Backpacking Around Australia Part 1

Written by Sandra S.

It took me until today to really go through all my pictures and finally I got them sorted.

I remember burning them on CD’s and sending them back home during my travels. My family laughed about the amount of pictures. Must have been around 100 just from Ayers Rock but I guess since this was my first big adventure I didn’t want to miss anything. So I took a few more than needed.

Looking at them now I can really agree, far too many. I only kept the best once and it is actually very nice to dive back in that amazing part of my life.

When my best friend ask me to join her on that Australian adventure my first thought was I CAN NOT JUST LEAVE EVERYTHING BEHIND. Still I couldn’t let it go and realized at some stage, why not?
I was single, stuck in a job I didn’t like and Australia was always my dream.
Well by the time I got serious about it my friend couldn’t join anymore. I still got the courage to get serious with our plans. Best decision I ever made. I sold everything I had and stored the rest in my grannies cellar. Celebrated my last night in Hanover plus said goodbye to my family and friends in my hometown:
pace
Space
It was the hardest farewell ever and then I sat on the train thinking what the hell am I doing leaving everything behind. Not knowing what to come. The feeling remained for the first few weeks in Australia.
I flew to Sydney just before my 25th birthday. My first impression was horrible. Not only were my legs in so much pain from the endless hours in the plane and my head dizzy from jet-lag but the city was ugly and the weather awful. After a few days I started exploring, spotted my first kangaroo and the adventure began:
Cowboy School In Leconfield
My craziest idea was probably to start the journey on a Cowboy School. Still wonder what got into me booking this.
I am not somebody who is in love with animals. They nice to look at but that’s pretty much it. As a kid I was afraid of dogs, hated cats (I still do) and was disgusted going even near a horse. Hey but was it not all about experience something new? So me on a farm, everyday riding a horse, sleeping in a sheep shed, branding cows and doing all kinds of stuff to become a certified cowgirl was really something I never done before.
I have to admit, it was a pretty good time and I enjoyed mostly to be 2 weeks far away from everything. Stuck in pure nature and surrounded by a group of lovely people.
About my experience with horses? Well I loved my little Taffy which was more a pony than a horse but my ass was in so much pain I think I am done. Probably never again 🙂
Going back to Brisbane was overwhelming and I just hated it. Also my first time on my own. Short on money I decided to book myself in a working hostel in a town called Bundaberg
Work & Travel
I had one of the best times in this town. Lived with lots of backpackers in a hostel and worked every day on a farm. Mostly covered in dirt, I was running up and down in fields picking broccoli, zucchini or corn. Got lucky ending up packing Sweet-Potatoes
Since I didn’t spend much money it was a good place to get ready for my next journeys. I spent nearly 2 month in Bundaberg until I decided to move on. Making plans for Christmas and New Year Eve.
You never leave places like this on your own. Meeting way too many peoples and spending all this time together I ended up making plans what to do next with other backpackers.
I spent the following 2 weeks with a little group of Germans. We traveled along the east cost direction north. Learned how to surf in Town 1770 (I failed big time). Snorkeled and dived at the Great Barrier Reef. Sailed to the Whitsunday Island and did a Road-Trip from Cairns to Cooktown before I said goodbye to my new friends.
Well you can be sure you will see some of them at least one more time…..
And here I was. All alone again. Still a week time until New Years Eve which I had already planned to meet up with my old classmate in Brisbane.
Crazy as it sounds, we haven’t seen each other for 8 years and I bumped into her in the Bundaberg hostel. People surprise you. Back in school I never pictured her being into travels. Shame I never bothered much to get to know her better as it turned out we had just so much more in common. Best feeling ever meeting someone from home and I was looking forward to see her again.
Since I am not a big fan of cities I wanted to spend the time till then somewhere quiet. I picked a small holiday town named Noosa to stick around until the end of the year.
It didn’t took me long to meet a new group of people and we hang out together during Christmas. Spending time on the beach. Singing songs while some guy played guitar (luckily there is always one of these around) and finished the night with a BBQ in the park.
The next day I got up very ealry and must have been hours on the phone talking to my family. It was tough! My first Christmas without them. Even all lived in different cities, around this time we always managed to be together. I just loved it so much! Enjoying mom’s delicious meals. Listening to grannies love stories. Going to the church with dad and joking around with my youngest sister. Little did I know that this time would be gone forever……
A New Year 
New Years Eve was great. We started with an open air cinema on the river and watched an amazing firework. 2008 arrived many hours before I was used to it! I realized that I only had been in Australia for a few month but I seen and done so much already. My Visa allowed me at least another 20 month to stay and have a good time. To feel this kind of freedom was just amazing and not to know whats coming was so exciting for me.
A few days later I spotted a note on a hostel board about a grape picking job in Jandowae. A little town a few hours drive from Brisbane.
We were a small group. Mostly Asians, two Italian guys and an English girl who I shared the room with. She even gave me some guitar lessons. They put us all in two bed apartments above a bar.
Mornings started early. We picked grapes for like 10-14 hours with the sun burning at least 35 degrees in our face. The job was easy. They were a rich farmers family and very keen on getting good quality. During our harvesting we also met so many interesting little friends 🙂 like these poison spiders or the green frogs. If you don’t bother them they will not harm you. After a while we got use to it. Just sometimes I heard someone screaming and dropping the delicious bunch of grapes on the ground.
It was a different experience as I never been around so many Asians. I made friends with a lovely couple from Hong Kong. Inie & Toni, we kept in touch many years after.
A few weeks later we were all rich. The farmers made a big BBQ for us and it was time to say goodbye again.
Once again I landed in Brisbane. What was it with that city, which was not even that great but always made me coming back?
I stayed a little while, shared a dorm with 5 Irish lads which surprisingly were clean and super friendly. Bought myself a new laptop and started to hang around libraries to use the free WiFi. Back then Internet was rare. We all mainly used these Internet Cafes with awful connections. Having a laptop was just a big luxury item for a backpacker but made life much easier. Storing pictures and writing offline with no time pressure.
I had no plans. Meeting new friends was more difficult in a city so I decided to buy a Greyhound Bus Pass all the way to Melbourne. It was a Hop-on, Hop-off pass. You just had to arrive at your destination at a certain time which was like 6 month away.
Planning to get off at all towns along the way which seems to have something to offer. I skipped Gold Coast, with Byron Bay and Surfers Paradise as I wasn’t up for any party. So I got the first stop off in Coffs Harbour which was 5 hrs south from Brisbane. I just wanted to do some walks and taking pictures so this place seemed perfect. Unfortunately I never really managed to see any of it as I received bad news from home. The next day I was on my way back to Sydney, waiting for my flight home to bury my little sister…
Mourning Time Alone
I don’t remember much about this time. Everything seemed blurry. Like the worst nightmare I just wanted to wake up from.
Losing someone you truly love hurts so much. I felt like somebody ripped my heart out. Emotions jumped from sadness to anger.
I was living my dream and somehow I found myself sitting between my grieving family. I was so lost and didn’t know what to do next. Applied for a university of art & photography in Nuremberg but it didn’t work out. Maybe it was a sign? A sign to go back to Australia and finish what I started.
One month later I was back in Sydney. Still not myself but short on money again finding a job kept me at least busy. I got lucky, north from Melbourne they were looking for people working on a tomato farm for 2 month. It was far up from anything. A little dodgy town called Murchison. I lived alone in a caravan surrounded by Turkish and some illegal immigrant from Fiji Island. They were all very nice and invited me sometimes for dinner. I worked every day for 10 hours. No day off for weeks. Sitting on a machine which drove by tomato plants and harvesting them. On weekends on the field picking by hand carrying the buckets to a huge container.
It was hard work, good money and no time for being sad. Mostly I was exhausted from work and spent my free hours with resting. I met a guy named David. A 70 something old Australian. He traveled around his continent to do some work here and there and reminded me on Gandalf that guy in Harry Potter. We spent hours talking about everything and anything. Sipping coffee and tea. He inspired me. His lifestyle.
The only other backpackers apart from me were a Korean couple. They taught me how to juggle and during our breaks we always used the tomatoes to practice.
I wouldn’t call it the best time but I met very nice people. Escaping the normality for a while was just what I needed. After the tomato season was over we got invited to the Pink Lady Apple farm owned by a Pakistani family. Pauli, the farmers son was a charmer and loved to impress the girls with his rich lifestyle. He spoiled me a lot and working there was just paradise. David and me were chatting mostly, while climbing up and down the latter picking the apples. There was no rush. Often I was just sitting in the tree eating fresh apples, the most delicious once and I still love them.
It all came to an end and I was for once looking forward going back to the city.
Back In Civilisation
I picked Melbourne next and decided to stay a little longer. A city like this one it was even easier and I was quiet happy what it had to offer. I did a lot of sightseeing. Took a boat to Phillip Island which was famous for their Penguin Parade. Basically loads of people sitting on the beach waiting for the penguins to come on land. For their safety everyone was far away and it was too dark, not quite what I hoped for.
I spent again some lonely times and desperately needed to meet new people. Booked a few trips from Melbourne all the way up to Alice Springs
My first tour started with a small group along Barossa Valley, The Grampians and Great Ocean Road. There was lots to see and it finally felt like the Australia again I dreamed of. After nearly 8 month I also seen my first koala bear. They sit so high up in the tree that it makes it impossible to spot them easy.
The tour finished in Adelaide. While waiting there a few days for my outback trip I met my classmate again and it turned out my roommates were on the same tour as me. I felt much better. Spending time with great people. Going out and exploring the city. Adelaide reminded me a bit of a European city and even the temperature got below 25.
The Outback
The tour through Coober Pedy, Ayers Rock until Alice Springs was a big highlight. Not only was there so much to see we also were the best group ever. Four crazy Germans, three guys from the UK, a Korean mother with her daughter and our funny Aussie tour-guide Steve. I laughed so much and had such a good time.
We visited creepy places like Flinders Range and Williams Creek. Slept outside in the dessert in swags or caves in a town called Coober Pedy which was famous for Opal. We enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and sunset at the Ayers Rock. Did some hiking at the Olgas and Kings Canyon before we finished in Alice Springs with a Free Didgeridoo Course. During all this we had some great parties or interesting stories while sitting around the bond fire.
I am still grateful for this time. Finding my way back. My passion to keep going.
Unfortunately I am unable to find pictures after that tour. I remember taking the train all the way to Darwin and spent 2 month there. Seeing so many people again I have met along my travels.
Worked in a car wash earning good money and had a good life. I just loved Darwin. It was small but had everything you needed. Every day sunshine with 30 degrees. Really every day!
At the end of my first year I joined two backpackers on a road-trip back to the east-coast. Did some harvesting in Bundaberg again before I went home to Germany getting ready for the second year but that’s another story I might tell…

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