Ready, set…

Map of New South Wales with sticker-dots marking trip destinations

30 days to go and we have a plan! (I love having a plan.) I had a plan two weeks ago, in fact, and everything was booked.

Then I found out that one of the places I’d considered and abandoned does get snow after all, and the Skeptic had booked two extra days’ leave, so … the obvious thing was to insert another leg right into the middle of the plan. Miraculously, all four of the hosts booked for after that leg agreed to move our reservations back two days, so I pulled it off. (I think. Ink’s not dry yet.)

The trip is built around CSIRO’s radio telescope at Parkes, which is having an open day to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. On the way we will visit the Artesian springs at Moree, visit Dubbo zoo and stargaze under Coonabarabran’s Dark Sky. On the way home, we’ll see the Jenolan Caves and the Australian Army’s Infantry Museum, go to a koala hospital, try our hand gold-panning, stay on a hobby farm, and stand on Australia’s most easterly point at Byron Bay. There are open-cut gold mines and fossil huts, plains, mountains, volcanic rainforest and beaches. And of course, the hope of snow, which the kids have never seen. I’m so excited!

Except right now I’m the early stress stage. Experience teaches that none of us likes sleeping all together, so the biggest part of a trip like this is finding accommodation. All eight venues must be spacious, aesthetically appealing (I know, but it’s essential for us), and budget-friendly; needless to say this part has been quite hard work. When not glued to the computer I’ve been buying cold-weather clothes, making lists, more lists, and sub-lists, racking my brains for what we will listen to on the road, trying to get the house and yard to a state acceptable for a house-sitter to live in without breaking a leg tripping on The Stuff.

Of course, CraftyFish will start having meltdowns in a couple of weeks’ time, as departure looms and she starts facing all the unknowns. She will cry her little heart out and beg to not go. Mr Pixel, meanwhile, remains unimpressed by my enthusiasm; he doesn’t want to learn to crack a whip or do the lamp-work bead-making class I found. He will complain about the caves (cold) and the museum (boring) and the Minecraft-deprivation (life-threatening, apparently). Everyone is wondering what we’ll listen to on the road. (Suggestions welcome.)

Harsh words will be uttered, more than once, probably, as keeping three introverts and one flaming extrovert, all over-endowed with opinions and determination, in each other’s close company for two weeks is plenty challenge, never mind introducing those same twitchy people to new beds every second night. They’ll all carry on like they’re being asked to sleep with tigers.

In a way, though, that – far more than the activities themselves – is where the learning is. We’ll be hundreds of kilometres outside our bubble, and that’s a good thing. Despite the anxiety, we all crave novelty, nature and beauty, which the second half of the trip at least offers in abundance. Everyone will be stretched in multiple ways; the experiences will resonate for years.

It’s going to be awesome.

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