We feel privileged to be the recipients of genuinely fabulous hospitality on our travels. From the first stop in Narrabri, dining and learning with my friend Simone, to far north Queensland where we’re just about to lob up on the doorstep of the brother of a dear friend who’s also more like a brother. I’m not sure Ben is aware of what’s about to hit him. And if he is, I couldn’t be more grateful. In fact, his home was our Cairns family stopover on our Cape York trip almost five years ago, so it’s our cosmic duty to descend once again on his abode while on an epic adventure.
[NB: We’ve now been at Ben’s for a month. He’s the biggest legend in the world, and we’ve felt so lucky to stay here]
I’m going to make this blog post about our friends we’ve stayed with. I want to make sure I remember who and where, and how. But also to emphasise, and remind ourselves, that travelling is made all the more rich by sharing it with old friends and new; it could be reconnecting with kindred spirits and staying for home cooked meals and kid fun, turning up for lunch and cake at the sister of a good friend’s, or a hello for a Sunday lunch.
Simone and family in Narrabri. Mia has declared that Simone is the best cook in the world. I come second, apparently! Her son, Giulio did the Rubik’s cube in 1:46 seconds! And it was marvellous to see her home and garden that she and her husband, who both work miracles in gardens, have poured much love into.
Meg and Peter at the Warrumbungles. We camped on their glorious property nestled into a nook right next door to the Warrumbungle National Park. What a sensational launching pad for the park as well as Pilliga Pottery and the sandstone caves. Meg’s tomato soup is officially Charlie’s favourite food now! Their garden, just like Simone’s, was bountiful and inspirational, right down to the loofah growing by the pool! But I can’t believe we didn’t even get a photo with them!
Clare, Ant, Grace & Beth in Palmwoods. What fabulous company, food, wine and spirit. Reconnecting with Clare as an adult, having shared some high school days with her 22 years ago(!!?$&@?#*), has been lovely. Her and Ant’s daughter Grace is a kindred reading spirit, and both Mia and Charlie grew a soft spot for her that surfaces now and again. I’ve just spent another weekend with them at The Planting festival at Woodfordia too! Woohoo!
Mark, Ness, Jack and Isaac in Doonan. A long long time ago I lived on an island all year round even though it was Christmas every day. My friend Mark now lives with his gorgeous family in the Sunny Coast hinterland, and together they plan cities and sustainable gardens. It was so lovely to see Mark again, meet his clan and dine in their rainforest-surrounded abode! I also owe them a HUGE thanks for accommodating me for a job interview – thanks for sitting locked in the dining room while I blabbed!
Leanne, Dylan, Matt and Belle in Caloundra. Nada hang outs since uni, and it felt just like yesterday that Leanne and I were at Bludgers on Friday afternoon! I love meeting old friends’ fams and kids, and so do my kids! Circus tricks at the Noosa van park and a day on beaches in Caloundra; my kids still remember a fun day with Dylan and Belle. Thanks for rock platform walks, beach time and fish and chips you guys.
Leigh and Jane in Gympie. Five years ago I embarked upon a project taking a photograph every day for 365 days. This stunning woman was there too, online, posting photos of her life. I feel as though I have grown to know her through her lens, watched her daughter grow into a spunky school girl, and understand the details she notices in the world. At last we got to meet, in her home with the superb light, and where I feel I have sat under the stain glassed windows many times! Photography does that. Let’s meet up again some time with our cameras Leigh!
Bree, Pete, Tawni and Angus in Gympie. New travelling friends! We met Pete and his family in Gympie Caravan Park, where both of us were trailer trashing it up with the best of them! We quickly realised we had lots in common, and had even both been to Tetepare in the Solomon Islands, and knew patrons of the island! Small world alert, small world alert…. Hearing stories of their 18 month trip around Australia with two young kids spurred us on, and gave us courage and ideas to face lots of things we were just rookies at. The familiarity and comfort was lovely. Kids on bikes, playing lego, swimming. Was great spending time. Still in touch, and hoping to stay that way.
Bec, Jeff, Angus, Hugh & Tilly in Rockhampton. My first friend at Uni Hall, 20 years ago, marries our rugby coach and they live happily ever after with 4 kids (one grown up now)! Love their story, and their guts. We spent a couple of nights in their spacious home, ate like kings, toasted marshmallows in the backyard, enjoyed movie night and walked the turtle lookout in Yeppoon overlooking reef islands. Mia and Angus became friends, Charlie completed his Woollies domino set thanks to Bec and her awesome bargaining abilities, and we helped celebrate Tilly’s 3rd birthday with Peppa Pig!
Min, Andrew and kids in Blackwater. Twin sister of our good friend Sara, Min and her family accepted us graciously into their home for the afternoon on the way out to Emerald from Rocky. Such interesting and excellent people, we could have stayed for days talking travel, nudibranchs, playing with chooks and eating Min’s outstanding baked goods!! Indebted to them for the break, lunch, directions to a Ludwig Leichardt camp and company.
Noel & Tina in Charters Towers. Island friends, but more like friends for life. Noel and I spent countless hours in Christmas Island rainforest together, and both these mer-people were responsible for underwater adventures of the highest calibre! Now living in the semi-outback, I had to squint to see their gills, but their smiles, hospitality and hugs were abundant. Stayed, washed, and spent a morning at Tina’s under 8’s day at the Junior School she is head of. Kids loved it. We loved it!
Susan, Bernie, Zoe, Oscar, Nate & Louise in Townsville. Susan corrupted me during Honours, showed me how to use chat lines, and made me laugh continuously. She’s that rare person who always seems to be smiling, always making life meaningful, and funny. She’s onto life in a very fulfilling way. So it was great to meet the whole family this time round! We rocked movies in the park together, then Suse’s prize winning pikelets and pumpkin scones at her house.
Paul in Townsville. Treated to Grill’d, but not enough time for catch ups or meeting families!
Friends in Cairns
So six weeks later and we’ve spent time with fabulous peeps in Cairns now too! Adventures in Cairns will be another post, but here I’ll remember special people on our travels.
Ben Millar. Oh Ben, we couldn’t have done Cairns without you! Ben hosted us in his home for almost 5 weeks. He lives just around the corner from where I used to live in Stratford with his big brother Adam while I did Honours at Cairns JCU campus. Ben’s place is not just a home. It’s a great bar called The Hardwick Arms (it’s on Hardwick St), and hosts a restaurant of only the highest standards – The Glowing Basilisk of Stratfordia, of which I was a chef for 5 weeks! Charlie did one of his first solo swims in Ben’s pool (Mia swam solo in Ben’s pool for the first time on the way up to Cape York 4 years ago too!), we played school, footy, totem tennis, backgammon with Ben and TWO State of Origins! Ben’s hospitality, tolerance of our whole family and genuinely awesome sense of humour kept him sane I’m sure!
Val & Chris Millar. Ben’s Mum and Dad! Toni and I stayed at Val and Chris’s home when we first arrived in Cairns in 1997. They’re like family too. So dinner at the Yorkey’s Knob Yacht Club, drop ins at the Hardwick Arms and diner at The Glow were fab. There was almost a bake off, with Val and I both vying for muffin supremacy. But Val’s walnut and date slice clinched it.
Lori, Manfred & Sydney. Lori and I were editors of Ant ecology together, and colleagues in ants. We’ve also become good friends, and in Mauritius over 8 years ago her son Sydney (aged 6 months) and Mia (ages 11 months) hung out with their Dads while Lori and I were doing anty things. So it was great for Sydney and Mia to play together again, 8 years later, and for Mia and Charlie to have a super playmate Cairns. The kids and I spent time with Manfred and Sydney while Jez was in NZ, and Lori and fam were a regular feature of our time in Cairns. Connections through ants that will last a lifetime.
We saw Bec, Jeff, Angus, Hugh & Tilly again in Cairns! We spent a whole day at the Coconut Resort caravan park with them, playing like demons on jumping pillows, mini-golf, water park, swimming pools and spas! Then we adventured up the hill on the Kuranda railway and back down again on Skyrail. Good times x 2.
Kylie, Rob and Cristian. Another buggirl, Kylie is pretty much a super human, having recently done the run for a half ironman whilst almost 6 months pregnant! We love talking all things bugs, universities, ex-supervisors and life, and it was wonderful to dine with Kylie and her family as well as for me, do a mini-triathlon with the tri-club of which Kylie is president! What is with this no photo thing?!
Simon Kennedy. A dear old friend from uni days, who I haven’t seen for 20 years, but felt like yesterday we were drinking beer in the beer garden of The Club of JCU. We got a tasting tour of his vege garden, which Mia was incredibly impressed with, and spent an evening with him and slow cooked pork tacos. Reminiscing about uni days made me feel young! Another missed photo opportunity!
Karlee, Adrian, Owen & Simon. Our life from Melbourne came to Cairns! I spent a day with Karlee and her girlfriends at Palm Cove to celebrate her 40th b’day. Gorgeous lunch with bubbles, then onto margaritas! I miss my Greythorn girls, so it was really special to be able to hang with Karlee and fam a bit on our trip.
Jamie Seymour. OK, so we got to glimpse Jamie, my old Honours supervisor, and someone I will always visit when in Cairns. I have an enormous amount of time for Jamie, who has traversed the fields of entomology, marine toxicology, and mixed it all with a huge amount of passion and intensity! His natural desire to communicate what he does is now an Australian online site called The Nature of Science – check it out! http://www.thenatureofscience.com.au/ But no photos… 😦
Now, heading west, we are looking forward to making new friends on the road. Travelers are a bright and cheery bunch, resilient to life’s irritants, and looking into nooks and crannies at every opportunity. I like them!