A fresh look at Irish nature after Down Under's delights
Since our return from Australia, I have been asked several times about the highlight of our trip. Honestly, almost everything was fantastic and thankfully we have all made it back safe and sound to resume our lives in the country we are lucky to call home.
I love travel, especially if there's sunshine and warmth. The newness of everything is always great, exploring different places and encountering strange wildlife, meeting new people with their unfamiliar accents and observing their sometimes mysterious behaviour. Finding hitherto unknown products in the shops and even the novelty of using foreign money are the little things that add to a trip.
But wonderful as travel is, it is also fraught with dangers. Because the very nature of travel means that you are doing different things, often outside your comfort zone. You have to be know your limits and not be swept away by excitement.
One of the highlights of the Australian trip was the early morning walk around the six kilometre rim of Kings Canyon in the Northern Territory. The first stage of the walk is a steep ascent which our guide/cook/driver Ria Mitchell explained was called 'Heart Attack Hill'.
On hearing this, we all laughed. Until she told a story about a man who had recently done the walk and who really did have a heart attack. It is a very long way from anywhere and, by the time a helicopter arrived it was too late.
The charm of moving to a new place a couple of times a week can wear thin and, in the last few days before we returned, six-year-old Ruth was homesick. She didn't even have the words for her feelings. But she knew she was missing her friends, her soft toys and her own bed. She even admitted to missing school. Outside of her family, these are the reassuring familiarities of her life.
Once home, the two things that struck me were how fully spring had sprung and how every lamppost had sprouted election posters. The soft lush growth of the leaves and the grass this time of year is so delicate and graceful.