It’s been a manic last two weeks, filled with technology fails (hello liquid damage to my laptop and needing to purchase another, and pay for data recovery, not planned in the budget), and crazy weather conditions veering from almost 40 degree heat to flood warnings and a narrowly missed cyclone.
We moved on from Melbourne to Sydney, via a couple of stops on the way to break up the drive. Our first stop was in Wilsons Prom, a beautiful national park with some stunning beaches (including Squeaky Beach, the whitest beach which made a squeaking noise as you walked on it). Unfortunately we didn’t have our camping equipment until we reached Sydney (we’d had to ship it from NZ), as this would have been an amazing place to be right in the heart of, rather than driving in and out.
From Wilsons, we moved on to Merimbula, via a lunchtime stop in Sale, where we found a beautiful boardwalk through mangroves and forest, spotting pelicans and black kites as we walked. Merimbula was a sweet little town, where we had a simple celebration lunch (it was our 5th anniversary), but in the most beautiful beachside location. Here too they’d installed boardwalk to let you wander and appreciate the wildlife by the waters, and nearby you could find hundreds of kangaroos relaxing on the local golf course (!).
We finally reached Sydney, staying with an old friend of mine (also named Caroline), so it was lovely to catch up, get excited about her forthcoming baby, and get a glimpse of their idyllic beachside existence in Manly. I was ready to dismiss Sydney as a living option vs. the smaller (and I still think, cooler..) Melbourne, but Sydney didn’t disappoint as a city. Yes it’s large, but it’s beautiful, with a CBD of heritage buildings, the vast botanic gardens on the waterfront, and the achingly cool areas of Surrey Hills and Darlinghurst. We spent our time catching up with friends, checking out the areas they lived in, and wandering the streets sampling great food and having a few drinks. Once again, being in a city felt like a bit of a pause from ‘proper’ travelling per se, but it was nice for Otis to have carpet to crawl on, and some space to explore, and to see friends.
Perhaps our best experience while there however, was that Caroline and her partner Pete agreed to babysit for us, so that we could have a night out to belatedly celebrate our anniversary. Ben and I still hadn’t had a night or day on our own since Otis was born, so we skipped off excitedly to have dinner round the corner from their flat, having left instructions to text us should everything go pear shaped.
A huge motivation for this trip was for both of us to have time with Otis, and to see him develop at such a crucial age, where you can easily miss milestones by being in the office or on the commute. And it’s a brilliant to see him change daily, learning new noises, slowly mastering the art of crawling, and developing a sense of humour and a personality. But, there is also a reality that being with him all the time is just that - ALL the time.
People ask us daily how travelling with a baby is. I won’t lie - it’s bloody hard. And that’s because life with babies can be hard, travelling or not. He naturally adds a layer of complexity and challenge to this trip, because we consider his welfare above and beyond our own enjoyment. There is a daily routine that has to happen, no matter how tired we are. And we are just that. TIRED. The little man has been teething since 3 months, and now 7 teeth in, sleep has became a rare commodity. And whilst at home, you may grab an afternoon nap, or just get to sit on the sofa in the evening, we don’t get to do that here. His naps are when we are driving, or trekking.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, just trying to put a bit of reality around the Instagram-friendly existence that you can see about our travels. And even on the most tired of days, seeing him grin at a new animal or beautiful view he’s seen makes it all worthwhile, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
But god, did an evening alone feel good! We talked about things other than Otis (although the conversation inevitably drifted back to him at times). We drank wine and ate our food without one of us having to also navigate a spoon chucking, wriggling baby on our laps. We felt like grown ups.
We returned a few hours later, having tried to put him out of our heads (phone nearby but not on the table), and all was well, he was fast asleep and Caroline and Pete were chilling on the sofa. Yes, he’d had wake ups, but they’d managed it and he was fine (although they definitely had their practice pre their own baby arriving). We may not get a night like it again for a while, but we’ll savour the memory of this one for a few weeks yet.
So, Otis, we love you lots, and we love getting to spend our time with you. But if anyone is reading this on the east or west coast of Australia and feels like repeating the favour, please do get in touch:o)