We stepped out of the air conditioned Brisbane airport and into the humidity of Queensland and were told to look out for a white Mazda driven by Tim, another of Anna’s brothers. I have never seen so many white Mazdas in one place at the same time but after a couple of awkward approaches we found the right one!
Once found, we were taken back to meet his family, immediately opening a few beers and swapping travel stories, something that won’t get old for a while yet!
Brisbane would be our home for the foreseeable future as our money had now pretty much disappeared and we needed to accumulate enough to both buy our flights home and to do a one month road trip to Cairns before leaving for the UK. It was finally time to pay more attention to the ‘working’ than the ‘holiday’ in our working holiday visa, reality loomed!
The next couple of weeks in Brisbane were spent applying to hundreds of jobs, getting knocked back from or ignored by the vast majority, including jobs I am definitely qualified for.
This was frustrating but we tried not to let it get us down, especially when hearing from back home that it was -7 degrees outside! Although skint, we still had the sunshine to sit in and a pool to play in so it could have been worse!
We tried all sorts of techniques to find work like handing out physical cv’s, applying to online job adverts and even cold calling workplaces but nothing was working and I did start to find it pretty stressful.
We had more than a few nice restbites from our work search including a few nice BBQ’s with Jim’s family (another brother!) as well as going out to eat a curry for Ned’s (Anna’s nephew) birthday.
Through desperation we both agreed to attend one interview for a role we knew we wouldn’t accept even before we turned up but figured it may be a good experience. Our suspicions about the role (face to face sales) were confirmed as soon as we stepped into the commercial offices and were faced by the sleazy sales people who could have become our co workers.
After some schpeal about us being the lucky ones to be selected for the interview out of ‘hundreds’ of applicants (funny as we didn’t apply, rather our CV’s were found) and chosen to advance to this second stage due to our initial phone interviews (funny as only Anna spoke to them on the phone), I stood up and walked out of the interview, quickly followed by a slightly embarrassed Anna (sorry love but it was for the best!). We decided this to be a good excuse for a beer as unlike home, the weather was lovely and it would have been a real shame to go back inside straight away.
As it turned out, a couple of days later we did get work through a hospitality recruitment agency and that weekend found ourselves, having spent a large chunk of our remaining money on a new uniform, standing behind the bar at a posh hotel, opening champagne for 700 posh folk. Any work at this point was welcome!
It turned out to be the only shift we would get with this company, my impressions of Australia as somewhere easy to obtain work, were wildly misjudged.
The following weekend we spent camping just south of Surfers Paradise with Jim’s family next to a lovely beach.
Excitedly, I persuaded them to take a surf board which hadn’t seen daylight for a few years and upon arrival I took it to the beach but was faced with extremely choppy water and an approaching storm.
As the weekend continued, so did the storm, never giving up for more than a couple of hours so we were grateful for the caravan Jim and Paula were staying in as it gave us somewhere to drink beers and play cards.
The next week Anna successfully got work in an office using her secretarial skills, proof reading and editing documents at an environmental company, thrilling it was not (she will be the first to admit this) but the pay wasn’t bad at all so that helped her to put up with it!
Anna had obtained a responsible service of alcohol license and used it once, for this license we had to record a video pretending to talk to a drunk and refusing them service. Me, holding the camera for this awkward moment, watched as it took 19 attempts to “nail it” and it is the most I have laughed in ages. If I was allowed, I would not hesitate to share a video on here but it might cost me my relationship! Despite only using her RSA for one shift, the making of this video was worth the cost entirely.
With Anna duly employed, thinks quickly started to happen for me too, admittedly not providing the consistent hours I needed even with obtaining three different jobs but as they say back home ‘owt is better than nowt’.
I had a guaranteed couple of nights a week, working in a big pub, The Caxton Hotel, which is conveniently positioned next to The Suncorp, a 52,000 capacity stadium hosting football (or for the Aussies… soccer), rugby league/union as well as concerts so with the flow of punters walking past the pub both to and from events, it gets extremely busy.
The rest of my shifts were made up of infrequent work as an on call kitchen hand (posh word for a pot washer) and working for a promotions company giving out free gifts to the public from large brands. The latter gave me possibly the best shift I have or will ever take on, getting paid for three hours despite finishing up in under half of one.
The one weekend I had off, conveniently fell on St. Patricks Day so no points for guessing what we got up to that day!
After what turned out to be a grand few weeks staying with Tim and Annie, it was time to move into Jim and Paula’s house, initially just for a couple of days as we had agreed to house/dog sit Allie’s (Paula’s sister, keep up!) dog whilst they all went camping for a couple of weeks.
One of our last days at Time and Annie’s was spent with the family, me agreeing to learn Millie’s dance moves and also get my nails done. I don’t mind showing my feminine side or being a big kid but it took about a month for the nail polish to come off my toes and I have grown quite fond of wearing flip flops out here!
Before we did move into the new house, I had the small matter of attending a Caxton Hotel staff party as all drinking holes in Australia are closed on Good Friday so it was one of the only opportunities bar staff get to let loose together. I managed not to embarrass myself, having learnt that lesson in past staff do’s and after a few hours drinking in the park, we moved onto one of our managers apartments which had a pretty impressive view of the harbor.
With access to a laptop and a lack of shifts, I decided it was about time to start the freelance writing course I had been thinking about since Joe had put the idea in my head back in Indonesia. Anybody still reading this blog should be able to tell if its working or not by judging my writing over the next few posts! I also have a separate blog now which can be found at http://www.benjoeward.com and will (hopefully) include slightly more professional content!
The weekend everybody went camping fell over the Easter break so taking advantage of a rare day off together and finally having a little money in our bank accounts, Anna and I took a long overdue day out together to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, situated around an hour outside of Brisbane.
We missed our first bus and sequentially the opportunity to have a picture holding a koala, they spent most of their life sleeping so pictures with the ‘friendly one’ are to be taken within a strict time limit.
When we did arrive there was still plenty to do however and I got to tick off seeing a lot of Australia’s wildlife first hand such as wombats, pythons, emus and other creatures as well as kangaroos and koalas.
To my surprise, we didn’t just get to see kangaroos but rather we were let into a large space where they were freely lounging and hopping around, they were all pretty social too.
Like big, rodenty dogs, they were happy to be cuddled and played with, the only problem is that I may have to delay eating one now…
On the way out of the park, we were faced with the option of two doors, I think I took the wrong one..
Having left the kangaroo park, we noticed that you could take a picture with a koala later that day but with one catch, that being that there was a woman awkwardly stood holding the koala and pretending not to be there whilst you scratched it’s back and took the photo. We went for it anyway!
On the way out, Anna faced off with an iguana, I think she was jealous of my photo with the komodo dragon in Indonesia!
With a little expendable cash we are able to enjoy the city a little more and started attending a few gigs, notably Xavier Rudd and Jake Bugg, both at The Triffid, an old aircraft hangar turned music venue and a really good place to watch live music.
Following the Xavier Rudd gig, held on a Thursday evening, and with Anna, Tim, Annie and I getting a little carried away with the $5 schooners on offer we woke up with a brutal hangover, Anna even calling in sick for work on the Friday.
I had no such intentions however and with an admittedly easier start time of 5pm, I trundled off to the bottle shop where I was faced with selling the vessels of my demise.
That weekend we moved back in with Jim and Paula after they had all returned from their camping trip but before we knew it, we were packing our bags to head to Byron Bay for a few days in honour of my birthday.
After a fairly easy three hour bus ride, we arrived at our hostel (far from the first we have stayed in this year) but almost couldn’t check in as we had left our passports in Brisbane… I have said it before and I will say it again, the longer we have been travelling, the worse at it we seem to get!
Eventually, after being left to sweat for a while, we checked into our room before meeting Noah, our friend now living here who had previously relocated to the UK for a few years.
It was really good to see him again and also really good to have a tour guide in Byron Bay, a lively little surf town sitting on a huge pristine beach and surrounded by luscious green countryside.
After a walk through Byron Bay, where there is live music on every corner and in every bar, we had a burrito and then sat by the beach with a few beers to catch up.
When the temperature finally cooled down to ‘mild’ at around 10pm, we headed off the beach and to a couple of bars to watch some live music. In the Railway Bar, converted to such a venue from the old train station, there was a surprisingly good blues/rock n roll band on.
In the interest of keeping a clear head for my birthday, we kept the evening fairly short and got an early-ish night.
Waking up as a 27 year old felt no different to waking up as a 26 year but the thought of spending my birthday in somewhere like this was enough to set me off in a pretty good mood!
Anna and I walked to the beach and had breakfast, a very healthy acai bowl (embracing the surf/hippie culture of the place) and took in the bay.
After breakfast, we had another little walk through the town, happy to have the sun shining on us as the forecast had predicted rain for the whole week.
We waited in a bar for Noah to pick us up before driving to Minyon falls, a beautiful waterfall around a 40 minute drive from Byron Bay. The drive headed through countryside that looks just like the Peak District (if the Peak District had palm trees).
Whilst viewing the waterfall, we were told to look to our left by a stranger and just a few metres away from us was a Koala Bear, lazily taking in the same view as us.
Wearing nothing but flip flops, we set off into the rainforest around the waterfall for a little trek.
It wasn’t until we were nearly back at the car that I realised the wet leaf in between my toes was actually a leach and that he had brought his buddy along to feed off my other foot.
I guess that it was happens when you walk through what is pretty much a jungle in flip flops!
On the drive home, we stopped off to take in the sunset before getting another burrito, followed by some falafel.
As I am older now, I must be more mature so I thought it would be appropriate to start drinking cocktails instead of beer. That was until I realised that the expresso martini I had ordered was $18 and I could get a beer for around $6. I quickly decided to leave the cocktails for another few years and another few pay checks.
Heading back to the Railway Bar to see what musical delights would be shown that evening, we weren’t disappointed when we were faced with a bloke sat behind two didgeridoos, a drum kit, a keyboard and a box of guitars made out of various objects, most notably, a skateboard, a cricket bat and a shovel.
He played them all very well too but I am not sure I could describe the set in words, pretty varied, definitely unique and certainly entertaining.
Despite the two big, unhealthy meals already consumed that day, we stopped off on the way home for a big kebab, I didn’t know it was possible to visibly put on weight in a day.
I had the chance to work some of it off however as I had a three hour surf lesson booked in for the next morning, my first lesson by somebody who speaks fluent English and it came back to me pretty quickly having spent a few months out of the water.
Despite the slightly embarrassing pre-surf warm up on the beach, which amused Anna immensely as she was sunbathing near by, it was probably one of the best days surfing I have had.
After swapping hotels and a bit of lunch we headed up to Byron Lighthouse to take in the views and go on a coastal walk.
Passing the most Easterly Point of mainland Australia, we sat and watched some surfers, jumped a fence to sit on a rugged bit of coastline and chased wild wallabies, all lending to a pretty good afternoon and us falling in love with this little town.
If only property wasn’t on par with London prices, I may have considered buying something here one day!
Sadly we did have to leave Byron at the next day but not before sitting in the park on our last evening, drinking a beer and taking in all the wonderful sights of the town such as the local people dancing to no music, spinning fire and performing amateur gymnastics in front of bemused tourists!
The next morning, we got back on the bus and left for Brisbane, refreshed and remembering our new found love for spontaneous travel and seeing new places.
As nice as Brisbane is, we have been living a more ‘normal’ existence here, working and drinking and working again so it was really good to get on the road, albeit briefly and remember why we are out here!
The evening we got back to Brisbane, we met up with Tim, Annie, Jim and Paula and went to the Triffid to see Jake Bugg, even getting VIP stools on the front of the balcony for a prime view of the show!