Three weeks in Darwin

I like to think I’ve been pretty honest about this trip since it started. I’ve shown you the good and the bad, even though it’s mostly been good. I was hoping Darwin would continue that trend – and it has, but it’s also thrown a few wrinkles my way.

That’s not unexpected, but unfortunately, those wrinkles haven’t worked out the way I wanted. I couldn’t find work at all, which isn’t to say there isn’t any (although there’s not much, it seems) but I made no headway in getting a job compared to everyone else looking. That’s disappointing.

So, after three weeks of living frugally, I’m heading to Brisbane to try my luck there. I really enjoyed it for the couple of days I spent there last year and, hopefully, it’ll be a bit more fruitful and I can recoup the money from Darwin and then some.

That’s not to say Darwin wasn’t good. I really enjoyed it, and I did a few pretty cool things.

Exploring the city

A gorgeous sunset in Darwin

Darwin is different to any other city I’ve seen in Australia. It had the sleepiness of Perth but not the size. The coastline is beautiful but you can’t swim (crocodiles and Irukandji rule the waters) although you can find some great sunsets at certain spots.

There’s a free museum, plenty of bars and restaurants, seasonal events and…not much else?

That’s probably not true, but I spent most of my time hunting for work, so I probably missed some stuff.

What is worth seeing are the markets on a Thursday and Sunday, with the latter being a better time to go. Catch the sunset, grab some food, have a drink and enjoy some music, and while there are buses to get you there, you can also walk in about 20 minutes.

The V8 Supercars

The V8 Supercars in Darwin

I was lucky enough that the V8 Supercars were in Darwin while I was there. I’ve seen them at both F1 races in Melbourne over the last two years but to see them in their own right, on a small and intimate track, was something else.

It also reminded me of the BTCC weekends back in the UK. Yes, it’s motorsport but different, too. There was music each night and free buses to and from the track, and while I only made two days out of three, I enjoyed seeing the racing and some music – although one big name that I did recognise was The Veronicas. That was interesting.

Discovering Litchfield Park

To make sure I really got to see even just a little bit of the Northern Territory, I booked a day tour to Litchfield Park on my final weekend. This was going to be a long day, as we set off at 6am!

Jumping crocodiles!

While a lot of people choose a three or five day tour of Kakadu, a much larger national Park, it wasn’t really in my budget or available time. That being said, I had a great day. Some people don’t like tours, preferring to do things their way. That’s fine, but as a solo traveller who doesn’t drive, this was a better option for me, and the tour guide knew his stuff.

We started with a jumping crocodile river tour on the River Adelaide, and let me tell you, those things are sneaky. More than once while we were watching on one side, another would swim up to the other and take us by surprise!

Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park

This was followed by heading into Litchfield itself and we stopped at three different swimming spots, complete with waterfalls and fish – the first, Wangi Falls could have, and probably did have, freshwater crocs but those ones are small and timid, not likely to bite you (according to our guide). Needless to say, we were all fine.

The water helped wake me up!

The second spot, Florence Falls, was my favourite, though. That’s even with the water being the coldest of three spots.

There was a lot of driving but plenty of sights and information passed on to us. I was knackered at the end!

Crocosaurus Cove

On my last day in the city, I ventured to Crocosaurus Cove. You’d be forgiven for thinking this a small place, given how it might look on a map or from the surrounding buildings, but there’s an impressive array of reptiles, fish and crocodiles here.

And some are absolute monsters!

It’s easy to spend a couple of hours here, learning about these creatures, their habitats and lifestyles but there are also live demonstrations to get closer and find out more. However, it was one particular activity that caught my eye.

It’s called The Cage of Death and it puts you in one of the crocodile enclosures.

The Cage of Death at Crocosaurus Cove

There are four different enclosures you can be put in and it all depends on the croc itself, how it’s been behaving, how much energy it has and such. The one I was put in had two, both smaller than the others but it included the only female they have. She stayed away, which is a good thing since she can be pretty aggressive. Her mate, however, got very close. He circled the cage and got right up and close and they fed him, allowing me to hear that whopping thud when those jaws clamp down.

I’m not going to lie; I jumped every time.

It was the eyes, though. They pierce your soul. I felt pretty safe but there’s no guarantees with these activities and while these are tamer crocs than you’d find in the wild, if something did go wrong, those things would tear me to pieces.

Oh, and they’re named Will and Kate after, you know, the Royals.

Still, it was a great experience and kept me busy while I waited for my early morning flight. And now, we see what Brisbane brings.

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Time for a change

It’s been over a year since I flew back to Melbourne from Cairns. A full year! That’s kinda crazy, really. I had a plan; get to Melbourne, find a job, restore my finances and get on the move again. It took a while to get going but accomplish that I did. I had hoped to get it done in a few months but by early January, I was ready.

Yet, I stayed. For another FIVE MONTHS. Why?

Sunset in Melbourne’s CBD

Simple; I love the city. I made friends, had decent jobs and it was summer. Why would I leave?

I can really imagine myself settling and living in Melbourne for years in the future, but for now, there are places to see. That’s why I’m here right now. I may have an idea of what I want in a few years’ time but, for now, it’s time to get back to my original goal – seeing different parts of Australia.

Why Darwin?

I know a few people who have been and they liked it. Some say there’s plenty of work, others disagree. It could be a huge mistake, making me go somewhere else but it’s a risk I’m willing to take right now.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but, I feel cold in Melbourne – and winter hasn’t fully hit yet! We’re still in the mid-teens for temperature but there is a chilly breeze that bites. How I’m going to survive a winter in the UK in the future is beyond me. For now, know that the average temperature during the day in Darwin is 30 degrees. Once I’d have thought that was too hot, but now I’m looking forward to it.

I’m hoping to find work quickly and just knuckle down and work, using my days off to see the city and the surrounding area. I’ve been told it’s incredibly different, so I’m looking forward to it.

What next?

I couldn’t say, really. I’ll be back to Melbourne before I leave. That’s a given. I’m definitely aiming for New Zealand later in the year, too. This is going to be my only shot to do it, so it feels right.

I’m doing a lot behind the scenes, too. I launched a new website for my writing last week and I’m working on a whole new look and setup for Innate Wanderings. The running blog will continue but with a lot more content on different places I’ve been, how to get to grips with it and what (I think) you need to know.

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, since I’ve been to a few places now, and have many more coming up. It’ll still be the good AND the bad, though. Honesty is still the goal, and hopefully this’ll be ready in a month or so.

Until then, I’ll keep you updated as to how I get on in the north!

A sudden change of plans

Every so often, you get comfortable. That’s been me since October. I got a job, which was boring and too easy for me but it let me sort out my finances, get some money behind me and even offered prospects of staying in Australia if I wanted it.

And I do want that. The question is, when do I want it?

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I realise that I don’t want it now. There’s too much to see and do out there, and while I’d love to come back and live here, it’d be wrong to stop doing this now. Not only that, but I came out here to get out of the mundane life, and I got myself back into it, just in a new place. So, it’s time for a change.

Getting out of my comfort zone…again

So, for reasons I won’t go into (they’re dull and political and I can’t be arsed), I’m leaving my job next month. That’s going to represent a shift in what I’m doing here, obviously.

I’m planning a trip in May/June, and I was supposed to keep working until that point. With 4-6 weeks of time before that, I’m either going to have to find another job and keep saving or budget myself a lot stricter. Neither option is impossible.

Do I stay in Melbourne or look elsewhere? That’s another question. Financially, Melbourne is the best option but maybe leaving isn’t bad for me. Maybe I can find something else that I don’t know I’m missing yet.

The questions remain but thankfully, I’ve got time to figure them out. Updates to follow later.

The beginning of the 1000 Steps walking trail

The beginning of the 1000 Steps walking trail

Speaking of comfort zones, along with a friend, I visited the 1000 Steps one very hot weekend. Now, in actual fact, it’s not a thousand but around the 800ish mark. The greenery was lovely and some of the views gorgeous. Next time, I won’t do it in 30+ degree heat!

Moomba festival and writing groups

I’ve been working about four jobs for the last few months, just saving money. That means free time is limited and I’m saving a lot more than I planned. Great, but there’s probably a lot of things passing me by that I’ve missed.

The Moomba festival sign

The Moomba festival sign

So, this last week I went to check out the start of the Moomba Festival. Now, I don’t know much about this other than it’s a long weekend festival with a carnival and involves people dressing up in silly costumers and jumping into the Yarra River. All credit, I’m sure it’s some kinda fun but that river doesn’t look clean! I saw the carnival with a friend but didn’t see that stuff because it happens later in the weekend, when I’m busy!

In January, I joined a writing group in Melbourne. It’s been amazing to meet other writers here and it’s given me fresh motivation to keep writing myself, which sometimes happens at the hostel but usually in a library or one of the writing sessions they organise. It’s hard to make it to every session due to the jobs, but it’s something I’ll keep looking into as I move forward, I think.

Download and the F1

This coming week, however, is going to be much more fun. I’m going to Australia’s second ever Download Festival, having never made it to any of the UK events. This is only a one day festival but the line-up looks great and giving the weather here, it’ll be as good as Good Things back in December.

I have one day at work and then the F1 returns to Albert Park. I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s event and, given how this new season is looking, this will be even better. I also know the track better so I already have an idea of where to put myself throughout the weekend.

It’s crazy to think it’s been almost a year since last year’s race. Time flies when you’re having fun, so don’t waste it.

That’s my guiding mantra going forward, I think.

Looking back at the last 12 months

I actually can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I landed in Australia! It’s been an incredible experience from start to finish, and the includes my short time in Hong Kong just before. I can honestly say that this has been the best decision I’ve made since graduating university back in 2012.

It hasn’t always been easy, and there are times I felt pretty low, but I’ve gotten through them and I’m glad I didn’t give up. I have to thank everyone who helped me, no matter how big or small, get through the struggles.

I’m still learning, and still looking forward to seeing and doing more, but this seemed like a good time to revisit some of the trip, partly for you but mostly for me.

The highs

There are so many! I have some favourite moments, though, but in no particular order:

Help! I'm falling out of a plane!

Help! I’m falling out of a plane!

Skydiving in Cairns

Given my disliking of heights, falling from 15,000 feet doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy but it was amazing! Even better, it was at sunrise! Getting over the initial fear and settling into it allowed me to enjoy the views and sensation. Would do again.

Sunset in Byron Bay

Sunset in Byron Bay

Sunset in Byron Bay

It might not be the best sunset ever, but the place is stunning and the water, the hills, the lighthouse – they all add to the effect. This was just after surf camp so I was already on a high from that. I also got to catch up with an old friend, so bonus.

Magnetic Island

This is a dream getaway with koalas, wildlife and beaches. The island is small and scenic – you can walk across it and back in less than a day, but there are a lot of hills. I could have done with more time here but I was able to recharge my batteries, hug a koala and get some great views, too.

The lows

Before I left, I promised to share the good and the bad, and there’s been a few lows along the way.

Not being able to find work

This hit me hard at the end of my east coast trip. I had gone almost six months without working, other than bits of freelance, and had run out of money. I survived a little longer before taking the plunge and coming back to Melbourne, which has proven to be the right decision. I got so low that I almost decided to come home before and after this decision. I’m glad I didn’t but I found it hard to stay motivated when I felt like I couldn’t catch a break. Lessons were learnt, though, and I won’t get in that situation again.

Feeling a little lost and alone

There have been a few times that travelling solo has hit me. This was most obvious when I had no money and no job but every so often, despite being a solitary person who likes my own space, I’ve missed being around people I know – and other backpackers don’t really count. I miss people from back home and the familiarity and security they offer, even if only for a short while.

The mundane

Working full-time can be quite mundane. After arriving in Melbourne, I got a bar job in a music venue. Easy enough but good fun. I also started working in the hostel I’ve been staying in, mostly doing nightshifts. That was different for me but ruined my body clock.

Eventually, I got a full-time 9-5 back in digital marketing. It pays well and I’m using this chance to save as much as I can, without living a boring life in Melbourne. There are definitely worse jobs out there, though.

The top pick

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

The stars on Fraser Island

Hands down, this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry there’s no picture but they were breath-taking and I’d love to see them again. Fraser Island itself is also one of the best things I’ve done in Australia. It’s so serene and beautiful, but dangerous at times, too. Gorgeous lakes and rivers, champagne pools and a rainforest all on one sand island.

Other moments

Quokka

Quokka

The F1 at Albert Park was fantastic! The race itself might not have been the most exciting but seeing it somewhere else for the first time was something else – and it was so cheap to do!

Surf camp was so much fun, and I really would like to do more surfing over the next year.

Visiting Perth to see a friend from Manchester was awesome – I had my own tour guide! We saw dolphins, penguins, quokkas and much more.

The whole east coast trip was incredible, and something I can’t wait to experience again, kind of, when I do the west coast!

Bringing in 2019 in Melbourne

My first blog post of 2019 is a little later than I’d planned but things have been quite hectic over the last two months! That’s hectic in a good way; I’ve turned up to a writing group in Melbourne, been to a festival, had some time off over Christmas and, most importantly, got my second-year visa.

I’m staying in Australia for a bit longer!

It removes my initial dilemma of what to do next and lets me take time to see more here, save up more money and THEN make a decision. That suits me just fine. I’ve settled in Melbourne well, I could see myself living here much longer, but that’s not why I came here. At least not yet.

One another note, it’s just over two weeks until I landed here in 2018 – that’s a whole year! I’m going to do a full recap then but, in the meantime, here’s what’s been going on.

Good Things Festival

The Offspring at Good Things Festival

The Offspring at Good Things Festival

I’d been looking forward to this festival for months. A day-long rock festival in Melbourne with some great bands and headlined by The Offspring – who played the entire Smash album and then some! What’s not to love about this?

The heat. That’s what. It was apparently 39 degrees Celsius that day and that meant I had to be careful. I missed the first couple of hours, which normally I wouldn’t, to make sure I could last the day. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune while I was there.

Bands I saw included Babymetal – who are awesome, by the way! – Dropkick Murphys, Bullet for my Valentine, Stonesour and, of course, The Offspring. The first and last of this list were the highlights, definitely, and now I’m looking forward to Download festival in March,

The not-so festive season

New Years Eve fireworks in Melbourne

New Years Eve fireworks in Melbourne

Christmas was a weird one. It was summer here, so no snow or cold weather. After 29 years, it was a big change. The end result was it didn’t feel very Christmas-y. So much so that I decided to work Christmas Eve and Day at the hostel, the latter paying almost $50 an hour so it made sense. Anything I could do that day, I could do any other day here.

More importantly, it was good just to relax for a while and take some time for myself. Do a little writing. Catch up on sleep. Spend some time on the beach. You know, that kind of stuff.

New Years was a little better. I went down to the lake at Albert Park for midnight and watched the fireworks as the clock ticked over. It was impressive; fireworks launched from countless rooftops in the CBD in a coordinated display for over ten minutes. Sydney tends to be a popular choice but it’s worth checking Melbourne’s display, too.

Doing more exploring

Melbourne CBD from Williamstown

Melbourne CBD from Williamstown

There’s a lot to see and do around Melbourne, and I’ve been lax the last few months in making the most of my time here. This weekend, I spent a day in Williamstown, just across the bay from where I’m staying in St Kilda.

It’s a nice place. Quaint. Quiet. Picturesque. There wasn’t much to do, but some really nice views and walks. I’m making a point to get out more on the weekend and see new places in and around the city. Afterall, why else am I here?

What does 2019 hold?

As I mentioned, Download festival returns to Melbourne for it’s second year and the following weekend brings the opening race of the F1 season. After how much fun I had last year, I’m definitely going to that, too.

In between times, there’s more work to be done to keep saving money before I take four or five weeks off work to go and explore the west coast. This will be a completely different beast to the east, where I took a bus and did it alone, as I’m going with three others and we’re driving (well, they are, since, y’know, I can’t drive).

After that, I’ll have decisions to make again. There’s more travelling to be done but I’ll need more money and the work situation will have an impact.