Hi there,

For those of you arriving late to this intrepid family journey through the heart of Australia, you may like to start reading at the beginning. Unfortunately, Blogger organises posts with those most recently created appearing first. So, if you jump in at the top, you're not going to get the full experience of this gritty blow-by-blow account of our adventure. As such, I suggest using the navigation window above and head down to March, where the first part of this journey began. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll be hooked. From there you can scroll upwards to continue the journey. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

We made it out of Melbourne (but only just!)


Date:
01/04/2017
Location:
Horsham (Victoria)
Distance Travelled:
328 Km
Temperature:
Min:
7.4

Max:
20.6


Well, we made it out of Melbourne… but only just!

Ok, perhaps that’s a little too dramatic for the start of only the second entry in this Blog. But, it feels like this has been a hard-won victory – and one, which I am proud to say we achieved.

But, before I get ahead of myself, perhaps it’s only right that we look back over the past fortnight to see where this tale began.

In short, it’s been a hell of a couple of weeks! We were lucky enough to have a family rent our house for over a third of the time that we’re away; I was lucky enough to get a new job/role within my organisation; I said farewell to some very dear colleagues and patients, whom I’ve come to know well over the past two and a half years; Nat and I have cleaned and scrubbed and fixed and moved and stacked all manner of things to get our house, car and caravan ready for our grand departure.

I am grateful for all of these things – but, I must admit, I am now starting to realise that there is such a thing as having too many good things happening all at once… In fact, too many good things can feel a little overwhelming, and it’s easy to forget why they are so good at the time.  My new role at work is looking like it will be an enormous challenge, but one that I’m very excited about getting my teeth stuck into when I get back. It will be an awesome opportunity and I can’t wait for it to begin. However, that is about all I intend to say about work-related things for now, as returning to work will come around all too soon and I certainly have better things to thing about in the present. Right now, my mind is firmly on the here and now; living life with Natalie and my boys. Otherwise, if it wasn’t I’m sure many of the perfect moments we might encounter along the way would be lost, simply because I wasn’t paying attention – and when you’re travelling, even the mundane times can still be one of those perfect moments.

Renting out our house was another mammoth task. Don’t get me wrong, it was amazingly lucky to be able to cover a chunk of the mortgage while we were away. But, getting to the point where you can hand over the keys to your home, particularly a place where you, your partner, and your two boys have been living in for many years – complete with all of your glorious mess – is more than a little daunting.

In the end, every room was swept, every dead lightbulb replaced, that laundry renovation that was half finished was brought to a swift conclusion… Drains unblocked, showers scrubbed, packing done, locks fitted, gutters de-leafed, more packing, stoves cleaned, stains removed, gardens tended… not to mention packing, packing and more PACKING! It was a mission! Nat and I worked our fingers to the bone (while the kids mainly played on the Xbox or casually toppled over piles of clothes, rubbish, garden cuttings, or other assorted flotsam and jetsam that had accumulated around the house like aliens circling the mother ship).

Perhaps that’s not entirely fair... No, in fact there were moments of what can only be described as sheer pre-adolescent altruism. Those moments when our wee cherubs actually stepped around the various piles of clothes, without scattering them across the lounge… Oh, and I think they also may have helped to clean out the fridge – but, then again, they might have just been hungry and it was one of those serendipitous win-win situations.  We were also lucky enough to draw on the kindness of Nat’s folks, who helped more than we can ever acknowledge. Thanks for stepping in to pick up the piles before we ended up going insane!

Who knew tidying could be so much fun?!?

So, there we were on Friday morning. Feeling like we were on top of things one minute, and in a blind-panic the next. I now realise that depending on how you look at a stack of things that need to be packed, it can either look like a manageable mess – or a down right terrifying tower of terror. Unfortunately, as the day progressed towards ‘leaving time’, the previously manageable stacks quickly morphed into such looming towers of terror that we got to the point where we simply didn’t know what to do next…

But, the aforementioned tenants were already well on their way… whether we were ready or not. The clock was ticking and they were barrelling down the freeway at a hefty clip towards us. In the back of my mind I had a sneaking hope that they would be curtailed by a blown tyre, tummy bug or (and this is when I knew I was losing my mind) a natural disaster of biblical proportions. I had heard there had been a cyclone up north – at one point I caught myself thinking “perhaps, just perhaps, that would buy us a few extra hours”. But, thankfully for the tenants, the skies parted and they made it through safely (damn you mother nature – stop toying with me!!). 

At 3:30, with a driveway full of travelling gear and a house that still needed sweeping – the tenants showed up. We had even decided to pay two chaps to clean our house for us in the morning – but, after going around and re-doing nearly everything they did - needless to say, we won’t be using their services again in the future. The tenant on the other hand, I must admit, were wonderful people. Not at all perturbed by their frantic hosts still running around the house like chickens with their heads cut off. In the end, I figured if they could battle their way through a cyclone to get here – a bit of extra chaos would easily be taken into their stride. And, to their credit, they sure did. In fact, if it wasn’t for them asking us what those bags were doing sitting in the kids’ room, the boy’s clothes would have been left behind in neat pile on the floor… Oh, and the laptop I’m writing this on would have still been gathering dust on the mantel piece (a second near miss).

And so, with our caravan crammed full of belongings that had been thrown in as quickly as we could, we finally managed to hit the road… just in time for rush hour traffic. Oh joy.

The plan was simple, head towards Nat’s sister’s house in Horsham. We knew they were away for the week, but they had been kind enough to let us pitch up for the night in their driveway and also leave our second car there to be looked after while we were away.

… But, tuning in to the 4:00 news bulletin, we forlornly listened as the reporter described a major crash on the very motorway we were traveling upon. Well, I say we – but as we had to drop off our second car at Nat’s Sister’s house, the radio listening occurred in two separate cars. Likewise, the gasps of horror and sighs of frustration were also heard to emanate from two separate cars. This was shortly followed by a buzzing from my mobile phone, with a message from Nat to veer into the left lane and take the off ramp for a different route. Sure thing, easily done with a caravan attached. I noticed the message on my phone just as the 1km warning for the freeway exit flashed by. But veer I did - and as luck would have it, to the astonishment of myself and the cars previously occupying the lane, I found myself heading off into uncharted territory – only about 30kms from home.

I’d like to say that the rest of the trip to Horsham was pretty uneventful. But, at one point our little detour had us ending up on a dirt road (heavily corrugated), with the locals whizzing past the intrepid duo of Melbournites at break neck speeds. To top it all off, we had to pull over a few times to troubleshoot questions from our newly autonomous tenants about how to get the washing machine to release their clean clothes from its clutches – and also how to get the stove to work (an important question when you’re starving after a long trip). But, in the end, we did make it to Horsham. Both boys asleep, getting close to 11:00 at night, and heading for a dark and cold driveway with no one at home in the attached house. But as luck would have it, our guardian angels (in the form of Nat’s folks) took pity on us poor fools who couldn’t sweep, or clean, or pack, fast enough to get on the road at a reasonable time. The lifeline came in the form of a prepaid motel room, which was waiting for us to check into for the night. Perhaps it was just coincidence, or perhaps there was a greater force at work. But all I know is that as I drove into the motel carpark, the soft dulcet tones of Leonard Cohen singing “Hallelujah” were playing on the radio…

As we pulled up our camp trailer alongside our motel room and put our two very weary boys to bed, Nat and I figured that this didn’t really count as the first day of our grand adventure. No, surely this was just a packing day. A trial run, so to speak. The real trip, we assured ourselves, would start tomorrow…

So, let’s wait and see what tomorrow brings.

Bye ‘d bye.

Gregg

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