ferral goats.

After three hours we pulled in at a rest area and sat at a picnic bench and ate our Weetbix. Back on the road we passed through Wilcannia. We decided not to stop as we have stayed here before and don't want to again.

Stopping again after six hours on the road at Florida Rest Area we had our lunch. An hour down the road we fueled up in Nyngan before the final two hour push into Dubbo.

Checking in at our motel we had dinner and relaxed for the night.

Wednesday 16th May 2018
Checking out of our motel we drove into Dubbo town centre and found the Old Goal. Ten years ago we were here with Steph and Mike. We all ordered egg and bacon doorstep sandwiches in the cafe over the road, but Martin's never did arrive.

Well today we were on a mission for redemption. Better late than never. Even with owner and menu changes, Martin finally got his egg and bacon roll in Dubbo.

Driving out of town we cut across country on back roads to Lithgow where we joined the highway through the Blue Mountains.

Arriving in Emu Plains we checked on to our chalet before hitting the laundry.

Thursday 17th May 2018
Spent the morning touring the Penrith area. Drinking coffee and enjoying the scenery. Visiting Rex and Jean in the afternoon.

Friday 18th May 2018
Last minute shopping. Get fuel for the car and give it a quick jet wash to remove the worst of the dirt so we won't get stung for a cleaning bill. Then lunch and coffee before visiting Rex and Jean for one last time this holiday.

On our way back to our cabin we stopped at the Nepean River, found a bench so we could sit and watch the sunset. Then with the temperature dropping we returned to our cabin for the night.

Saturday 19th May 2018
Last day in Australia as we fly at 06:00 tomorrow morning. Packing up and checking out we drove along the Nepean River to the Coffee Club for breakfast. Leaving Penrith we decided to drive to Sydney avoiding the motorway. Heading south we drove past the site of the future second Sydney airport at Badgery Creek. Then in towards the city through Liverpool.

As we had plenty of time we went to Marouba Beach. After watching the surfing contest for a while and walking on the beach we dropped into the Pavilion for lunch.

After a relaxing meal we drove to the airport and topping up the fuel tank we returned the hire car. 4199 kilometers, 2609 miles driven.

Kangaroos, Emus, Feral Goats and Pigs, Cockatoos and Pelicans seen and avoided. Road trains dodged and road-kill roundabouts swerved.

After a short shuttle bus ride we checked into the Ryges Hotel right opposite the International Terminal. So in the morning we only have to walk across the road to check in for our flight home.

Dropping down to the lobby we got a cup of coffee. Then walking across to the terminal we recced for the morning as we need to check in at 03:00. Then picking up some snacks we returned to our room to watch Harry and Meghan's wedding on tv.

Sunday 20th May 2018
Up at 02:30 dressed and out of the hotel. Across the road the terminal was late opening so we had to hang around for five minutes. Having checked in for our flight we found that security search was closed and wouldn’t open until 04:00. Fortunately we found a coffee outlet that was open and grabbed a couple of long blacks and used their seats.

Once security opened we joined the queue and were soon airside. With all the shops still shut it was a quiet wait for our flight to board.

Boarding our Emirates Airbus A380 for the first leg of our homeward journey. Departing at 06:00 for a 14 hour trip across the south of Australia. Crossing the coast north of Perth and out across the Indian Ocean. Crossing the Equator back into the Northern Hemisphere near the island of Gan. 7700 miles later we landed in Dubai at 20:00 Sydney time and immediately lost six hours as it was 14:00 in Dubai. We spent most of the flight in darkness either sleeping or watching movies.

We had an hour to get across the airport to our departure gate for the next leg back to Heathrow. The next leg was almost full, fortunately we had a spare seat next to us. So we weren't too crowded. This time it was 3700 miles and eight hours..

Landing at Heathrow at 20:00 local we cleared immigration and collected our bags before jumping the shuttle bus to the car park. Driving to the office we used Martin's pensioners pass to pay the parking fee. We only had to pay for one day and then we were on the last drive home.