Diary of a Drover

Cattle everywhere! Spending the past two weeks watching over nearly one thousand head of cattle has certainly been a change of pace for me. I arrived at the farmhouse on a Monday evening. No lights were on, no one was around. The two German girls I now work with were down at the paddock, watering the cattle. John and his wife, Karen, were away for a couple days.
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Darcy and I finally met Ian, the landowner, who helped me get settled at the house I was to be staying in, he was very chatty and seems to have travelled many places.When Hannah and Tammy returned a bit later and made me feel at home. We headed to bed while the night was still young, in preparation for an early morning start.

The first day on the job was very laid back. John and Karen didn’t get back until the evening, so the three of us girls spent the day picking around, doing odd jobs. We watered the cattle, pumping water into the troughs. We had to keep an eye out for cattle falling in. They sometimes get so thirsty the cattle will push and shove other cows into the troughs. The bottom is just plastic and has no grip for the cow to stand back up again. We either have to pull her out, tow her out, or tip the trough and dump her out. While the cow is in the trough we have to have someone holding her head above water so she doesn’t drown. Luckily, we had no problems with that on my first day. We spent the rest of the day taking down an electric fence that we no longer needed.

The next day, once John had returned, we rounded up the cattle and prepared to head off to the next stop. We all hopped onto our four-wheelers, making sure they were fueled up, then hit the road. There were a couple new born calves that were too small to walk the seven kilometres we had to go, so we left them in the paddock for the day. When evening rolled around we picked them up and drove them to the new camp.
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It was a fairly easy day, zipping up and down along the side of the highway, keeping cattle off the road. The odd cow would sneak out, in search of greener grass, bringing traffic to a halt while we brought her back to the mob. For the most part though, the cattle all stuck together and caused no issues. We walked and they grazed as we went. We would stop, and they would graze some more. At the end of the day, although we moved seven kilometres from out previous camp, I had clocked over fifty kilometres on the bike.

John’s cattle are very quiet. Even Bob, the bull, never stirs up trouble. Most days are spent sitting on the bike, watching the cattle eat away and making sure they stay in a certain area. From time to time we will muster the cattle together to move to a different area, but it tends to be fairly calm. We have been lucky with people in the area offering paddocks up where we can take the cattle to feed off what is left for grass. We haven’t walked the cattle far since I have been here.

While we were staying on someone’s property, our cattle chewing down their paddocks, John had me try out the motorbike. Apart from in April, when I tried one at Star of Hope, I haven’t driven one. I decided it was time I learn so that if need be, I can ride the two wheeler. I was a little nervous getting on it, as I knew I struggled with my right turns, however the direction I was going I would have to turn right fairly soon. I decided to give it a go anyway. I swung onto the seat, put up the kickstand, and got my balance. I gave the throttle a bit of a twist and let go of the clutch. The bike took off, not too fast, but not slow enough either. With a crash I ran into the back of the trailer, falling over sideways onto one of John’s work dogs. So much for that right turn. The poor dog was yelping and I fought to get the bike off the dog, she ran and hid under the trailer as soon as she was free. John came over to examine the damage done to the bike. The plastic casing was popped off in a couple spots, but I put it all back together that evening. Luckily, the dog was okay. I ran over her paw a bit, but after a couple days she was set to go again. I think I will work on my right turns a bit more before I get back on a motorbike with obstacles in the area.

While on the property the next day, I was sat watching the cattle graze. The granddaughter of the property owner came and sat with me on my bike. She’s about five years old and is a chatty little thing. She told me story after story, but the last one made me a little nervous. She began the story with “I went to a graveyard once”. If that isn’t a great start to a story by a five year old, I don’t know what it. Next she said, “There were dead people under the ground everywhere. I remember one man, his name was Thomas”, then came the best part. In a whisper she finished her tale with “He died with the rest of them”. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. It was a rather shocking tale to hear from someone so young.

We are now camped out at a crop farm. The crops have all been cleared and we were invited to bring the cattle here to feed off what is left of the chickpeas and oats. The cattle are all having a good daily feed, and there is plenty of water for them. There is a little dam off one of the fields where we tried to keep the cattle out of. Unfortunately, when there is green feed, and water, the cattle go nuts for it. One cow would sneak down to the waters edge, and as you turned to shoo her away, another would come down from behind. Before you know it, all the cattle were in the dam. We ended up with thirteen cattle bogged (Australian term for stuck in mud) in one day. I ended up chest deep in water and mud, trying to pull cattle out of the dam, and send them back out to the paddock. At least I was putting my lifeguard training to use.
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We put up an electric fence around the whole dam after that. No need for more cattle to get stuck. I have touched electric fences before and you do get a slight shock, this one though, was a bit different. I was placing a bottle on the ground beside one of the fence posts an all of a sudden I was on my hands and knees on the ground. my first thought was that I had been kicked by a cow. It took me a moment to realize that I had leaned into the electric fence and the shock was so strong it had completely knocked me down. At least the cattle stay out of the dam now.

One Evening after work, Tammy, Hannah, and I returned to the station we had been on previously. We still had a few calves there, as they were too weak to join the rest. The five little calves are locked up in the cattle yards. We carried over a bag of calf pellets to put into their trough and made sure they had plenty of hay to eat. Then Tammy and I got a brilliant plan. “Let’s pet one”, we said. That was not the best of plans. We cornered the calves and cut out the four bigger ones. The smallest little one was left, he was a sandy colour, with white patches around each eye. He was a bit on the fluffy side and he walked painfully slow, always the last cow on the tail of the mob. I guess he isn’t always so slow. The little calf took off away from us and ran to the other corner of the yard where he managed to squeeze through the cable fencing and disappear into the night. Tammy and I were both completely shocked at how fast he went, at least we know he can move now. We searched and searched for the calf, but it was dark and we never found him. Confession time. We confessed to the landowners, who said they would keep an eye out and put him back in the yards if they saw him. Then we confessed to John. It was just such an innocent mistake. Two girls just wanting to pet the fluffy, little calf.

Some days on the job are quite full on, where others are very quiet. I have even gotten to take a nap in the shade when the cattle were particularly quiet one day, then on a different day, have driven my bike back and fourth after cattle so much I have run my bike completely dry of fuel, then refilled it, and run it nearly dry again.

The job does not consist of moving the cattle from place to place as I had thought it would be. I am still enjoying myself though and have gotten myself a fancy new farmer’s tan. I wear Wrangler jeans and R M Williams work shirts, and even have myself a cowboy hat. I’m pretty much Australian now.
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Eighteen Months and No End In Sight

It’s time to reminisce.

It has been exaclty a year and a half now since I began the adventure of a lifetime.  The memory of my departure from Canada still sits so vividly in my mind.

I had held myself together pretty well as I packed my bags to head off on my adventure. Not long out of high school and only six weeks past my eighteenth birthday, I was ready to tackle the big wide world. I worked hard to save up for these travels, spending my final year of high school working two jobs, not much time off. Not much partying like the rest of the kids. But I don’t regret that. Read more

The Mustering Mission and a Pig Pursuit

Since my arrival at the farm, not a day goes by where I do not learn or experience something new. Some days are definitely more eventful than others, especially the days I went cattle mustering for the first time, and pig hunting for the first time.

Growing up I’d ridden horses a few times. As a kid I spent a few summers going to petting farms with my cousins, I used to absolutely love going. The pot-bellied pigs were one of my favourites to see. The pony rides were also fun. Now, I know riding on a pony, in circles around a pole, is not quite the same as riding a full sized horse around thousands of acres in the outback, but it’s still experience. I’d been on a proper horse, maybe three times that I could think of. Two of those were trail rides when I was fourteen, the third time was nearly two years ago while visiting friends in Eastern Canada. One of my best friends was working at a barn, breaking in horses, while I was visiting, I went to the barn with her. I had the opportunity to take one of the horses out for a short trot around the ring. Again, not quite the same as chasing cows around the Australia outback.

When Monday morning rolled around and Kate informed me we would all be going mustering on Thursday, I asked if I would have a chance to get up on a horse before-hand, just to get a feel for it. She threw me a bit of a smile and told me, “no, probably not. You’re just going to get thrown into it.” And that’s exactly what happened.

Thursday arrived quickly, and I was thrilled and a bit nervous to be going mustering. I pulled on my jeans, and a long sleeved shirt Kate had lent me. I laced up my shoes, tied my hair up, and make sure by ball cap was nice and snug on my head. I grabbed my camera and made my way to the house, ready for the day.

“Is that the only hat you have?” Kate asked when I walked into the house. When I said it was, she pulled down o brimmed hat from a rack and handed it to me. With a cowboy hat on, I was really ready for mustering! We piled in the ute and drove down to the yard where our horses were saddled up and waiting for us.

I was introduced to Candy, the horse I would be riding for the day.

She was a beautiful horse, very calm, and she didn’t cause me any problems. She was very slow though so I was constantly having to nudge her to catch back up with everyone. She didn’t have much personality, but she knew what she was doing when it came time to muster. That was a great thing considering I didn’t have the slightest idea. I was often just told to go “that way”, and to “get those cattle over there”. There wasn’t much more instruction than that, but watching everyone, I learned.

I thought at first that mustering would be fast paced, really hectic, chasing cows in circles. It was rather relaxing though. Walking them, so they burned fewer calories, standing in one spot and showing them they cannot walk in your direction, encouraging them to head towards the yards. It was four and a half hours of walking the horse alongside cattle, making sure they didn’t stray off the trail.

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I was instructed to bring up the rear, making sure no cows were left behind. Everyone was up much further than I, when tow of the bulls started to fight. they started clashing heads and shoving each other around. All the other cattle kept moving up along the trail as I stayed behind with those two. I had no idea what to do, worried that they would attack me if I tried to get in too close I would just take a couple steps at a time, trying to edge them towards the group. It wasn’t working very well. Luckily, Brent noticed what was happening and sent the dogs back. These little short haired collies came tearing down the paddock. They started circling the bulls, darting in and out from under their heels. The two beasts stopped picking fights with each other and set their minds on avoiding the dogs. It didn’t take long before they were back in line and making progress to the yards once again.

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We made it back to the yards and had all the cattle nearly in, when one kicked up a stink. He went a little mad and didn’t like what was happening. Maybe he knew he was about to be sent off for beef, or maybe he was just moody. He turned from the group and went charging. Kate and Eva moved to the far end of the lot, getting out of his way. I moved Candy out of the way too. The beast charged right into the barbed wire fence. shoulder down he pushed and pushed until he snapped the fence, then he took off running. David and Anthony took off after him, the dogs easily keeping pace.

The rest of us made sure the rest of the cattle were in the yard and no more were about to come charging. Then we waited. It wasn’t too long before the men returned with the problem maker and had him locked away with the rest of the cattle. The dogs, tuckered out from all the excitement, ran straight to the water trough and hopped in for a swim.

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All in all it was a fantastic day, and by then end of it I was agreeing to head out pig hunting on Saturday.

The weekend arrived quickly and I prepared for another day of learning and adventure.  I had never been out hunting of any kind. Never shot an animal, never trapped an animal, and especially never stabbed one. I suppose there is a first time for everything though.

Now, before I get too far into this, I must explain that feral pigs are quite a problem out in rural Australia. They cause a number of problems for farm owners and have had a rather large population boom recently. They’re a pest out this way, and it’s a problem farm owners like to keep under control. If no one on a property pig hunts, people are often brought in to do the pig hunting. Can’t let their populations get too out of hand.

With that aside, let me get into it.

I rose with the sun on Saturday, looking forward to my pig hunting adventure. I was quite unsure about the whole situation as I am well aware of how soft I can be. I was worried I would feel extremely guilty, and possibly cry, while out killing pigs. That would be awkward. It was something I wanted to try though, get out and try something new. Just to see.

Anthony knocked on my door as the clock edged towards noon, and we hopped in the ute to head to the Silver Plains house. Brent and Cassandra were up and about on the property when we arrived. I was introduced to all their dogs, but of course, I don’t remember any of the names. Cassandra and I sat in the shade and chatted while the two men fiddled around with an old truck for a couple hour. Cassandra is much closer to my age than Kate and David, so it was nice to have someone to have a laugh with.

Before the afternoon was over we loaded up the ute with the dogs, an esky (the Australian word for cooler) filled with beer, Cassandra and Brenton’s two kids, and the four of us. Brent, his son, Brody, and and Anthony, were sitting in the cab of the ute, while Cassandra, Chloe, her daughter, and I, sat atop the dog cage on the back. We took off driving down the dirt road, the warm sun above and a cold drink in hand.

We drove from one paddock to the next, keeping out eyes peeled for feral pigs. We checked out different watering holes, hoping the would retreat there for a drink on such a hot day. It wasn’t long before we saw a slew of them huddled together in the distance. We had to stop to go through a gate and the pigs saw us. They took off running through the paddock, so Cassandra released the dogs.

The three dogs took off running after the pigs, knowing to go after the biggest one of the group. We crossed through the gate and drove in the direction the pigs had run. There was an awful squealing coming from inside a patch of trees. The dogs had one.

We stopped the ute and I jumped off the back. We took off running through the bush, the noise getting louder by the second. We came into sight of the three dogs, they were holding down a rather large sow. The pig continued to squeal as the dogs held it down by its ears. Brent ran over and grabbed the pig by the hind legs and lifted them into the air. he flipped the pig over so she couldn’t fight back as much, then pulled out the knife. It was a bit sickening watching it sing into the soft flesh. It was a quick death and the pig sank back to the ground.

We all crouched behind the sow and posed for a photo before hopping back onto the ute and heading off to find another pig.

I did actually have to put an effort into not shedding a tear as we drove around looking for the next pig. I felt guilty, and sad about the situation, but I couldn’t help the excitement that came with it all too. I could feel the adrenalin running through me, I had to take a moment to consider my sanity. Is this how serial killers start out?

We caught two more pigs that day, and that was a full on rush. we circled a group of them, getting a bit closer with each passing second. The dogs took off, each after a different pig, and we made our rounds to catch them. It was too fast paced for me to jump in and get one myself, but I was okay with that. Maybe next time.

It was a very full on day and I was exhausted by the end of it. We got home around eight and it wasn’t long before I was fast asleep. Luckily, I had no dreams of pigs that night.

Welcome to Woop Woop

Saying goodbye to Balmain Backpackers was probably the hardest goodbye I have had to say since I began my travels. My last week was spent with the hostel crew, savouring every last minute. There were so many amazing people at that hostel who I grew so close with. We were like one big family, always looking out for each other.

I had planned for my last night in Sydney to be a big night, but it was even better than I had expected. The girls in my room put signs up around the hostel telling me I was not allowed in the basement, they aren’t exactly a stealthy group. A number of people helped out in decorating the basement, streamers and posters were hung all throughout the garage, tables were set up for beer pong, and speakers were scouted out and set up. We all dressed up in goofy clothing, just for the fun of it.

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When I was finally allowed in the basement, everyone was there waiting to spend my last night with me. The gang at the hostel made me a book with quotes, and letters from everyone in the hostel. I do admit that I cried when I read it. I spent a lot of the night in tears. I didn’t even cry when I said goodbye to my friends back home in Canada. I guess the difference is that I know I will be going home, I don’t have to worry about that, but I couldn’t kid myself, there’s a good chance I won’t see the majority of these people again. And that sucks.

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I’m not going to lie, the constant goodbyes are exhausting. I love travelling  I love the adventures and all the sights. I love the people I meet, there are so many incredible stories and tales you hear from others, so many amazing people who can make a hung impact on your life in such a short period of time. The fact is, the majority of people you meet when you travel is other travellers, you each have your own agenda and your own dream you’re following. It’s not like leaving home, knowing that you can go back to the same people. Some people you do keep in touch with, sometimes your paths will cross again and it will be great, but other times, those people who may have inspired you so much, will just remain a memory. I know it’s the reality of it, but it’s still one thing I really struggle to accept.

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After a great night of laughs, tears, cheers, and raised drinks, I headed off with Helena and Louise to watch sunrise from the park down the road. It was a beautiful morning and it was great to be able to spend every last minute with the girls I had become best friends with in such a short period of time. When the time came they caught the bus and the train with me to the airport. I was close to missing my plane, I was fast tracked through check-in and had to run as fast as I could to security, then to my gate, so there wasn’t much time for goodbyes. I think it’s better that way. We were all in tears.

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I didn’t sleep much on the flight to Cairns. I had a stop over in Townsville before connecting to Cairns. I’m glad I had the stop over because the first plane I was on was extremely cramped, and rather unclean. The connecting flight however was much more comfortable, despite being a shorter flight. As I flew from Townsville to Cairns I flew over the Great Barrier Reef. It was so cool to see from so high up, I can’t wait to return to Cairns to go diving there.

I spent my first night in the Nomads hostel on the outskirts of the city center. The hostel felt a bit like a prison. The folks at reception were extremely friendly and helpful, but the hostel itself put me off a bit. I didn’t speak with one single backpacker while I was there.

The next morning I checked out and caught the shuttle into the city. I booked into a different hostel called Asylum. Louise had stayed there before and said it was great, so I decided to give it a go. As I approached the hostel it looked like an old house that was a bit run down. I didn’t let that put me off though, Balmain had given me the same first impression and it turned out amazing. Asylum didn’t fail me either.

As I checked in the employees were all super fun and friendly, cracking jokes and having a laugh. The chatted with the other backpackers as if everyone was a friend opposed to just being a business. As soon as I was taken to my room the backpackers in my room all introduced themselves. There were two guys in my room, Ollie and Adam, who didn’t hesitate to be welcoming. They invited me to join them with everything there did, even if it was just sit outside for bit instead of lazy around the room. There was a Canadian couple in the hostel who were leaving the next day, but they were both super friendly as well and had me come drink with them and have a laugh. Hostels really are about the people who stay in them.

I had a great two days staying at Asylum. I’m almost glad I didn’t stay longer because I got along with everyone there so well I didn’t want to have to say any more hard goodbyes. I was even kind of glad that I left at 5:45 AM so I din’t even really have to see anyone in the morning to say bye, I just left.

I caught the Greyhound at 6:30 AM and spent nearly eleven hours on the bus. I slept the majority of the ride as there wasn’t really anything to do and the scenery didn’t change too much once we were out of Cairns. It had started as lush, green mountains, but the land quickly became flat, and the trees shorter and less green. There was another guy on the bus with me, Max. He was heading out to the roadhouse too. He’d been out here before for five months before moving to Sydney. When he ran out of money there he decided to come back this way to save up a bit more. That was reassuring as it can’t be that bad of a place to work if people are willing to come back.

We arrived in Normanton a bit before 5 PM where Wayne picked Max and I up. From there it was a little over two hours to the roadhouse. I didn’t sleep this time. Instead I gazed out the window at the freakishly large birds, wild emus, wallabies, and kangaroos. yes, i finally saw my first wild kangaroo. They are rather entertaining things to watch hop around. Their tails are huge, That was probably what I noticed most. I would not want to get whacked with a kangaroo tail.

We pulled into the Roadhouse and were introduced to the rest of the crew right away. There were only three more people to meet. I fist met Sarah, an Irish girl who has been working there for a couple months now but is leaving at the end of the week. Henrick, a young lad from somewhere in Europe (I don’t remember where), who is leaving in a week and a half. Then there was Carol, Wayne’s wife, the two of them manage the property. We were offered food but I wasn’t very hungry.

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I was thrilled when I saw the rooms we were in. We had a trailer set up with the backpacker’s bedrooms. I had been told that the accommodation isn’t the best and they aren’t great living standards, but I have no problem with my room. I have my own room, a comfy bed- It’s not even a bunk bed, a desk that’s just some boards nailed together, and an old shabby wardrobe. I spent at least an hour that evening sorting my room out, unpacking my bag and setting things up. It was the first time since I have been on the road that I have had a wardrobe to keep my things. It’s the first time I have had a table to set my fiddly bits on as well. I made my bed up and hung some letters from friends on the walls. The best part is that my room even has air conditioning. It’s extremely humid and hot here. I still feel spoiled by having such simple things.

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I woke up early this morning and made my bed (I didn’t even do that when I was living at home, I was just so excited to have a proper bed), then headed inside for breakfast. I sat and had some eggs on toast while taking in my surroundings a bit more. i wasn’t sure what to do with myself so I started work early.

Coming into this job I wasn’t really sure what I would be doing, but it turns out I’m doing everything. My job includes cleaning rooms, making beds, working the till, working behind the bar, and working in the kitchen. I do have a bit of experience with housekeeping from when I worked for accommodation in New Zealand, and I have worked lots with tills, but the bar work and kitchen work is all new to me. The bar is pretty straight forward, it’s mostly just popping caps off bottles and handing them over the counter, not so much work there. The kitchen however, has me a bit stumped. I have cooked lots for myself and have cooked for my family a bit back home, but never like I am supposed to cook here. The menu includes things like bacon and eggs, spaghetti on toast, steaks, and lamb chops. Everyone keeps telling me it’s quite simple, I hope they’re right. I am a bit excited to work in the kitchen, but also terrified I will poison someone.

The roadhouse itself had not air conditioning, so I spent the whole day sweating. There is only one tap on the property that produces cold water as it’s so hot out the pipes all end up heating the water. I can’t even take cold showers because the water is so warm. I couldn’t tell you how many litres of water I drank today. It was a bit ridiculous. I didn’t think one person could consume so much liquid without peeing.

The wildlife here is a whole other story. There are about ten ferule cats that come hang out waiting to be fed. The toads here are massive and there are green frogs everywhere you walk. You have to flush the toilets before using them because frogs sometimes like to hang out in them and will just out at you when you go to have a seat. There are wallabies and kangaroos that wander through the property, splashing about in puddles. My least favourite though would have to be the brown snakes. I have not spotted one yet and everyone else says they haven’t seen them, but there are signs posted on all the bathroom doors saying to keep the doors shut as the brown snakes like to visit often. I hope that’s a lie.

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My first day at the Burke and Wills Roadhouse is now over, tomorrow is a new day. I worked around ten hours today and tomorrow will probably be similar so I suppose I should catch some sleep and prepare for another long, hot day day tomorrow. Goodnight *Woop Woop, I will see you in the morning.

*Woop Woop is what Australian’s call the outback. The first time I heard it I was a little confused but I have now accepted it as a rather fun term to use.

From Kiwi to Kangaroo, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!

The small plane shook and jolted as we flew through the clouds. It was just a short three hour flight, but the skies made sure to give us a thrilling ride. Turbulent patch after turbulent patch we pressed on, each second passing taking me one step further from New Zealand and one step closer to my new adventure, Australia.

Auckland to Sydney

I wasn’t sure what to expect upon my arrival, I hadn’t done much research on Australia, well, I had done none, really. I just figured if I was already down in that section of the world it would be silly not to check it out. My plane landed at the Sydney airport at nine in the morning on a Monday. It was a beautiful, sunny day. The skies cleared up nicely as the day passed, and the day became warm very quickly. I had booked 4 nights at the Balmain Backpackers hostel, but I hand’t thought to find out the address of the hostel before I arrived. I had no computer access as my phone battery had died and I had no cash to go to an internet cafe. I managed to find a map and located suburb called “Balmain”, so I assumed the hostel was there. I chatted with the man at the help site at Circular Quay who told me the hostel was on Darling Street, so I hopped on the ferry to Balmain to go in hunt of a bed.

The ferry ride was stunning, it was just a short ride, but I sailed up by the Sydney Opera House, then under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The ferry took me through Darling Harbour, then up to Balmain. I got off the ferry, my thirty kilo pack strapped to my back, and began walking. The ferry dropped me off at one end of Darling Street, so I knew I was on the right track. Apparently I was at the wrong end of the track. The building number of the hostel was number 677, as I began my walk up the street from the ferry I took a look to see what number I was currently at- number 1. It was a long walk up the road to the hostel. Well, it was actually only a three kilometre walk, but with a 30 kilo backpack, in the blazing sun, after a night without a lick of sleep, it felt like the longest walk of my life.

I had made it up to the 500’s when an Englishman appeared at my side. He stopped to ask me where I was headed as he had seen me huffing along earlier when I had walked past the library. It turns out he was living at the backpackers I was headed towards, so he helped me carry my bags, and showed me the way. Having someone to chat with made the last leg of the hike a bit more bearable.

Upon arriving at the hostel, I wasn’t sure what to think. reception was in a tiny closet in a large garage that by no means looked clean. I was checked in and a small Chinese lady, Candy, came to show me around. My room was small, with two sets of bunk-beds. To get onto my bed I had to climb onto a table then monkey my way up onto the top bunk. It was a bit of a challenge some nights, but at least it was my very own bed- a total change from sleeping on floors, couches, in cars, and in tents. It may as well have been heaven!

Everyone at the hostel was just lovely. As soon as I was settled, I left my room to check the place out. An English girl, Helena, found me in the basement and straight away introduced herself. She has to be one of the bubbliest people I have ever met. She took me around and introduced me, by name, to nearly every person in the hostel. We then went to the supermarket just down the road where I was able to buy a box of Kraft Dinner! I was so excited, I wasn’t able to buy Kraft Dinner in New Zealand, a year without it wasn’t easy!

It didn’t take me long to blend in with the crew of long termers at the hostel. My first night I was fed a constant stream of goon. Wondering what goon is? Goon is the putrid boxed wine you get five litres of for ten dollars. You can barely consider it wine. Often the boxes will have a disclaimer stating “May contain traces of fish eyes”. It tastes like a mix between stale urine and battery acid. But, as horrendous as it is, it gets you drunk, it’s cheap, and after you can turn the empty bag into a pillow. A backpacker’s dream. It is often said the name “Goon” was the aboriginal word for “pillow”. You see, inside the cardboard box the goon is actually in a large silver bag which, when empty, can be inflated with air then used as a pillow. This however, is just an Australian urban legend. The word actually derives from “flagon”, which is a large vessel in which drink is served.

The next morning everyone greeted me with smiles as I dragged myself to the lounge in attempt to be social. I was handed some painkillers for my head as everyone understood how I felt. They all had a good chuckle over my antics of the night. Drinking good was a different kind of drinking than I was used to. At least it was a good way to start conversations and build new friendships.

I spent the next few days out in town setting up a phone, a bank account, a tax number, and applying for jobs. My second night I went for dinner with a friend I met in Queenstown. We went to Pancakes on the Rocks, such an amazing meal. Highly recommend going there if you’re ever in Sydney. I had only come to Australia with $400 NZD, which was much less in Australian dollars, so I needed to find job straight away. It wasn’t hard, I was offered four jobs in my first week, and I took the highest paying one.

I began working for 2Evolve exactly one week after arriving in the country. I held a position as a telefundraiser, making warm calls to past supporters on behalf of the Red Cross. It’s not exactly a dream job, but it paid the bills and I made a good lot of friends from that job.

My free time in Sydney was spent wandering the streets of the city, sitting by the harbour bridge gazing at the iconic Opera House, or basting like a turkey on one of the many beautiful beaches. I became closer with the new people at the hostel I met, and I spent more time with my past New Zealand flatmate, Audrey, who now lies in Manly.

Me at the Opera House Sydney Alley Bondi Beach

Before I knew it Christmas was here. The days were long and hot and I was given two and a half weeks of work for the holiday season. Over my first couple weeks at the hostel I switched rooms a few times before finally settling in a fourteen bed dorm. The first section of the room hold two bunk-beds which are occupied by Helena, Megan, and Louise, three English girls, and myself. The four of us over the past couple months have become inseparable, we spend nearly all our time together. Megan is working ass the hostel manager, Helena is a singer at bars and restaurants in the evenings, and Louise works at the bowling alley. I was the only one who was away during the daytime at work, so it was awesome to finally all be able to spend days doing whatever the four of us pleased. We decorated our room, built forts, played pranks on other people in the hostel, and just generally goofed off.

Room 3a  Goofing Around

Christmas day around thirty of us got together at the house of a few of the past hostel gang. A group of five people had moved out a while before Christmas, so they invited everyone around to theirs for the day. Everyone made a dish and a gift. We spent the day eating excessively, playing gift exchange games, drinking, and just enjoying the day together. Unfortunately it rained on Christmas day, so we all spent the day indoors, but it was still a wonderful time had by all.

Room 3a  australia christmasaustralia christmas

Boxing day is a whole other story. I woke up around noon and headed up to the balcony for our boxing day barbecue that was happening. Everyone was sat round eating sausages and drinking beer. When the beer ran out though, panic set in. The decision was made that everyone who wanted to drink would pitch in ten dollars and we would make a big punch. I’m still undecided if that was a great decision or a terrible one.

Boxing Day

An entire bottle of absinthe ended up being poured into the punch, and things just got messy after that. A giant twister board was drawn out on the tiles of the deck, no one’s skin escaped the permanent marker, beer pong was played, and there was no shortage of people singing obnoxiously while dancing on tables. Everyone took many stories and laughs away with them that day- if they could remember the day. We all took away brutal hangovers too.

boxing day

A few days later we all grouped up together again and claimed a spot in a grassy park to watch the New Year’s fireworks. we had a perfect spot facing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. the sun was out, we had food to go around and everyone was in a great mood. The new year was rung in with many cheers and fireworks being set off at every angle you look. The display was by far the best I have ever seen.

Sydney New Years Sydney New Years

New Years day was another great day in my books. I headed over to Manly Beach for the day with a couple work friends, and Phil. It was super warm and sunny, the perfect day for the beach. Most times we would have gone to Coogee or Bondi, but I had gotten a very exciting message from a friend saying she would be in Manly. Liz was a Korean exchange student who had been in my grade six class in Nova Scotia. The last time we saw each other was at your Elementary school graduation. I was eleven the last time we saw each other, and now, eight and a half years later, we’re in the same place again. We met up in Manly and we were able to pick each other out of the crowd right away. It was great to see her, we chatted for ages, me updating her on the lives of all our old friends over the past years.

Reunited after 8 years

My holidays quickly came to an end and it was back to work I went. After having such a great time over the break, getting up to go back to work each day got harder. Work dragged on and each phone call I made became a bit more painful. I wanted out. I decided it was time to pull the plug on the job one day after forgetting my ID badge at home. The receptionists at my work were rather rude as they told me I had to return home to get my pass before I could work. As I walked back out to the bus stop to grab my ID, I got a phone call from my team leader. He accused me of lying about forgetting my badge and doubted that I was actually planning to return home. I really don’t appreciate people accusing me of lying when I have done nothing to deserve that. I returned to work later that day, with my badge, but I just had no motivation. Sales were down that week and I was getting an earful about it as I was the senior person on my team. I travel to enjoy myself, not deal with stresses of a job, so I handed in my badge and headset and walked out.

It wasn’t a bad day to quit my job. It was, after all, forty-six degrees out that day, a record breaking temperature for Sydney. Coming from bitterly cold Canada, it was a bit of a change for sure. I returned home and stepped out onto the balcony to tell everyone the news and was greeted with a bucket of water dumped on my head. It was so hot out I was one hundred percent thankful for it.

That night I went out for drinks with workmates. Everyone wanted to hear the story of me quitting. It’s always a fun time hanging out with them all, goofing around over a beer and plate of nachos. This night, however, had a slightly different end than most. I was in the middle of a game of pool with one of my workmates and was chatting with another girl while waiting for my shot. One of the team leaders, who’s team always sat next to mine, came over to dance around my pool cue. He was just goofing around, pretending my cue was a pole. I didn’t realize he was actually putting any weight on the cue, so I let go. That was a mistake. The wooden stick pulled back and caught him under the chin. I laughed at first, thinking it was a bit funny that he’d hit himself, then he pulled his hand away from his neck and I saw the blood dripping down his fingers.

So calmly, he turned and walked to the bar where he asked for an ambulance to be called before laying down on the floor. Everyone gathered around to see what had happened and to do what they could to help until the ambulance arrived. He took the whole thing lightly, considering he tasted the chalk from the cue. While laying on the floor he said more than once “This did not happen by a Canadian and a pool cue! I definitely knocked out two guys to get this!”. Five and a half days later he was released from hospital with three stitches on the inside of his mouth, and four stitches under his chin. How an object so blunt so easily drove through the bottom of my mouth, I will never understand. At least I have a good quitting story to tell, and Anthony will never forget that crazy Canadian chick.

I have spent the past weeks since I quit hanging out with the girls some more and looking for a new job. I made a visit to Darling Harbour while the giant duck was there. I went to see The Killers for free with Phil, an American guy from the hostel, he got us on the guest list, it was awesome. I saw Kimbo Slice at The Star Casino one night. I even lost my shoes overboard while on a boat party on Australia Day.

Darling Harbour

It has been a great time here in Sydney, and even though I am not a huge city person, I have loved my time here. It’s hard to believe three months have already passed since I left New Zealand. Time goes by so quickly, there are never enough hours in a day. I have just been offered a job in the outback of Australia, working at a little roadhouse in the middle of nowhere. I accepted the job and am looking forward to experiencing the real Australia, but it will be hard to leave this hostel. It’s become my home over the past three months, and the people here have become my family. Everyone has just been so accepting and always willing to offer a helping hand with anything. We all look out for each other. In saying that, my time here is limited, and there’s a big country out there to see and explore. I suppose it’s time to move on and to see some kangaroos out in the wild. Friday, another chapter begins.