When I left Australia two years ago I had no desire to ever return, but a lot changes in two years and, on Sunday 18th September, I arrived back in Adelaide.
I never spent much time in Adelaide on my previous visits Down Under and was excited to be able to be there with Simon’s family for three days. I was lucky enough to be part of the family celebrations for Sam’s birthday and the whole family made sure I saw as much of the city as possible, from a walk along the beach from Brighton, Hahndorf, the best places for coffee, the oval, and of course the Pigs on the Mall.
When I arrived I was greeted by Ann, Jeff and Sam and the hug Ann gave me dispelled any nerves I had previously had about meeting them. We all spent time laughing, getting to know each other and sharing treasured memories of Simon.
The night before we set off on our Nullabor crossing, the group of us who were doing it for Simon and the family all met for dinner to celebrate the adventures we had had with the man we all loved and the adventures we will have in the future, just as he would want us to.
Ann had made sure we had a large supply of photos to take with us if anybody wanted to keep one and I quickly stuck one up above the bus door so that we could all see that grin throughout the journey and so those in the group who had never had the pleasure of knowing him could put a face to all the stories they heard throughout the ten days.
We spent ten days being chased by a storm but made the best of every moment of sunshine we could. We did the mind-blowing swim with Sea Lions and Dolphins at Baird Bay, we saw Whales at the Great Australian Bight, we enjoyed walks through Cape Le Grand National Park and some of us even went for a very special kind of swim on a secluded beach because if anyone was going to instigate public nudity, it would have been Simo.
There were a lot of tears shed at different points of the journey as memories came back to us and we sent Simo off to travel forever in the stunning spots Craig chose but, for me, the hardest part was standing in the Valley of the Giants. On the original tour I did it was this day that I realised Simon was more than just a fling with the tour guide, it was that day I realised that he would be a big part of my life for a long time to come even if it had never become more than a friendship. It was also this day that the only picture of us together that wasn’t a group photo was taken. I stood looking at that tree clutching the Vegemite jar of his ashes in tears. I was given some strange looks from passers by but I was not going anywhere. At a point when nobody else was around I left some of those ashes at the base of the tree and moved away. I’m glad that I bumped into Jodie while walking around the other trees because she got me to stand in the tree with the jar for a photo as the only one I had was of the jar alone in the tree.
There is no denying that the last five months have happened but until I was there realising that in two years the closest I had been to Simo was holding those ashes it had felt more like a bad dream. Getting on the flight home from Perth set off the real grief though. I had had a tough fortnight but it hadn’t felt real, being in those beautiful places with no phone signal and only each other, the fire and the stars for entertainment was a wonderful release and I got to be me, no filters or censorship, just the me that Simo always saw, but I got on that flight and knew that I was heading back to society where my hair can’t be blue and that those goodbyes were actually an ending to something was the hardest part of it all.
One thing I heard said a lot on tour was “Confucius says…” usually followed with something along the lines of “…a good tour guide carries his injured passengers.” but one thing Confucius did say was “We should feel sorrow, but not sink under it’s oppression.” So I have cried, I have said goodbye, and I will always miss Simon but I will not let it consume me. He would never forgive me if I did anyway.
All over Australia are trees with visible fire damage, the earth around them looks dry and it is hard to believe that anything could live there and yet there are leaves on the branches and animals in the bush; there is life even after such destruction. This is how I want to be, I lost my passion for life somewhere in the year of my working holiday but now that Simon is not here putting that spark into the world himself, I want to. I will love myself fully again, I will travel to all the places I dream of because life is too short, and most importantly, I want to give other people that spark of passion that he gave all of us.
A big thank you has to go to the half of the group who had never met Simon before. These guys gave us all the most incredible support and I can not thank them enough!
Safe travels, wherever life may take you!