We checked out of Australia on Tuesday afternoon at the Border Force office on Thursday Island after a last Aussie lunch, burgers and fries at the same hotel café as before. It’s hard to beat a $10 special. The ferry driver recommended a cafe down the street and the cabinet food there may have been a little healthier but how can you pass up a pile of hot crisp made-to-order fries? You can’t. That’s all there is to it.
The clearing out process was quick and easy and we got a Border Force shopping tote, two Border Force caps, a Border Force cool wrap, a Border Force water bottle and a Border Force pen. We’re all set with Border Force branded gear.
We did our last bit of provisioning at the supermarket before catching the 4:15 ferry back to Horn Island, but really, we don’t have room for anything else and long ago stuffed the cupboards with all the must have items we understand might be hard to come by in Indonesia. I think we could survive a year on the food we have onboard.
Wednesday the change of tide came at mid day so for once we didn’t have to pop out of bed in the dark and get underway before the coffee kicked in. The Torres Strait has wicked tidal streams that can set you back a couple of knots or give you a welcome assist. Timing it is confusing but we came out ok. Our method is to see when everyone else goes and follow them. It doesn’t always work but the odds are with us and this time was perfect.
It was sad leaving Australia. We fell in love with the country long before we arrived, lured by the many Aussies we met along the way, from Laurie and Sonia of Moana Roa in the Caribbean, to Tom of Dancing Bear, and Phil and Karel of Tehani Li in the Galapagos, to Diana and Alex of Enki II, and Di and Bruce of Toucan across the Pacific. They all share what we’ve come to think of as the Australian character: a big heart, a generous spirit, an irreverent sense of humor, and a ready enthusiasm for fun and adventure. Maybe those are just traits of long-distance cruisers, and if so, Australians embody them better than anyone.
Once we set foot on Australian soil we felt instantly at home. It’s big, diverse, unruly yet regulated, profound and ridiculous, familiar and confusing all at once. Any country that shortens many of their names for things by adding either ‘ie’ or ‘o’, as in barbie for BBQ or rego for registration, doesn’t take itself too seriously. But why do they call a fuel pump a bowser? Why do shoes cost so much? And why are they against colorful footwear? We ran out of time to answer these questions.
In the end it was hard to tear ourselves away. It’s easy living, and we were seduced by ready access to every little whim. That ends up being bad for our pocketbooks and salves the itchy feet that brought us to this side of the globe in the first place. It’s definitely time to move on.
We’re on our way now to a place completely unfamiliar, where English is not widely spoken, where our rusty traveler skills will be exercised, where every day will be a journey. And that journey, for us, is home.