“This year is going to be such big year for you, and I am so excited for you!” My best friend said in message she sent as I headed to the airport last year, and she was right. This year, the year I spent ten months travelling around Australia by myself was a HUGE year for me.
Prior to travelling to Australia, I didn’t know much about the country besides the fact that it seemed like everyone aspired to go there one day, or had already been or knew someone who went there. I also knew Australia has a lot of animals, I wasn’t too fussed about that, there was also the sun and beaches and surfers. Going in cold to Australia worked in my favour, I pretty much winged my trip and it worked out as I imagined it would go. I learned so much about what an amazing country Australia is, and I learned a lot about myself in the process..
January – Sydney > Winton
2017 began with me growing restless in Sydney, I had spent three months backpacking and by that time funds were beginning to dwindle, after unsuccessfully looking for regional work, I found a job at The North Gregory Hotel, Winton, outback Queensland.
The decision to head to the outback was a plan haphazardly put together after my job search proved futile, I didn’t want to head to a dodgy working hostel, so instead I headed to the outback. I cannot tell you how petrified I was on the bus to Winton, instead of seeing it as an intrepid adventure, I spent the journey panicking about what exactly I was getting myself into. It’s funny that when things don’t go according to plan, especially when you didn’t have a plan in the first place, how figuring out what to do next becomes even more daunting. But I needn’t have worried as Winton turned out to be my favourite stop on my travels, and is still the place I talk about most.
I worked as a barmaid and chronicled the experience in my ‘Outback Barmaid’ series. From the initial culture shock of being a British girl in the outback getting used to 40 degree heat, cowboy hats and swarms of bugs (which I had to hoover up every morning), to meeting some weird and wonderful people and integrating into the community, Winton was special for many reasons, it was my first experience of living abroad really, and looking back on it it was my favourite place. I have the fondest memories of my time there, I learned a lot about Australian culture unlike the time I spent in the cities, I drank beer, swam in a gravel pit, celebrated Australia Day with a hearty reef and beef, and attempted mustering on a quad bike. In all I only spent 6 weeks in Winton but it felt so much longer, though I still think I hold the title for Winton’s shortest barmaid, and I’m pretty proud of that.
March – Julia Creek
March saw me leaving Winton for the rigours of farm life in Julia Creek, before leaving Winton I was warned that I had no idea what I was letting myself in for, and I didn’t.
The four months I spent working at a cattle station were the craziest four months of my life so far. It began with crying over a pancake and ended with crying over leaving my baby goat Kelso. Over those four months I learned that I can get a lot done, I’m a hard worker, and that a lot of lessons you learn on a farm are for life. I also became an animal lover, which I never expected. Before coming to Australia I was relatively indifferent about animals, I like cats, I had Guinea pigs as a child (which I would not recommend they are the most boring and antisocial animals ever!). I knew that most people who went to Australia went to admire the animals, but I wasn’t one of them… the farm changed that. Working extensively with animals changed how I think about them, and the bonds I developed with some of the animals were life-changing (I’m still a bit weary of horses though, I both admire and despise them). I became a surrogate mother to Kelso the baby goat, and I hope to own goats in the future.
Working on the farm also taught me how hard I can work, how resilient I am, how much pressure it takes for me to crack, that you can’t be friends with everyone and a new found appreciation for clean laundry. I can also tell you the life cycle of grass, and how to maintain a lawn in the outback. From a travelling point of view I didn’t travel much, but I did get to visit various outback towns including Karumba when we took a day trip to the seaside, aside from the fact that we couldn’t paddle in the water because of salt-water crocodiles it was a great trip. The way of life on a station makes you appreciate the times you get to go away and visit somewhere new, and the little trips we took to Karumba, Normanton, Richmond, Nelia, Kynuna and the Saxby Round Up were all great ways to experience more of outback Queensland. I feel lucky that I worked in Julia Creek and got to visit so many other places, as I got to experience more of the outback than other backpackers might. I loved the outback but soon my time at the farm came to an end and so to did my time in the outback.
July – Back to the East Coast
Leaving the farm saw me adjust from total isolation and responsibility to absolute freedom and a return to ‘civilisation’. My first stop was Brisbane where I enjoyed visiting all of the museums and basically doing whatever I wanted. Next came Toowoomba a leisurely break away from the city, before embarking on a whistle stop tour of the East Coast. After having spent four months in the same place it was interesting to get back into the swing of backpacking again. Beginning in Noosa where I enjoyed strolls along the beach, and relaxing in the sun. I also did my first ever skydive which was absolutely awesome! I arrived at 11am and didn’t jump until 2pm, whilst I was waiting I met three English backpackers who’d travelled up for the day from Brisbane, when I told them I was jumping by myself one of the girls said ‘Oh my god, you’re jumping alone? That’s crazy! I’d be shitting myself!’ I wasn’t that bothered to be honest, I love flying in airplanes I still find the process quite magical, and I had always dreamed of doing a skydive. The experience didn’t disappoint, free fall is such a surreal experience, even though I knew the fall only lasted 30-45secs your body and mind panic a little bit as you literally fall through the air. When the instructor pulled the parachute, it was a weird jolt back into reality, a reality where you’re gliding through the air strapped to a middle-aged man, but hey ho, floating above Coolum Beach was incredible and I even got to do some spins!
August – Continuing up the Coast
In August I covered a lot of ground, after Noosa I went to Hervey Bay, where I stayed at Aussie Woolshed which is the most beautiful hostel I’ve stayed at. Other than the hostel, I haven’t got much to say about Hervey Bay itself it’s not the prettiest Australian town and despite being near the beach it felt claustrophobic, there’s a lot there in the way of people living there, but not much to see there. In fact the hostel was quiet as Hervey Bay is one of three places you can plan trips to Fraser Island, I hadn’t made my mind up about visiting the Island until the night I arrived a girl in my dorm invited me on her self drive tour. We camped overnight, on the beach, and this has to be one of my favourite stops on the East Coast. I was pretty reluctant to go to Fraser as I thought it was a tourist trap, but to be honest unless you’re on a day tour I don’t think you’ll find anywhere overly saturated with people. I was completely overwhelmed by how beautiful Fraser Island was so much so that I wrote it a love letter.
(Indian Head Lookout, Fraser Island, Queensland)
Next I went to Agnes Water and the Town of 1770, being a history geek I was intrigued by 1770 as the second landing site of Captain Cook and thought there’d be a lot to see, preferably a lot of historical stuff so I could get my geek on. I was wrong, Agnes Water and the Town of 1770 is a quaint coastal town, with not very much aside from a cairn dedicated to the landing site and a small museum. I initially pretty disappointed and a little thrown by Agnes Water, it was the first place since the outback that I couldn’t get reception on my phone and the shops shut really early (first world problems I know!). However whilst there I made a really good friend in one of the girls staying at my hostel, the next day we went for the most catastrophic bike ride ever, the chain kept falling off my bike, which in the end we ditched and headed for the lookout where we saw a family of whales and even heard one call!
(Agnes Water, Queensland)
After spending so much time by the sea I decided to go inland, to Rockhampton, the driver of the Greyhound Bus said ‘I’m sorry but I have to ask, but why Rockie?’ during my time in the outback I’d heard a lot of people talking about Rockhampton and decided to check it out. It’s the beef capital of Australia and not the most popular destination for backpackers, whilst there I went to a rodeo at a local hotel, which proved to be too outback for the two German backpackers I went with, whereas to me it was like returning home. The akubra hats, the boot-scootin, the bareback horseriding, yes please. I also visited the Rockhampton Zoo which is free to enter and despite not being a massive fan of zoos, it is worth going to Australian Zoos, as well as Taronga in Sydney, Rockhampton Zoo was a really cool zoo with a lot to see, as well as lovely walks around the botanical gardens.
(Feeding the rainbow lorikeets at Rockhampton Zoo)
Whilst in Rockhampton I met two of the coolest people I met travelling… scratch that, they were the coolest people I met travelling. I still need to write a whole post about them, because they deserve it, I met Fred and Alex two guys who were walking the entire length of Australia’s East Coast, they began in Cape York and by the time they reached Rockhampton they’d been walking for 69 days, having taken around ten rest days during that time. The pair had met whilst walking the length of New Zealand, which took them three months, and were hoping to finish their walk of Australia in Tasmania in January. I’m hoping to catch up with them when I return to Oz in the New Year, the guys weren’t advertising their walk and neither of them are on social media, so it was an absolute honour to meet them and they were genuinely lovely people. I hope it’s going well for them.
After Rockhampton I went to Airlie Beach, and then onto to Townsville at that point I was starting to get tired of the short stops I was doing, and so spent most of my time hanging out at the Reef Lodge Hostel which was the sanctuary I needed, with a herb garden and cosy hanging futons, it was a tranquil place to stay. I visited the Museum of Tropical North Queensland where I was seriously impressed by the woman at the front desk and the man on the first floor who both told me all about the museum and its exhibits and were bursting with enthusiasm. Unfortunately I left the museum midway through the HMS Bounty exhibit as a rather rowdy school group were running around, but other than that I’d still recommend a visit. From Townsville I went on to Cairns, by which point a month had passed..
September – To the Northern Territory!
September began in Cairns preparing for a road trip to the Northern Territory with two girls I’d met through the Cairns backpackers Facebook group. Our road trip began smoothly enough with visits to Babinda boulders and Paronella Park, which are amazing places. After that we headed inland which gave me the opportunity to visit the outback as a tourist, initially I’d been pretty excited to do this, however the reality, after having spent so long living there was different. I discovered I don’t really like road trips, I like being in control of my travel plans, which after travelling by myself for 10 months I guess isn’t surprising. In addition to that I enjoy taking it slow and getting a feel for places, we passed quite quickly through a few towns, and even though we saw loads of awesome places, ultimately road tripping just isn’t my style.
(Porcupine Gorge, Hughenden, Queensland)
That being said, Porcupine Gorge just outside of Hughenden is amazing and if you can camp there go and do it. The walk down to the gorge is pretty easy and you can see all the layers of rock that have developed over time, it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. I finally got the chance to visit Mount Isa, which is a city in the outback, which most people I knew in Julia Creek had told me not to get excited over, however it was a pretty interesting place, we visited the Underground hospital and toured the Mount Isa School of the Air, it is one of the best places to learn about outback life so if you’re passing through take time to visit those places.
(Mount Isa, Queensland)
After visiting the Isa we were well on our way to the Northern Territory, our first stop once we reached the NT was Karlu Karlu an incredible sight, naturally formed boulders which has been a sacred place for Aboriginals for thousands of years. There are walking trails around the boulders, and climbing on them is strictly discouraged, as well as certain areas marked as ‘no photography’ zones. Next we headed to Alice Springs where I nearly lost my rucksack on the Stuart Highway, despite being the one in charge of making sure that stuff on the roof was strapped on tight, I was the one who nearly lost all her belongings in the middle of the NT, thankfully one of the girls I was with noticed various belongings of mine falling off the roof, and we stopped in time to save my bag. Crisis averted we headed on to Alice.
Alice Springs was a turning point for me, prior to the road trip I’d been doing short stops which by the time I got to Townsville I was tired, on the road trip we were changing location every day and camping, after two weeks I was exhausted. I parted ways with the girls and headed back to Brisbane. En-route, I spent a perfect day in Adelaide, I went out for breakfast and then spent the rest of the day reading in the library, bliss. In Brisbane I met up with a friend and embarked on a road trip up the East Coast, another road trip, lunacy!
(Karlu Karlu, NT)
Anyway the second journey up the East Coast differed from the one I took the month before, as this time we stayed more inland, visiting idyllic little towns like Imbil and Lake Borumba. I quite like quiet, quaint little places with nothing really going on, walking around places and taking them in without encountering anyone else and just getting lost. During this trip I got to see a lot more of Queensland and revisited some places to visit places I hadn’t seen the first time, Mount Coolum in Noosa is well worth a climb, as is Mount Nygungun. We also visited some ghost-towns like Wallumbilla, where we were the only two visitors there!
I have to make a special mention of Carnarvon Gorge which deserves a spot on ‘the most beautiful places in Australia list’ (an infinite list), this national park is incredible and has so many things to see. The walk through the gorge is easy, surrounded by rainforest, there’s a moss garden, a natural cave known as ‘the amphitheatre’ (which I originally thought meant an amphitheatre had been built there for some useless reason). There were loads of streams that crossed through the paths and each one had stepping stones, honestly, alongside ALL the other places I have told you are beautiful, amazing and incredible, Carnarvon Gorge is one of those places.
(Carnarvon Gorge National Park, Queensland)
Towards the end of September I decided to go home, I’d been travelling for ten months and I’d reached that point of oversaturation that many other travel bloggers have talked about. For me I had done enough and seen enough in my ten months solo travelling that I’d grown tired and wanted comforts of home, and so after reaching Cairns for the second time I left Australia.
October – Hello Europe!
Arriving back in the UK I spent time reconnecting with old friends, and enjoying being at home, but it wasn’t long before I was itching to visit new places. The friend I made in Agnes Water had returned to Belgium and so I spent a couple of lovely days exploring Gent. After spending most of the year in Australia, coming back home and being reminded of all the places in Europe I haven’t yet seen reminded me of how great it is to live in the UK (apart from Brexit… agh). Wandering around the gothic city of Gent was a great way to reconnect with my wanderlust as was the canal tour, and the medieval castle. It was great to spend time with one of the friends I’d made on the road and I hope we’ll meet again soon.
For the rest of the year I’ve stayed put in the UK returning to the supermarket to save up for my return to Australia in the new year. Oh yes that’s right, my time in Australia isn’t up yet and now I’m looking forward to returning for round 2.
More posts to come as and when, but this post has already been too long and as you can see I had a pretty awesome, intense, challenging, fun, incredible crazy year and I can’t wait to do it all over again starting with Adelaide in January!
Thanks for reading (and thanks to everyone who made 2017 such a wonderful year, all the best to all of you!)