Back to Melbourne…Again

Between leaving Sydney and arriving in Wellington, I had close to a week in Melbourne. In case you’ve forgotten, I spent a year in Melbourne, not including the times before I started the East Coast in 2018. I might not have intended for my time in the city to go that way, but it proved that it’s more of a home to me than anywhere I’ve found in Australia so far.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed other places. Sydney has been great, Brisbane was nice but small and Perth very chilled (I won’t list everywhere, it’ll take too long) but Melbourne fit. The best thing is, whether or not that’s where I choose to go back to in the future, or elsewhere in the country, it’s not hard to get back there.

Or, if I do choose Melbourne, I can still visit my friends in Sydney and other places pretty easily!

A few reunions

The whole point of coming back here was to see some old friends. I worked in a bar, in a hostel and other jobs over my time here. I met people through meetups and events, too, so I wanted to see as many as possible – and I did!

It involved a lot of drinking and eating out, but it was worth it. It was good to relax, catch up on the news and changes and talk about what’s coming next. It felt like it was over in a flash, and before I knew it, I was packing up again to get ready for another flight.

Most importantly, though, I finally tried ramen for the first time – AND I LOVED IT!

A fitting way to end my time in Australia

It actually feels kind of fitting that I got to see my favourite comedian, Dylan Moran, in one of my favourite cities with some of the best people I’ve met so far. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end this leg of the adventure than by laughing for almost two hours constantly and enjoying a few drinks after.

Anyone on this side of the world, if you get a chance to see Moran’s Dr Cosmic tour, do it. I promise you won’t regret it. If you’ve missed it, wait for the DVD and watch it as soon as you can. I won’t describe anything to avoid spoilers.

First impressions of Wellington

So, I’ve been in Wellington, New Zealand for a couple of weeks now. I don’t have much to say yet, as there’ll be a full post in the next week or so, but I can tell you it’s a windy place! It might be the specific location (Melbourne also seems to have its own weather patterns and logic) but the scenery is stunning – even the surrounding area!

The buildings look a lot quirkier, too. There are still modern ones and towers in the CBD but even then, plenty of the buildings that give the place character. I’m looking forward to finding out more, so stay tuned!

Saying goodbye to Sydney

Just one of my views on the Manly to Spit Bridge walk

Just one of my views on the Manly to Spit Bridge walk

So, I got a bit distracted by work and plans and changing plans that I haven’t blogged for a while. Shock, horror!

I mentioned last time out that I was taking some time for myself house sitting and working at a new job, that I was going to review the situation in November and see what happens. I applied for the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa to beat the cut-off age and thought that might be a good time to go.

Oh, how plans change. Kind of.

Working hard and saving money

The job I landed in Sydney was a two-month content focused role. It paid well and allowed me to recoup a lot of the money I’d spent in the previous weeks. It was also pretty easy to get on with, as I’ve worked in the education sector before and I could see what they wanted to do. It was a bit trickier getting used to the bureaucracy of the place, and I felt I could have been used a bit more effectively (and a bit more bluntly at times) but that’s the curse of contract work.

Combined with my freelance work and the free rent from house sitting (followed by working at the hostel I moved into to pay my rent), I was able to get a good amount saved up. Considering I have a cruise holiday coming up next year, this is a good thing.

Before that contract ended, I agreed to be the weekend manager of the hostel. The meant two weeks of work without a break but it helped them and paid me more. I then went full-time at the hostel to enjoy cheap rent and keep saving money.

Looking for interesting things to do

I spent a lot of time doing things that were free to do, or cheaper than normal. I found a good swimming pool to do a bit of swimming for the first time in a long time. There are coastal walks and ferry trips to see different parts of the city, as well as events to check out.

Cemetery bordering one point of the Bondi to Coogee walk

Cemetery bordering one point of the Bondi to Coogee walk

That’s not to say I didn’t spend money. I went out with friends, saw some comedy shows and much more.

The two main walks were the Bondi to Coogee and Manly to Spit Bridge. The former is shorter and takes you up, down, in and out around the coast. There are some big and small beaches, as well as coves and cliffs to get some stunning photos. There’s even a cemetery at one point, which is a beautiful sight next to the sea. You’ll find bars and restaurants at either end, and the walk continues from either side if you want to explore more.

The Manly to Spit Bridge walk is longer and windier. It’s not on the coast as such but following the river heading into Sydney harbour on the north side. There are national parks, beaches and some stunning views to the south shore as you carry one. There are plenty of climbs and dips so plenty of water and good shoes are a must.

View from the top of the Chinese Garden of Friendship

View from the top of the Chinese Garden of Friendship

Ferry trips to Manly or Taronga Zoo will give you a good view of the city without paying huge prices, and the Botanical Gardens are a great place to relax, with an Art Gallery close by. Unfortunately, the museum was closed for renovation work when I was there so that’s on the list for next time.

Darling Harbour has a firework display each Saturday, which is a nice way to change the view while enjoying a drink and/or a meal around the popular area. Not far from this is the Chinese Garden of Friendship, which is a great place to relax and unwind despite the bustle of the city on the other side of the walls.

The next adventure

At this point, I’m pretty settled in Sydney. I could keep going in the hostel while waiting for a new contract marketing job and enjoy the summer. I’d met friends who I enjoyed spending time with, and there were things coming up that would make the end of this visa a really enjoyable time. However, an opportunity arose in Wellington. The chain that I’ve been working on and off for since being in Australia had a job that was perfect for me and not something I could turn down.

That meant, coincidentally, I ended up heading to New Zealand in November – the time I said I’d review the situation. Funny how things work out like that, eh?

I spent the last week there rushing around, seeing as many people as possible. Last minute plans are always a bit tricky but not everyone was tied up, thankfully.

I’m a little behind in writing this, so the next stop was Melbourne for a week to catch up with some friends from my year there before flying to Wellington (where I am now). The updates will follow shortly!

Finding my feet in Sydney

So, after having no luck finding work in Darwin or Brisbane (although I did come close in the former), I came to Sydney primarily to save money. How, you ask, considering it’s a big city and more expensive to live? House sitting.

This is apparently a big thing, and there are websites where you can stay in someone’s house while they’re on holiday. It might involve looking after their pet(s) or it might be just to make sure there’s someone home, so it doesn’t look like a target for thieves. I’m not sure, but it’s a friend of mine who offered me the chance and I took it – especially since right now I have both a dog and a cat to keep me company.

The CBD and Opera House from North Sydney

I admit, living in Sydney had never really appealed until this point. It reminded me of London, which I enjoyed visiting but couldn’t imagine living. The same felt true of Sydney on previous visits. Having been here a few weeks, I’m reconsidering that idea.

Finally getting a job

A bigger city means more opportunities for jobs, that was the hope. While I had a few weeks of free rent, I planned to use that time to get my New South Wales RSA and find a job somewhere. As it turns out, that wasn’t necessary.

I contacted a recruiter the day before I flew from Brisbane and the next day, I had an interview book for the end of the week. Thirty minutes after the interview, I had a job! Not in a bar or hospitality but in my chosen field of digital marketing. A short-term contract in the education industry that pays very well!

I couldn’t have hoped for better as I can easily save money for the next part of my travels while living comfortably, if a little frugally, for the new few months.

Immediately, I’m more at ease. I’m glad to have this opportunity and continue gaining experience, and once I’ve had a few pay checks, I’ll get on with exploring Sydney more thoroughly.

I’m in my third week already, so that’ll happen soon!

Getting some time to myself

One of the advantages to house sitting is getting some personal space. It’s a welcome change after so long in hostels. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some great people in hostels…but I’ve also met some utter *****. That’s to be expected, and it will continue for as long as this adventure does. More on that, shortly.

Sunset with Sydney Harbour Bridge

While I’m working full-time much quicker than expected, I’m taking this time to clear my head, relax and do some solid writing. I have a book that I want to finish this month, which should happen unless something drastic happens.

I’m also going on walks and just generally exploring the area. I’m in North Sydney, which isn’t somewhere I’d normally think of going but walking over the bridge is impressive and there’s a nice walk along the shoreline where you can see the CBD, the Opera House and such. There’s more to see, even more so on the other side of the CBD but that’ll come soon enough, I’m sure.

Making plans for the future

While my Australian Working Holiday Visa runs until February 2020, I’m not sure I’ll stay that long. I want to go to New Zealand and I’m in the process of applying for their WHV. I have to do it now as I’m getting VERY close to the cut-off age, so now is the time.

While I don’t have a set plan just yet, I’m thinking November. Part of it will depend on work and what else I want to see and do before leaving the country. There’s more to see and I’ll be back to see it one day, although I also get the feeling I’d like to live in the country for a longer time one day. That, however, is something for another day.

Returning to Brisbane

Despite what it looks like, it’s not far to find this view of Brisbane

Brisbane was always one of those ‘what if’ cities for me. I spent two days here on my East Coast adventure last year but it didn’t feel like enough. That said, it’s not the biggest city in the country but I barely scratched the surface last time so it felt like I had unfinished business here. Combined with knowing a couple of people in and close to the city, I was in higher hopes of finding a job here than in Darwin.

That didn’t mean I was going to waste any time, though. My flight landed at about 7am (seriously, what’s with the flight times in and out of Darwin?! Cheap, sure, but not always convenient) and after dropping my bag off at the hostel, it was straight onto looking for work.

Continuing the job hunt

Okay, so the library wasn’t open when I got there but that’s fine. I went and grabbed some breakfast, a sugary one to keep me awake (it’s times like this that I wished I liked coffee). Then it was onto the job sites like Seek and Indeed, Facebook groups and company websites. I emailed recruiters, digital marketing companies, shops, cinemas, bars, restaurants and more over the next three weeks.

I didn’t even get one interview – I almost did! Then they found out I was a backpacker and that got shot down. Great.

While some places took my CV, a lot seemed to have already hired or were more interested in locals. That’s fair enough, I guess, but I do have a lot of experience in both digital marketing and hospitality.

I did get a (very) casual gig, which I hoped would be the start of more – not from that place, just in general – but it never really took off. It’s a shame because what I saw of Brisbane was really nice!

Living frugally

If there’s one thing the last few months have taught me, it’s how to live cheaply. This meant cutting back on the luxuries like booze and snacks to save money, hunt the shops for food going cheap and buying cheaper clothes to tide me over.

Brisbane from Mt Coot-tha

Travelling itself isn’t cheap. There’s rent to pay, transport costs and then the price of activities or things to do. Sure, there are some free things but there’s only so often you can do those before going crazy.

I had some savings but the big thing I told myself was to still do stuff. The things that cost could be done, in moderation, and

going for a couple of drinks won’t hurt too much if you keep a handle on it – and find somewhere cheap, which I did!

One example was taking the bus to Mt Coot-tha – and that’s because it’s a really steep hill! I was rewarded with a stunning view of Brisbane and made the walk down to explore the botanical gardens at the bottom. Top tip: the café at the lookout has some really nice ice cream.

Brisbane CBD at night

I also did a lot of walking around Brisbane, exploring the parklands of South Bank alongside the river, the CBD, Fortitude Valley and beyond. At night, you can get some great sunsets crossing the river and the lights are quite something, changing patterns and colours quite regularly.

Moving on again

Alas, after three more weeks of not working, and being no closer to finding a job, it was time to move on again. I had an offer to house sit for a few weeks in Sydney, which would save me a fair bit of money and, hopefully, help me find a job in one of the country’s biggest cities.

Again, to not waste time, I was straight onto the recruiters to find out what was going on. There’s one opportunity that might pay off, but we’ll see how that goes before I go getting my hopes up.

Thankfully, the flight from Brisbane to Sydney is not only cheaper and shorter, but at more reasonable times.

Time to see what Sydney has to offer!

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.