Right now I'm sitting in the excruciatingly hum-drum Tiger Airways terminal at Melbourne Airport waiting for my long-delayed flight to Hobart, Tasmania. This journey marks the beginning of the next leg of my travelling across Australia, a route that will take me via Tasmania, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia, after which I will have stepped foot in all seven of Australia's states.
The last three weeks have been full of ups and downs in Melbourne as I've tried to resolve what I'm going to do for the second part of the year. At first every lead I tried to follow seemed to lead to a dead end, and I really despaired at times, but by the time I left everything had pretty much fallen into place, pending a few important decisions.
Melbourne is an absolutely fantastic city and as soon as I arrived I immediately felt that it was somewhere I could live (I wrote some bits and pieces about the city here: http://www.offexploring.com/callingdoctorjames/blog/victoria/great-ocean-road). After getting back from the Great Ocean Road, I decided to stick around in Melbourne and went forth to look for accommodation. Within just a few hours I had a job working as a waiter in a bar/restaurant called Terra Rossa, just on Flinders Lane off Federation Square, and found a very cheap room to rent in a student residence called Uni Lodge, bang outside Melbourne Uni on Swanston Street. And so, for the next two weeks I worked all the hours they would give me and was otherwise a virtual hermit, dedicating most of my free time to organising the rest of my travels this year and applying for turtle conservation jobs. I did hang around a lot with my friend Josh, who was living round the corner in Fitzroy, and Chris Madden too, who was a complete legend the whole time I was in Melbourne, putting me up on his sofa whenever I found myself temporarily homeless. Thanks so much. I also hung around a lot with the guys from work, who turned out to be a really great bunch of people; I actually felt pretty bad about having to announce that I was leaving after just two weeks, as everyone there had been so awesome and accommodating. However, plans for the rest of the year had evolved rapidly and I now had an enviable itinerary that would see me through until Christmas.
The plan goes something like this: after a few cold and wet days travelling in Tasmania, I fly to Alice Springs and do a 3-day 4WD tour to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the King's Canyon etc, trekking and camping out under the stars. Then I fly back to Melbourne, pick up my car and drive to Adelaide, where I will stay with my friend Steph (who I met at Parque Machía in Bolivia, and who came to Cochabamba for a bit). It's the WOMADelaide world music festival that weekend, and we have tickets for the Sunday day and night, and for the Future Music Festival on the Monday night - it should be an awesome time to be in Adelaide. Then, my friend Laura (from the Oyster Bar in Sydney) comes to Adelaide and we drive to Perth together in my car; we'll be on the road for 5 or 6 days, crossing the Nullarbor Desert and stopping at various places on route to do a bit of exploring, off-roading and camping. I will then be in Perth until the end April, where I'll be working at the University of Western Australia - mostly at SymbioticA (http://www.symbiotica.uwa.edu.au/), where I'll be interacting with research students and giving a seminar, but also in the Science Communication department, where I may be giving some lectures to masters students too (ironic since my application to enroll on a similar course in the UK last year was rejected!). My 30th birthday is a few days before I leave Oz... so I will most likely be celebrating it alone on a Western Australian beach somewhere - not exactly how I envisaged my 30th birthday party to be, but still… different to most people's I suppose!
I will then be travelling in Indonesia until the 23rd May. I´ll probably spend much of the time indulging myself Bali, Lombok and Nusa Tenggara, before leaving the country from Jakarta. After that I will be in the Philippines for a few weeks, where I am going to Emma and Simon Coulson´s wedding out there, which should be awesome. Then I go back to the UK at the beginning of June, via Taiwan, to go to Jim and Thessa's wedding, and finally Alice and Haggis' wedding in the shire in July. Phew!
After that, thing get a little bit hazy, but it looks like I will either be heading up a turtle conservation project in Costa Rica, or possibly in Capo Verde, West Africa. Plans for this period are just coming together now, and nothing is certain yet; but I have a feeling that one of the most important decisions of my life may well be just around the corner…