Tash's Trip: the dream comes true

AFTER battling cancer, nothing was going to stand in the way of teenager Tash Gould's dream of visiting Australia not even heavy snow.

AFTER battling cancer, nothing was going to stand in the way of teenager Tash Gould's dream of visiting Australia - not even heavy snow.Thanks to Herald readers and a friend with a 4 x 4, the 16-year-old Bicton College student made it through a blizzard to reach Terminal 4 at Heathrow Airport for her all-important Quantas flight to Sydney.Generous readers donated �4,600 to ensure Tash's trip was a holiday of a lifetime. She has described it as the "most magical and moving" experience of her life.A delay of two hours, while airline staff de-iced the plane's wings, and a quick fuel stop in Singapore was all that stood between freezing Blighty and the tropical delights of the land Down Under.Although a nation in mourning, following a series of arson attacks and wild fires that claimed over 200 lives, Australians welcomed Tash, of Axminster, with the red carpet treatment. She says she was made to feel like a princess everywhere she went."I'd go back tomorrow; it was so fantastic. It's the happiest I've been since I became unwell," said Tash.She started her three-centre holiday in Sydney, where she visited the Circular Quay, world-famous Sydney Opera House and the Botanic Gardens.She went on to visit the Blue Mountains, ride a quad bike in the Outback and travel in a glass-bottomed cable car so high above a deep valley that trees below looked like pins.Drifting smoke from arson-hit Victoria, caused the sky to haze over.When a trip to Bondi Beach was cancelled because of rain, Tash visited Sydney Aquarium where she walked through a massive glass tunnel and was surrounded by white sharks and tropical fish.She visited Sydney Wildlife Park, where she met koalas and was entertained by a comical kangaroo fight. She saw a deadly bird, which had killed one of the park's keepers.Next on the itinerary was a trip up Sydney Tower and a ride over the city by monorail to its famous Chinese quarter.Brisbane was Tash's next stop. She enjoyed a rest day, playing in a roof-top swimming pool, before heading by cruise boat to Tangalooma Island to feed wild dolphins."I went to the Marine Education Centre and they knew who I was straightaway," said Tash. "The whole island knew about me. I felt like royalty and they let me feed every single dolphin."I'm such a big fan of dolphins; it was my dream. I was presented with a framed certificate and a photograph of me feeding the dolphins."Tash stayed on the island overnight and then took a helicopter ride over the nature reserve."It was like paradise," she said.After a bumpy boat ride back to Brisbane, Tash, who was accompanied on the trip by her parents Darren and Claire, enjoyed a day of sightseeing, going on the Brisbane Wheel and visiting a spectacular man-made beach.While in Brisbane, she achieved her dearest wish - to visit the late Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo."The staff recognised me as soon as I got there. The Wish tour guide gave us all a hug and burst out crying," said Tash."We were taken to the Crocoseum that Steve Irwin built himself. We sat in the VIP area, reserved for the Irwin family, and our faces were flashed across a big screen. Everybody was applauding."I found out that crocodiles can move in water faster than dolphins. Humans cannot bond with them; crocodiles will always be eating machines."I held a baby crocodile and a koala bear (not at the same time) and fed the elephants."Next stop was Cairns, where Tash took the Kuranda Scenic Railway into the rain forest to meet the Tjapukai aboriginals.She saw magnificent waterfalls, visited a bird sanctuary and was taught how to throw a boomerang before taking a ride high above the rain forest on Sky Rail.Tash then headed for the Great Barrier Reef, where she saw teems of tropical fish from a semi-submersible."I went snorkelling and had to wear a body stocking to protect myself from jellyfish," she said."As soon as I got in the water, I looked down and it was amazing. It was like another world."On the last day of her holiday, Tash got up at 3.15am to watch the sun rise from a hot air balloon.She said the trip had taken her out of her comfort zone and helped her to overcome a fear of heights.Tash, her parents and the Midweek Herald would like to thank everyone who donated to the Tash's Trip appeal.