After an extra four days in the Balinese sun because of a cancelled flight, we were pretty excited to start our Australian adventure. Jetstar obviously wasn’t too thrilled with that prospect, because five hours before our rescheduled flight was due to leave, we learnt our flight had been cancelled yet again! Jetstar told us they could put us on the next flight to Cairns in 2 days time, or they could route us through Melbourne. As Jetstar weren’t willing to pay to put us for the next 2 nights, we decided to fly to Cairns via Melbourne.
We boarded the flight in Bali in the 26 degree heat and touched down in a VERY cold, grey Melbourne. 😦 Having spent a LOT of my undergraduate life watching ‘Nothing to Declare’, I was well prepared for the customs debacle at Melbourne International Airport. I feel cheated; no one swabbed my bags for drugs, no one confiscated any weird food, no one took my walking boots to quarantine, and no questioned me about my ‘plans’ for Australia. It was pretty disappointing actually. Just four hours in Melbourne gave us a taste of just how expensive Australia was going to be. Gone are our cheap delicious meals at Warung Makun, and hello 4 pounds for a tiny croissant! I was in the mood for a magazine to kill time before our next flight and that was even $12 aussie dollars! We were feeling pretty anxious at just how much money Australia was going to cost us.
When we finally arrived in Cairns we expected to find clear skies and sunshine, but it was cold and raining (I thought the Balinese weather would follow us for some reason!). We’d arranged an airport transfer to the hostel and waited 45 minutes for it to turn up. When it finally did arrive we were greeted by this crazy Australian driver who shouted at me for not being there earlier. He couldn’t quite understand that the flight had been a little late AND we’d been waiting for him for 45 minutes. There were a group of guys on our bus and the driver couldn’t drop them in front of their hotel because of the Ironman Race, so one of the guys said to him, ‘no worries, we’ll try and find it with our GPS’. The bus driver lost it and said, ‘You don’t need a friggin’ GPS to get there, it’s right next to the cafe’… Welcome to Australia.
When we arrived at Tropic Days hostel it suddenly hit us that we’d have to start getting serious and look for a work. We decided to hold off on our job search until the following day and went into town to see what the city of Cairns had to offer. On first impressions Cairns was…. awful. It looked like a suburban American town with outdated shops signs and tourist tat (HAHA).
We then walked to Woolworths (supermarket) to see how much food was…
A loaf of bread was about $4
2 small chicken breasts were a minimum $10
2 small bananas $3
A small chocolate bar $3
Needless to say everything was pretty pricey! We bought some supplies and headed back to the hostel where we collapsed on our beds to sleep after the grueling 15-hour journey from Bali to Cairns, a trip that should have taken 5 hours max.
The following day we decided to head back into the city to see what it was like during the day time. It had a huge ‘lagoon’ (essentially an outdoor public pool), a shopping centre, an art gallery, and an esplanade with lots of shops and restaurants. There were so many restaurants that finding work looked promising. We returned to the hostel for its famous ‘All Australian BBQ’ to sample some crocodile, emu and kangaroo. There were about 70 backpackers at the hostel and it was a pretty amusing night to say the least. The BBQ was hosted by the hostel’s owner, Gabe, and he was full of hilarious stories and everyone sat on the edge of their seats listening to every word he said. He told us how his mother and father had been hippies or gypsies, and had travelled all around the world having children in different countries. We then all queued up and were given some croc, emu and kangaroo to try. Before we tried the croc everyone said the ‘tastes likes chicken’ thing, but I actually thought it tasted quite different to chicken. The crocodile was a lot denser and chewier than chicken, and had a slight fishy taste.
We got chatting with the people on our table and everyone was pretty much in the same boat as us – working holiday visa. There were two Chinese students on our table and they were mesmerized with the concept of the working holiday visa, and couldn’t comprehend how our families could let us go away for a year and not get a proper job (haha!). He was really jealous that we could have the opportunity to travel around the world and visit all these amazing places. I told him that not all my family understood my decision, but hey! We met one girl who’d quit her job as a nurse 2 weeks before, rented her house and sold her car so that she could travel around the world with her boyfriend. She couldn’t bear to be without him for a year, so she decided to go with him!
After enjoying our Australian feast, we were given another ‘Australian experience’ – a didgeridoo lesson. Gabe gave us a basic introduction into the didgeridoo and to be good at it you basically had to be able to blow a raspberry for as long as possible. After practising the motions for a while, Gabe asked three people to come forward and perform the didgeridoo in front of everyone. Three people came forward and they had to choose their choice of didgeridoo from a traditional didgeridoo, a white pipe… and a hoover. Gabe told us how he was very annoyed to find the hoover in the bin one day – didn’t she know it would make a fantastic didgeridoo?! The three didgeridoo volunteers were absolutely awful.
We spent the next couple of days setting up bank accounts, applying for tax file numbers and printing our CVs. After 3 days at Tropic Days it was time to move to the suburbs to do the Help X programme with an Australian family that we’d found.