Life back home

We are only home a week and I volunteer to present at an upcoming motorcycle forum in just 2 weeks’ time. And not one presentation, but two different ones! What was I thinking?! We hadn’t finished unpacking yet, I hadn’t even switched my PC on, let alone downloaded all our photos from the last 7 months’ travel and the inevitable multiple software updates (and all the surprises, frustrations and headaches this exercise always attracts). We still have so many lunches, afternoon teas and dinners to have to catch up with friends – that all important step to regrounding ourselves. I did volunteer though … and very glad to have done so really.

Lunch with friends

As Anthony explained, we wanted to give back to the motorcycle community which we have got advice, information, inspiration from over time. It was a massive job preparing those 40 minute presentations but it was worth it from a giving back point of view and meeting fellow travellers, old and new. We decided to hire a car rather than fly or put our 19 year old car through 3000kms suddenly after not being used for months: that way we could also catch up with friends – sorry we missed so many, but hiring a car meant quite a few extra dollars for every day away …

Destination: Jindabyne for 4 days, 1500kms each way. First stop, Sydney and catch with friend and faithful blog follower John. We met John when we went to Bhutan in 2009: the three of us were always last, constantly stopping for photos, taking in the scenery and simply enjoying a sedate ride. It was great to catch up, chewing the fat and enjoying Sydney’s stunning harbour and tasty food. Talk about travel was never far!!

Magnificient Sydney Harbour

Rather than camping over the 4 days at the motorcycle meeting, we took up the generous offer of staying at a friend’s house just 50kms away. It meant a bit of driving everyday, but what’s 100kms?! And the scenery is simply gorgeous – just no drinking for me as I was the designated driving. Anthony found out just before we left for this week’s trip that his cataracts had worsened badly – yes, he realised that of course but the diagnosis means a consultation with the surgeon this week. So no driving at night for him (although he is still legally allowed to drive). And we made sure we avoided the dangerous dusk and dawn driving as big kangaroos are everywhere in this area.

The Horizons Unlimited Snowy Mountains 2017 meeting was fun to attend. The presentations were well received based on the lovely feedback we had and we were asked if we would make our presentations available, so they must have them useful.

HU Snowy 2017 presentation

The presentations are UK to Oz (and back) and Iran and Stans.

The weather was pretty wild and unusually freezing for that time of the year!

Jindabyne in November!

Everyone’s bike is set up differently

On the way back, with stopped over in Sydney to see our oldest Australian friends – Jenny we met in southern Egypt in 1982 and we entered the Sudan together. It was wonderful to see Mark and Jenny as always, spending the afternoon chatting, going for a walk to the beach and having a family dinner with the 3 “kids” in the evening.

Many thanks to our friends for their hospitality and generosity. It was so great to see you.

We made the most of passing through Canberra to stop off and visit a exhibition on an important Aboriginal dreamtime story: the Seven Sisters. The paintings there were exquisite and the way the story was explained in different regions extremely well done. How the museum incorporated several paintings with a narrative which you watch lying down staring up at a dome was superb!! Quite magical.

It was a long day driving from Sydney to Brisbane as we stopped off in Port Macquarie to see more friends. Back home before midnight. What a whirlwind week. We packed so much in.

Home again. The rest of the unpacking, more washing from this past week, more paperwork to add to the mound of still-unopened-and-to-be-filed mail that greeted us when we returned from our RTW 3 weeks ago now: oh, this is overwhelming… Tackling the software issues, buying a new PC as Anthony’s died just before we left for the Snowies, sorting out the weeds in the garden, finding so many things dying after not being used for so long like the whippersnipper, being faced with a horrendous quote to fix the rusted gutters (we need scaffolding from a scaffold company but also the installation needs to be audited by another specialist to make sure it is safe – occupational health and safety gone mad once again) and paperwork – so much paperwork… And of course, there is the decorating, sometime. It is so much easier on the road: pay the odd bill back home and continue travelling with just 3 decisions: which direction, where will we eat and where will we sleep. So much easier…

The post RTW blues is a common problem and articles have been written about it recently by travellers. Everyone has their way of coping or recovering. We went through it once already, so the second time around, we know what to expect and how to combat it. I was so proud of Anthony when I read his last blog. It takes me a bit longer. My problem is not so much travel “blues” as such but feeling disconnected and rudderless. That’s where reconnecting with friends and having a routine is important to me. And working on new plans for the future.

First, a trip back bush calls me so I am off for a week. I buy new, fabulous art and visit some old friends. It is exactly what I needed on many levels. And my drive out bush was so special. I am just disappointed that I was not able to visit one particular community which always brings me so much joy but the road conditions would not allow me in the car I had – there was a shortage of 4×4 in Alice this week and I only managed to get a ‘fake’ one, an automatic Mitsubishi outlander. It would not have got me across the Sandover river bed. I chose sense over heart… can you believe that?!

I don’t like flying but love seeing the world from the air – our gorgeous outback

Red centre sand dunes

The area around Alice is looking green after all the rain


Wild weather in Alice – my car nearly submerged in 15 minutes


The Sandover Highway

The road to Mulga Bore is looking slippery today

Mavis, who welcomed me into the family 14 years ago and to whom I owe so much

Oh I do love being here

It was a short but fun day out

I was not going to pay the $80 washing fee so did it myself!! That red mud is sticky!!

The resident peacock at my hotel in Alice

And I am looking forward to going home!!! RTW blues over 🙂

– Anne

Sri Lanka 24 hours: tragedy to comedy

A jolt as the train stops suddenly on a steel bridge of uncertain age wakes me from my torpor in this humid weather, the rusty cast iron bridge alongside does not fill me with confidence, or the comments from our fellow passengers about not swimming in the river due to crocodiles. Humm let’s get off the bridge. As the minutes tick by, it becomes apparent that something has happened, what we are not sure, then word filters through the train: someone is dead, an accident, no, sadly suicide, a 23 year old young man just stepped in front of our train. The body collected at the back of the train and we move slowly to the next station a few hundred metres away. Many passengers had headed to the back of the train and one young man had taken photos which he was showing to anyone who interested. Passengers gather on the platform to look, comments such as ‘bad person’ or ‘it’s usually the girls, haha’ are said to us by the man who was sitting behind us, now standing on the platform outside Anne’s open window. Is this a frequent occurrence? I cannot judge how different cultures and religions react to such events as this, perhaps here the Buddhist reincarnation plays a part in the apparent indifference to the tragedy. A whistle, the train schedule is resumed, no police examination, we are off again.

As we pull out of the station, we pass two men carrying a stretcher with the poor man’s body just outside our train window, all the more poignant for Anne, having lost her brother to suicide 18 years ago. This tragedy is yet to touch this young man’s family and friends, his life passed no more than 15 minutes ago. Will they react with as much indifference as those around us? Having stood at Gallipoli and seen thousands of lives ended prematurely and having wondered what each might have achieved in love and life, we are filled with sadness at a loss of life before the fullness of time. I write this couple of paragraphs within half an hour of the suicide as we, on the train, continue on with the normality of our lives…

Our train stopped after fatally striking a 23 year old boy, Sri Lanka

Our title has two elements, the tragedy you have read and our struggle with thoughts and emotions as the train rattled on towards Colombo and the comedy you need to see below:

All this took place in the space of one hour on the same train. Life goes on regardless of our personal circumstances and feelings and sometimes, it’s better from an emotional viewpoint to be swept up and ride the wave of life.

A little difficult to revert to ‘normal’ writing mode, Sri Lanka was the next logical stop on our acclimation return to Brisbane and our 97th country to be visited. With only two full days and a vast and intriguing country in front of us, we needed to be very selective. I wanted to see more than just Colombo but what: rivers, mountains, game parks all interesting but too far away. We chose Galle, about 110 km. / 70 ml. south, a port first used over two Millenia ago exporting cinnamon, visited by the famous Chinese admiral Zheng He, then a fortified city, started by the Portuguese, upgraded by the Dutch and finally occupied by the British as part of the global European empire competition that took place over the world for a number of centuries , a bit like the European Soccer Championships today. Winner takes all.

There is a railway line connecting the two cities which runs along the coast at some points which I understood made for interesting viewing. As we wait for our train at Colombo Fort station, one of Colombo’s two main railway stations the sights are one for UK train buffs, the stations, signage and jobs are a throwback to an era long past, down to the cardboard train tickets, 180 rupees or about £0.90. / US $1.20 for a second class ticket to travel over 110km. 70 ml. Trains are all diesel both DMU and locomotive drawn. The old UK problem of ‘Slam door’ trains has been resolved here, the doors do not close, helps with the ventilation as well. Our Galle bound train pulls in, the locomotive was built in Varanasi by Indian Railways, a place we visited in 2014 on RTW1.
Our engine pulls eight old carriages out of the station in a cloud of unburnt diesel fumes. The rhythmic thump of the engine and the coal like smell has one almost imagining a steam loco up front. All the equipment is aged, some more than others, I suspect that any increased passenger capacity comes due to not retiring older equipment. The track does indeed run by the ocean as we travel southward passing through small towns and villages, houses built close up to the railway tracks. The coal smell is replaced by sea and then drying fish as we progress.

Our train to Galle, Sri Lanka

Spotted on a train in Sri Lanka

Galle Fort turns out to be, yes you guessed it, another UNESCO world heritage site to add to the collection, and it is surrounded by a dutch style walls reminiscent of Cape Town castle, same era of course, buildings have both Dutch and English heritage. While a smorgasbord of sightseeing awaits us, we are looking forward to going home, the journey is over and we want to go home, I fell more like sleeping than exploring, so Anne wanders the walled city. Enjoy the photo collection that Anne has created of our visit.

Playing cricket outside Galle Fort walls


Galle, Sri Lanka

Home in Galle, Sri Lanka

Art deco, Galle


City wall and mosque, Galle, Sri Lanka


Dutch Reformed church, Galle

Fort entrance, Galle


Galle, Sri Lanka

Playing cricket in the Magister Square, Galle

Street sign, Galle

Waiting to sell the last tuna fish of the day, Galle

Arangawan, the sweet tuna fish seller, Galle

Had a great chat with Saman, Galle

Galle coast, Sri Lanka

We all love watching a stunning sunset, Galle

Fishing boats, Galle

Early morning fish market, Galle

School girls, Galle

Train timetable, Galle, Sri Lanka

Galle, Sri Lanka

Although we have one more stop in Singapore to see our friends and our godsons before getting home to Brisbane, this feels like the end of the road. We celebrate with a Sri Lankan dinner at the ‘Ministry of Crab’ – guess what we had for dinner. It was superb and a great way to celebrate the end of RTW2.

– Anthony