Maureen and Michael Noyes jetted off to Australia to meet some long lost relatives during the trip of a lifetime – thanks to a Staysure policy.
It was during the course of tracing her family tree that Maureen was astonished to discover she had a long-lost cousin in Australia. The 67-year-old remembered her mother saying years ago that they had relatives down under – as Maureen’s great aunt had married an Australian soldier during the First World War.
What started off as a simple name search on Google ended with Maureen and her husband jetting off to New South Wales to spend several weeks with their long-lost family members.
“All I did was put my mother’s maiden name into the Internet as she had said she had cousins in Australia,” said Maureen, 67, who is from the market town of Devizes in Wiltshire.
“The next thing I knew I had an email from someone saying ‘I think we may be related’. It turns out my cousin had done the same thing and was looking for me too! It was great news as I knew my mother had written to Australia many years ago and the letter had been returned saying that no one lived at that address with that name.”
It turned out that Maureen and her cousin Tona, who are of a similar age, both shared the same great grandfather – making them second cousins.
Maureen, a legal secretary for a solicitors firm, explained: “The strange thing was Tona and her husband Tom had actually visited the UK two years previously, but they didn’t realise at the time that there were still family members living here. They were even in Devizes while over here.
“But when we got in contact they came out again to see us. During the visit they kept asking if we would go and visit them in Australia, and eventually, we did.
“So last March my husband Michael and I, and my cousin Robert and his wife Carole set off on the long trip to Australia to meet with them. I had been apprehensive about the journey having not flown since 1968! And also because of the fact that my husband was then 73, I was worried about holiday insurance.
“It was the costs really. Michael is well over 70 so obviously the insurance increases as he’s more of a risk. He’s got asthma and high blood pressure, which is okay because he takes medication, but really it’s just his age. I have to say that some of the travel insurance companies that we contacted were very expensive. We were pleased to find Staysure covered all eventualities and ticked all the boxes.”
After applying for their passports, the plucky four jetted-off to the great unknown on 1st March 2014.
Maureen, a grandmother of seven, recalled: “We flew into Sydney and spent a marvellous three days there seeing all the sights – it was great.
“We went to the Blue Mountain and visited the Sydney Opera House. I didn’t realise that the reason the mountain is blue, is due to a haze from the surrounding eucalyptus!”
Then via a hire car the four embarked on an all day journey to Condobolin in New South Wales, where Maureen’s cousin and her husband Tom live.
Maureen said: “The thing that struck us most was driving on the big, wide roads and not seeing cars coming in the other direction for 30 minutes at a time. I kept saying where are all the people? As we are so used to being so densely populated.
“All six of us made our way via road and many detours (three days in all) to just outside Brisbane. Everybody was very friendly and hospitable. We stayed in motels and they were very clean and great value for money. The only downside is that it takes an age to get anywhere.
“During the journey we saw cattle, horses and other wildlife in their natural setting. We also saw a kangaroo hopping across the road in front of us. Apparently they come out more at night when it’s cooler, so you don’t tend to see that many during the day.
“Tom and Tona left us at Brisbane to go back to Condobolin and we flew up to Cairns where we visited the Great Barrier Reef, a rain forest and took the train up the mountain to the village of Kuranda.
“The train was spectacular and it stopped halfway up so we could take photos – they were wonderful. It took us up the mountain slowly so we had time to see the waterfalls which were quite spectacular, and the deep ravines. Also as the train rounded corners people at the back of the train could see and take photographs of the front of the train. What an experience!
“The trip out to the Great Barrier Reef was very calm and we were able to dive in a submarine type boat with glass sides and see the reef and all the different many coloured species of fish and other marine life that inhabit it. My only regret is not going snorkelling as I did not feel I was a good enough swimmer. But I found out later you didn’t have to be a strong swimmer and I wish I had done it now.
“Then we went to a rainforest and had a barbecue lunch. I don’t like spiders and I saw a huge one while in the forest. But my guide said ‘don’t worry, that’s just a little one, they get as big as dinner plates!’.”
Also, while on a boat trip near the rainforest the group spotted a 14-year-old crocodile called Scooter.
“He didn’t look too bad actually,” chuckled Maureen.
“But they do tell you to keep your arms in the boat – so we did! And then they took us in close to see a tree snake. It was disguised in the tree I didn’t see it at first – then I got a shock when I spotted it!”
As for the highlights of the trip, Maureen said it was difficult to narrow it down to one.
She explained: “One of them was probably holding a koala bear at a sanctuary – and I have a photo to prove it! Just holding an animal that you have heard so much about was a highlight for me.
“But another highlight was visiting Byron Bay. That was so beautiful and peaceful, I would have loved to have seen more of it. The shock was walking into the water and finding how warm it was. I’ve had baths colder than that water!”
As for the Australians themselves, Maureen said they were “very friendly” and “hospitable”.
She explained: “Australia was an experience I would not have missed for the world.
“We wanted to see the real Australia, not just the cities, and we saw it. If you get the opportunity to go, just go!”
And as for any future holidays abroad, there may be another family tree related holiday in the pipeline, as Maureen is planning to go to north Germany where she believes her great, great grandfather was born.
She added: “I met my long lost family who have been in Australia since the First World War, my great aunt having married an Australian soldier. I saw a country I never thought I would and we have lots of lovely memories and photographs, thanks to Staysure who really made the trip affordable and possible.”
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