The bus from Paris dropped us at Victoria Station and we caught the tube to Charing Cross. We found our way to the exit and climbed the stairs to street level. I had butterflies I couldn’t explain. (Even writing this now, four days later, I have goose pimples down the backs of my legs). The wind was howling and blowing the plane tree fluff into our eyes and open mouths. I’m sure I had some stuck in my teeth because I couldn’t stop smiling. We walked a short way along Duncannon Street, me hurrying out the front, anticipating the view – almost, almost – around the corner. And there it was. Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. The geographic centre of London and the top of our Mount Everest. I looked at Matt, his eyes were sparkling. Cross the road, down some stairs, across the square. The busking DJ was even playing Gotye, an Australian musician. Around the south eastern lion and there we were, looking at Big Ben from Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall. We had made it to London. We had arrived.
The girls were off and away, climbing the lions and exploring, almost oblivious to their feat. Matt and I looked at each other and laughed. Not at the girls’ indifference, but at the fact that we had actually done it. We hugged and laughed and slapped each other on the back. We called the girls back and high-fived and hugged, but they were back to the lions in a flash. It’s quite easy for me in these moments to say “yay, we’ve done it. Now, where are we staying and what are we going to do for dinner?” So I made myself stop. I felt I deserved to wallow in this moment for a while. Sitting on the wall in the shadow of Lord Nelson, looking down at Westminster Abbey I thought about what it meant to actually be here in London.
For more than five years London had been the distant city in which we would conclude our ‘Melbourne to London overland’ adventure (obviously). We talked about it for two years, planned for another two years, then organised in earnest for one more year. We packed most of our worldly possessions into a shed and left our house, our garden and our beloved hound. We took on the responsibility of education and said farewell to the beautiful community we had come to love. Matt’s business was turned down to slow simmer and the mail was forwarded. We took a risk. To get here we drove our little Honda almost 6,000 kilometres and camped in what must have been 30 different camp sites. We caught mini buses, dodgy buses, touring buses, vomity buses and some luxurious buses with movies. We caught a couple of little twin prop planes and a ferry or two. Fast trains, very fast trains, slow trains and sleeper trains. Even a bus on a train! These many and varied forms of transport have carried us more than 35,000 kilometres from Melbourne. We have crossed 13 countries on 3 continents, lost umpteen items of clothing and a watch and sent home a 100lt bag full to bursting of stuff we didn’t need. We still have the two stuffed toys and Blankie we left with. We’ve lain our heads on marginally fewer than 200 pillows varying in softness from very to not at all. We’ve had an ipad stolen, been almost duped by two taxi drivers and paid for incalculable terrible coffees. We have never been threatened, or felt threatened or afraid of anyone. Not once in 10 months. The tooth fairy has visited three times.
So I sat on the wall in Trafalgar Square, London, surrounded by tourists taking photos and the security guard who eyed our pile of packs suspiciously and asked yet again if they’re ours – just to make sure. I felt satisfied, joyful and grateful. And proud. I punched Matt on the arm. “We bloody did it!”. My journeymate and I – we don’t need much more than that. The look in his eyes said it all.
This is by no means the end of our trip, but it is the completion of this particular journey. We’re too nervous yet to talk about what we think our plan is for the next 9 months, but we have to commit to it soon and then we’ll be able to share. Right now we are soaking up the wonderful warmth of a friends hospitality just out of London. A fabulous fix of family life, a dog, a trampoline, toys galore and kids with whom to play. Maybe a pint or two at the local down the way, certainly a moment here and there staring out the window thinking about the way here.