A Travellerspoint blog

Back home and no thanks to British Airways!

I made two fruitless calls to the Sydney contact no. for British Airways, and was told that obviously I could not now sit in the exit row seat I had paid extra for but that the cost would be refunded (not done so far) and they could give me an aisle seat so that I could stick my fully plastered leg out?!? I wonder how they thought that was going to work for other passengers trying to get past or for the trolley service? They were not prepared to offer me a business class seat until 1st (or even possibly 7th) April despite the fact that my Medical Certificate said I was fit to fly but should keep my leg elevated for the journey and seek urgent orthopaedic attention at home. The second guy I spoke to suggested that I stay in Australia for another six weeks until my cast comes off and then call them back for another seat. The online 'Customer Care' (misnomer) form responded with a case ID No. and then nothing else. Frankly their lack of even the pretence of interest was disgusting and it was a pleasure to fill in their Contact Centre feedback form! My insurance company clearly had the same experience because they got me onto a Qantas flight for the next day. I flew back in business class and had wheelchair assistance throughout. 84E462392219AC681767AB5A2BFD343D.jpgThe Qantas crew, both on the ground and in the air, could not have been better and certainly made a painful experience as bearable as it could be. In terms of travel insurance I had bought a 90 day Backpacker Policy for Australia/New Zealand from 'Go Walkabout' and it cost me £90.95. Their policy covers all kinds of sporting activities as standard some of which other insurance companies wont touch without extra premiums. I emailed them as soon as the accident happened and kept them informed of each new development. I sent copies of all hospital notes etc which their company doctor reviewed promptly and then made a decision about my case as a matter of urgency. The emails I received from their Emergency/Assistance Operations Department were always friendly and extremely helpful. I really cannot praise this company enough and would certainly recommend them and use them again myself for future travels.
So, I got back into London at 6am yesterday and went straight to my GP on the way home. He has given me a referral for the fracture clinic at the local hospital and I have an appointment with them on Tuesday morning. It looks like six weeks in plaster whether I go for an operation to repair the tear or let it heal by itself but obviously I need to take medical advice on this. Hopefully they will be able to give me a smaller and lighter cast so that it will be easier to keep my foot off the ground when walking with crutches.
A bit of a sad end to my trip but thank goodness it was at the end and not the beginning and apart from having to cancel the hang gliding with Becky I did not miss out on anything else. Even the weather in Sydney was bad for the last four days with thunderstorms and heavy rain so it was no hardship to sit with my feet up and a couple of good books. I have had an absolutely brilliant time during the last three months and have met some really wonderful people. Some of them have been reading my blog and I know that some of us will stay in touch. To everybody who has shared this journey with me, either in person or by reading my log entries, thank you! It was started to keep my friends and family informed about where I was and what I was doing but I know from the statistics that many others have been following it. If you are travelling in that part of the world I hope you have found some of it useful for your own plans and for those armchair travellers I hope it has been interesting and a little bit entertaining.
Now I have to heal my leg and find a new job but as soon as I am fit enough I will be enjoying more of the adrenaline filled experiences I have discovered during this trip and I'm already wondering where I should travel to next?

Posted by busyboots 02:46 Comments (0)

Abseiling and the emergency services

Well, an interesting few days for my penultimate log entry. On Wenesday I took the train from Cronulla to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains (for the amazing cost of only AUS$8.60 for a three hour ride) and booked two nights in the YHA hostel so that I could get an early start on Thursday for a full day of abseiling. I arrived early afternoon and spent the rest of the day exploring the small town, it's antique shops and adventure clothing shops.DBC746CB2219AC6817E7B91BC7C62DCA.jpgDBC8C45D2219AC681795F6082D813D30.jpgWhen I arrived for the abseiling the next morning I was pleased to discover that there were only three of us, which would mean not too much standing around, and we were an all female group. DBCA0DAC2219AC6817CBE10FDDFCE3EB.jpg It was to be a 200 metre descent in six stages and, after a short walk among the rocks to the starting point,45D3E4F42219AC6817464CA201F03971.jpg Veronica agreed to be first over the edge followed by Jen. DBCBB20E2219AC6817CED5FD64DDD648.jpgDBCD17082219AC6817B4F709FFD53425.jpgI have to confess to some trepidation on that first descent which was about 35metres to the ledge but all went well as did the second shorter 12metre descent. On the third, 45 metre descent, I went over the edge first and had got into my stride (or bounce) by then and I was really enjoying it. That is until about half way down when my right foot found the wall for my toes to rest on but there was a gap underneath into which my heel swung with all the force of my body behind it. I felt a searing pain through my ankle and up my calf and had to stop myself in mid-air to catch my breath. I continued the descent, very slowly, but could not put any pressure at all on my right foot and had to make my way to the ledge with only my left foot fending off. When the others got down to me I had managed to find a place to sit and to elevate my foot and Jen, who was a junior hospital doctor from London, examined it and diagnosed a partial tear to the Achilles tendon. Our guide Dan strapped it up to stop the swelling and to get it back into my shoe and I thought I might be able to contine with care but I quickly realised that would be impossible. At this stage we were still 100metres up the cliff face and with three descents to go. I was not prepared to consider the drama and ignominy of being taken off by the rescue helicopter so Dan called in the troops from his office and we waited for three of them to arrive. One of the guides took Jen and Veronica on down and the other three tandemed me down. It was a brilliant team effort and actually a very good training exercise for them.
At the bottom were three police emergency rescue officers 771241172219AC68172112AC9F6CDAE6.jpg and one of them piggy backed me out through the forest to the boardwalk area where an ambulance crew and stretcher were waiting. 7720A1742219AC68179231681F442B16.jpgAll of us went back up the cliff in the scenic railway, which had stayed open after hours for us, and then I was taken to the Blue Mountains District Hospital where x-rays determined that nothing was broken but that (as Jen had thought) my Achilles tendon was torn. I was plastered up to the thigh and given a pair of crutches 90_47260DA62219AC6817D050A8CBE5D5EF.jpgand a referral for ultra-sound the following day.
Jen was fantastic, she and Dylan, the owner of the expedition centre, came in with my personal stuff and then Dylan went back to the YHA to pick up my 'phone (left under my pillow that morning, duh!) and to talk to them about my accommodation. I was staying in a four dorm room on a top bunk and it was obvious that was not going to work for that night. He came back with the key to a ground floor private room and I'm not sure whether the cost of that was on him or the YHA but I did not get charged.
Jen stayed with me in the hospital for the whole five hours I was there and then took me back to the hostel in a taxi and made sure I was settled in for the night. For someone I had just met that day she was absolutely brilliant and I can't thank her enough for her generousity and kindness. She also came to visit me in the hostel the next day, while I was waiting for Tom to pick me up, and brought me emergency supplies of paracetamol, chocolate and a miniature brandy. I am sure we will stay in touch ?.
My ultrasound proved that I have a full rupture to the achilles but I should be able to get back to the UK for ongoing treatment which will involve ortho, a possible operation, a cast for six weeks and physio. No more hiking for a while ?.
As if that wasn't enough (do I know how to have fun or what?) on Saturday morning I woke up at Tom and Becky's place with significant back pain which got immensely worse and meant a trip to the local A&E dept 47BE27262219AC6817E72AAB5FD7A164.jpgwhere I was examined, given morphine and a whole battery of tests including chest x-rays, blood and urine etc. and diagnosed with muscle sprain on my right side which had put all the muscles on that side into spasm. By the time I left there I was so full of meds I was on another planet. Fortunately they have given me Endone and Paracetamol for the pain, Valium to relax my muscles and three days of self administering injections to prevent DVT on the way home. I also have a 'fit to fly' medical certificate with a note that my leg must be kept elevated so tomorrow I need to talk to BA about accommodating this.
Fortunately the reciprocal arrangment between UK and Australia means that all this treatment was free of charge, except for my ultra sound scan which my travel insurance should kick in for, and I really cannot praise the emergency services highly enough.
Tom and Becky have come up with a great way for me to shower whilst keeping my plaster cast dry 47BF13242219AC6817FF25F936C18FF4.jpgthe simple ways are the best ??. So, not quite how I had intended to spend my last week here (Becky and I were supposed to be hang gliding yesterday) but at least it is at this end of my trip and not at the beginning which would have been a complete disaster.
I know there are quite a lot more photographs of the experience on other cameras but they are not available to me at the moment. Now I just have to organise getting back to London on the 27th. To be continued.....

Posted by busyboots 22:09 Comments (1)

Culture, exercise and history

On Saturday T,B and I went into Sydney for dinner and the Opera House. Just getting to the restaurant was an experience because we got off the train to change lines in the city and whilst we were waiting the most impressive cloud bank rolled across the sky above the stationDE68F20B2219AC6817FB8711AE40CB62.jpgand the subsequent downpour meant that Becky had to run off to buy umbrellas before we could venture out into the street. We had dinner at Mr Wong's, a Cantonese restaurant very tastefully converted from a rambling nightclub and with a celebrity chef. The menu was exciting, the service was excellent and the every single mouthful of food was divine.7E073F1A2219AC6817669CFE38DF8C9B.jpgAfter dinner we made our way to the Opera House to listen to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra playing early Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. It was a very good programme and the acoustics were excellent and from where we were sitting we could see the Soprano breathing and every nuance of the conducter's direction. During the interval we had a glass of bubbly in the glass fronted bar overlooking the harbour. It was a wonderful evening.
On Sunday Becky and I did another three hour coastal hike 7E0A94DA2219AC681759C782FC2E440E.jpg7E092A7E2219AC6817C28A13052F8AB0.jpg7E0C167A2219AC681769CECEA951CDC0.jpg7E0DDDA22219AC68176DCAE08A05869D.jpgand met up with Tom at Wattamolla Beach. We had intended to picnic and to swim in the lagoon but the weather changed and rain came in so it was shopping instead.
I decided to go back into Sydney on Tuesday as there were still things I wanted to see. My first stop was the State Theatre7E10A0232219AC6817B1754D0965F6F6.jpgwhere I was fortunate to have a one to one guided tour of the whole place including the star's dressing room
7E11FBBE2219AC681752A7AF1C674A68.jpgand all the other back, and under, stage areas. Originally built as a cinema with an orchestra pit for the live music before the main cinema event it is a lavish mix of Gothic, Italian and Art Deco. It came perilously close to demolition during the modernisaion of Sydney but is fortunately now a Heritage Listed building with some beautiful features. 7E15AB942219AC6817200EDEDC62C3BE.jpg7E17335D2219AC6817606CFD17608723.jpg7E1902C02219AC68172440162CD09A44.jpg7E1A9ABF2219AC68179359DB14B762C4.jpg7E146B142219AC68175DE0D9A75C5733.jpg7E1D66742219AC681778AEEBD4CFF2A2.jpgAfter the theatre I walked through the Botanic Gardens and saw this memorial, which will please my horse loving friends,7ECDD3FC2219AC681764493ABB683DB3.jpg and this placard which shows how times have changed.7ED240752219AC681781D460523DAD9E.jpgUnfortunately the palm houses were closed for renovations7ECFE1D02219AC68177B979B973D11D7.jpgbut it was lovely just walking around the gardens to the bay where a stage was being erected for several performances of Madame Butterfly with the Opera House and Bridge as a backdrop. 7ED5ADBB2219AC6817315154BF701E2F.jpg7ED7F5882219AC6817BCDBA530D35595.jpg7EDAB9062219AC6817CC64584EF5BBBE.jpg7EDFD96D2219AC6817B2AAD8223BF886.jpgI'm not sure whether there was some kind of charity event being held on that day but the Gardens were full of runners literally stampeding in all directions 7EE384A12219AC68171848CA07BD8136.jpgOutside the Gardens I poked my nose into St Mary's Cathedral 7ECC2E0F2219AC68179C48F0F16E1941.jpgwhich has a lovely interior and some beautiful stained glass windows but no photography allowed and then I went to the Museum of Sydney which is actually a lot smaller than I had expected. One of the galleries there was displaying police crime scene photographs (not too gruesomely graphic) with an interesting film explaining how these are a very honest and true record of life in the city and suburbs during the 1950's and 60's. The main exhibition of these is in the Police and Justice Museum which I had intended to go to but which was only open on Satuday and Sunday. I took a look arouond the old Customs House where you can 'walk on Sydney' 7EE63C992219AC681786B8FDF1B881ED.jpg7EE942B72219AC6817AAA5185205BA1D.jpg and which now houses an extremely good library and a restaurant on the fifth floor. A short walk to The Rocks, the most historic part of the city, and I was in Susannah Place, a row of four working class houses and a shop which have been preserved as a museum recording the life of the area and the story of the families who lived in them from their building in 1844 through to 1990 when the last occupants left. These buildings too only missed demolition thanks to the sustained efforts of a local action group and the support of the labour union who refused to demolish them and they have now become a big tourist attraction. 7EEB7E4D2219AC681709EE17D6893ABC.jpg7EED73B52219AC6817E24172AE783E78.jpg7EEF76F32219AC68171BC4022FC38E86.jpg7EF27ECA2219AC6817EF5B0F8575F55D.jpgIt was a busy but lovely day in the city and tomorrow I am going back to the Blue Mountains for a bit more adrenaline action before I return to the UK.

Posted by busyboots 20:47 Comments (0)

Beach heat and itchy feet

Well I managed two days on the beach and finished two books and then I got bored so on Wednesday I took the ferry from Cronulla to Bundeena and the Royal National Park. 654D87AB2219AC6817DA627AFFCE1828.jpg654E7A8D2219AC681719DBACC624A437.jpgYou can do a circular track walk around Jibbon Head and also access the start of the Coast Path from Bundeena.654F2DCF2219AC6817D29ED973D6F35D.jpg654FC3252219AC6817D0FD80211C6D0B.jpg I decided to head South along the coast path towards Marley Beach (the sandy area at the bottom of the picture)782BFFBD2219AC681780F84A58DBC39B.jpgand once again I was stunned by the beauty of this coast line and the incredible rock shapes and colours782CE3142219AC6817520E6B37D5B6B6.jpg782E4D6D2219AC68175CB0ACAB587F86.jpgWhen I got there Marley beach was completely empty so, for a blissful hour, I had it to myself to enjoy my picnic lunch and to explore the rocks and pools.78307E3A2219AC681780A2104BD81853.jpg787B01BF2219AC681704996546C10643.jpg7831B4202219AC6817F3C30627218C0F.jpg7832E68C2219AC681794F8EF884E8741.jpgThen the tide began to come in fast and the rocks that I had been standing on only a few minutes earlier were very quickly covered.787CFF8A2219AC6817028252D1D37625.jpgHigher up the beach is a small lagoon which is freshwater fed and is full of fish whose jumping was fascinating to watch.787BF08F2219AC6817129F2AD6A95960.jpgIt is possible to do a circuit back to Bundeena through the bush but I prefer to walk by the sea so I took the same route back and then joined the Jibbon Head Loop. The Park is an ornithologists dream, it is alive with birdsong and birds darted from cover on one side of the track to the other as I passed through. My only regret is that my knowledge of Australian birds is so poor that I coudn't recognise most of them. The Jibbon Loop is a wide track, like a fire break, that has been cut through dense bush and filled with sand and at one point I surprised something that sounded like hooves taking off . My first thought was 'wild pig', although I am not sure if there are any in the Park, but it seemed to be too heavy for a deer. I saw some cloven hoof prints in the sand, front and back close together, so maybe something with short legs but that is as much as my Sherlock Holmes aptitude could tell me. After the track hits the clliffs the walking is easy and very scenic and then I quite literally stumbled onto the Jibbon Rock Platform787F01AA2219AC6817B0F1A034C37DAF.jpgI knew there were some Aboriginal rock carvings somewhere up there but I didn't realise how incredible these 2000 year old carvings actually are.7880383D2219AC6817E059D36A72D1A5.jpg78812C652219AC6817A0193E0BD89747.jpg788229962219AC6817462DA796BEDB38.jpg78835DDE2219AC681731393A4C7FA64D.jpgConsidering their age, the weathering over the centuries and the fact that people have been walking all over them during that time it is amazing that you can still see them. Conservation work is being carried out at the moment and, on google images, pictures have been taken where the outlines have been filled with something flourescent and then photographed in the dark. Definitely worth looking at these! At the most northerly point of Jibbon Head it is possible to see Sydney and because the day was overcast and hazy it looked a little as you would imagine Camelot to be in the distance.78845E742219AC68173EC4BF47BE2573.jpgI dropped down onto Jibbon Beach and walked back around the bay for the ferry to Cronulla. It was a great day walk, about 18 kilometres in total, and not arduous at all but I was a bit dehydrated when I got home. I had taken 750cl in a water bottle but it was definitely not enough and there was nowhere for me to top that up. I have never really liked the idea of the platypus water carriers, always being a bit concerned about keeping the bags and water lines bug free, but I shall have to revisit that option. I'm sure it has been said many times before but my advice now would be to always take at least twice as much water as you think you are going to need and certainly no less than 1.5 litres for a day walk.
That evening we had a magnificent sunset, one where nature reminds you that great works of art are mere manmade copies,78D9AB2B2219AC681755F2731D41FC3C.jpg78DA8A062219AC6817353C8F0465EA9B.jpg78DB635D2219AC681748F6AFE40AB7E4.jpg78DC1A882219AC6817359C965A69AF29.jpgand during the night a perfect storm. The rain could not have been louder if a fire hose had been aimed at the window and the thunder and lightening were monumental. We woke up to a dull morning on Thursday but by lunchtime, as forecast (amazingly), the clouds cleared and the sun shone from another blue sky so I took myself back to the beach with a new book ?.

Posted by busyboots 15:12 Comments (0)

Enjoying some r and r around Sydney

My month in New Zealand, and my few days in Melbourne, were absolutely brilliant but more exhausting than I had realised and I spent my first few days back in Cronulla just enjoying some down time. On Saturday Becky and I left Dr Tom writing another scientific paper and drove up the coast to Palm Beach and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.CAF8343F2219AC68173073616F3587E8.jpgCAF90A5E2219AC6817F2E7F3476DD5CA.jpgIt was a bit of a drive, made longer by the fact that, due to roadworks, four traffic lanes converged onto one on the approach to Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Bridge itself was extremely busy.CC7FA71A2219AC6817B732BA0F77553C.jpgPalm Beach is a northern beachside suburb of Sydney. At 41 kilometres from the city it sits near the top of a peninsula with Pittwater667E96872219AC6817A283A226ECE03D.jpg on the western side and Broken BayCD10E35F2219AC681739510BA7F38415.jpg on the East. Broken Bay is where the fictional 'Summer Bay' of the Australian soap opera 'Home and Away' is filmed. We climbed the Smugglers Route steps CD3CBA2C2219AC6817DCC67123CC879B.jpgup to Barrenjoey Lighthouse and it was well worth the effort. 662C101E2219AC6817026DD4BC0501E9.jpg662CE1B82219AC6817E4381F36DCD0F3.jpgAfter spending a while at the top, soaking up the views on all sides, we took the easier route down 662DD97E2219AC68176C3537BB614EED.jpgand headed back to the car via The Boathouse restaurant which includes a shop selling fruit and flowers and has the most wonderful displays.667FECE12219AC68176C4B7719EEA6C0.jpg6680F8AB2219AC68176EC5795DBB341C.jpgBecky decided to take me to Bobbin HeadCAFA157B2219AC6817F09C59B33278EB.jpgfor a cup of tea at the Bobbin Inn,6681E4772219AC681754E9DCC70C0CD8.jpgwhich was unfortunately closed by the time we got there, but we did get a walk around the Mangrove Boardwalk 6683E4DD2219AC681715A9C8536F52C2.jpgwhere there were some fascinating rock formations, wildlife and views.66850C7E2219AC68172D5389E8BAD256.jpg6685F9D02219AC6817346ACE957F4FFF.jpg66A6EB092219AC681700952BBE80F943.jpg
On Sunday T, B and I met up with some of their friends for a late breakfast in Cronulla and then drove into Sydney, to Double Bay,C9DC8E932219AC6817AD9FABDB6877EC.jpg to join some other friends for a ferry trip around the harbour following the last race of the 18ft skiff world championships. This class has been dubbed the Formula One of saiing and it was pretty exciting to watch. The winner, 'Gotta Love It Seven', a Sydney boat, had already been decided on points after the previous six heats of the regatta but there was still all to sail for. Sydney Harbour was a riot of colour and the sun sparkled off the waves like a glitterball.C96559472219AC6817A66185EA85E44A.jpglarge_C9663D272219AC68179F256B647068B5.jpgC96713D52219AC6817B10023DB250E49.jpgC96815C02219AC68175BCA2E56E7963D.jpgC9DB5A682219AC681742D2CC5D942E5B.jpgC9D979EC2219AC6817DBDF4AC93B9D92.jpgand there was huge cheering from everybody on board especially since most of the crew members' family and friends were with us. It was a perfect Sunday!
The next few days are forecast to be sunny and 26c+so me, my purple hat and my book will be spending them on the beach ?

Posted by busyboots 02:35 Comments (0)

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