The Beginning of the End…

My Georgetown song! 🙂

It is now though bye bye Georgetown and hello road trip!!! :-). It is most wonderful to be reacquainted! 🙂

My time in Georgetown has been interesting. As has listening to the preconception of the ‘backpacker’ here… Some lessons learnt for sure, I had to battle the itchy feet feeling more than once ;-). A friend’s wise words of ‘follow the money’ echoing, they kept me here and to my plan. Staying in staff accommodation for $80 a week with a pretty comfy bed and air con, having stayed in worse, it wasn’t too bad at all for staff digs. With an external bathroom, bugs roaming around, it has reminded of zucchini picking in Katherine a lot :-). My roommate not liking them at all, they actually don’t bother me unless they are of the cockroach variety… I actually find the geckos presence reassuring. The crickets have become familiar visitors and I’m always perplexed by ants in the sink… Got a death wish on their hands ;-). Or feet ;-). For they get washed away…

Managing to eat relatively healthily, cheaply and efficiently, it is probably one of my best efforts to save money whilst in Australia. Especially as we are the supermarket and my hard earned money returns to my employer…! You want to try and keep as much of that as possible! Taking a $100 shop with me from Cairns, definitely a good idea, pasta, tuna and rice have featured heavily in the past few months ;-). As have multi portioned meals. Spag Bol in particular ;-). One of the most expensive single things I’ve eaten? A $4.90 cucumber… $4.90 and I only managed half of it… Pretty sure they are about a dollar in the supermarket… Actual madness.

Some of the Georgetown randomness:

  • I have fallen out of love with timtams… I know Clem, I’m sorry, but I’ve decided mint slices are better… Don’t worry, I will still send you some!
  • I received some very strange advice – “If it moves and it shouldn’t – duct tape. It if should move and it doesn’t – WD40!” I don’t want to know ;-).
  • I was asked if we sell ‘Shoo roo’s.’ A whistling device that can apparently be attached to a vehicle to try and stop kangaroo’s jumping in front of you. Not a product we stock, I told the man he’d have to fashion his own ;-).
  • I was also asked for a saddle. Not for a horse, mind but for a wire 😉
  • A customer looking for a container for bitumen bought five metal containers of milo (a drinkable with milk or water chocolate and malt powder), emptied it, put the milo into plastic containers then left ALL of the milo for us…! Madness
  • People watching, noticing some interesting people, I had to ask if two were just workmates or a couple? 😉 A married couple working together as marriage counsellors was the answer! Wow. I want to know much more about their story now 😉
  • I’ve developed an aversion to cardboard boxes. I actually can’t cope with them! Retail bred through and through, the stock either needs to be on the shelf or out of the box waiting for it to be put on the shelf…!
  • I have watched a lot of the same adverts! A lot of them play EVERY ad break. I’m starting to sing the songs before they play ;-). One has become a Georgetown song ;-). What is most bizarre is the amount of ads for businesses in Alice Springs. Over 2000km away! Granted it is one of the bigger places to the west, but this is the equivalent of advertising Polish or Czech Republic businesses in Scotland as local ads distance wise! It is far away! Not so many adverts for Cairns, they must assume most people travel west through Georgetown…
  • Having to hotspot myself a lot, spending more than I would in a city with free wifi, I received a phonecall from my phone network provider, Telstra. They wanted to help me get a better deal for my money… Nearly two years after I started using them and three weeks before I leave the country ;-). Bit late now Telstra! If only I’d known how long I was staying I would have got myself a contract 😉
  • Rain!! Signalling the end of the dry season, twice with very heavy showers, smelling amazing, you certainly know you are not in Scotland when the locals are excited about it!
  • I was very angry at two boys who took advantage of a girl that wanted to leave the nearby mango farm. Charging her $130 for a lift for the same $26 journey by bus, upset and the next bus to Cairns not leaving for two days, we facilitated a lift for her and tried to give her some food. Not accepting a sandwich or even breakfast the next day for free, she gave us mangoes and wrote a thank you note and left it on the counter. Hoping she has a less stressful journey onward to Cairns, I hope the boys don’t rip anyone else off…
  • I managed to faint and bang my head… Yes silly Jane I know. I blame the heat and no breakfast… Julie taking good care of me, I saw the inside of Georgetown hospital and left all ok except for a very big bump on my head… Given the day off work, it took me six days to feel back to normal. Sporting a black eye as a result, prompting many an interesting conversation, I think I’m going to be remembered as ‘that one who fainted on us!’

A different kind of roadhouse, perhaps the biggest roadhouse supermarket between Cairns and Karumba, it is very much a retail focus rather than bar and dinner service. With a local pub in town, therefore no bar and closing at 7pm, not so many people hanging around with fewer staff members than the last roadhouse I worked in, it hasn’t been quite as much fun as my time there… There have been many reminders though :-). A few ‘maybe maybe’s’, and a fair few “thank you ma’am’s” have made me smile… Different things important at different times though, I very much have appreciated managing to sleep within ‘normal’ hours, have felt the benefit of being given a break during my shift and have done well in mastering the art of chilling out ;-). I’ve done far more swimming than I ever expected to :-). In a beautiful setting as well.

Road tripping our way back to Brisbane, where it all began, I can’t quite believe the Australian adventure is coming to an end… Only a few weeks left, one last stretch of Australia to go, I think I’ve done very well traversing the country! Stopping in on Thailand on the way home, stepping onto a different part of Asia, I’m very much looking forward to a change of culture ;-).

Venturing onto Outback Queensland

We drive west. Past mountains, round valleys, we find windmills and cows and funny looking fruit trees. From green to brown to dust to outback Queensland, it’s a really weird feeling to describe how the outback makes you feel… I like it. A lot. Free and expansive, away from the hustle and bustle, the noise of the city empties out of your head… The thought of ‘possibilities’ fills the air… The memories of previous outback experiences become forefront in your mind… Making us both smile, the drive definitely inspired some thinking of our time in Australia and of the variety of previous jobs we’ve held.. For me, thoughts of Renner and of the camels, Ben of his his time spent on cattle stations, fixing swimming pools and working in a roadhouse in NT. Sparking a discussion of our favourites :-).

We reach our destination. A town called Georgetown on the Savannah Way. The biggest town between Cairns and Kurumba (a town in the Gulf of Carpentaria on the other side of the Queensland Coast). Georgetown bigger than Ben expected, but just the size I thought it would be, I did have help google mapping it before leaving Cairns ;-). Back to a familiar view similar to that of Renner, there is a bit more around this time.. A public swimming pool for one! Enjoyed quite a few times, twice it was at 9am to cool down from the heat! Quite warm here (28 degrees at midnight yesterday), it is a thank god for air con situation!! Though it is not so good for my persistent morning cough…

Working a variety of shifts, work split between shop and kitchen, I have tried to be open minded and as willing to learn as possible. It is good to be busy and I am learning new things. A pretty cool way to cook eggs for one! A fried/poached combination…. The process of speed making toasties and how to make the delicious iced coffees on offer here :-). Asked for a ‘shifter’ (wrench to you and me), chat about silkaflex (branded sealant), serving interesting customers as always, selling both a sledgehammer and children’s candy to the same customer made me smile and kids as always melting my heart, I’ve had a nice chat with three kids who had been road tripping for ten months and wanted to know where they were on a map of Australia…

In non working hours, the roadhouse shutting at seven, this is a whole new world to me. The joy of free evenings… Trying to make a dent in the optimistic four book pile I brought with me (now standing at six with some additional book swap titles), finally finishing Mary Poppins (Saving Mr Banks inspired) I am now onto Charlotte Rogan’s ‘The Lifeboat’ (so far yet to like it 122 pages down). Lots of movies and a telly available in the staff accommodation, I’m also slowly working through some items on my watch list… I’ve really enjoyed ‘Hitchcock‘ (note to self: must read Psycho), liked ‘The Family‘, ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty‘ has made me really want to go to Iceland, I’ve finally managed to catch ‘Frozen‘ and I was left a little perplexed by ‘The Butler.’ I would have loved to have known more about the separate administrations…

Banter as always, buying the ingredients before looking first, I had to make pasta bake in a cake tin, I’ve tried my first corn dog (surprisingly quite liked it!), tried pasito (passion fruit soda), found the amazingness of sweet chilli philly cream cheese, learnt how tasty jam donught shots are (chambord, baileys and sugar mmmmmm), ventured out to meet the locals at their annual ball and in the the same night, one of us burnt popcorn, I burnt pizza and Dama set the oven on fire! Oh dear… All safely put out!!

Bonding daily with animal life, kangaroos and crickets are around the most. They frequently take me by surprise jumping around everywhere! Crickets more so than the kangaroos! The geckos as always very friendly, they are a handy insect repellent to have around! I am now used to sharing the external shower with a plethora of insect life. Of course giving my towel a quick check to ensure none of them are attached first! My bug bear though is not with insect life but the many sharp ‘burs’ around… Sharp seeds that lie on the ground. You have to be very careful where you are stepping without any shoes or thongs on!! Not cool!!

Working away and enjoying chilling out together, with so far no work in town for Ben, for sure it is a difficult head/heart pull going on in my head if he’ll have to find it more than 300km away… Hopefully something will swing his way soon… 🙂

Sunset, Sand and Camels

What a week!! The day I left Exmouth I was offered a job near Darwin, working in Kakadu National Park. Somewhere I've not been yet and very much want to go… The first job offer in two weeks of looking, it was hard to know whether this was a helping hand reaching out… A hand, however, that would require credit card finances to reach with repayment from my first week's wages… Not starting for ten days, it was a bit of a tricky decision… A friend pointed out that I may as well say yes then pursue other options… Excellent point! Guided by a rainbow, I decided it was worth giving Broome a try. Not wanting to get to Darwin just yet, wanting to take my time driving and to just 'be' for a while, a friend made working in the roadhouse last year very gratefully gave me her sofa :-). Taking very good care of me including a roast dinner, pancakes and the loan of an ear, I am most enjoying her company :-).

Me and the amazing Sam

The obligatory CV walk carried out, I happened to get lucky…! I walked into a place just as someone was leaving… Obtaining a trial, I found myself a job!! I'm now working for a company that operates camel rides along Cable Beach. One of the things Broome is famous for. I love my new place of work :-). My first day involved a free camel ride and a free picture!

A.m.a.z.i.n.g. Undoubtedly the best first day of a job ever!!! A policy of trying to do things I can't do in the UK, I think this might top the list ;-). I love feeling the sand beneath my feet every day… There’s something very grounding about working in bare feet. Seeing the sunset as we pack away… Feeling that hopefully, just maybe, I helped someone make some new memories that day :-). Brace yourselves for the camel related banter to come ;-).

Travelling With Integrity

This is my new view…

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Not too shabby is it?! Carnarvon so far is a very peaceful place. Not too big, not too noisy, beside the water, with a breeze in the air, I am very much enjoying the change from Sydney's busyness. My first few days of settling in very much reminding of starting at the roadhouse in Renner Springs, where I worked every back shift, I didn't know quite what to do with myself when 5pm rolled round and I could finish and have a drink poured by someone still working…! Perhaps Renner has made me inherently nocturnal…! Made me not a day shift person… Maybe I just need to get used to it ;-). But I digress, let me first share with you the story of getting to Carnarvon including an interesting journey with integrity bus lines…

I got to Sydney airport. My bag very heavy, I asked the man on the bag drop desk what weight it was. Only 19kg… I felt sure I'd gained weight… He looked at me and smiled and joked about me putting on weight… I smiled back and said that carrying the bag alone had helped me lose weight! Looking for a chai latte, some Tia Maria was found by my feet first :-). I settled down with some wifi. Not to be caught out as I was last time with Virgin, my virgin entertainment app was installed and ready for action for the flight. A few options, toying between the never seen Casablanca and wanting to watch again Romeo and Juliet, I ended up opting for the internship, a film that I hadn't seen. Not too bad though most predictable… An easy watch on a plane. We reached Perth 45 minutes early… Waiting for the bus to my hostel, I really wasn't too sure about being back at all…

Having a pretty awesome sleep I woke up at 7 and decided to make the most of the day. Some sad memories associated with Perth for me, I decided it was important to tread some new happy footprints… I headed to Leederville farmers market to meet a Scottish friend for lunch. We ate in the dome, talking about Edinburgh's own dome. I also met a friend made on the chicken farm for coffee and a mcdonalds. We had a lot of catching up to do! I can't believe how much has happened and changed over the last six months… She gave me a gift… I am most touched by what she gave me.

Agreeing to skydive together later in the year in Cairns, we said our goodbyes and I headed for some last wifi before I got on the bus. Using time to Skype, I didn't have enough time to give my phone a lot of charge… Sitting trying to charge it as much as I could, my backpack and small rucksack beside me, I heard the hostel receptionist warn a boy carrying a small green rucksack 'not to look like a tourist'; that people would steal his bag because it looks like it contains valuables… I was already worried about my walk along to the bus. I'm genuinely carrying all my belongings… Not that many valuables, just carrying a lot of stuff, I asked him if I should be worried about carrying my entire belongings to the bus station… His response was genuinely that I would be ok because I spoke English… Not sure if that would stop someone that had their hands on your backpack and heard you say 'get your hands off my backpack' in English rather than any other spoken language…! Setting off with the fear of death in me, but pretty sure I could use either as a weapon due to their heaviness, I safely walked the three blocks to the bus stop. Phew. A little sceptical the bus was even going to turn up I was pleasantly surprised when it rolled past…

I got on the bus and sat in my allocated seat. Our welcoming message was a novel list of rules and regulations for our time on board:

  • No smoking or drinking on board (seems fair)
  • That the toilet is for emergency use only… We were asked to close the lid and flush using a pedal in front of the toilet which we needed to press four times… We were then told not to make too much noise as the second driver bunk was just behind it… I think we can safely assume that if you have decided it's an emergency toilet situation you perhaps might not be the quietest…
  • We were then told to keep our bags and body parts out of the aisle!!! To clarify, he then stated that heads, arms and legs should be kept on your side of the aisle… Just as well I'm little and can curl up quite comfortably on two chairs :-).
  • No hot food, milk or fruit juice was to be brought aboard. There were to be no cans or cartons on board. He then said if you have a water bottle to not consume it on board the coach…. I think I must have misheard this one though… 11 and a half hours… You're going to be a bit thirsty!! What can you do? Just sleep?!

There was no mention of seat belts… Which incidentally were not even present on the coach… Ah well. Thus educated on the rules and regulations, we began our 11 and a half hour journey… Asked to turn off our reading lights if not using them, the whole bus was in darkness… I watched out of my window. The driver went to put a movie on… I heard the opening tones of the chipmunks… Surely not I thought, reaching into my bag for my headphones… Apparently he didn't think so either… He went for an Elvis movie instead… I zoned in and out of it. We reached a '25 hour' diner in Cataby… Don't even get me started on this one… My phone one with amazingly held charge was nearly dead. I spent time at the next two roadhouses giving it a boost cursing myself that I chose it over the htc… It died about ten minutes later…

People sleeping, I decided to read on kindle rather than wake anyone with a light for my book. With tired eyes, I then joined the sleeping masses… Not very comfortably I might add… Knowing I had a pillow case and a whole heap of clothes that I could have utilised to fashion into a pillow in the luggage container, and even more that I could put on and wear (word up if you are doing this journey… The bus is pretty cold…), I was more than a little bit jealous of the woman across the aisle with a pillow and blanket… She had obviously done this journey before…! Reaching Carnarvon at 7am, meeting my new boss, introduced to the bar, I then promptly crawled into bed for a few hours nap before I got up to explore. I'm sure there will be many an interesting tale to tell from here for sure :-). Until next time! 🙂

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 :-).

Jurassic Park, Ice Buckets and Many a Reminder

I have had a most interesting couple of weeks… With some challenges and learning curves, quite a few banter filled nights, some awesome people have provided many an interesting chat. A Jurassic Park car appeared in our car park! This caused no end of excitement! Some fun times held with the bar fridges breaking, with replacement parts coming from Sydney, I have had to utilise buckets, ice and water to keep the beer cool! Yes it did feel a little like a house party! 😉 After a busy night, finally getting rid of everybody, Caledonia played randomly with my music on shuffle to just me and the empty bar :-). I sang along to the whole song :-). I have played a lot of 'tell me your story’s’ and participated in yet more guessing games for home nation. About that home nation of mine, with 'who wants to be a millionaire' on the bar telly most nights, I watched as they asked what country is also known as Caledonia. Scotland of course the right answer, with other options of Spain and Russia, the first contestant passing, the second guessing Spain and getting it incorrect, this situation elicited more than one whaaaat being yelled at the telly! How rude ;-). Perplexed by my inaccurate flag drawn on the wall, sharing this story with a customer, this is now no longer the case! Fixed and accurate, I don't know why I didn't think about the merits of colouring the whole thing in blue and using white paint before… Also asked about Scotland's national anthem, politics has made an appearance in my week with a retired Scottish MEP on a motorbike passing through my doors and a multi country discussion regarding balloting day choices for elections.

Regarding the onward journey, with some time to myself I finally managed to put the brain into gear and work out a plan. I am leaving here next week. After a journey south to see what this big rock in the middle of nowhere is all about I am then heading to a farm near Perth at the end of September to finish the agricultural work I need to extend my visa. Back to wwoofing, perhaps splitting my time over a few farms and seeing different ways I am looking forward to exploring again :-).