Thursday, 1 August 2013

G'day Mate! Xtina goes to the land daan under

After a 7hr flight from Singapore to Melbourne and a 3hr connecting flight from Melbourne to Cairns I finally touched down...and was greeted by balmy temperatures of 26 degrees and a smiley, welcoming Beryl! We went to collect my luggage, which Beryl was astounded by (couldn't believe how much I had), and then she drove me in her newly purchased 2nd hand car to her apartment. It's a lovely ground-floor 2 bedroom apartment, 3mins walk to the Cairns Esplanade and hospital and a short 10min walk into the city centre.

Beryl's apartment is within a small gated complex which has a small community pool. I was shown to my own room, next to the bathroom and kitchen, with a huge double bed and space for me to explode...which is exactly what I did! I unpacked, put some laundry on and we just sat and chatted for a while out on her patio. Later in the afternoon I was introduced to her friend Raz (pronounced roz) who lived above her. She is 30, divorced from a horrible arranged marriage where she was basically a hostage (beryl helped her out of it, but she didn't know how to use an atm, how to fill out a form etc,as her husband never allowed her to do anything without him), she's Indian-Fijian and has a young son of 6 called Rehan. Then Beryl had some other friends staying with us for a couple of nights, a wonderful couple Ricky from the UK and his wife from Thailand, but they were so lovely! They had been traveling all.over and were now living in Mission Beach, about 2hrs south of Cairns. I had the evening to myself as they went out for a meal together but I was so tired I decided to stay in for an early night and a bath!!!

A little about the city; Cairns is a very small city, more a large town, and has hardly any high-rises due to the cyclones it's prone to during the summer months, therefore its very flat and set out in a grid system much like the US. In fact it reminds me very much of Florida, with funny accents!

Cairns is famous for the Great Barrier Reef, Fitzroy and Green Islands, and is therefore backpacker and tourism central, with most of the high street dominated by tour and travel agents. It's 7hrs drive to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest, 20hrs to Brisbane and 5 or more hours to the outback.

Cairns has no beaches, only mud-flats, so instead it has a man-made Lagoon, along the esplanade, which is an outdoor saltwater pool, surrounded by a little sand and grassy areas to sunbathe on - complete with outdoor, free-to-use cookers/BBQ's!! Just bring your meat, veg, baps and utensils along (oh and remember that cooking oil), plus a few tinnies and you have yourself a BBQ in the park, the Aussie way! None of these disposable BBQ's that char the grass and risk food poisoning like in the UK!

There are beaches a short drive away, called the Northern Beaches, (Trinity beach, Palm Cove, etc) which you can go to during the winter months, however, during the summer months the northern beaches are pretty much a no-swim zone due to the 'Stinger Season', also known as 'if you go in the sea, there are tons of deadly, transparent, tiny jellyfish, that CAN and WILL kill you!' Plus there can also be crocodiles around, ha! Everything in Oz is out to kill you - Stingers, Sharks, Crocodiles, Spiders, Snakes, the hot weather and the cyclone seasons, even killer TREES! Yes, I kid you not! No wonder they sent prisoners here and it's still largely uninhabited - because it's deadly!


The next day we went out and got everything important sorted. Beryl took me to the bank, where I opened up my Commonwealth aussie bank account. I then went and got myself a simcard with a data plan from Woolworthes that Felix and Dezi from Bali had recommended I buy for $30 a month. I also later that evening applied for my australian tax file number to allow me to work, and got a Super account set up with my bank (a super is their state pension and I can claim this plus all my tax back once I leave Oz.)

Then we headed to Beryl's hearing appointment and I did a little bit of budget shopping before we headed to the post office to send a few bits home, and then down to the medicare centre to get myself a medicare card/number for free healthcare/doctor visits. After this Beryl got us some veggies and pork chops for a roast dinner and she cooked for us, Ricky and his wife. At dinner we were presented with a pregnancy test...don't worry, not for me, but for Ricky's wife! She apparently suspected for a while but tonight was the night she would find out! And guess what peeps, we have a baby on the way!!

On saturday, Beryls daughter Tracey and her two young boys picked us up for a day out in the Atherton Tablelands at Kuranda, a little village up in the mountains, where we checked out Barron Falls, had a pie (the aussies love their pies!) and walked around the markets. The views out over Cairns from the viewpoint was amazing. It's a shame I don't have enough money to travel now for a bit but alas, I shall have to be patient and wait until Bex is here and hopefully i'll have more money then!

That evening we went out with Roz, we did a pub crawl at all of the major bars and pubs and ended at the casino for some dancing. I'm beginning to learn that alot of the australians are a little backward and stuck in the golden yrs. It was kinda like a Haven holiday camp for adults...gone wrong, alot of bad dance moves! Roz got the number of a security guard who had been eyeing her up for a while, while Beryl danced with a young rocker friend of hers and then he came back with us, and stayed the night with Beryl, ahem. Though it was just for 'cuddles' nothing else as they didn't want to ruin the friendship.

I also took a trip to the hospital, as the doctors wanted to charge me $200 for tests for my cough, but if you go to the hospital its all free. So luckily the hosp is just round the corner from Beryl. The nasty cough I'd had for the last few months was back with a vengeance and they thought of all things that it could be whooping cough...and guess what, after an xray and an ecg on my 'irregular heart beat' (which is all ok by the way), it is in fact Whooping Cough, hahaa. Luckily it was already into its 4th month so this should be the last episode, fingers crossed, so unfort I just have to wait it out!

Beryl and I spent an afternoon at one of the Northern Beaches - Trinity Beach which was lovely, had a shandy and chatted under a coconut tree in the sand.

The rest of my time was spent job searching. I signed up to Happy Travels which is an agency who can find backpackers work. When they do, you pay a small membership fee ($119 - £89) and get tons of discounts on things like accom, trips, food around Oz - will be taking advantage of those when Bex comes! One discount is the Castaway trip. Where you are flown, complete with scary plane stunts by the dare-devil pilot, to the Castaway island; you know, the one with Tom Hanks and the infamous Wilson? Where it was all filmed! And you, along with around 6 other people, are left on a desert island, with nothing but tents, a campfire and fishing rods/spears to catch your own food (if you want extra food or alcohol you have to bring it with you.) Which sounds like amazing fun, and you can stay as long as you want, so Bex we're defo doing that!!

I spent my time taking trips to Happy Travels to see if any work had come about, plus browsing and applying for any jobs I saw on Gumtree, whilst debating going to Sydney to see some friends down there. But I was running low on money and the flights were over $300. So I didn't go in the end, but its where me and Bex are starting and ending our travels and we'll hopefully spend new years there so I'd get to see them all at some point.

During my meeting at Happy Travels I met two lovely girls, Emma from England and Pam from Scotland. They had been working in Brisbane and had just finished an east coast trip and were looking for work again. So I went out on the town a few times with them to The Woolshed, a regular backpacker joint where everyone dances on tables like in Asia! Plus thursday and sundays are ladies nights where you get in free and get up to 5 glasses of free champagne - hello! We also went for Bbq's at the Lagoon, the butcher just outside of Cairns Central's (a mall) Coles (australian Tesco's) do amazing meat for cheap dollar (burgers $1.50 each etc!!)

I did some shopping for essentials like cosmetics and leggings (which have come in handy in Herberton where its a few degrees colder than Cairns (early to mid 20's) and very chilly at night!)

And I stayed with one of Beryls daughters, Tracey, and her sons for a bit, and we went kangaroo and wallaby spotting in the neighbourhood - they are literally everywhere in the urban parts, like wild r
abbits are in the UK! Its so weird but they are so cute, and I love how they all just stop, turn and stare at you upright like meerkats! Her house is lovely (almost all houses are bungalows here and they all have amazing backyard swimming pools) she also had a campfire for evenings that got a little chilly in the winter.

Other than that I didnt do alot else as I really had to watch my money! But on Monday last week I got a call from Happy Travels after an unsuccessful phone interview for a backpacker caretaker job (she wanted someone to commit over xmas which I couldn't do), saying they may have a job for me and to pop in. It's a barmaid/waitressing job in a hotel in Herberton, a town in the Atherton Tablelands about an hr and a half from Cairns. Live in, so food and acomm is included which means everything I earn will be savings - exactly what I needed!!

So after a brief call to the owner, Paul, I was lined up with a job, to start on Thursday (he was coming to pick me up as he was picking a friend up from the airport) eaaak. I'd very soon b
e back in the working world!! The last couple of days were spent doing my RSA barwork course (you have to pass a responsible serving of alcohol course to work in bars in oz), and packing all my shiz back into my bags! Wish me luck!!

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