The Wet Tropics of Australia
From the crazy strawberry farm in the Sunshine Coast, we caught a train to Brisbane Airport and booked a flight to Cairns to leave that day. Very impulsive but it felt so good. Cairns was sweltering even though we arrived well after midnight. We met a lovely girl named Emma at the hostel we were staying at who showed us around the next day. We had a wonderful breakfast at a hippy, busy breakfast bar in town. It was so good to be somewhere busy but also that felt exotic and more like the Australia I had fallen in love with when I was researching my travels back in the UK.
We spent time in the beautiful lagoon which is Cairns’ answer to a beach (their beach is too dangerous to swim in and is really far out from the coast). In the evening we went out with Emma to sample some of Cairns’ smashing night life. In total we stayed only two days, but I am eager to return!
From Cairns, we caught a greyhound bus to Tully where we met Lionel. I had arranged for us to do some woofing (Willing Working On Organic Farms) down in Tully whilst we waited for banana packing jobs to come available. It was not a paid position but we got free food and accommodation. Lionel is a typical, Aussie man with a kind heart. He has two children aged 5 and 7, and has 450 acres for his cattle. Our duties would involve caring for the kids, mustering cattle, picking and packing papayas, helping with fencing and housework.
My perception of Australian family life and Australian farm life changed once again at Lionel’s. I was not expecting the sheer amount of work that man does every day to keep his head above the water. The guy was in dept from his divorce and his kids were dressed in holey old clothes that had seen much better days. Of course they’re all so laid back out there so nothing was too much of a problem and you just have to ask if you want something. But we knew that even the sheer mention of money would cause him quite a bit of stress.
Lionel had some horses he kept for mustering the cattle and we would ride out on them regularly. It was sheer heaven going out on those horses in that beautiful place. Appreciating a view on horseback is my ultimate pastime. Lionel also had some dogs he would use to round the cattle up. These dogs are trained to attack and bite a cow if it strays from the herd. This is supposed to be so that it knows not to stray again but it was pretty gruesome to watch. Lionel of course had no qualms about it and let the dogs do their dirty work.
Once I was able to take a horse out (his name was Boof-head as he kept boofing his daughter Abi on the head haha) on my own as Lionel obviously thought I was a good enough rider. Old Boof-head was a bit of a character and wanted to turn around and go home a lot of the time, although as soon as I pushed him into a trot or canter there was no stopping him. He was a true racer. We would gallop up the hills and then I would look back to see the disappearing sun as it faded into the mountains. It was a lovely moment.
Lionel’s children, Abi and Jack were also little characters and we would help out with them in terms of making packed lunches, cooking, cleaning and bedtime stories. I sang Abi the Crazy Moose Song and she loved it so much she wanted it every day. Sarah and Janneke hated it from the start (party poopers) so we sang it even louder!
We didn’t really get the chance to see any sights with Lionel as he was too busy working. We did however get to meet his friends (Noodles and Kerby) who constantly walked around barefoot and had teeth missing. We went to a housewarming party for Noodles’ parents one evening which was fun but so different from ANY other party I had ever been to. We had a big pig spit roast which Noodles had killed himself a few days ago and everybody bought a dish over to turn it into a feast. Kids were rushing around everywhere and playing on the farm machinery. They were all grubby and had tatty clothes – true farm kids! The wives of the farmers were not bustly housewives with pinnies on, making cakes, as I weirdly imagined. Instead they were on most occasions twice the size of their husbands, with short hair and a masculine appearance, telling the kids to shut up.
Everybody was amazingly friendly though and welcomed us with open arms. Every Aussie I think hates a warm beer, but also hates to get cold hands when holding a beer straight from the fridge. So to combat this they have beer holders which pop onto any beer. They sometimes have pictures of their farms/animals/kids printed on them. Like we would print pictures on mouse mats and mugs, they would have these stubby coolers. Weirdos.
Lionel was a busy man, and in turn had a good few friends. We met one guy named Gareth who turned out to be our ticket to getting away from Lionel’s. (We didn’t HATE it there, but we were doing an awful lot for no money and we weren’t totally comfortable there).
Gareth (THE NICEST MAN IN THE ENTIRE WORLD) had a place in a beautiful town called Mission Beach (about 1/2 hour from Tully Centre) and he offered us his pad to house-sit whilst he went away for a week for work.
That week was utter bliss.
We weren’t expected to do anything, be anywhere at a particular time and we could just chill as much as we wanted. After being at Lionel’s, getting up at the crack of dawn each day, it was a breath of fresh air. We took time to get our tan on, explore the neighbouring beaches (North mission is beautifully quirky but quite touristy) and look for jobs seeing as we weren’t getting anywhere with the banana farms.
Gareth has a boat, two gorgeously friendly dogs and is the most easy going guy you could ever hope to meet. He invited us into his home without hesitation and supplied us with beer and fantastic hospitality at every given opportunity. We also had quite a bit of a gossip about Lionel, naturally, and would sit down to watch horsey films in the evenings.
At this point, Janneke was faced with a decision. She had been offered work at a local bar – Millers Beach Bar and Grill – and she also had a potential job in Sydney lined up with a guy she met at Lionel’s. It was a risk, but after our encouragement (and her whole family’s) she decided to fly to Sydney to probably have an experience of a lifetime.
And then there were two..
Sarah and I went for the job that Janneke turned down at Millers and we are now working for accommodation in a local hostel – Absolute Backpackers. We are pretty comfortable here in this chilled out place. We are earning money whilst living in pretty much paradise (we walk back from work at 10pm in 21 degrees with the moonlight shimmering on the sea. Sure beats the bus back home!) and are in an environment where we are able to meet people all the time.
Non-concrete plans for the near future:
Mission beach – until end of November
Cairns to Brisbane – November to 15th December
Fly to Melbourne – 15th December
Jonny and Dad arrive in Melbourne – 19th December
Great Ocean Road