Archives for posts with tag: Koalas

From Alice Springs I fly to Cairns. I’m in Queensland now and it’s much more up to date here then it was in the Northern Territories, there are healthy food choices and stores actually stay open past 8pm and on Sundays. I spend almost a week here and see absolutely nothing. Sometimes it just happens that way. I hung around the pool at the hostel, met people, drank wine (oh sweet glorious wine) and just basically chilled out.  My impression of Cairns is not fantastic though, too touristic and I don’t find that the women that live and work there are very friendly to me, they are to the guys I mention this experience too, but not to me. I don’t get this, I’m nice and friendly and I tip well so really what’s the deal? Nowhere else in Australia did I experience this, I won’t take it personally though, there is no point. This is a party city, a big drinking, clubbing, hook up scene complete with bar brawls, half naked women, and an awful lot of rugby players, not my deal at all. I’m killing a bit of time here because I don’t want to rush south too quickly or I’ll catch the cold weather. But, eventually I get restless and start on my journey south.

My first stop was in Townsville where I planned to spend the night before I could get over to Magnetic Island. Once on Magnetic Island I find a hostel and settle in for a few nights. I meet some people and we play trivia one night in a bar and win! I guess all that useless information in my brain IS good for something. Also I get to hang out with lizards, snakes and birds, I’m even allowed to cuddle with a koala!

Back to Townsville and then a bus to Airlie Beach. I spend a couple days doing research to decide which boat I am going to travel on to see the Whitsunday Islands. There are so many to choose from it’s overwhelming, such a variety of information and options and price ranges. Do I want the party boat, no. Do I want good food, yes, but it’ll cost me. Do I want to dive, big no. Do I want to go to the Great Barrier Reef or just stay on the inner islands, hmmm not sure, need to do more research. Do I want 1 night, 2 nights or 3? Do I want a sailboat or a motorized boat, again, don’t know. I do finally make a decision, choosing to go with a group called iSail Whitsundays and I think I made an almost perfect choice. Just check out this boat that I got to spend 2 nights on!

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I haven’t talked about this so I will mention it now, travel in Australia is very different than in SE Asia. Probably the biggest difference is we speak the same language. Also, there is no haggling; the price is the same for me as it is for people who live here. Taxis use the meter without me asking, the water is hot when I want it to be and I can drink it straight from the tap, the coffee is really, really good and there is whole wheat bread. Buses run on schedule, streets have signs, garbage is picked up regularly and traffic laws are obeyed. It’s different and it’s a welcome change after 6 months in SE Asia. I was tired, burned out, frazzled and losing patience, not a healthy combination when traveling so the ease of travel in Australia is a welcome break.

I’m staying in hostels, they cost about $30 a night. I sleep in dorm rooms with bunk beds (always try to get a bottom bunk) and bathe in shared bathrooms, sometimes the cleanliness is dubious. Every hostel has a kitchen I can cook in, though I have to fight for a spot at the stove come dinner time. Sometimes a free breakfast of instant coffee, white bread, jam and bananas is included in the price, if you’re lucky. Meals out are expensive, an average of $20 an entrée or more so I do my own food shopping and have to carry it with me in a soft insulated cooler bag whenever I travel onwards. I try to keep the meals simple so I’m not lugging too much stuff around from place to place. I eat a lot of pasta, ugh. Grocery stores are pretty much the same as at home with a few minor differences. They run out of vegetables a lot, often I want some broccoli and the bin is empty, this would never happen in the ever overflowing horn of plenty that is North America. Also, and this was tragic, they haven’t figured out turkey bacon yet, so disappointing.

I met a lot of people who are in Australia to work and save money. I find that hard to fathom as it’s so expensive here but apparently the wages are good so it is possible. Most of these people are young travelers probably on their first trips. I can see the appeal in that, it’s an easy country to travel through, the prices are set, the food is familiar and the streets are properly labeled to coincide with your map so it’s not that different from the U.K., America, Canada and Europe, where most of the folks I meet are from. These kids are finding jobs picking fruit and veg, working on cattle ranches, doing some skilled labour and sometimes even working in McDonalds (with a starting wage of $20 an hour I can see how that might be bearable). I hear various messages, some people say it’s the best thing they have ever done, that the people they work for are fantastic and friendly, that they feel a part of the family and that they are learning new skills and are well cared for. Others say it’s miserable, lonely and the opposite of everything I mentioned above.

If I had more than the slightly over 2 months I have in Australia I would buy a vehicle and travel the country that way, but time and the fear of breaking down alone in the middle of the outback have deterred me from this approach. It wouldn’t be a huge money saver either from what I can figure. Camping costs around $15 a night from what I’ve heard and I would also have to buy all those supplies (tent, sleeping bag, sleep mat etc). If I had more time I could have spent it searching out like-minded people who already have vehicles and gear and who need travel buddies to share the costs of gas, food, lodging etc. but I don’t have that time. And, in my mind at least, that could take a lot of time, especially the part about like-minded people. I don’t want to be stuck in a car with someone who grates on my last nerve after 2 days. So I am traveling by Greyhound bus. It limits where I can go and when, but not that much and I don’t have to worry about car insurance, gas and selling the vehicle when I am done.

Oh, and there’s Koala Bears here!

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