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Australia

Australia

 

‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’

– Lao Tzu

 

Where to start? I fell in love with this amazing country and I would even say that I feel more at home in Australia than in my home country, The Netherlands. My plans were to stay in Australia for only three months. I did get a working holiday visa because I had planned already to work for a few weeks. After one month I knew that I loved it too much and also thought it was a waste of visa not to use it completely. So I changed all my plans and stayed a year.
I will tell you about my experience, where I travelled to and what I would recommend.

 

The great start
It all started when I arrived at Melbourne Airport at 11 pm after a 24 hours flight. Happy but exhausted did I wait till I saw my backpack appear on the luggage belt. Took the bus to the city centre and from there I walked to my hostel, where I had booked a private room. It was already around 1 am when I checked in. I texted some family back home and went to sleep. I was exhausted so I thought I would be able to have a nice sleep before going to my first ‘plan’ on that trip. But ‘jet-lag’ had a surprise for me; at 5 am I woke up, still very tired but couldn’t sleep again.

I had to check out at 10 am and a lot of ‘duties’ for that day. My advise: if you come from far, book the first hostel at least 2 nights, and don’t plan much that first day. I never had such a rough ‘first day’ before.

Planned a really nice Workaway for the first two weeks and that afternoon I had to take the train to a different place and from there, someone was going to pick me up; I was going to text him the time I would arrive. All prepared just needed to buy an Australian sim card and a train ticket.
 
When everything goes differently than you were hoping for…
So I woke up, had a quick shower and checked out. Went to the supermarket, bought breakfast, ate breakfast and went to a shop to buy a sim card. Well, this part was fine except that I was really tired. Installing the sim card didn’t work. I thought a prepaid is easy, you always just place it in your phone and it works. Well, this was different and because of my lack of concentration it was hopeless to get it working. After some help from different people, it luckily worked.
Then I went to the train station to ask which train I had to take and the time-schedule. And they just said: ‘No train!’ What? No train is going in that direction. The lady was not very nice, not very patient nor helpful. Apparently, they were working on the tracks. Finally, I found out: I could take a bus and then transfer to a train later.
 
Okay, that was a bummer now everything will be alright…
Walking back to the hostel to pick up my backpack, half falling asleep and confused that the people were walking on the other side of the pedestrian road. Crossing the road and BOAM I don’t know exactly what happened but I clearly didn’t step good on the pedestrian road again when I crossed the street. Face front on the sidewalk. OUCH, that hurt, everyone was looking, jeans were ripped. And all I wanted was crying actually, but of course, I didn’t. When I am writing this down now it doesn’t look much but with the 48 hours lack of sleep, in the plane and the night before and the confusion at that moment, it felt like a lot.
Well fast forward, at some point I was sitting on the right bus with my backpack, a moment of peace but also a discharge of my emotions, they all came out. Sitting all alone in the bus crying.
Well, that’s how Australia started for me. I was jet-lagged for a whole week. Luckily got my energy back after that and enjoyed it the fullest.
So my biggest advise what I already mentioned: book 2 nights, at least, at the same place and take it easy the first day. Jet-lags can be harsh and things often turn out different than planned or expected.

 

Warm, warmer, HOT
From winter in The Netherlands to summer in Australia. Via Workaway, an online meetingpoint where you can find work for accommodation and food, I was working at The Willowend Round House, here we were building an earth bag house. That is an ecologic way to build a house with big bags filled with soil which you tamp to get a strong wall. It is quite heavy work, but also a lot of fun and the group was amazing. The heavy work in combination with the hot weather was a challenge though.
The weather was really hot. So we started early and the two hottest days in the week we took off and went to the lake nearby. And when I talk about hottest days I mean like 40 degrees Celsius and warmer, we had a few days of 46 degrees even. The experience was amazing and instead of staying two weeks I stayed four.
After I met some great new people, learned heaps of new building-skills, got a bit of Australian slang already and had eye contact with a very venomous brown snake and a few deadly red back spiders, it was time to go back to Melbourne.
I definitely recommend Workaway, it is an easy way to meet locals and sometimes other travellers, this makes it a nice way to start in a new country. I had several great experiences with Workaway.

Australia; Workaway

Workaway; building an earth bag house

Australia; Sunset

The great sunsets there

Australia; Moon

When there is less light in rural area…

Melbourne
In Melbourne, I stayed for a week and explored the city. Very nice place, the map of the city is really easy; it is all built in straight lines. I like the vibes here, almost every corner has live music, people are very nice and somehow this place gives me energy.
One day we walked from the city centre to Brighton Beach, where you have those cute wooden, coloured sheds standing on the beach. From here you can look all the way back to the city centre. In the evening we went to St. Kilda, the beach more close to the city centre and we saw the penguins.
For everyone who doesn’t know it yet, go and see, it is so adorable. At the end of the pier in St. Kilda when the sun is down the penguins come to land. So first you can watch the sunset over the sea and then you have to wait a bit but after a little while, the penguins come.

 

Great Ocean Road
Last day before I continued my adventures I did a day trip on the great ocean road. Well if you want to know what paradise is, go and see. The great ocean road is a road between the places Torquay and Warrnambool, near Melbourne, which is almost the whole time along the coast. Here you see amazing nature and a beautiful coast. I did a day tour, with a bus, which was great and we had an amazing guide who could tell everything.
I recommend the great ocean road highly. The pros about a tour like this are that you have someone who can tell a lot about the culture, nature, surroundings etc and knows the best spots. The cons of this are that you have to go in the speed that they go if you like a place you can not stay longer easily. So if you have a lot of time maybe your own car is better, take your time. A little less time than this trip is perfect!

Australia; Melbourne

Melbourne

Australia; Melbourne
Australia; Brighton beach

Brighton Beach

Australia; Great Ocean Road

Koalas at the Great Ocean Road

Australia; Great Ocean Road

Loch Ard Gorge

Australia; Great Ocean Road

The Twelve Apostles seen from a helicopter

Sydney and surroundings
With the bus on my way to Sydney. I had a quick stop in Canberra before we headed up. The distances are long and there is a lot of ‘nothing’ in between.
Any advice for the bus? Well yes and no. Make sure you have earplugs so you can ban some noise out and try to sleep. Charge your phone and external battery and make sure you have some good movies or an old school good book with you. Take water and some food for during the trip. But mostly it is just having patience and wait till you are there.

Sydney, what to tell about Sydney? Well actually I wasn’t a big fan of this city, I just didn’t feel it, not like in Melbourne. Of course, you can see the famous Opera House here. Maybe I stayed too ‘short’ to find the right places or I just had too high expectations of this famous place. I was in Sydney only for a few days, then left to a place 2 hours drive to do another Workaway for three weeks. In the afternoons/ weekends, I went visiting different area’s and I’ve been back a few times to Sydney, one day I went back to celebrate Mardi Grass. What a big recommendation is in Sydney is the coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi Beach (or the other way around), a nice walk along a beautiful coast with several bays.
 
Recommended places in the area:
Manly beach, from here you can take a boat to Sydney which gives you a nice view of the city. Good to know: On Sunday’s, if you have a public transport card you can travel all day for only au$ 2,60. So you can take as many busses/ boats that work with your card.
Another place I would highly recommend is Palm Beach! A great beach and if you do the hike to the lighthouse you have this amazing view over the sea, the bay and the little piece of land that splits it.

 

Blue Mountains
Up to the Blue mountains, amazing place! The train ride to go there is also great, you see it transform from city to forrest and mountains. In this area, you can find amazing hikes, great mountains, beautiful waterfalls. Worth visiting a few days! You can do great hikes here but there is also a hop-on-hop-off bus that takes you to the most beautiful places.
First advice book a few days. The first two days there was so much fog that we couldn’t see a thing. Luckily the other two days it was bright and clear and we saw the beauty.
Other advice: hiking boots!

 
A personal story
So while travelling you meet a lot of people. The first day in my new hostel in the Blue Mountains I met some great girls. We hiked together for the next couple of days. The last day one of the girls had to leave early in the morning, the other girl left around lunch. So I thought to do one last hike on my own through this beautiful area.
Near the mountains which are called ‘The Three Sisters’ you have a hiking track that starts with some big stairs also called ‘the giant stairway’. That was the one I didn’t do yet so I went there to walk. Enjoying the surrounding I started these long long stairs down with more than 800 steps. After a while there were less and less tourists; they stopped at the viewpoint, enjoyed the view and went back up.
 
But I went further down to do the track. I had not counted on the fact that the rain from the night before had made the steps very slippery. At one point I slipped and fell down the stairs, butt down this time. I bumped over a few steps until there was a plateau where I ended. Alone, on the wet, muddy ground was I sitting there, giving myself some time to get over the shock. Stood up, my immediate first thought was strong and clear: ‘I am not going back up! Although I don’t like these stairs anymore and I don’t know what will be coming, I am too far down already to go back.’
My whole body was hurting. Mostly my back, my hips and my left arm. Getting myself back together, acting like nothing happed, but a little more aware, did I walk down. Clamping my right, not painful, arm on the sidewalk. Hoping that these stairs would finally be finished.
Finally down did I sort of limbed around, kind of trying to enjoy the peaceful area while thinking: ‘where is this freaking path where I have to go back up..? And please don’t let it be so many steep stairs again’.
The map said it wasn’t a very long walk but already walking for two whole hours in the valley and still no place to go back up. I kind of worried that I maybe was lost, but I was still on the track… so there would be another end to this track, right? After another half an hour or hour, I’m not sure anymore, the track went up and I arrived at the bottom of a big waterfall, the Bridal Veil. For a second I forgot the pain, and I recognized the waterfall. Is it this waterfall? The day before I had been standing above this waterfall and walked there to several viewpoints with my friends. Not knowing then that you could also stand at the bottom. We hiked around there, we did the whole track we thought. Except for one trail that said ‘experiences hikers only’. We didn’t feel to be qualified as ‘experienced’ and didn’t know how hard it would be, so we skipped that one.
 
Enjoying the moment to see this amazing waterfall from this viewpoint. I climbed a bit up the rocks to get closer to the waterfall, it was amazing! This was karma the other way around, cheering me up. When I was standing here, there were these really tiny people waving to me from the viewpoint next to the top of the waterfall; that’s where I stood the day before. After a little healing and restoring at this beautiful place I decided to hike up. After my fall of the stairs, this felt easy, haha, I was still standing on two feet. When I arrived up at the mountain I saw the sign ‘experiences hikers only’, the one we skipped the day before, not knowing you would end up at the bottom of this waterfall.

Apparently, most people were put off by that sign because I saw no-one on the tracks up, but hé, at least I can say now that I am qualified as ‘experienced’; I experienced and I survived.
Lesson learned, better don’t do big hikes on your own. Especially if there are hardly any other people around. It was a really high cliff where I walked down; It could have ended worse…

Sydney

Sydney

Sydney: Opera house

Opera House

Sydney: Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Australia

Flowers in Manly

Palm Beach

Palm Beach
Manly

Frill-neck lizards in Manly

Australia

Cockatoo friends

Australia

Rainbow lorikeet

Blue mountains

Fog in the Blue Mountains

Blue mountains

Wentworth Falls Blue Mountains

Blue mountains
Blue mountains

The sign from the story

Blue mountains

The Three Sisters

Blue mountains

Bridal Veil Falls

Byron bay & Gold Coast
From the Blue Mountains, I went to Byron Bay. In the evening I took a train back to Sydney and around 10 pm I had a night bus to Byron Bay. I could hardly sit in the bus, it felt like my hip was broken when I tried to sit. Walking was painful but sitting was even worse.

I am not especially a big fan of night busses, for I can’t really sleep while kind of sitting, hanging in a chair. Next day often you can’t check in yet, so there you are, sitting with your backpack, tired, in a new city.
 
When finally checked in, got my shower stuff, I looked in the mirror and definitely understood the pain while sitting. I had a bruise so wide as my hips, right above my butt, wonderful deep purple blueish. Yeah, that was my biggest souvenir I got in the Blue Mountains. (Maybe that’s why they call it blue mountains because people get bruises there… No, it isn’t but could have been, haha). My arm heavily bruised and a little bit sore leg so I decided Byron Bay was going to be my relax destination. Well, the weather for sure wanted to help with that idea: rain all week.
Byron Bay is a nice place, with a great beach; I booked a hostel with a pool. Only couldn’t enjoy the beach nor the pool really. The few dry moments I took the most of it and walked around, but after a week of rain, I decided it was enough.

I took a bus to Gold Coast. Arrived in the evening and the place where I took the metro looked like Vegas for me. Neon signs everywhere. Maybe because I was rained away at Byron Bay and it was so sunny here or just maybe because it has good vibes, I am not sure, but I loved Gold Coast. I felt like a millionaire walking there. High luxurious buildings everywhere. They call it the Miami of Australia. Here I had my week of beach, sun and relaxation.

Australia: Byron Bay

Byron Bay

Australia: Byron Bay
Australia

Amazing sunsets in Australia

Australia: Gold Coast

Gold Coast

Australia: Gold Coast
Australia: Gold Coast

Brisbane (later more Brisbane)
Did another Workaway here, this was mostly housesitting and helping with general duties, something completely different than the first one I told about.
I liked Brisbane, it doesn’t feel extremely big and has good vibes. The lady where I lived showed me some great places. Here is where I also decided that I was going to stay longer in Australia. I had the idea longer in my head that I didn’t want to leave but here I rearranged all the things and changed my flight tickets that I already booked.
My advice; don’t plan too much ahead, keep room for a change of plans.

Australia; Brisbane

Brisbane, view from mount Coot Tha

Australia; Brisbane
Australia; Brisbane
Australia; Brisbane

Possum

Australia; Brisbane

Kookaburra (Google their sound, they sound like laughing monkeys!)

Australia; Brisbane

And more curious cockatoos, see them looking from the roof.

Cairns & Townsville
Next, I flew to the top, to Cairns. I got an au pair job in Townsville and before that started I was a week in Cairns This place feels pretty small but nice. You can’t swim in the sea here, at least if you don’t want to get eaten alive by crocodiles, sharks or big jellyfish. So in the city, they made a fake beach. O and Australia is known as the place that has everywhere barbecues, also here in Cairns near the ‘beach’, you find several. It is amazing and gives this great outdoor vibe.
In Australia, they call it winter at this time, May, but with 30 degrees Celsius and pretty humid, it didn’t feel like that in Cairns. But when I wanted to buy a new pair of shorts at a shop they told me they didn’t have that in winter season…
Visit the Night Market! Every day from 4.30pm until 11pm.

So up to Townsville to my first au pair experience, pretty excited. Well, sadly it didn’t turn out what I was hoping for. Somehow there was no click between us, which gave us all somehow a bad experience and I left this family earlier than planned.
But that’s the good about travelling you are free to go and the adventure continues. Online I met a girl who was planning to do a road trip. That seemed exciting, so we met and decided to go together for this new adventure.
My thinking: stay in touch with yourself and if it doesn’t feel right in a place, take yourself seriously and then move on. I also believe everything happens for a reason. The stories I made after this bad experience as an au pair were so great. If I stayed there as au pair I wouldn’t have made them. So maybe the bad experience was needed to get me on another track.

 

Camper-van life
Went back to Cairns to buy a second hand (or maybe fifth hand) camper-van. We found one, a great one and we called him Buddy. Did some updates on the camper-van and started our road trip down. Stopped at a few places. We stayed near Townsville for a while at Saunders Beach, I highly recommend this place. It’s a free campground with a nice beach. Can’t swim in the sea but everything else is great, nice views over the water, surrounded by trees.

A few short stops later we arrived at Arlie beach. Where we did a day trip to the Whitsundays. Beautiful blue water, there we snorkelled at the Great Barrier Reef. Saw reef and a lot of fishes. Finally arrived at Whitehaven Beach, where the sand is really white. Sadly we had a lot of clouds and even some rain that day but the sky cleared for an hour when we were at Whitehaven Beach, It was like paradise!
Because of this, I would recommend staying a few days and book something flexible that you can adjust to the weather, Whitehaven Beach is way better with the sun. Second I have snorkelled in Fiji and I was quite disappointed with the great barrier reef. Yes, it has a lot of coral and amazing pieces. But it is mostly hipped by tourists now and it needs to get back in shape, sadly I have seen a lot of dead coral. In Fiji, it was all alive, had amazing colours and there I have seen fish all colours of the rainbow. So I would recommend Fiji for the coral and snorkelling.

The life in a camper-van has some good things to it. The most important is that you have your house always with you. There are quite a lot of free camp-spots.
We used the app wikicamps to find free camp-spots and shower and Fuel Map Australia to find cheap places to get fuel or to see how far away the next gas station is.

On our way down, we made a few other short stops but went quite fast back to Brisbane. We both had a job interview because we were running low on money.

Australia; Cairns

Cairns

Australia; Townsville Castle Hill

Castle Hill, Townsville

Australia; Townsville
Australia: Whitsunday Islands

Whitsunday Islands

Australia: Whitsunday Islands

Whitehaven Beach

Australia: Whitsunday Islands
Australia: Whitsunday Islands

Fish at the Great Barrier Reef

Australia: Whitsunday Islands, snake

Tree snake at Whitehaven Beach

Australia: Whitsunday Islands

Goanna at Whitehaven Beach

Brisbane
Back in Brisbane. I found a job as an expo-stand-builder, I loved it. It is mostly a mans job, I was the only woman in this company. I have built a lot of different stands in that period, it was fun!
We had to build stands for several expositions, I also helped to build with the biggest expo of Australia. As a designer, I love it to start in the morning with reading the drawings, designed by someone else, and just start building and at the end of the day (with big stands after a few days) you see the result. What I saw in the morning on paper and in 3d in my head, was standing there in the afternoon. At college, I have designed a lot of buildings but hardly any of that I saw becoming real. Here I saw the drawings getting real.

Did you remember I said I liked Brisbane? Well, now I started living here and getting back to a ‘normal’ life, I also started to know Brisbane better and this made me feel more and more connected with it; and now I love it. Love to just sit in the city centre on a bench, listen to music, watch people and let my mind get to rest.
If you really want to get to know a place, you have to live in it, and of course, some places feel more for me ‘like I want to live there and get to know it’ than some other places.

 

Highlights Brisbane
Getting ‘normal life’ back was strange, I was not used to it anymore. Some days I just wanted new places, new adventures, if it was raining I thought: ‘Well, let’s go somewhere sunny’. Had to get me back to the idea of staying at one place. But Brisbane is an amazing place to stay for a while. After a month of living in Brisbane, I found myself another job. Again as an au pair, this time for a great family, we definitely were a nice match. I could combine my two jobs, which was perfect. My free days I spent often in the city. Southbank with its nice pool, fake beach and good restaurants. The city centre with the botanical garden and lots of ‘hidden’ shopping malls. Partying in the Valley and a very good food market in West End. Met friends for life here!
There is a free boot in Brisbane which takes you over the river around the city centre, it’s called the city hopper. Don’t forget to go to ‘eat street’ when in Brisbane, on every weekend. It’s a place with all different food stands, live music and great vibes!
 
The first months I was to busy living in Brisbane, working and enjoying life. But after a while, the travelling-part in me started missing this moving life too much! So I started doing day and weekend trips. Often back to Gold Coast enjoying the beach, also for the expo-building I had to be there sometimes. With my travel mate and Buddy, I went to Noosa for a weekend where we had the kangaroos jumping around the camper van. We did a few stops on the road back.
Noosa is beautiful, don’t miss Noosa National Park.
 
Another day we went hiking in the Glasshouse mountains, it is a strange mountain formation where the landscape is flat but at a few places suddenly a ‘small’ mountain pops up.
Go at least one-day hiking here, some of the mountains are quite easy to hike. We did several hikes on one day and the views from the top are great. There is also a lookout ‘Glasshouse Mountains lookout’ from where you can see all the mountains.

I also went with some friends to Ramblers, a skydiving place in the middle of nowhere. So I had my adventure life back while still living at one spot.

Australia: Brisbane

Brisbane

Australia: Brisbane
Australia: Brisbane
Australia: Brisbane
Australia: Brisbane
Australia: Brisbane

Christmas in Brisbane

Australia: Brisbane

Skyline of Brisbane in the distance with the sunset

Australia: Brisbane

Southbank

Australia
Australia: Brisbane

View of the City with River Fireworks and lightning

Australia: Brisbane

Possum in Brisbane

Australia
Australia: Noosa

Kangaroos in Noosa

Australia: Noosa

Noosa

Australia: Noosa

Campervan life

Australia: Noosa

Noosa National Park

Australia: Noosa

Noosa

Australia: Gold Coast

Gold Coast

Australia: Glass House Mountains

Glass House Mountains

Australia: Glass House Mountains
Australia: Glass House Mountains

Perth
Last but not least, I went a long weekend to Perth. In Perth, I visited a friend who I had met before. She showed me around in Perth and surroundings. Like Rockingham, Fremantle and Hillarys. All amazing places, it was too bad that I only had one long weekend there.
In Perth you should visit Kings Park, from here you have a great view of the city.

The last day of my stay on this side of Australia we visited Rottnest Island. The landscape is beautiful, the sea is so clear and blue, and most important: they have quokkas. Quokkas are a tiny kind of kangaroo. Looks a bit like a mix of a small kangaroo and a big rat. They are so cute and it looks like they are always smiling.

Of course, it is totally up to you whether or not you follow my ideas and advice but you do have to go to Rottnest! You can cycle around on the island and enjoy the different areas.

Australia: Perth

Perth

Australia: Fremantle

Fremantle

Australia; Shoalwater

Shoalwater

Australia; Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island

Australia; Rottnest Island
Australia; Rottnest Island, Quokka

Quokka

Then I had to leave the country. Quite sad, after a year, I really fell in love with Australia and Brisbane. It started to feel like a home to me. Australia, I will definitely come back one day!
Last advice; If you lived here or somewhere else for a while where you had to have a bank account? With Currencyfair you can easily transfer the money back to your normal bank account. I used it too and found it to be safe and easy.
For work in Australia, this website is good to find jobs!

 
 

What to know before going to Australia:
  • Visa: Do you need a visa? This is different for the country you are from, so check this before! If you want to work in Australia you need a different visa.
  • Vaccination: No special vaccinations needed. But to be sure check with your own medical health centre for travel vaccinations. It also depends a bit from which country you are from!

  • Best time to travel: The seasons are opposite than for example Europe. So January is summer and Juli is winter. But the country is so big it is hard to say when it is the best time. There is always a place with a good season for travelling. But do some research before you go, for example, Cairns can be really hot in summer. Darwin has a raining season, not been there yet. Melbourne can be quite cold in winter.
  • Water: You can drink the water from the tap. It doesn’t taste that good everywhere, mostly a little bit like chlorine but often they have a water filter on the tap so than the chlorine taste is gone. Also good to know sometimes the distances from the pipes are so long and the temperature can rise the water can be really warm from the tap. So in these cases, it is good to have a bottle of water.
  • Wall outlets: type I, same as in New Zealand.
  • Food: Plenty of supermarkets around to buy your own food, of course, you can find restaurants and even some hostels have a restaurant attached. But keep in mind that this is in the cities. If you leave a city sometimes distances are long, you have to drive a few hours until you reach the next place, there can be nothing-to-buy in between.
  • Pre-Book? For the first two nights, I would recommend pre-booking, especially if you come from far. The rest of the time I would say it is not needed. Enough hostels and hotels available everywhere. Maybe only places like Arlie beach, smaller and big touristic hotspots, are good to book in advance. Workaway, good to check and contact a couple of weeks in advance.
  • Money: Take a credit card with you, because not all foreign debit cards work, or open a bank account there. If you want to deposit money on your Australian account from your foreign account for this you can also use Currencyfair.
  • More:
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