The Daily Telegraph - Travel

AT A GLANCE

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SCENIC’S GRAND AUSTRALIA TOUR

A tour with a varied mix of sightseein­g, adventure, culture and relaxation, with plenty of free time to explore on your own or do nothing if you so wish. Scenic could not have been more helpful, altering flights and making transfer arrangemen­ts and refunds for my individual needs.

Itinerary 9/10

This trip takes in Perth, Margaret River, Alice Springs, Uluru and Melbourne. After I left it visited Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney.

Accommodat­ion 10/10

Large and comfortabl­e hotels throughout, but I might have preferred character to luxury.

Dining 7/10

All meals are included. That said, I have never regarded a holiday as a gourmet experience but normally I would sample local foods. However I drew the line at dining out on kangaroo or crocodile. Scenic organised a boat trip dinner on arrival .We also had a lavish meal under the stars – the attraction was not the food but rather the planets and the indigenous dancing.

holiday but not even in the outback can one elude its tentacles altogether. At Alice Springs we had a presentati­on from the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which inspired the TV series Flying Doctors. It was here also that we visited a kangaroo centre run by the star of Kangaroo Dundee, Chris Barnes, who rescues orphan joeys. and who spent the royalties from the series on fencing for his sanctuary. There are for obvious reasons only limited historical wonders in Australia, whose inhabitant­s find our casual talk of buildings from the 13th century surreal, but its story is not all about aboriginal­s, gold diggers and convicts. Charles Sturt pioneered a route across the continent for Charles Todd to lay his telegraph line, a hazardous expedition

which was recounted with much pride and in Alice Springs we saw the telegraph station itself. Among more modern marvels is the Eureka Skydeck in Melbourne, the highest vantage point in the southern hemisphere. Impressive also is the ANZAC memorial to the dead of several wars, located in the same city.

I felt a sense of loss as I left but whenever I found myself thinking wistfully of a ride through a tropical rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef and the promised encounter with a crocodile, all of which I had to miss, I reminded myself of the kangas and Uluru. Will I ever go back to do these things? Perhaps I will.

I landed at Heathrow with my mind already on pantomime but at times over the next few weeks I’d wish my fairy wand could magic up a kangaroo.

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