The final days of 2019

It’s been a long time.  As this busy and exceptional year is now ending, we thought that one last post was in order to pull together where we have been hiding out.  (hint: Down Under).

We have previously said that we would only write about our motorhome travels, as that was the reason for beginning this blog. When resting at home enjoying non-van holidays, our days were assumed to be interesting only to us.  I can’t say it hasn’t been a small relief not to see everything we do through the twin lens of explanation and description, searching for words to bring our experiences alive to others. Our hours and our thoughts remained unspoken, unrecorded, and in many ways the memories are richer for not being retold. 

Our last three posts (linked below) were all made in the summer months when families from the Netherlands, Belgium and France were staying in our home under the Home Exchange scheme.  

(During) Home Exchange 3 – West through Cognac region to the Atlantic coast at Royan & Ile d’Olêron

(During) Home Exchange 2 – South to Périgueux, Cazeneuve, and some France Passion vineyards 

(During) Home Exchange 1 – a 10-day circular loop around Limousin 

These were all non-reciprocal exchanges, generating guest points that we stored up and were then able to utilise to organise home exchanges for us.  We chose to escape a cold, wet winter in the agricultural centre of France in favour of an extended trip to Australia. This was to be our second summer of 2019, another dip into sunshine and beach life.  We spent the next eight weeks or so working around our house, building walls and planning our garden. We planted a small fruit orchard, with plums, pears and cherries. In our downtime we ran and swam and e-mailed many Home Exchange members as we pulled our trip together.

Sydney - coast run view

Darling Point - Nicky on balcony

Over time our schedule spreadsheet was growing daily, as the eight separate Home Exchanges, making up the majority of our accommodation in Australia, fell into place.  We would be away for over 10 weeks; the first five in Sydney, then a flight to Adelaide and several weeks there before a drive along the Great Ocean Road back to Melbourne for the last few weeks. We had four disparate Home Exchanges in Sydney, beginning in Glebe, then out to the Blue Mountains at Wentworth Falls, returning to Darling Point and finally to the Bondi Junction area.  Due to much cheaper flight costs we left early December, so have had our first Christmas in sunny, hot weather, and are awaiting the famous New Year fireworks.

Coogee - carol singing

Sydney coast - Aaron running

Blue Mountains - Nicky running

This post is being written from Sydney, which has a strong claim for being the most impressive city in the world.  Hundreds of beaches, boats and wild coastlines, incredible and cheap public transport, architecture, markets, parks and trails.  We have walked our feet to shreds, seeing all parts of the centre. We have swam at Bondi and Manly, and maybe twenty other beaches in between. A new Bondi-Manly footpath trail hugs the north and south coast of the bay for 80km, and we have ran the length of this (in five sections), finishing yesterday with a 22km stretch from the Harbour Bridge to Spit bridge.

Sydney - St Marys cathedral

Sydney - Opera house under bridge

We have been affected a little by the nearby bush fires, the city being blanketed in smoky fog on a few occasions.  We stayed indoors for a whole day when the air tasted like burnt toast, but mostly the winds have been in our favour. Our week in the Blue Mountains, only 9km from the nearest bush fire, was surprisingly unaffected, as we ran some beautiful trails to various lookouts around Blackheath (Grand Canyon, Evans Lookout, Hanging Rock, Pope’s Glen etc..).  Only after our return to the city have the fires closed in and engulfed a few of these trails.  It is scary to follow the news and see places we had visited burn uncontrollably. We feel so lucky and privileged to have seen them at all.

Sydney - ready for flight

Sydney - northern beaches area

Back in Sydney, we considered a kayaking trip in the bay and the climb over the Harbour Bridge, but in the end we settled for our coastal trail running as a means of exploring the lesser known nooks and crannies of the bay.  But for a special aerial overview we decided on a Seaplane trip, flying over the northern beaches and the city harbour. The countless number of leafy parks, beaches and yachts that lined the bay provided an exceptional overview of the region and showed off the incredible quality of life that Sydneysiders enjoy. Afterwards, we hiked out to Shark Beach at Nielsen Point to join the crowds watching the start of the Sydney-Hobart yacht race.  We followed the fleet of competitors, flanked on both sides by hundreds of pleasure cruisers and commercial boats, as they disappeared around South Head on their way to Tasmania. It was an incredible sight to see.

Sydney - Shark beach

Sydney - Yacht race start

From family carol services on the beach to sweating through Christmas markets in the Rocks, the Christmas season is a whole different world here Down Under.  We saw a light show on the facade of St. Mary’s cathedral, swam lengths in outdoor pools.  We have the New Year Fireworks still to watch, and a show booked at Sydney Opera House in a few day’s time. It would have taken over our trip had we tried to explain or record all the sights seen and trips enjoyed so far, so we’re definitely glad we decided not to blog this holiday in detail.

Sydney - Nickky dives into bay

It’s scorching hot here, and it’s beer o’clock, so I will bid you all a very Happy New Year, wherever you are.  May 2020 bring you all that you wish for, and a few nice surprises too.  Dive right in. 

A&N x

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