Brisbane and beyond

Brisbane and beyond

Since Christmas and purchasing the car I’d certainly clocked up the miles; the long drives and many hours on my own gave me plenty of time to contemplate. I gave my next decision much thought and battled with myself as to whether to bring my trip to an end. The beaches were beautiful but I had seen so many, cities don’t appeal to me much and I realised I was losing the awe and wonder of it all and not really appreciating it any more. I gave some thought to moving across to NZ but I knew I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do it justice. The more I thought,  I recognised that I was beginning to get lonely and needed something different, another challenge… and so it was that the last week of my  trip was spent in Gympie as I visited the Library and McDonalds using the Wi-Fi  to advertise my car. I began to feel like a local staying at the Rest Area for so long, with 5 other long-termers.

Yet again whilst in Gympie I met some great people; a lovely woman who was closing down her book shop that had been opened by her and her sisters many many years ago – quite sad. I also went to church and met Brenda and Richard a really nice couple, Richard was originally from the UK; they had an amazing testimony of getting back together again after being divorced for 35 years. They invited me to their home for a meal and a shower and we enjoyed some great conversation. I will miss all the interesting people that I have been so blessed to meet; each and every one of them has had an impact on me.

After a lot of boredom and frustration and probably impatience I agreed to swap my car for 2 laptops; selling a car in another state devalues it greatly and so the swap seemed like a fair deal. I arranged to meet the young girl who had no money and needed wheels and on the hour long trip into Brisbane we put Australia, the world and the environment to rights. I felt much better knowing that my car had gone to someone so lovely and who appreciated it so much.

I made my way to the bank to withdraw my earnings from the banana farm and booked into a hostel, enjoyed a nice long shower…it had been a long time coming after so many nights camping out. I researched the area but made the decision to book flights for asap, with less than 24 hrs till my departure I had to complete security checks!

I got some much needed sleep before getting up at 6am for the 3 x 8 hours flights. Funnily enough on the train to Brisbane airport I got offered a job – but no regrets, by that time I was actually excited about my return to the UK.

I spent my loose change from my previous trip to Singapore at the first stop-over and after much deliberation between Burger King, ice-cream or the Malaysian tea Teh Tarik that I had loved so much I realised that all I could afford was a packet of M & M’s. The second flight to Doha was quiet and I managed to stretch across 2 seats and get some sleep. Doha airport was really interesting with a different Muslim culture; it would have been nice to stay longer but it would have worked out too expensive.

The final flight to Manchester was full of people coughing and sneezing and so after many films I arrived in the very very cold UK with my own cough and cold! Quite a shock to the system going from a 40 degree heatwave with 98% humidity to minus degrees.

So 36 hours from my 6am alarm clock wake up and 15 months since leaving home I arrived in the UK.

I was finally back in Manchester and after a very speedy bag collection, which so rarely happens to me, I was sat waiting for my family. I hadn’t long to wait before I saw them running through the airport – not sure who was more excited them or me.

I have had the most amazing life-changing time of my life and after some sleep and catch-ups I am ready to see what life has to offer now…

img_7185img_7248img_7270img_7295Thank you to everyone who has supported me by reading and liking my blogs and sending encouraging comments. They were all more appreciated than you can imagine all those miles away. Also to all those people I have met either for a casual conversation, the people who have put me up, offered meals and showers and all those amazing strangers that have been so friendly, kind and got me out of more than one scrape.

Queensland

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My grandparents have a friend in Cairns and I had always planned to visit as she had kindly invited me to use her home as my base. But with the last job cut short I arrived earlier than anticipated and in time for Christmas, although this had initially worried me as I didn’t want to gate-crash someone’s Christmas, especially at such late notice. I need not have worried though as I was given a warm welcome by Geraldine, her family and friends. We realised we had much in common chatting about England, travelling etc.etc.
I spent some time sight-seeing local areas, Northern beaches, Palm Cove, swimming in their pool and looking for a car. Crystal Cascades was particularly good and had been deemed a must see by Jethro at Tully. I even tried out a church in Cairns that boasted an X Factor singer!

Then it was out to the Great Barrier Reef enjoying a full day on Green Island. Through the glass-bottomed boat and snorkelling in the clear waters I saw a turtle, reef sharks and a sting-ray; some of the many things I can tick off my ‘must see’ list. The family took me to Kuranda in the tablelands with its fantastic green tropical views and huge waterfall – Bowen Falls.

On Christmas Eve I made my biggest purchase since leaving home, a present to myself – a car. Australia is so vast it is hard seeing most places by public transport and was taking so long as well as being disappointed to miss some of the smaller but beautiful places of interest. Coincidentally one of the lads from the Mission Bay hostel had advertised his car and so I felt more comfortable buying from someone I knew and a car I knew off.

Christmas day was spent with Geraldine’s family and we visited the Botanical gardens – a completely different experience to my traditional one at home and somehow didn’t feel like Christmas in the heat, although still very enjoyable.

For the first time in my life I went Boxing Day shopping but only for necessary travelling supplies; it felt good having my own wheels. My last few days in Cairns Geraldine was house-sitting for her son and so I was home alone with a house and car, made me feel like a true citizen for a little while. I spent the time preparing the car, researching routes and packing. One day whilst I was out I was flagged down by some lads, wondering why I noticed they were asking me to drive round a python in the middle of the road – all in a days work.
My last day Geraldine treated me to yet another meal and we rode through the cane fields and to Kuranda Railway Station, where you can take a journey through the world Heritage-Listed rainforest; a most picturesque place that looked like it had come from a film set.
What a lovely surprise Christmas, I can’t thank Geraldine and her family enough for their hospitality and help – treasured memories.

Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation

So back on the road with my own wheels and about to clock up the miles. I headed first to Port Douglas one hour away. Then I journeyed 3 hours following the most amazing but windy road with scenic views and a ferry crossing to reach Cape tribulation.

The weather wasn’t great at the cape; I found a look-out and checked out the car, still getting used to it and not wanting any nasty surprises by taking it for granted. On the way back down there was a crash where an Asian driver with ‘P’ plates had driven right over the road and in to the ditch. It was taking a truck driver some time trying to get the car on the bed and in the end he had to give up. It delayed me quite a while but I didn’t mind as I felt so sorry for the driver and was just glad it wasn’t me. I was even more cautious on the bends down after though.
I hunted out some rainforest walks and random beaches then back across the ferry feeling like Che Gureva in the ‘Motorcycle Diaries’.
Another one hour drive took me through more amazing lush green scenery with mountain views to Mossman Gorge where I took the bus in to the gorge with its great swimming holes. Finally after a long day I used the free campsite at ‘Rifle Rest Area’, one of the best free sites I have come across and with free showers; a bit of a windy route to get there, an uneasy test for the car, but arrived safe and sound on another leg of my travels.

Cooktown

After the Rainforest Tablelands the next part of the journey along the coast was a little disappointing, Cooktown was dead as it was New Year’s Eve, I walked up to Finch Bay and Cherry Tree Bay and there were only 2 people there but magnificent beach views. I drove up to Grassy Hill a look-out point, after initially going the wrong way and nearly taking my sump out, but the views for miles around were worth it.

Lake Tineroo and the Tablelands

Took a shower in my favourite rest area after my gravel pit overnighter! I headed over to Lake Tineroo having to double back at one point as I didn’t like the gravel road conditions. Stayed the night at Kairi rest area for New Year with a very noisy pub nearby but I was too busy sorting out my Flat tyre!!!

I had a lovely morning at Lake Barrina and Lake Eacham, popular freshwater lakes surrounded by World Heritage National Park; both formed when a large volcano erupted over 17000 years ago, leaving a huge open crater that filled up with water. It’s quite popular with tourists and was busy this New Year with people taking their first early morning dip in 2017.
I was excited to check out a Curtain Fig Tree and a platypus at the look-out. The fig tree is from the strangler species; the curtain effect results from one tree leaning against another tree on a 45-degree angle. The strangler vine then grew along an angle of the leaning tree, dangling 15 metres to the ground to create the curtain affect, an amazing sight.
I grabbed my almost daily fuel and air before Google maps annoyingly took me the wrong way, down some long winding gravel track to someone’s dwelling. But I did eventually manage to find Mt Hypipamee Crater and Dinner Falls, again formed by volcanic activity. The 180 degree views of lush mountainside from McHugh point were breath-taking. Onto Millaa Millaa the first on the waterfall route, a 5km walk through Silver Creek Falls to an even more impressive fall where there was only one other person. It was here I decided to have a swim but had a nightmare feeling that there were crocs lurking under the water – think maybe I’ve been watching too many documentaries! Finally through cane country past Pronella Park, where Carol a friend from church had recently got work, then past the very familiar Mission Beach and Tully – so long work life!

Tully

Stopped in Bilyana outside Tully overnight then to the beautiful Cardwell Beach with incredible views looking out on to Hinchinbrook Island and the look-out which was even better! Very different when I didn’t have to see it at 5 am then go to work!! It was at this point that I realised I had lost the car’s front grill!!!. Back to Blue Water Rest Area now my most stayed rest area, like 4 times I have been there now!!

Townsville and Magnetic Island

The next morning I was up at 6am to drive to the ferry for a nice cruise over to Magnetic Island. I walked to Nelly Bay past Geoffrey Bay and snorkelled at Alma on the edges but the water was pretty rough and tiring. I tried doing the boat wreck at Geoffrey Bay but gave in to lamb sausage BBQ on the beach instead!!! Back in Townsville I camped in Giri on a field, no amenities with only 2 other vehicles!
The following morning saw me drive to Bowen through Ayr. I was very impressed with Bowen, I thought it was just a farming town but the beaches there were fantastic!!!! Then over to Hideaway Bay but the weather was getting worse and my day was running out! I quickly showered in an unlocked cubical in a town park I passed through. I finally arrived at a BP rest area where I was rained out of my tent and folded myself into the car for an uncomfortable night! It’s not called the Tropics here for nothing! This rain is something else.

Airlie Beach

The next day I drove in the tropical rain to Airlie Beach, the meet-up point for a tour to Whitsundays. I was disappointed but not surprised that the tour had been cancelled due to the rain and so I continued to drive south all day, hoping that the weather would improve.

Rockhampton

Sunday I visited a friendly church in Rockhampton where the locals were super friendly and welcoming. They had a great worship song called ‘Joy’ it was real country/ folk and the guy hammered the guitar and sang it out loudt!!
Onwards with more driving to a really nice rest area next to a river making a great sunset. Even got a free shower although it still cost me as I smashed my shampoo all over the floor – ha-ha! I double checked about camping, with a friendly couple who were sat out front, but thankfully got warned off as he’d noticed an ant’s nest. A super guy that had been there 6 weeks and was going to live in the village and try and find work due to writing off his car.

Hervey Bay
Next morning I hit the road again not going as far as I expected due to a lack of free camping areas. I stopped off at an information centre for my first on the road shave and met a guy Corey from my farm work which was truly random; we had a nice catch up and I met some of his friends!! Unfortunately landed with a not so good camping area that night at Apple Tree Creek, on a lay by really, but bearable for a night for free!! I have had worse!! Also got offered mango from farmers driving around!
Made my way 2 hours to Hervey Bay information centre for a tour to Fraser Island. Then drove the coast to the jetty; as soon as I closed the door I knew I had locked myself out, the keys were in the ignition aaaarrrggghhh so annoying! I walked over to a car rental and a fishing shop but had no joy. Kindly a local shop gave me a metal coat hanger that I spent a good hour in the heat trying to prise open the latch but still no joy. I finally gave in and got a property agency to call the local lock-smith’s a stupid expensive $88 mistake!! The guy came we laughed about it and 2 mins later I was driving off quickly for a lunch on the beach before clocking up many more miles.

Katherine, Bitter Springs, Mount Isa, Townsville and Mission Beach!

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Feeling slightly nervous after the last car share I waited for Marilyne in McDonalds hoping to get a free car in their Monopoly game; I’d spent so much time in there accessing their Wi-Fi that I felt sure I deserved the car, but then found out I needed to be a citizen! Oh well…on with the car share.

Marilyne was travelling with friends so after the introductions we hit the road in a convoy of 2 estate cars, a Mitsubishi and us in a Ford Falcon. We arrived at Bitter Springs, a tropical woodland area and  spring-fed thermal pools. We swam in the lovely blue water and camped close by; the first night as part of this new ‘team’.

About 2 hours from our free camp was Daley Waters Pub in a small hamlet in the outback. http://www.dalywaterspub.com/our-story The pub is the oldest in the state with all sorts of things draped around the pub from underwear, a thong tree, photos, hats and more, from all its many visitors. It’s certainly an intriguing sight! It seems the trend started after a drinking bet when the loser had to leave her bra behind.

The following day I got my first drive of the Falcon, another automatic, from the pub to the small town of Elliott to fuel up. After a mere 6 hour drive we finally reached Tennant Creek near Mary Ann Lake, man-made and not really that spectacular but offering some shade and best of all free hot showers!!!

That night we stayed at Pebbles Rest Area, we sat outside watching the sunset and Jeremy played his keyboard as we gazed up at the great Australian sky, with the milky-way and shooting stars included. What an experience, memories are made of this.

A long day followed, driving over 630 km to Mount Isa, around 7 hours driving past bush and termite mounds decorated like people. We only stopped for a rice lunch and a driver change! You can see Mount Isa from a distance with its smokestacks and hub of activity; it’s one of Queensland’s longest running mining towns and offered us welcome shopping facilities – hard to believe this bustling place is actually part of the outback. Enjoyed another free campsite and more keyboard entertainment!

Other days were very similar, eating up the kms over vast open plains taking in the tumbleweed that is particularly bad this year due to the heat.

We completed our final stretch to Townsville and spent our last evening together sharing beers and stories. Jeremy spoke with passion about his skydiving and the 80 jumps he’d completed along with his experience of farm work; making me hungry for similar experiences.

Marilyne and I said goodbye to the others as we headed for a launderette and McDonalds Wi-Fi. The following day I made arrangements to go to Mission Beach to a working hostel and Marilyne decided to stay in Townsville to find work. She is a great girl whose English is much better than she realised and we’d enjoyed some good laughs.

I spent the last day, without knowing it, in Gossips Corner with some of the locals, chatting about travelling, tolls of cancer and everything in between. That night I met a super couple from Sydney that lent me tarpaulins for my night under the stars and to top it all they even invited me for tea. I found out later about their 3rd plate blog where they invite lone travellers over. So that evening was spent with Simon and Chrissie and the cutest 14 year old blind poodle that was galloping around like a lamb, in their well organised and kitted out Mitsubishi van, complete with tarpaulin awning and herb garden. Well impressed! A great evening, good company and conversation, I love these experiences. I enjoyed a cosy night under the stars (and the tarpaulin) along with the sound of crickets, bats, and possums and woke to the sound of birds.

The next morning after a last cup of tea with Simon I waited anxiously as my promised lift ran later and later, eventually JB arrived and off we went – destination Mission Beach where my life of freedom was about to change!

Port Headland, Broome,Darby, Gibb River road, Kununarra, Lake Argyle and Katherine!


After the last few weeks job hunting and WWOOFING by September it was time to do some sight-seeing!
I fed the animals for the last time at Waminda and said fond goodbyes, I had really enjoyed my time at the Wildlife Sanctuary. My car share companion Jess and I got up at 5.30 to hit the road early and try and keep out of the sun for a 450km plus stretch to Broome. We filled up with plenty of water in Exmouth for the long journey but it turned out to be dodgy so spent the day quite dehydrated deciding to use the water only after boiling.
We spent all day on the road doing 2 hour plus shifts each. Hitting Cable Beach near Broome we caught an amazing sunset. This beach is rated one of the top ten beaches in Western Australia and we were not disappointed. Imagine long, slow waves rolling in on to almost never-ending pink sand alongside crystal clear blue water. We even saw camels! You jealous yet???
Back at the campsite for my first paid accommodation in a month!

Next day we travelled the long road to Cape Levesque a surprisingly more difficult road than we had expected; the 90km is mostly unsealed, very sandy, and can be badly corrugated. This was my first experience of 4-wheel driving and we found out later it was one of the most difficult to drive. After a stressful drive we arrived at the cape for a quick visit around the fantastic beach, to get a rattle on the car looked at and check out tourist information guides. For us it happened to be a fantastic day of Australian hospitality and general kindness all of which we truly appreciated but the advice we got meant having to travel back to Broome in search of a garage. Another stressful journey, and I wasn’t even driving this time, but we had more success driving all the way in 4-wheel drive and with deflated tyres, even treating ourselves to air-conditioning!
The campground gave us details of a local garage where they checked out the car, not finding the source of the rattle they did however assure us that there was no concern and didn’t even charge us, awesome news, a miracle it seemed – the service and kindness reminded me of my local garage at home (R. Christophers) who have got me out of more than one emergency over the years. With the great service we had time to go to the beach.
The Kimberley Coast has the biggest tides in the southern hemisphere; the difference between high and low tides is up to around 10 metres, with low tides offering the best chance to see the dinosaur footprints but we were disappointed. I dropped Jess off at the cinema while I spent time with some great people we’d met at the campground. What had been a difficult day turned out great in the end but little did we know we were certainly not finished with car problems.
After planning and preparing for the Gibb River Road we set off to town only to realise the air compressor wasn’t working then after sorting that, both cigarette lighters stopped. Walking out of the shop about to investigate the fuses we were followed by Paul and Jim from the speedway, they could see we were struggling and just got stuck in trying to help. Unfortunately none of us were able to diagnose/fix the issues but they guided us to their friend Shaun an auto electrician.
Back at the campground we met a Swiss couple that had done the Gibb River Road so were able to give us some tips. Before leaving we visited Moon Steps where the reflection of the moon on the mud flats causes an optical illusion looking like steps to the moon – fascinating! We spent the evening with them having drinks, another great evening.
Time to move on again so up at 6am to re-inflate the tyres, drive to Darby, top-up the petrol and check the visitors centre for road and weather information. On the way to Tunnel Creek National Park we enjoyed the cooler shade and spotted shallow water baby freshwater crocodiles. The caves let in sunbeams to highlight Aboriginal art and blue/green algae ponds. That night we stayed at
Windjana Gorge campsite with an honesty box pay set up. This place is supposedly on lots of peoples lists of top places to visit in Kimberley and it didn’t disappoint as we walked in to the gorge for sunset, watching freshwater crocodiles trying to eat the thousands of fruit bats. What an amazing day!!!
Up at 5.30 to have a cool hike into the stunning gorge to see more crocodiles, my first wallaby and some great boat trees! Back at camp we met a German family that live close to Jessi’ home address – would you credit that?? As we were travelling in opposite directions we shared some travel tips and then we continued down unsealed roads to Bell Gorge in the 40˚ heat; on arrival we enjoyed a refreshing swim in the river and diving in the waterfall next to Bell Gorge.

After another night camping we were up early again to head firstly to Adcock Gorge; we hadn’t expected much from comments we had come across but as it was only 5km from the road we decided to give it a go. As the road got gradually worse we parked up and completed the final 1km on foot, passing a sign notifying us that two freshwater crocodiles had been spotted we arrived at a lily pond. Beyond there we were overwhelmed by the hidden main pool with fantastic high, red rock backdrops and plenty of wildlife, and we had it all to ourselves; I even found some Aboriginal paintings. It was amazing to find such an oasis in such long stretches of dry land! We continued on to Galvans and then Manning Gorge stopping at Barnett station for a very expensive top up, they can charge what they like here…it’s not like we have an option! We parked up and took the pull boat across the river and enjoyed a welcome swim after an extremely hot hike.
Making the most of the fresher morning air we set off at 4.30am heading for El Questro, however, the road had very different ideas. Only about 4km from Ellenbrae station we realised we had a flat, on investigation it turned out to be both back tyres.
To cut a very long story, and an even longer day, short we got a lift to a garage to find the owner wasn’t around, back at the car we tried to fit the spare, borrowed another spare from a passer-by, had problems with the jack as with 2 flats the car was too low and the end result was the car fell from the jacks breaking the suspension. We were getting desperate in the middle of nowhere in the baking heat but so many people slowed down offering help, a constant display of Australian friendliness and hospitality. With the help of many people we eventually fitted a nearly repaired tyre, putting in as much air as we could and limped back to the garage in a convoy of 5 vehicles and 11 people, all watching out for us as we carefully negotiated every bump in the road. The garage managed to repair one tyre and we had to replace the other at $300. We got some cold refreshment and feeling nervous hit the road again. Only to get around the bend and have another tyre go… back in the dust and dirt for another $300 change!!! The guys at the station were amazing though and gave us a free gift of beer and frozen water. We enjoyed these relaxing at Durack River Resting Area that evening watching a fantastic sunset, and reflecting on the long hard day but feeling blessed that so many people came to our aid. Enormous thanks go out to Lauren, Bran, Gary and Mark and all the others that helped us out and tried to keep our spirits up.
After 3 flat tyres the previous day we nervously set off once again, constantly stopping and checking the tyres at every bump and squeak. We arrived at Zebedee Springs and took the short walk through the oasis rainforest to some hot springs where we enjoyed a long soak washing away all the dirt and sweat from yesterday and trying to ease the sunburn and the 2 scorpion stings I had acquired. A highlight of the trip was crossing the Ivanhoe Water Crossing, realising the water was up to the door I jumped out to let Jess drive across so that I could get some great video.
We spent the next few days travelling, sightseeing, swimming and kayaking before finally arriving in Katherine. We arranged for a garage to replace rear springs and all the shocks and find accommodation. It was at this point that Jess and I agreed that it would be better if our plans to journey together ended sooner than we had originally planned. After some arguments and being faced with half of a huge garage bill that had not been part of our agreement I spent the next few days deciding on my future plans. The answer came in the form of a French girl driving from Darwin to Townsville and offering another car share…hoping this was going to be less traumatic!!!This

WWOOFING – Bee Farm, Fish Farm and Wildlife Sanctuary

WWOOFING – Bee Farm, Fish Farm and Wildlife Sanctuary

I was excited for this next part of my travels; I have done so much research into organic farming over the last few years and couldn’t wait to get started…
Peter from the Bee Farm, kindly picked me up from Midland train station. Back at the farm one of the first things I saw was a pregnant kangaroo, I was told it was a rare sight around the farm because of their dog Jess. After helping with tea we walked around the property around the fire-break, stopping off for drinks with the neighbours and getting an insight into the real culture of Australia.
In the morning I was introduced to Richard an oyster farmer from Tasmania who originally came from Sunderland but had spent time in Ireland during the unrest there. He was such an interesting guy. We visited the local park together later, which was very busy due to a lovely day at the beginning of spring – it was nice to feel the heat from the sun as previous days had been quite chilly. Having drinks in the back garden later reminded me of home and I have to admit filled me with homesickness for a little while, it is so long since I have seen family and friends.
Peter and his wife are well in to their 70’s and have run the farm for over 40 years. Unfortunately now because of his mobility he is trying to sell and split up his business. I feel it is such a shame that all that knowledge and passion will be lost forever. Peter shared with me his participation in the great documentary ‘More than Honey’. He spoke to a guy that originally came to Australia to do research into termites which proved quite difficult. Many people persuaded this guy however to turn his research towards bees. The guy explained his research and the worldwide bee community to his Uncle Markus Imhoof whose hobby was movie making and the film was a huge success.
I loved spending time with Peter, labelling jars and filling them with the exact weight of honey; Peter made it look a whole lot easier than it actually was. I had a go at cleaning the hives of the old honeycomb with special tools and helped out doing other maintenance tasks around the hives. It has been a long time since I worked with electronics so I was super pleased with myself that one day I managed to fix the safety switch on a heater. I even had a look at Peter’s other occupation farm painting.
Richard and I spent some time at the farm alone while Peter was working at home; I attempted to do the cooking for both of us but not being very domesticated I was thankful when Richard came in to save my meals. One day I listened to five answer phone messages about an arrest for tax avoidance, I fully expected the FBI to come busting in like in the film ‘Into the Wild’. I think I may have been on my own too long, my imagination is running riot!!!! It turned out to be a nothing!

With Richard owning his own van and me not having any transport it seemed a good idea to do a car-share for the next part of our journey. So we hit the road towards Badingarra taking in the beautiful green landscapes in this vast vast country, with only very few houses visible along the way.

Our next stop was Alandi Ponds – a fish farm.
We were welcomed with a lovely, very typical English tea as the owners were both from the south of England having come over as 10 bob poms, years ago. Albert took us for a quick look around the farm before we started work and we were rewarded later with a delicious meal straight from the garden including freshly squeezed orange juice. You can’t get better than that!
It was great getting to know another family and learning about different lifestyles and connecting with people. Linda’s daughter was in to horses and competitions and travelled thousands of miles including to the Mongolia Darby and America.
Distance here takes on a whole different meaning than back home in England!
The following morning my work consisted of digging kangaroo grass and re-planting it in an area suffering from erosion. WWOOFING jobs are usually for a set number of hours per day and also allow quite a bit of free time so I spent the afternoon taking photos around the place. I found an old VW Campervan that had done 800,000 miles and a nice Austin Ute.
More cake and more photos followed before we fixed Richard’s radio and fed the silver perch. We then took one from the tank, descaled it on a scrapped tyre and threw it on the BBQ – awesome. These fish are quite oily with razor sharp fins when catching but taste really good.
I am learning such a lot from these farmers- and loving it! I helped net the pond, getting it just right so that we could sort the fish in to different sizes. After a late lunch Albert took us out in the Ute (pick-up truck) for a tour of the farm – he had owned 3000 acres of cleared bush and farmed 10,000 sheep. The sense of freedom here is amazing, I was stood in the back of the Ute with the dogs and surveyed the vastness of the place. Great as it is for a tourist like myself and very rewarding I can understand just how hard actually living here long-term could be.

It was soon time to leave and head to Geraldton to Waminda – a Wildlife Sanctuary for our next job. We stopped a few times along the coast to take in the views and soak up the sunshine, chatting along the way. I didn’t realise it at the time that it would be the last drive with Richard.
Arriving at Waminda Farm we met the neighbours and lots of Ian’s friends before sharing fish and chips with them all – a great beginning to our stay.
The following day I was up at 7.30 to feed the animals including 60 chickens, ducks, kangaroos, emus, dingoes and a range of birds it was only then that we humans could have our breakfast! Next job was to plant trees down the road taking care to give them as much help as possible to survive the harsh conditions of sand and the intense heat that was on its way. One afternoon Richard found a stimson snake in the wood pile and Ian released it into the shed to catch the mice.
I loved the variety of jobs on offer here; helping refurbish the front end of a 4×4 Toyota Hillux, a timing belt on a truck, clearing rust from a truck and putting up a fence around the caravan. There is a converted bus and caravan here that are rented out through airbnb.
On Sunday we went for a wander to the markets, so different to those I had visited in Asia, and we met up with other WWOOFers.
This place was great with loads of visitors and I could have easily settled here for much longer but I have so many plans for my time here in Oz I thought I had better be moving on. Richard on the other hand decided he would like to stay for longer and so I advertised on Gumtree for a car-share to get me out of Geraldton. Jess a German girl answered my advert and as she was planning an epic road trip around the north of Australia we decided to share some of the miles.
The night Jess arrived there was 11 of us sat down to eat together but I managed to show her around the farm and say final goodbyes to the guys before leaving early the following morning.
We hit the road in her Mitsubishi Challenger excited for the next journey.

Perth Australia

Perth

My entry into Australia was much easier than I had imagined although the amount of rain did surprise me!

Allan my couch-surfer host met me at the airport and arriving at his home I was introduced to Simon, a 19 year old German, also travelling and looking for work. Simon was a great guy, had a fantastic sense of humour and we enjoyed a laugh as well as helping each other out.

Simon had already made an appointment at a bank so I tagged along and managed to get myself an Australian bank account before we visited Kings Park with botanical gardens and great views across the city. We met up with Bruno, a professional photographer who gave Allan and myself some great tips as we took loads of photos of our ‘guinea pig model’ Simon.  He was such a good sport!

On the way back we called at Heirisson Island, a piece of land in the centre of Swan River, were we were able to get up close to the 6 female kangaroos,  made possible because there were no males around.

The next day after getting another task ticked off my list – getting a SIM card we went out to Freemantle on the train. We did the tour of the now decommissioned prison which was very informative and brought home how inhumane the conditions really were. The growing discontent of prisoners culminated in a riot in 1988, guards were taken hostage and a fire broke out  causing almost 2 million pounds worth of damage; the prison finally closed in 1991.

Passing a football ground as the rain cleared we were told we could have free entry and even got a local to explain the Ozzy rules…although still not sure I understand fully.

Around the next corner was the markets, obviously nothing like Asia but still very interesting with a great atmosphere. I saw a stand selling local honey, not realising at the time that I would actually get to work at the very same farm!

While walking through the main street of Cappuccino Strip, known internationally as the centre of fine dining, we met Alexis a French guy who later came to live with us. We carried on past the beautiful buildings to the Round House, the oldest building still standing in Western Australia, where we were locked up in the stocks and given a sentence for an alleged crime.

We then walked alongside the cold beach, although it didn’t deter one of the locals entering the water which must have been freezing! The day ended catching up with some of the Opening Ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games.

Another train journey took us to Swan Valley where we watched kayaks and speed boats racing as well as being entertained by a band and a cookery demonstration. It was here that I received an exciting phone call about a job; unfortunately it didn’t amount to anything as they hadn’t read my CV properly – disappointing and frustrating. I have applied for so many.

Sunday I was keen to get to church and found Riverview which has close ties to Hillsong (that I am familiar with) they are in the middle of expansion, taking their congregation from 2000 to 4000+. Brian part of the tech pack-down team offered me a lift back. He was a great guy originally from NZ and shared some of his experiences about working in Malaysia, Thailand and London. He wished me well and said that I would succeed in OZ; it was one of the nicest things I had heard in such a long time and boosted me no end as the search for work was not too successful and beginning to get me down.

Back at the house Alexis told me of some charity work, for which I would be paid, so after some calls the following day I got up at 6am, signed myself up, had some training and stood for the rest of the day outside a supermarket with my Samaritans collection tin.  One of the guys I worked alongside had been doing this work for 3 years and made a good living but all day I wrestled with my conscience. Was it right to take a percentage of the takings??? At one point a guy coming out of the supermarket actually asked me what I earned, being my first day I wasn’t able to answer but it didn’t help me to feel any easier. Finally the day came to an end, I was collected and we counted out the takings. I had been given a target and had surpassed it; it turned out I was the second highest ‘earner’ of the day. But I didn’t feel like I had ‘earned ‘it and it made me feel very uncomfortable. After a sleepless night, praying for guidance, I phoned in to say I wouldn’t be going back. One of the guys questioned me on my reasons, accusing me of just being lazy – he really had no idea!

Over the next few days there were a few interesting job opportunities one which involved being marooned on an island in the middle of nowhere for 6 months. With nothing suitable being on offer I decided it was time to move on. I made a phone call to do some WWOOFING (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and set off to do some Bee Keeping.

I want to thank all the people in England that were in contact with people here in Australia on my behalf looking for work for me. I really appreciate it but it seems there is a recession on here too and the back-packing jobs that used to be on offer are now being taken by the locals who are struggling, which is only right.

Excited!

Tanjung Selor, Berau, Tantung Batu, Derawan Island back to the airport then to Balikpapan

Tanjung Selor, Berau, Tantung Batu, Derawan Island back to the airport then to Balikpapan

My last post before Australia.

You may notice that this blog and the last one have seen me quite weary. I know I am so lucky to be able to be following my dreams but if anyone is considering this, be realistic, I have had some amazing highs but life is real and knocks will come wherever you are.

After a nervous wait (due to a lack of English) I took a very hot ferry to Tanjung Selor; I then managed to get a taxi minivan ride to the waterfront. I battled a bombardment of men trying to explain that because of a festival there were no buses and I would have to car-share. Not sure whether I could trust these people (sad but true) so I decided to stay at the only hotel in the area, expensive compared to my normal expenditure but I did enjoy the luxuries. They were also able to arrange a car to Berau; it turned out to be not the most pleasant of journeys as the high speed of the crazy driver and the winding roads caused the passenger next to me to keep throwing up in his plastic bag. Needless to say we both skipped lunch at the break before we put our lives back in the hands of the driver.

My arrival in Berau had a similar story, the hostel didn’t have my booking and after quite a hassle I ended up in another hotel; I could quite get used to this level of accommodation if it wasn’t for the cost! After another uncomfortable car journey, where one of the passengers ended up getting out and not continuing, I eventually arrived at my next mode of transport, sharing a speed boat to Derawan island, noted as a place of paradise and somewhere I had been very excited about visiting.

The island is so difficult to get to that it usually only caters for Indonesian tourists, so my arrival seemed to surprise everyone. I found a Homestay with a vacant room and began to plan my stay. It was then I discovered that the only ATM on the island wouldn’t accept any of my cards. I then had to make the difficult but necessary decision to head back to the mainland. After explaining on the ferry that I had no money they continued to try to sell me, guesthouse accommodation, boat trips and even a scooter. The guy on the ferry thought it was hilarious that I had spent only one hour on the island; on the other hand I did not see the funny side at all as it had taken the best part of a week to get there. Arriving back on the mainland my luck was not about to change as the ATM’s still wouldn’t accept my cards and panic was beginning to set in. Many messages were sent home to the family and contacts made to banks etc.  but still no money. Deciding enough was enough I made my way to the airport, yet again trying to sleep in any available space but receiving many mosquito bites I had to move on. I chatted to a lovely lady waiting for her sailor husband; we had an awkward photo before I found the prayer room, sleeping on a prayer mat wrapped in my mosquito net before being woken by a janitor trying to clean.

Again I tried all the ATM’s but still no money and now no Wi-Fi either!!! I tried exchanging some Malaysian ringgits but nobody would, I asked a German lady could she help me but she was useless and probably didn’t believe my situation. Eventually two local women with average English helped me to buy a plane ticket on my credit card to Baklipapan at double the cost than I should have paid but by this time it was an emergency.

I was obviously not in the best of moods and so my patience was running out as I was greeted by the annoying taxi drivers, the ride to the guesthouse, and then having to actually get a scooter to my room which turned out to be 2 rooms shared by 10 guys and yet again no Wi-Fi. I spent the next few hours searching the city for internet access, eventually managing to camp out in a McDonalds, buying the cheapest item on the menu so I wouldn’t get chucked out (looking very much like a homeless guy I had one encountered in Canada). It took a further 3 days to discover my banking problems had been caused by an app update. With access to money I quickly booked a flight to Jakarta hoping that the capital city would hopefully afford me a little access to civilisation.

After all the stress of the money, travelling and probably eating a dodgy microwave meal it wasn’t surprising that I fell ill. Thankfully a good sleep helped and the following day I was able to get on with some exploring: a mosque, a free tourist bus to Kota which was full of colonial architecture and more markets. I met a local man who was trying to improve his English so he could keep his temporary bar job, he was afraid he would lose it so I tried to help with the little time we had together; I tried to find him later on Facebook but wasn’t able to.

Next day I was going to Gambit to catch a train to the volcanoes and hoping that life would calm down a bit and I would begin to recover from the sickness.

Bandung

I arrived in Bandung in the pouring rain; it usually lasts for about an hour and is quite funny that all the scooters stop either to dive for cover or to don ponchos. I stayed overnight at the hostel before heading out for the volcano the following day. The journey involved 3 mini-vans, where one tried to charge me a private hire charge! A final free lift got me to the volcano only to be slightly disappointed, some parts interesting but not worth the money as I couldn’t see much more than a spring. There was a random tunnel but turned out to be quite scary so turned back.

I had set off feeling OK ish but I think the stress of the last few weeks were catching up with me and I was ill again for the next few days. Feeling a bit human I carried on exploring by taking a bike tour of South Bandung; visiting a man-made lake with a heart island in the middle and a restaurant shaped like a boat, a tea plantation and Kawah a famous volcanic light blue lake of corrosive water due to its high sulphur content.

The next day I was up at 6am to catch the train to Yogyakarta about 5 hours away but a good choice as it was much more interesting than I had imagined! It was while I was there that I had another panic as I realised that my visa ran out before my pre-booked flight to Perth. I ended up having to alter my flight which incurred an extra charge and also shortened the time I thought I had to finish Indonesia. Panic over I hired a scooter to see the Buddhist Temples of Borobudur Ruins, a maritime Museum and the Hindu temples of Prambanan. The end of the day left me with a decision to make – do I go to Malang for Mount Bromo or to Bali.  Weighing up the weather, my weariness due to still not being completely well I decided to head to Bali , where as a more tourist destination I may find it a bit easier. The journey took me a further 24 hours with more problems of broken tickets machines not enough room on a bus etc etc.

Bali

I eventually arrived in Denpasar exhausted but thankful of the better weather.

My hope of finding it easier in Bali was short lived as most of the next 2 weeks were spent in bed feeling really ill. I am not sure what the problem was but I think exhaustion had set in, made worse by a long sleepless train journey and a trail around the city finding accommodation.

It was at this point that I wondered whether it was all worth it. The challenges I had experienced since arriving in Indonesia had broken me and if I had not had my flight to Perth booked I think I would have come home.

After long chats with the family and lots of rest my final days in Indonesia improved. I rented a scooter to visit the beautiful rice paddies and another volcano which turned out further than I had thought but worth it this time. I rode around taking in the sites and trying to immerse myself again in this way of life, realising that within days I would be in an English speaking country for the first time in 9 months. There are some things I won’t miss though, such as being hounded by a woman trying to get me to buy a shawl for 150 rupiah that she managed to reduce to 50 before finally realising I really wouldn’t be making a purchase.

This area of Bali was quite affluent with many people wearing traditional Buddhist costumes whereas the rest of Indonesia had seemed to very much follow a Muslim culture.

Another day I explored the south west beaches including the beautiful Balangan Beach and onward to a very picturesque cove where lots of wedding photos are taken. Further along I enjoyed watching the surfers battle the great waves and came across a Ripcurl Surfing Competition which made for a great atmosphere and cool insight in to that culture – everyone having fun looking cool and trendy; not quite the look I was sporting at the time, mine being more homeless tramp!!!

Although Kuta boasts some of the best beaches in Bali the amount of commercialism and tourists doesn’t make it my favourite place. However, I did swim at sunset and joined a  group from the Turtle Center releasing  baby turtles to their natural habitat. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this human intervention but understand that the program aims to protect the eggs and increase hatching and survival rates.

For my final evening I went out with guys from the hostel for tea and two of us treated ourselves to a back massage – very enjoyable  and I’m  sure the last one I will get for £3.

Up at 4am to meet a French girl and walk to the airport together. I had done a reccy previously and as she was quite nervous we decided to go together. Thankfully no major problems apart from the fact that I’d arrived in Indonesia on the 5th July and leaving on the 4th August meant that they decided I had overstayed by a day so was fined and delayed. I was worried I would miss my flight but at last I was on my way to Australia!!!