March 15th – April 30th
Well, for all those who I haven’t caught up with yet, I finally made it back home – not quite in 80 days but I think I had more fun than Phileas Fogg and Michael Palin put together!
With Mark away on tour, my final few weeks in Perth were spent in preparation for my return to the UK, and more importantly, to urgently find paid employment, since my coffers were more than empty. Our final day was sad, but perfect – breakfast on the beach in Cottesloe, followed by a fish and chip lunch by the harbour in Freemantle and a romantic evening picnic in King’s Park, overlooking the city – my last glimpse of Perth for several months
. After an (yet another) emotional farewell at the airport, I set off on the long flight back to London.
Almost 24 hours later (and an incredible 8 hours sleep) I arrived at Heathrow at 5am, feeling rather despondent that after my rapturous send off 12 months ago, there would be no-one there to greet me. Imagine my shock and delight when Joe sidled up to me with a cheery “Hello Mum”. He’d booked a cheap flight back from New York for the week and decided to surprise me – what a lovely son!
After a sensational year, I was brought back down to earth with a rather large bump the next day, when I discovered that my tenants were refusing to move out. Although comfortably ensconced and warmly welcomed at my mate Michelle’s, I was facing a lengthy legal process (up to 6 months) to evict them. Jobless, penniless and now homeless, I was beginning to wish I had stayed in Australia.
Walking down my local high street felt almost surreal and with the stress and uncertainty surrounding my house, I was finding it very difficult to acclimatise.
My tenants finally moved out 3 weeks down the line, and I’m finally just beginning to feel “at home” and settled again. I can’t describe the joy at unpacking my clothes and belongings that had been in storage – it felt like Christmas! The much anticipated re-unions with friends and family have been warm and wonderful, and I am enjoying being back in my comfort zone once again. Perhaps one of the best things about being away for so long, is the coming home. I must do it more often.
My prudence in starting the job-hunt early paid off and after a couple of interviews, I’d secured a 3 month contract working in my home town, which means no commuting and better still, no overpriced train fares.
Things were slowly starting to come together.
Many people have asked me to name the highlight of my trip, or my favourite destination. I find this impossible to do as every country I visited offered a whole host of memorable and individual experiences. As I read back over my blog however, the following stand out as exceptional moments that will be imprinted in my mind and in my heart forever:
– Cruising down “The Strip” in Las Vegas in a limo to celebrate my mate Karen’s 50th birthday
· Driving down Highway One in California with Dan, singing along to the Beach Boys on the radio
· Getting “merry” on margaritas on more than one occasion with Tash and the crew in San Fran
· The hilarious Pythonesque Mariachi’s of Garibaldi Square in Mexico City
· The towering ancient skyscrapers of Chichen Itza in Mexico and Tikal in Guatemala
· Soaking in the atmosphere and the nightlife in old Havana
· Sitting on the dock of the bay in Caye Caulker, Belize surrounded by tropical fish
· Sipping champagne in a Jacuzzi at the Sanctuary Lodge overlooking Machu Picchu
· Wandering around the weird and wonderful markets of La Paz
· Traversing the lunar-like salt plains of Uyuni in Bolivia
· Sharing a shot of pure alcohol with the miners in Potosi, hundreds of feet below the surface
· Getting up close to the power of nature at the spectacular Iguassu Falls in Brazil and then again in Argentina
· Watching the sunset from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain, Caipirinha in hand (it’s a drink!)
· Catching an impromptu Tango show over lunch in San Telmo Square, Buenos Aires
· Trekking and snow walking in the stunning snow-capped Patagonian Andes and finding hidden beaches with views that took my breath away
· Spotting my first whale in Kaikoura and watching in awe as the huge tail fin smashed down into the sea
· Perfect solitude and breathtaking views trekking the Abel Tasman coast, New Zealand
· Taking in the beach, the sunset and the open air cinema on a very special day in Broome
· Seeing in the New Year in Sydney with a fabulous view of the harbour bridge and opera house and falling in love!
· A very chilled out day spent cruising the back waters of Kerala listening to Robert Palmer, Rod Stewart and Sting on my ipod
· Seeing the joy in the faces of the adorable children of Irula Pakuti in India when they were given the clothes and toys Mo had brought them
· A very romantic final evening in Perth with Mark picnicking in King’s Park overlooking the lights of the city
And for those interested in statistics:
Distance travelled: Over 100,000km
Number of bus journeys: 68
Number of train journeys: 5
Number of sea/river voyages: 15
Number of flights: 28
Number of World Heritage Sites Visited: 31
Number of Life Changing Experiences: Countless
Number of Hangovers: I can’t remember
Number of lifelong friendships formed: 6
Number of credit cards completely max-ed out: 6
My trip may have left me financially impoverished, but the places I visited, the people I met and the experiences I have shared have completely enriched my soul. Thank you all for joining me on my adventures – your comments, e-mails and feedback made me feel like you were all on the road with me, and I hope my words have excited, encouraged and inspired those “explorers” out there.
As most travellers will tell you when they return from a trip like this, their wanderlust has not been satisfied, but ignited. As comforting as it feels to be back home in familiar surroundings and re-united with friends and family, I know it won’t be long before my itch needs scratching again (no tube of antihistamine cream is going to cure this one!).
So, for now I must now follow my heart and my man back to the Antipodes in July to continue my adventures, when I hope to continue my blog. I hope you’ll all be joining me again (in spirit, if not in person – and not all at once please, we only have one spare room!).