Aus Update 41 - Winton to Auckland - Final Update

<Paula> 24th May 2007 - 9th June.   This final update has been a long time coming.  I guess we could just leave it out but we need to finish it off for our own record of what we did during our dream year.  On Thursday morning of the 24th of May we got up at 4.15am!  We hadn't actually slept much, maybe an hour or two at the most.  The day had come that we were going to walk away from our Mighty Maverick, and it didn't seem real because it all happened in the dark.  There was a bus, which was actually a mini van, that was to take us the 200km to Longreach where the train would be waiting for us, and it left at 5am.  I have to admit I actually shed a tear, which I could blame on being pregnant, but the truth was I was going to miss our car.  We had lived in this car for most of the year, we had it set up so well that it didn't matter what was going to happen we had what we needed to deal with it.  Our Maverick took us to some amazing places and brought us safely back again.  I felt like we were abandoning it in the middle of nowhere.  Anyway that is enough of that.  Here is a photo of us just before we loaded our bags into the minivan. I know the photo didn't come out very well, unless of course we were wanting a photo of the zip on Chris's jacket, but I have to put it in.  It also doesn't show the amount of luggage we had either, it didn't all fit in the photo, we had a lot. The other photo there is of an aloe vera plant that was given to us during out travels and had survived dehydration, drowning, sun stroke, you name it. It was difficult to take it with us, so we planted it by the tap where everyone gets their water. Yes it looks sad but it had grown heaps while we had it and it was still alive.  Hopefully it is thriving, although soon after we planted it some people did some hand washing there and tipped the water out on top of it, which almost washed it away.

It took us just over 2 hours to travel to Longreach.  Poor Chris was in the back with our luggage and two other peoples luggage piled up around him.  The two other people we picked up had nearly as much luggage as us, each!  It was a nice drive, it was the first time we had driven through dawn when the animals are everywhere.  There was sadly a lot of fresh road kill, and I noted that the driver specifically slowed down as dawn was approaching as to avoid any incidents.  We had trouble when we got to the train because the 25kg limit on our bags was a little over.  We were allowed 2 check  in bags each, so that was a total of 4, and they were not to weigh more than 25kg each.  One of them was under :-)  One of the guys was nice and gave us one of those cheap checkered bags from Crazy Clarks (which is what we had already).  We had to take some stuff out of 3 of them.  Not fun, but even at 25.1kg the baggage handlers would not even take the bag off the scale, they would not even touch it.  That was all fine, they let us check an extra bag in.  As it happens we could have taken it on the train with us but we already had two carry ons each, and we didn't want to deal with anymore than that.  We knew our luggage would be over the limit so we had previously mailed a bag with 25kg of stuff to Theo's, and we were still over by a total of 18kgs.

The first half of the train journey was from Longreach to the coast, night had fallen by the time we got to the coast so there wasn't much to look at after that.  The train had a dinning car, a snack bar car, a bar, sleeper cars and two economy class cars with just seats.  Which is where we were.  So the train left Longreach at 8am on the dot and arrived into Roma Street Station in Brisbane a little late at around 7am the following day.  We got some sleep, did some reading, tried to watch one of the movies that they were showing in the snack car, but people were sitting around talking and it was to hard to hear, we enjoyed dinner in the dining car, and spent a lot of time watching and observing other people, as I am sure they were us as there wasn't much else to do.  Here are some photos of the train journey.

Me getting on the train at Longreach.

Chris reading the paper on the train.

We tried to get a picture of the train as it was winding it's way down the mountain but it was too long to get the whole thing in the  shot.

Me at Roma St Station with our 8 heavy bags and a guitar.  I waited while Chris went to find what was where.  The same railway worker that helped us in Longreach let him know where to go to get the hire car and where was best for me to wait for him to pick me and the luggage up.  He was very nice.  We must have looked really lost, and very tired by that stage.

So I waited at the station while Chris walked a couple of blocks into the City to pick up the hire car we had booked.  It was an economy car and we could only just fit everything in with a hole to see out the back window :-)  It was very different to drive such a small fuel efficient car after our 4x4.  We had a really good time driving back to Melbourne, which is where a month or so ago we had booked our plane tickets out of.  We had planned to have 2 weeks in Melbourne to sell the car and our camping gear before flying out, as it happened we didn't need it so we took our time travelling down the coast stopping in on a couple of the people we had visited on the way up.  It was really good to see them all again.  We stayed with Eleena, Kelly and Alex for Friday and Saturday night, on the Gold Coast and then drove to Morriset and stayed with Jill and Kerry Sunday night.  We left there late in the morning and met up with Heidi and Peter for lunch in Sydney.  We then spent the afternoon driving to Canberra where we arrived at the same time as Allison got home from work, what timing!  We left early Tuesday to drive the rest of the way to Theo, Katrina & Zeke's.  It was really good to see everyone again at the end of the trip.  One of the main things that stood out was that Victoria was green, we were so used to it being brown, but they had had a couple of rain falls and things had started to turn green which was nice, it made it very beautiful.  We didn't really take any photos of the trip back.  It was highway, some highway and a little more highway.

We spent a frantic couple of days as we arranged to ship our excess luggage to Auckland and return the rental car.  We then could relax and enjoy our last few days with Katrina, Zeke & Theo.   We got to see Zeke's new school and his classroom.  Chris helped Theo with a couple of  things around the place.  I got to start be excited about the arrival of the baby as Katrina went through Zeke's baby stuff and generously gave us some things.   While traveling I haven't been looking at baby things, it wasn't as if I could do anything about it, so this was the first, and it is exciting.  We took Monty for a few walks too.  I will miss seeing all of them so much. We have seen them heaps over the last year and now we are going back to having lots of distance between us.

I have to make a comment here.  We went a whole year with out leaving anything behind.  We only lost one thing thing in all the places that we went, and that was a pair of Chris's shorts that were stolen off the line.  When we left to fly back to Auckland we ended up leaving multiple things, including our rain jackets which we didn't need much in Australia but we definitely will in Auckland.  We found some others in amongst all our stuff.  But we thought it interesting that we didn't leave anything  behind till the very end. Here is a couple of photos taken during our last week in Australia.

This was all just before we popped down the street to get some milk and bread :-) just joking!

By the time we had our faces done (we had to be convinced first) Zeke's had worn off so it got refreshed.

Here are a couple of photos taken at the airport.  Another huge moment, our holiday was ending  :-(

People have asked us what was our favourite part, it is really hard to say.  Being Australian I have to say I have learnt a lot about my own country and what has made it into the country it is today.   The landscapes and environment have played a big role in that they are so abrupt and harsh, it has created an abrupt,  harsh and self sufficent  nation.  There have been specific events that have affected the nation as a whole.  One specifically stands out and that is the Eureka Stockade, it resulted in the death of a lot of innocent people trying to stand up for their rights against the government of the day.  The result was the Government learnt how to be sneakier in how they gathered taxes off the people.  Australian's pay ridiculous amounts of  tax.  Every generation of Australians have had a person that has given the nation a voice, an identity.  Banjo Paterson being probably the most influencial of those.  Others would include people like Slim Dusty and Steve Irwin will most likely go down in history as one of these people too.  Some try to put Ned Kelly in this category but learning more about him in my travels I would have to disagree.  Ned Kelly was a person with a strong personality, huge stature  and the unfortunate luck of his Irish heritage, thrown into adulthood at an early age due to the death of his father he was a victim, and he tried to stand up for himself, which ended in his death at a young age.  There are many other individuals that played a huge role in the development of the great nation of Australia, the convicts, soldiers and free settlers as a collective, and also explorers, and those in free enterprise like the founders of Qantas & Rupert Murdoch just to name a couple. I could go on forever about the things that I have learnt about my country and it's people, I haven't even touched on the indigenous people, but I will leave it there.

So now we are back in Auckland.  Everyone has been telling us that the weather has been fantastic and sunny, but we were greeted with grey raining days for the first few days. We stayed with Chris's parents while we got our cars  and started unpacking what was essential to start with. When Chris got his car out of storage he was like a little boy on Christmas morning, he was so excited.  I knew he missed driving his car, I didn't realise how much.  We then moved back into our house.  It is nice to be home, however when the alarm goes off and it is dark and cold as Chris gets up to go to work, it feels like we woke up from a dream and it never really happened.

So as we reflect over the last year and think  about what we learned about ourselves, each other and  life in general, it is an expereince that we will never forget and something we would recommend to anyone.    You know we say about chores, 'Don't put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today.'  We apply that to the good things now too.  Don't put off 'til, who knows when, spending time with the people you love, going places you have always wanted to go, doing things you would love to do some day, because life is too short, and all it takes is a little rearranging of priorities and perspectives to make these things happen. It is worth it.