Now here’s the thing. I do happen to have this natural - and I wouldn’t necessarily say unfortunate - knack of working myself into some form of obsessed frenzy, comparable to that of a worker in a slave driven regime. I deprive myself of every conceivable luxury in order to save enough money, to then (without haste and thus living less than tastefully) blowing the lot on a more than neurotic travel itinerary. This latest occasion, being my trip around South East Asia. So realizing that I am almost broke and couldn’t be any further from home and certainly without the means to even get home for that matter, I head back to Australia
. Without so much as a job or idea of where I was going to head, something (as always) I thought, would just come up! Bearing in mind that this was not a great time to be heading to a country also struggling with the financial crisis and with the inevitable stir of unemployment looming, who knows what could have happened.
When a jobless and more-or -less moneyless reprobate status seemed inevitable, I once again received some reoccurring good fortune that always seems to bestow me. I was yet again saved, in the form of a good and ever helpful friend of mine, Louisa. She kindly agreed for me to stay with her and her family in Adelaide. If that wasn’t enough of a saving grace, she even found me a job. So with a cozy spare room all to myself and at minimal cost, I was delighted to have friends who care. It was only a week until my job as a landscape laborer and gardener began. The pay was modest and frequent and the work physical. Indeed I didn’t really need to be losing much more weight that I had whilst Mango farming and travelling on a budget in Asia, but one can’t have it all. I enjoyed the outdoors and it took me a while to get used to not being on the move and travelling around and of course actually working again. However, the job was made somewhat fun by the guys I worked with, an interesting bunch to say the least. The banter, as always in any form of construction job, was free-flowing and immensely crude. No matter where you go in the world, there will always be the gang of male labour workers, that just seem to have this amazing way of coming out with possibly the most outrageous, degrading and disgusting comments going
. It seemed with some of this lot, that new and disgusting ways of offending everyone you know or have ever know, especially ones sister or partner, is always held in high regard. That being said, I was welcomed into the gang and despite the heat, I enjoyed the routine of chipping away the ground with a pix-axe, or shoveling endlessly into the merciless hard ground that is South Austrllia (in a huge drought). Without any form of modern machinery at our disposal, the five of us took on an appearance of one of those old fashioned, prison chain gangs. We’d be digging and picking away in the relentless heat, seemingly getting nowhere fast. All we needed was the guard on the horse with the shotgun, eyeing us up in-case we decided the hot and dusty conditions were too much for the soft handed backpacker, thus making a hasty run for it. All this said, it was nice after Asia to be getting some luxuries. Things like a big meal, a packed lunch (which was kindly and sometimes embarrassingly made up for me every day by Lou’s mum, Rita), being able to have beers after a hard day’s work and alas, a fairly normal way of life again.
When I first arrived into Perth Airport after returning from Asia and the manic journey that I had just completed behind me, I was more than excited about all the lovely things I could do. Hey, getting excited about an airport, isn’t that something?! Just using a normal toilet was a joy and being able go to the airport bar and order a decent glass of wine or a beer, not made from the untold chemicals and not fermented with rats tails or chickens feet, or some other grotesque manner that the Asian countries seem to go about their preparation of edible and drinkable things
. I was happy to just be in normality again. So much so, that when ordering and then tucking into my beer and a packet of crisps in a civilized environment, I was so overwhelmed that I found myself mumbling and quietly laughing to myself, in the manner of that of someone who lives in a bus station. However nobody was really paying attention, until maybe the bill was produced to me and in the realisation that I was no longer paying Asian prices and my days of living off $20 a day (for everything), were long gone. Oh yes, in fact, the small whimper/ Gasp that I let out, did get the attention of the barman, who looked on in a kind of pitying way. However, after leaving no tip, I was observed like I had just walked into his frail grandmothers 80th birthday party and introduced her to my genitals.
So I got to Adelaide after connecting in Perth and was picked up by my friend at the airport, along with the family dog, who had come along for the ride. Now unusually for me, the dog took an instant liking to me and immediately insisted, mostly with paws on my crotch, to sit on me the whole way back. If the intense excitement and licking wasn’t enough, she was so overwhelmed and nervous, that she couldn’t help breaking wind on me all the way back. Being in such proximity, led to some harsh words being exchanged, of which I’m sure she understood. The journey mainly consisted of windows down, face licking, crushed balls and the pulling of displeased faces by all of us after every outburst of wind ( i think even the dog thought it was a trifle nasty)
. In fact I enjoyed the female attention. Hey, when one is used to unwanted attention from Grotesque Asian hookers and Chick Boys, a farting female dog doesn’t seem so bad.
The month i did spend in Adelaide was quite eventful. In contradiction to this, Adelaide itself is generally known as fairly 'uneventful' a lot of the time and has a fairy extreme turn of weather, with winter being particularly wet and miserable. However it is called the festival state (as boasted everywhere you look) and i just happened to be there in the month where it was all happening. Other than around March, the rest of the time is somewhat quiet in comparison. Maybe they should call it, ‘Adelaide - The festival state’ (but mostly just in March)’. Anyway, i did get to see some of the famous Fringe festival, which hosts the garden of unearthly delights. This comprising a month long array of many weird and wonderful acts, standup comedy and stage plays etc, from around the world. Other events on at the time were 'Kings of Leon' in concert (which i got tickets!), the W.O.M festival, V8 super cars, Rugby 7's... all to name a few!! Further to this, there are some good museums, a clean and likeable city, world glass wine regions (my Mecca's, of which i inevitably paid my pilgrimage to...a few times), all on the doorstep and to top it off, great lengths of beautiful coastline.
So i take it all back
. I thought it was all very agreeable place to stay for a while. However my travel instincts of wanting to move forward kicked in, and with winter and rain soon approaching, i was itching to move onwards to newer ventures and a more agreeable climate. Once again, with no real plan or job to go to, i decided to make my way to the far North Queensland and the tropics. The holiday season was beginning to kick off and reasoning suggested that there would be opportunities galore to be had. Plus i hadn’t seen this part of Australia yet, so there seemed every reason to go. Heading up to Cairns ( a mere 3000km away) i landed with optimism that finding a job would come in easy fashion, as previously experienced all other times, where i have found work in under a few days. This however, didn’t prove to be the case. Recession had hit hard and the very area of work i was looking to go into (tourism) was the very industry that was being affected. I don't think i have ever spent such a soul destroying week of job searching. Being determined that I am, i made every effort to find work. I cold canvassed with my CV, applied vigorously online, made calls, bought newspapers, hassled establishments and more or less stalked various job agency employees. The vast majority of feedback i was getting, was that Australians are getting first refusal for the work, with it being hard times etc.. So backpackers, in no uncertain terms, can basically get fucked. This interesting theory being pointed out to me several times like i was an imperfectly formed pile of shit
. Some of the women in these agencies were obviously devoid of some insane notion that their job required more than talking about how nasty their boyfriends were, or sanding down their dirty, grotesque nails. Just by going in and daring to ask for a job, would receive a look, as if you had just farted in their handbag.
Again, being stubborn i persisted and continued applying, but to no avail for a full week. With the grim and shocking reality of the possible concept of not actually finding work becoming more than apparent, i was ready to cut my losses and get the hell out of dodge. It didn't help that Cairns was one of towns that is void of little to see or do in-itself (except for those nasty souvenir shops, which i do so detest) and you kind of walk around, sporadically glancing at your watch, wondering if 9.47am is too early to start drinking. However i did drown my sorrows on what was to be a quite memorable evening out. In the accommodation i was staying, there were also a bunch of Papa New-Guinean Gold miners (of all things). Without much grasp of the English language or any real experience of westernised ways, i agreed to take them for a beer to a local bar (called the cock and bull), from which turned into a messy night in teaching them the the classic methods of Western binge drinking. With their seemingly bottomless pit of money (and probably stashed nuggets of gold at their disposal) and genuinely being nice people, it was a great night to be had
. One older gent of the group was so overwhelmed with me and my company and the general bonding experience, he gave me his sweaty cap with 'PNG' (Papua New Guinea) on the front. This apparently, according to the others was quite a considerable gesture. I was truly touched. After exchanging hugs and promises to keep in touch, i got in at 4am stumbling and giggling to no one in particular. In typical irony and whilst suffering somewhat, i received a phone call at around 10am. I was greeted with a friendly invitation to have an immediate telephone interview, with a person and job i totally had no idea, or had forgotten i’d even applied for. In typical form of being able to think fast, i managed to say the right things and generally bend the truth as to all my imaginary attributes. I was more or less offered the job there and then. I was to start on the following Monday as a Porter/bag bitch/guest transfer person, on an island out towards the barrier reef, named Dunk Island. I was of course over the moon and it seemed my efforts and willingness to search for a job had paid off. So out of Cairns after a week and I hadn’t seen a lot with all my job hunting taking priority. I must clarify that the area of cairns surrounds is a haven for tourism. Despite, what i say of Cairns itself, it’s what is around it which is appealing and Cairns merely serves as a base town. For instance, you have of course the Great Barrier Reef, which is a world attraction in itself. Also this part of Australia boasts one of the most unique World heritage listed feats
. It is the only place that has two separate world heritage listed locations next to each other. For here, the Great Barrier Reef marine park, directly meets the tropical wetlands heritage park. In short the Rainforest meets the beach and Reef, which is quite unique. What an amazing part of the world, to have such incredible natural wonders so close. The rainforest itself is such a lush, wet, green landscape, teeming with plant and animal life only found only in this part of the world. Plus with an average annual rainfall of up to 5 metres, makes for a rather spectacular place. Then if you get fed up of this type of environment, then just head an hour on a boat trip to the other natural wonder of the world, the reef. So needless to say, tourists come in abundance and in turn should create plentiful jobs?!
On the subject of beingsuch a unusual place, let’s look at the state of Queensland and Australia’s Tropic region. It appears to me that most living creatures in Queensland (especially Cairns region), are generally dangerous, evil, highly toxic and leave you feeling frightened, jumpy and if all goes to plan.., dead. I'm not sure, but it seems Mother Nature may have been suffering from time of the month syndrome when choosing the types of plants and animals, which Australia and specifically Queensland, should be blessed with! In Queensland you are not able to even swim in the sea between October and April (basically all summer long)
. This is due to Marine Stingers/Box Jelly fish which arrive and remain in plague proportions for this entire period. They just so happen to be one of the most dangerous creature’s on Earth. An innocent swim or paddle could result in ones nervous system shutting down, along with loss muscle use and that’s before dying within two minutes of an agonizing death. I never have liked the sea anyway (luckily). Then the rest of the year, if you are lucky to be alive, it’s too dangerous to go in the sea, due to Salt water/Estuarine Crocs, who are begging for someone (namely a naive tourist) to have 'just a quick paddle', so they can feast on your limbs. With crocs aside, you just need to dodge sharks, stone fish (which has if stood on can put a poisonous spike into your foot), sea snakes, sting rays and all manner of aggressive and seemingly unnecessarily toxic creatures. For heavens sake, even just an innocent stroll along the beach collecting shells can prove detrimental to ones life! If you casually pick up a nice looking shell and it happens to be a Cone Shell, then there is a creature that lives inside it, which springs out and if bitten by it, would see you writhing in agony on the beach, whilst Japanese tourists take pictures of you, thinking you are the beach break dancing entertainment. Its all really rather a sick joke. I can imagine the scene and conversation when creating the world, ‘Let’s tease these humans and put sublime coastline, hot temperatures, appealing looking water and then here’s the catch
. Let’s dump some of the most dangerous things in the world in and see what happens'.
So all one can really do, is stand on the beach look on without in dismay at what they are missing. and not truly imagining the implications of what a quick dip could do.
So I started my job and what a place to jump into. Dunk Island resort, a sublime tropical paradise and I was about to begin living and working here. I was more or less thrown in at the deep end and the job was tough and tiresome, but working in that environment, certainly beat looking out of an office window, at rainfall, or walls of brick. The island itself is a wonderful place, with lovely beaches, rainforest, hikes and perennial good weather. Plus as staff, we could use the gym, squash court, tennis, kayaks, sail boats and much more and all for free. Well, when I say free, it really means we get to use it in return for them squeezing out your soul and energy that you put into working. Hey, you can’t have everything I guess. The only slight downside is some of the people working here, are what you could refer to as special and rare. Or if one was to be a little harsher, then ignorant wankers may be more appropriate, There are some people that just really need to move on and that have just been secluded from the real world for too long.
For instance, on going into the staff shop, you are faced with the storeman, a vast slug like creature, who appears to hate all people, especially newcomers and especially non-Aussies. Just even daring to go into the shop, creates sighs and dismayed looks. Heaven forbid if you decide to hire a DVD, or change your mind about buying something at the till. This generally gets a look, as If you had just sodomised his pet kitten in front of him. It does seem that this area of Australia and its people are lacking in certain life skills, albeit anything vaguely resembling any form of basic civility, or use of a brain. I guess it could be comparable to the Deep South in the USA. Don’t get me wrong, I love Australia and a lot of its people, I just feel that certain pockets (just like anywhere I suppose) does have a fair share of monumentally cretinous individuals. To be honest, the vast majority of Ozzies just don’t like English, or Pome (Prisoner of Mother England), as they like to constantly refer us. They are very proud of their country and their way of life and don’t like outsiders joining in. It’s a lot bit like a little step-brother and a big step-brother relationship. They kind of like you, as they sort of have to, as they are kind of related along the line, but when backs are turned, they pick on you and try and show how macho and better they are and belittle you in any conceivable way. This being made more astonishing, due to the fact (as I often point out to them),they are only taking the piss out of their own ancestral background. Well, what you can expect from people from a convict background! This constant come-back by me, always seems to create a stir, withsome attempts at rebukes, but usually nothing more is said, as they know i'm right. Another funny one was when I left my last job with the landscaping company. On my final day I was given the very loving gift of a bar of soap and some crappy shower gel. The reasoning behind this was that all POMS, never wash and smell
. I DISCOVERED THAT THIS DERIVED FROM THE opinion that we only ever bathe once a week. Admittedly, in the old days this possibly could have been the case. However, with times getting better and with the introduction of ‘heating in houses’, I don’t believe this to be the case (well maybe sometimes, depending on where you come from in the UK – Wales or Scotland perhaps being the exception?!) . So again, their quips and general opinions are funny, but somewhat old and unfounded. Guess it must be nice growing up with continual hot weather, where cold washes are actually a pleasant relief, or where one can swim in the sea everyday (except maybe Queensland)! Try freezing your ass off and then seeing how often they wash!
Otherwise, life on Dunk is a big contrast to almost anywhere and seems planets apart from a big city. Living on an island is a strange experience. So many things can be put into perspective and many things that are usually so normal, are now taken for granted. With such a lack of contact with any sizeable number of people as a population, having one shop, limited access to things, having all our meals prepared, no bills to pay and tropical paradise. Wow, most would say what a life and a place to live. I guess, maybe for some. Maybe just a pit stop for me I think. With constant humidity, small close-knit community, hand sized spiders (which would make a priest swear and blaspheme), mosquito’s and all manner of deadly sea creatures,no book or music shops, pubs or restraunts, I don’t think its quite for me
. However, as usual one must take every experience and disect the good stuff and use it. I made some good friends, added a lot of missed reading, have enjoyed the privelages of the hotel and of course the ever present sunshine. Plus the luck of being able to have lived somewhere that offers great beauty. It was also great to get a chance to move from portering and experience the role of Island Host. Yes, i was one of those annoying people that meet you at the hotel after travelling all day and trying to be funny and telling about all the things on offer. This job, being somewhat better than shifting bags, was intersting enough, but also one would quite regularly take the brunt of upset people or even just people who simply just didn't want to listen. Most ironically (and maybe the cause of the latter), i found it highly entertaining that people from around the world would arrive to remote Australia, on an island and who do they get greeted by.... A BLOODY tanned POM. On that note, the UK beckons and its my last few weeks, on probably my last island. There will be a few days in Sydney, catching up with some friends, hitting bars and civilisation and then back to UK for my good Man Tom's wedding,plus my 30th (OH WOE,OH WOE) and much catching up and maybe, just maybe, even some sunshine?! Afterall it is Summer there. At the moment i don't know if i will return to Australia. I will miss Australia alot, it is an incredible place,with some wonderful people and an amazing way of life that will always tempt me to return.
Well, back to Austrlaia after a wonderful 2 months in Asia. I felt considerably more relaxed after the last time I was working in Australia and the hellish 3 months on the mango farm. I will say again, that the experience was worthwhile, but not one to be repeated, lest in time of sheer financial hardship.