Let us start by saying that anyone who is jealous of us being in Australia shouldn't bother at the moment. We're currently stuck in the middle of a cyclone. All the roads around us are flooded so we can't get out and we're pretty frustrated that we can't get down to Brisbane to find jobs.
It started off a lot better though, we had a great time in Cairns. Only after enduring a horrible over-night flight involving a 2 hour stop in Darwin airport at 3 in the morning. We were so tired we were actually falling asleep standing up!
We arrived to find that Gilligan's (our pre-booked hostel) wouldn't' check us in for another 5 hours so fell asleep on the floor of the TV room. The wooden planks that called themselves beds in India were actually pretty appealing at this point let us tell you. We got asked many a time if we'd enjoyed the party last night. Turned out that we'd arrived in Australia on Australia day (quite fitting really) so there were loads of bleary eyed people walking about, strewn with flags.
When we were finally allowed in our room we were pleasantly surprised - a pretty modern hostel - the beds were amazing!
We felt really weird to start with being in a Western country - felt almost like we were back home at first. It wasn't like Asia when everyone else seemed to want to talk to us, here we have to make the effort and felt a bit lost to start with.
Luckily we got put in a dorm room with a really nice group of Danish girls. We seem to be following the Danish about! Learnt some more Danish drinking games that night and had a really good laugh with them. The Danish definitely seem to out-do the English on the drinking front, we've learnt. Cheap boxes of wine are our drink of choice here. The best we've found so far is 5 liters for about seven quid! God knows what's in it but we try not to think about that…
One thing we love in Australia is the supermarkets (there seemed to be the distinct lack of them in Asia). But we're starting to miss being able to walk into a restaurant and order whatever you fancy. Instead our diets mostly revolve around pasta and bread.
The highlight of Cairns was definitely a dive-trip we took out to the Great Barrier Reef. It was a tough decision whether to head for a stunning reef and only be able to afford to snorkel or to go to a more visited reef and be able to dive. In the end we found a package that involved a free dive for all three of us so Hannah and Laura got their first taste of scuba diving, albeit linking arms with the instructor and being led about underwater. They loved their first dive so much they decided to do a second one, this time without being led about. However this meant that Hannah kept floating up to the surface because she didn't have enough weights on and the instructor kept having to grab her by her ankles! Ironically due to an unfortunately-timed cold Becca (the certified diver) couldn't dive that day - was totally gutted that she couldn't see the great barrier reef but we all snorkeled together and even saw a couple of white-tipped reef sharks! Was a really good day and we even got live entertainment from 'Elvis' on the way back who picked up on the fact that we were backpackers due to the fact that we all had mile-high piles of food on our plates from the included buffet and proceeded to rip the piss out of us for the rest of the trip down a microphone. Also pointed out to the entire boat over loudspeaker that Becca and Laura had gone in the same toilet cubicle (which they hadn't by the way) but incurred a lot of staring.
All in all, Cairns was a good place to start and a good introduction to Australia - by the time we left we felt like we were in the swing of things. Little did we know what we were heading into and we set of for Mission Beach on the east coast for some sunning. As we arrived for our greyhound bus we were told that we couldn't get to mission beach because of flooding (not something you'd expect to hear in Queensland, the 'sunshine state'). Sprits still high we decided to head straight through to Townsville but got halfway there (3 hours into our journey) and got told we were heading back to Cairns because the road was closed. At this point the air conditioning on the bus decided to break and we had water dripping on our heads from the air vents. This combined with the fact that we were very hungry, hung-over (cheap wine gives the worst hangovers ever!) and tired - we decided we'd had enough and took the driver's offer of dropping us off in the next town - Innisfail. We were soon regretting this decision. People only go to Innisfail for farm work. The worker's hostel where we ended up was possibly the most depressing place ever to exist. As we walked into our dorm room we were greeted by a French bloke, named T-bone, showing us a sandwich box full of bed bugs which he had been collecting and observing since he'd arrived. This pretty much sums up our time in Innisfail. It was a horrible place and for two days we got up at 7am to wait for our bus which never came. Despite the guidebooks description of Innisfail as being 'buzzing', it was actually like a ghost town. We think we saw about 2 people the whole time we were there and there was nothing to do. Literally. We spent many hours watching TV on some disgustingly smelly sofas and reading in our bed-bug infested bunk beds. It didn't help things when we were paying 25 dollars a night which is more than we'd been paying for Gilligan's in Cairns. One good thing that has come out of this experience is that we've decided that we will never work on a banana farm. Got talking to some people who were there to get their second year working visa (you need 3 months working in agriculture to get it) who had to lift 80kg bunches of bananas, which were infested with rats and poisonous snakes, in the pouring rain.
The only thing that got us through this experience was some English lads who were in the exact same position who we got on well with. It was also very useful that they kept ringing greyhound up for us and looked after us kind of like big brothers. When we were finally told that the bus was running two very long days later, we'd actually never been so happy. It was short-lived however as four-hours later we were still sat in the pouring rain waiting for our 8am bus. When the 10am bus arrived and we weren't allowed on because we hadn't booked onto that specific one, we spiraled into a pit of despair. Hannah and Laura burst into tears on the spot and Becca ran off to get chocolate for everyone, which did cheer us up slightly. We jumped on the bus driver when our previously broken-down bus actually did show up. It was the happiest bus journey of our lives. Also very lucky to get out when we did because we were later informed that a cyclone was heading towards the coast.
Similar story in Townsville really. Arrived to rain and it's still raining now 5 days later. This is the worst weather Queensland has seen in 15 years. It doesn't help when we're told that Townsville has 320 days of sun each year. Despite this, we really like Townsville, you can tell it would be a really nice place if it ever stops raining! Although if anyone ever plans to come here we would advise them to avoid Snoopy's hostel above the bus station. It is very mouldy. And leaking. Inhabitated by some very odd characters. However we did meet another lovely English girl called Marie who was in the same position as us but ten times worse as she's by herself and trying to get back to Cairns for a flight. Decided to make the most of a bad situation and go out. Turns out Monday night out in Townsville isn't the wildest. We were the only people on the dancefloor apart from 2 old men trying to do the moonwalk to Michael Jackson and attempting to breakdance. Something we'd hoped we'd never see.
Stubbornly we won't let the rain stop us from seeing Townsville and there's been several situation when we've ressembled drowned rats. The anoraks have come in very useful!
It's got to the point when we can't really laugh about it anymore and we're all eager to get to Brisbane to start earning some money back. Therefore, after learning that yet again the greyhound buses are cancelled indefinitely and it could be another week before the roads open, we've gone and booked ourselves the cheapest flights we could find down to Brisbane, which hopefully we'll be able to get back on insurance. Flying out tonight - will definitely be good to get somewhere without rain! Really looking forward to getting jobs and having a base for a while. One good thing about being stuck here for a while is that we've been able to make some friends, who we'll hopefully meet up with along the way.
Hope you're all enjoying the snow in England and just be thankful you're not in the middle of a cyclone!
Lots of love, from the girls xxxxxxxxx