Views and a Virus!

After The Nullabor we turned South and headed towards Adelaide. We made our base in a small town called Gawler about 25 miles outside the city and at the gateway to the Barossa Valley, which is the main wine region for South Australia. We had three nights planned here, so after our journey into town we caught up on some domestic jobs which included a trip to the supermarket to restock and a trip to the laundry to put our clothes through a much needed wash. That then left us with two days to explore the Barossa Valley, slow time.

Steve is starting to get his running together and with a marathon less than six weeks away he was keen to get out for a long run, so on the first morning Sarah hired a bike and we set off on a cycle path into the vineyards, Sarah cycling and Steve running. It was a beautiful morning, clear blue skies but not too hot. Up and down the hills, in and out of the vineyards we went, mile after mile. When we eventually got back we had been out for almost 18 miles and had a great little tour through the wine region.

Running in The Barossa Valley.

Across the road from our campsite was the town swimming pool. The Australian psyche towards swimming is very different from that in the UK. Almost every town has a 50 metre pool, even Norseman with its population of just over 500 had one! Apparently there was a big push by the Government back in the 60’s and dozens and dozens of pools were built. Luckily most of them have been looked after quite well and still operate. They all seem to have a similar layout with  a main pool, a smaller one for children, a covered area to sit (often a grassed area with sunbeds and chairs) and some form of cafe. The main pools are always well disciplined with lanes for specific levels of swimming and you can generally get in and swim uninterrupted at any time of day. We spent the afternoon lying on a sunbed relaxing after our morning exertions and Steve dusted off his goggles and got in for a few lengths.

The following morning we gave ourselves a bit of a treat and went into town for some breakfast. We haven’t eaten out much at all on this trip, partly because we have been enjoying the campervan experience but mainly because on our route so far there hasn’t been that many places to go! We tucked into eggs benedict and pancakes and then jumped in the van and drove into the Barossa Valley a few miles further than we had run and cycled the day before. We passed through several small villages, all immaculate in presentation, with tourist shops, cafés and upmarket restaurants making the most of the numerous wine tours that come out of Adelaide. As we drove between two villages we went across a bridge over a narrow dried up river, the name of the crossing was Jacobs Creek!! Now we have heard of that somewhere! Two minutes later we drove past the entrance and couldn’t resist a trip into one of the biggest and most well known vineyards in the area.

Sarah glass in hand at Jacob’s Creek

It was a lovely place with a new modern visitors centre, manicured gardens and a terrace in the sunshine. We wandered around for a while and then sat on the terrace, Sarah with a chilled glass of prosseco and Steve with a coffee (it was his turn to drive).

We thoroughly enjoyed our couple of days sightseeing in the Barossa Valley, it made a nice change to be in the same place for three nights and we moved on feeling refreshed and ready to go again. As we left Adelaide we took a route along the coast enjoying the beach suburbs of the city. We stopped in Glenelg and went for a walk along the beach. It was another warm, sunny day and as it was a Public Holiday the place was pretty busy. We got carried away enjoying the walk and before long we were three miles along the beach!! Oh well, it’s not that we have to be anywhere I suppose. Incidentally, the Public Holiday was for a horse race “The Adelaide Cup”. Imagine having a Public Holiday in the UK for The Grand National!

“How far are we going on this walk Sarah?”

A four hour drive out of Adelaide brought us to our camping spot for the night, another area we had heard about where you can camp just off the road. We pulled in and found only a couple of  other vans in the area so again we had acres of space to ourselves. With another few hours of driving the next day we decided to get up early, just after sunrise. Steve pulled back the curtains and right outside the van were two kangaroos munching on the grass!! We watched them for ages and they kept one eye on us and continued with their breakfast. We even got up and dressed, went outside and they were unperturbed. It wasn’t until Steve got a little too close that they upsticks and hopped off at a surprising fast rate of knots.

“Good morning Mr Kangaroo”

Our destination today was The Great Ocean Road, a 250km stretch of road along what many regard as one of the most scenic in The World, and we would have to agree. Probably the most iconic feature are ‘The Twelve Apostles’ which are often featured in Australian tourism advertising. These days, due to erosion of the ‘Apostles’ by the wind, rain and ocean, there are only seven left, but they still make an impressive sight.

Five of the “12 (7) Apostles”!

The scenery along The Great Ocean Road is extremely varied. It starts off with the classic limestone features and although The Twelve Apostles are the most photographed there are others which are pretty impressive in their own right. The Bay of Islands, The Bay of Martyrs, London Bridge, Loch Ard Gorge and The Grotto are the main ones.

Loch Ard Gorge.

They are situated over a 20km stretch West of the small town of Port Campbell which is where we were staying. “20km”? said Steve, “that’s a nice distance for a steady run”. So we drove down to the furthest attraction, took a few photographs and then Sarah drove to the next one while Steve ran. As we were stood admiring the view a few people commented on how they had seen Steve running. We told them that he was running between the various features and so over the next 15km or so Steve was passed and repassed several times by the same people, honking their horns and waving at him.

London Bridge has fallen down.

Throughout the day we stopped at some amazing places and then in the evening we made our way to The Twelve Apostles where we parked up in the visitors centre car park, cooked some dinner and waited for sunset. We watched as coaches piled into the car park full of people making the long day trip out from Melbourne. By the time sunset arrived there were several hundred people all trying for that perfect selfie! Even with the crowds it was pretty impressive.

Sunrise on The Great Ocean Road.

The other two Apostles.

As we were staying in Port Campbell for another night we decided to get up early and make a stop back at The Apostles for sunrise. This was an excellent call. The short drive there was impressive in itself and with only 30 people at the site we felt we had the place to ourselves. Another stop in the car park, this time for breakfast, and we were on our way back on The Great Ocean Road. The road moved slightly away from the coast and twisted its way up and down through a rolling agricultural landscape, reminiscent of The South Downs in The UK. We then dropped back to the coast where the road was cut through the cliff in spectacular fashion. It was as impressive if not better than The Big Sur section of the Pacific Coast Highway in California that we cycled last October. Sarah did a great job, driving the snake like road as Steve sat back and admired the views. We passed through great looking towns as we passed into the surf coast and before long we emerged into the surf town of Torquay, home to the surf brands of  ‘Quicksilver’ and ‘Ripcurl’ as well as Bells Beach (one of the top surfing spots in the world) and the filming location for the final scene of the cult movie ‘Point Break’. Sarah was looking forward to re-enacting the final surf scene but unfortunately there was no surf….. she does however have the Patrick Swayze hair these days!!

Bells Beach………with no surf!

Torquay was a great place, it reminded us a little of Southern California with the beaches, surf, and so so many people out on the cliff top paths, walking running, cycling etc. As Steve was still training for the marathon in Kazakhstan he took advantage and ran 20 miles along the cliff tops and beaches. With a mixture of clouds and sun, and a cooling breeze, he was in his element. Sarah took advantage of the area as well by doing her own five mile walk.

Our next stop was to be three days in Melbourne, Australia’s second biggest city. The Formula 1 Grand Prix was in town and we had tickets!! albeit the cheap general admission tickets but nether the less we had tickets. Attending a Grand Prix has been on our bucket list for years so we were both quite excited. However, when Steve returned from his 20 mile run Sarah hit him with the bad news…..”The Grand Prix has been cancelled”. To be fair we had been following the news quite closely and the reports were suggesting a cancellation was on the cards. We toyed with staying in Torquay an extra day but we had a campsite booked in Melbourne so we set off for the big city lights.

We visited Melbourne several years ago. It had rained, it was cold and to be honest we weren’t that impressed. This time it rained, it was cold and to be honest we weren’t that impressed!! Many people rave about Melbourne but I suppose it’s “horses for courses” and as much as we try, and we do try, we were positive and looking forward to it but we just can’t seem to find what it gives above the likes of Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. With the rain set for a few more days, we left Melbourne a day early. We will try again another time and one day we will find the Melbourne people talk about.

The Melbourne Skyline under steely grey skies!

** OK Covid-19. Has there ever been a single conversation that is spoken about simultaneously by so many people everywhere in The World? It seems to be impacting everyone to some degree and the whole thing is moving so fast. We have been trying to keep up with news in The UK, Australia and the other countries we were intending to travel through, and we have watched our potential routes get blocked one after another as country after country falls like dominoes in one of those visually impressive tricks.

Our current situation and plan has no resemblance whatsover to when we left The UK and even less to when we first thought up this trip a couple of years ago. “Let’s fly to Australia, spend a few days there to get over any jetlag, then catch a container ship to Singapore and travel overland through South East Asia, China, a couple of “Stans”, into Russia, Scandinavia and home”. Well none of that is going to happen now!

We have a campervan rented until 7th April when we have to hand it back in Cairns. “What then?” has been the question we have asked ourselves several times. Steve’s parents are following the Government advice and self isolating for 12 weeks. Sarah’s mum is doing the same (not in the same house though, that would be a bit weird!). We are thankful they have decided to do this which will, hopefully, remove some of their vulnerability. Sarah’s dad and step mother are in Bali, Indonesia for another three weeks and are keeping well.

This does leave us with a slight problem in that if we returned to The UK now we would have a slight problem with accommodation due to the quarantine issues! Most countries have either closed there borders or require a 14 day self isolation period, so right now the logical thing for us to do is to stay here in Australia. So we have decided to get to Cairns, have a week or so away from the campervan and then pick up another one and drive the bit (or lot actually) of mainland Australia we haven’t done yet. Cairns to Darwin to Alice Springs to Uluru (Ayres Rock) to Adelaide. From there we have booked a flight home in the middle of May.

Obviously this is subject to change by circumstances which are out of our control, but we need to have a plan. We figure that if things start to get shut down here it’s most likely to be in the bigger more populous areas, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne etc. Far North Queensland and The Northern Territories appear to be less impacted by the virus, probably because there are significantly less people there!!

Our day to day life is pretty much unaffected by the virus. Outside of the cities the supermarket shelves are fairly well stocked and we are in possession of enough of that prized assest….the toilet roll! The Government are providing regular updates and the pattern seems to be a few days behind that of the UK. The numbers here are significantly lower, but that could all change in a week or so.

We are down to half a sheet each!

We are still absolutely loving it here and enjoying ourselves everyday. We do have a small sense of guilt that we are stuck here while times are obviously distressing and chaotic back in The UK, but we will be back in a couple of months and we are sure it will hit us hard…..or maybe not. Maybe The World will have a handle on this thing by then….let’s hope so.

That’s it for now. We will post again in a couple of days about our time in Canberra and Sydney and then we will be up to date. All this blogging takes so much time! 🙂

Sarah manages to get a selfie with Vin Diesel!

P.S. Kazakhstan marathon is cancelled!!! I doubt if this will stop Steve training, he is already on the lookout for a secondhand bike!

Driving across The Nullabor

So it is back to Australia. We managed to find a flight with Scoot Air from Singapore to Perth. Scoot is the Singapore equivalent of Easy Jet but yellow instead of orange (just as difficult on the eye!), and we were pretty impressed with them. An intercontinental flight of over five hours, which left on time, arrived slightly early, and for just over £100 each (plus baggage), we thought it was a bargain.  So for Steve’s eleventh time and Sarah’s ninth we touched down on Australian soil.

We spent the first night in Perth and the following morning made our way to the campervan hire location. The office was packed with people and luggage everywhere. It was an extended public holiday weekend for Labour Day and chaos reigned. It was also made worse by the fact there had been a power cut for three hours the previous afternoon which had affected the bookings for the weekend. We were told there would be a delay of about two hours in picking up the van!! But we were happy enough with free coffee, and a good internet signal, it gave us plenty of time to do some research for the upcoming six weeks. The car park was full of campervans of all shapes and sizes, from 4×4 versions with roof tents, to huge six berth ensuite luxury models. As ever, we were on a budget and had booked the cheapest and oldest two berth van. When we saw one being driven to the front, ready for collection, we made our way to the door. It looked pretty much what we had expected. It had more stone chips than paintwork on the front, a couple of hub caps were missing, the curtains were old and torn and the inside looked very much the worst for wear. We were, however, stopped in our tracks when someone else’s name was called out and another English couple stepped forward to collect the keys.

Our studio apartment. Home for the next 6 weeks!

The next vehicle brought round was the same style but a much newer model which was less than three years old. Still a little tired looking, rough around the edges, and showing the signs of a tough life on the road (a bit like us these days), but certainly better than the previous one. Our names were called and we stepped forward to collect the keys to our new home. We were then told, “You’ve been upgraded, we have run out of the old crappy vans”. We loaded up and set off on our 8,000 kilometres or so trip to Cairns!

“Get the kettle on Sarah”

Our first stop was going to be the town of Albany, a four hour drive away on the South coast. The registration number of our van ended in ‘WBL’ so Sarah said we should call it “Wobble”. As we drove out of Perth the backend of a cyclone was passing through and it was pretty windy. The high sided design of the van was making steering interesting and Steve said calling it “Wobble” might be tempting fate!! So we decided to settle on “Womble”.

Not long after leaving Perth we noticed we were getting pretty rural, the towns marked on the map were little more than hamlets, and the accumulative population we encountered over the four hours would have to be less than a thousand. Albany, however, was a decent sized town of almost 30,000 (the fifth most populous in the State). Considering Western Australia is more than 10 times the size of the UK and has a population 25 times smaller, you start to get an appreciation of how sparsely populated this part of the world is.

We had a couple of nights on a campsite in Albany. The town was OK but nothing special however it has some fantastic white sand beaches dotted around the area. We spent some time on “Little Beach” which was in a National Park about 30 miles out of town, pretty local really. It is often voted as one of the best beaches in Australia.

“Little Beach” Not a bad place to spend an hour or two.

After Albany our next drive was a five hour trip to Esperence. Between the two towns is pretty much nothing, another splattering of hamlets which all had fuel stations, a Post Office and a General Store. We had stocked up on supplies in Albany so we had pretty much everything we  needed. It was good to be able to pull up where ever we wanted, flash up the kettle, make up some sandwiches and sit out with our table and chairs in the sun.

Stopping for a cuppa on the way.

Esperance was in many ways very similar to Albany. In fact, when we talk about them now we still have problems differentiating between the two and remembering what we did where! The weather was slightly against us in Esperance and we did not see the fantastic coastline and beaches in all their full glory as it was fairly overcast, but we both agreed a return trip in years to come might be worth while.

Esperance would have been better in the sun!

We did take ”Womble” for a trip along the 30 mile tourist drive. Our first stop was Pink Lake…which isn’t actually pink anymore and hasn’t been for several years since all the salt was mined from it and it lost it’s colour. We stopped by for a look anyway and parked up. We walked through the car park towards the viewing area and were stopped in our tracks by a loud crunching sound!  We turned around and saw another campervan, being driven by a French girl, had reversed into “Womble”…. Zut Alors!! Luckily the damage was only cosmetic and minor, and after a few photos, a call to the campervan company, and exchanging details we were back on the road.

Sarah discusses damage reports in French…….Their hire van is quite colourful….in more ways than one!

We left Esperance a day earlier than we had planned, partly because of the weather and partly because we were both excited about what was coming up. The Nullabor Plain. The Plain itself is a relatively flat, almost treeless, arid piece of limestone bedrock which stretches about 1200 kilometers across Southern Australia, quite close to the coast. The road is single carriageway for it’s entire length and there are no towns, villages or hamlets, only a series of Roadhouses every 150 kilometres or so. The Roadhouses sell fuel (at hyper inflated prices) and hot pies, chips, burgers cakes and coffee. They also have incredibly basic motel style accommodation and provide an area for campervans and caravans with an electric hook up for about £10 a night.

Steve at the Cocklebiddy Roadhouse.

For a few hundred kilometres either side of The Nullabor the road is also fairly desolate. Between Esperance and Port Augusta, a distance of 1800 kilometers, there are effectively two towns, Norseman with a population of 574 …. we drove through on a Public Holiday and it was shut! and Ceduna with a population of 2157, home to an agriculture quarantine station where they confiscated all of Sarah’s fruit!!

So we pulled out of the fuel station in Esperance with Steve driving and Sarah giving directions. “Which way do I go”, asked Steve. “Turn left, then at the next junction in 200 kilometres turn right, then keep going straight ahead for three days”, said Sarah as she threw the map in the back!

“Just keep going straight ahead”
Baladonia and Eucla are Roadhouses but apparently Adelaide has a few people.

We absolutely loved The Nullabor from start to finish. Just the two of us in a campervan, talking rubbish to each other, giggling like school kids, listening repeatedly to our 2 CD’s by ABBA and Elton John and a few miscellaneous tracks Sarah had downloaded on her phone. (Steve can now sing “Waterloo” backwards in its entirety!…….OK maybe not!).  We would wave at the occasional vehicle coming in the opposite direction and critique the quality of the return wave, of which some were non existent and some super enthusiastic.

ABBA or Elton? It’s your turn to choose!

We would swap drivers every hour and the passenger would be on kangaroo watch. There are apparently millions of them out here. One of the warnings when you pick up the campervan is not to drive after dusk or before dawn as that is when they come out to feed and wander onto the roads. Some of them are over six feet tall and would make more of a mess of our van than any French driver could!

All sorts of strange wildlife wander The Nullabor!

We didn’t use the Roadhouses for camping, we just pulled up in the bush a couple of hours before dusk. There is a great App called ‘Wikicamps’ which lists areas which are used for free camping. There are no facilities, just a good place to pull up. We ‘free’ camped for three nights across The Nullabor, all in brilliant locations. On each occasion two or three other campervans pulled into the same area and although they were a hundred or so metres away it gave a bit of a sense of security in an otherwise desolate area.

One of our bush camps on The Nullabor.

Once we pulled up and had a coffee, Steve would go out for a run. Running down the middle of the road, sometimes 80 kilometres from the nearest building, was a strange experience with no-one around, just the sound of his footsteps as he ran along. Occasionally a vehicle would come along and Steve could see the faces of the occupants with a confused look of “Where the hell is he going?”.

This next stretch could be interesting!

Then its back for a bird bath, some food and then watching a movie on the tablet before bed and up again the next morning for another day on The Nullabor. Every hour or so not only did we change drivers but the scenery would also have a subtle change. Sometimes nothing but low level shrubs making the scene look extremely baron and harsh, then eucalyptus trees appear, scattered by the highway some with extraordinary copper coloured bark, then the road rises above tree level and a thick dense carpet of green leaves stretches as far as the eye can see.

At one point the road runs parallel to the coast and The Great Australian Bight, a large open bay which is part of The Southern Ocean. The coast at this point contains The Bunda Cliffs which is the longest uninterrupted line of sea cliffs in the world. A stop off here for a photo opportunity was a must.

The Bunda Cliffs.

Each morning on The Nullabor we were up and away early, both of us excited about the day ahead. We always gave the sun enough time to move on the nocturnal animals and avoid any possible incidents. The “Road Trains” continue all night. These are huge articulated lorries which ferry all manner of goods and supplies from South Australia to Western Australia. We are used to seeing the ever present trucks on the UK motorways, the kind with “Eddie Stobart” written on the side or a shipping container on the back, occasionally you may see a rig pulling two trailers. Along the Nullabor though, three trailers are common and occasionally you see a “Road Train” with four!! These are huge beasts hurtling along at 110kph. There fronts are protected by heavy metal ’roo bars’ with an extra metal bar stretching across the windscreen. In the morning we would drive through the ‘road kill’ carnage from the night before as fresh kangaroo corpses were scattered by the roadside. The ‘roos can be seen in various stages of decomposition, and as only the crows, dingo’s and other scavangers clean them up. Everything from last nights kill all the way to pure skeletons from months ago can be seen. We also saw three wedgetailled eagles feasting by the roadside on meals provided by the ‘Road Trains’.

A small Road Train leaves Sarah for dust.
We had to get off the road to let this one through!

On one particular stretch of The Nullabor the road kill was particularly heavy, over a couple of hundred kilometers we saw at least 200 dead kangaroos, from skeletons to ones only a few hours old. ‘Road Kill’ was not limited to kangaroos. Over the four day period we saw, in increasing size order, lizards, snakes, possums, wombats, small kangaroos, dingos, emus and large kangaroos. We thought we had seen pretty much everything when one day Sarah saw something by the side of the road in the distance. “Looks like a massive kangaroo”, said Steve, “No, I think it’s two or three all mangled together”, replied Sarah. Then as we swerved and drove past the wreckage it was clear to see a ‘Road Train’ had been in a serious encounter with a camel!!

They are all out there.

The day would roll on and at some stage we would pull into a Roadhouse for fuel. As we were camping in the bush we obviously had no facilities, toilets etc, so on one occasion when we saw showers being advertised at $4 a go at a Roadhouse we jumped in and took the opportunity to freshen up. Although they were not the best showers ever, and Steve’s had only cold water, it was certainly $4 well spent.

Eventually we pulled into Port Augusta, a real town, with traffic lights, road junctions, dual carriageway and people. We had driven the equivalent of London to Rome since we drove out of the fuel station in Esperence, all on single carriageway road and had only made two turns. A truly amazing trip which we loved and will never forget!

“Can we turn around and go back the other way?”, said Steve. “Maybe one day, but not now, we have got other exciting places to see”, replied Sarah, “But I will let you listen to Dancing Queen one more time!”.

Having a ball on The Nullabor!


Having escaped from the Vasco da Gama we entered Singapore. As we passed down an escalator into Immigration the passengers gave us one last goodbye laugh. Mr Potato Head appeared at the top of the escalators with both his and Mrs Potato Head’s rather large suitcases. Unable to manage both suitcases onto the escalator, he placed one onto the escalator in front of him unattended!! As soon as it started moving it tipped over and went down like a bowling ball flying down a slippery lane, taking out the passengers on the way. A perfect strike!! leaving passengers and luggage in a heap at the bottom. Luckily no-one was seriously hurt. Goodbye Vasco da Gama….. never again!

Luckily our time in Singapore proved to be excellent. We have both been here together a couple of times before and Steve was also here about 25 years ago. Things have changed dramatically from a time when the main attractions were Clark Quay, Raffles Hotel and The Merlion statue. The city is now packed with ultra-modern hotels, shopping malls, office buildings, theme parks, gardens and a whole host of other attractions. It would be easy to spend at least a week here and never be bored.

The ultra modern skyline in Singapore.

We were meeting up with our friends Craig and Sal. They were here on holiday from the UK, celebrating Craigs 50th birthday which is in a few weeks, and they had arranged to come a little early so our trips coincided. As we arrived on Steve’s birthday it was celebrations all round! Unfortunately, we weren’t staying in the same hotel. They had booked into the fabulous Marina Bay Sands which is fast becoming one of the iconic hotels of the world. So after dropping our luggage at our ‘not so iconic hotel’, we made our way across the city to the Marina Bay Sands to  meet them. They had a lovely surprise for Steve, a small birthday cake with a candle (which was six times the size of the now infamous one inch cake from the cruise). We were then treated to a guided tour of the hotel. Their room was amazing, the balcony and bathroom were both easily bigger than our room. We went up to the observation deck on the 57th floor which had incredible views of the city and is home to one of the largest infinity pools in the world at over 100 metres long…… how the other half live 😉.

Surprise birthday cake with Craig and Sal…(Their room not ours!)

Over the next three days it was pretty much non-stop. We went out for some food and a couple of beers in Chinatown which, probably due to the ongoing Covid19 outbreak, was pretty quiet! The following day we set off early for a walk around the city. Our hotel was about three miles from the city centre, in a lovely area with red neon lights, women standing on street corners and some of the hotel rooms could even be rented by the hour…. very convenient! There was however an MRT (underground) station close by. The Singapore MRT system is excellent, it is clean, efficient, cheap (about £1 a trip) and covers the whole city. Twenty minutes or so after leaving our hotel we were in the heart of Singapore. We walked around the downtown area, past Raffles Hotel, around the Marina Bay area before meeting up with Craig and Sal at The Pan Pacific Hotel (where they had rellocated after three nights at Marina Bay Sands). Not too bad a hotel in it’s own right!

Posing in front of The Marina Bay Sands

We then made our way to the Zoo. Singapore Zoo is without doubt one of the best in the World. As well as housing many well known species it also has a large collection of lesser known species like the Tree Kangaroo (no Sal it’s not a squirrel!). After several hours of walking around the zoo, and Sarah had pushed some children out of the way to have her photograph taken with a couple of Orangutans, we made our way towards the exit. As we walked along one of the roads we saw a lizard come out of the trees. It was at least three feet long (head to tail) and looked as though it had escaped from its enclosure. Then on the other side of the road another lizard of similar size emerged. The two lizards walked around each other in ever decreasing circles before, in a flash, they sprung up onto their back legs and grabbed each other in a weird grip, something between a wrestling hold and a waltz. They battled, pushed and shoved each other for several minutes and one started to bleed on its side. A couple of members of staff passed by and reacted as if it were an everyday occurrence. Eventually one lizard forced the other into some sort of storm gutter and the fight was over. “That was better than any entertainment we saw on the cruise”, said Sarah.

Have these two escaped from an enclosure?
Sarah with a couple of her buddies.

Singapore also opens a section of the zoo at night. So after we had eaten some food we re entered for round two. ‘The Night Safari’, as it is called, involves a tram ride around the zoo past various enclosures which are cleverly lit to give a different perspective to a normal trip to a zoo. You do get relatively close to the animals and some are even free roaming. After the tram ride you are able to follow a designated path which winds its way past the enclosures and exhibits. The highlight for Steve was walking through the bat enclosure where huge flying foxes were hanging from the roof netting and some of the trees looking like something straight out of a horror movie.


All in all we spent almost eight hours at the zoo. That, on top of the 4 hours we had spent wandering the city in the morning, meant we arrived back at our hotel pretty tired and unable to take advantage of any local attractions!

The following morning we made our way to The Gardens by the Bay. This is a huge park area housing all sorts of trees, plants, art exhibits and a couple of huge purpose built glass domes immitating a rain forest and cloud forest. You could easily spend a whole day and evening there and we only scratched the surface. Craig and Sal had visited before we had arrived and had explored the domes and seemed quite impressed. We didn’t really have the time, which was unfortunate, but we had an important appointment to attend!

Raffles Hotel is a Singapore institution. It is over 200 years old. It has been extended and improved over the years, and survived both World War II and the Japanese occupation. It has served nobility, royalty, rock stars and movie stars and has recently undergone a large refurbishment. The hotel looks immaculate. It is a piece of the nineteenth century, slap bang in the middle of a thriving and expanding 21st century city, but although dwarfed by its surrounding it still seems to command pride of place.

The main entrance to Raffles.

So we left the Gardens in the Bay to head to Raffles Hotel for Afternoon Tea in The Grand Lobby. The hotel operates a strict dress code. Walking around Singapore’s humidity and heat dressed for Raffles wasn’t really practical. Our hotel was a little too far out to return there to change so we had carried our finery, on our backs, in a couple of small packs. We arrived at the hotel looking a little hot and bothered, dressed in shorts, t-shirts and flipflops. Steve explained our situation to the concierge, who was more than helpful and guided us to some fabulous toilets from where we emerged ten minutes later, all changed, looking a million dollars (Sarah US dollars and Steve Zimbabwean dollars!).

Save some for us girls!
A pose with the porter.

We were joined by Craig and Sal and the four of us spent a fabulous hour and a half tucking into sandwiches, cakes, scones and ice cream, all washed down with some posh sounding, great tasting tea. This was all beautifully presented, with impeccable service, in superb surroundings. After a quick trip upstairs to see the famous Long Bar with it’s floor covered in monkey nut shells,  a photo at the front of the hotel with the traditionally dressed porters, and a trip to the toilets to return to our normal clothing, it was back to The Pan Pacific for Craig and Sal to get changed. They had been given a voucher for a couple of free cocktails on their arrival (we had been given a small bar of soap) and as Sal wasn’t a cocktail drinker Steve and Craig decided to get a couple of Singapore Slings. Off they went to the bar, sitting side by side, and ordered their free check-in cocktails. Craig pointed out how the situation might look to the waitress, who didnt know them, and was then quick to return to the women as Steve tried sitting on his lap and give him a kiss!

Go on …give us a kiss!

We all went for another walk around the Gardens in The Bay before saying goodbye and heading off to our different hotels to pack as we were all leaving Singapore the next morning. Craig and Sal were heading North to Dubai to finish their holidays and we head South back to the land ‘down under’ for what will, hopefully, be a memorable trip across the vast country.

Goodbye Singapore.