Oh, the places we’ll go…

In the land of Oz

For 289 days, we knew where we’d be, every hour of every day. On May 17th, we would be arriving in Australia, and that was all we knew.  Spontaneity was ours at last! Our ideas shifted throughout the planning: a month in a friend’s apartment on Sydney Harbor, campervan-ing up the coast or inland… we had options. Eventually, we decided to share the love between the friends we had in Sydney and the family living 12 hours up the coast in Surfer’s Paradise. Sydney surprised us from the start. Cold winds blew in from the water, beating into our bones a chill that we had not felt in months. Glorious winter! (Although somewhat unexpected from sunny Australia.) We hailed a cab and headed towards the city center. Our wonderful friends allowed us to stay in their apartment for the duration of our stay. A fabulous greeting gift knocked on our door the first night, and for the following two weeks we played with my mom’s old friend, Mike, and his two delightful kids, Camo and Kate. Between movies and the beach, we laughed and played until it felt as if they were family. Eventually, we were off to see our actual family, a good two-day’s drive up the eastern coast. We needed to spend the night between towns, and we knew exactly who to stay with.  Sheridan, the 26-year-old who started the small orphanage in Lalibela, Ethiopia, lives halfway between Sydney and our family in the Gold Coast. Being the incredibly kind family that they are, they offered to let us stay in their house between the days of driving. We pulled up late that night to a country home situated on a small hill surrounded by farmlands. Could it have been more picturesque? As we were pulling our bags from the trunk, the door opened and Sheridan stepped outside to greet us for the first time, followed by her mom, dad and two small, furry dogs. We soaked up the animal love, as we had not had it for so long, then sat down for a cup of tea and began to talk about our lives and the orphanage we both cared so much for. Hours later, we dragged our tired bodies into bed and slept well into the morning. We talked again over breakfast, and then had to say goodbye until next time. We continued driving for the remainder of the day until we arrived just outside of Surfer’s Paradise to our accommodations. Docked in the marina, my Great-Uncle’s boat, the immense Flamingo Bay, floated in the still waters of the harbor. Welcoming us aboard was the captain–our amazing Great-Uncle David, two members of his crew, Bill and Tony, and two of my Great-Uncle’s mates, Chris and Giles. We got to know each other and then ordered some pizza, “some” being a huge understatement. The following week, we’d be departing for a short cruise up the coast, but until then, we met up with some other members of the family and put ourselves on a first name basis with the owners of a café a few blocks down the street. Before we knew it, the boat was sailing out of the dock into the bucking waves of the ocean. We filled our time at sea with interesting memories, including a humorous attempt at sandwich making, nights in front of the TV watching Two and a Half Men and Big Bang Theory, dolphins swimming and jumping alongside the bow, and whales breaching within spitting distance. It all ended too quickly, but the fun didn’t end there. We joined another of our great-uncles and his wife and son at a basketball game, cheering loudly. Afterwards, we visited his son’s pub, a Mexican-styled restaurant in the heart of the city. The following day, we dyed silk and tie-dyed with our Great-Aunt Sandy, creator extraordinaire. Later in the afternoon, we shopped with our cousin and her mom at a store with the largest sales I’ve ever seen.  We also attended a horse race with my mom’s cousin, his wife, and daughter. We took a small break from the family for another drive down to Sydney for a surprise birthday for Beck, during which time we visited Mike and his family again. We were sad to have to say goodbye to them, but more days of excitement were waiting for us on our return to the Gold Coast, including a hike to a natural bridge with my Uncle’s wonderful friend and his wife. Long ago, a waterfall flowing over the mouth of a cave collapsed the cave’s roof, creating a bridge-like structure and a pool perfect for summer swims. During the drive back from the bridge, we stopped in a fabulous town, where we picked up some heavenly soap and handmade ceramic mugs. The remaining time in Australia disappeared in a blink, it seems. We found ourselves near our departing date too soon, even after a two-week extension. The day before heading back down the coast for our flight from Sydney to Auckland, we celebrated our cousin’s birthday and said our goodbyes to the family. On the final drive, we stopped one last time to visit with Sheridan and her family. This time, however, we ventured into their small town. I could barely contain my excitement when I found out that Sheridan worked at a cinema and that we were going to see Eclipse! Despite the new wonders I have for the world and an expanded view of adventure, the comforts of home are always appreciated. My mom found her heaven at the Chili Festival, where she discovered a chili to out-do all others. For the truth in that, we will have to wait and see… Emma and Josh ran their hearts out with the dogs, and successfully tired themselves out by bedtime, both themselves and the dogs. The latter was greatly welcomed by Sheridan and her parents. The following morning, we finished our drive to Sydney. We had been in Australia longer than we had been in any country on the trip, and yet, it had gone by as fast as every other. We left Sydney in a bittersweet mood. The magic of New Zealand awaited us at the end of our flight, and that was not something to be melancholy about., however, our stay with friends and family had been a thousand times greater than we had expected. Well, just another reason to come back :)

~Mckenna

1 comment to In the Land of Oz

  • Grammy

    I have two questions 1)- how did your friend’s Mexican pub/restaurant compare to “our” place – El Tapatio??? …AND, 2)- about that chili – was it anything to compare to “Grandpa Bill’s Famous”… ?? We’ll have to revisit both when you are again in Atlanta and you can evaluate and give your results!! Love you all, Grammy ~ :)

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