387 days… 1 leap year and 3 weeks of travelling. Of course, day 1 of the adventure was always journaled as being in Delhi, when in fact day 1 could have been leaving the UK. BUT, by the time we noticed that little blip in our counting we were already a hundred days or so into the journey and my parents were printing out the blogs, and unbeknownst to us, so was Tracey. So, the adventure has come to an end and so too have tales that have filled books and cyberspace.
Writing the blog entry for this day a few weeks later, it is still fresh and clear the day we came home. The simplicity of the airport, the familiarity of meeting Nicola in the arrivals hall (thank you Nicola for collecting us, #1 Third Wheel), the navigation of the route back to Raynes Park, seeing the same buildings still under construction. All of it made us feel like we had never been away.We stayed at the Travelodge down the road from the flat – one of the few projects in the area that got completed in our absence – as our tenants hadn’t technically left yet. But, we later found out that they had been in the US for almost 6 weeks and the flat was being repainted in their absence. We could have moved in home straight away. But, the hassle they had given us during our year away was continuing. Ugh! [Insert sad emoji face and a sigh of despair] Lots of bits and pieces to slowly put right in the days that have passed and more still to do… the single biggest problem they caused was not paying Thames Water and other bills. Poor management by the letting agent and a fault in the Royal Mail redirection service meant we had come home to letters from debt collectors and bills that weren’t even ours. But, that was not part of day 387 and shouldn’t be included in this eulogy.A spot of breakfast with Will and Nicola and we headed off to the storage locker. Still too early to check in at the hotel, we rummaged through the contents of the bin to get at work/interview clothes and essentials we’d need in our first few days. Dragging it all back to Raynes Park was tiresome and jet lag and such was kicking in. A nice warm shower, a bit of daytime British tv and we managed to get through the afternoon. A kebab from the lovely Turkish lads down the street for dinner and it really was starting to feel like we had never been away. Friday 28th October 2016
Deciding to avoid the squeeze in the kitchen for the final time, we opted to grab all our cereal, milk, foldable bowls and our sporks to eat breakfast al fresco at the summit of Mount Wellington. The drive through the streets towards the 1270m high mountain was pretty straight forward although, with no petrol stations en route refreshing our memories, we had got half way up to the summit when the petrol gauge light came one… Driving straight past one of the view points on our way up, the glimpsing view was spectacular and made us even more excited about the view from the top! However, after about 5 more minutes of winding up the road through thick temperate forest, we clearly started going through the cloud line… The lunar rockscapes were surrounded in mist and we couldn’t see more than 10 metres in front of us. Deciding that there was no way that the cloud was going to magically disappear by the time we reached the summit, we decided to cut our loses and head back to the view point we had driven past to park up for breakfast. Would have worked out quite well too had the fog not descended at the same speed as us and we got about 2 minutes of view before we ate our breakfast looking at a stone wall and some fog!Undeterred by the start of our morning, we headed back down the mountain, stopping at the closest petrol station we could find, happy to pay the extra cost for petrol in exchange for not breaking down in the middle of nowhere on the day we were due to fly back to Melbourne. Managed to weave our way through the back streets to the Cascades Female Factory, another UNESCO site but part of the 11 convict sites in Australia so we can’t count it. The Cascades Female Factory is Australia’s most significant historic site associated with female convicts and certainly one of the more interesting convict sites we have visited, despite not having much left. The original yard was built as a gin distillery but the other four yards were purpose built, creating a self-contained institution intended to reform female convicts who had been transported from England under the pretence of being criminals but basically being sent to reproduce with the male convicts to populate the British colony.
Thousands of women and children were imprisoned here, and many never left, due to high rates of illness and infant mortality. Using our YHA membership cards again, we got a concession rate on entry and a guided introduction to the site and its stories. During the guided tour of the site, the guide gave us insights into the regimented system of punishment and reform that operated within these walls. Made us question whether these women were more sinned against than sinning? The only building still standing is the Matrons house that was, until recently, still occupied by a local family before being resold to the historical society (I guess it must have been frustrating having tourists pressed up against your lounge window every day). We finished our visit to the site by looking at the book of names for children who had died at the site… The list went on and on – very sad, especially when the cause of death for most of them was due to poor sanitation and drinking dirty water. Getting back in the car, we headed out of town and, with a few hours to kill, headed to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sanctuary houses wombats, koalas, birds, quolls and many amazing natives including the Tasmanian devils. They also have over 80 free-roaming kangaroos which we got to hand-feed with complimentary kangaroo food. They were so much bigger than the kangaroos we fed on Kangaroo Island – it was slightly intimidating. We managed to squeeze in the 2pm guided tour where we got to hear some little-known facts about the wildlife (such as a wombat can outrun Usain Bolt) and stories of orphaned animals in care at the sanctuary. The tour included seeing the devils devour a snack (it looked like the carcass of a hedgehog) and pats and take close-up photos of the wombat and koalas – it was surprisingly good for a small place.
Back at Hobart airport, we returned the car (having clocked up over 900km in four days) and waited for our plane back to Melbourne. A quick flight, an easy transfer on the SkyBus to the city centre and we were checked in at the YHA. Decided to treat ourselves to ‘dinner’ out, we went to the kebab shop we had spotted all those weeks ago when we had come to Melbourne for the weekend. Ordered a ‘snack-pack’ that was so enormous, we had to share it! Watched a little bit of TV in the television room before heading up to bed. Thursday 1st September 2016