I can see my breath. There is the constant tapping of rain on the hole riddled tarp above my head and my fingers are getting numb as I type. Welcome to winter camping in Europe.
It only seems like days ago that Tully got heat stroke after a short stroll in the Sahara sand dunes. Now we have dusted off the puffy jackets, beanies and gloves, purchased some -22 degree antifreeze for the car and some new snow chains.
We are in the journeys end, the final stages. Everything has shifted. The dreamy mindset of endless time and opportunity has long since dissolved and now we have each and every day marked out before our return home. Dates for each city we will see, trains booked, travel to Ireland locked in and our tickets home all done and dusted.
As with all long journeys there is a sweetness about the end. Whether it is overseas travel, a work trip or a hike – there is a deep, aching joy of the home coming. All things familiar, all things known and loved. We have been playing the Pierce Brothers (a great Aussie band) on high rotation and every time I hear their accent and the drone of the didjeridoo I get this flip in my stomach.
There are also things about this journey that I – without shame – admit that I will NOT miss.
Trying to keep a families worth of food cool and fresh in a 20 litre esky. Rain when you have no shelter and have to cook a meal for hungry children. Sleeping on the ground – night after night after night. Never being in the one place longer than a few days. Not being able to communicate what I need due to language. Not surfing. And most of all having to think logistically – where to drive, camp, eat, sleep, go, travel – 18 hours a day, every day for the past year and a half.
But the other list. The list of things I will miss about being on the road is too long to think about so I will save that for later. Save that for 4 months after arriving home when everything feels like it has never changed. THEN I will look back and start pining for rain, sleeping on the ground, planning, eskies……
A lot has happened. We reunited after my Madrid trip, we drank deep from the fairy land Spanish countryside and its surreal, story book mountain villages. We played in Barcelona and fell in love with its clean, bustling but ordered, captivating heart.(Mel and I pointing out little balconied terraces we will stay in when we come back alone). We cheered as we crossed the border into Italy and bought fresh pasta the first night in. We sat numb after hearing about Paris. Wondering how to explain it to the girls. Wondering how the world would respond. Checking to see if we could still cross borders or take the path we had planned. We checked the European news sites hourly to see what was unfolding as we tried to balance common sense with not letting those bastards change our lives.
We “did” Pisa in 3 hours and then crept into Florence. Wandering the streets with this embarrassing and strange raised threshold for awe and wonder. It sounds terrible, but having seen so much mind boggling beauty and awe inspiring testaments to human genius – a slight sense of complacency creeps in. It’s so different when you jump on a plane from Australia and step cold into the majesty of Europe – but having drained each country dry, we sometimes lose track of what we are seeing. I try to look through the girls eyes and I am SURE (actually I know for a fact) that they completely lose track of which cathedral/city/provence/country they are in.
But today, as we walked the streets of Rome, I felt like a kid in a cultural candy store again. The sheer volume of history and the mind bending presence of unchanged, unaltered, unrestored 2000 year old buildings pops your cork like it was your first ever overseas trip. It was beautiful and energising.
So we have 10 more days in Italy, then a quick detour to Slovenia, before we turn the car around and make a bee line for Calais, then England. There we clean the car, post embarrassing amounts of acquired souvenirs home, SELL the car and then set off for Ireland with a lean, one bag kit. We celebrate my cousins wedding then we….we….
I can’t actually say it yet.