So I’m in Eromanga, the town furthest from the sea, with 80 people and no bus out. Most days I worked a few hours in the café and the bar and some days I cleaned the motel rooms. Every Saturday the pub had an all-you-can-eat BBQ, and every Sunday the motel had a BBQ too. We had pizza on Thursday nights, but every other night Leona made delicious home made meals for all the staff and some guests. One Saturday there was a family fun day where a clown came to teach circus skills, so I had a go at stilt walking, plate spinning, juggling (which he said was graceful) and devil sticks, which I really enjoyed. One morning I went trucking with Keith, who delivers food. Explorers tried to walk from south Australia to north Australia and separated on the way. One group buried food under a tree for the other group to find and put a sign on the tree saying ‘Dig’, so Crazy and Sheralee took me to see this tree; it was about a 3-hour drive away. In the evening there was an event put on by the Eromanga School called the Christmas Tree. The children did a play with animals and dancing, and then there was a buffet and Santa came to give the children presents, the only Christmassy thing about the evening! There was a swimming pool at the motel that I sometimes went in, but because of the dust storms it was almost always dirty, and when it was finally cleaned there was another dust storm. When a dust storm happened at night, everyone was woken up by the fire alarms going off. A few of the locals are sheep shearers, so I went to a sheep shearing shed one afternoon. Leona’s grandson, Rhys, had his birthday party by the pool, with a BBQ. I went with some of Leona’s family – Lane, Drew, Bekki, Rhys and Georga, and Floyd the dog - for a drive and to see some pigs and catch some yabbies (crayfish), which we cooked and ate. I worked in the morning on the day I left, and then Kimberley drove me to Quilpie (1 hour), where I met some of Leona’s family to say goodbye. I took the bus to Charleville (2 hours), and then caught the train to Brisbane (17 hours!). From Brisbane I caught the bus to Bundaberg (7 hours) and met Michaela, Kenny, Sara and everyone from the hostel in Bundaberg. I also met a Superman’s body double from Smallville and his girlfriend, and she, Sara and I went shopping. It was ladies’ night and Crofty’s birthday, so we went out to the pub. Everyone in Bundaberg is there for fruit picking, so they get up at 4am to go to work and come back covered in mud in the late afternoon.
I left to go to the town called 1770. In 1770 I went in a stunt plane, which flew for about 20 minutes performing stunts, including zero gravity. The pilot let me fly for some of it, and then I landed the plane on a beach. He did a stunt that only he can do, and so less then 100 people have ever flown this stunt.
I took an overnight bus to Townsville, where the ferry leaves to go to Magnetic Island. I stayed at Koalas YHA in some lovely huts surrounded by rainforest plants. I went for a walk and saw 2 wild koalas and a possum. In the kitchen there were possums running round looking for food, hiding in the bins and talking to people who were eating outside. The next morning I went to the wildlife presentation at the YHA. I held birds, lizards, a crocodile, a snake and a koala! Koalas aren’t as cuddly as they look; Tomsk (my cat) gives much better koala hugs! I went for a swim in the pool and lay in the hammock underneath the tropical trees – paradise.
I went to Airlie Beach, from where the boats leave to do the Whitsunday Islands. My boat was Powerplay. There were 18 people, + 4 crew. Everyone had come in pairs except Reena, Melanie and myself, so we spent the 3 days together, also making friends with the host, Beau and another lady called Antya. The catamaran had a hot tub and was fairly large, so we did a lot of sunbathing too. We went to Blue Pearl and I scuba dived for the first time – this is where the Red Hot Chilli Peppers learned to scuba dive! It’s an amazing experience, and so different to anything else I’ve ever done. I didn’t take in much of the coral because I was getting used to the diving and breathing through my mouth. We went to Whitehaven Bay where the sand is pure white. In Mantaray Bay I snorkelled and saw George – a giant Napoleon Maori Wrasse as well as lots of coral. We watched the sunset over the islands. I went scuba diving a second time in soft coral, where turtles like to live, but unfortunately we didn’t see any turtles. We went back to Airlie Beach and I spent the day at the lagoon with Reena and Melanie. Some of us met up at the pub in the evening, but most people had already caught their bus to the next place.
I went to Cairns and had a couple of catch-up and sleeping days. I went to the lagoon in Cairns and sunbathed, then watched some bands playing in the hostel in the evening. It was very humid and rained in the evenings, the start of the wet season. I got the Jungle Tours bus to Cape Tribulation, stopping at a couple of lookouts and at The Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary on the way. We took a cruise up the Daintree River to look for crocodiles and saw 2. We went swimming in a river in the rainforest in the rain! In the evening I went on a guided night walk in the rainforest and saw rainforest dragons, fireflies, glowing mushrooms, stick insects, leaf insects, frogs, spiders, birds and many plants.
The next day I went Jungle Surfing, which was loads of fun. They put giant zip-wires high up in the rainforest, and you fly through the canopy, stopping on 5 different trees. The speed varies to allow photos to be taken on some wires, and adrenaline rushes on other wires. I went for a walk along the beach and saw loads of tiny crabs, scuttling away as they heard me coming. The tour bus took me back to Cairns.
The next day I went on a Hot Air Balloon ride over the Atherton Table Lands. It was strange being up so high with nothing in front of you; usually there is the glass of the plane. We stopped for breakfast, and then a coach took us to Kuranda. I took the sky rail 7km down to Cairns, stopping at Barron Falls. There were some beautiful views. I went to Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park, where I watched a video of the history of aboriginals and how the English took over their land – it was not easy to watch. There was a play/film/dance of some of the aboriginal dreamtime stories, including why the cassowary lives in the rainforest and how their culture believes everything and everyone fits into 2 categories, wet or dry. In the next theatre, they danced and sang aboriginal music, and showed how to light a fire with aboriginal tools. They then showed us how to play a didgeridoo, prepare some forest fruit and then gave us the chance to throw a boomerang and a spear. The boomerang went well, the spear didn’t! In the hostel in Cairns, I met a girl called Sammy who is at Sheffield Uni (where I’m going in September) and who has just done a term abroad in Australia.
I flew from Cairns to Sydney. From Sydney I caught the train to Parramatta, where the Hillsong bus picks up. Due to it being Christmas time the Hillsong services had changed times, so I and 5 other people, including a couple from New York, Michelle and Isaac and a lady from Melbourne, missed going to a service. Instead, we went to the Hillsong Christmas Spectacular – Cinderella - a comedy aimed at children, but still a good show.
The next day I took the train to Gilgandra, where Christine, my 3rd cousin met me with her daughter Ashlee. I spent Christmas with family here, staying with June, my Dad’s second cousin, and her husband Jim. They also had their daughter Christine staying with them and her children, Briony and Ashlee, and husband Murray. We had most of the celebrations at Jim and June’s other daughter, Merilyn’s house, with her husband Greg, and children Ayrton, Caitlynn and Harrison. They also had Jim and June’s son, Robert, staying with them, and his wife, Kylie and children, Lucy and Declan, so it was a large family Christmas! I’ve never had a large one before, so I enjoyed it a lot. We went to a couple of services, quite different to English services, and sang the first carols I had heard this year. Christmas lunch was BBQ steak, then prawns and cold meat for Christmas dinner. There was a Dr Who Christmas special, but it was the UK’s Easter special!
The weather was like the usual English weather around Christmas time – cold and wet! Usually the river has no water in it, but after the rain it was flowing fast. There were floods around in houses and on the road, so we thought we may not be able to leave Gilgandra on time. We went to some local waterfalls, which were bigger than usual because of the rain, and very pretty.
Christine and Murray took me back to Newcastle where they live, and from there I caught the train to Turramurra, Sydney, to stay with my Uncle’s friends, Noel and Barbara. On New Years Eve, I took the RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) course in Sydney and passed – the easiest test I’ve ever done, easier than driving theory! Then I went to Bondi and met Noel and Barbara’s granddaughter, Josie, her fiancé Matt, roommate Mel and friend Adam. We all watched the 9.00 Sydney fireworks from their road, but couldn’t see very well, so tried to get onto the roof, but couldn’t. We walked for ages down a long road, until Mel saw some security guards who were standing outside a garden-type thing. She asked if we could go in and the security guards said we didn’t look like we would cause trouble so we could. There were about 15 others in there waiting to watch the fireworks. So we had a perfect view of Sydney Harbour Bridge, with no crowds, to watch the midnight fireworks.
The next day we drove Adam back to Newcastle and spent the day in his flat watching Friends. I felt a bit fluey that day. I stayed with Josie again that night. I went back to Turramurra and we went to Palm Beach for the night for a BBQ with Noel and Barbara’s daughter Jane. Palm Beach is where Home and Away is filmed. We went swimming in the sea in a thunderstorm – it was freezing.
I flew to Adelaide where Graham, a relative, picked me up and showed me a lot of places in and around Adelaide where there is Anderson history, including the land where the Andersons first settled in Australia. Adelaide was a really lovely city with a nice feel about it. It reminded me of Bedford. It was nice to see sunshine after having a couple of weeks of rain. I stayed with Graham and Helen, and their dog Lexy, and Graham took me to meet some other relatives and to Victor Harbour and some other coastline.
I took the bus and ferry to Kingscote on Kangaroo Island, where I met by the manager of the wildlife sanctuary, James, his friend, Josh, and 2 other volunteers, Adelaide and Sibylle. We spent the day in Kingscote, then drove to Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, and met Natalie, James' wife. I am Volunteering here for 1 month.