The journey here was somewhat wild for me because I drove the car down from Queensland. I did some country roads between Chinchilla and Inverall, and because we had to travel between five pm and seven pm, I had some interesting experiences. My mother-in-law was with me as she kindly travelled from NZ to help us with an enormous move with our two little ones. She’s a pretty calm person, but even she was sharply inhaling at different points. We avoided several kangaroos that first night but the most dramatic incident occurred with the fog cleared on a pitch black road filled with pot holes and slippery with rain – and a giant male kangaroo was a few metres directly in front of the car, staring at us. I slammed on the brakes. Because it was an interstate move, we had a ridiculous amount of luggage with us, and I could feel it propelling us forward. Thankfully, the car eased to a halt just in time. I refused to drive any further in case the kangaroo drunkenly bounced into the bonnet of the car. So I just sat there thumping the horn until it finally zigzagged off the road.
Needless to say, that took a couple of decades off my life, and I drove with heart palpitations for the rest of the journey that day. The next day we made our way to Sydney to see Michael’s sister. We stayed there one day, and of course all the rain in the world decided to dump itself on Sydney in that time. Floodwaters rose up, and every news channel was reporting on the apocalypse. It was lousy weather getting out of Sydney, but once we were about forty kilometres away from Goulburn, the rain stopped. After that it was just grey skies and bitter winds. Goulburn was a fabulous high of eight degrees that day, so we paused for an indoors coffee rather than an alfresco one. Ironically, when we got to Wagga Wagga late that afternoon, the sun was shining and it was a high of seventeen degrees. The weather was actually very pleasant – good enough to go for a walk in the botanic gardens there.
The next day, we departed Wagga Wagga and stopped in Benalla for our coffees and snack. Both my mother-in-law and I drank a lot of coffee this particular trip, because we wanted to stay alert. We shared the driving pretty equally, but I deliberately took the wheel over dusk because I’m somewhat used to kangaroos jumping all over the road. (That’s not to say it doesn’t give me a heart attack every time). Both Wagga Wagga and Benalla were beautiful, and I would happily buy a house in either of them and settle down. I almost felt like stopping there, especially after some of the more treacherous episodes in our journey.
But we were headed for west Melbourne, so off we went again. When we got closer to our destination, the roads became crazy with cars and numerous lanes appeared all around us. It was a stressful time, especially as Beatrix decided to scream for this part of the journey. She had been an angel for the rest of it, so we could hardly blame her. Nevertheless, we made it safely to the rental Michael and I had picked out blindly, and Michael and Holly (who had flown ahead of us days ago) were awaiting our arrival in the garage. It was a huge relief to see them both again after some time apart. My mother-in-law and I sat down in the messy lounge and had a glass of wine together to celebrate arriving alive.
What’s it like living here? I can honestly say July is lousy weather. Don’t visit Melbourne in July and don’t blame me for “cold Australian weather, just like New Zealand!” if you do. I violently missed our twenty-degree days in Chinchilla, even if they did start with a negative two degrees in the morning. The lack of sunshine was very depressing too. August has started a bit more pleasantly, with some very sunny days and less icy wind. So hopefully things will be on the way up over the course of this month. I know they have lovely springs, summers, and autumns here. But I remember from my Victorian days that winter was always a time I would rather forget.
The shops and amenities are great, and it’s amazing having subsidised daycare. We’re part of a good church, but driving twenty minutes to get to everyday places is new for us and not something we love. We’re used to driving a couple of minutes, and we’re not used to queues. The indoor weather has been depressing for me, because I’m used to eating outside and spending a least one or two hours outside every day with the children. I miss that feeling of being more part of the land. That said, I did see a couple of wallabies on the ridge of the gully across from our house the other day, and that made me feel more at home. I’m used to wildlife everywhere.
We’ve definitely had moments like “we should just move back to Queensland NOW” since we got here. I can’t deny it. Making new friends is difficult, and we’re used to a small town where everyone greets everyone else, and you’re never far from someone who knows you and is looking out for you. That’s not necessarily the case here. I still feel like a small town person, especially when I don’t know how to function in a shopping mall.
The system of having to change your number plates, your Working With Children card, driver’s license and almost everything else over is very frustrating, especially when we felt like we’d sorted all of that in Queensland after we immigrated. I didn’t particularly want to move away from Queensland, but the job opportunity was very good for Michael, so we decided we’d give it a shot. Am I delighted? Not at the moment. Things are looking up for us, but they’re also very hard on a daily basis. We made this decision for some very sensible reasons, but none of those reasons seem sensible when you’re just feeling homesick. I hope that in time we will be able to feel more at home and have a community around us that we’re part of.
That’s the update for now anyway. More soon hopefully!