The Luxuries of being a backpacker

When it comes to being a backpacker, luxury comes in the form of a hostel bed without the threat of bed bugs, toilet paper in the bathroom and pseudo-warm water to shower in.  So when I got to Airlie Beach, I wasn’t met with any of these luxuries when we checked into the Beaches Hostel.  I can’t stress enough how disgusting our room was.  The bathroom was beyond hideous—it clearly hadn’t been cleaned in at least a week. I always shower in flip flops, but the shower was so gross, I was tempted to shower in my cross trainers.   To add insult to injury, the shower was more of a hose that maybe some water came out of.  We were also using our own toilet paper for the bathroom.

Airlie Beach is very much a backpacker town (read “party town”) and a tourist spot to hit up the Whitsunday’s from.  Marjan and I hadn’t really planned out date-by-date- where-we-want-to-be type road trip.  We just knew that we wanted to head up the East Coast, hopefully as far as Cairns and then make our way down through Alice Springs and Uluru, before getting Marjan back to Warnambool by June 5th.  However, now we were coming into the last couple weeks of our roadtrip and we had to seriously figure out how much time it would take to drive back to Warnambool through the center of the country.   We concluded that we wanted at least a week and a half to get from Townsville to Warnambool, which eliminated the possibility of making it to Cairns.  We decided that maybe we should spend a few days in Airlie relaxing, before taking on the ridiculous amount of driving through the Outback that we were about to embark on.  That opened the door for me hitting up the Whitsunday Islands for a few days.

Kat, a girl that was in our tour on Fraser Island, was looking to find a good boat to enjoy the islands from, so I went with her to find one.  We ended up in Backpackers World Travel,
where Michael, the agent, started going through her options.  Kat didn’t want a party boat, so he showed her the brochure for the Whitsunday Magic, essentially the nicest boat sailing the islands.  It would be 3 days/3 nights of 5-Star accommodation, food and drink.  It also included a free introductory scuba dive.  It came with a hefty price tag, but Kat wasn’t the only one sold (to be honest though, Michael probably could have sold me the phone book).  At this point, Marjan and I hadn’t decided to stick around Airlie for a few days, so I was getting really jealous of Kat going on this boat.  In just a few hours though, I would be shelling out the money for some much-needed luxury and setting sail for the Whitsunday’s the next morning.

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The Joys of Fraser Island

Imagine water so pure that no fish can sustain life.  Then walking up sand dunes with a perfectly clear blue sky above and as you past over the crest, you discover an emerald green lake.  Now you’ve come across an old shipwreck washed ashore, rusted red and broken in half thanks to practice raids by the RAAF. A dip in the champagne pools, followed by the view from Indian Head Point is just another day on the island.  You’ve walked through the only rainforest in the world grown in sand dunes and taken pictures of the dingoes on the beach.  These are just some of the highlights of Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island and a World Heritage Site.

Marjan and I left Brisbane and headed to Hervey Bay, to hit up Fraser Island.  Since a 4WD is required to drive the island, we knew we had to hook up with a tour (definitely cheaper than renting our own 4WD).  We also knew that it wasn’t worth doing a day trip and that we wanted to be there for at least 2 days, if not 3, to get the most out of the island.  Our hostel set us up with Palace Adventures for a tag-a-long tour. That night we met our guide Craig and the 3 other girls we would be spending the next 2 nights/3 days with.  Normally, there are a lot more people, but we were glad to have a small group—pretty much once we started shopping for our food, we knew we would be getting along well the next few days.

The girls and I got pretty lucky with the small group and an amazing guide in Craig.  Seriously, he was awesome—full of information, great stories, ever-willing to run us to the bathroom, versus us using the porta-potty and we even got him to play cards with us.  It seemed that every place we went, either everyone else was leaving, letting us have the place to ourselves, or else the
place was empty and no one showed up until we started to leave.  For awhile, we even had Lake McKenzie to ourselves—the most popular spot on the island.

Honestly though, it’s hard to describe how great Fraser Island is.  It’s consistently recommended as one of the must-see’s in Australia and I couldn’t agree more.  I was constantly amazed how much diversity the island packed in.  It’d be hard to pick one part that stood out above the rest.  I loved floating down Eli Creek, which flowed into the sea (all that was missing was friends on tubes and a cooler between us).  The 45-minute hike to Lake Wabby over the sand dunes was amazing (I could have done without the catfish in the lake).  The view from Indian Head Point was
spectacular (we were disappointed though that we didn’t see any sharks, dolphins or whales though).

The highlights aside, I think the best part of the island were the girls and Craig.  We had an absolute blast each day/night. Conversation was never lacking with us.  Kat had worked for Hasbro in England, so we got into playing a card game called Monopoly Deal each night.  It’s a quick version of Monopoly where the object is to be the first to collect 3 full property sets.  Then there was Craig—let’s just say he raises the bar when it comes to tour guides.  When we got back to Hervey Bay, we met up with Craig and his wife Tanya for dinner.  We were sad to say goodbye to Craig (who claimed we were his best group ever, but even I would rank the group with the guy who got bit in the ass by a dingo while having sex on the beach as more entertaining), but the three girls were going to be joining Marjan and I in the car to make our way to Airlie Beach, so we had a few more days together to look forward to.

More photos can be found at:

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Goodbye Morawa, hope it was as good for you as it was for me…

I can’t believe how quickly 2 months can go by, especially when it felt like half of it was cleaning toilets.  I finished my job in Morawa the beginning of May, just over 8 weeks after starting.  I really enjoyed my time there, mainly the people.  I became surprisingly ok with cleaning bathrooms and making other people’s beds. (For the record, I still don’t make my own, some habits die hard).  I worked with a great bunch of people that never allowed there to be a shortage of laughs.  There were 4-5 backpackers working there at a time.  Add them to the locals that worked there and came in on a regular basis, something interesting was always around the corner.  Not to be outdone, there were a few creeps that popped up here and there.  Trust me, if anyone ever asks you a question about a tiger and winking, walk away quickly.  Ver quickly to be exact!

I had an enjoyable last night…ice cream cake (they sang me “Happy Birthday” since goodbye songs weren’t that common), good drinks, good people and good music.  I even managed to drag myself out of bed to work for one last morning before catching a 6 hour bus ride to Perth and then a red-eye flight to Melbourne.

So to Morawa, my home for 2 months and my first job in Australia:  Thank you.  Who knows, maybe we’ll see each other again…

p.s…some links to pics from my time in WA below:

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Fiji in pictures (which BTW doesn’t do the place justice)

More photos can be found on Facebook: 

Enjoy!

Nabua Lodge was all about the great people

Sunset from Nacula Island

Wilson

Jan, Anna, Joe (I think) and I

Sunset from Korovou

Stoney Creek Lodge--Sabeto River Valley

Bounty Island

Fire dancing at Beachcomber Island

Bula Dancing Korovou Resort

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No one told me that 30 was such a scary number….

I’m 30.  If you didn’t know that, then I’m guessing you’re hearing glass shatter or some other drastic reaction like that.  Now I’ve only been 30 for about 3 months, but I’m at that age where adding a quarter or a half to my age isn’t as much fun as it was when I was 5.  I have no problems with my age, I like to think I’m having a good time with it.  So why am I writing a post about how old I am?  Well, I met a guy last week who took such a dislike to my age, he literally walked away seconds after finding out how old I was.

So, to Reece, the 23-24 year old Australian that I spent over 2 hours chatting with, thank you.  Yep, THANK YOU.  First, you thought I was at most 24, I am flattered by that and maybe I’ll write a thank you note to Biore for their great moisturizer.  More importantly though, you made me realize just how ok I am with not only my age, but the life I’ve chosen to go with it.  Yes, an argument could be made that working as a bartender/housekeeper in the small Western Australian town of Morawa isn’t a very fabulous lifestyle, but it’s more about what it represents than what it is at the surface.

I’ve never been that person who set goals/achievements by a certain age.  Yes, someday I want a husband, a nice house with a white picket fence, some kids, a fabulous career, etc…  But I don’t want that right now.  For the last few years, every time I thought about picking a city, finding that great job and settling down, a foreign destination would pop into my head.  I wasn’t ready for that and I’m still not.  Hell, I’m not sure if I ever will be.

I’m in Australia.  I’m using a great opportunity to see an amazing country, meet fantastic people and I get to earn money legally at the same time.  I’m going to treat this year or so as a chance to travel a part of the world I’ve never been to.  I’ve already spent a couple weeks in Fiji.  New Zealand is next door, Southeast Asia is a cheap plane ride away and I haven’t even touched the surface of Australia yet.  There is so much that I want to see and do here–the Great Ocean Road, Sydney Harbour, Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef, Darwin’s Beer Can Regatta, a footy match, I hope they sell beer at Cricket games, the Outback…seriously, this list could go on forever.

For now though, I’m in Morawa.  I’ll be here for another month before heading back to Bendigo to celebrate and welcome Dana to the Third Decade Club.

I just hope she’s as happy with 30 as I am.

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Well I’m gainfully employed…in the middle of nowhere…

Greetings from Morawa, Western Australia!  I have been here since Monday (3/11) and have been working as an “all-rounder” in a hotel since Tuesday.  In the mornings, I work on cleaning the rooms and hotel and then bartend at night.  Every now and then I’ll be in the kitchen helping w/prep cooking and dishes.  The town has under a 1000 people and in some ways, reminds me a lot of home.  The bar has its core of regulars, which I’m slowly, but surely learning.  The hard part isn’t even cleaning the toilets, it’s getting the lingo down.  For example:

If someone orders a lemonade, they mean a Sprite.  (Why they don’t just order a Sprite is beyond me)

If someone orders a lemon squash or a club lemon, they mean what we call lemonade.

A stubby is a bottle.  A jug is a pitcher.  And I’ve never heard of any of their beers before I got to this country.  I also have yet to see one place selling Fosters.  So much for that meaning Australian for beer. 

The benefit of this job is that it pays me a decent wage each week and all my meals and accomodation are included.  I think I’ll stick it out here for a couple months before moving on.

Hope everyone is well back home.  I’m saddened by the state of our State at the moment and hope that when I get back things will be better.  Until then, I hope people can keep their heads up and know that things have a way of working out and I hope it rings true for all my friends in the public sector and the school district!

Missing everyone!

p.s…I’d love to post some pics, but for now, the computer I have access to is way tooo slow to even attempt it!  Someday though, I promise!

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Somebody wants to hire me right?

So I’ve been in Bendigo for a little over a week now.  I started sending out resumes a few days ago, but so far, only one bite.  I had an interview at a bar/restaurant in Bendigo today.  Pretty much the interview went south when I was asked what would prevent me from making a year commitment?  Well, let’s see, the Visa only allows me to work somewhere for a maximum of 6 months.  I guess if I wanted to make a 6 month commitment, I could be considered for the job, but I don’t think I’m willing to commit more than 2-3 months at a time, as I really do want to see this country.

I think I’m going to head to Melbourne tomorrow and walk around and start looking for jobs in person.

I’ve been enjoying my time with Dana and her family.  We went to the Grampians last weekend.  It was a lovely area, just sadly hurt by flooding and landslides.  A lot of the main sites were shut down, but we saw some Aboriginal rock art, a cultural center and a giant koala bear…they make things big here in OZ.

Oh yeah, I saw a lot of kangaroos.  I guess I can come home happy now!

Missing everyone!

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