So it has now been over a month since Joe and I departed from India and the hustle and bussle of the towns and cities already feels like an age ago. From spending so long living within a developing country, the switch to Australia was a massive culture shock. Cars driving round smooth roads without constantly sounding their horns, people out and about in Western clothing sat in the sun drinking alcohol, hot showers, drinkable tap water, comfy clean houses – the list goes on!

There is one final chapter to our journey though, that almost proved a nasty twist in the tale. It all happened in Kuala Lumpur airport, about an hour before check-in for our flight closed when what we expected to be a very smooth check-in was complicated when the lovely Air Asia lady asked Joe where his Australia visa was. It turns out that to get into Aus for any amount of time you have to have pre-applied for a visa online, and the big ‘DO NOT LET BOARD’ flashing on her computer screen meant this was a non-negotiable situation. What followed was probably the nerviest hour I have spent in an airport as we waited impatiently in the hope that the application Joe had just filled out online would be approved before our flight left. We had worked out that it was currently 1:30am on a Sunday morning in Australia, so if any part of the process required human input we weren’t going to have much luck. About 5 minutes after check-in for our flight had closed a confirmation email pinged through saying that Joe was allowed in the country, a frantic rush back to the desk was followed by a run through security and a sprint to duty free (Got to get the discounted Gin, right?!), all to get to the plane just in time. It is quite hard to describe how that hour felt in KL airport, sat refreshing the Gmail home page, just in case their auto update wasn’t functioning properly…which being Google it obviously was. Ahh the relief when we sat down onto our Air Asia X (no frills, but perfectly comfy) flight was palpable. So we DID arrive together into Sydney and after quickly sorting out our luggage (Australian customs let us bring tea, coffee and even dried chillies in!) we took our final steps together out into Sydney’s arrivals hall where we were met by our respective smiling friends and family. The adventure in India had finished and we had arrived, both in one piece, fairly exhausted, but excited for the next chapter!

The past 6 weeks or so have been a bit of whirlwind. After our goodbyes in the airport, Joe and I headed off in different directions, to spend our first nights sleeping apart in 4 months (a tiny violin is playing right now). Christmas, (which feels forever ago), was different having had very little build up. I guess England was trying to keep hold of us in some way though, since it rained throughout most of Christmas Day, but that didn’t stop me heading down to the ocean baths for a swim!

January was a month of leisure for us both. I enjoyed a fantastic 3 week holiday with my Australian Auntie, Uncle and cousins on the East coast: initially camping in a very remote riverside national park – Platypus Flats – followed by time spent up at Brunswick Heads just outside Byron Bay. A fair few trips down to Sydney were taken, including a final meet up with Joe, Jamie, Kirstie, Caitlin, and Amy – just before the boys went off to New Zealand! I met some great new people over the Australia Day weekend (who I am going surfing with tomorrow) and also spent a fantastic week with Liv exploring parts of Sydney and finding that all important JOB!

I have now finished my first week as a telefundraiser, calling up current donors and asking them for more money. Not exactly a dream job, but one that does pay fairly well and has a good young office environment – plus I’m not exactly doing it for long! There are lots of exciting travel plans coming up soon, including: Alice Springs, Melbourne, the Ocean Road, Blue Mountains and the Central Coast – March will be fun! I also now have a fantastic double room (with a balcony!) in a district called Waterloo which is a 20 minute walk from Central station, so a great location. But trust me, I wasn’t this relaxed a week ago when everything was still up in the air, so I’m feeling very relieved (as I think my grandparents were too when I said goodbye to them on Tuesday) that everything is now settled for February.

As for myself (Hello again from Joe), India seems a long time ago indeed. My 4 weeks in Australia were exactly what I needed after our time in the sub-continent. I stacked a tonne of food over Christmas whilst marinating in superb Aussie wine. I sweated it all out on the beaches and National Parks around Sydney in the weeks that followed! Having moved around so much I enjoyed spending time with familiar faces, staying in a house, not living out of a backpack and generally just taking stock. All very chilled. As of January 12th I moved to Melbourne for a few days before heading across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. Here, dearest Jamie Williams and I drove around the North Island for two weeks shaking off city-living and taking time to gawp at the scenery, swim in rivers and lakes, trek for two days and summit a Volcano, and sample many cups of great coffee as we looped through the picturesque land. Now he’s dumped me and moved to San Francisco, whilst I’ve headed to the South Island for more of what was enjoyed in the North – except this time with incredibly dramatic landscapes and mountain ranges. It’s so easy to be a tourist here with everything so developed and English-speaking, but having rested and got some headspace in this sparsely-populated part of the world it is with great excitement I fly to the Philippines on February 23rd. I see life as a series of chapters and this travel experience is equally episodic: The mass of India, genteel Aus&NZ, and now a return to SouthEast Asia.

We did promise that there would be India-related videos and they are now online! The Flickr uploader kept on failing as the files were too big, so I’ve (Toby back again) created a YouTube channel with each month’s video:

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXguQjDosmpz6D-p7BZe0vg

I commend anyone who gets through them all as they aren’t the most exciting, but they’re there if you have time. An early favourite from those who have discovered these treats is the tense, adrenaline-filled river crossing during our trek in Leh, found at 6.49 in the September video.

Anyway this is pretty much it from the blog. It’s been a fantastic journey. As always the feelings towards a country always seem to become a bit stronger when you have left its crazyness, so I have certainly missed India and have had moments reminiscing and working out where exactly I was 2, 3 months earlier. From us both, thank you all for reading and if anyone is ever planning a trip, pop either of us a message and we can bombard you with information!!

नमस्ते (Namastē)

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