To me the journey home from a wonderful trip is deflating. You pack your bags, load the boot, and reluctantly point the car homeward; back to the real world, a world of work, cooking, cleaning, washing; back to commitments and responsibility. A lingering sadness edges its way across your thoughts as you turn away from the place that has brought happiness and rest, realising that life cannot consist of endless holiday, but wishing it could!
That's how I usually feel! However, this homeward journey held no such emotions. Our day turned into a lovely extension of the holiday as we filled it with numerous mini-excursions. There was still more scenery to explore...
...before the fun really began.
It's summer here, and the countryside is dotted with orchards and farms laden with succulent fruit, all advertising their wares by the side of the road. Who can resist such lushness? Not us! We'd been anticipating one big farm crawl, and all the way home we stopped in at farms and stocked up.
It turned out that we got more than we bargained for - delicious fruit at incredible prices and
the chance to rub shoulders with some real Aussie battlers.
First stop, the strawberry farm. The pick-your-own strawberry farm.
Neither of us had picked strawberries before and we were delighted. After being taught how to remove the berries without damaging the plants, we set too, munching as we went. Ah, the taste was wonderful! We ended up with over 1kg of strawberries - all polished off within 24 hours, half of them in the car before we left the farm!
The farmer did more than just teach us how to pick the berries - he taught us how to grow them! Don't treat them too well - let those little strawberries think the soil is bad and not worth reproducing in. Only two minutes of water a day, and food every couple of weeks but no more. The little plants will think they are almost dying, and rather than send out runners, they'll produce fruit so their seed may be scattered far and wide until it finds fertile soil to settle in. There'll be strawberries galore for months at a time. We are now in the process of starving our plant! Hopefully it works for us as well as it works for him!
Next we stopped at an apricot farm and purchased 1kg of very small apricots. I looked at them and wrinkled my nose up on the inside. But I figured we'd better buy them - didn't want to disappoint the farmer after we'd stopped and all! It's possible he wouldn't have even noticed if we'd slipped away without purchasing any - he talked and talked and talked; about coming to the farm 26 years ago and digging a bore; about never needing the bore because there was plenty of water; about buying a tractor and hiring out its services to other farmers in the area when the vegies weren't paying enough; about two years of dry, rainless weather that had rendered his dams empty and reduced his fruit to their present state; about firing up the pumps on the bore that very day so he could maintain his gardens.
As he talked I realised how foreign his farm life is to my city breeding. Two generations back my family lived off the land, but now I know little of it. He's been living with a water shortage for two years, while only now is it beginning to affect me. The farmers are the hard workers who fill our pantries with good things. His story prompted me to spare a thought for the people on the land. Their labour in the dirt enables me to prosper in the city.
Finally we got away and bit into the apricots. They may have been small but they were packed with flavour and juice. Mmmmm. Delicious.
Soon we added freshly picked cherries to our bounty. More taste bud heaven.If you're anywhere near Sydney, you might be eating some from the same batch! Picked on Friday, in the Sydney markets by Saturday. I don't think you'll get them for $5 a kilo though!
We enjoyed one final stop on our journey home. Richmond. Back to our convict roots. A gentle rain began to fall as we wandered the historic streets. In the park we eyed off the convict built bridge - the first such bridge in Australia, built in 1823 and still used today.
We might have tried to ignore our seedy, criminal past, but there's no way that we can deny that the convicts paved the way for civilisation to prosper in Australia.
Hooray for convicts! And hooray for holidays! What a great time.
It's back to work tomorrow for me - and I don't think I'm going to find it easy.