I have been travelling Australia now for almost seven months. It’s safe to say I’m pretty leathery by now, it’s true what they tell you. The Australian sun will fry you, leaving you looking like an astoundingly, pink English lobster. The locals will spot you as a Pom from a mile away. Even if you’re like me, someone who never wears sun cream in the English summer, ‘No factor 30 for me thanks, I’m an eighth Italian! I’ve got this under control!’ Don’t let it fool you! The sun in Australia is a whole different ball game, thanks to a pesky little hole in the ozone that we can thank our ancestors for. You will burn.
I’ve been to Perth, Melbourne, New Zealand and Sydney so far. All have been beautiful and breath-taking in their own ways.
Perth has a multitude of beautiful beaches, a sprawling city and a complete juxtaposition between suburbia and bushland. And you can always rely on hot weather!
Monkey Mia is a beautiful little place about 9 hours from Perth that I absolutely loved. There’s one hostel, in the middle of nowhere, gorgeous untouched beaches with dolphin feedings in the morning, a red sand bush walk that has breath taking views of the ocean on each side and a beautiful restaurant where I had my first taste of kangaroo (absolutely delicious!!! It’s like steak but even better) with a romantic view of the sun setting over the sea. It’s a trek, but so worth it in my eyes. There’s also an aquarium (Ocean Park Aquarium, Shark Bay) a short drive away where they have a whole host of creatures, some astoundingly beautiful, some just plain creepy, including their own sharks that they feed in front of you during the tour. The creepiest critter I met was a Moray eel. They don’t have the ability to swallow, so they evolved a handy little feature- a little second mouth inside the outer mouth that reaches up when the eel has caught it’s prey, and shreds the poor object with it’s many teeth, moving up and down from the exterior mouth the the stomach like an efficiently disturbing little shredder. A few divers have lost their thumbs to these friendly sea dwellers whilst trying to feed them. The creature I liked the most was the sea snake, they are friendly and curious and love the reflection of divers goggles, so they swim straight at your face! What fun that would be, a venomous snake bee-lining for your eyeballs.They apparently like to wrap themselves around divers legs, and are unlikely to bite you because they just can’t be arsed to waste their venom on you, they’d rather use it for something they can actually ingest. You’ll never meet a more thoughtful snake.
Melbourne was more European in it’s style, I found the city more interesting than Perth city, and a hundred times easier to get around, with a tram line reaching the outermost corners of Melbourne. I loved the Natural and Cultural History Museum and literally spent a whole day in there. It seems to go on forever, and even has an exhibit dedicated to psychology which I found very interesting. There was a part where you can peer in through holes and look into scenes from dreams that are commonly experienced by many people at least once in their lives. I love that little insight into the workings of the human mind. We think we are all so different but at the end of the day our experience of the world can be startlingly similar. They even had the old classic, protagonist of the dream standing naked infront of a group of people pointing and laughing. We’ve all been there, thanks to the paranoid old subconscious.
St.Kilda is a lovely hippy town to visit, accessible by tram line about twenty minutes from Melbourne city, go to the old Luna park if you fancy a little adrenaline kick (not for me because I am a boring bastard and hate rides). There is a famous restaurant called ‘Lentil as Anything’ where you order anything from the menu and pay simply what you think it’s worth or what you can afford. They generously feed many homeless people and apparently have absolutely delicious food. I didn’t get round to it but it’s been recommended to me by many people. St.Kilda also has lots of lovely little shops and a market on Sunday where you will undoubtedly find some treasures.
The beaches in Melbourne perhaps aren’t the most impressive in Australia, but there’s plenty more to distract yourself with there. Just beware of the infamous Melbourne weather! A day may start off scorching hot, but by midday it could be torrential rain, so watch out.
We did farm work for a month, about an hour away from Melbourne, in a place called Seville. I don’t need my second year visa, so we were literally just working there to save money (Australia drained our bank accounts before we knew what hit us) after being promised by a friend that the pay was great although the work was hard. She got the last part right. The pay had been altered from the last years good rate, so we actually ended up picking cherries for almost nothing! In the end I got a job in the packing shed where they have to pay you a fixed rate so the money eventually got better. Although the farmers were horrendous, racist and just plain mean, I made some great friends from all over the world and learned some valuable lessons (along with some great recipes I’ll take home with me), as you often do in horrible circumstances. As they say, if you don’t laugh you’ll cry! And my god did we laugh, with a little help of 4 litre boxes of ‘Goon’, a cheap imitation of wine that is drunk like water in all Australian hostels.
We left the farm after what felt like a lifetime, but was only a month. First world problems, aye! Then onto Sydney we went.
We started the long, boring drive in our camper-van (called Peggy), whom sometimes likes to turn her accelerator off, leaving me frantically stamping on the flaccid pedal and squealing until I have the presence of mind to turn the A/C off. Our Peggy is temperamental beast at times. I see a bit of myself in her. If she has too much to do (electrically which I suppose I can’t really relate to) she simply turns off her pedals and ignores it. Not the best quality in a car, but we coax her back into working order and make do!
To break the monotonous drive, we stopped at a beautiful camping ground called Cotter Camping, about half an hour from Canberra (Australia’s hilariously anti-climactic Capital city). Cotter camping was amazing, beautifully secluded and quiet, between rolling hills and greenery, I felt like I was in south wales- except it wasn’t raining and there weren’t any signs with words like:
A fantastic example of the ridiculous yet wonderful welsh language; this word refers to a large village on the island of Anglesey.
If you got up early enough you could walk down to the river that’s literally a stones throw from the parking lot, and you can watch platypus take their early morning swim. As they are very shy creatures it’s very unlikely you will ever see them in the daylight. There were walking tracks across the river and up a hill where you could find caves, some barred up for restoration while we were there. I loved this campsite, it was close enough to Canberra to go and visit but far enough to be in a beautiful, tranquil setting that feels like the real Australia. Canberra was a nice little city, unusually crammed full of roundabouts (Roundabouts confuse Australians, but not as much as they enrage Americans). There’s a nice big shopping centre which was decorated beautifully for Christmas, so odd for us to be in the height of their summer surrounded by tinsel and Christmas trees. There was also an extremely random group of camels in the city centre that tourists were probably paying an arm and a leg to ride around the square. They are unusually huge creatures, bigger than you’d think! Did you know there are more camels sauntering around the Australian outback than there are in the middle East? Well there you go.