We arrived back in Darwin four days before we were due to fly back to Sydney. Most of that time was spent preparing our bikes for storage and sorting through our gear to determine what we would need to take with us for the couple of months we planned to be away. We also spent a bit of time saying goodbye to the friends we had made, one of whom was Wendy from the Blue Banana. At the completion of our tour when she had dropped us at our front door, she had invited us around to her place for dinner. We would finally get to meet Peter, and find out first hand how he was coping with the loss of his arm.
Karen and I had dinner with he and Wendy a couple of days later, and still only about a month after the accident had occurred. Peter was in surprisingly good spirits, joking about the difficulties he now faced. He told us he could still feel his entire arm, and at one point during dinner he lifted the still bandaged stump into the air and moved it slightly back and forward. Peter explained that as far as he was concerned, he was waving to us!
The phrase "it would be just like losing your right arm" is a common expression used to describe the impact a mishap could have upon a person. While we would like to think we can understand what it would be like, losing an arm is one of those things that can never be appreciated until it has been experienced. I know that I would find it difficult, if not impossible, to come to terms with such a loss. Yet Peter was incredibly positive. When told that his arm would have to come off, and that he would never be able to play the clarinet or saxophone again, Peter replied that he would just have to learn how to play an instrument that required only one hand, like a trumpet. We still keep in touch with Wendy, and have learned that Peter actually took up another brass instrument - the tenor horn.
It was not the big things he could no longer do that bothered him, like playing an instrument or driving a bus. It was the little things. Answering the phone was a whole new experience. He could pick up the phone okay, but most of the time he would need to write down a message, easy enough with two hands, difficult with one, and almost impossible when you are forced to write with your wrong hand. Sometimes, even Peter himself could not decipher the messages he had scrawled! And things like opening a bottle of wine, turning the page of a book, and going to the toilet had become whole new learning experiences. If I lost my arm I would be at best depressed, and at worst suicidal. Peter is simply getting on with his life. He is truly inspirational.
Eventually the time came for us to leave Darwin. Elle and Mel were stored beneath the groundsheet in an out of the way corner of Nev's office at his house. Our panniers stayed behind too, as did our spares, tools, utensils, stove and various other stuff we figured we would not need for a while.
After a final farewell to Louise, Elise and Alana, we were off to the airport in Nev's four wheel drive. A little while later we were in the air. A little while after that we were an entire continent away in Sydney, having taken only a few hours to erase the distance we had painstakingly traversed during the previous six months.