For the past few weeks this blog has been neglected like Christmas baubles in August. I have been away from here for a while - quite literally in fact.
Over the Easter holidays I was lucky enough to spend two weeks in Australia, visiting family in the sunshine.
I had been looking forward to the trip for months, so it felt somewhat surreal when I was finally standing under the announcement board at Heathrow airport, sunglasses balanced optimistically on my head (it was raining outside) and a suitcase bursting with bikinis in tow.
Australia is far away. Yes, perhaps that goes without saying. But it is only when you board a 14 hour flight (followed by a stop over and a further 6 hours) that you begin to understand 11,000 miles as something more than an impressive number.
11,000 miles is your ears popping like firecrackers during take-off, leg cramp in the sixth hour, nausea in the seventh, six films and two chapters, sticky stop over in Singapore, feeling drunk on air miles and dizzy from jet lag, airport security, getting stopped by a sniffer dog for an illicit banana smuggled across the border, smudged make-up, sleepy feet and heavy baggage. 11,000 miles is wave of warm air stepping off the plane, arrivals-terminal-hugs, seeing the big sister you have been parted from for 8 months and relatives you haven't seen for 10 years, sunshine, sand and the jovial bouncing of a crowd of Kangaroos.
We arrived in Adelaide and spent the first few days in Glenelg. We swam, despite being laughed at by my Aussie relatives ("It's freezing!" They have obviously not been swimming at Sandbanks in February wearing nothing more than a spotty swimming costume and a frozen smile. It wasn't the only thing frozen) and ate fish and chips on the beach watching the sunset and listening to a saxophonist and a man bizarrely but beautifully playing the bagpipes.
(Random Fact of the Day:
During our stay in Adelaide (and in fact for the rest of the holiday) I enjoyed my fair share of iced coffees drunk from Farmers Union cartons like a true South Australian. South Australia is one of the only places in the world where Coca-Cola is not the best-selling drink. Here Farmers Union Iced Coffee steals the prize. Love it.) (Glenelg, Adelaide)
After our stay in Glenelg we headed to Kangaroo Island, a place as magical as it sounds where my dad grew up and where my grandparents still live.
Kangaroo Island is 90 miles long and home to some of the most beautiful beaches and wildlife in the world but only a mere 4,000 people. Most of the roads are dusty tracks that peel through the bush and churn into clouds of red dust when you drive along them. We were given the keys to a white hire car. The keys we handed back belonged to a dirty pink vehicle with its numberplate obscured.
The largest town on Kangaroo Island is Kingscote, which is where my grandparents live and where we stayed during our trip. 'Town' and particularly 'Largest Town' seem something of innapropriate labels for the few shops, the hotel, the library, post office and the cluster of houses that gather around the jetty.
This is what makes 'The Island' (as it is referred to by its residents and the must-read local paper, 'The Islander') so special. It was refreshing to be somewhere so remote, that was unblemished by the golden mountains of a McDonald's sign or the hum of a shopping centre.
Tourism has increased over recent years on Kangaroo Island, but it is still low considering what it has to offer. Visiting there feels like being told a juicy secret. And perhaps that is the way the Islanders like it; their wonderful secret.