Cairns and the Great Australian Job hunt

So, it’s been a little while and not much really happened, if I’m honest. When I first arrived in Australia, I wasn’t sure if I was going to do the second year of my working holiday visa. I’m still not, honestly, but what I am sure of is I need money, badly.

Just one nice spot as I walked my way through Cairns

Just one nice spot as I walked my way through Cairns

So, when I planned this trip up the east coast, it was after being told that there would be a lot of farm work up this end of the country that would pay and give me the days needed to fulfil the criteria for my second year. Oh, there are farms but not to the extent that I could just walk into a job, which is what I was given the impression of.

Cue two weeks of job hunting – and I mean any kind of job, as I’m that skint – to get me something. This wasn’t a fun two weeks. There are a lot of things to do in the area but with no money, I couldn’t even afford a beer on occasion. This meant a lot of walking around the city with CVs in hand, sitting at the lagoon and a lot of aimless wandering.

It was really frustrating, and while I knew something would come up eventually, it didn’t make me feel better at the time. Thankfully I had some good friends, both in and out of Australia, who helped me stay positive. You guys are legends, and I really appreciate you letting me rant and moan and complain.

I had to borrow of the parents and activate my overdraft from the UK bank, so there was money available to me but if I could go back and tell myself to be a little bit more careful, I would. Some of the money issues were out of my control but even so. The trip has been amazing and I’ve loved it all (aside from this low moment, the worst I’ve felt since those first few hours in Hong Kong where I was suffering from a lack of sleep) but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

My view on the Mango farm near Dimbulah

My view on the Mango farm near Dimbulah

I signed up with a job agency in Cairns and it finally paid off, so I headed to a farm near Dimbulah, pruning mango and avocado trees. The place was nice, a group of eleven stay onsite in pretty nice twin rooms (my roommate graciously let me have the bottom bunk!) with a huge kitchen that ACTUALLY HAS OVENS AND GRILLS! I didn’t have to fry everything for the moment. Its luxury compared to the last three and a half months.

Wow. It’s been that long already. That’s crazy – it feels like only a few weeks since I got here and I’ve seen some major spots of the country…read; cities and popular/obvious spots. There’s so much to see and do, and it’s so massive, that I’m wondering if I’ll see as much as I want to!

I digress, that’s a topic for another time. Here’s the important thing you need to know.

However, it didn’t work out. I won’t go into details because it’s long and boring but basically I’m not cut out for that kind of work. My hand is still incredibly messed up and painful, so I came back to Cairns and fly to Melbourne on Saturday. There’s more chance of getting a job there, I reckon, and I need to work for a while, get into a routine of some sort and start writing properly again.

Side note; I started my next project and that has helped take some weight off me. Bonus.

It’s going to be cold in Melbourne but I’m looking forward to going back. While I’ve liked a lot of places and seeing all these things, Melbourne already feels a little like home so it’ll be great to be back.

The job hunt continues.

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The East Coast: Cairns and Skydiving

I’m in Cairns! At last! Five weeks this trip has taken me. I’ve seen some amazing things, met some fantastic people and had a few setbacks but that’s normal, right?

Now, being a grumpy old man, I was thankful not to be in a party hostel. It’s a 30-minute walk into town but it’s a nice walk (when it isn’t raining – those tropical storms are a pain!) and the hostel does regular buses through the day and night.

Cairns Lagoon

Cairns Lagoon

I spent some time exploring, and like some stops along the way, Cairns has a lagoon where you can swim and chill. It’s not a good idea to go in the sea cause, you know, crocodiles. I do not fancy being eaten by those things.

Now, here’s one of the biggest highlights of my trip; the skydive.

Yup, the guy who has a fear of heights is going to jump (or be pushed, however you want to say it) out of a plane. I thought I’d be terrified by this point but I was actually pretty calm.

Then I got a phone call the day before. With some bad weather predicted, they wanted me to go early. That’s cool, I figured I’d get picked up at about 8am. That’s fine.

NOPE. Try 5am!

Never in my life, that I remember, have I woken up at 4am before. Been up from the night before? Sure. That’s happened a fair few times.

Oh well, it did mean a sunrise skydive. How cool would that be? The answer is pretty damn cool!

I’ll admit, quite happily, the nerves started kicking in the moment I woke up. I mean, am I seriously going to fall out of a plane at 15,000 feet? It was a tandem skydive, so I was fairly confident of being safe but still, that’s high!

My instructor was cool, and kept me talking throughout, which helped. Other than distracting me until everyone was in the plane. That meant that we’d be the first one out. Shit. Like, SHIT!

(Apologies to anyone reading this not a fan of such language, but it’s the actual thought that I had at that moment. Authenticity, you know?)

Climbing was bad enough. There are two absolutely terrifying points of this experience. The first is when the door opens and you swing your legs out and under the plane. You have to really tuck them under. I can’t remember why but he did tell me. You can feel the wind trying to pull you out. That in itself is scary.

The worst bit, though? How about those first three seconds you leave the plane. I say leave because I didn’t jump, nor did it feel like a push. You have this thought, like “Holy shit, I’ve fallen out of a plane! What do I do? Crap crap crap!”

Help! I'm falling out of a plane!

Help! I’m falling out of a plane!

After that, you settle into it. You relax. You look around. See the sun rising over the clouds, the patterns of the clouds themselves, the ocean, the rainforest, the ground.

The ground!

Right, let me be clear. If you closed your eyes, you wouldn’t know how fast you’re falling. The amount of air hitting you and the resistance it creates does a good job of making you think you’re almost hovering there, like a big fan is holding you up. Open those eyes and you can tell easier you’re falling.

It was such a thrill, and I was allowed to put us in a spin after the parachute was opened. That was fun! I expected jelly legs after landing but, other than my hair being a tangled mess, I was fine. I’d actually do it again! I know what to expect and it was really cool! Not sure I’d ever get to the point I’d jump out myself but who knows?

A few days later, and I’m due to go scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. All goes well until the boat SETS OFF and then they find out I had asthma as a kid, over 20 years ago. Without a medical certificate, I can’t do it.

The Great Barrier Reef, as seen from the boat

The Great Barrier Reef, as seen from the boat

So, I’m stuck on a boat for 9 hours. Thankfully I took a book. I got a couple of pictures from the boat but it’s not the same. I was offered snorkelling but you have to stay on the surface and people said they couldn’t see much so I passed.  I’m 99% sure I’d have been fine to do it had I known to get one!

The crew were nice about it, though, so I can’t knock them. The photos of others doing it looked awesome. One day, I’ll come back again and do it.

That was a little disappointing but already my attention is shifting. I’m really poor now and I need a job. Time to get one, ideally farm work to help with the second-year visa.

I’ll do a round-up of the whole trip and my thoughts shortly, once that work has been acquired and I can get a stable routine going for a while.

It’s been one hell of a trip, with a few things still left to do. I’m actually really tired, ha! Until next time, people!

The East Coast: Townsville, Magnetic Island, Mission Beach and Rafting

Less complaining, more enjoying. Now that the Greyhound disaster is done, I can get back to enjoying this trip of mine, right?

Well, mostly.

I’m still suffering from it. The money I lost from not doing the Whitsundays tour and then having to pay for extra accommodation during that time sucks but I’m working on it.

Townsville at night, from Castle Hill

Townsville at night, from Castle Hill

Anyway, realising there isn’t that much to do in Airlie Beach beyond the Whitsundays and drinking, I decided to change my trip and leave a day early. Originally, I was only going to be in Townsville for a little while, either side of my Magnetic Island trip. Instead I decided to spend a night there and see it.

There’s not much there, but I didn’t have time to research it. I found a decent hostel and decided to walk up to Castle Hill for sunset. Only, I was a little late and before I was even half way up it was dark. That didn’t stop me – but it did make me realise how much fitness I’d lost! When I’m settled somewhere, I’ll work on that again.

The views were great, and probably would have been better in daylight but time was going to stop me doing that again. I sat and watched the lights from all around the viewpoint before walking down in even less light.

What did we do before our phones had torches?! Then again, I wasn’t the only one doing it, so maybe it wasn’t that foolish a decision. You decide.

Koala Kuddle!

Koala Kuddle!

The next day, it was off to Magnetic Island for two nights. I was staying in the YHA, which also includes a Koala Sanctuary. I did the tour that day with a friend (who I swear is following me up from Byron Bay!) and I held lizards, birds and got a koala cuddle!

My word, they are the most cuddly things ever, for the few seconds I was allowed to hold it. It didn’t want to let me go, either!

We then did the Fort Walk where we got some amazing views of the island and saw a couple of wild koalas on the way back. That made it a good day.

The next day, I walked around the island a little, went to a few beaches and lookout points, like Arthur Beach and Alma Bay, with a big hill walk in between. I know I ask this a lot, but WHY do I walk up big hills in the heat? I feel like I’m trying to kill myself.

Also, take a lot of water. I keep forgetting that.

It’s worth noting that this hostel had the comfiest beds I’ve been in since leaving home back in January. I slept like a baby both nights. Other hostels; take note!

Then it was another bus to Mission Beach. I didn’t see any of it, except the Woolworths and my hostel, as it was dark by the time I arrived and I had to be up the next morning for Xtreme Rafting.

Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, the Xtreme Rafting didn’t have enough people so I was offered the normal full day rafting instead. I was a little disappointed but they were still going to take me to Cairns at the end of the day, which was easier than going back to the hostel, getting a bus into town and another bus to Cairns.

We had a great day for it. The sun was blazing down on us, and the river was full, with the power station letting out as much as possible. That meant a good day, according to our guide.

White water rafting in Tully

White water rafting in Tully

I got put at the front with the only other guy on the boat. It was tricky at times keeping in synch with each other but we got there. Every time we were told we could jump in the water, I did. I enjoyed floating down through the current. It also helped stave off the cold water somewhat, but the heat was so strong that we dried off pretty quickly. There were squeals as cold water hit us. I was not immune.

It was a little stop and start at times, as we had to make sure every boat got through each section safely. I ended up being the one to hold us in place more than a couple of times. Did I mention how unfit I am now? It was made even clearer here.

We were the only boat not to have anyone fall in – unintentionally, I should add. Every other boat had rafters, or even an instructor, fall in at some point. There’s a point where we all fell in after a short drop, but that was planned. A very good way to wake up. The lunch was also great!

Then it was off to Cairns, where I slept soundly, with a fair few things to do over the next week – including a skydive!

The East Coast: Agnes Water, Airlie Beach and the Greyhound Disaster

So, the Greyhound from Noosa to Agnes Water takes around 9 hours, with two 30-minute breaks. Thankfully, it was one of the nice buses I’ve been on with leather eats and plenty of legroom. That really helped.

Compared to some shorter bus rides (ie, the idiot who kept jumping in his seat for two hours), it was pleasant. I read a bit, had a snooze and just watched the world go by. Even now, I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why this trip wasn’t done as an overnight – or my next one – which would have saved a little on hostel fees but such is life.

The beach at Agnes Water

The beach at Agnes Water

Agnes Water is one of my last chances to surf, really – on this trip. After ruining my body, legs and hand at Spot X, I was ready to get back on the board. Unfortunately, adulting got in the way. I won’t go into details but I lost the morning talking to dumbass companies who have managed to screw things up and affected my finances so I decided to not surf, in case that money doesn’t come back to me.

I had a wander around the town, which is REALLY small, for a couple of hours then returned to the hostel to chill by the pool. I did want to go to 1770 but in the end bike hire got in the way and I didn’t fancy the 3-hour roundtrip walk in this heat.

Another time.

Then it’s a 9-and-a-half-hour Greyhound to Airlie Beach. Agnes was a nice rest spot, because an 18-hour coach journey really did not appeal AT ALL!

It felt like way too soon that I was back at the coach stop for the next long-haul, and the last one of this trip, thankfully. There were seven of us waiting and no coach.

Now, I’m telling you this because, as amazing as this trip has been, and still is, there are problems. This is one of the biggest so far. About fifteen minutes after the coach was due, I got a text message saying there would be a two-hour delay. Okay, not great but we went to a café for food.

After those two hours we returned and still no coach. This is when we started calling for more information, only to be told they’d be in touch when they knew more, as they were waiting for an engineer and that, in the end, took four hours! Of course, there wasn’t a mechanic closer, typically.

Finally, after five hours of waiting around, the coach was cancelled. We were all annoyed, understandably, as the lack of information then made it impossible to book any other transport for that day.

I was probably in the worst position because I had a Whitsundays tour the next morning, which I was now going to miss. Say goodbye to $500, Dave, because that trip’s gone. It also meant paying for another night in Agnes Water, which is nice but since the insects like me, it wasn’t the greatest thing for me.

The guys at Southern Cross were great, I got a bit of a discount and put back in the same room, where no one else was staying that night. My first night of actual privacy since January! A small consolation, at least.

The next day we got on the coach, and began the long journey to Airlie Beach, which is a nice place. It’s bigger than Agnes Water but there’s still not much to do, and without the Whitsundays tour, I’m a feeling a bit lost.

Airlie Beach Lagoon

Airlie Beach Lagoon

There are some really nice coastal walks to spend a bit of time doing but since there’s no real or great beach here, they’ve made an artificial one, on a similar idea to Brisbane but freshwater. It’s called the Airlie Lagoon and I’ll be there everyday till I leave.

The tiredness and stress over the last couple of days have caught up to me. The Base/Nomads hostel have been great, moving my bookings around so that I didn’t miss out on one of the two nights booked, which is a big help but now I’m working out what to do next.

A bit of downtime to recharge, I think, and I may head to Townsville a day earlier – not for fear of breakdowns, as these things happen, but just to put this stint behind me.

It’s a massive shame because this tour was one of the highlights of the trip. I was offered the chance to do a day trip, or a two-day/one-night trip but given what I’ve paid for already, that feels like a waste. Now I’m going to fight to get my money back and come back in the future to do it properly. It’s a reason to do some of the east coast again, at least!

Now, let’s be clear. This hasn’t been the best update, and maybe it’s a little bit of a moan (sorry) but it’s worth documenting and, like I said earlier, it doesn’t get rid of all the amazing things I’ve seen and done since being in Australia or this trip.

Let’s see what happens next, eh?

The East Coast: Brisbane, Noosa and Fraser Island

From Surfer’s Paradise in the Gold Coast to Brisbane, a city of split views – at least, that’s what I’ve heard so far.

About half the people said Brisbane is great and the other half said it was boring, with only a few indifferent opinions in between. Given how much people were raving about Surfer’s, I had a feeling I might get on a little better here and so it turned out!

Brisbane letters

Brisbane letters

Less than a two-hour bus ride later, during which I bumped into a friend from Spot X and we had a good catch up, I arrived in the next city. For those keeping track, I’ve now been to Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane, so that’s four.

Brisbane is a smaller city than the others but the advantage of that is things are closer together, and since I only had two days before moving on again, that helped me get through a few things.

I took some time to explore the CBD, finding an awesome bookshop called The Archive, which mainly had old books, so if you’re looking for some older covers this is the place to go. The botanical gardens were really nice and after walking around them along the river, you can cross a bridge to Southbank, where there’s another park, an arts centre and an artificial beach!

Brisbane's artificial beach

Brisbane’s artificial beach

Yes, you read it right. Brisbane doesn’t have a beach, and while you can certainly reach the coast in some way, it takes time. This beach sits next to the river and is sand based with salt water. There are pools on either side too so if sunbathing next to the water isn’t for you, there’s another option.

I want to spend more time here as there are some really nice bars and restaurants around, in Southbank and up in Fortitude Valley, just finding time for it all was impossible on this trip.

Almost too soon it was time to head to Noosa, which is where one of my big trips started. I got there in the afternoon, checked out the beach and before I knew it, was heading to bed for a 6am wake-up so I could get myself on the way to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world!

Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

This was a group of four 4×4 cars, with those with a valid license able to drive at some point (damn my past self for not getting a license!) but there are no roads on the island, you’re driving on sand the entire time. As a passenger, I was in the front car with the tour leader who, having done these tours for 14 years, knew a good deal about the island, its history and locations.

There were a number of main spots we had on the list to visit; Lake McKenzie with its clear water and ridiculously fine sand (the kind you can exfoliate your skin with and brush your teeth with – true story) but while that was incredible, it was also the cloudiest day so not as warm as usual. I know, I know, I shouldn’t really complain but just imagine how much nicer it would have looked with the sun. Regardless, I didn’t want to get out of the water.

The night, well, both nights, actually, we ended up on the beach around midnight. With no light pollution, you could see the stars and, my God, its one of the best views I’ve ever seen. I can’t even describe to you how stunning it looked, both nights. It made me wish I had a proper camera with the right lens to even attempt a photo of it. It remains in my mind though, don’t worry.

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

We cleared our hangovers in Eli Creek the next morning, with some cool and refreshing water before pressing on to a shipwreck and later the Champagne Pools, which do not have champagne but when the waves crash over the rocks, it creates the bubble effect seen in your champers glass. You are swimming with fish too!

A little history lesson of Indian Head on our way back and that was us done for the day.

The final day took us to Lake Wabby, which was a 45-minute trek from the beach, where we had to park, and back again after our hour there. The fish in this lake eat the dead skin off your body, much like those beauty treatments you see, or saw, dotted around shopping centres. Very weird to feel. As gorgeous as it is, it won’t exist in the future as a sand dune is slowly filling the lake. It used to be 16.5 meters at it’s deepest but currently sits at 9.5m. That’s scary to think.

Being a sand island, you wouldn’t expect there to be a rainforest on the island, would you? Would you?! Well, there is! It’s to do with the underground freshwater streams that keep it going. It was an experiment that took hold. That’s just one of the extra bits we got told by our tour guide/driver.

Sunset in Noosa

Sunset in Noosa

Then it was back to Noosa, where, I promise you, we all slept soundly. I was in a tipi for the two nights on Fraser Island, which was fine enough with a mattress and blanket but a real bed was so much better.

Yes, even a hostel bed!

Two days in Noosa followed, recuperating and enjoying the beach, a sunset over it, and a coastal walk to the Fairy Pools (much like the Champagne Pools) and Hell’s Gate.

Next up; a 9-hour coach journey to Agnes Water. Great.