Home again! Here we are, back in Melbourne after a 7-week trip up the East coast of Australia, driving over 7000 kms from Melbourne to Cairns and back again.
We pulled a camper-trailer (one of those things that folds out into a tent) behind a 4-wheel drive, stayed with friends and camped, did lots of driving and saw lots of scenery, and visited some amazingly beautiful places. It was great to get physically and mentally away from everything for a couple of months.
Best of all was spending so much time together as a family. It was difficult at times - family arguments are embarrassing when you're only a canvas-wall away from other campers! - but I think we know each other better and appreciate one another more, which is especially helpful with our older children so close to becoming teenagers.
If you're interested, our itinerary looked like this:
Lakes Entrance (1 night of very windy camping)
Eden (2 nights of windy, cold camping at lovely Twofold Bay)
Canberra (3 nights in a house; we loved Canberra, especially the War Memorial, where we could have spent a whole day)
Sydney (4 nights staying with some very dear friends; highlights: Botany Bay, the ferry from Circular Key to Manly, and the view across the grand old Rocks to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House at sunset)
Narromine (2 nights at my aunt and uncle's cotton and wheat farm near Dubbo, chasing kangaroos in the ute and learning how cotton grows)
Armidale (where I was born - 1 night amongst the old houses and older trees)
Brunswick Heads (8 nights at my aunt's house in one of my favourite childhood holiday spots; we swam in the river and at the white sand beach, visited the theme parks, and watched dolphins surf the sunset waves at the most westerly point in Australia near Byron Bay lighthouse)
Rainbow Beach (4 nights camping - that's the rainbow cliffs in the photo above; we took a ferry to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, where we saw wild dingoes scarily close, and did some hilarious track and glorious beach 4-wheel driving)
The Caves (1 night; the only rain we saw for a month, and some interesting caves)
Airlie Beach (3 nights; peaceful moments swimming in the lagoon, looking up at palm trees and across to the boats in the bay and the Whitsunday islands)
Cairns (7 nights and the best time of all; we rode across the mountains in a gondala, swam with a giant turtle at the Great Barrier Reef, and camped with our backs to the rainforest, with bush turkeys underfoot and butterflies overhead)
Magnetic Island (5 nights off the coast of Townsville; a magical place where we swam in the quiet bays, fed the rock wallabies and rainbow lorikeets, and did a little bushwalking)
At which point my husband Steve got sick and we hurried home, stopping for a repeat visit to some very rainy theme parks and a few hours in Canberra before turning into our driveway at 2 o'clock during a cold, dark Melbourne night.
We're all sick now, so you can pray for us. But after all that camping, mountains of unpacking, and a few out-of-body days readjusting to ordinary life, it's good to be back in the comfort and routines of home.