As lots of the group are tired, when the lights are dimmed at 12.30pm, many of the party are able to get some sleep. Scott Smith is extremely resourceful. He is so tired, he sleeps for nearly 5 hours by kneeling on the floor with his head resting on the bottom of his seat.
We land at 9.15am and as we leave the plane, I have a check on the walking wounded. Rachel is smiling and appears well as does Kira and both have no side effects from their exertions at the hockey game.
Tom Wedlake is walking freely and Shane Harris has a slight limp, but I expect that both will be fit for Monday. Max Harris has some slight grazes on the side of his face from the playing surface at Kings Park, but again they should be fine for Monday.
Morgan Curtis is more of a concern however, his recurring problems with his toes have flared up and we will need to check that they don’t become infected.
Australian customs are neurotic about the importation of disease from overseas. Anyone caught bringing fresh food off the plane or from overseas is given an on the spot fixed penalty fine of $400 (£260/£270). Boots and trainers must be spotless. Mr Walters had organised the laundry of the kit in the hotel and that is fine. As we played on an artificial surface, it means that the boots only require a cursory glance and go straight through.
We are through Customs by 10.00pm and greeted by Susan Giles’ cousin Penny Doherty and her husband David. David had migrated from the UK when he was 24 to establish an Australian office for his mining company. He had overseen its development and growth. They were to host a welcome party for us later in the day and it was great to meet them in person having exchanged so many emails with them.
However, we have another problem with flight logistics. Whilst we realised the change in flight times from Hong Kong to Sydney-the message had not been exchanged between our UK and Australian travel companies as a result our rep Andrew Grover and our coach are not waiting for us.
It’s a bonus that Penny’s with us, she contacts the company and Andrew is quickly in touch and arranges a coach to be with us within 30 minutes-a 70 seater, air conditioned coach with leather seats arrives-not quite Davies’.
Our early arrival means we have spare time on our hands before we can check in to the Menzies at 2.00pm. The resourceful Penny has an immediate answer. Let’s bring the evening party forward to become a welcome lunch. A fantastic idea.
Our coach arrives and takes us to the hotel in Central Sydney-it again looks fantastic. We drop off our luggage and get back on the coach which takes us to Woolloomooloo where Penny and David live. They are hosting Keelan, Jack and Steffan. When we arrive at just after 11.00am we are greeted by Jack, Keelan and Steffan as well as David, Penny and her friend Chris who is there to help.
The apartment has a fantastic setting-situated on the quayside and just a five minute walk from a panoramic view of the harbour with the bridge and opera house. Keelan, Steffan and Jack are very lucky to be staying here for the next 6 nights.
While I had been exchanging emails with Penny about our visit, I had enquired if I needed to arrange a contingency in case of rain. There was no need to have been worried on two fronts. Firstly, it is a beautiful day-the sun is shining brightly and most of the group gather on the balcony to enjoy its warmth. It’s Sydney’s mid winter and as we watch the locals walking past they are all wrapped up in their winter coats. For us it’s like a warm and dry March or April day-ideal for relaxing in the sun.
Secondly, I need not have worried if it had rained. The whole party can fit comfortably into the lounge.
With a minimum of fuss, Penny, Chris and David prepare our lunch; hot dogs with cheese and dips, spring rolls, rissoles, small meat pies, ice cream filled chocolate covered profiteroles and fresh fruit slices are just a few of the dishes available to be enjoyed. We enjoy the relaxed atmosphere provided by our hosts and it’s a fantastic way to start our visit before we are able to check in to the hotel.
At 1.30pm, David leads us through the Royal Botanic Gardens and around the headland called Mrs Macquaries Point. We stop at the point for a team photo with the bridge and opera house in the background. David then escorts us back to our hotel and we check in at 2.30pm.
All are clearly tired after the flight, so we give them until 6.30pm to relax in the hotel. When we get to the rooms, they are very spacious and all contain two large double beds. Some rooms are triples, and have a camp bed in there as well. There will have to be some ‘diplomatic core’ style negotiations to see which one would have to sleep on that.
The hotel has some excellent facilities with a pool, spa, gym and sauna and many of the group take advantage of those. Others are tired and make early use of the beds. After a warm and refreshing shower, I start to continue the diary. Before I’ve written two lines, I can feel my eyelids closing. “You need to rest” Mr. Walters tells me. He’s right. I join those using the beds and have a couple of hours deep sleep and awake refreshed.
We make our way to the meeting at 6:30 pm where we decide to have some more down time in the hotel. There is a restaurant in the hotel as well as a sports bar that serves meals at £6/7. We also allow students to stroll to the cafes and shops around the hotel as the area is safe. We will meet again at 10:30 pm to register before being in the rooms at 11:00pm.
Before we break up, Miss Jeffreys conducts the third Donkey of the day vote. As usual, there is no shortage of contenders.
Jack Cambriani had raised a smile when he is told his mates that if you went to the Rolex shop they would give you a free necklace with every bottle of water that you purchased – most realised that he had been misinformed.
Shane Harris also raised an eyebrow when he had told his group that they could go to a restaurant for a meal to use up all their remaining Hong Kong dollars – we were in Australia.
When we had landed in Sydney, Lewis Macdermott and Alicia Carpanini had caused a stir. Lewis stood in front of the customs officer wearing his cap and dark sunglasses. The officer waited for him to remove them and Lewis just smiled ‘Well’ said the officer. Lewis eventually realised what was required and did so somewhat sheepishly. As he walked away the customs officer was seen shaking his head in despair.
On her arrival form Alycia had ticked the section ‘Are you carrying any illicit drugs’. The customs officer asked her what they were. “I’ve got some paracetamol in my case” she said. That even raised a smile on the officer’s face.
Rachel Walsh, somewhat harshly, was nominated for being a ‘drama queen’ at yesterday’s hockey. I’ve said before that there’s no mercy shown on tour.
Mr Walters and Callum Macdermott are nominated for being improperly dressed (wrong T-shirt). In Mr Walters’ case it was a second offence.
Mr Walters had also been the victim of an outrageous ‘Sting’ by yours truly. On the final morning in Hong Kong, all staff gave me their student passport and money bags for safekeeping while they went for a walk. All apart from Mr Walters collected them, before we travelled to the hockey match.
At the game, I asked Rob James to go and ask Mr Walters for his passport. Mr Walters came over to me to ask if I had his bag. “I’ve given them back.” I said. Miss Rushworth “Have you got yours?” “Yes.” She replied. Miss Jeffreys “Have you got yours?” “Yes.” and the same responses came from Mr Lewis and Mr Long.
Mr Walters’ jaw drops and the colour drains rapidly from his cheeks. I can’t keep a straight face for more than 30 seconds-but those seconds were priceless!!!
I return his bag to a much relieved Mr Walters.
When the votes are counted, Alycia with 4 and Rachael with 14 are the runners up to the clear winner Mr Walters for his double nominations.
When the groups spilt, many go to the sports bar and the others go back to the hotel’s leisure facilities and explore around the outside of the hotel.
The staff stay in the restaurant and enjoy a meal. I have a rib-eye steak which is served ‘a la carte’ it is really enjoyable.
While we are there about 15 students come and ask if they can go to bed early. They are tired and a number are suffering from sore throats probably as a result of the air conditioning systems. We take their names and let them go.
Brittany Jenkins has a cold and an eye infection. We will see if her eyes settle down and if not we will get some treatment in the morning. Rachael Williams and Bethan Rees are a little under the weather also. Again we will see if things settle down in the morning.
Matthew Wedlake who captained the rugby team on the 2009 tour was staying in Sydney for a period and came to the hotel to see his sister and brother who is celebrating his 18th birthday. It was good to see him. He was enjoying his time in Sydney (unsurprisingly) and was staying with friends who he had met when we were on tour.
He takes Tom and Sarah out for a meal. Tom is suffering from a bad stomach and we will need to check on him as well tomorrow.
Laura Baker also has a family friend in Sydney and they pick her up and take her out for a meal too.
At 10.30pm all are back safely and on time. We have a brief meeting and tomorrow’s arrangements are; early morning call at 7.00am, breakfast at 8.00am and suitcases in the foyer by 9.00am.
I don’t feel the need to warn the students about their behaviour – apart from one indiscretion and the girls are both very contrite – behaviour has been exemplary and our Gowerton community can be rightly proud of our young people.
Staff depart to bed at 11.30pm. Tomorrow is the start of the next leg of our tour. The students are to be hosted for the next 10 nights. It will give the staff a chance for a well earned break. They have been performing their duties very conscientiously and not a drop of alcohol has passed their lips since we left Gowerton! Our community can be equally proud of them and their sense of responsibility to our young people-I certainly am.