Journey’s end

20 February to 2 March 2020

So that was it. We were back in Brisbane and back where we started this incredible journey. We had done and seen everything we wanted to and so much more and we were ready to head home.

Leaving Australia meant saying goodbye to Tick, our trusty transport on our epic journey. And what a reliable, comfortable, practical car he proved to be. Not even the slightest hint of his namesake drama queen!

We had put the car on the market as we left the Blue Mountains and worried it might take a while. In the end we had agreed to sell it within 2 days and it couldn’t have gone to a better home. Shortly after we arrived in Brisbane, and after giving it a very thorough clean, Alex and Shane from Melbourne flew up to collect it and get ready for their own Australian roadtrip. On a very rainy day, it was a little bit sad watching the car drive off but we wish them safe adventures!

Being back in Brisbane meant being reunited with a now walking and talking Bella. What a difference seven months makes. She proved a willing if distracting yoga buddy!

We spent a lovely time hanging out, taking Bella to the park and Murphy out for walks. I even fulfilled my Australian to do list with a trip to the dog wash. Murphy returned all coiffed and smelling gorgeous.

On a pretty overcast day we took the City Cat up the river from Bulimba, under the Story Bridge and into the city centre for a wander around the skyscrapers. Amongst them the old Customs House and

the City Hall. To escape the rain we ducked inside. In the main auditorium, whilst looking at the impressive 1892 Father Henry Willis organ, Stefan remembered that this was the venue of his Australian citizenship ceremony and nearby we found a portrait of the mayor who (some might say foolishly!) gave it to him, Campbell Newman. Upstairs we broke the no more museums rule for a quick mooch in the Museum of Brisbane where we found a small exhibition of Brisbane’s women artists.

We spent a couple of nights amongst the skyscrapers right in the heart of the city watching the daily rain storms approach from the balcony

and where the skies cleared long enough for me to enjoy a dip in the incredible rooftop pool. Vertigo, what vertigo!?

We visited the inner city suburb of Fortitude Valley, where Stefan once worked and where we found a statue to Robbie Burns, quirky shops and a very deserted Chinatown. One of its most popular and longstanding restaurants had just shut due to a severe downturn in custom because of the coronavirus.

We had time for one last trip before we left Australia, a visit across Moreton Bay to North Stradbroke Island. It was a 50 minute ferry ride from Stefan’s old neighbourhood of Cleveland to a sand island full of wilderness, fine beaches and promises of koalas!

Although we no longer had a 4WD to drive on the island’s beautiful beaches we could enjoy those that were accessible to pedestrians. As we drove passed a sign for Cyclinder Beach Stefan’s memory was jogged and he turned down to show me the place where, when his mum and dad had visited him the lifeguards had given him special permission to drive onto this beach to enable his mum to sit on the rocks and watch he and his dad take a dip in the sea.

At Amity Point Stefan went for a swim in the netted swimming area to protect him from the sharks and at Adder Rock Beach we both had one last splash about in the surf.

We had a walk around North Gorge where the boardwalk clings to the sheer cliffs of the narrow gorge and we could look down at the crashing turquoise water.

We didn’t see koalas (of course!) but we did have some resident Bush Stone Curlews just outside our front door. They stood so still that at first we thought they were statues!

It was as though our Air Bnb knew where our next adventure would begin and was the perfect end to our travels for now.

We couldn’t leave without one last abracos with Bella and Murphy. And of course Ranny and Andy!

With our flight not leaving until the early evening we had time in the morning to revisit the Botanical Gardens at Mount Coot-Tha, the first place we had visited on leaving Brisbane on our road trip. In a different season there were different plants in flower in bloom but still the same delicate colours of the Australian landscape.

The lizards and spiders were out in force and of course there were bin chickens and bush turkeys everywhere.

With time on our hands we found corners we hadn’t before, like the bonsai house with its collection of tiny trees and ferns and it was great to soak up those last Australian nature vibes.

It was the perfect, restful place to end our time in Australia, get one last look at Brisbane and prepare for 24 hours on a plane!

We might have headed back to the UK but coming up some more reflections on our time in Australia…

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