Beyond Bananas – Conclusion

I like the stories with happy endings. Or the ones that end up being a start in a series. You know, like when Police Academy 2 was better than the original movie. Never mind about movies 3-6 or 7, of course! I also like stories where the end is really the beginning.

And so Beyond Bananas is coming to an end. There will be no more weekend rides or day rides. 

Yay! We are heading out on a proper tour. Finally. And with health capacity that is mostly no longer scary.  So I’ll conclude this journal and start a new one for the new tour.

My luggage, my teddy bear, the crew and me arrived in Sydney around 9am on Thursday. I flew through immigration and then waited and waited and waited for my backpack. It was down to so few people left standing around that I even pulled out my baggage receipt in preparation to hunt down a bag services person.

But, finally, my dirty old backpack, and another of similar vintage, popped out at the end. The owner of the other well-traveled backpack smiled at me and said, “I was starting to think that wasn’t going to come. They must have pulled those aside for secondary inspection!”

My trusty Kelty backpack has seen many, many miles since purchase in 1994. It is now filthy and it stinks, but I just pack everything inside it within a big plastic space bag to keep the stink away and the rain off the contents if it gets left out in the rain on the tarmac.

As we flew into Sydney we got a great view of North Head and the Harbour entrance before turning south along the coast. We passed over Port Botany and then past Port Hacking – where Nigel’s parents have a home right on the water. 

I’m listening to the Essential Oils album on the inflight entertainment system as we approach Sydney. This song is playing as we fly over North Head. RIP Bones Hillman. Can’t wait for the rescheduled Canberra concert on 1 October – I was so afraid they were going to reschedule it while I was still overseas!

So I’m home.  Even though I don’t have a home. And I feel like the adventure, and my life again, is just starting. The previous 2.5 months with my parents was like an intermission – a time to build strength and fitness while spending time with my parents after 3 covid-years apart. 

The decision to spend extra time this year with my parents instead of next was the best choice. This was the last chance to get out on the trails with them while they still have some capacity to actually hike. From here on out, I can see that it will just be walks. We’ll just be sitting and looking at the mountains rather than spending time within them. Old age is claiming their capacity.

We are not quite sure how I came to get the wanderer genes. My parents are ‘castle’ people. They love being at home and doing house projects. They are not adventurous. They do not camp or backpack. They are very nervous travellers. They have a healthy amount of fear and anxiety about a lot of things. I do not. 

There have been some other stubborn women in the bloodline, perhaps the fearlessness and unquenchable desire for adventure came from them? Nevertheless, future visits will be different to this one, so I’m super glad I had the chance to really get out in the mountains with them for a final time. 

Our final hike on the Lil’ Rattler and Rusty Lung trails a couple days before I leave. Hopefully they will still be able to manage this one next year.

The first order of business in Sydney was to get some Thai food. I have been jonesing for it for about 6 weeks. There is a Thai place with a good reputation where my parents live, but we didn’t eat there as my parents still have Midwestern meat and potato taste-buds.

But I knew I was flying through Sydney and the Thai place in the international terminal pre-security is awesome. You know it’s a good spot when it is 10am and they have a constant 6-person deep queue at their counter with people from all nationalities and all of the workers on their morning tea break.

Yum, yum, it hit the spot. I’m home… good Thai food and hand sanitiser everywhere (I never found a dispenser that worked in LAX or DEN. And most businesses still have it available, too!). 

The second order of business was to get a shower. It is amazing how good you feel after super-long flights if you can just stand under some hot water, get cleaned up and wash your hair. Sydney now has an onsite mini-motel where you can get a shower with toiletries, breakfast buffet and short access to a lounge for $40. But there are also free public showers on the Depatures Level. I brought some of the hotel toiletries from Denver. I also had my flip flops with me and just used a t-shirt for a towel, so free is much better than $40.

There are a surprising number of times in life when you are very happy to have access to a public shower stall!

It was good I had the chance to freshen up and feel new again, because, unfortunately, the seven hour layover became a ten hour layover when my final flight was three hours late. That airline has the least cancellations and best on-time performance of any domestic airline – but they were having an immense amount of problems on Thursday, and at least 10 of the evening flights were going to be delayed by at least 45 minute.

Nigel had come down to the motel near the airport and brought a couple of my stuffed friends. I kept him updated on potential arrival time. As it got later and later… he eventually sent this pic in a text with the words, “Ernie has given up.” That’s the Ernie my parents sent to me that normally lives in my car.

The mtn bike goes in for a service on Monday the 19th.  Then I need to sort out some of the new gear and how to install it. I also need to refill Nigel’s freezer with meals (e.g. lasagna, beef stroganoff, spaghetti bolognese, beef stirfry).  Then there are a few people to catch up with. And there is also the rescheduled Midnight Oil concert in Canberra on 1 October. Plans to ride there or back have been scuttled by Nigel’s plans – so I can’t use that as a shakedown ride.

But after the concert, then we’re off. Finally. The crew and I are more than ready to head off into the uncertainties of a La Nina, negative Indian Ocean Dipole and a positive Southern Annular Mode. (Think wet, very wet).

Look for a new journal that will sit within the long tours section soon. You’ll also get to meet my mountain bike – because it’s now part of the gear/crew.  

Thanks for all of your support and encouragement and sticking with me through five years of crap. I never gave up hope but could never have foreseen what momentum I could build once I finally turned the corner. My soul feels bright and alive again, the dimmer switch has been turned right up and I’m just burning with desire to ride. 

Ready, set….

Now where do we want to go?

9 thoughts on “Beyond Bananas – Conclusion

    • Yes, we are so ready to go! I hope you’ve got some ideas for some sub 24 hour rides… if spring ever arrives. I am not sure if I’ve ever seen it this soggy here (maybe in 2016, but that was the wettest June-Sept on record). Even the very deep Dartmouth Dam (near Mitta Mitta) is spilling. It hasn’t done so in 26 years.

  • That’s great news, Em! It was a long haul and you made it! It will be wonderful seeing you back on the road.

  • I did a double-take when I saw your backpack. Would you believe I have almost the same exact Kelty backpack (except mine is green) and I purchased it right around the same time as you did? I don’t think mine is as well-used as yours though. Anyway, I’ll be ready for your posts from the big bike tour.

    • Ah, great minds purchase alike, lol. I don’t know what Kelty products are like these days, but back in the day, they were often looked down upon by people who had higher-end gear. But I had a Kelty sleeping bag in addition to the pack, and they have both been really reliable, quality and durable gear even though they were inexpensive. I also know someone from that era who had a ‘cheap’ Kelty tent and that thing was indestructible over a lot of use. I wouldn’t buy a pack with that amt of volume now, but it really has been a very good piece of gear!

  • Hi Emily,
    We were very happy to be part of the Beyond Bananas saga especially at the end when you had recovered quite well. Your hiking/biking accomplishments here in the Salida give us great pride. We look forward to your new adventure with the “Crew”. Love, Mom and Dad

    • Thank you for all of the love and support that has allowed me to continue to build strength and health. I so much appreciate your support – even if the things I’m doing aren’t the traditional things which make parents proud. I so much enjoyed our hikes together this past summer and am glad we could get in some high alpine hikes before the trails become too steep, slippery and hazardous for future exploration. I’m not sure the guys are ever going to find a floatie spot to rival Ptarmigan Lake. I’m glad we got that one in – sounds like next year we’ll have to do Hidden Lake since we always need to ‘save something for next time’.

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