By Ted Lane
It is hard to believe four years have passed since the British and Irish Lions came so agonisingly close to victory over South Africa. As it stands, the pride of British rugby finds itself on an embarrassing losing streak stretching back to 1997. This summer they will travel Down Under to face an Australian side at the bottom of the Southern Hemisphere triumvirate. Quite rightly, the Lions smell blood and are licking their lips.
This mouth-watering clash between Lion and Wallaby happens once every 12 years and with it comes an amazing opportunity; not only a chance to see the best in world rugby collide head on, but also to enjoy big city experiences and discover a wonderful country.
The most impressive holiday package is offered on the Lions’ official website. For those with no money or time constraints, the ultimate Lions experience – from 28th May to 7th July – is yours for the princely sum of £13,999pp. This includes ten stunning matches, from the opener against the Barbarians, through six other provincial games and three Tests in Australia. It would be a rugby and holiday experience like no other.
Being able to experience the whole tour is something reserved for a lucky few, but there are plenty of other options. Thompson Sport Travel offer some creatively named packages (Koala, Emu and Wombat) that include airfares, hotels and tickets to a selection of matches, catering for different price and time constraints.
For some, a trip Down Under may be too daunting, but a warm-up match against the Barbarians in Hong Kong offers a halfway house for Lions fans. Gullivers Sport Travel offers a Hong Kong Weekender from £1,645pp, which seems not too bad when compared to the full tour package!
Despite being only an exhibition match, the opportunity to visit Hong Kong should not be missed; its combination of bright lights and far eastern culture ensures there are a plethora of experiences to be had.
Lan Kwai Fong is one of Hong Kong’s most popular nightlife spots. The atmosphere ranges from stylish wine bars, to raucous jelly shots, and the food on offer is as diverse as the clientele. The Temple Street Night Market is also a must on any visit. When the sun goes down and the opera singers begin to emerge, it is a place steeped in local atmosphere. It is an enduring example of the theatre and festivity of a Chinese market.
For many the focus of the tour will be the three Tests, but with six provincial games all over Australia, you would be foolish to limit yourselves to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
Following the hubbub of Hong Kong, Australia’s natural beauty should be a real draw. Cairns is the gateway to the breathtaking beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. There’s an abundance of activities for swimmers and non- swimmers alike, which will allow you to enjoy one of the world’s best natural landmarks.
A trip to Australia would not be complete without a visit to its feted outback, more specifically the legendary Ayers Rock – also known as Uluru. Uluru is a spiritual place and sacred to the Aboriginals. It is fascinating to watch the sun rising over it, but this is an experience you must share with hundreds of other tourists, so the spiritual aspect can be spoiled slightly.
When it comes to the Tests and the tour’s denouement, spirits will undoubtedly be high, so in Australia’s biggest cities it will be important to let your hair down. Rugby and beer go hand in hand and Brisbane, host of the first Test, is a happy matchmaker. Pulling out the best from its veritable archive of ales, Archive Beer Boutique aims to increase levels of beer appreciation. There’s no shortage of craft beers here, with nearly eighty on hand.
For those who want to sample a true Australian classic, the XXXX Brewery tour provides a journey where you learn the colourful history of XXXX and its place in the Australian community.
You’ll also learn about the inner workings of the brewery, learn to pour the perfect pint and then relax in the bar enjoying some famous drinks.
If all goes to plan, Melbourne may see the Lions secure a 2-0 series victory, and if that is the case a
beer may not be enough. Crown is Melbourne’s premier entertainment venue offering a brilliant combination of luxury and non-stop excitement. Featuring one of the largest casinos in the southern hemisphere, it also thrills audiences all year round with free attractions.
Crown boasts forty restaurants, cinemas and even an indoor amusement park. No wonder it is known as a “world of entertainment”! If that isn’t enough, keep a look out for the clubs, Prince of Wales and Room 680. Hit these notorious nightspots to catch international DJs and do a bit of celebrity spotting.
After more than a month the Lions parade will finally roll into Sydney. The mindset of fans will be impossible to predict; dejected after defeat, hungover after victory, or excitable if all still remains in the balance. Whatever the situation, the final Test spells the end, and those involved will need an opportunity to relax.
With so many beaches and bays close to Sydney’s city centre it seems the tour’s timetable was set up perfectly for this exact reason. Sydney is home to some of the world’s most famous beaches, such as Bondi and Manly, with their unique combination of surfing, shopping and beachside dining. Our summer may be the Australian winter, but that’s not to say there won’t still be plenty of sun and surf to enjoy.
A trip to the other side of the world will not be cheap, but it will be an experience. The British Lions go Down Under with a genuine chance of victory and those that go in support will witness a piece of rugby history. Combine sporting history with fascinating culture and beautiful landscapes and it becomes clear that for those willing to take the plunge this will be an experience worth every penny.
Taken from the April issue of Scotcampus