We are now back aboard Celtic Maid in the Brinklow Marina near Rugby, after an amazing four and a half months in Australia. So happy to be here and ready to progress our adventure further, but also feeling very blessed that we have been able to catch up with our family and friends in Australia.
We arrived in Adelaide on 12th December at about noon after a long delay in Kuala Lumpur. Our children, who met us at the airport, must have connections in high places because they had all been out the night before and weren’t keen on a 7.00am pick up time! There were no tears, just an acceptance by all parties that all was now OK with the world. Even the weather was a mild low 20’s Celsius.
However this changed a couple of days later and much of the summer has been hovering around 40C. Just a bit too hot for us both.
We settled into the townhouse of our daughter, Thaao and her partner Todd, in suburban Rostrevor which we used as a base for the duration of our visit although we didn’t really stay there much. After getting over our jet lag we were off a few days later to the Riverland (about 250km from Adelaide) to celebrate Ben’s (our grandson) birthday. it was also the first opportunity to catch up with granddaughter Piper who was only 3 weeks old when we left and is now almost two and a half. There is no more visual reminder of the passing of time than the changes in your grandchildren! Although this was a quick trip to the Riverland we made several more over the duration of our visit.
Another important part of our visit was for Bron to spend time with her ageing parents. Unfortunately, her mother is now in a nursing home battling the progress of dementia, whilst her father is facing increasing health issues and severe loneliness at the painfully tedious loss of his life partner. In fact, they recently achieved 65 years of marriage – something few of us ever reach. Whilst the visits to both were very emotional and rather heartbreaking, Bron feels blessed to have had this opportunity to connect again with her parents.
On Christmas Eve, we had the joy of celebrating our grandson, Fergus’, first birthday. Although we had received lots of photo updates and a few skype dates none of this is as good as some face to face time with the grandchildren. To say Bob is besotted with Fergus is to understate the reality by far.
Christmas day was spent with our new son-in-law, Kym’s, family. This was the first time we had met them and we were very well received by their entire extended family. There were at least 40 people there for a delicious sit-down roast lunch in beautifully decorated surroundings and high heat! Ah, Christmas in Australia!!! We really appreciated this opportunity to get to know our Kathryn’s in laws and to see first hand how much they love her and her two sons, Ben and Matthew.
Following Christmas, we went again to the Riverland for more family time with our son Tarik, his wife Terri and of course our granddaughter Piper. Just couldn’t get enough of time with the little ones.
And then we had three weeks house-sitting the home of our friends, Juliet and Keith, in Paracombe in the Adelaide Hills. This was a lovely sojourn where we could relax and have family and friends visit us, and go for long walks through the hills (if we got up early enough before the heat made it intolerable!).
So one month in and we had already packed in lots – because I’m not even going to mention all the health, financial and legal appointments we had to fit in during the few months we were there!
We were most fortunate during our stay to have access to Bron’s Dad’s car that made getting around so much easier. We really don’t know how we could have been so mobile without it as conservatively we would have travelled more than 5000km during this trip!!! No short distances in Australia!
By January 24th we were ready to celebrate the first our two weddings – Bob’s daughter Claire marrying her partner Russell at a Peacock farm south of Adelaide. A number of our extended family gathered together at a nearby motel and we made a brilliant weekend of it. Claire was radiant, Russell beamed, Fergus was gorgeous, and an awesome time was had by all. It may even have spurred our other offspring into thinking about their own potential nuptials! And then we got to house sit for them while they honeymooned in Japan. We used the time productively by going for long walks along the beautiful beaches between Glenelg and Brighton and recovering from awful colds that we had contracted from Bob’s Canadian sister, Judy (well we are blaming her anyway!).
A significant part of February was spent between Adelaide and the Riverland catching up with more family and friends (Bob and Sally at Glossop and Ross and Sandra at Monash), visiting the staff at Bron’s previous place of work (RDGP), applying for Bob’s Aussie pension, celebrating Bron’s Dad’s 88th birthday and helping our friend’s Monica and Jo to plan a visit to Europe (and us of course!) in May/June. This is an exciting part of being on this nomadic journey – being able to offer others the benefits of our experience and also sharing it with those we love most. We also had an overnight catch up with Lynley and David in Waikerie with much talk about boating (they have a gorgeous wooden boat that David built himself that they holiday on as often as possible), and the health system in South Australia. A highlight early in the month was a day out at Houghtonfest in the Adelaide Hills – a day of music, food, drinks and making new friends whilst raising money for the community.
March was another busy month working with Bron’s son, Corey to upgrade the website so that sharing our journey looks a bit more interesting. Not sure when we are going to finish cleaning it up but I will give it my best shot. More visits to see our family and then over Easter, celebrating the second wedding of the trip – Kathryn and Kym’s. Following some setbacks, it was finally held at Camp Kedron on the shores of Lake Bonney at Barmera in the Riverland. Kathryn had spent many months and hours planning the details of this wedding and, with the valued assistance of Denise and Mark (Bob’s cousins from Melbourne), we managed to implement those plans over two days to make the event something very beautiful indeed. It certainly brought a tear to our eyes seeing Kathryn’s sons, Ben and Matthew give their mother to Kym and start their journey together as a family.
We spent the Easter Monday on a trip up the River Murray, and backwaters, to the Woolshed Brewery at Wilkadene in Tarik’s dinghy with Denise and Mark. What a great day out in the sun on the water and sampling the great beers and hard lemonade made at the brewery – a little piece of paradise!!
The next day was an early start as we drove with Mark and Denise to their home on Philip Island near Melbourne. We had the pleasure of experiencing their boat (well Bob did as Bron and Denise bailed after about an hour due to the rough seas!!), and while no fish were caught the boys enjoyed their adventure. They repeated the exercise a couple of times over the following days while Bron and Denise went shopping, lunching and wine tasting – very tough life! We also visited their children in Melbourne – Cameron and his partner Emma, and Danielle with partner Blake and son Kye. Danielle and Blake got engaged on the day of Kathryn’s wedding so it is all happening. We also got to attend a Greek Orthodox Church christening which was immensely entertaining and fascinating.
We also managed to fit in a visit to Bron’s friends – Chris and Kevin – for an update on the changes to the Australian Primary Health system (in which Bron was previously employed) and some gossip, and a trip to Etihad Stadium to watch our beloved Adelaide Crows beat Richmond, with Bob’s friend Darryl (who visited us last year) and Denise and Mark. During this time, we received the much-awaited phone call from Tarik to announce that their second daughter Harper had been born on 7th April – grandchild number 5!!.
Our flight back to Adelaide was an opportunity to draw breath before landing and attending Bron’s school reunion, making a flying visit to Bron’s Dad to borrow his car again and check on his health, and return to Claire’s in time for dinner. Then it was an early start next morning to get to the Riverland for cuddles with Harper and to see how Piper was adjusting to her new role of big sister. We may not have had much time getting to know her (just like with Piper) but Bron already feels very much attached and very proud of her beautiful granddaughters.
We also spent a night at Lock 6 on the River Murray catching up with some workmates of Bob’s. We spent a great night around a fire bucket and enjoying the wine, bbq food and many stories – thanks to Warren and Sheryl. We started calling this time “our farewell tour” as we also said farewell to Kathryn and her boys on this trip (since they would be away on a camping trip when we returned the following week).
A flying visit with Monica, then a night with Corey and Holly (and picking up new glasses courtesy of Holly’s organisation) before being back to Thaao and Todd’s for a day of football on the Saturday – first to Waikerie for Todd’s first game with the Renmark Rovers and then to the stunning Adelaide Oval to see Adelaide Crows beat Sydney!!
On Monday we finally caught up with our friends, Juliet and Keith, whose home we looked after in January. We had been so busy that this was the first chance we had to spend some time with them. So we enjoyed a lovely relaxed lunch at the Scenic Hotel at Norton Summit overlooking Adelaide.
After picking up Bob’s secret weapon for managing batteries on Tuesday, Bron set to attempting to pack up all of the extra things we had bought since arriving in Australia. No mean feat! We celebrated Bob’s 65th birthday on Wednesday 20th, going out to dinner with our Adelaide based children and their partners, and Monica and Jo. Whilst we thought this was farewell they all returned to Thaao’s the following Monday to really make sure we were leaving on the next day. On Thursday we were off to the Riverland with Thaao, to stay with Todd’s parents, have another birthday dinner, see all the children and grandchildren, watch Todd play football again, see Bob and Sally one last time and have a farewell breakfast with extended in-law family. Very hard to leave Piper and Harper and Bron’s tears refused to stop.
After a final trip to visit Bron’s Dad – she had said goodbye to her mum the previous week – Bron set to the packing in between visits from Bronny and Mick and the Adelaide based family. Another very emotional day!
Despite having set the alarm for 6am instead of 5 we still arrived at Adelaide Airport in time to be processed and board for our 8.40 am flight to Kuala Lumpur. No more time for tears; just endure the journey and stopvover before being greeted at Heathrow some 28 hours later by our dear friends Julia and Malcolm (NB Figment). We stayed with them for a few days to recover from the journey, and get in some supplies before returning to Celtic Maid yesterday. It was such a pleasure to see her still sitting here, unblemished by the harsh weather and ready for our return.
And despite a very busy afternoon unpacking and reorganising we are truly happy to be home again. There is no sleep like that in your own bed.
So we would like to thank all of our family and friends for hosting our Aussie odyssey and sharing your lives, homes and important events with us. Whilst we miss you all very much we know that you support our decision to pursue adventure and value your love and continued support.
And now to explore new waterways!!!!