Saturday 2 May 2009

Travelling around the planet and the first day in Brisbane

Date: 30th April 09
Location: London, England
Weather: Grey skies, occasional rain, 15ºc
Status: Excited but also a little apprehensive

If you'd like to follow my adventures then click on the Triptracker
image belowto see a route and the pictures I took along the way

Well here we go then, the adventure commences….firstly I must say it feels amazing to be writing a blog again, I loved trying to summarise my experiences, feelings and emotions as I drove around Africa last year and from the feedback I received from viewers of my Afritrex site they enjoyed reading them – something that’s obviously of utmost importance!

After a fairly late night packing the final things into an already over-filled suitcase I read through my jack-rabbit plan for the final time on English soil and headed to bed.

As appears to happen all the time at the moment, I woke well before my alarm clock! This must be due to the truly awful ship’s-claxon-like sound my phone makes shocking my body into gear every time I am awoken by it!

Throwing the last few items into my well used trusty travel bag I headed downstairs to see mum and dad on my final morning with them for a while, scoffed the usual breakfast down and packed my life for the next few days into the back of the car.

We hit the road at 6.30am filtering into the early morning traffic passing probably the same commuters I’d headed to London with a few years previous when I worked in Richmond for the Royal Star & Garter Home, but this time my mission was very different – I was off to compete in Australia!

As we pulled into the grey, concrete monstrosity that is the multi-story car park at Heathrow Terminal 3 my phone rang as planned on the dot of 07:30hrs with a call from Julian Clegg at BBC Radio Solent. I’ve done a few chats with him live on the air since coming back from Afritrex so felt relaxed and confident and had a good chuckle taking about what was to come in the next few days, as the departing aircraft roared overhead adding a realistic background to the ‘just about to depart’ scene we were trying to set.

The usual planning and efficiency of the Southall machine ensured we arrived at our destination hours before we needed to be there and we made our way to a café to while away the hours before George, the Irish finalist, and the BBC crew arrived. As the clock struck 09:00hrs Vari and Agnieskza toddled around the corner laden with bags and accessories ready for their equally hectic two weeks away as they attempt to film the last movements of the competition.

This would be the first time I’d met George, the other UK Top 50 entrants had a chance to back when the initial announcements were made back in March but I’d been in Canada so as he arrived up the escalator it was my first chance to see him in the flesh. A one minute video really doesn’t summarise a person that well!

We instantly got on, had a good bit of finalists banter and grabbed a drink as we attempted to hold some unstaged conversation in front of the cameras, particularly hard to do really! Time was pressing on so we headed downstairs to the Singapore Air check in desk and handed over the relevant documents to the assistant all the time hoping that our request for an upgrade had fallen on some slightly receptive ears. No chance.

‘It is not company policy to offer any economy passengers an upgrade’ came the well-practised response so the efforts which the team at Hill Balfour (PR company for Tourism Queensland), the BBC and myself had gone to had no effect whatsoever!

We made our way to the exit said another staged farewell to mum & dad before advancing to our departure gate with time advancing fast ready to jump onboard the new Airbus A380…oooo how exciting in itself!

With minutes to go we’d all made it onboard to a plane which was less than half full, brilliant news; George and I changed seats and moved forward to take advantage of the extended leg room in front of us…sleep may even be a possibility here!

The Airbus A380 is a fantastic experience with wide aisles, comfortable seats, very little cabin noise and the sort of in-flight entertainment you’d be happy to use at home with a huge range of things to choose from to speed the lengthy 12 hour flight along.

Given the better seats I thought sleep would be a dead certainty as the flight drew on, maybe the films were too good, maybe I was just that little bit excited about going to Australia but the end result was staying awake for virtually the entire journey and arriving in Singapore feeling a little less than well rested.

As the group of us wandered through the immaculately clean, state of the art terminal building we passed another group of travellers when one of them asked “Are you Ben?”
It was Greg, the American who lives and teaches in Singapore and was in the final for the Best Job as well, well spotted Sir! Feeling shattered George and I weren’t on top form but made our way to the transfer lounge and sat down for a much needed leg stretch and coffee before subjecting ourselves to the next leg of the journey.

So three finalists all here at once and how alike we all are, all relaxed, friendly individuals who seem quite relaxed about the coming two weeks of chaos and media scrum that’s bound to follow.

Singapore to Brisbane was a much more relaxing flight; after the body had got used to the fact I was trying to stuff dinner down at a time when I ‘d be expecting breakfast. Back to the
entertainment system and I found Slumdog Millionaire – the last time I’d tried to watch it whilst out in Canada I’d fallen asleep and was determined to make it through to the end this time. By all reports its a superb film but I dropped off again just after the opening credits and awoke a few hours later to the start screen….oh well!

Our flight swept in low over Brisbane and through a clear sky giving us a view of the city from above, one we’d be fully immersed in within an hour or so and after another near-perfect landing made our way into the terminal building. The increasing threat of Swine Fever has meant that health security has increased at all airports and we had to all walk past a heat seeking camera on the way to passport control just in case our body temperature was higher than expected due to flu symptoms….we all passed thankfully.

Kerri Anderson, Tourism Queensland’s representative, met us in the arrivals area and once the BBC girls had cleared customs we all jumped into our coach and headed to the Stamford Plaza; our rather fancy hotel for the first two nights of the adventure. Passing through the streets of Queensland’s capital on a Friday night gave me some great initial thoughts on the city – as clean as Vancouver, as modern as London and as cosmopolitan a Cape Town. I think I’m going to enjoy it here.

I’m writing the concluding part to this first day perched 20 stories up overlooking the Brisbane River with the sunrise about to happen on the horizon in the distance, yes there’s a few clouds in the sky and it looks like so monster rain in the distance but for now the day is starting off perfectly. I dropped off to sleep easily enough, but awoke at 4am and couldn’t get back to the land of zzz’s and with our first big press conference this morning at 06:45hrs (yikes!) an early start can’t be too bad an idea. and this blog is the result....

Saturday 2nd May 09

Not as bad as I thought...or at last not as hectic as tomorrow could potentially be really! The promised media scrum was nothing more than a live link up to Channel 9 in Australia and a single still photographer but what a great morning it turned out to be.

We assembled en masse in the reception donned our 'Best Job' tshirts and

slowly but surely the entire group of relatively new faces mingled and socialised all finding out a little more about each other than our initial one minute videos had allowed.

A real boiling pot of cultures and people which is fantastic, the opportunity to meet new faces, find out about their likes and dislikes and see how each other weigh up for the 'interview' ahead. We have since been told that it is actually an interview and not a competition!

Once we'd got the initial press photos out of the way we met Anthony Hayes, the TQ boss who would end end being my boss should I go on and take the job, and all sat down for a well earnt breakfast of fruit and yoghurt with all the trimmings - its amazing to be eating such good fruit again after Africa last year and the abundance we were lucky enough to have out there!

The effects of the previous 24hrs travel were starting to take their toll of all the long haul travellers so we slowly sloped off once our committments were satisfied and headed back to our rooms. I chatted with Greg and Clarke on the way and instead of giving into the desire we thought we'd head out to explore the great city which was all around.

Half an hour ater we'd massed in reception, headed down the jetty and onto the City Taxi boat which smoothly whisked us down stream towards Southbank, an area of the city with an artificial beach and perfectly clear if a little chlorinated water lapping at the edges.

It was a perfect morning to visit with clear skies, sunshine and the Buddhist Festival taking place in the park with all manner of activities and festivities taking place. We meandered through the early morning crowds and eventually plonked ourselves down on the beach to soak up the atmoshere and sun's rays....all the time protecting myself with the obligatory Aussie suncream as has been instilled in generations of the locals and the lesson of which had already rubbed off (sorry for the pun) on me!

Once we'd had a out fill we walked the route north out of the park, across the Goodwill Bridge and back into the CBD of the city for a bite of lunch before heading straight upstairs to the room where I then crashed out almost instantly for a few hours.

It's a great city with simple public transport, friendly helpful people and the sort of climate I could easily get used to....Oh the UK seems so far away now!


Kate and Lehi! said...

Congratulations on the win! I hope you love Far North Queensland as much as us 'locals' do. Snorkeling and fishing in Port Douglas, exploring the Daintree and Cape Tribulation should definitely be done on your time in sunny Queensland!

FYI - the River Taxi boats are called City Cats or affectionately City Kittys...

Best of luck, from proud Queenslanders, currently residing in Singapore...

Rosh said...

CONGRATULATIONS BEN!!! So happy for you and delighted to see you flying the flag for the Brits :) I look forward to your updates!

kimivan said...

Congratulations Ben.

Can't wait to read your blogs about our beautiful Great Barrier Reef and Hamilton Island.

All the best from two very proud Queenslanders.

Gus said...

it was over 20 years ago when my honey and i spent our 2-week holiday in Queensland, i look forward to meeting you if we do visit this lovely place again this year ... depends on TQ's new effort to promote this attractive piece of land, and water, on Earth ... best wishes

Helen O said...

Ben! You thoroughly deserve this. We are extremely chuffed for you:) Well done mate! BTW, Harry wants to know when we can come stay!! Maybe his Uncle Alan can bring him...haha!

eleni pitsillidou said...

Bravo Ben! you have started off very well. I am looking forward to reading your blogs and your adventures in Great Barrier Reef. My application to the BJW was rejected by 0,01 of a second. :-(
I wish you good luck and lots of fun out there. Make us live it too :-)
Eleni Pitsillidou from Cyprus

Unknown said...

Congratulations Ben!
Bravo MAN!!!!
Good Luck forever...
Kelly in Japan...

Echo said...

Congratulations! Ben! ^_^

..........................FP said...

Congratulations, Ben for winning the best job in the world!

margaux said...

Hi Ben,
Well done, you deserve it! I live in France and was travelling in Australia and in Brisbane when you all arrived for the final, had more or less the same tour as you but a week earlier : Riverside beach, Lone Pine, City Cats, GBR scenic flight, snorkeling ...wonderful! Lucky you, take the best of it, make us dream with pictures and great stories! I will follow it all on a regular basis. Thanks in advance! Margaux said...





GlobetrotterSA said...

Congratulations on the win! Quite an interesting job. :) I wish you all the best.

Mel said...

Congrats on the best job in the world!

La Paca Partida said...

Congratulations winner!

Ana said...

Congratulations from Brazil! Ana and her cat Ben.

Ana Cristina said...

Congratulations Ben!
All the best!
Cristina in Portugal

Unknown said...

Congratulations Ben! In times like these it's a rare experience for someone to feel as happy and lucky as, I think, you feel now.
Make the best out of it -for the benefit of the people and this wonderful place.
I would like you to join me for a brief on-air interview on the phone at my radio program, on City 99.5, Athens, Greece, weekends evening.
If you feel like doing it, please contact me [mail:]

All the best!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Lisleman said...

read the news in the Chicago paper today - I'll be following your blog. Sounds like a dream job.

If you need any help - oh say combing the sand, replacing the hammock, etc. just let me know.

well, all the best to you.

susette said...

After watching a few of the contenders for the job you seemed like the natural choice. Good job! I will look forward to reading about your many upcoming adventures with this best job in the world. Congratulations

Anonymous said...

Congratulations and very best wishes for six months of stunning adventures... I and the rest of the world look forward to living the experience with you through your blogs and videos.

Leo Nguyen said...

Congratulations on the win!
Waiting to see Great Barrier Reef and Hamilton Island on your Blog

Unknown said...

I will plan to travel after July 1 to Queensland with my family!
I will follow your bolg and your trip on Queensland!

Yinna from Beijing, China

Ju_B said...

Hi Ben, funny, I only just heard about you 24 hours ago, but it feels like you are a great long-time friend of mine. Your video made me smile over and over again! This job sounds like it was made for you and you for it. You're an inspiration! I need not say 'make the most of it' because it sure looks like you will.
Cheers, matey!


Play said...

Congratulations! Really! It is not envy, it is sympathy with someone who had the luck that I have dreamed so much! Ben, enjoy it!! I'll try to follow your adventure ...
Best Regards,
Best of luck,
...and work hard!
Paulo Viegas - one Portuguese competitor that didn't reached the 50 chosen... you lucky bastard ;)

RedCorner said...

congratulations!!! now i have incredibly terrible envious feelings towards your new job!! the best job in the world!!
good luck mate!
All the best from China.

cattias said...

congrat ben wiating your new blog :-)

Super Bowl 2013 Fan said...

Congratulations Ben! It would be a very good job with a huge pay!

I would be watching your adventures as you start to blog on July.

More Power!

from Philippines

ginnie said...

Huge congratulations on a well-deserved win! I haven't tried 'blogging' before, but your 'go for it' attitude has inspired me to try something new!
Enjoy your adventure!

SS said...

I think it's so great that you got the job. I was not able to apply for it, but I'm glad that you got it and have already brought people in.

Because of this job I was incouraged to just got to Australia, so I should be in your neck of the woods. Hopefully your blog will give me ideas of things to see and stuff to see.

Best of luck!!!

Zellie said...

Congratulations, Ben!! I remember your energetic video from way back before the Top 50 were even announced. It's a joy to read the Top 16 blogs--seems many great friendships were made despite the competativeness and epic prize.

I think you may have stopped by Ning before but just to remind you, there's a whole forum community dedicated to this Island Caretaker adventure:

Glad to hear you're interested in environmental preservation too--the GBR is amazing and by the time I get out there I want it to still be in pristine condition ;) and so on for future generations.

Looking forward to hearing about your fantastic adventure (:


Unknown said...

Its truly an awesome experience opting to travel new places....carrying only the basic necessity life similar to gypsies.
army ration packs