Queensland: (A) Total Recall

It’s been some months now since I left Australia, as most of you will know, but for those of you who don’t, I did. Leave Australia that is. As is custom I don’t stay in one place for long, and having said in the previous post that I would be staying in Cottesloe for the rest of my weeks down under, I didn’t. Stay in Cottesloe that is. Or actually Australia… as you can see!

After a week in Cottesloe, I found I was twiddling my thumbs. The second time round in “paradise” was great, but as a wise man once said, “you should never return to where you were once happiest because it’ll not be the same” (the wise man being my Dad of course). Indeed, a few nights in I was on the phone to the very same wise man, when he suggested I fly elsewhere, perhaps I should visit Queensland? “Now there’s a thought!” I exclaimed, and in a hop and a jiffy I’d booked my flight to Cairns. The jiffy being so whimsical and out of the blue I didn’t consider anything other than the freedom and adventure ahead of me. Had I deigned to consider it more in dept, I would have recalled that January in the north of Australia is in fact the “wet” season, that is to say, the monsoon season. As such, after a 25 hour journey time from Perth to Cairns (I’d like to point out that is within the same country, which being so massive produced a travel time so long I could have flown back to Manchester), I landed in stifling humidity and epic thunderstorms. I loved it. The moment I stepped off that little plane, every part of my body started to sweat. It was like I’d just finished a long run but I’d actually just walked 10 metres from the front door of the airport to the bus stop. What is more, up in Queensland you are always warm, and I love the warmth. Coming from Lancashire warm days are less than a rarity. A place where stepping outside mid-summer without a jumper “just in case” is a foolish and infrequently seen manoeuvre.

I’m loathe to say it, but North Queensland quickly took place as my favourite place in Australia. On the other hand, I love the north of England so it’s only logical that I’d feel the same way about the north-east of Australia… On the other other hand, that’s dangerous logic. I don’t think I’d feel the same about the north of Korea…

Up there was like nothing I’d ever seen before, with thick rainforest carpeting the mountains all the way down to the coastline, where it stops and the sandy beaches take over. Like Darwin, the sea is off limits because of the all the wildlife that may or may not eat/kill/sting you. You know… the standard crocodile, shark and jellyfish populating the bays. More positively, the swimming pool business up there was thriving! I didn’t stay in Cairns, but rather got out of there as quickly as possible (it being another Magaluf-style city) and caught the bus straight to Port Douglas. From here I booked a trip to visit the Great Barrier Reef, which was fairly spectacular, although I have to say the Ninglaloo Reef on the West coast is far more special (take me away, I’m sticking to my guns here). Not helped by the fact that the view of the coral and fish was slightly obscured by the pollution from us human beans, and also the water was extremely murky due to it being just after the spawning season, when the coral… well, spawns. It’s a bit unpleasant when you think about what you were swimming through.

After a couple of days milling around, visiting coral reefs and food markets, and eating fresh coconuts that had fallen onto the beach, I began another ‘workaway’ as a housekeeper for Hans and Wendy, a couple who ran a ‘Luxury Escapes’ business. Not only did I learn to make beds with hospital corners, and clean entire apartments with brutal efficiency, but I also lived in a villa on the beach in Port Newell with a whole bunch of French people (Hey guys!). Naturally, the main language spoken was French, leaving Logan (the only other English speaker, Hey Logan!) and I, smiling uncomprehendingly during meal times, pool times, night times, toilet scrubbing times, laundry times, beer pong times… This isn’t a criticism, it was great, and I picked up truly filthy French language. The French seem to swear a lot, and I’m sure if I understood more than 1% of what they were saying I could put them down as real potty mouths. All in all, I had a great couple of weeks up there, where I permanently sweltered, and intermittent torrential downpours would soak the landscape before abruptly breaking off, and the sun would come out to create the world’s largest open air sauna. I really wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

In January I was coming to the end of my visa, and on another whim, I decided to fly home and surprise my family, who being so wonderfully English didn’t even shed a tear when I showed up… They just said in a mildly surprised manner, “Oh, hello!”, and I got a hug. Very proper (I suppose a hug is better than a shake of my hand). It’s not like I had just travelled across the world after a year of being away or anything… (I’ve always been the sentimental black sheep).

That’s pretty much me caught up with my adventures in the Southern Hemisphere. I’ve ditched Australian slang in favour of Lancastrian lingo, and I’m trying to bring back ‘golly’ (apparently it’s going out fashion in favour of ‘omg’ amongst the youth of today). Oh, also after a nightmare I had about New Zealand I’m no longer going there for a year to work. Instead I have a job in the Austrian Alps as a ‘Walk Leader’ over the summer. Surprise! What am I like ey? If there is one thing I took away from last year, it is that you should always follow your gut, or your dreams, or in this particular case avoid your nightmares.  Hopefully in another few months time (I believe lengthy pauses between posts builds dramatic suspense (…)), I’ll have tales of a summer filled with schnitzel, kaiserschmarrn and lederhosen, golly I love Austria.


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