Next Stop: Darwin

My ride to Darwin!

This is the car that needed relocating from Broome to Darwin for only $5 a day… Not too shabby a ride is it?! Complete with tent, sleeping bags, cooking gear and a handy little fridge, it was ready to go on a roadtrip ;-). Finding travel companions through a facebook group and on my tour of the Kimberley’s, myself and an Italian, a German and an English girl headed east out of Broome. Not going to lie, there is not much to see between Broome and the first town east – Fitzroy Crossing. The landscape changing subtly from trees to shrubs and different contourings, we rolled into Tarunda caravan park as the sun was setting. Met by a fairly rude woman in the site next to us there is honestly nothing more challenging than trying to assemble a 5 man tent you haven’t previously assembled when someone is watching you with their arms crossed uttering not very helpful words of advice under their breath… We made it though. Good effort team. Knackered, I rolled into bed and fell straight to sleep.

Our beautifuuly assembled tent!

Day two’s drive held a little more variety… From low to high, green to orange to red, it was a nice drive to Halls Creek, where I learnt the story of Russian Jack. The high point of my day? Discovering cruise control on the car :-). Much better :-). Past many road trains, a few of the flashing, oversized, wide load variety, I was also met by many friendly waves. Taking a diversion down Duncan Rd, we found a China wall, some very big termite mounds and the pretty Palm Springs. The road switching to a northerly direction, we ended the night in Warmun roadhouse caravan park where all three of the staff working behind the till had different ideas of how much to charge us…! ($35 for site which changed to $15 per person and the other ‘just didn’t know’…) Worrying… Please do make up your mind… Aware of some stories from Halls Creek of a man picking up backpackers and leaving them in the middle of nowhere, worried about the car and surrounded by a cold cold night I didn’t have the best night’s sleep…

The next day, the drive turned to Kununurra. A word that Megan struggled to say! Very funny, one of her guesses was Kunnado :-). Made me laugh. It was a beautiful drive north. I had contemplated driving it in the dark to get to Kununurra a little earlier… I’m very glad I didn’t :-). The car felt very small driving through many high peaks. Feeling like you are merely a visitor passing through its gaze… Awesome scenery. We stopped in at Wyndham. A very good road led to it. A very pretty place, we found a grotto, the 5 rivers lookout and the big crocodile :-). Lunch by the lake in Kununurra, it was nice to relax in the celebrity tree park. I got excited for a second that this might be trees looking like or sculpted into celebrities… It’s not… Just trees planted by celebrities… Not so exciting ;-). Nice lake though and could have easily spent more time relaxing there :-).

From Kununnura the landscape changed. A dusty red road, quintessentially Australian, you can tell it’s the entrance to Northern Territory. Stopping by the welcoming sign of course, it was nice to be back :-). Happy NT memories were fresh in my mind. Megan chose music on my ipad that just happened to be NT music played picking zucchini’s which made me smile :-). The NT kilometres appearing to be longer than WA’s, the last 5km to Timber Creek caravan park seemed to go on forever… A long day, losing an hour and a half with the state/Territory time difference, absolutely knackered, it was genuinely one of the most amazing showers ever :-).

The WA/NT border

The next day, the names of the creeks continue to keep me well entertained… Brandy Bottle Creek, Cheese Tin Creek, Chinaman then Chainman (they just rearranged the letters at the next creek along?!)… It’s actual madness! We stop into the hot springs in Katherine for lunch. Enjoyed previously last year whilst wwoofing there :-).
Katherine Hot Springs

Kakadu national park was next. Bukbukluk look out; some pictures of the open road, there were lots of bush worn trees. A nice easy drive, choosing to drive slower than the speed limit to relax, I think it wore off on everybody ;-). Spending the night in Gagudju lodge in Cooinda, joined by an Australian man who apparently genuinely thought Scottish midges were midgets who were going to attack him, with some nice relaxed chat, cider and wine, it was my favourite night of the road trip. Didn’t hurt that I could see the stars through the open tent window either ;-). Awesome.

The last day of the road trip started with yellow river. Pretty and peaceful, lots of wildlife including birds and a snake were to be found. Anbangbang billabong (I know!) was next. Also very pretty but still no crocodiles to be found… Spending time at the cultural centre and learning of the stories of the people and the land then ending the day at nourlangie rock, viewing aboriginal art on the rocks and appreciating kakadu’s size, I think we had a good balance with only a few hours to spend there. It was then a long long road to Darwin on the Arnhem highway!!

Reaching Darwin, feeling significantly warmer than Broome, it is much bigger and busier than I remember it from last year… Perhaps I have just spent too much time in small places ;-). It is nice to be back and to remember the Darwin memories of last year… I still can’t quite believe I’m getting on a plane soon though!! The homecoming is starting to become a little bit more real ;-).

88 Days Later

88 days… Does it sound long? Or does it sound short? Well the 88 days the Australian government required me to do farmwork in regional Australia is now complete. Five farms later (plus one extra for a couple of days), two in Northern Territory and three in Western Australia have certainly provided quite an experience for me! Some amazing people – Go, Clem, Shoko, Kimi, Jo, Lotti, Melissa, Steph, Ariel, Emma, Lauren, Greet and Peter have made it very fun along the way. Some awesome hosts have made me feel very welcome. Trying lots of new foods and recipes, learning many new things, I have been to some beautiful places (some that I may never have seen otherwise) and made lots of new memories :-).

Whilst completing these days, my goal was to see different places and practices and to learn as much as possible. To make it part of my journey here. Staying in one place did not appeal to me at all… Others goals and outputs maybe different, for me, I had paid for my wwoof membership, I figured I should make use of it :-). I liked the idea of exchange :-). Learning a lot about Australia and others countries and languages in this time, I hope that I have dispelled some stereotypes and put Scotland on some travel maps :-). Japan is now firmly on mine, as is a lot more of Asia.

Granted not all plain sailing, it has been one heck of a personal journey. From the low of the worst day of my travels with my last day in Tasmania to being picked back up again with so many laughs and giggles in Batchelor, to finding my way in Katherine, WA has granted me space and time to reflect on the next steps on the journey. Batchelor and Nogerrup's chicken farm sharing the favourite farm accolade; they very much let me be myself :-). Lavender though, will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank god I didn't find work in Melbourne! What a path it has led me on. So much has happened since it began seven months ago.

Some particular favourite moments:

  • All the amazing dogs i've encountered – Miley, Mishka, Mr T, Ella, Bonnie, Ozzie, Cesar, Lupo, Evan and Lily, you have turned me into a dog person!
  • 'Do you want to die' being yelled by Emma at the chickens when they were swarming round the quad bike
  • Travelling with boys vs travelling with girls discussions whilst grafting grapevines
  • TimTam Cake Pops
  • Walking the rows in Katherine listening to the music of my unplayed list
  • Race Day in Batchelor – filled with 'what's', sore hands, nearly fainting spells, rainbows, missing dogs, pizza, pool, wine and Eurovision. Awesome. All you do need is good company and a pool table
  • Chatting to Markus in Katherine and hearing his hilarious tale about Coober Pedy involving stars, kangaroos and the police
  • Washing eggs with Ariel and Emma. I loved our chats. Some of their questions would make me drop eggs!!!! 🙂
  • Watching scrubs with Go in Batchelor
  • Friends for a season, reason and lifetime chat on the Lavender farm
  • Laying plastic in Batchelor
  • Stargazing, sunsets and moons in Katherine
  • Priscilla and pizza on the vineyard
  • The day of the lavender salt challenge!

Learning a lot about doing farmwork in Australia and the visa requirements, I will be carrying this knowledge and sharing it when required with fellow backpackers. My work clothes, now entirely dilapidated, have been thrown away. My work gloves, bought for me by my relatives in Brisbane will be sent home a little worn and tired. My work boots will be put to rest for a little while until required as walking boots. It's amazing how many reminders there are. I miss so many of these people so much. What a journey :-). So much inspiration :-). I have loved putting my experience into words for you. Thank you for sharing it with me :-).

On the Wrong Side of the Plane…

I had 36 hours to explore Alice Springs. It was not remotely like the picture I had imagined in my head. Managing dinner and drinks with my tour group with live music and a lot of duck related banter, I then had a most amazing sleep in a very comfy bed! Upon awakening, my wandering feet found church singers, the first hospital in Central Australia and some funky coloured walls. Wanting to be up high and get some perspective, my feet took me up Anzac Hill. A bench let them rest a while. The notes of live music floating from below, I went to find the source. The NT music festival in full swing, I relaxed and enjoyed some impressive desert diva’s for a while. Heading on, with the tinge of sunset in the air, Anzac Hill was host to my feet for the second time that day. It might just be one of my favourite Australian sunsets so far…

The backpack repacked, I headed on my way. Opting for a window seat, finding someone in my seat yet again, I sat down and was faced with a Boeing 717-200 safety instruction card. It worryingly informed me it was ‘revision 002…!’ Space for a hundred revisions…?! Go figure… I watched out my window. The pilot informed us that we were about to fly over Ayers Rock… Lo and behold I was on the wrong side of the plane…! Never mind… If you are doing the same journey, sit on the left hand side of the plane and you’ll get a better view! On reaching Perth (incidentally only GMT+7), in search of onward transportation the heavens decided to open. Smiling, I walked through it. It was the first proper rain I’ve seen in 3 months…! Everyone else under shelter, I was the only one in it. Amazing!

Reaching my hostel, I opened the door to my room to find all of my roommates still in bed… It was 1pm…! Relieved of the heavy backpack, I headed out to get a feel for the city :-). Only spending 8 hours exploring Perth, I love it already :-). Maybe just a well chosen path, I walked through the hustle and bustle of student life (making me feel like a student again!); some tall skyscrapers reminded of Melbourne and the one way, pedestrianised streets lined with shops, to a background of a cool, cloudy, wet day made me feel like I was walking through Glasgow in Scotland…! 🙂 Sourcing my first sushi in a fair wee while, I went crazy and bought 16 pieces costing me $30…! It was delicious :-). Unfortunately leaving my leftovers in McDonalds of all places (McDonald’s free wifi in Perth is the best yet!), I headed back to my hostel and enjoyed some late night banter with my roommates :-). Not achieving a lot of sleep, up early for the onward journey south, a very clean train and bus ride later, I reached my new farm. Straight into work, after dinner, with a power cut leaving us in darkness, I crawled into bed and promptly fell asleep at an unprecedented 8.30pm…! Granted 10pm NT time, it is still very impressive for me!!! Perhaps farmwork the only way to keep me in normal rhythm, we’ll see if I manage to maintain this earlyness!

That Big Red Rock in the Centre of Australia…

We arrived at that big red rock that is synonymous with Australia's portrait… The cultural centre our first stop, we learned of the cultural significance; of the sacredness of the area and the story of its creation. I stood and read pages entitled the 'sorry' book filled with letters sent by people taking photos, sand and rocks they perhaps should not have. I spent a lot of time reading these. Loving the honesty and the stories shared, reading this is perhaps one of my favourite moments about Uluru. A little more of the wise, our feet treaded Uluru's base. We saw people climbing. We were asked not to climb. I did not want to climb. We learnt of its history and were told stories of the drawings in the caves. Its size truly impressed itself down upon me. The sky so amazingly blue, or maybe just the rock looking so red, I couldn't stop looking up. I couldn't quite believe I had reached the centre of Australia… The milestone this marked.

We travelled on for a different perspective. The sun sank towards the horizon. A full moon rising to replace it, it was a pretty awesome sight… A promise made, I shared the moment via video… Less than twelve hours later we returned for sunrise. I shared the moment again. I think sunset was my favourite. Breakfast consisting of porridge on a cold morning, warmed and a bit more awake we encircled the rest of Uluru's base. Showing respect for culturally sensitive areas, winding our way closer to the rock, we glimpsed Uluru's engravings close up. Experimenting, my feet were captured here in more ways than one… One last look over our shoulders, with tired feet we said 'palya' to Uluru and headed back north. Much more than just a rock in the middle of nowhere, make sure you learn of its story…

The Valley of the Winds and the Canyon of a King

I sat in the seat that had been Yo's during my Tasmania tour. The man across the aisle introduced himself. Our guide, so named 'Duck' (who uncannily reminded me of Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure) asked us to write something about ourselves. We drew on the bus windows. I wrote Jane aka 'The Scottish One' and drew a Scottish flag. A correct one this time! We reached Kings Canyon. It was a brutal initial reintroduction into exercising! Some steep steps, it was a hard climb. Refinding my walking feet we walked the canyon learning of the aboriginal significance and taking in the scenery. A little underwhelmed to begin with, the further we walked the more impressive it became. My feet captured in a new place, it was also group photo time. Our guide handed every camera, various poses, including a jumping shot, were snapped in time. A long walk, with time to relax into it, the 21 strong group slowly started to get to know each other. Back to ground level, headed to camp, stopping on the way for firewood, catching both the sunset and Mount Conner masquerading as Uluru, after a late dinner I had my first swag experience!

A cold night, spread clock face like around the campfire, it is the first time I've ever slept under the stars… My way to connect, they offered thoughts of home… Awoken early at 5.30am, Kata Tjuta (the Valley of the Winds) was our next stop. Carved through erosion and weathering, it genuinely felt like a giant's playground. Red rock faces, contrasting blue sky and wandering public offering an element of scale, we wound our way through the epic landscape with many an opportunity for pictures. Enjoying this walk, it truly reminded of the power of nature. Our day not over yet though, we headed on our way to see Uluru!

Leaving on a Road Train Made of Hay…

My time at Renner Springs has drawn to an end… Negotiating a lift South with a trucker, I swung out on a road train carrying hay! What an amazing couple of months it has been… There are so many memories I am taking with me on the onward journey. I have had some of the most awesome conversations. Met some amazing people. There are some people that will be extremely hard to forget…

I have loved having a glimpse into the truckers world. Many a friendly face and a tell me your story, I genuinely will miss the late night chats and the banter over the bar. Learning some new words and phrases in my time here, 'fair dinkum' (aka fair enough), true and aww man are new favourites. Doing things 'directly' and not looking at people with a certain tone of voice has also been learnt :-). I have also of course spread the 'whaaat' and shared some holy moly's around :-).

With many a story to be shared, some particular favourites include:

  • Nights drinking with Harry's practice on in the background
  • All situations lemon related
  • Palm readings telling me of my future
  • Spaghettini and Greek scones in place of grease guns
  • “I started in nappies” vs “my sister stole my birthday” tell me your story day
  • Mister Eleven's and chicken pies
  • 24 hour birthday celebrations
  • Standing in the rain!!! On a day when I said it hadn't rained here yet…
  • Watching an Irish boy drink a fair amount of sambuca with the subsequent “what's your rego” chat ending in the words “I love porridge” and a thumbs up. Priceless 🙂
  • A very adult conversation held with a 12 year old who was moving to Brisbane who asked me how my day was
  • The night of 'thank you ma'am'

Also to be remembered in the madness includes geese, chooks, peacocks, loose goats, stupid faces, first time vodka drinking, the joy of making lemon, lime and bitters, paywaving vs pinning, chat of breaking feet with one rollerblade and how one breaks a horse in, the flexibility of the word 'able', many a birthday cake, finding the male 'me' of the 6ft 'what' exclaiming trucker variety and providing everyone in the bar with entertainment with our what exchange, identity movies and murders, stargazing, eating cherry ripe chocolate bars (amazing!) and venturing down the highway in search of the stars to find only star in the sky on an important day. Renner, it has been absolutely awesome. Hard to say goodbye, I can only hope that I meet half as many amazing people on the onward journey :-).