She didn’t react at first. As my sister walked up the driveway with the man she was about to marry (for the third time), she just thought something along the lines of: “Oh, there’s Will.”
Then it hit her.
This was the brother who was supposedly 7366km away in Bangkok. The brother who supposedly wasn’t going to make it to her wedding. The brother she had written to just the day before about how upset she was that he wasn’t going to make it to the ceremony.
A big teary smile broke out on her face as she ran up the hill for a hug. “My little bro’s here!”
Then arm in arm we walked up to meet the rest of my equally surprised family.
Why I’m back in Australia
I wasn’t going to come back to Australia. When my sister suddenly announced back in October that she was getting hitched – first in a registry office, then on a beach in New Zealand and then at a property near Kinglake north west of Melbourne – I decided it was going to be too expensive a diversion. I’d only been travelling four months and I didn’t want to have to come back so soon.
But as the weeks went on I realised I how big a dick I was being. Even though my sister would never demand I come back, I knew it would mean a lot to her. And I realised how much I wanted to be there for her – that I’d regret not being there much more than I would spending the money.
So I secretly bought a flight back to Melbourne to arrive a few days before the wedding. I’ve always loved making surprise appearances and this was going to be a good one. For weeks I had getting a happy little thrill every time I ran through the surprise arrival in my head.
A traditional Australian wedding
There’s really no such thing as a traditional Australian wedding. The country draws from so many cultures it’s impossible to nail down anything really authentically “Australian”. Each wedding reflects the character and background of the participants. The only thing that all weddings here have in common is their diversity.
So I guess in a sense does that made my sister’s wedding pretty traditionally Australian.
The setting was a hilly tree-covered property owned by a friend. Guests were greeted with a glasses of champagne and stubbies of beer at the main homestead before being escorted by a violinist and akubra-wearing celebrant (both family friends) to staging area around a fishpond and briefed on the event’s itinerary.
Then we marched in colourful procession – some wearing shirts and sneakers others suits or glossy gold frocks – bearing a rainbow of umbrellas to shade us from the fierce sun to a grassy dried up dam with a tree standing on an island in the middle.
There my sister and her husband said their words of love – some quietly for each other and others loudly for the assembled friends and family – and they were wed for a third and hopefully final time.
The celebrations continued at the second building on the property – a small mud brick house – where Shane had an entire lamb slow roasting on a spit. It was eaten along with a huge spread of salads, dips, bread, chocolate cake, pavlova and whole fish and washed down with litres of wine, champagne and beer.
The music – jazz, funk, hip hop and some minimal techno – continued late into the night.
So now I’m back in Australia – but only for a few weeks. I’m going to spend a few days in Melbourne, catching up with friends, then head to Lismore in far northern NSW, near Byron Bay, where most of my family live.
It’s a chance for me to take stock, shed some of the gear that I’ve realised I don’t need while travelling and do some work.
I’ll be writing up some more of my recent adventures, adding more photos to the site and working on a project that expands on my popular post about ways to save money for scumbag backpackers.
After a few weeks of hard work – plus hopefully some beaching and swimming in waterholes – on February 25 I’m going to fly to Saigon, Vietnam. My mouth is already watering at the prospect of all that pho, bang mi and spring rolls.
Stay tuned for more from The Bearded Wanderer.