It’s March the third and slowly, its sinking in that its only 5 weeks until the 380 Airbus makes the 24 hour journey from Sydney to London. Australia is a massive country and to see it all in a year, when you are working during that year is impossible. Out of all the Australians I have met, only one has made it all the way round and in to the middle. Of the rest only a handful have seen both the east and west coasts and some have not even stepped foot in more than one state. I have been to five of the six states, seen four of the six state capitals. Having said that, I actually don’t know what the capital of New South Wales is! Canberra is the capital of Australia which could also make it the capital of NSW, or is it Sydney? Or is Canberra in it own state, the ACT? (Australian Capital Territory) Sydney would probably be the most major city I have seen not classed as a capital if it is not. So it may be three of the six state capitals as I have not been to see the New Parliament House or the Australian War Memorial in Canberra I have to admit. Although according to my trusty book, Canberra holds the ‘(dubious) title of being Australia’s porn capital.’ How long have I got left?
Without doubt, I will look back on a year of incredible experiences and fantastic memories with a small amount of sadness that after a year it has to end for now. Having seen a few people head home and report back with phrases such as ‘People are so white they look ill’ and ‘I got of the plane and could see my own breath’ and not to forget, ‘Everything is so dull’, it may be hard to be excited about a 24 hour plane journey home. But I keep thinking of the positives. Family, friends, the cricket season, a proper pint not a schooner, proper football, the de-icer, my winter coat, four cricket jumpers, chavs, roadworks and of course a country in recession. How do I extend my visa? No I do look forward to the first five and there are more reasons to come home. I have two pairs of shorts left, three pairs of boxers, two pairs of socks, and three t shirts. I almost own more pairs of thongs (flip-flops) than items of clothing. There will always be a tinge of disappointment that I didn’t see everything, so far I have ticked off 13 of the ’41 things not to miss’ listed in my book. Two more may be added, but money and time may be a barrier. The question of whether to see The Whitsunday Islands and Fraser Island or to work for an extra week and earn that little bit extra money before heading back to Sydney and home. The two islands would be amazing, but the second option would enable me to enjoy Sydney more for the last few days. Canberra is only 286 kilometers from Sydney!!
Whatever I chose to do, it will have been a fantastic year. The two places I have stayed the most will obviously form the majority of the memories. Arrawarra, a small beach settlement where everybody surfs. If the beach was in England you would struggle to walk on it without bumping in to a chav or stumbling though a crowd watching punch and judy (I’d take a bunjy jump over one of them any day). Here? You could walk 3 kilometers along the beach and not see one person some days. And that is typical of beaches from Sydney up to Brisbane along the east coast. Obviously there are some busy spots, but maybe Bondi apart, these are still relatively quiet to a busy beach in England. The nearest larger settlement to Arrawarra was Woolgoolga, about ten kilometers south. Woolgoolga boasted one pub, one supermarket, numerous cafes, two pizza outlets, a couple of surf shops and a library. Oh and of course a beach and a headland from which beach after beach swept their way both north and south.
The second major spot for me has been Cairns, where I still sit now, seven months after arriving. A lot of people complain there is not much to do in Cairns. Bullsh*t!! (A phrase used by most aussies I have met and one which I may have to get rid of). You can visit the Great Barrier Reef for starters, a place that surely attracts a fair share of visitors to Australia. A bunjy jump, skydive, white water rafting, rainforest trips, including the option of a cable car over the forest, waterfall adventure, cable ski, Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge, Crocodile fighting (sorry mum, meant spotting). Cairns obviously does rely heavily on tourists. So at the moment, business is reasonably low. Economic crisis has lead to many holidays being cancelled I’m sure. The recent high levels of rainfall and flooding in some areas up north lead to cut offs on some roads. I flew back from Melbourne on the last day of the really heavy rainfall (there may be more to come, March has a greater monthly average than February in my book), walked in to the supermarket and thought ‘Blimey they’ve been busy today!!’ It took a good half hour after leaving the supermarket for it to click why the shelves were empty. Cairns had been cut off from the south and the north. Since then, we have had some of the best weather I have seen up here, it has rained occasionally, but with it, it brings a welcome relief from the heat and humidity. Touch wood this continues for another 3 or 4 weeks. Back to my point, not much to do in Cairns? Well if its raining, it’s a perfect opportunity to witness why the rainforest is a rainforest, why the waterfalls and creeks that 3 months ago were almost sitting still are now gushing with water that Roger Federer would be proud of! And of course white water rafting is twice as dangerous (sorry mum, meant fun) than before all the rain. So the next argument is money, what do you do in Cairns if you are short of money? Again, there are plenty of opportunities. What would you do in Sydney with little money? Walk around the harbour? Ok there is no spectacular Opera House or Harbour bridge in Cairns, but how many times can you walk around the harbour? There are so many walks or treks that can be done in an around Cairns. And the scenery changes depending on the weather. There is an almost secret spot called Crystal Cascades where you can walk through rainforest, see waterfalls, swim and jump off rocks twenty metres high in to a pool maybe 3 metres wide. How deep, we are not too sure, we haven’t yet found the bottom!! There are beaches to laze away the hot days. In an attempt prove my point and again show the usefulness of my book, Sydney is covered by a little over 100 pages, Brisbane, barely 20, Darwin, a state capital, 12 pages. Perth another capital, 10 pages. Adelaide ‘and around’ is covered by about 40 pages. Melbourne nearly 50 pages. Cairns has 24 pages devoted to it. Give me a minute on wikipedia and I will get the populations of the places mentioned as well.
Cairns has a beautiful surrounding landscape. For 3-5 months, it can rain heavily, but for 7 months of the year, it has less rainfall than Sydney or Melbourne. And it is green. The tablelands that lie to the west of Cairns signify the city boundary meaning that Cairns is surrounded by the sea on one side and mountains on almost all of the other three. Up on the tablelands, you can be driving through typical Australian bush one minute, a lush green rainforest the next followed by an English countryside looking area with actual cows and farmland. From a vantage point looking over the city from Lake Morris road, the city lies with lush green forest either side and amazing royal blue sea behind it with reef islands on the horizon. It’s very different to the surfing culture of most of the rest of Australia, but all the same it is a truly magnificent part of one big Island with a rock in the middle of it.
Two small Aussieisms for you. The description of a true Aussie BBQ. You may see where this is going after a while. Man of the house, wakes up and decides it’s a day for a beer and a BBQ, pretty much any day ending in a ‘y’. He sends his wife/girlfriend to gather the food from the supermarket by foot while he takes the Ute to the bottle shop and picks up a crate or two of beer. The woman, comes back to see him with a few mates, beer in hand preparing the BBQ, ie pulling it out and switching it on!! Most aussie men have one hand that if free doesn’t know what to do as it normally has a beer in it. So the woman procedes to chop the salad up, prepare the pasta and potato dishes, gather all the utensils out, marinate the meat and bring it all outside. Not forgetting the eski full of ice to keep the beers cool. The man will then ‘do’ the BBQ. He carefully places the meat on the hot surface and turns it every so often until perfectly cooked. The woman will then serve the food, clear the plates up, wash everything up and re-fill the esky. Bloated and after a hard day, the bloke will rest back with another beer and ask the wife if she enjoyed her night off!!
Two aussies from work are driving up north for a holiday. After setting off at 8, they cruise for a good 4 hours without a word before stopping for a drink in a small town. “Are we stopping here?” asks the passenger. Without speaking a word, the driver pulls over stops the car and they have a drink. Back on the road, 3 hours later, once again the driver pulls in to a town. “Good time for lunch” pipes the passenger. Once again, not a word from the driver as he gets out and grabs a bit to eat. A long session in the afternoon ends at about 6 when for the third time the driver pulls in to another town. “Stopping here for the night are we?” the passenger ask queries. For the first time, the driver speaks, “If you don’t stop talking il drop you off here and carry on my self!!”