Australia Tour 2013/14
The men from snowy river
We reached the Snowy Mountains at last on Saturday, after a fabulous drive from Merimbula on the Monaro and Snowy Mountain highways.
Our half way stop this time was unusually at a famous bakery & pie shop in Bemboka and I have to say the steak and kidney pie I sampled was better than anything I have ever eaten at home from the chippy. The Hells Angels also liked the pies, judging by the number of bikes parked up outside.
On arriving at Jindabyne we drove the Kosciusko Alpine Way - Lofty craftily tried to con the toll booth attendant that he was a pensioner, to get free admission, then forgot to bring his WW2 ration card or any other evidence of encroaching senility.
" But I've had concessions all over Australia!" pleaded Lofty.
" Those are the rules, and in New South Wales we always abide by the rules", she said.
Not like Guernsey, then!
Lofty wasn't quick enough to ask "would it be more than your job is worth" so we had to pay full price, but were rewarded by fantastic views at the top of Kosciusko and despite the temperature gauge showing 32° inside the car, snow was clearly visible on the surrounding mountain tops.
In the evening I watched 'The Hobbit 2' at the local cinema, surprisingly Lofty did not want to come with me, even after all the great fun he had at Hobbiton in New Zealand.
As much as I like the LOTR franchise, I am forced to admit that the producers are now dragging this particular story out too long - it is taking those dwarves longer to kill the dragon than it takes England to score a hundred runs.
On our second day in Jindabyne we did the epic Snowy Mountain Circular drive, which I had tried three years earlier with Tremers. We varied the route slightly and travelled clockwise to relieve my tedium - ha ha! Brilliant weather this time and the drive was utterly spectacular.
Khancoban dam and surroundings was a highlight, as was Cabramurra, the highest town in Australia, purpose built to house the workers from the Snowy Hydro Company.
My favourite part came when we arrived at the Tom Groggin rest area, having driven for about 110km non stop from Thredbo along a winding mountain road. Understandably both of us needed to pee, Lofty choosing the nearest eucalyptus tree while I went to use the rather Spartan toilet - taking the car keys with me.
What I saw when I returned to the car park must be the comedy moment of the tour.
Lofty does not like bees, as any readers of the last NZ diary will already know.
Here, he was surrounded by a horde of the buzzing terrors, and being unable to get into the safety of the car, he was doing a jig on the spot which I can only describe as like Daniel Sturridge's goal celebration, but speeded up about four times.
All this accompanied by frenzied requests to the bees - fifteen "Go aways" and about ninety "F*ck offs".
We have found on this tour that white Barmy Army shirts attract flies and bees in great numbers, I am seriously considering contacting 'Alan Pardew' to suggest that all future versions are impregnated with insect repellant before public sale.
I was laughing at Lofty so much, I found it difficult to operate the car door lock opener for at least five minutes.
What a great trip to finish our tour - so much water, and us so close to home.
Arriving back to Jindabyne intact, we were just in time for more anguish - the end of the England ODI innings from Melbourne, which we watched in the Banjo Paterson pub.
Wow, we have gone back to Bopara - I would like to rename him 'Ravi, Why?'- as if we haven't had to endure enough batting torture already. Having watched the guy playing on TV he is clearly completely out of form - who is selecting this side??
When Australia batted, they quickly reached 150-0 in reply to England's paltry 269-7 and as Bresnan went down on the boundary like a Rowntree's jelly being poured out of its mould and completely misfielded the ball, which went for four, Lofty and I gave up the ghost and went to the local Chinese Restaurant, leaving Ashley Giles and David Saker glumly wringing their hands in the dugout.
We got back to the pub in time to see the final overs - which reminds me, if any England players happen to read this blog and feel a bit precious about the criticism meted out, the level of ridicule here is nothing compared to what we, your supporters, have had to endure each time we enter a bar in Australia.
I am praying nightly for new coaches at every level after watching cricket again today - its the same old, same old, same old, same old. Our start is never aggressive enough, we need Hales, Davies and Wright at the top of the order not Cook, Bell and Root, even were they not mentally shot after the Ashes. With KP, Morgan and Buttler in the middle, then that would not look a bad line up.
I thought I would never say this but I am relieved we will be outta here before the next car crash game of cricket on Friday.
Until we get new management and coaches I find it hard to see how the England cricket team can be successful - obviously, nobody has told the players that it is our football team that is supposed to embarrass us.
For inspiration on our final day we visited Bowral, home of the Bradman Museum.
As I had been in before, I let Lofty do the tour himself while I sat sunbathing outside the pavilion. An elderly Aussie was exercising on the pitch, and after he had finished, he came over to talk and asked me where I was from, when I was going home, the purpose of my visit to Australia etc. He then explained that he was sixty-four, and had recently had two heart attacks and a stroke within the space of a month.
" You look well" I said. "The stroke doesn't seem to have affected you at all."
His next words were rather disconcerting:
"I was talking to a Pom from Manchester yesterday-couldn't tell he was a Pom, he didn't have any accent. He was going home tomorrow. Here to watch the cricket......."
No word of a lie, he just picked up his sports bag then and wandered off.
Distractedly, I went back into the museum to see if Lofty had finished, and while he was purchasing the entire contents of the souvenir shop, I chanced a peek into the visitors book.
On the 2nd January 2014 was an entry from someone purported to be 'Joe Root', allegedly hailing from Yorkshire, England.
The comment appended was "I wish I could bat (like the Don!)".
That's all we need. Clearly at least one Australian has developed a sense of humour!
Our final night in Australia was spent at the Mittagong Motel, two hours outside Sydney, and two kilometres outside the 'town centre', which Lofty had booked on the internet without consultation.
The people who posted good reviews on Trip Adviser for this motel cannot have stayed in the room we were given.
Imagine a box sized 25 feet by 12 feet made of plastered concrete blocks.
My 'bedroom' is contained in one corner of the box, partitioned off by plasterboard panels that reach three quarters of the way to the ceiling.
Just like the Steptoe episode where Harold divided the house apartheid style as he could no longer face living with Albert.
We have no bathroom sink. It is in the living room.
All the fittings look as if they have been installed at different times by losers in a D-I-Y competition.
The cupboards and furniture are from an MFI distress sale.
We have a vibrating fridge.
My bed rocks like a hammock, but without the comfort.
The air conditioning unit consists of a wooden wall mounted box of ice cubes being vented by a hair dryer.
The free Wi-fi is only available if your device can pick up and send signals through a metal coat hanger.
However on the plus side there is no need for an alarm clock next morning. The room also has a Nazi shower, and the volume of expletives from Lofty as he tried to use it would have woken Rip Van Winkle. Lofty has vowed revenge on the Mittagong Motel using the power endowed in him by the Booking.com e-mail feedback form!
Well done Lofty. At the next Addis Army AGM I shall be recommending you for promotion to the rank of Herbie's Batman.
Aldershot, here I come, but before I leave Australia thanks to all friends old and new who have made this trip enjoyable - despite the cricket.
To the Blades in Adelaide - thanks for putting up with me, it must have been like having a squatter.
To Bill and Alex in Glenalta - the same thanks.
To Julie in Perth - so nice to see you again after all this time. Don't forget that offer of accommodation!
And last but not least all the Addis members present in Australia who shared in the pain and suffering. Especially Posh Margaret, who is staying the longest, and must have been tearing her hair out at the MCG the other night.
Hopefully I will see you all for the World Cup next year!