So there I was, back in England without a clue what to do. Back from the best 3 months of my life, but without any money to do something like that again. Back to the job hunt with no direction. Well that’s not strictly true. I had a direction, it was that I longed to get out and do some more travelling. I just couldn’t fund it. I got a job as a door to door salesman selling Sky TV packages. You know those annoying guys who bothered you while your at home and had a pitch all set up ready to help you part with your money. I was actually quite good at this, I’ve never had a problem talking to people and apparently can be quite charming when I need to be.
The main problem however was that I couldn’t stand it. It was soul destroying. People could be rude, aggressive and just so very dismissive of you that it took quite a lot to pick yourself up and move on to the next house. I was paid £50 for every sale so as times it was quite a lucrative job. At times. I remember one point going 3 days without a sale. 3 days of walking for 12 hours knocking and getting knocked back. For free. Other days I could make 3 or 4 sales in a day so it wasn’t all bad. It was just so dull. I think it was this job that made me appreciate how much I had enjoyed my work on the IOW and how even if it paid pittance I would always prefer to do a job I enjoyed.
I was in constant communication with my friend Kev who had gone to Australia and was living the life of Reilly. It was crushing. I saved enough from selling sky to go on a lads holiday to Kavos, which while great fun didn’t fill the travelling size gap in my soul.
I was rescued from this limbo by my Grandfather. As mentioned in my earlier writing he had sadly passed away a little over a year previously. He was a fantastic man who I had spent a lot of time with growing up but who sadly lived a long way away. And as kids are prone to do as I got older and no longer had to travel with my mum to visit him and my gran I stopped seeing them as often as I should. Fortunately not long before he died I was up in Manchester taking part in my friends fresher’s week at university. I gave him and my gran a ring to say I was in their neck of the woods. They had apparently just got home from some tai chi but jumped on the bus to Manchester immediately and spent a lovely day walking around Manchester with me talking me through some of the history. I realise now that the amount of walking we did that day must have exhausted them but not a word of complaint was spoken. My clearest memory of this day was saying goodbye, it was the last time I would see my granddad and he shook my hand and palmed me over a £20 note with a wink. I was privileged to say a few words at his wake and I hope I did him justice.
He saved me from my limbo in the form of an inheritance that had come through. I had enough money for another adventure. Along with the St Christopher pendant he had worn daily I was off to Australia. Flights were booked and I was off as soon as I humanly could.
I flew into Perth, I didn’t realise it at the time but it is the most isolated city in the world! I met up with Kev and stayed with a few of his friends. Well I met up with Kev, my baggage didn’t. I was stood at the baggage carousel after a 24 hour flight with only 1 bag going around. A bag that looked like mine but wasn’t. Turns out someone had mistakenly grabbed my bag. I had learnt from my African mistake though and had plenty of contact lenses and my glasses to hand so it wasn’t a total disaster. The airline assured me they would recover my bag and drop it off at the place I was staying ASAP.
Not the best start but meh these things happen. My first day in Australia was spent recovering from my flight but the second day I went over to a place called Rotness Island. A small island off the coast of Perth that has these tiny little marsupials. Myself Kev and 2 of his friends hired tandems and spent the day cycling around the island exploring. We had a great day and I remember thinking to myself, Yes this is what ive been after. The freedom to explore and visit new places, no responsibility just being able to do anything I want.
Perth was quite short lived, I came down with pretty bad tonsillitis on my 4th day and was laid up for quite a while feeling sorry for myself. I couldn’t even drink as I was on anti biotics. I decided I was cursed in Perth with me health and my baggage so decided to steal Kev and go off somewhere else.
Well as mentioned before there’s absolutely nothing near Perth so we decided to head east. Next tough question shall we get the train or fly. Flying was cheaper and quicker but the sound of a train through the desert was took exciting to pass up. In my head I had images of the orient express or the trans Siberian railway. Well it really wasn’t. The Indian pacific railway runs from Perth, to Adelaide and on the Sydney. That’s nearly 4000km. Or Scotland to Turkey in European terms. A long way. There’s not much in-between. We decided to go as far as Adelaide. Which was only 48 hours on the train. With 2 stops. The first stop was in a town in the middle of the desert called Kargoolie. It a gold mining town. We had a few hours here before the trained moved on and we spent a few hours exploring what little was there. Then one more stop in a tiny village with 2 buildings called cook to refuel.
We didn’t have beds or a room. Just 2 train seats. On top of that the train was no smoking so it was a very long 2 days. But it was an experience. Not one id care to repeat but an experience none the less.
We go to Adelaide armed with our lonely planet guide and our backpacks. We wandered around from the station until we found a hostel and set up camp there. Since this trip I’ve been back to Adelaide and spent a long time looking for this hostel but couldn’t! It was a great little hostel with a built in bar that was very relaxed. I remember there being very little to do in Adelaide so we didn’t stay too long. Completely at odds with my second visit there 5 years late, but ill get to that in due course.
We decided to hop onto a 3 day guided tour to a little place called Kangeroo island off the coast of Adelaide. We had a fabulous tour guide and an awesome little group of people and the tour was great fun. We saw dolphins on the boat over, some amazing scenery, koalas and my very first deadly Australian snake being chased by a lizard. It was a win for guided tours. I had done 3 in 3 different countries and found them all amazing. This one was packed in with great activities like sand boarding (although this was quite painful) and quad biking in the wilderness. We even got to learn some car mechanics. Although this wasn’t on the itinerary.
Back to Adelaide after a few days where we spent a bit of time recuperating before going off on another tour. The great ocean road to Melbourne. Due to the success of kangaroo island we decided to go with another tour here. With the same company and while the tour was great fun, the other people on the tour weren’t quite as fun as kangaroo island, and the tour guide wasn’t as fun. So id put that at good tours 3, disappointing torus 1. The actual sights and tour content was fabulous and the great ocean road is a must do trip. But maybe on your own in a hired car. I did however go up over the famous apostles in a helicopter which was great, even if the weather wasn’t.
The tour dropped us in Melbourne were we met up with one of my friends I had met in Ireland who showed us the city. We did a haunted night time ghost tour of the old jail where Ned Kelly was executed. We had also lucked out on our arrival as we got there in time to go to the Melbourne cup, the Australian equivalent of Royal ascot but bigger. The country stops for the races. We actually got to go and it was great. I got a cheap suit and lost quite a few dollars on the horses and champagne.
We were also there for the International rules game at the MCG. An aussie rules team goes up against a Gaelic football team with mixed rules. The first half is more aussie rules with an oval ball and Aussie rules scoring the second half with a round ball and Gaelic football rules. I spent the day and night doing my best Irish accent and celebrating with all the Irish fans. This again is a must do if your in Melbourne at the time.
I got in contact with another friend from my Irish trip who lived near Melbourne and Kev and I were invited out to go and stay. I forget the name of the town but it was quite rural and the hospitality shown to Kev and I again was memorable. We were treated like family. The long distant African and English family. We stayed a few days and left, packed high with different jams and preserves to last us the rest of the trip. Lovely gifts for poor backpackers.
It was in Melbourne Kev and I parted ways for a while. I had paid for much of his adventure from Perth so he was going ahead to work and pay me back and I would meet him in Brisbane in a month or so.
I took advantage of another Invite and went on to Canberra where more of my friends from my Irish trip resided. I was shown the city, invited to party’s and sampled all Canberra has to offer. While not a favourite backpackers destination its a lovely city and somewhere you could defiantly lay down roots.
From Canberra it was on to Sydney. Sydney is like nowhere else In Australia. Its so busy and metropolitan. I stayed in a crummy backpackers in a dorm with 20 other people. It was great fun seeing the opera house and going out partying but I didn’t warm to the place and booked my bus away from here after a couple of weeks. Well I booked my coach, I didn’t actually get on it. The day I was due to depart I went for a beer. Then a second. I woke up the following morning on the other side of the city on the kitchen floor of a hostel. I had missed my coach and had no idea where any of my stuff was. I made my way back to my old hostel and was relieved to find my backpack had been taken from the pub to the hostel by one of my drinking partners. I still have no idea if the events of that evening! Ah yes Sydney is also the first place I found backpacker crime. I was stood at the traffic lights and went for my wallet but it had gone. I had been pickpocketed. Being quite naïve to travelling I had everything in there. My cards my ID everything bar my passport. Im so fortunate to have loving parents back in the UK who would Western union me cash periodically so I was able to continue my trip. Lesson learnt, always keen a spare credit or debit card away from your wallet in your backpack.
On to Brisbane, I spent a day here before moving up the sunshine coast to a town called Maroochydore. Here is where I met Kev who had got a job here and set up roots in a wonderful little hostel.
My time in Maroochydore was my favourite In Australia. Its a wonderful small beach front town, the hostel was fantastic, its own swimming pool, mainly outside and with laid back owners. We partied a lot, I worked in the hostel doing odd bits to get free board. And spent a lot of time basking in the sun by the pool in a hammock reading. The hostel was by a river so I would go and kayak every morning to the shops to get my cigarettes. Great fun, until Kev tipped my kayak and the day was spent trying to salvage the cigs. I have later learnt there are quite a few bull sharks in this river so maybe not my wisest move.
We did day trips up to Noosa Heads which is a more popular backpackers destination up the coast and enjoyed everything they had to offer. I even met a great girl while here who was planning a trip to the UK. We decided when she got there we would see what happened and where that went.
But all good things come to an end and I left Kev and Maroochydore and went back to Brisbane to catch a flight over to New Zealand for a few weeks.
New Zealand was the final step on my adventure and I knew it. When I got to New Zealand my money was quite tight, I was still relying on western union transfers but the pot was running out. I began to resign myself to the fact my adventure would soon be over. I flew into Auckland and went to stay with my friend Alix, whom I had gone to Ireland with.
I think my sombre mood getting ready to head home marred my trip over to New Zealand and I am eager to get back there to experience it again with a better mind-set.
I took a great road/camping trip over to the northern part of the north island which was great fun, although wet at times before spending some more time in Auckland. I also took a trip to the middle of the north island to Rotoroa, a town surrounded by the most beautiful sulphuric hot springs. The colours of these pools of water cant be done justice by my meagre photography skills and neither can the smell but rest assured its a beautiful place and one id recommend to anyone. The rest of my time in Auckland was spent trying not to spend money and dreading the trip home.
The realisation that flying back from Perth was my first stumbling block on my trip home so I changed to return ticket to be from Brisbane. Next step was getting to Brisbane from Auckland. Now usually I’m very organised with my flights, I get there far to early and spend a few hours reading and relaxing before my flight: Not this time.
My final night in Auckland I got a little to drunk, woke up, looked at the time and realised I was flying in an hour! A mad rush to the airport and some sweet talking at security got my on my plane with moments to spare. I landed in Brisbane and had a day to kill before my final flight home. It was 4 days before Christmas so I enjoyed walking around Brisbane trying to wrap my mind around Santa in the sun. Finally the day came for my adventure to end. But not without one last hiccup.
My flight was an evening one, id spent my last penny’s on a train ticket to the airport. I got to the train station and the last train had already departed!! I was flying in 3 hours, had no money and needed to get to the airport. I was on the phone to mum who wired over some more money, however nowhere was open! I couldn’t withdraw it anywhere.
I was absolutely flapping. I got in a cab while on the phone to mum who was telling me different locations of western unions in Brisbane. (this was the days before google on the phone) Each one this cab driver got to was closed. It was here I discovered the random kindness of strangers. This gentleman must have been driving me around for an hour. At one stage I was in tears, worried id never get home. He drove me to the airport, without promise of cash. Such a nice kind gesture that warms my heart to this day. As we got to the airport I saw a western union sign, asked the driver to wait, and managed to withdraw all the money sent over. I paid him his fare, plus a very healthy tip and waited to board my plane. Heading back to the UK, excited to see friends and family, excited for Christmas but with no idea what next!