It was cold enough to freeze your nips off in the depths of the January 2010 'Big Snow' that the idea began to form. After a shambolic One Year Anniversary that saw a romantic trip to Paris cancelled, months of trying to think of clever ways to evade the extraordinary lengths that Ryanair go to to make you pay a few quid extra and a realisation that it was now 2010 and we would have to make decisions about what happens next, Howie itched my itchy traveller's feet (not itchy from fungus, of course, itchy in metaphorical sense) and suggested that we go 'elsewhere' for a certain length of time after my school year ended. 'Elsewhere' could, of course, mean anywhere and the next few months were spent in contemplation of where that might be. At one point it was North America, but I couldn't get a work visa (or, more significantly, Marmite/Marks and Spencers/any decent form of chocolate rather than that tasteless cardboard they call 'Hersheys' but is actually just the pulpy mulch made by recycling cereal boxes coloured brown and coated in sugar). Then it could so easily have been Argentina on our list of to-goes but after telling my class of six-year-olds that was ABSOLUTELY where we were going, we decided not to go there after all. Australia, on the other hand, was an idea that stuck. It stuck on the roof of your mouth like a grub from a billabong. So Oz-bound we are.
Once the decision was made, things got decidedly easier and since making said decision, buying flights (from the lovely Andrew at Trailfinders who has requested a window seat for me), and perusing the all-important Lonely Planet book, time has flown swiftly on anxiety-ridden wings.
The plan is to fly into Kuala Lumpur on the fabulous, five-star, flippin' luxurious Malaysia Airlines. I shall be on-hand to look out the window and making sure the pilot is well-qualified to fly and knows what he's doing; Howie will be on-hand to fall asleep with his mouth open and eat all the complimentary snacks.In any case, we hope to arrive into Kuala Lumpur on October 14th and sample the delights of the 'Big Smoke' before we head on to Langkawi a couple of days later, where I fully expect to be served a drink with an umbrella stuck in it while Howie - probably dressed in some white linen trousers - gazes at the distant horizon and recites some Keats. After that we'll be heading straight on to Sydney, where the thousands of bats that live in the Botanical Gardens will be awaiting us. And there we shall abide, dwelling together like Gandalf and Frodo. A few trips are planned; Christmas will be spent in a uniquely-painted camper van on the South Island of New Zealand; the last week of January will be spent swathing around the Whitsundays and wriggling quickly away from the sea snakes on the Great Barrier Reef; and Howie's birthday week in February will be spent on a bike wriggling quickly away from the oncoming traffic on the Great Ocean Road. After that, it's bosh back to Sydney for a last home-stint then all being chipper we'll up-sticks and bob's your uncle back to Blighty before you can say 'tea and sticky buns'.
Less than four weeks to go until we're Oz-side and it's getting a little bit real. Bags might actually have to be packed soon, flights boarded, people said farewell to. Whatever occurs on this trip, this quest, this Odyssey, it is sure to be an epic voyage of quite unprecedented discovery. The Chronicles of this trip need to be told, and thus, with skillful use of the worldwide electro-info-web, the story of an Irish Spud and an English Rose in the harsh backlands of the biggest island on earth will be penned on this very page.
We probably won't be home in time for tea.