The truth is I don’t know what the rules are about blogging and the length of each read, I guess I could find out but should I discover that I’ve already exceeded my allocated number of words (highly likely) then I’d have to put a halt to my writing because I choose to write until all that needs to be said has been, and I choose to do this guilt free. Another truth is that when I set out to begin this blog I had high hopes I’d be much further into our original backpacking journey than I actually am, frustratingly time is just as busy now as it was back then. Remembering this same frustration I had to find an hour to sit and send news home from Australia, twinned with today writing this reminded me of a phrase my Uncle once shared about not rushing things and how anything worth having is worth waiting for; there it was, the realisation that I’ve been typing about the wrong feeling. I don’t think I felt frustrated back in 2006, what I was feeling was determination to find the time to email home just like I am today to share this, which has to be the final and best truth yet, that writing is an outlet that allows you to rediscover things you’d momentarily forgotten and look at them in a whole new light. I do recognise though that I am still the same determined person with a goal; to remember the past by giving it a future within my children’s eyes.
25th July 2006; Sydney to Far North Queensland
So here we are in far North Queensland and I thought it was time we updated you with our travels continuing from Sydney where we left off....
Best buys so far for us have to be the expensive travel towels from Blacks (walking shop in the UK), they seriously work and take up the slightest of room, the wash bags with hooks are perfect for running to shower rooms and finding things easily, oh and the universal sink plug. No worse buys yet although I suspect I will have a fair few items of clothes that I won’t have worn by Christmas but I’m not admitting this till at least 3 months have passed! Andy and Kelly be aware to leave space in your suitcase for a bit of ferrying for us (love you). A note to Phil here, cheers for sorting the iPod out, seriously it works a treat, the car (this story comes later) only had a tape player but after buying the cassette lead changer thing for the iPod we now have music and plenty of it to choose from; I especially love the East17 tracks.
So where did we get to in keeping you all informed in our Aussie adventures? Hmm the bar crawl in Sydney, Route 69 as our tour was called with drinks galore, free tee-shirts, end of the night kebabs and you guessed it a drunken hangover to follow the next day! Still we had a fantastic night and met some great fellow backpackers. Hi Steve and James if you are reading this? We ventured to bars all over Sydney with the highlight being Coogee Beach and the lows being Kings Cross (well not so low; good nightlife, just a few very seedy areas), and in between as always a great Irish bar (not the foggiest where this was) which I suspect was for the bar crawl organiser Brendan who was also a fellow backpacker from Ireland. So now we know some great bars to revisit when we get back to Sydney...eventually.
We have been doing plenty in Sydney though besides the drinking and getting used to calling a pint a 'Schooner.’ If you are interested a half is a Midi or Pot as it is here in Queensland, not that neither I nor Nathan need to know this although a Schooner is annoyingly a little less than a pint. We visited all the haunts you would expect us to, the full length of George and Pitt Street (girls the shops on these could keep you going all day), The Opera house, The Rocks, Darling Harbour, the cinema; Pirates of the Caribbean2, come on guys you could be anywhere in the world and you'd have to take the time out and watch it, can’t wait for the 3rd! The free Harbour Cruise we managed to get from our Hostel was even better than we anticipated seen as we got on the wrong boat. Yes only me and Nathan could get something so simple so wrong but it all worked out. Our original cruise should have been an hour and 15 minutes, but we managed to board a boat that was going 2 hours and 45 minutes with free tea, coffee, muffins and biscuits, the only down side being you had to pay for the drinks at the bar. It took us all the way round the harbour entrance to Sydney and all the bays along the way, absolutely amazing sights and views. Speaking of food, when we got back to the hostel they were sending a tannoy (remember how we mentioned it can be a little 18-30's in style) about a free roast dinner at a pub called The Gaff, the only catch being you had to buy a drink, five minutes later and we were there. The hostel we are staying at is called Footprints West End if you are thinking this is too good to be true.
Food for Nathan is a big issue, boy can this boy eat, and the fact that we are on a budget does not help as most cheaper places put less on your plate as you'd suspect so we only end up spending more on snacks, but we are slowly learning the tricks that only backpackers know to keep his belly full and now as we are in Queensland he is moaning that he's getting a belly on him; can't win really. We did make it up for our free breakfast, me once and Nathan twice as he keeps adding, mine was a good opportunity to borrow 'steal' if you would prefer the proper word some teabags as you have no idea how much I crave a cup of tea and it is quite frustrating when the only boxes of teabags are sold in 100's!
So as we were getting ready to leave Sydney is was inevitable that we would do the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb thanks to the guys at Dig For Fire (DFF) my old work place. We booked in for Monday at 1.55pm and soon there was no going back, harnessed up, breathalysed (oh how I would have preferred a stiff drink), scanned and checked in, away we went. The only comforting part was that our good mate Steve had joined us and was I think equally as worried about the bridge collapsing as me. Nathan as you might have guessed was at the front of the queue and away, no stopping him. Hats off to our leader though, he was absolutely full of interesting stories and a calming influence to keep us laughing the whole way up and down, including calling us 'Pommies' which I must admit we do get called a lot (Aussies even say it in sentences like ‘God dam this Pommie rain,’ so we soon learnt to take no offence), anyhow the bridge climb is a must do in Sydney, I insist if only for the novelty factor of saying 'you've done it.' We've posted the photos back to my mum and dad as I don't want to be carting them around for the next 12 months. DFF don’t worry my sister has instructions to get the proof over to you as soon as they arrive in the UK, don't forget in return I must be the 'thing of the week' on the website! www.digforfire.co.uk if you guys want to keep track of us?
On we move; our flight to Cairns, I’m getting used to this flying lark now, what can I say except we were ready for some sunshine. It’s amazing what you do to keep yourself amused in between flights etc., once you get past the game of cards and general chit chat it all falls easily back into the simple game of 'eye spy with my little eye', now I know you are laughing but come on it beats 'how many 'yellow' planes can you see?' I think!
So as some of you know some of the places we plan to work at are hosted through a website called www.helpx.com basically in exchange for free accommodation and food we do a few hours work at whatever place it may be. Our first stop is ‘The White Cockatoo' a family resort May to September then a nudist resort for the summer months so as you can see we don't work naked, well that is unless we end up extending our stay or coming back, and you don’t count the fact that we had to spend a few afternoons with the curtains shut in the chalet while we were naked due to sunburn and the ease of not wearing any clothes ourselves? The website is www.thewhitecockatoo.com if you feel you need to check it out? Tony one of the owners collected us from Cairns airport (Nathan was really chuffed as we had our own banner with our names on it; it’s always the little things that please some people, although secretly I was chuffed to) and drove us back to Mossman about an hour and 15 minutes away along a beautiful coastline, 50meters to one side a glorious beach and 50meters the other side complete tropical rainforest. Did I mention we are staying in the wet tropics of Far North Queensland? Once we arrived Lenore, Tony's wife took us to the supermarket gave us a trolley and said I’ll meet you in 20 minutes or so get what you want for a week (with the exception of treats, chocolate, chips (Crisps) and alcohol) so off we went. It was really bizarre as we didn't want to overspend and everything looks so expensive here in Aussie compared to British prices. Still we had a go, plenty of fresh meat, fruit, salad, noodles we had an absolute whale of a time. We spent a modest $78, as I’ll tell you in a bit we decided to stay on and the second week spent a little more extravagantly; $138. We were being polite the first time hey. The only thing we didn't get out of our budget money was bananas, after hurricane Larry destroyed 90% of the banana plantations the prices are $9.99 dollars a bunch which is around 4pounds! Obviously we declined on the bananas. We were shown to our extremely comfortable chalet and left to our own devices other than being told that work starts 8am the next day, but get this, we finish at 1pm. Our chalet overlooks the tropics of Mossman Gorge and is truly beautiful (sorry if that sounds corny but seriously we can’t picture staying anywhere else so fabulous). This is of course unless you count my first encounter of a huntsman spider, big, as in ‘effin’ big, hairy and the most piercing eyes with the only plus to this thing being that it was on the outside of the window. Don't worry Nicola I have since managed to get a spider out of the shower, admittedly it was tiny compared to the huntsman, but still an achievement if I don't say so myself. Ooh and with the help of Tony and Lenore in the weeks that follow I am slowly becoming bug immune. (Well I wouldn't go too far with this statement but better than I was.)
Ok we will share our disappointment of the first 5 days which were typically as the name of the place says ‘the wet tropics,' no sun yet. We were seriously questioning whether the postcards of Australia are true (no panic needed though as besides the fact it was wet it was still warm and as I’m typing this the sun has finally arrived and boyo is it nice) so we decided to not let the news that you guys are having a heat wave without us be too upsetting, although I hope the BBQ's are out and the beer is swilling?
The boring bit, having to work, well Nathan likes to say I’m doing a 'maids service', I’m not sure what images he wants you to conjure up but I can assure you it’s pretty much, towels, rubbish, checkouts and room cleans. Some people can be so scruffy, I swear I’ll try and be as tidy as possible in future when I stay anywhere, and what is it with guys not flushing the toilets after yourselves, come on please enlighten me? Nathan, well he's doing general maintenance around the place and loving it, getting old chalets up and running, painting, pool cleaning, etc. But besides all this we are having a ball with Tony and Lenore who are a great couple, once the works done its clocking off time and they are giving us great advice about places to visit and tips on the area etc. At 10am every day we have half an hour break named 'smoko'; cup of tea and a different cake mmhhh (Lenore you've turned me into a sweet tooth and I can no longer moan at Nathan having huge dentist bills as it’s likely to be me, but I wouldn't change it).
So having done our first 4 days Tony made us a proposition; if we could stay 4 weeks (this has now changed to 5 weeks as we are so hard to replace but means we get to see a little bit more) he guaranteed us free trips to The Daintree River, The Tablelands, Cairns and The Great Barrier Reef, hard to resist when you think of the money we are saving, along with $100 which basically covers our own treats (happy hour beer). Did I say we get a day off too; it’s just perfect. Along with this Tony's been fantastic with helping us get our brand spanking new car. And of course Lenore's been great too as she does have to look after the resort when we are gone and definitely has to handle the creepy crawlies while I’m on duty. I’m now used to Geckos (small lizard things), rainforest frogs in the toilets (not so nice to be chased around a table with one mind), but I’m OK looking at them now and have learnt to keep the toilet lid down, jumping spiders (let’s not even go there), large cockroaches (in all fairness I've only seen the dead ones so far), green ants which are apparently full of vitamins in their ass; Lenore insists I’m going to lick an ants ass but I’m nowhere near convinced this will happen and the list goes on including some fantastically colorful and large butterflies and birds, but getting back to the car....
So off Nathan and Tony went to view a car in Cairns (a morning trip that turned into an all-day tale with a car at the end). Initially we had been told about a car place called Travelers Auto Barn which offers really good deals for backpackers on all types of cars. The deal is you pay more than the car is worth but in return get all the slips you could possibly need for any state, roadside recovery, parts covered etc, all the camping gear and a guaranteed buyback at the end of your trip from any Auto barn in the country, sounds good hey. So please remember here that we are dealing in dollars so it isn't as expensive as it looks, if you want a good currency converter try, www.xe.com/ucc/. At around dinner time (Nathan missing chocolate and Turkish delight muffins at Smoko) Nathan calls me to say we are buying a $5000 white Ford Falcon Station Wagon, I get all the spiel about how good a deal it is and that we should go for it, so a bit more than we wanted to spend but what the hell we need to get round Aussie and the roads to anywhere are so long which beats being on a bus so let’s go for it! Now here comes the tale, he didn't come back with that car, this will make you laugh Sarah, as Nathan was heading to the bank for the deposit, him and Tony spot a couple of young Welsh guys with moody faces coming out of the Auto-barn and heading towards exactly the same car (although newer) with a for sale sign on it. To cut this story as short as possible, it turns out Auto-barn would only offer them $2000 and they wanted at least $3000 (it was priced up at $5,200 in their window, so sensing a sale, Tony (an ex Marketing Sales Manager) goes in for the kill. Its newer than the one they saw, after the test run confirms its running perfect, it has 2 camping chairs (sod the camping gear we can pick that up cheap, and as it turns out Tony and Lenore have given us most of their stuff, we're laughing here) and it comes with all the road slips we could possibly need, so the bargaining begins and ends with a sell to us at $2,600. Two defeated Welsh guys just clinging onto their sanity that they got more than Auto-barn was offering, a very p***ed off man at Auto-barn for having seen the whole thing as it was parked right outside the sale office, and a brimming Tony and Nathan with the new car and this fantastic tale of being in the right place at the right time. So after a service back at Mossman the total cost for perfectly running Aussie backpackers open road adventure car (we haven't given it a name yet) the total cost for this bargain was $3,010 which is ‘One Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty Pounds and 66p! (NO POUND SIGNS on Aussie PC's!!!!!!!!)
So having our automatic (I still keep going for the clutch!) adventure wagon it will soon be time for us to head off on our adventure which is where we are going to end this update. Included in our new car is all our camping gear, (yes that's right you heard it first here, Lindsay is camping!) with special thanks again to Tony and Lenore who have managed to fit us up with all the essentials; tent, stove, mattress, sheets, utensils, all the mod cons, and with an afternoon trip to Cairns to top up with such things as a Billy (real camping kettle), table, gas cylinder, shower (hell yeah who said anything about living rough?) there really is no stopping us. Also by the time we leave Mossman we will have pre tested all our gear in another fantastic location that I’m sure we'll email about once we've been. So now we'll end by just telling you a little bit about some of the places we have visited here in Far North Queensland.
Atherton Tableland - this is 1000m in altitude and a great drive up and down a cliff-side mountain. The day we went was on a Ford performance car day which I think Nathan has emailed a few of you about; boys and their toys, I’ll never understand the excitement. We went to Morreeba a real country town, Cairo, Tinarroo Dam; fantastic forests, creeks and man-made lakes that seriously don't look man-made. It was here that I saw my first wild kangaroo, unfortunately though it was dead! We also saw a lot of the devastation that Hurricane Larry had left behind, it was really sad to see this up close, puts things into perspective.
As you know we have been to Cairns, along with Port Douglas which is basically an up market version of Cairns; we only went to see the beach and use our free $20 dollar coffee club voucher that I won in a raffle at the local pub here in Mossman. (A chocolate muffin and hot chocolate never tasted so good for being free.) We've had a night out in Cairns staying at our 2nd backpacker hostel which again included a free meal. We ventured out to the world famous Gilligan’s nightclub only to be greeted with thousands of backpackers, small dance floors and a rubbish DJ, give us Henry’s anytime, I’m sure we'll find better places. We went a little ‘all out’ on this trip to Cairn's as we've been working 4 weeks solid and haven't seen a restaurant/cafe in a while so no expense spared; the pizza was cooked on firewood bases and the wine came by the bottle not a glass; to be splurging for a night was goooooooood! The Mossman pub is fantastic; $5.60 for 2 Schooners of Toohey's, life doesn't get any better (or cheaper), since the free coffee and cake voucher I’ve also won a travel rug and cool bag at the Ford car day, I’m feeling like my lucks definitely in. Beaches; well you only have to drive along the coast to find a stretch of unused beach just calling out for you to come and spend a few hours on it. I keep pinching myself to check they are actually there, of course I soon know they are when Nathan has thrown me in the sea and I’m dripping wet through for the rest of the ride home.
Mossman Gorge is about five minutes’ drive away from us with beautiful trees, waterfalls, crystal clear creeks that you can swim in, or fly in from dangling vines if you really want to; no crocs here, and all set in the most picturesque rainforest. Mind you I don’t mind admitting I always wear my walking boots as not too sure about the snakes yet.
We also visited the Barron Gorge National Park with waterfalls that fall from 243 meters high, and a river that was just calling out to be canoed on; yes a 2 man canoe, a river and me and Nathan. We had fun trying to compete with the steering but once we'd settled into the fact that we may actually fall in if we didn’t agree a strategy we soon saw some fantastic sights.
On one of our days off we ventured to Cape Tribulation, it was a car ferry ride away over the Daintree River into rainforest that meets the ocean. We drove all the way up to Cape Tribulation along steep winding tracks with waterfalls at one side coming onto the roads, then ventured back down slowly exploring all the trails and beaches along the way; Myall Beach, Noah beach, Thornton Beach, CowBay, Walu Wugrigga Look Out (there's no point trying to pronounce this as there are lots of silent letters so it actually doesn't sound anything like it looks), and finally Cape Kimberly. Of course we stopped off for the world famous Daintree 4 flavours in one pot ice-cream, it was awesome. We also stopped on the way back at Daintree Village although why we don't know as there was nothing there but we suspect we’ll discover quite a few more places like this along the way.
The Daintree River on the other hand is something else entirely; unbelievable would best describe the word I’m thinking to describe this place. It’s surrounded by Mangroves Trees that grow neither in land or water it really was something else, not to mention that we were in Tony's speed boat so sod the Cruises that you pay for we did this trip in style and for free. We saw in total 6 large crocodiles, all as scary as you'd imagine with Tony taking the boat far too close to the edge for my liking, especially as one the crocodiles climbed in the water and had his eye on me, no lie. The size of some of the birds were crazy and all totally undisturbed by the fact that we were there, this was their territory no need for a mere human to scare them. We sped (and I mean sped) across to Snapper Island which is an uninhabited Island, all national park, surrounded by reef that belongs to The Great Barrier Reef, we had a quick snorkel and got a real taste of what our day out on The Great Barrier Reef is going to be like. Good job really as I had trouble using the flippers, these things really weren't made for the uncoordinated likes of me. The only plus side to Nathan being able to use them and him taking the mick out of me was that his snorkel was a little too big so he kept getting a mouth full of salt water naturally allowing me to feel a little smug. It’s OK though apart from looking really silly in the small resort pool I've now had a practice and am feeling a little more confident and ready for The Great Barrier Reef which was the next trip on our day off. On the way home we anchored up on a secluded beach at the mouth of the Daintree River and had a walk on the beach amongst all the driftwood and new creek that had been created by all the rain this season. By the way did I say it’s sunny now and hot? We drank a bottle of bubbly and left in awe at the natural beauty and nature Australia has to offer, sounds corny but it’s seriously special, we can honestly say we've seen nothing else like it.
I’ll end by telling you about probably the most surreal day we've ever experienced; a day snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. To begin the day on the boat we were say 20 meters away from a great humpback whale that jumped clear of the water in front of us, you have no idea how amazing this was, and how worried I was that it may try jumping over the boat which it didn't of course. We snorkeled over 3 very different parts of the Great Barrier Reef all closer to the outer edge. Now that I had the hang of using flippers it gave me more time to actually look around, the fishes were so undisturbed by us, and at one point we had a batch of quite large (as in not able to eat us large but large) fish actually swimming around with us, it was about this point that I started laughing at them only to be greeted with a mouthful of salt water, idiot! We swam directly through millions of fish all colours and shapes saw live clams (living coral) and starfish. After a break for lunch we headed over to a near deserted sandbank in the middle of the ocean (a helicopter had landed also with a small group of people who I suspect had paid a large amount of money for this secluded experience we’d just arrived at) and anchored onto the most amazing beach we've ever seen surrounded by the clearest bright blue ocean. Next with beer in hand we sped back over to Snapper Island to anchor up and explore the beach area, on the way we were followed by 5/6 dolphins that just wanted to play with us and show off their own skills by flipping in and out of the water and swimming on their backs, they only disappeared when Nathan decided to jump in with them, not surprisingly they didn't want to play then. Back at the White Cockatoo and we are now suffering with, yes you guessed it, SUNBURN! Remember I said at the beginning about needing to spend a few days naked in our cabin? Oh my goodness, yes we lathered up before we left, and yes we know we should have put more on, and yes we know that even though it was breezy and cold in parts of the ocean that we should have kept an eye on what was happening to our skin but we didn't, we were so engrossed and mesmerised with the day that it’s been a lesson we’ll not repeat in a hurry. (I know most of you are all tutting now and especially you mum.) Seriously guys we were in pain, the only bit of compensation was the fact that Lenore filled us in on a tale about Tony nude sunbathing and actually burning his bits (the small round ones) so bad they blistered, that eased our pain just long enough to have time for a little giggle. So the number one tip for anyone planning to visit Aussie lands; FACTOR 30+ all the way and regular top-ups; applying regularly is much more attractive than a back full of peeling skin?
Just one last thing before the end; I’m sure most of you have experienced a power cut, well imagine driving back into a town late evening (Mossman) that has had a complete power cut and is as you'd imagine pitch black. It could have been pretty scary if we were staying somewhere less accommodating but as you well know we aren't, we arrived to tea lights lit everywhere and the sky was so clear that the stars felt like you could reach out and touch them, the southern cross was in full light and making the most of this scene we got out the pack of cards where we played numerous games with the most amazing backdrop surrounding us.
Take care, we expect gossip from you all, and hope you enjoyed this installment which we hope keeps you going for a while seen as it took me a few days to write it. We'll send the next in a month or so and hopefully hear form a few of you in between. Our next plan is to head out to the Whitsunday's, then into the bush and back out at Mackay, and onto Brisbane to find a little bit of work.
Finally, we have become a bit technical and created our own web page, not sure how this will work as we may use this instead of msn or maybe both, who knows. To follow our journeys check out; www.statraveljournals.com/toddfletcher and if we fail to get used to this way of doing things we'll be here on msn.
Lindsay and Nathan xx
I first noticed in this email home the many names that were of friendships I had in 2006, some of these friendships faded and others are still going strong. I’ve always been able to live in the moment with friendships; I enjoy being surrounded by varying personalities and finding the joy that comes with this. I’m a firm believer that friends come into our lives at different stages; education, work, travel and for me now ‘the school run,’ with more that I’ve not named. Some become lifelong friendships but often friendships only stay for a period of time, coming and going leaving our lives as quickly as they entered. It’s not a bad thing, or at least it shouldn’t be, the biggest lesson I’ve learnt over the years is to let go, to remember the good memories that were made and hold these close while moving on with wherever the next path is leading. I’ve spent many a moment in time pondering this, beating myself up for the way friendships have ended and questioning what it is people think of me, of course I care that I’m liked but when we get to the root of it, the truth is so long as we can love ourselves then in turn we will see the people who love us back ‘just the way we are.’ This is all sounding rather profound isn’t it? I don’t intend for it to be, I truly believe the reason I’m so accepting of friendships in this way is because of my mum. I remember my mum once telling me how she wished she had more friends, and of the few she held close that she often felt annoyed at feeling like she was the main one who always initiated outings, yet she continued to do so. When I asked her why, her answer was this; because if she didn’t then life would continue to be busy for each of them, they’d drift apart and she cared too much for the friendships to let this happen, these were ‘her people.’ As the years went by I watched mum make new friendships, in particular with some lovely ladies she met whilst having Chemo. These ladies and mum became thick as thieves together and heartbreakingly each lost their lives to Cancer. During these periods those friends that mum had felt annoyed with each called, each visited and each were there to pick her back up. On the day of mum’s funeral I looked around only once from the front pew where I sat, behind me was a crematorium with every seat filled, with people stood around the edges and out of the doors, each there to say goodbye to my mum. I couldn’t look anymore, sadness filled me that she never knew just how loved she was, at how many people considered her a friend and just how many lives she had touched with her kindness over her 52 years. That was the moment (and I’ve only just come to accept this), that moment when I looked around and I could see ‘my people’ too, friends who over the years since mums funeral I now continue to badger into meeting up with me because although our lives have taken different paths, although we don’t live close, and although each of us have other sets of friends who are equally as important to us, these are ‘my people’ who continue to encourage me to be myself.
Embarrassingly I’m no closer to knowing how to add music onto an IPod today as I was in 2006, in fact I’m still listening to the same music we played on our travels because I tell myself I like it, I do its nostalgic, but I also like lots of new artists since this time which if I’m honest it would be refreshing to hear these playing on the IPod. As our travel date draws closer it has been discussed that perhaps we should update the IPod for Isabel to have full use of to save us having to revive ‘I Spy.’ I’m quietly confident Nathan is well equipped to do this which saves the awkwardness of admitting that while we probably won’t need a ‘cassette lead changer thing’ due to the advances of technology in vehicles since 2006 that words like; download, embedding and the Cloud Drive remain alien to me, and as I have little desire to become Tech Savvy I therefore may well have to accept that my attachment to staying somewhat in musical histories past is likely to be taken over with Isabel’s current music choices; Little Mix, any song that contains the word ‘poo’ and non-stop repeat of track 7 of The Greatest Showman album. I’d love to say I’m turning into my mother but the truth is she was always interested in buying items that would keep her up to date; be it a CD player, a photo printer or sussing out the best wireless headphones for Dad, I therefore conclude that I am perhaps taking after my dad here who I think would agree is on a par with me when it comes to technology. Still it’s good to know that having recently inherited a cassette player that once belonged to Nathan’s mum that I may one day be able to have the upper hand in our house in hoping Isabel and Zack perhaps show an interest in how it works; out with the Kylie Minogue and Jason Donavan tapes that I couldn’t for the life of me think why I saved but I’m glad I did, and which has led to the beautiful childhood memories I have of mum playing her Elvis Priestley records for my sister and I with us dancing and singing along at home, and in between listening to her talk about her youth. Incidentally when she heard the news that Elvis had died she cried for two days, I remember thinking she was crazy to cry over a celebrity she hadn’t met. I of course never told her this and have since witnessed friends close to tears at the frustrations of trying to get hold of tickets for Take That concerts. What remains is for me to decide if I am surrounded by crazy people or if I am yet to find an artist who I can connect with in this manner? Maybe I’ll never find ‘my artist’ but I am pleased that music comes in and out of my life like a friendship that never truly ends. I mention my colleagues at an advertising agency I worked at called Dig For Fire, most of whom to this day I follow on social media, occasionally we cross paths long enough for a passing hello and if we are lucky a cup of coffee, but who I hold close as a period in my life where I truly felt part of a team in a work environment that encouraged individuality, and therefore I shall embrace track 7 of The Greatest Showman album, it will always evoke memories of driving around St Ives with the windows down and singing at the top of our voices. I probably won’t cry when we’ve moved on but I will miss it and all the memories its helping us to create.
I’ve said this before that I don’t consider myself materialistic, most items in our home, not discounting essential household items’ have some meaning, something we’ve bought from a place in time that will enable us to visually remember it. Reading back through this email I can see items I’ve spoken about that we still have to this day; the ‘expensive’ travel towels that are now readily available in your nearest Decathlon at a fraction of the cost, still used every time we camp along with my all-time favourite item ‘the Billy’ which makes the best coffee. Having recently camped with family for the first time in The New Forest we were considered ‘The Glampers’ of the three tents pitched, it’s relatively true, much alike all the gear we had in 2006 we have all the essentials now, but I’d like to make it clear; I’m not sure we ever used the camping shower, I have no idea what ever happened to it, and as a disclaimer for anyone reading this and trying to determine what classes as essential camping items, this is not one of them. It’s equally difficult to imagine there was once a time as mentioned above that we won a ‘coffee’ voucher and used it to buy a hot chocolate. This would never happen now, and my only conclusion is that this was a time before children with little need for a caffeine hit to keep us going during the day after what feels like six and half years of sleep deprivation with only another sixteen minimum to go until they may possibly have considered leaving the nest. I don’t want to dwell on this, moving forward we have however had to give in and discard of three of our backpacking travel items this summer; the winning picnic rug, my day pack and one of our O’Neil large holdall’s which carried our lives for the a whole year. Worryingly as it turns out I’ve completely contradicted myself only a paragraph later because truth be told upon discarding of them I really did very nearly cry, I didn’t, but I was close, this has to make me crazier because none of these items are even human. All three items despite now being replaced will forever remain etched in memory, no amount of searching (mainly because 12 years on and designs have adapted, there’s a pattern forming here with me living in the past) allowed me to find exact replicas, so now we have three new items bought with our family needs in mind and each with a desire to last the test of time beginning with packing for our planned return to Australia, the furthest of adventure we’ve yet to make as a family of four. How I smiled reading about the list of bars I’ve named as places to revisit when we return, failing to make one bar on our recent camping holiday to St Ives I’m resigned to the opinion that honoring the entirety of this list may be a step too far in the planning. Travelling with children is a whole new ball game, there’s a fine line between enjoying culture and keeping said children entertained, in fact it’s more of a tightrope that I think we’ve just about found our balance with; if it doesn’t have anything interactive, a playground or the promise of an ice-cream at the end for bribery purposes then don’t do it. My list for places to visit (and re visit) when the kids are older is endless, but most of all we’ve accepted (at least this is the case with our two) that being in a bar with children who are used to being outdoors, wild and free (our own doing), is more stress than its worth, the schooners can wait. That being said one of our favourite areas in Sydney was a place called ‘The Rocks,’ of all the friendships we made, and of the friends and family who travelled to visit us, all were sealed with a drink in one bar or another here. Leaving in 2019 without revisiting is not an option, it is therefore listed in our itinerary; this will be the day that someone somewhere will no doubt view us as ‘one of those parents.’ You know the ones, those who allow their kids to spend every second on their iPad/tablets and who care more about themselves than interacting with their kids. Isn’t it wonderful how people judge without knowing you, of course I’m being skeptical, this may not happen, but we know it does right? If this is me you’ll find me smiling back at said judge, I may even raise my glass to them, because I know that our children in that moment will likely be happy in their iPad heaven, thankful for the downtime after a fun filled three weeks of adventure that will be nearing a close by the time we reach Sydney. I also know that after one schooner (who am I kidding it’ll likely be two) I’ll have ticked off a memory worth a thousand words of past and present sat next to the same man who I continue to find similarities with that unite us and the love I have for him; he was as determined then to find the finances to make it an adventure of a lifetime for the two of us in 2006 as he is today to make new ones for us with his children by our sides. I see a man who works tirelessly, is a little older and a little greyer (as am I), a man who accepted the challenges that came when we made the decision for me momentarily to not return to work and be a stay-at-home mum, a man I call my husband, and a man who deserves to take some time for himself where I intend to raise that glass of Schooner and make a toast for all his hard work that will have resulted in us getting back to Australia.
I feel I need to bring this to a close, there is so much more I could say about our time in Far North Queensland, however having named all of the places above the beauty I‘ve recorded of these is the only thing you really need to know. I don’t believe in regrets they are instead lessons learned, but I can’t deny knowing that this trip we won’t have time to revisit them I have wondered will I regret it? Unfortunately, and despite having to be sat down and explained this like we would to our children, I have now accepted that there is only so much you can fit into 25 days and these are places that deserve for you to be there while time stands still, so no I won’t regret it, I shall instead keep Far North Queensland on the list for the time after this that we return to Australia. I will however remain forever grateful for Tony & Lenore who made these experiences possible and without knowing (or maybe they were wise enough to recognise what they were doing) have been a part of shaping us into who we are today. When Tony drove us through the outback towns that Hurricane Larry had ripped to shreds and seeing the devastation first hand it became an image that never left me. Seeing the work the communities around were putting into rebuilding people’s houses and schools brought home the importance of looking after each other, working together and not against one another to achieve goals and of basic humanity. Even now when I see devastation to whatever degree on the news you’ll always find and see people working to make things better again, these are the people I have and will continue to point out to my children who we hope can recognise early on in their youth the value of being kind.
Strangely this kindness reflects a scenario that deserves to now be told; I talk about the local pub in Mossman where we were based with Tony and Lenore, but what I didn’t share was the moment we first came across the Aboriginal community that lived here. The very first time we stepped into the bar we sat on the wrong side of the bar; the Aboriginal side. Now this is 2006, I’m 25 and with very little experience of other cultures, so when spoken to aggressively in Pidgin (Aboriginal English) I assumed this elderly man was nothing more than a drunk (incidentally he was also drunk) who clearly needed to go home or accept that I was sitting where I had chosen. I remember the worried look form the bar owner who politely asked me to step to the other side of the bar. Being the stubborn 25 year old I was I probably wouldn’t have moved if it wasn’t for the look that came with that polite request that said more than the words themselves. Now sat on the right side of the bar the history was explained to me of how the Aboriginal people had only been allowed in bars since 1970, and that even to this day the elders of the Aboriginal people have trouble integrating with ‘non-indigenous’ people based on how this race has been treated, it was therefore considered respectful to sit on your side unless invited over. I felt like we had stepped into apartheid South Africa and only a drink later we were advised to move to the pub over the road as a ‘bawl’ was due to breakout. We instead went back to our chalet, and if it hadn’t have been a discussion about the Aboriginal community at Smoko the next day, and equally of how this will factor into our travels over the next year, then we might not have gone back to the bar for the duration of our stay due to feeling uneasy with the scenario. We did however venture back, I sat on the right side of the bar, but what I didn’t tell you was that this wasn’t a bar separated by a room or wall, this was one room with a long bar with chairs set out in front of it. This time seated in my correct chair I was shoulder to shoulder with the same elderly Aboriginal who raised his glass to me, said something I’ll never know in Pidgin, laughed and smiled the widest, yellowest toothed smile I’ve ever seen. I never did find out his name but I’m thankful our paths crossed so early into our travels, I would like to think that if he’s still sat in the same seat he’s found a tolerance for sharing it but if he hasn’t that’s OK with me, he taught me the true value of not judging a book by its cover which is something that has always stayed with me; everyone has a story to tell and if you have the time to listen often you find it isn’t the one you imagined.
“Reach for the stars.” However you say it nothing sounds better than when you say it like you are Buzz Light-year. Everyone has seen Toy Story right, and if you haven’t then I advise you to do nothing else until you have seen it. We’ve been role playing with Buzz ever since Isabel was young; he retired for a short period but has recently been dusted off and is back in play with Zack. This year as I said above we drove to Cornwall for a week of camping in St Ives, it’s a place I holidayed many times as a child and is a place full of wonderful memories and favorite places. We set off at 3am in the morning, why, to beat the traffic, and usually it works. This year however traffic was against us the whole way, as the kids became restless and Nathan and I more impatient it soon became one of those journeys that make you question if it really is worth it. Fast forward and with the camp set up and the first night upon us we were about to settle Zack down for the night, we stopped to look at what he was looking at and with his widest ‘whitest’ smile aged eighteen months he held both hands up in the air and shouted ‘stars’, all three of us knew instantly what he meant and repeated with only a nod to agree;”reach for the stars.” Those stars were as clear and reachable as the ones the night of the blackout in Mossman, I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier looking up at the night sky as I did in that moment, of course the travel is worth it, and moments like these are worth every effort no matter how hard they feel at the time.
To Isabel and Zack; If I can ask anything from you it would be to always be kind to others and to yourself too. I’ve lost count of the times your Dad will disappear from my side and return holding a coffee not for himself but for a homeless person who he struggles to see shivering. Recently Isabel you bought a picture home you’d drawn at school, it was of lots of buildings, when I asked you about it and who the people were you told me it was Sheffield City Centre and pointed out the shoppers and a homeless person. It really struck a chord how observant you are at 6 years old and of your innocence of wanting to give money each time you see somebody homeless because it makes you feel sad that they don’t have a home like we do and that £1 will help. I want you both to know that I will always admire your big ideas but to remember that the smallest of gestures are often the ones that can change lives one day at a time no matter where you are in the world.
PS; always apply sun cream regularly throughout the day; I won’t ever stop telling you this.
To Mum; I’ve rewritten this note to you a thousand times, I’ve thought about your somewhat over cautious driving some of which was embarrassingly dangerous, about the long distances you drove us singlehandedly and of how selfless you were in taxiing us over the years all with the purpose of acknowledging this time you gave up for us. None of what I wrote seemed to truly express my gratitude and that’s because sometimes there isn’t a word that says it all, instead it’s the scene that you see when you reach the end destination. Recently I sat on the beach at St Ives watching Isabel canoeing for the first time with Nathan and her friends in the open sea, and for a split second I felt jealous to not be joining them because up until this point we’ve always experienced ‘new’ things together. As I waved them off with Zack I looked down at his wide eyes unsure and wary of where they were going and I knew instantly that I didn’t need to be jealous, before me was a boy who has yet to discover the joy that comes with embracing the fear of the unknown and who needed nothing more than to build sandcastles with his mum. As we walked back to our spot on the beach I thought of you. I understand why you made this same journey time after time; because sometimes you discover a place that creates one memory that you want to build on over and over again, one that can go as far back as the 2006 and the first time I canoed before children. One day I’d like to think that all four of us will canoe from this same spot and if we do I’ll look back at that empty spot on the beach and think of you again, my mum who taught me to have patience when travelling because you never know just how valuable the memories you are about to create will be in the future.
Above is Dad currently in Vietnam on a cycle tour. Ten years on and he still has no desire to learn to drive but instead is busy jet setting around the world whenever he can creating a legacy of places that not only I want to visit but hopefully his grandchildren too.
Photos at the beginning, Nath and I who have successfully climbed to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge, said jumping frog in Mossman and the first image of the car we purchased on the open road.
I am a 'wannabe' Nomad who currently lives in Sheffield with my husband and two children. I genuinely love exploring new places but finding time to fit this in is tricky so more often than not I'm found in the closest independent coffee shop because nothing cheers me up better than a decent coffee.