Thursday, 19 December 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different!

After Australia I have two plans, one is to go and live in France for a while and the other is to do this trip (possibly extended!)
This would tick off 3 of my other must visit countries (Russia, Mongolia, China)

The order  on opportunity and money (the money side of things isn't exactly awesome at the mo but hey, the only way is up!

If anyone wants to come then let me know!

Monday, 16 December 2013


A few weeks before I left Bowthorn I started to wonder what I was going to do next.  Basically it boiled down to this, getting from Bowthorn back to any major city that I had interest in visiting was going to cost between 300 and 400 bucks! Damn thought I! Then Kelly pointe out that there was an add on Gumtree asking for someone to do a road trip from Cloncurry (about 1.5 hours drive from Mount Isa, through the Outback back to Cairns! YES thought I!

At this point I feel like I should point out I am not a total nutter who will take rides off of any old person who advertises themselves on the internet.  This was a woman in her early 30's, named Becca, who had a campervan and just wanted company on the trip.  We exchanged a few emails and then, for good measure met up in Cloncurry for coffee when I was passing through there on the way back from Mount Isa with the family.  I took Olivia with me as Kelly and Eleanor had a doctors appointment and Becca was nice to both me and my tag along toddler, which I took to be a good sign!  having assured ourselves that neither of us were mass murdering psycos we arranged to head off on our trip 10 days later!

The last week or so on Bowthorn was kind of hard because I had exciting plans and was all ready for the off. However I didn't end up having to wait as long as anticipated because of the Melbourne Cup.  The Melbourne cup is a horse race and it pretty much shuts down Australia for the day as people rush to watch it.  We went to a village event at Gregory, about 2.5 hours from Bowthorn to do this.  The event was held in a sort of village hall (painted that kind of weak greenish colour that village halls the world over seem to share).  Apart from the weather which was much hotter than you would find in the UK (though colder than Bowthorn) The day was very like a village event at home.  There was a buffet, bar, people that had known each other forever, lots of children and lot of chatting and drinking as well as a best dressed competition and obviously the races themselves which people bet on.  I am trying to remember if there was a raffle and I honestly cant remember one way or the other!

That night I stayed at Gregory Out-station, part of another cattle station run by Kelly and Micks Friends, Meegan and Munch.  In the morning Kelly Mick and the two girls left to go back to Bowthorn and I stayed put so that I could get a ride into Mount Isa the following day with Meegan.  Meegan and Munch had who children and I enjoyed my day with them and my chats with meegan in the car on the way to Isa but, long story short I was very Glad to get back to Isa and chill out for the afternoon before getting the bus to Cloncurry the following day!

The following day arrived and that 7am time that the Greyhounds like to leave with it.  I got on the bus and this time slept most of the way to Cloncurry (I had seen enough Outback to last me by that point and was going to see a whole lot more before I was done!

Becca came o get me from the bus, but with last minute preparations to make and goodbyes to say (Becca had been in Cloncurry 3.5 months, which is an age when you are travelling) it took us a few hours to get going.  This meant that we drove through the hottest part of the day, only stopping properly and the Burke and Wills Roadhouse (where they had run out of washing water and the British waitress told us how much she ad been looking forward to the shower that evening that she wasn't going to be able to have). We did stop a few other times but only briefly to let the engine cool.  This first day was probably the longest and was the only one we drove through the heat of the day. No mean feat in an old van with no air conditioning!

A map of the Savannah way, which we drove part of!

On that first day we drove to Normanton and then on to Karumba on the Coast.  There we stopped at a pub that Becca had had recommended to her and had a really brilliant seafood meal!

starter from the meal of awesome

we ended up chatting to these two guys, one of whom had grown up in Australia and his father who was from Britain.  Conversations like that are one of the highlights of travelling and much wine was drunk and quite a few hours passed before we went our separate ways.

From here the exact running order of towns and people gets a little fuzzy in my head.  I should have written this bit up sooner but as already mentioned I suck at getting round to blogging!

But anyway, we drove back to Normanton and joined the 'savannah way'.  I remember seeing a sign at this point that said that we had 902km to go to Cairns.

to be continued...

I still owe you 3 blogs:
This one
and Amber Ridge Woofing

Jess Sucks at Updating Her Blog!

ok so it really is weeks and weeks since I updated this now! I have been focusing on trying to find a job and then given up on that and gone woofing so haven't felt like I had time for blog updating anyway and mostly had nothing to say other than that I was stressed which nobody wants to hear!

I'm happy again now having given up the panicked must find a job and resorted to woofing with a lovely family in their garden centre and cafĂ© business.  There are other woofer's here too, Emily and Darrel from England, Mina from Japan, Kersten from Austria and Memona from France so it is all pretty sociable!

But that's enough about now, I can write about that later.  I still have most of the last few months to bring you up to speed on.  I am going to try and do this pretty quickly because it doesn't feel fair to be using the family's computer for long periods, but there is no wifi!

So the last think I remember writing about was getting to Mount Isa.  I think I finished writing about that, but if I didn't then you haven't missed out on much.

From Isa I got on the post plane which would drop me off at Bowthorn Cattle Station.  The Australian Government thinks that it is every Australians right to receive post so they put on these weekly flights out into the middle of nowhere so that people  living in the middle of nowhere can receive bills and buy things off Ebay and stuff like that! The plane was small, but not so small as I had been expecting, with 8 or 10 seats I think and space for all the post at the back!

Post Plane

Inside of post plane

Pictures taken from Post plane

I think the pictures give a pretty good idea of the flight so I am going to move on.  My stop was the 4th one of the day, so by 11.30ish I was meeting the family I would be working for.  They were nice (luckily!) and the kids were gorgeous, a 3 week old named Eleanor and Olivia who was 19 months!

Olivia wearing my hat and trying to put my sandals on (she loved earing adult shoes and hats!

Eleanor and Olivia (Olivia loved her little sister and was v sweet with her, though sometimes also a little over enthusiastic!)

The house was all powered by solar panels (makes sense when you are somewhere that insanely hot).  There was also a generator, the only problem was that sometimes it was so hot the generator and panels overheated and the power cut out! we were left in the dark a few times! There was a pump which dragged water up from a waterhole next to the garden so that this water could be used by all the sprinklers they had set up in the garden.  This pump was battered looking and temperamental and required tinkering often!

solar panels and a lot of dirt

Every few days someone would have to drive 10 minutes or so from the house to start the boar pump which provided the washing water.  You started an engine and left it with the amount of fuel in it that corresponded to how long you wanted it to run.  The water was pumped up into large tanks on a slight hill near the house so that gravity could provide water pressure.

Drinking water was rain water which was collected by a bit container on the side of the house.  Many places in Australia seem to do this for drinking water.

The house and garden (yes that is a cow on the lawn, we found it there when we got home one day!)

The family also had a walk in Fridge as they need to be able to stock up and be stranded there for months at a time if needs be. 

My work there was pretty easy, I go up with Olivia around 7 each morning so that mummy could have a lie in (if Eleanor permitted it) and helped with general care (playing nappy changing feeding Olivia and taking her outside to play in the garden! The good was good too (lots of steak and home baking!)

I was here for 5 weeks in all and in that time I also got taken to Doomadgee which was the nearby (ish) aboriginal mission, got to take a trip to mount Isa, got to go cattle mustering (where they round up all the cows and count and sort them and got to go up in a helicopter! The last two things were particularly awesome.  The helicopter was on the station because it is used to find and also to help herd the cows. I got to go up in I one morning when it was being used close to the house.  it was amazing but very strange, especially the take off, you are on the ground and then suddenly you aren't, you are hovering as if a giant hand just picked you up.  I felt like I had just defied gravity!


Musterers come to the station to work during the muster and they ride horses or quad bikes or motorbikes and help to round up and then process the cattle.  I went out with them one day, though I was just there to watch and rode in the truck at the back!


So that was pretty much all for cattle station times, think I ad better leave it there for now. Next time: jess goes a road trippin'!!

Friday, 15 November 2013

A Very Long Bus Ride That Felt Quite Short

7am seems to be the standard time for the greyhound bus to leave in a morning (and sometimes a bit earlier)! Anyone who knows me will be well aware of my general aversion to any time of day before 10am.  So you can imagine the look on my face when my alarm went off at half 5 without too much difficulty!

But up I got for the next leg of the journey.  This time from Townsville to Mount Isa.  I had no idea where either of those places were either so let me provide you with a little map.
                                                                                                                         A Little Map!

It takes 12 hours to get from A to B but thankfully it seemed to take less.  I am not sure whether I attribute this to the fact that I had a good book, a good travel pillow, there were no train creeps (it being a bus and all) or that they stopped more often than they used to on those godforsaken 30 hour tips to Spain and Italy I had to sit through for school trips. Whatever it was I was thankful for it!

I cant quite remmeber at this distance of time how many places we stopped at, to drop off people or for rest breaks, what I can remmeber was watching the sun set over the outback and it was absolutely beautiful! For some reason I didnt think to take a photo at the time but I have others which I took later in my travels.  I do wish that I had got a picture from that night, but even if I had it would not have done it justice because my camera isn't very good and anyway most of my outback pics were taken from a moving vehicle and so, like the one below, are slightly blurry!

                                                  The Outback!
This isn't at sunset but you get the idea.  All those mounds you see are termite mounds and they were literally everywhere, sometimes (as here) strenching almost as far as the eye can see!

I will talk more about the outback later, driving though it that day was an awesome experience though, not least because it is so so different to anything we have at home.  What also made a huge impression on me that first day was THE HEAT!  It was fine when you were on the coach because of the air conditioning which, if anything, usually makes it slightly chilly on Australian busses. But once you leave the artifical cool and step outside it is a different story.

I cant remmeber which stop along the route it was, I only remmeber stepping of the coach and feeling like i was choking as the hot air carried by quite a strong breeze forced its way into my lungs.  It felt unatural, too warm, wrong, as if I had just developed the ability to breathe water or something.  The sun pressing down on my head made me feel dizzy too! This should probably have been the point at which I thought bloody hell what am I getting myself into coming out here for a month.  It wasnt.  That particular thought didnt surface until weeks later!

I did get used to the heat.  In fact, I am sitting in Melbourne, its 19 degrees, I'm wearing a jumper because it feels cold.  I am not sure whether I am pleased or ashamed of this fact.  But that first day I had yet to properly aclimatise either to the cold of the a/c or the warmth outside and so I was very glad to make it to Mount Isa and to the comfort of a hostel there which while run down felt really homely.

There I met a French lady in her 40's with two boyfriends (neither of whom knew about the other!) and a man who was recovering from a heart attack.  What followed was an entertaining 36 hours chatting about all kinds of things and eating chocolate croissants which i am becoming slightly addficted to even if the French lady turned her nose up at the Australian version.  This lady helped me a bit with my French (which is still terrible) and I helped her a bit with her English (which was really good!)

Jess is post
Jess goes to an aboriginal mission
Jess rides in a helicopter
Jess changes a lot of nappies

Friday, 1 November 2013

Blog the Second

As promised, more blog rant...

So where was I, oh yes on a train! I have been on lots of train journeys in my time and so this shouldn't have amused me as much as it did, but Australian trains have some features which British ones don't, that I think they should adopt fast! Firstly, unlike British trains they occasionally show up on time.  Secondly they have triple decker trains which are just an awesome idea and made me feel like a big over excited kid!  Some trains have seats where you can alter which direction you are facing by pulling the back of the seat one way or another, which is pretty cool.  But best of all, Australian Trains have proper dining carriages with tables and a TV and everything so you have somewhere to escape from your seat and any associated creepy men! 

I made good use of said dining carriage and contemplated also making use of the fact it was licensed.  Then I realized it was 9am! I almost wish this hadn't stopped me but it did!

After a while my disappointingly sober self and my huge red suitcase arrived in Townsville. 

What to say about Townsville, it is not really the most exciting place and I didn't really end up seeing that much of it.  I did however bump into someone I knew from Digger Street who I went out for lunch with and had the glass of wine I had refused myself earlier in the day and then a few more, good times! :)

I spent another 2 days in Townsville, there was a nice market and a town to potter round, which felt oddly dead the entire time I was there.  I killed some time chilling out in the local library on the first day (I'm that cool!) but the best thing I saw was the aquarium and turtle hospital on the second.

The Aquarium was pretty much like any other but it focused on creatures of the great barrier reef and Australia which is something I know little about.  I was glad to learn, sometimes in this country I feel very much like a child who knows nothing.  Especially since some of the creatures here can be dangerous.  something bites you or you see a bug or a snake and think, is this harmless or should I be running for my life?!  Not that an aquarium tells you anything about land living bugs but it was still really interesting!

The turtle hospital which was attached to the aquarium seemed to be pretty busy.  Apparently lots of turtles get hit by boats and things like that.  I know this cos they allowed members of the public to go on tours of the turtle hospital which was basically lots of blue circular vats with turtles of various types in varying states of ill and injured.  It was good to see them being cared for though and the awareness that was brought to them by the hospital tours and associated talk has got to be a good thing.  I saw a turtle when I went out to the Barrier Reef, swimming along in its own little world paying almost no attention to us. As it should be.  It made me feel kind of like a small and irrelevant newcomer.  Which is what humans would be on earth if we weren't so good at destroying everything. 

That was pretty much it for my stay in Townsville so I will leave this post here and write another tomorrow! 

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Blog the First (in about 5 weeks)

Hey all, Happy Halloween!

It must be at least 5 weeks it is since I last updated this! Sorry everyone, I have just not got round to it!  I will try to catch up with myself over the next few days.  This will probably take a few posts, most of which I hope to write when I am less tired than I am tonight!

Last time I posted I was not enjoying being a tasty snack for local creepy crawlies! Well I did survive my run in with the bugs at Digger Street and did eventually really enjoy it there! It was good to be involved with a slightly more fixed community of people and do some academic(ish) work. As part of my wwoofing I helped out with a project they have there called 'the way out now'. This project involves putting a 1970's alternative living hippy type book up on the internet.  To this original text will be added the views of people from today who are into their alternative living and  also, hopefully, further contributions from the original authors which will show if their views have changed in the last 40 years.  Its interesting, you should give it a look! (

A few days after I got to Digger and still in the going crazy from all the bug bites and not sleeping cos of the possibly-fleas/possibly-bedbugs I was sharing a bed with I got an offer to spend a month as an au pair out on a cattle station in the middle of nowhere! This offer contained 4 major bonuses:
 1) I wanted to see middle of nowhere outback Australia
2) I like children much much more than I like the alternative job I was offered (as a charity mugger) 3) If the placement worked out well I could go on doing more au pairing and therefore avoid chugging indefinitely
4) I would no longer be sharing a bed with things that bit me

However, there was also one fairly epic downside. It looked like it was going to cost me close to $1000 (over 600 quid) to travel to the new job!!! I thought about it, but not drastically hard, I reasoned being able to say id worked as an au pair would be another string to my bow and it was the only way I was going to get paid to come and see a side of Australia I wanted to see anyway!

So I accepted the job and rang my parents to cheerily inform them that I was about to commit financial suicide ($1000 being roughly the size of my then bank balance)! I doubt they were surprised, it would be the first time that I have done something outwardly daft because I believed that it was the best course of action. I have done this sort of thing several times over the years. One day when I was about 8 I informed my slightly shocked mother that I was leaving my private school - I did and it was probably one of the best decisions I ever made!

My parents gave me a bit of a loan which I hate, I really really try not to take money off them but I will pay it back so its no big deal to anything but my pride!

The thing about Australia is that obviously its huge! I was in Cairns and needed to get to Bowthorn Station which while still in the same state (Queensland) was going to take me 5 days to reach! Partly this was because of the distance but it was also because in the more remote areas public transport doesn't run every day.  I had to be in Mount Isa by Thursday morning to catch the mail plane out to the station, I left cairns on a train at 7.15am on the Saturday beforehand.

Australian trains do not cover anywhere as near as much of the country as British trains do, most of the interior of the country just isn't populated enough and if you want to go anywhere there you drive for a very long time or take a very expensive flight. Luckily for me there was a train part way to my destination.  I managed to get as far as Townsville before I was forced to resort to a bus.

It is somewhat traditional for me to be hit on by creepy men on trains.  I have no idea why but it just always seems to happen.  This time was no exception.  A slightly inebriated, unkept looking, middle aged man happened to be in the seat next to me.  I spent some time trying to look as disinterested as possible while he chatted to me  about his last week and swore loudly and repeatedly in his anger at not being able to smoke on the train.  He was going to be on the train for 30 hours (that's how long it takes to get from Cairns to Brisbane) I luckily was only going to be on the train for about 6! 

After a while train creep went in search of food and I was left in peace to read my book and watch small towns with names I cant remember move past the window. 

I think I will leave it there for tonight

to be continued...


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Today I Found a Pound Coin in My Bag and it Looked Foreign!

A commune
Hiding in the upstairs computer room from the midges and the bedbugs...
Well, its an experience I guess