I booked a 21-day tour from Sydney to Darwin with Adventure Tours Australia (ATA). I’d heard they were good at what they did, and they’d take me to places I’d find difficult to get to on my own. Since several shorter tours made up my long trip, I was looking forward to meeting some interesting people along the way.
The first section of the tour went from Sydney to Melbourne and began at the George Street Oz Experience office. Luckily, Sharon dropped me off so I didn’t need to catch the train into the city. At 7:00 am, I checked in and they asked for my vouchers. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any printed because STA Travel, the company through which I booked the tour, had emailed them to me and hadn’t provided original copies. Luckily, this wasn’t a huge problem, and they told me to email the vouchers the next time I had internet connection. ATA/Oz Experience was already impressing me with their service.
Exiting the office I found the bus waiting at the curb. Disco, aka David, would be our driver and tour guide for the next three days. He was tall and thin and bursting with energy. He looked like Shaggy from Scooby Doo with the enthusiasm of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. And, he wore colorful striped socks. I just knew this tour was going to be interesting.
There were about 21 people on this trip from Sydney to Melbourne, and the bus was full. Luckily, I was able to snag a single seat up front near the door.
As we left Sydney, the day was a little cold and rainy. I worried that the bad weather would follow us on the tour. However, as we made our way to Mittagong to refuel Sheila (the bus) the weather got better and better. Someone told me later that Sydney’s weather has been unpredictable for the past year. It experiences showers about half of the month – everything from sprinkles or downpours.
When we arrived at Mittagong, I decided to walk around a bit. A block down the road, I found some older women setting up their white elephant and bake sale tables in front of a church. Their baked goods looked delicious, but for once I refrained. I proceeded to a small park area and wandered around. I could not believe I was actually in Australia!
The first people on tour that I chatted with were Tina from Lebanon and Marta from Italy. They both lived and worked in Sydney and were taking a holiday over the long Easter weekend. Tina had lived in Australia for three years; Marta for just one.
So far, the trip was off to a good start. There were interesting people aboard, the weather was good and I was in Australia. Could it get any better than this?