The highs and lows of travelling

Getting back to Melbourne was definitely the right choice. After the failed attempt at farm work, and with nothing else for me in Cairns – other than things that cost money – I wanted to get back to a city with some opportunities.

Sunset in Melbourne's Albert Park

Sunset in Melbourne’s Albert Park

That’s what I did. It’s been a few weeks since I got back, and they haven’t been easy. While it’s silly to assume so, I was thinking, or perhaps hoping, to find a job within a couple of days of arriving back here. What I didn’t take into account was that it’s winter here so while a lot of backpackers leave for warmer areas, the hours vanish too, to an extent.

At this point, I do have a job but it’s not many hours, and that’s an issue. Thankfully, I’m helping out around the hostel I’m in and that’s cutting down what I’m spending on rent each week so it’s not all bad. The problem is, if I want to move into my own room at some point, I need consistent hours so I’m still searching for those. Hopefully they’ll turn up soon because I also need to get back into saving mode for upcoming trips and plans!

Now, these last few weeks have been hard, the hardest of my trip to date – and that’s keeping in mind how I felt in Cairns when I was in limbo for so long.

I’m impatient, we all know this (but better than I was during my younger years) and seeing people with less experience get a job before me was tough. I found myself wandering aimlessly at times, after applying online and at the places I knew and could find, in the hope of finding somewhere I hadn’t given a CV to.

The nights were spent in my room, watching Netflix or ranting to my dorm mates and friends online (thanks guys, you’re all awesome!) and I felt stuck in a rut. There was plenty of advice, but nothing I hadn’t done. I knew it’d work out in time but that’s not helpful in the moment.

20/20 hindsight

Balcony view of south Melbourne

Balcony view of south Melbourne

So, while my situation isn’t perfect yet, it’s a step in the right direction and I’m grateful for that. I did have to start facing the fact that I might have to leave if the situation didn’t change. I knew that’d be a huge mistake and regret.

If I could go back and tell myself what was going to happen, would I change things? Perhaps. Getting a job first might have been a smarter move, or maybe being a bit stricter with my funds before the East Coast trip might have helped. In the end, I’ve been to some awesome places, seen amazing things and met fantastic people so I don’t regret anything. Part of this whole experience is how to deal with the lows as well as the highs.

I could have skipped Perth back then, worked from day one (okay, maybe day two) and then done the trip but even that might not have worked. At this stage, what if isn’t of any use so I’m not dwelling.

What I am dwelling on, however, is what’s next. I’m making plans for later this year and going into 2019. Those will become clear in the coming weeks when I’m a little more stable.

What I’ve learnt so far

A couple of things of the last four months have become crystal clear to me:

  • Money never lasts
  • Experiences are far more valuable than money
  • There’s no such thing as a great hostel kitchen
  • A dorm room where you like everyone is rare
  • Backpackers, generally but not all, don’t know how to clean up after themselves

I’m almost in my thirties and it’s a stark difference between my attitude and outlook on life compared to the majority of backpackers I meet, who are in the 19-23 range. Mostly, they want to drink, smoke and do drugs and that’s it.

Now, whatever floats your boat but consider it’s more expensive to do all three here compared to other places I’ve been, that’s a bit daft. They never stop though, and it’s tiring just watching them go!

I tend to look for quieter hostels if I know I’ll be staying a while. A couple of nights doesn’t bother me and I have met some great people in those short stays but after four months, I’m happy to have a bed that I know is mine.

There’s a lot of Australia left to see but Melbourne is a good base right now, and even though it’s getting colder, I feel more comfortable here than anywhere else I’ve been to, as much as other places have been great. Travelling is really tiring, guys, so giving myself a break from it is probably a good idea.

Forgive the slightly rambling post but its worth putting it down so you don’t think I’ve vanished just yet!

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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.

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: Chilling at Byron Bay and Surfer’s Paradise

From Spot X to Byron Bay was only a four-hour Greyhound journey – simple compared to the last two, right?

Wrong.

My bus was at 3am! The 7am was full, ugh. That being said, it got me into Byron just before 7am and that gave me a full day to explore (after dropping my gear off at the hostel again). Although, the driver kept talking into the microphone throughout. Not cool, dude. Not at that time!

Now, Byron Bay isn’t huge but it’s full of independent and boutique shops and restaurants so plenty to sink your teeth into. It’s also very chilled out, more so than other place I’ve seen so far but everyone still goes about their day. It’s a calming chilled out and I felt really happy and at home there, despite it being smaller than every other place I’ve lived – or considered living.

I also almost got rained on properly for the first time (outside of the F1). A ten-minute downpour that, thankfully, I was already undercover for on the way to the hostel. It would have soaked me to the core in less than thirty seconds but then it dried up in less than an hour. Madness.

Killen Falls

Killen Falls

That night, I met a local, who I befriended in Doncaster many years ago, and she drove me to the Lighthouse for the latter end of sunset. It was amazing. Then we hit a few bars and had a good catch up before I totally crashed out.

The next day was even better. I was taken on a drive around the area, having a look at some of the villages around Byron Bay and stopping at a number of spots and lookouts for pictures. The best spot was Killen Falls, a waterfall after a dam that is part of the water supply for Byron. It was a sheltered cove where people would come and relax in the shade and swim and I’m so jealous I didn’t have my swimming gear – I could have spent all day there!

Then again, I wouldn’t have seen anything else if I had!

Sunset in Byron Bay

Sunset in Byron Bay

We rounded the day off with more drinks and food in the local RSL club (t’s been so long since I had a roast dinner so it was definitely needed) while watching the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, a timely reminder that I’d be heading up to the Gold Coast shortly.

My final day was spent with friends from Spot X who’d finally arrived in Byron. We took the coastal walk to the lighthouse in the afternoon, arriving with plenty of time before sunset, and seeing the whole thing blew my mind. The colours, the sound of the ocean, the pure peacefulness of it all. I definitely prefer sunsets to sunrises but that might be because I’m already awake at that time!

Surfer's Paradise

Surfer’s Paradise

Then it was a short Greyhound to Surfer’s Paradise in the Gold Coast. There’s a lot going on here because of the Commonwealth Games, so there are stages everywhere with music and performances, but it’s also a party area of the city.

Great for groups but less so for me, since I prefer pubs to clubs! I spent most days exploring and chilling on the beach (as well as catching up with some work and writing!), using this time to recharge before next week, which is going to be pretty full on.

I did see another friend here, too (met in Doncaster but a local here). We had food and drinks one night and just a really good catch up, which I’m sure won’t be the last one!

While it’s a nice little holiday destination, there are probably other parts of the Gold Coast better suited for me and in the future, I’ll come back to find them, but taking some time to chill was definitely needed. Also, my body has almost fully recovered by now so when I’m next able to get back on the surfboard, I will!

The East Coast: Sydney and Surfing

This is something I’ve been looking forward to since booking it on day one of my Australian adventure. I spent a lot of money sorting it and I have a lot of things planned, which I won’t spoil here – you’ll just have to wait and see.

Now, you’ll know I don’t drive so I’m relying on public transport. There were a few options but I chose a hop-on-hop-off Greyhound pass. I booked the journeys in advance but pay just once. It makes sense. The first trip was from Melbourne to Sydney – a twelve-hour trip that I booked as an overnight journey. This means no accommodation costs for that night but that I wasn’t likely to get much sleep, and so it proved.

Obligatory selfie with Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Obligatory selfie with Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

I was sat next to a guy (who had the window seat) who kept falling asleep on me and leaning into me. I’m not ashamed to say he got a few elbows and nudges over the trip, which woke him up grumbling but I’m not a damned pillow!

It was a relief to get to Sydney. An hour’s sleep, maybe two at most. Couldn’t check in for a few more hours but stored my gear. Went north and found the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, walked over the former (then back) and around the latter, taking plenty of pictures. The botanical gardens were right besides the opera house and I’d been told there was a great spot to get a picture of both and to the obligatory selfie. I did that and then explored the gardens.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

I actually bumped into some friends from Melbourne back at the hostel, leading to impromptu drinks, which was a great way to round the day. The following day was more drinks with another friend who I met in Melbourne but lived in Sydney followed by a pub quiz where I got a free pizza for coming in last – but remember I was playing alone!

Of course, I had to go to Bondi Beach and it was beautiful. I took a coastal walk south to find Clovelly Beach, which was also beautiful and ran into more people along the way. It really is a small world, huh? The walk took longer than it should, thanks to my excessive photo-taking habits.

Checkout was the next day and I was very boring and responsible by doing work for most of it, as I had another overnight Greyhound trip to surf camp!

I can surf!

I can surf!

This was at Arrawarra Beach, near Woolgoolga, at a place called Spot X. We slept in converted shipping containers and you know what? They were actually quite comfortable!

I surfed every morning and afternoon (but the morning lessons could be as early as 8am! Ugh) but it wasn’t until the second day I was able to stand up at all, thanks to some great instructors who took the time with everyone to make sure they were doing the right things. After that, it’s just practise. By the end of my three days, I could stand up most of the time, speed up and slow down as well as turn…usually.

It was really fun but I ruined myself. Covered in bruises from head to toe, board rash on my legs and rubbed away half the skin on both hands. That meant there’d be no surfing for me for a while until I healed. A bit annoying since there were some good spots coming up but better to play it safe.

Sunrise at Spot X

Sunrise at Spot X

One thing I did do at Spot X was get up one morning for the sunrise at the ungodly hour of 5am (so I had time to fully wake up). Trudging to the beach wasn’t fun and, typically, the only clouds in the sky were over the horizon. A bit annoying but I waited anyway.

And I’m glad I did. Seeing the sun rise over the clouds and hit the beach was incredible. Such a beautiful way to start the day with gorgeous colours and tones hitting the water and sand. I wasn’t alone, plenty of people made it down, ad when you combine that view with the soothing sound of the ocean…yeah, I can see why people do this so much.

Not saying I’ll do it all the time, but every so often? Yeah.

A lot of the friends I made at surf camp are doing the same trip as me, but slower. I was one of the first of ‘our group’ to leave and head to Byron Bay.