Australia. Aus. Oz. ‘Straya: So much far.

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I cannot believe I’ve had six weeks in Australia and I have to leave on Monday! I already knew I loved this place, but it’s so satisfying to return somewhere and love it just as much, if not more. And yes, I do want to come back again, and again.

It’s been said before, but you can’t really appreciate it enough. It’s just so. Damn. BIG! There needs to be another word for it. As in, it’s not just big, or huge, or ginormous, or vast: it’s Australia. And, it’s not far, or a long way, or an incredible distance: it’s Australia. So much muchness that it’s an adjective of its own. Is that a thing? Does it have a real name? I studied literature not language so I don’t know. But anyway, big and far: Australia.
There are so many places I still haven’t even touched on, I got quite worked up before I got here, thinking I needed to fit everything in that I could possibly want to see. Someone had to remind me that it wasn’t my organisational skills that were the problem, it was sheer time and space and physicsy stuff and it being utterly impossible to see more than a fraction of this red and green gem of a landmass within six weeks.

So, barring a visit from a man in a blue box anytime soon, I had to settle for a more realistic plan. East Coast, six and a bit weeks, allowing for entry and departure airports and maximising the non-touristy experience with pet sitting and foisting myself on various family friends, friends, and friends of friends. It’s a small world don’t you know, and half of it seems to be living in Australia, luckily for me!

House sitting has also been a great idea. Well, on the website it’s advertised as house sitting, but it’s really pet sitting. I have yet to see an advert on the site that is solely for house sitting. Not an issue whatsoever, it just gives the literal side of my brain a little eye twitch.
Pet sitting has been such a good way to see places I wouldn’t even have heard of! So far, I’ve encountered a gorgeously quirky family of four (felines and pooches) in New South Wales; a spirited Maltese cross in Queensland; and two delightful Scottie dogs just outside Brisbane. People have opened up their homes, their beloved pets and in one case their extended family to us. It’s meant I’ve met interesting and friendly people, in a way that I wouldn’t if they hadn’t invited me into their home. It’s been a really rewarding experience, both from the point of view of feeling that you’re helping someone and getting something you need in return (I love a good barter system), and for finding and exploring smaller places, off the typically tourist track.
With so many visitors to this gorgeous place, it’s easy to get looped in to the trail everyone else is following. While I love that to a certain extent, and it’s pretty unavoidable, I knew I wanted to see more than that too. I love going to a place and seeing what it’s like to actually be there. To live there, find the corner shop and the local café, hang out on the deck with a nice view and go walking the dog. Pet sitting has satisfied that part of what I want from this trip. Too much city jumping and following a guide book* makes me cranky.
*Pinterest, Google, city-specific Android app.

So as this part of my trip comes to a close, what’s on the highlights reel? It has to be a highlights reel because otherwise it’ll feel like one of those comedy skits where the unwitting friends and family are pinned into an overstuffed sofa and forced to relive every nuance of the captor’s recent excursion to Bognor Regis (for example), complete with every out of focus photograph and badly retold ‘had-to-be-there’ joke.
And we all know that’s only funny if it’s not happening to you.

Here’s the whistle stop tour of my best bits of the last six weeks:

  • Pet sitting – the much needed downtime and next phase of trip planning time and the bizarre feeling of actually missing other people’s animals when it was time to move on.
  •   Falling absolutely in love with Sydney when on my last visit it left me a bit *meh*.
  •   Walking in the Blue Mountains, with what I think of as the distinct Australia outdoorsy smell. A mix of richness, warmth and nourishing earth, it’s both refreshing and comforting at the same time.
  •   The laneways in Melbourne, seeing Adele in concert, watching moonlight cinema in the Botanic Gardens.
  • St. Kilda’s cocktails, food, sunshine and cake.
  •   Getting soaked on the Great Ocean Road. Walking on the beach in Lorne. Seeing wild kangaroos and hunting in vain for koalas.
  •   Flying to the wrong airport for a house sit and not having it be a complete disaster.
    The peace and calm of the beaches. All the beaches. Realising that growing up by the sea has meant it feels homely and safe to me, and I probably need to seek it out wherever I live in the future.
  •   Fortitude Valley in Brisbane for great food and a much needed night of Espresso Martinis.
  •   Fraser Island, watching the sunset with a glass of contraband Prosecco; going on a full day organised tour and loving every second of it; flying over the island and enjoying it once I quelled the panic attack. Floating down a freezing cold creek and swimming in Lake McKenzie.
  •   Experiencing the sunrise on the beach at Hervey Bay.
  •   Sitting on the balcony with a view of South Bank in Brisbane and a nice cup of tea, writing this.

Australia’s ‘could do better’:

The weather. There, I’ve said it. Yes, there was a cyclone. Yes, I guess technically it is Autumn. But if I hear one more twangy Aussie accent saying, ‘see you brought the weather with you, hey,’ my eyes might roll so far back in my head that they won’t be able to find their way back.
Although as I write this the sky is blue and the sun is shining, so I’ll stop antagonising the weather gods and get on with enjoying my last couple of days in this beautiful land.

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