Sunday, 1 November 2015

Post travel blues ... real or imaginary?

When the plane arrived in Manchester I couldn't quite believe I was there. I'd gotten used to buzzing around the southern hemisphere but now I was home.

In my mind at that moment home represented family and friends and a city I knew like the back of my hand (Bradford). I was upbeat that first day back home although I could feel something lingering in the back of my mind - a feeling like the dam was about to burst. I kept asking myself "how?"... how had I ended up back in Bradford? The inquisition soon followed. I couldn't believe I'd let myself come home after only 13 months away.

Only. That's right. At the start of the adventure when I was unsure I even wanted to leave I asked myself how I would survive a year away. I couldn't understand what that would be like and what struggles I might face. When that year was over however, I couldn't understand being back.

The first week and a half was particularly tough. I threw myself into job searching because getting a job and earning money represented opportunity - opportunity to travel again.

The hardest bit I've found is looking outside my window and remembering where I was when I was on my adventure. The cold, bleak skies of Bradford are at such a contrast to the glorious warmth of Australia. I think about days at the beach and evenings relaxing in the back garden with new friends. About how you get used to life in a hostel and end up loving it. About the amazing people you met and how they influenced you.

I've been messaging people I met on my travels as a way of making myself still feel connected to the world. Somehow by still being in contact with them, I feel as though a part of me is still gallivanting around the world.

I've been searching for articles and blog pieces about post travel blues. It's comforting that so many people feel the same thing and it makes you realise how deep the feelings connected to travelling are.

The good news is that the bag pack can be filled again, a plane ticket bought, and another adventure started. Isn't that brilliant?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

No 2nd year Visa, back to Thailand.

I'm writing this blog as I'm sat in Singapore airport waiting for my flight to Bangkpok. I have to wait 10 hours in the airport but luckily for me this airport is pimped out. It has a bajillion shops, cafes, food joints, etc etc and it also has this game which anyone flying can have a go of called the social tree. I had a gander at it but it was taking ages to do anything and y'know I've only got 10 hours to kill, can't be wasting my time. Some Asian bambinos seemed giddy enough about it though.

Me and Christian had been to this airport about a year ago when we left Bangkok to go to Darwin and as I sit here waiting, I can't help but think how fast this last year has gone. Too fast. But isn't it always like that? I did not get my second year visa for Australia and I was pretty devastated about it. I believed deep down that I would absolutely get it and have another year in Oz, but alas, it wasn't to be. Before I found out, I was living in a comfortable bubble of ignorance. Blisffully unaware that the last few weeks of strolling around Darwin were to be my last on Ozzy turf.

When I found out I kept thinking about what I could have done differently to prolong my stay, analysing all the twists and turns of the last year to see if there could have been a way to avoid this. But it doesn't matter. After about 3 days of self pity I came to the realisation that whatever mistakes were made, they were made with the best intent. And the world is a big place after all, so much more to see and do.

So I flew from Manchester to Bangkok to Darwin to Melbourne, then went back to Darwin, and now I will be heading to Bangkok and then to Manchester (na na na, Manchester na na na). How do you reflect on a year like this? Me and Christian had no idea when we were sat in that Manchester airport on a rainy Monday morning what was in-front of us. We got drunk that morning and nearly caught a flight to fiji, or somewhere like that. When we finally arrived in Bangkok the pair of us were stunned. The taxi journey from the airport to the hostel lasted about 50 minutes and neither of us said much as we gawked out of the windows at the concrete jungle around us.

Thailand was an amazing time though. From the moment we gulped down our first Chang, with it's unregulated alcohol percentage, to having the worst food poising ever on our last day – it was fantastic. Some highlights from Thailand;

Meeting a Dutch couple on a cabin boat and getting Changed up together which led to Christians infamous 'Chang face'. We had about 4 or 5 long neck bottles of Chang and there was a picture of Christian which I took on my phone where he looks like the happiest any person has ever been, he clearly doesn't know which planet he is on but he looks so content.

Riding elephants with the German super couple. We had a tour of Thailand booked for us which meant we kept running into the same people throughout our time in Thailand. Two of those people were the German super couple. They both looked gorgeous and this one particular day me and Christian were, yep you guessed it, hungover, and it was time to go riding elephants. You couldn't have seen a further contrast between this German sex God and Goddess and then me and Christian who probably had sick in our beards. We were pissing ourselves when we got on these elephants, you felt like you could fall off at any minute. There's a picture I had on my phone of the German super couple looking like movie stars on top of their elephant and then me and Christian next to them laughing our heads off at probably nothing.

Boat trip from hell. It's strange to call this a highlight since it was one of the worst things I've ever experienced, but it was just so damn memorable. I've never had any sea sickness but within about 10 minutes of being on this boat you knew something was going wrong. The boat kept smashing into these huge waves and at one point you thought the boat was going to snap in half. After one particularly big crash through a wave a woman yelped at the front of the boat. Once you realised the boat wasn't going to split in half another problem occurred – wanting to hurl your guts out. Everyone on the boat started to be sick. It was really disgusting – you could hear people throwing up in every direction and it left a lingering smell of fresh sick everywhere. It was gross. One bloke at the front made the loudest noise every time he hurled. I filled a couple of sick bags up before going onto the deck because I couldn't stand it anymore. When we were finally released from the sea we had to get a taxi to our next destination. It was me and Christian, post-vomit, and 5 immaculate Japanese girls stuck together in this taxi. We must have stunk. And again, we had sick in our beards.

Moaning dutch girl. We arrived at one of the islands and got chatting to this Dutch girl who then proceeded to whinge and moan about the place. Me and Christian observed the beautiful surrounding paradise thinking what the 'eff are you on about love. 

5 kilometer walk on a hangover from hell. Hey, what do you like to do when you're hungover? Eat crap food and watch films, yea? Well me and Christian had to do a 5k walk up a mountain feeling like we'd just been dug up out of the ground. To be fair though, it was in a beautiful national park with amazing water falls and by the end of the walk you felt great.  

Mad, mad, mad night out on Khao San Road. We had a great couple of nights out in Bangkok. I got a tattoo and ate a scorpion on one of them but the final night out on Khao San Road was just crazy. We got drinking with a bunch of guys and gals (one of the guys looked like David Villa) and it just descended into madness with me and Christian running back to the hostel and then ending up being facebook stalked by two nutters. Good times. 

God there were so many little and big things that I loved that happened in Thailand, too many to write about on here. It will be great to go back before going home.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

To Kununurra and Darwin

I attempted to write a blog entry about a month or so ago, but it didn't really work out. I got about a paragraph in and felt overwhelmed by how much there was to write. Because I've not added a new entry for a while it does seem like a mountainous task but it's about time I wrote one of these things. 

The situation at the moment is this; I'm waiting for my second year visa to clear. About 3 weeks ago I got a job offer in Darwin (where I've been for the last 6-7 weeks) and in order to work the job I need my second year visa. Its been frustrating because I've kind of just been hanging around waiting for the damn thing to process. It means I've had A LOT of free time. So I've been going down to the beach, pottering about in Darwin, and watching copious amounts of YouTube videos. God what I'd give for Football Manager right about now. 

However, it does gives me the chance to write a new blog. Devastatingly though, about 5 weeks ago I lost my iPhone whilst working on a job installing furniture in a hotel. It means I've lost all my travelling photos, I've managed to recover some of them but I didn't have many from the road trip that we went on. Fortunately, Jonna has tons so I've nicked some of her photos for this entry. 

To try and detail the whole road trip would be virtually impossible. If you asked me to pinpoint on a map exactly where we went and what each place was like - I couldn't do it. Instead I'm just going to describe some of the things we got up to and what it was like travelling from the east of Australia to the west. 

I'd gone on a road trip a couple months before when travelling from Melbourne to Sydney. There were 7 of us who had been living together in Melbourne and we decided to travel together to do our farm work in Tully. It only lasted 4 days but it was a blast. We breezed our way up from Melbourne to Sydney without so much as a hiccup. 

The next road trip however, was a different beast. First of all we would end up being on the road for 5-6 weeks. There were 4 of us and when your confined to a tiny car space for a long period of time, tensions will rise. At times it was downright grueling. Even when it is challenging though, it was still immensely fun. Having been in one place for a while now, I really miss waking up in the morning and setting off in the car not knowing what you will see or who you will bump into. 

For example; one day we were all a little bit leggy from the amount of driving we'd done when we spotted a sign for free coffee. We pulled up in the car to be greeted by an elderly Australian couple. Straight away, it had a Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe about it. They were incredibly warm and generous however, so we drank their tea and ate their biscuits. Things took a surreal twist however when a cow kept poking its head in through the fence to where we were sitting. Then the older guy took me to see his budgie (not a euphemism). Well, actually, 50 of his budgies. There they all were in this cage, flapping about. He then started to talk about the budgies and described how they attack and eat other due to their confinement. 

"Look at that one there, it got its legs bitten off!" the guy said, with a worrying amount of glee. I wasn't about to start protesting however as I didn't want to end up with my legs getting bitten off, so I just nodded and smiled politely.  

When we rejoined the others they started to tell us a disturbing tale about the times they used to go fishing. They'd take 6 or 7 dogs with them so they could fall asleep and not live in fear of being eaten by a crocodile. Bit of a crap deal for the dogs however as they'd get munched on by the crocodiles, when there was only "3 or 4 dogs left", it was time to leave. 

Here's Jonna and John mucking about with animals after their free coffee.

After that story they told us another one about what we thought was an over protective dog called Mitchy. Apparently Mitchy had a bit of a thing for a human called Steve. Mitchy wouldn't let anybody near Steve and could be very aggressive. In the end they chopped up old Mitchy and put him in the fridge, at which point Jonna asked "You put a dog in the fridge?!".

"No, it was a cow. Mitchy was a cow". I think they could have talked all day about dead animals but it was time for us to hit the road. 

We were knackered on this day. We could have gone on a 15km walk to look at Aboriginal cave paintings. Instead, we lasted about 15 minutes and left. The cave drawings we did see though, were very good.

When your traveling on the road in Australia you suddenly get a sense of the vastness of the place. Your on roads 500km at a time in the middle of the wilderness. If you break down - you're fucked. That wasn't any clearer to me than the time we drove on the. worst. road. ever.

It was about 800km and took us God knows how long. 800km is not that much but it is if you can only drive at 30km an hour...

Sunset has a habit of creeping up on you when you're trying to kill kilometers. You're praying for the light to stay because the conditions become really hazardous when driving in the dark. The day can feel vibrant and alive and bright, and then all of a sudden, the darkness hits and everything changes. This road was hell. It was broken and rocky and it felt like you were driving on a railway track half of the time. This particular night we were chugging along at 30km an hour when a road train passes us by (bearing in mind we'd not seen another vehicle for hours), it caused a massive dust cloud to engulf the car. The driver side window was unable to be closed so the car was filled with dust and you couldn't see anything outside. We just had to stop and wait for the dust, literally, to settle. After that it just became about pure endurance. We started to find roads that were slightly flooded, we'd drive through them and there wasn't a problem but then we found one flooded road that was DEEP. We surmised our options, in reality there was no way we couldn't go for it, what would we do, go back? We braced ourselves and ploughed through the water. I remember feeling genuinely anxious and scared that the car would get stuck, if that happens, in a place like over. When we reached the other side we all celebrated like we'd won the lottery, we were all greatly relieved. Later on we entertained ourselves with dust puns, none of which I can remember (clearly insanity had kicked in at this point) before it got to about 2am and we had to stop. We all slept in the car that night in what John described the next day as "the worst sleep I've ever had". What was nice though was before we went to sleep we did a bit of star gazing on the road. It remains the best night sky I've ever seen.

When we finally got off this God forsaken road and into a little town I noticed a sheet stuck onto the side of a cafe we ate at. It was a review sheet for all the roads in that area. Every road was classified as 'excellent condition' except the one we'd just gone on which was described as 'terrible'. 'fucking shite' might have been more accurate.
This was taken after the "worst sleep ever". I love it because of Johns face. He's bloody knackered. It makes me laugh whenever I see it. 

Jumping crocodiles. 

Big ass termite hills in one of the many national parks we visited. 

The purpose of the road trip was to combine finding work and to experience being on the road in Oz. As we got closer to Darwin we thought we might as well check in there and see if we could get work. We signed up with an agency but the whole scene didn't look too promising. I remember sitting in Peter Pans the second day in Darwin and over hearing several backpackers complaining about how there was no work there. Ah bugger. Hang on though, we had our own car and we were all reasonably fit and healthy. Let's start a business! The business never really took off other than a silly Gumtree advert I posted. This is the advert;

Xena Services is an exciting new buisness which offers cheap prices for the following;

Gardening - we can help you with your garden needs in a variety of ways - just tell us what you need!

Cleaning - We have extensive experience in cleaning so let Xena help you destroy dirt!

Courier - Need a package delivering at amazing rates? Xena has travelled far and wide and is willing to go the extra mile for you!

Removals - Xena is strong and ready to do the hard lifting for you!

Labouring - see above ;)

So get in touch! We are a team of 4 backpackers looking to make cash by doing a great job for you so why not give us a try?

I don't understand why nobody ever used Xena Services? I got left a message by one person who said she needed Xena Services urgently but when I called her back she didn't answer... that could have been our big break. A woman from Yell also hassled me for a couple of days about wanting me to invest money in advertising Xena Services on their website. Unfortunately our advertising budget was zero. The woman was also shocked when I told her we were 4 backpackers and the business had been running for a week.

So Darwin was a little bit slow.

To West Australia and Kununurra then!

West Australia feels different to the rest of OZ. It feels less explored. There are no English backpackers listening to shite chart music shouting "laaaaad" for one. There's a quarantine you have to go through when entering West Australia and I conjured up images of the Truman Show when Truman tries to escape but men in big silver space suits prevent him from doing so. In reality a bloke came up to our car and had a gawk before going back in his office. It wasn't exactly rigorous.

Kununurra was about 300km in West Australia and I started to worry that we were going to end up in the sequel to Tully. It was indeed a very small place but not as small as Tully and when we saw a Coles we all celebrated thinking this indicated there was life in this place. Kununurra was lovely. The camp site we were staying at was beautiful. It had a national park right next to it and a big open camp fire. And most importantly, no English backpackers listening to appalling music.  Nights out were a little bit slow, one bar we went to said they didn't serve shots, in fact they barely sold an alcoholic beverage. Another place told us to get lost before we ever got in because we'd bumped into some French guys who were drinking cans in the street. We were back home in the tent by half 11.

It was time to get down to business though and look for work. We thought we were ahead of the curve by going all the way West, that we would find employers on their knees begging us to work for them. Not quite. It seemed like the place was just starting to see a rise in backpackers arriving there. The job agency was rammed full of Italians, French, Sewdish, etc all searching and waiting for work. Sigh, back on a waiting list.
My publicity photo for a radio interview I did discussing the fact so many backpackers were arriving in Kununurra looking for work. 

I didn't need to be so pessimistic however. We got a offered work within a couple of days. All four of us could work together doing a job called weeding. Weeding? How bad can that be? Turns out very bad actually.

We got up at ridiculous o'clock and drove to the weeding farm. We were greeted by a Japanese fella who was our boss. Within 5 seconds of the conversation he informed us that "I fire you if you no do job", he continued "I fire a German last week in 5 minutes...I will fire you if you no do job!". He told us that he'd fired 80 people in his time as boss, surely over a 10 year period right? No, 3 months.

The job itself was the worst. You're bent over all day pulling out weeds. Up and down these rows of plants in the searing heat. John built up a rapport with the boss pretty quickly, but me, Jonna and Xena were on the ropes after just 2 hours. We were all too slow. Me and John worked a row of plants that was more like a forest of weeds. By the time we finished the row we just laid down in the dirt. "This is our lives!" John said, for the first of many times. Luckily the first day we got to leave after 6 hours. The drive on the way back was quiet. That night we wondered if we would get sacked. The second day began and it was more of the same. I got to work on a row next to Jonna and I kept telling her how bored I was while she was trying to fight off a grasshopper that kept launching at her.

Just before lunch I went into a row to help someone else finish. As I was walking back the boss approached me,

"I fire your friends.." he said,

 "Excuse me?" I replied

"I fire them, they no good, you can stay or you can go with them, but they are fire"

"OK I'll have a think"

When I went back over to the them, they were already sat in the car with the engine turned on. Fuck weeding seemed to be the general consensus. After that we didn't stay in Kununurra too long, work came up in Darwin and it was back on the road.

There were a lot of 'pinch me' moments during the road trip. Sometimes when we were sat in this car together I wondered how did I end up traveling Australia with 2 Swedes and a German. I love that. As someone who used to consider a visit to North Yorkshire as a bit of a trip out, this past year has been exhilarating and eye opening. Now that I've settled into a routine whilst waiting for my visa, I miss how the road trip turns on all your senses. Your brain is overloaded with new experiences and new things to look at. At the end of the road trip I was back in Darwin, where the adventure had all begun. Me and Christian at the Dingo Moon Lodge hostel on Mitchell Street. We didn't have a clue what was in front of us, I'm almost jealous, but I know there are many more great adventures ahead.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Running around Cairns at 6am

Last weekend it was the turn of Murray falls to provide the necessary distraction from life in Tully. We set off early Saturday morning and I don't think I'd slept much the night before because when I look at some of the photos from Murray falls my face looks like a shit wax model approximation of my face that had melted in the sun.

Murray falls is about a half hour drive from Tully and is set in a beautiful surrounding forest area. What actually is Murray falls? Well it's basically a big arse waterfall with a few smaller waterfalls nearby and then some lakes and other water shit nearby. While not as breathtaking as when you first see Mission beach, it still provides a bit of wow factor when you arrive. 

It was a nice day - good weather, people hurling themselves off cliff edges, a BBQ at the end of the night. It provided a nice distraction from the major head fuck that was happening at the time. Ya see I didn't know whether to go back to my job or not. I had thoughts about leaving etc and I was convinced the satanic farmer would sack me anyway. I literally couldn't make a decision. I annoyed everybody by changing my mind every 5 minutes to the point that when I piped up again, people just glazed over and waited for me to stop speaking.

Sunday night came along and I'd still not made up my mind so I decided to do... nothing. I would just wake up in the morning and feel which way the wind was blowing. So Monday morning came and went and I still did nothing. Effectively I'd resigned my position as farm whipping boy. But what now?

Christian was fed up with Tully and was due to go back to Melbourne on the Tuesday, I considered going with him. We´d been traveling together for the last 7 months so it was sad to see him go but as always with traveling these things work themselves out and I know we'll catch up later down the road. Still, who was I going to make stupid noises with now? I try and make one of our jokes with someone else and they look at me like a dog that's just been shown a card trick.

By the middle of the week I was feeling the pressure of having walked away from a job. The caravan park I was staying at wouldn't get me anymore work and my opportunities to find something were shrinking. There's a hostel that gets people work but you have to schmooze the lady behind reception. Me and Zena (not the persons real name, obviously) had visited this lady several times over the past few weeks trying different ways to chat her up. We'd heard she liked couples at one point so we walked in draped over each other but it didn't get us anywhere. We seemed to be getting close at one point but then this past week she rebutted us and made it sound like we wouldn't get work in Tully if we stayed there for 5 billion years. I couldn't mentally face jumping again. Imagine, 8 weeks of standing on a street corner at 6am waiting for a job everyday. Nah. 5 weeks was enough.

So yea, it was getting a bit precarious. I was sat in the canteen at one point just staring. Staring at nothing. It's interesting to watch the unemployed fill their day in the canteen. The early optimism of finding work replaced by anguish and regret. All you can do is stare. 

Then suddenly... bang! Something happens that puts the wheel of change in motion. The charisma laden Swede Jonna came home from work on the Wednesday and immediately declared "we need a car so we can get the fuck out of here". Yes! And before we knew it, we were walking a few miles to a garage to ask an old fella Sid about a car. I could feel the blood pumping around my body again, the tingling of excitement that traveling is supposed to stir up inside of you. After that all I could focus on Zena had piss poor luck in getting a job, sometimes it seemed the universe was intent on keeping her unemployed by coming up with preposterous coincidences that would prevent her from earning money. So me, Zena, Jonna, and Jonna's brother were all in. 

Buying a car is never straight forward and being a backpacker you have the added pressure of limited funds and people trying to scam you. We searched Gumtree for cars but one major stumbling block was the fact that registration and to get the car declared road worthy could be very pricey so you had to figure that into any cost of a car. You could think you've found a smashing deal but when you calculate all added costs it's not so smashing anymore. One problem is that with Tully being the size of a postage stamp, there aren't many people selling cars their. Cairns was the obvious place to look to for a car. Me and Jonna arranged to meet one guy selling a car in Cairns on Saturday morning which meant us catching the 3:35am bus. They only have 5 buses a day to and from Tully which is so Tully. I was bloody knackered on this bus and the guy next to me was Mr Hyperactive. He kept jigging his leg which meant it occasionally brushed mine, which was annoying. Just chill out mate it's 4am. I considered asking the driver if we could sedate him for the rest of the journey. 

When we arrived in Cairns we staggered to McDonalds and stuffed our faces amongst all the piss heads and crazy's. One crazy got chatting to me and Jonna and the conversation started out normal before it plunged into talk of telepathy and extreme weight loss techniques. 

Still, we were enthusiastic and motivated. But then we got a text stating the guy we'd arranged to meet wouldn't be able to make it. This was at 6:30am. Cheers mate. What to do now?

The backpacker haven known as Peter Pans, with its free internet and giddy employees wasn't open yet so we just had to wander about for a bit. It also started to piss it down and Jonna nearly broke her foot. She smashed it into the ground on account of her crap flip flops and then bizarrely questioned whether her toes had swapped feet. It gave us a laugh for a few minutes as we paraded up and down the streets of Cairns. We thought we got very lucky when we stumbled across an abandoned car. It was the perfect size, had all the necessary paperwork, and looked drivable. There was a sign on the car stating the police would seize the car if it remained left standing. I thought I would be able to ring the council up and arrange to take the keys and drive off with a car for free. Nah. I rang 'em up and this hag on the other end of the line flushed my dreams of a free car down the toilet and before I could ask any follow up questions she hung up the phone. And I thought I was bad at providing customer service!

After that dream was dashed we tried to ring a few more people about cars but we didn't really get anywhere. No-one would answer their phone. No-one. Do these people want to sell their cars or what? Answer the bleedin' phone!

It got to the middle of the afternoon and we were both starting to worry if we would ever find a car. We started to consider the possibility of not getting one but then, another check on gumtree solved our problems. A German lad was selling a pre-historic Ford and needed a quick sale. All the registration and road worthy bollocks was already taken care of. Boom! Me and Jonna called him 3 minutes after the advert had been placed. Luckily he was right around the corner from us. We met him and had a look at the car. It was in a really good condition considering its age and it came with a ridiculous amount of camping equipment. Me and Jonna tried to act cool whilst we sealed the deal but we both had that look in our eyes "oh my God". 

When all the paperwork was signed and the cash exchanged we drove out of Cairns with our new car. Zena rang us to check on our progress and we decided to tell her that we were still searching so we could go back and surprise everyone. I may have overstated it though when she rang. I told her we hadn't found a car and that we may have to stay in Cairns overnight and try again on Sunday which would mean "sleeping on a bench for the night".  It was the worst bit of acting since all of Keanu Reeves. 

Back in Tully we rolled up and showed people our new wheels. So what now? We thought that we should try for another week to get work in Tully before setting off. If we could just get work for a couple more weeks then we'd have more cash for the road. Tully, as usual, didn't provide however. We then set about contacting farms in Queensland to try and arrange work which we could then drive to. Again this was unsuccessful with most responses varying from "the number you have dialed has not been recognised" to "Sorry mate this used to be a farm but I've retired now".

The best response we got was from the West Coast. And that's where we are heading, tomorrow in fact. It has a different feel about it going west. Entering a vast desert that will no doubt be spectacular. I've been in Tully 2 months and when I reflect on the experience I feel as though it just wasn't meant to be. For some people Tully was an amazing experience but to me it feels slightly like a waste of Visa time. I think I will look back on it more favourably when I've gotten the hell out of it. At the very least I've had some interesting experiences here that most likely won't happen again. So in that respect it hasn't been a waste of Visa time. 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

I was looking for a job...

Four or five weeks I'd waited for a job and then a chance visit to the caravan park office solved my unemployment issue. I can't remember why I'd gone to the office but the girl behind the desk said she'd tried to ring me about a job. Normally I have my phone glued to my forehead in-case it rings for work but the one time I didn't have it on me and I get a call.

It was weird to finally get a job.

"Shit, I don't have a job!"

Gets a job.

"Shit, I've got a job!"

The girl in the office warned me that the job I'd been given was very 'strenuous'. This strenuous job turned out to be spading. I'd not even been aware a job like this existed but when I started to tell people this was the job I'd gotten, everybody warned me about how hard it was.

So the initial joy of getting a job was soon replaced by outright fear. I didn't sleep a wink the night before I started the job. Me, a pampered office worker, was to suddenly be thrown into the world of spading. I tired to reassure my own brain with thoughts like "at least I'll get in shape" and "at least I'll be working outdoors", but my brain would usually scream back "you're too unfit to do this, you might die".

When the morning came, a new, grim 5:00am reality dawned on me. It was still dark outside and suddenly I felt like a boy on his first day at school. I stood outside some random building and waited for the farmer to come and pick me up in his van. The other guys were there, all banter and machismo, whilst I stood around trying not to look terrified. When the farmer pulled up in his van I crawled on and sat at the front with a lad called Chris. He was also starting his first day and so we chatted about all the small things to cover our nerves. I remember feeling like I wanted to be sick. What a great first impression that would have been? Chundering all over the farmer.

About half way through the journey the farmer said that he needed both a spader and a deleafer. He swiveled around on his chair and eyed up me and Chris. Chris is 6 foot 4 and built like a bear. And I'm not. Deleafing requires you to be nimble and good with your fingers. The farmer asked if either of us did martial arts, we shook our heads no, but I told him I was good at ping pong. Why I did that I will never know.

He told me I would be deleafing and I thought I'd won the farm work lottery. Deleafing is dead easy compared to most other farm jobs. You just swan about cutting leaves, how hard could it be? I was taken under the wing of a French guy who with his strong Parisian accent made everything sound dramatic and epic. I asked him how long he'd been at the farm, "too long' he replied. And so the day began and I started to deleaf. The guys told me not to worry about being fast, but just make sure I was doing it correctly. Great, I thought. Until the next day....

The second day and everything changed. The farmer bollocked us for not doing enough work the previous day and threatened to underpay us. Bit harsh I thought. He spoke to me like I'd been working on a farm all my life. Sorry mate, that privilege belongs to Yorkshire Water.

This farmer by the way. He's the antichrist with a cowboy hat. A genuinely terrifying man. He shouts, balls, complains, calls you a c*** 18 times a day. I had a big run in with him a couple days into working. We had to inject poison into these little sucker trees and I was given a gun to use. There were 4 of us and we all set off when it suddenly became clear my gun was fucked. It wouldn't pump the poison. One of the other fellas tried to help me but scurried off shortly after as he was worried about not clearing his own patch of work. This left me stranded and clueless. I had no fucking idea how to fix this gun. The antichrist wasn't anywhere to be seen and so I desperately tried to fix this piece of shit gun myself. Panic mounted but I managed to fix two tubes which the poison pumped through together as I couldn't unhook the one that was broken. I finally managed to get it working when I heard the screech of a van. Lucifer was back. He jumped out of his van and eyed up my invention. He then scowled and screamed about what a "dumb fucking idea that was". He shouted at me for a few minutes, I can't remember what he said but it involved calling me the c word a few times and I had to mop his spit off my face when he was done. What a lovely thing to happen to you at the age of 30...

Anyways,  he did some farmer magic and sorted the gun out. He looked at me as if to say why couldn't I do this? Well unlike Satan, I wasn't birthed on a farm with a shovel in my hand.

When the day is done there is immense satisfaction. You've worked your bollocks off for 8 hours and everything seems right in the world. The farmer reverts to being a normal human being and you think to yourself that you might just be able to see this job out. This changed the week after though.

Getting up is brutal. Your alarm starts to ring and your'e just devastated. Everybody is depressed on the way to the farm. I try to get some extra sleep during the journey to the farm and kid myself that it's actually possible. Once you start work however, it's okay. The day moves along and before you know it, you're off home again. I try to pump as much shit as possible into my body to help me get through. I've got mars bars and energy drinks coming out of my arse.

Today is Friday and yesterday we had to smash a lot of acres deleafing. We were doing well but then the team leader said we would take a late lunch. This killed me off. I started to slow down badly and unfortunately some grass saw this and told the farmer. At the end of the day when we were heading home the farmer uttered the words I'd been dreading, "tomorrow Steve, you'll be spading".  I felt aggrieved as I'd busted my hump all week and was getting better. Thursday night I considered my options, leaving Tully, going back to Melbourne, going somewhere else, going back to England... I'm not arsed about another year in Australia and I don't want to waste my last 3 months here being ordered around by the prince of darkness. He's already threatened to sack me numerous times and has made it clear I won't be given time to get used to spading. I have to hit the ground running...with a spade.

So this weekend I will have a mull over my options.

This traveling experience continues to surprise me, even in the harder moments it's still interesting. Whatever road I take I know it will continue to be a fascinating journey.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Birthday and that.

The great thing about traveling is that you start to appreciate the small things - a clean t-shirt, a mattress, not living in a fucking tent. Yes, I've finally hauled myself out of the tent and got myself a cabin. I'll miss the tent in a way, especially at night, but it's nice to be able to sleep on a mattress rather than a bit of rubble.

The cabin now means I can organise my clothes. I'm still wearing the gear I bought from Primark before traveling which includes generic t-shirts and daft Hawaiian shorts. The shorts in particular have been subject to much derision from fellow travelers for their flowery patterns. I only expected to wear this shite in Thailand but hey-ho, here I am 7 months later looking like a reject from Miami Vice, or Scarface, or something else from the 80s.

The cabin gets pretty hot during the day which  is kind of like saying the surface of the sun is lukewarm. I once went inside the cabin in the afternoon and my face melted off. I don't care though I'm just giddy to have 4 walls again.

'twas my birthday last week. I turned 30. 30! I wondered what a birthday in Tully might be like? Would I visit the Gumboot? Head over to Alligators Nest (false advertising, if I ever saw some)? Climb the mountain?

Naaaaah, I got drunk at the beach. Yay. I got on it at about lunchtime and didn't stop until I had no concept of time anymore due to alcohol poisoning. It was great. We stayed at the beach until about 3 and then headed back to the caravan park. The guys I'm traveling with all made a big effort to make my birthday in Tully great which I'm really thankful for. I got some interesting gifts including a box of crunchy nut cornflakes, a kind of broccoli and green bean flower bunch, and a ukulele. Getting a gift like a ukulele is great although because it's a gift there is pressure to actually learn that shit. I've tried to learn guitar a few times in my life but normally give up when I can't play a Led Zeppelin tune within a week. I'm going to try and take baby steps learning the ukulele but it's a bit shit at the start. You have to learn to strum and tune your ukulele.Yawn. Ah well, it's not like there's anything else to do in this place is it?

After the gifts I was serenaded by some other people at the caravan site. I didn't know most of them but they still came over and sung happy birthday to me. I don't know what tipped them off? Maybe the big flashing badge I was wearing that said 'Happy 30th, birthday boy'. One guy took the opportunity to sing happy birthday to me on his own. He has one of those x-factor/boy band type voices and sings Man in the Mirror everyday in the kitchen. It was flattering but a little weird and being the socially awkward goon I am I kind of squirmed whilst trying to look like I enjoyed it. Fair play to the guy though, he powered through and I gave him a hug afterwards.

I think the day after we climbed the mountain. The days in Tully blur into each other so I'm not actually sure of the time-frame. I exhibited 4 out of the 5 symptoms of a heart attack whilst climbing up but it was totally worth it. The views were stunning and it wasn't too dissimilar from looking out over the Ilkley Moors. It was a nice moment only temporarily obscured when one of our lot did a big fart when another group of hikers arrived at the top.Climbing the mountain means we have officially done everything in Tully there is to do, I'm amazed it took 3 weeks to be honest.

During this time I lived in an unreality bubble. In this bubble I didn't care about jumping, or a job, or money. It was quite refreshing to forget about that stuff, at least for a few days. On the Saturday we went back to the beach but decided to camp out there for the night. I wasn't convinced I was going to stay there the night so I was completely unprepared, but when we arrived and started a fire I just knew I couldn't leave. It was ridiculously picturesque with the moonlight reflecting in the sea and marshmallows roasting on the fire.

There was a sour incident involving garlic source however. I'd been drinking gin for a couple of hours and when we were cooking food I was holding a torch so the people making the food could see. I'd been standing there like a pleb in a gin fog holding a torch and when it came to my burger someone slathered garlic sauce all over it. In my mind this was act of war and so I ranted and raved for a couple of minutes. There was an awkward silence in the group and I was worried I'd ruined this insanely good evening, luckily things got back on track a bit later.I'm not allowed to have gin anymore.

We slept at the beach that evening, our fire keeping us warm through the night. It was marvelous but I'm still shaking sand out from every orifice.

On a completely unrelated note, Oliver, a lad I used to work with in Melbourne messaged me on Facebook saying I look like Bron from Game of Thrones. The cheeky, grime loving, Coventry bastard.This is the same lad who told me about "drop bears", which fooled old Browney, and when I started warning other people about them they explained to me it's BS, like tartan colored paint.

I got the body armor as a birthday gift.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Mission beach and that.

Mission beach - what a shit hole!

Weekends in Tully are interesting. There's no point in jumping, and if you don't have a job you kind of sit around waiting for the universe to provide you with some form of entertainment.

This past Saturday Jonna (the charismatic Swede) whipped us all up into a frenzy by suggesting we visit Mission beach. She was smart about it though, she downplayed the beach itself "yea it's okay" and "it's okay if you're into that type of thing" etc. This meant I was sufficiently unenthusiastic enough not get my hopes up, although to be fair a day outside of the caravan park was enough to get anticipation levels rising.

We waited for our bus to whisk us away from Tully and whilst doing so I ran into Hiro again.

Hiro is a Japanese lad that I would bump into at least 7 times a day in and around Tully. He's a very nice guy but unfortunately there's a bit of a communication breakdown between us as he speaks limited English and I know fuck all Japanese. Our conversations were limited to saying hello and enqueuing about each others employment situation. By the 7th encounter of the day however, we would kind of grimace at each other before politely waving and wondering when the next meeting would be.

That's not the biggest communication breakdown I've had however. That would be when a French guy asked me at 4:30am what job I used to do(at least, that's what I thought he asked) and I said "call center" before gesturing a telephone in my hand. He then said something else that my sleepy brain couldn't quite digest so I nodded and smiled. Christian started to laugh and said "that guy now thinks you work in a call center to get your second year visa". A couple of times since he's asked me how my job is going, I just say "no work today", he must think I'm a lazy bastard. Why can't I speak Japanese and French, what a dick!

Me and Christian when jumping one morning were so delirious that we started to fantasize about working in a call center in Tully. It would be dead easy we thought.  There'd be 4 people working and you'd get about 10 calls a day. Christian gave this example of a potential call "Hello?...Yes bananas are still yellow...bye".

Anyways, Mission beach. After a 10 minute bus journey we arrived at said beach. You don't see the beach at first until you plunge your way through some bushes and trees, but when you see! You feel like you've stepped into some perfect Google image of a beach. Your brain starts to spasm with joy as you try to take in the breathtaking surroundings. We walked for a few minutes before picking a spot of the beach to slump on. The sea was gorgeous, warm and inviting so I spent most of the day in there. We learned a couple of days later that you should NOT go in the sea at Mission beach due to jelly fish. I'm not scared of jelly fish, I'm from Yorkshire, I'm hard me.

At one point when I absorbed my beautiful surroundings I actually thought this makes Tully worth it. If I can go to this beach regularly then things won't be so bad, right?  We will be heading back to the beach this weekend for my birthday, I'm turning 20.

What? Stop laughing.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

How the f*** did I end up in Tully?

It's about 11pm, I should have been asleep at least an hour ago as I have to wake up at 4:30am to go "jumping" (I'll explain later). I'm fumbling around trying to organise my bed, my bed being the floor,1 pillow, and a sleeping bag. Yes, I live in a tent.I've got my torch on and I'm trying to re-arrange my pillow and sleeping bag in a way that means I won't wake up the next day paralyzed, but so far I'm failing. It also doesn't help that mosquito's find me so bloody attractive and want to feast on me at every opportunity. Mind  you, living in a tent on your own I'm happy for the company sometimes....

To be honest, living in a tent is pretty cool (sometimes). At night when I'm laying back and all that seperates me from the stars above is a thin bit of fabric, you can't help but feel some kind of cosmic togetherness with the universe. In the morning though, I fucking hate it.

I don't want to paint the picture that I'm stuck in the middle of a field somewhere, miles away from civilization and abandoned by society. I'm actually at a pleasant caravan park waiting for a job in a place called Tully.

When you arrive at Tully the first thing that strikes you are the forested mountains which stretch almost 360 degrees around the place. They look intimidating and challenging to climb but it's one of only 3 activities Tully has to offer (the others being; visiting the supermarket and getting your laundry done). When you take your gaze off the surrounding mountains and focus in on Tully, you come to realise how tiny the place is. There's 1 street with a couple of shops on it, a library,a swimming pool and about 7 churches. There's also this boot. A giant boot. I think this is Tully's main tourist attraction, they seem dead proud about this boot. There's an entrance at the bottom and then you climb up some stairs and you can poke your head out at the top.Cheers Tully.

The people here seem very nice, I got chatting to an older woman in the charity shop who was the daughter of Italian immigrants.In post second world war Italy where money and food were few and far between, her father took the chance of a lifetime and made the trip to Australia in the late 50s. I wonder if a lot of people in Tully have similar stories? Maybe Tully is made up of a collection of people who don't fit in anywhere else? Or maybe I'm reading too much into a conversation I had with one person?

I'm a backpacker so I'm just here for da money which has not been forthcoming at the moment. I'm hoping to get a job humping bannans which my 11 years working in a call centre has trained me well for. Trying to get work here is a bizarre experience. Your advised to go jumping every morning. You wake up at 4:30am bleary eyed and foggy brained and stumble to a street corner in the hope a farmer will pull up on the road side in his truck requiring an extra worker for the day. You wait for an hour and a half and when you do actually see a truck pull up you have to waddle over and ask if they have any jobs going. When they say no, you have to shuffle back to your spot and wait for the next farmer to rock up. One of the girls who I'm traveling with called Maura will frequently shout "I have a degree" half way through the jump. I know Maura, we all do. And the farmers don't give a fuck. The feeling of 'what am I doing here' grows every day though. When jumping is over you return to your bed for a couple of hours before waking up again with the prospect of nothing to do for the whole day. We'll normally occupy ourselves with games of ping-pong ( I was unbeaten until our charismatic Swedish friend Jonna had the audacity to beat me), cooking food, and trips to the library.

If this blog sounds like I'm feeling negative about the experience then that's not my intention. I had an amazing 5 months in Melbourne before, but it was time to move on and experience something new. If Tully is anything, it is new. I've traveled here with 4 other people and I think at times we have all felt the strain. When you aren't working and in a place where there isn't much to do, you end up thinking...a lot. I hope in 3 months I can look back on Tully and feel good about the experience, what it taught me etc. Until then I'll be in the tent dreaming about mattresses.