Category Archives: Northern Territory

Travel | Boho beads for mermaid babes

imageOne of my biggest addictions, both in travelling and in life, is jewellery. I come from a fashion-loving family – my mum is a bit of a hoarder when it comes to clothes and always buys one in every colour. My sister on the other hand works as a fashion buyer and only deals with the finest of clothes and the snootiest of brands. I’ve always loved clothes but I’m more about finding something quirky and unusual than about spending a fortune – when I came travelling I was made for spending my days in bikinis and my nights in floaty tie-dye creations. The colours and the materials were the things my dreams were made of – from elephant print hareem pants to brightly patterned dresses and floaty tops with colours rolling into each other. I have a serious love of brightly coloured and patterned clothes – to the point that often I’ll struggle to find items that will go together in my wardrobe. Packing to come travelling with just a 65l bag was a toughie and I was torn between wanting to take everything and nothing at all with me – a big part of me was keen just to start over with fresh clothes and a new attitude. I ended up taking a bag stuffed with clothes and threw most of it away when I hit the shores of Thailand – realising the markets were packed with gorgeous colours and fabrics was just too tempting for a girl like me.imageAs my travels went on, I stocked up here and there, buying things that inspired me from bags and bracelets to tops and dresses. I even had some amazing gifts from friends including a yoga pal of mine who picked out some of my favourite trousers of all time – great taste! I loved the way my clothes reflected my state of mind and they perhaps showed the biggest outward change other than the smile on my face – finally I didn’t have to play at being smart or ‘fashiony’ – I could just dress as scruffy as I wanted and nobody cared. Basically it was like embracing the festival version of myself every single day – we’re talking bright colours, tassels, patterns, glitter and FUN. And we all know how much I love the festival version of myself. However, it got to a point when I knew I had not long left in Asia and that I would still have to send a lot of my clothes home before hitting up Australia – I had to stop shopping for clothes and to stop filling up my already overflowing backpack and start finding other ways of collecting mementos. I chose jewellery – my other great love. From rings and bracelets, to necklaces and earrings, Asia is packed full of amazing, quirky jewellery that will appeal to all tastes. Before I knew it, my arms were full of bracelets and my ankles full of anklets, but when it came to arriving in Australia I decided it was time to shed several of them and to make a fresh start in this new land.imageFor ages at the beginning I couldn’t afford to shop – living in Sydney for a month then partying my way up the East Coast meant I had little dollar to spare on frivolities like clothes and jewellery when there was goon to be bought. Plus, as many of us backpackers would say to each other – we often wore the same thing on five nights out in a row because we were always with a different crowd and no one would know the difference. But by the time I arrived in Darwin and was earning a good wage from my two jobs, I started to get the itch to shop again. Trying to save as much money as possible – I limited myself to charity shops like Vinnie’s (which actually had an amazing range of brand new clothing in top condition). But when it came to jewellery I just couldn’t resist the stalls down at Mindel Markets, one in particular is held by Embella which quickly became one of my favourite jewellery brands of all time. Started up around seven years ago by Sally, who started making jewellery at seven years old, the brand is a unique design and jewellery business. Originally starting up in Victoria, Sally and her husband Ross toured the festivals with Embella products before taking a motor home on the road for six years, eventually ending up in Darwin where they fell in love the lifestyle. It’s a brand that was made by travellers for travellers and I love the way the pieces reflect the feeling of being at one with the world around you. My favourite piece is my Earthgirl anklet ($49), pictured above, which never leaves my ankle, but I couldn’t help my addiction to their rings and bracelets as well. Most importantly, I love that I have a special sterling silver piece of jewellery that will stand the test of time to always remind me of that special time in Darwin and all the people who I loved there. It’s a brand that is made for girls who feel most at home with their toes in the sand and their heart in the waves.imageThe other brand that has got me all excited is one I have stumbled across since I’ve been in the outback – I just happened to see something online about Wanderer Bracelets and I loved the idea behind them so much that I wanted to share them with you guys. A perfect gift for any traveller, or something special for yourself – I actually bought myself these two bracelets as a Christmas present and something to celebrate my year of travelling solo. The initiative was started up by a guy called Ben who quit his job, sold everything and moved to Bali in his twenties – a guy after my own heart! Driving up into a jungle village one day, he met Made and his neighbours who were incredible artists but didn’t make enough to support their families. Their partnership sparked an international movement which sees them selling the bracelets to people all over the world. They are supporting an entire community while creating jewellery out of white buffalo bone – an all-natural sustainable source which also helps fight the ivory trade. All amazing reasons to support such a fantastic business. But even more special, you can get a bracelet engraved with custom coordinates of a place that is special to you – for me, it was the coordinates of my home in Norfolk, UK. It’s something special that will always mean that my heart is where my family and friends are at home, even if I’m the other side of the world. As I said, a perfect gift for a traveller and so affordable at around $22 each. And I couldn’t resist getting the mermaid tail bracelet to go with it, because let’s face it, I’m definitely a mermaid. A perfect brand for travelling souls that know their heart will always remain firmly at home.

What do you think of travelling fashion – are you all about the tie-dye and elephant pants or do you prefer something more formal? Have you found any great boho jewellery ranges? What do you prefer as a memento of your travelling times?

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Darwin | I left my heart with the Dingos | Australia

imageThis post has been a long time in the making. I’ve started writing it about a hundred times and scrapped several copies. It’s just hard to know where to start, to even begin to find the words to describe the amazing group of people that have made your Australian experience complete. But it seems appropriate to post this at Christmas, a time when we are all thinking about family. I’ll be honest and say that when I planned my trip I was really excited about Asia and New Zealand, but saw Australia mainly as a place to earn good money in-between as I was only expecting to stay five months. I didn’t really have many expectations for the country as I didn’t really know enough about it despite knowing so many travellers who have been here. Arriving in Sydney, visiting Melbourne, and then travelling the East Coast was amazing and I wouldn’t trade a second of it, but I couldn’t help feeling like I hadn’t yet seen the real Australia, it was just partying your way along the beaches. But then I arrived in Darwin, it was hot and dusty and full of outback attitude. People drove around in pick-up trucks and there were drunk aboriginals laying in the streets, if you did anything that went against what was normally socially acceptable you’d just hear the locals cry “well fuck it you’re in the Northern Territory now, everybody does what they want”. It was clear from the start that anyone who lived there did it for the lifestyle – different to other parts of Australia, everyone just worked to pay for having a good time. There was no reason not to go out on any night of the week and the weekends were sacred.imageimageI was staying at Dingo Moon Lodge – which was great on the surface in the sense that it had a pool and wifi, free laundry and breakfast. But beyond that it was a bit of a dump, riddled with bed bugs and the owners were awful. They would spend hours in the office screaming at the staff – my friends – for nothing and often would come in and throw away people’s possessions from the washing line or the kitchen for no reason. But you know what they always say, it’s not the places you stay or the things you see that make the experience, it’s the people you meet along the way. I’m a firm believer in this and it’s one of my main reasons for travelling – I’m a journalist at heart and I’m driven to talk to people, to discover the world around me through people’s stories. I want to know where they’ve been, their annoyances, their loves and deepest desires, I want to know what makes them tick and I want to know where they’re going. So it makes sense that Darwin is where I met the most diverse and beautiful group of people yet in the whole of Australia, that this is what made my experience and my time at Dingos quite as special as it was. As the title of this post says, even now, nearly two months later and hundreds of kilometres further into the outback, my heart is still with the Dingos who are now scattered across the world with some in Melbourne, Sydney, Asia and Europe. But no matter what the distance, I know that all of us feel the same.imageimageSo how did it all start? Well as I said in my job hunt post, a group of us all rocked up at around the same time and formed a pretty close-knit group as we hunted for work, but over the next week or two even more dingos arrived and became a huge part of our group. We were ever changing and ever growing, but all accepting as people from all over the world came to join our ranks. It was great to be surrounded by so many people from so many countries and one thing I loved was that there were actually very few English there. I was constantly surrounded by French, German, Irish, Swedish, Aussie and many more accents – this is what I came travelling for! Being in the hostel with so many incredible people meant I had a family right from the start, and other backpackers will know that in the right hostel you quickly become very close to those around you. You cook together, you eat together, drink together, work together, party together and sleep together. Before you know it, they’ve become the biggest part of your life and you can’t remember what it was like without the family around you. It’s a pretty special experience to go from being a solo traveller to feeling like you have the biggest family in the world but it seems to come at exactly the right time. It’s easy to forget that even when you’re travelling people are going through their own personal dramas and we had our fair share. We had everything from relationships, and even engagements, that were taking place with thousands of miles between the couples, we had work stresses and money worries, depression, we even had one guy who was fighting to get residency so he could stay in Australia with his child. But the important thing was that with our dingo family, not a single person went through anything alone. And I tell you, the day our friend got his residency approved was a big day of celebrations for everyone there, it meant the world to each and every one of us because we had been there every step of the way.imageimageSure we partied a lot and some of the great memories I have are of nights when we were all drunk and rampaging the streets of Darwin or attempting to find our way home from a rave with one token naked guy. But there are also so many special memories of us all just hanging out, chatting shit and putting the world to rights. I lost count of how many nights were spent sitting around a long wooden picnic bench that we were just waiting to collapse beneath the weight of us all, drinking Whispers and laughing at one thing or another. Or the times we would cook up feasts for groups of us in the kitchen, or laze around the pool catching some rays. The times when we would scrape ourselves out of bed for the free breakfast and attempt to make conversation before heading back to bed until a normal hour, or those mornings when my roommates would wake me up by playing “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” for the millionth time. Those nights getting ready to go out when we would have the tunes playing and would make stupid music videos in the dorms or have photo shoots, the nights when I would finish work at 10pm and get thrown in the pool fully clothed as I walked in the gate. The days spent making up crazy competitive games with the boys in the pool, or attempting to climb the trees in the yard. All those spoon sessions, Sunday Sesh BBQ’s, surprise birthday parties and don’t forget the time Robin got my name tattooed on his bottom! Then there were the chilled nights when we would all veg out in the dorm watching various different movies but would all have to stop every five minutes to show each other something hilarious. Starting up art club when we were hungover and needed to colour something in mindlessly, or sunset walks to the park or beach, and midnight runs and workouts on the esplanade. My head, and my heart, are about ready to burst from all the memories.imageimageSo here it is, my attempt to conclude a post that I don’t even think I have done justice to. I want to thank every single member of the dingos – whether you were there from the very beginning or you came in right at the end – for being the best friends a backpacker could ask for. For picking me up when I felt down and for being as excited and happy about everything as I was the rest of the time. For making me laugh until it hurt, for making me dance until I could no longer stand, for making me party until I dropped. Everything about you made my Darwin experience more than I could ever have dreamed of, and for that I am grateful. Most of all, I want to thank you for making me fall in love with this country – you made me see the real Australia and you made it harder to leave than any other place has since I started travelling. And if ever there were a time to talk about #squadgoals I think this is definitely it! Here’s to three months of going full bush like never before – best three months ever! For the travellers who have moved on to Asia or returned home, good luck and see you again! For those who are working their way down to Melbourne for our huge Dingos reunion, I’m counting the seconds until I see you again.image

 

Have you found an incredible traveller family like the Dingos? Which place stands out in your memory because of the people you met along the way? 

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Darwin | Being broke down under and top tips for finding a job | Australia

imageDarwin was the first place I have tried to find a job in Australia – when I was in Sydney I looked to see what was available and found loads of jobs but my heart wasn’t in it and I didn’t really need to work. But by the time it came to arriving in Darwin I was flat broke, seven months of living the dream had been fun and I’d never once had to hold back from spending because I made sure I saved a good wad of cash beforehand. But now I was at a point where I could barely afford rent and instant noodles – any backpacker out there will know the kind of broke I’m talking about. The kind of broke where you suddenly have a horrible feeling you won’t be able to get yourself out of this situation, where you realise you can’t even afford a flight home and you start feeling like you need to call on the bank of mum and dad. Its kind of scary when you’re backpacking solo to know that when you run out of money you have no backup, that you don’t have a boyfriend or best friend there to loan you a few dollars. It’s happened to us all – it doesn’t matter how good you are with your money, sometimes life just catches up on you. But that’s okay, I think if you’re a backpacker who hasn’t lived in dire straits for a while, you’re not a real backpacker. I’m very lucky and I know that if I were ever desperate my parents would be able to help me out but I know many people who aren’t that lucky, and to be honest, there’s much more satisfaction in fixing the problem all by yourself.

I knew I would be fine after I managed to secure a job and luckily after putting something on Facebook about needing work, an old friend contacted me to say he was already in Darwin working in a bar and that he knew of another bar that was looking for staff. As soon as I arrived in Darwin – within hours of getting off the plane – I had updated my CV and printed off countless copies ready to pound the streets looking for work. I walked the length of Mitchell Street and back handing out CVs, talking to managers and flirting shamelessly, and it worked! Within 24 hours I had two trials and two new jobs. I would be working at Monsoons – if you know Darwin you will know it as the infamous party bar where we all have spent nights better forgotten – and Darwin Entertainment Centre, a theatre for the arts where I would be working in the box office. Now I was very lucky getting both jobs straight away and I have no doubt that it was particularly down to the fact that I was English, could start straight away, and wasn’t completely ugly. It’s horrible to say but a complete truth that employers in Darwin, and any other city, are very keen on employing those with English as a first language and, particularly in bars and restaurants, they want good looking staff. I had friends who were German and French who struggled to find work for a while because their English wasn’t as good and I had one friend who was told he couldn’t have the job in a bar unless he shaved his beard off! In Monsoons the girls were expected to parade around in their underwear and bikinis on a nightly basis, while the guys all flaunted their six packs.imageBut it’s not all about luck – I happen to believe we make our own luck in this world and part of that is down to our own determination to succeed. I know a few people who really struggled to find work, but when it came down to it they were not desperate for money like I had been. They had the luxury of enough money to keep them afloat and that gave them time to be lazy, to hand out CVs but not to push for jobs. For some, their priorities were more about having fun and partying first, finding work later – and they did, as soon as their situation became desperate. For me, I had no choice but to find work straight away otherwise I couldn’t afford basics like food or a bed, partying would come later and after the East Coast, a break was welcome. One thing to realise, Australia is full of jobs, everywhere you turn you hear of a new working opportunity. They might not all be career jobs but there’s a good mixture – and a hell of a lot more available than back home in the UK. After all I had heard about Darwin, it didn’t disappoint and offered a huge range of jobs for all kinds of people. I think that was one thing I loved about the city – it attracted such a range of people and all kinds of workers. I had friends who were working on fishing and pearling boats, others who were working construction or landscaping, others filled hospitality roles in bars, restaurants or hotels, worked as cleaners, hairdressers, chefs, mango farmers, or nurses and the list goes on. There was work for every type of role, the only thing that was lacking were office jobs but that didn’t seem to bother many.

So if you arrive in Darwin flat broke like I did – how can you make sure you don’t spend too long in limbo and quickly get earning again? Here are my top tips for finding work in Darwin:

  1. Do some scouting before you arrive – ask any friends who might be there or who are in Australia as often they have contacts. Use the Darwin Backpacker Facebook page as jobs and tips are always being posted up there. Perhaps even contact bars/hotels asking if they need staff.
  2. Look on Gumtree – it’s a reliable source for jobs in Australia unlike at home and I know lots of people who have found great jobs and casual work through it. My current job is one I actually found on Gumtree.
  3. Sign up to agencies – if you’re looking for specific farming, catering or construction work it might be worthwhile signing up to one of the many agencies in town. There is one that is free to join called Top End Consulting, but I don’t know anyone who actually found work through them. A good one for tradies was Skilled, which managed to find work for several of my friends.
  4. Update your CV and make it relevant – if you’re looking for bar work, just stick your bar/restaurant experience on there – feel free to even lie and make it up as I know many who used references from their home countries that were never checked. Hospitality is easy to pick up on the job and you will be trained in anything you don’t know.
  5. If you need a white card or RSA, make sure you know what you have to do to get it. But don’t rush and spend unnecessary money. I waited until I had the bar job to go home and complete my RSA – it took 25 minutes online and cost $10 for the Northern Territory but I wouldn’t have bothered if I didn’t have a bar job.
  6. Make sure you look good and have a big smile on your face – first impressions are everything – then walk the streets. Go by yourself, it looks better than having a friend waiting for you, ask for the manager in every place and hand over a CV. Ask if they are looking for anyone, tell them your experience and that you can start straight away.
  7. If anyone asks how long you are staying in Darwin, always lie. I knew I was staying for at least a month and a half but told them four months minimum. It meant they were keen to take me on as I wasn’t leaving and I loved it so much there that I stayed for three months anyway! No one wants to employ someone who is there for three weeks but they understand it is a backpacker town and people are always passing through.
  8. Make sure you speak good, clear English if it is not your first language, if you don’t understand anything, try to hide it then check with a friend later.
  9. If you get called in for a trial, make sure you wear appropriate clothing and footwear – I had to buy a black skirt and top plus black plimsolls for Monsoons and luckily could wear the same for DEC. There isn’t much choice in Darwin so you might need to make do until you can get to Casuarina – the nearest shopping centre.
  10. Don’t get a trial? Don’t hear back? Don’t lose faith – just keep asking around, keep handing out CVs to everywhere, not just Mitchell Street. Ask friends who are already working if they can put a word in for you or listen out for jobs that come up. You will get something – I don’t know a single person who failed to find work altogether!
  11. When you do get a job, make sure you have your RSA, tax file number, back account, superannuation set up ready so you have them ready to hand them over and will get paid straight away.
  12. And don’t forget those that helped you! Once you have a job in Darwin, use it for good and help other backpackers in a similar situation to find work. Across my two jobs I managed to find jobs for about 15 other people during my time in Darwin and that’s not even including the people who replaced me when I left. Spread the love and help everyone you can.

And if worst comes to worst and you can’t find anything permanent – why not do like a friend of mine who arrived in Darwin with a beat up old car, which he was sleeping in, and no money. He found some casual work, then more casual work, then more. It ended up being more reliable for him than permanent work because he could work several jobs around each other – he was doing everything from waitering, to bar work and front of house, to landscaping and odd jobs. It helped that he had a car and wasn’t fussy what kind of work he would take on. Within a month he had a good income and an apartment and it was another month until he found a steady job as a landscaper to get his second year visa signed off. But he still continued to take on casual jobs as well.

Have you worked in Australia – how did you find the job hunting process? Any other advice for finding work fast? Tell me about your experiences as a broke backpacker.

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Darwin | Darwin nightlife and raving from sunset to sunrise | Australia

imageAfter two weeks of being boring Lucy, eating rubbish noodles and working every hour I could get, I’d had three glorious pay checks which had put me back in the green. I was so happy to not be clinging to every dollar for dear life any longer – don’t get me wrong, I was still living like a seriously poor backpacker but I could afford to eat and sleep, and even treat myself to the odd $5 bottle of wine. The beautiful thing was that I had a whole gang of friends around me who were all in the same position – some had been lucky enough to find work straight away – others were working for the hostel in exchange for a tuppence and free accommodation, others were just living off nothing while they applied for every job going. I was the lucky one. But as the weeks went by, everyone managed to find jobs – some of them just casual and others full time and permanent. As that happened, our priorities changed. We had a big group of new friends and we all wanted to celebrate. The hot weather made everyone feel the good holiday vibes and even though we were all working crazy hours we were determined not to let it stand in the way of having a good time. As one of my friends said: “We left the UK so we wouldn’t be those people who are living for the weekend, I’m sick of living for the weekend, I want to live for every single day.” I guess it’s the party animal in me, but luckily I was surrounded by people with exactly the same attitude to life as my own. They wanted to have the best time, to grab every moment with both hands. They wanted to spend their evenings laughing hysterically with new friends, dancing all night and creating memories, then finishing the nights when the sun was rising with our feet in the sand as friends for life.imageDarwin is a great city for nightlife – it lacks all of the formality and rules of Sydney and Melbourne and attracts a totally different and totally wild crowd. Everyone is friendly as hell and game for anything, it was outback nightlife and we loved it. From acoustic live jam sessions at a little bar called Nirvana on a Tuesday night to crazy Friday nights and $5 drinks at Throb, the gay club down the street. I spent way too much time in Monsoons considering I worked there, but I think most people who go to Darwin can say the same, and Thursday nights were never fun unless I was at Ladies Night! And don’t forget Wisdoms, which was just a few doors down, and had great live music on, plus it was great for an early evening drink. Or if you fancy something a bit classier, there’s always cocktails and wine at Rorkes, a 1920’s inspired bar and restaurant through the town centre, plus there’s loads more down by the waterfront. The only place I wasn’t so impressed by was Lost Arc (also known as Discovery), I know others who had a good night out there but I never really felt the music or the bar was that much fun.imageRegardless, there is something for everyone and we spent our weeks rolling around every venue in town with the infamous Sunday Sesh kicking off at Shenanigans (fondly known as Shags) the Irish bar, which would be packed every Sunday with live music, before everyone headed off to Hotel Darwin at closing time for more bad behaviour. Sunday Sesh was the biggest event of the week in Darwin – it never mattered how hungover you were from the night before, everyone who wasn’t working made it out and partied like they didn’t have work the next day. For us, we started to create our own Sunday Sesh at the hostel – we had so many friends at our hostel that in the end it made more sense to all chip in $10 to buy everything we needed for a huge BBQ and beers. We had a pool and everyone we wanted to hang out with, a bit of food and way too much glitter and excitement – some of the best Sunday’s I have ever had have started out as a BBQ at the hostel and ended up as a naked pool party. There so many stories from my three months at that hostel, so much cheeky behaviour and so many laughs, I think I’ll have to write a book one day of all that went on with the Dingo Mooners.imageOf all of these nights, there are some that really stand out in my memory – some of them somewhat hazy – but all of those are the parties that didn’t take us to any of these venues. Darwin was rave central while I was there and luckily I made friends with all the right people who just happened to know the people who were sitting up these wild parties on Mindil Beach, out at abandoned quarries in the bush and even on the esplanade. The great thing about the Northern Territory is that there is a little bit more freedom, I can totally understand why raves can be harmful at home because they damage land, property and disrupt the wildlife in our smaller country. But up here there is nothing but desert, dust and open space, it’s perfect for parties out under the stars and that’s the best kind of party to me. Plus those organising the parties were so responsible and organised clean-ups as well which really impressed me. Even the police were happy that the parties were not bothering anyone so they would keep an eye in case if things got out of hand but they never once shut down a party that I was at. There was at least two months when there were raves every weekend, alternating venues between Mindil Beach and the quarry – both were amazing and featured great DJs, some local and others travelling through. And just before we all left, a special rave was held on the esplanade as a goodbye to everyone who had partied hard all dry season, just as the rains were due to arrive.imageimageimageWhether you agree with the idea of hundreds of youths raving from sunset to sunrise or not, I won’t deny the memories I made there will last forever, and that many of the friends I went with will without a doubt be friends for life. Even now, thinking back, every second of those nights puts a big smile on my face. As far as I’m concerned, getting to dance to great music and watching the sun rise over Mindil Beach as dolphins played in the waves and a horse rode through the surf is more than just special. We saw the real magic of the Northern Territory in those nights, from the red dust that covered us from head to toe as we made our way home the next day to the reflection of the stars in our eyes the night before. I’ll always remember the night we all lay on a sandbank at the quarry exhausted from dancing our hearts out, without realising how close we were to the airport when suddenly a plane flew overhead, looking almost close enough to touch. Or that perfect sky filled with fire as the sun rose above us the morning after, and the long walk we faced through the bush that morning when it took us three hours to get a taxi and get home, but the jokes that kept our spirits up and the memories that remain. Darwin, you were something special alright.imageimageimage

 

Have you been to Darwin? Which is your favourite bar? What did you think of the nightlife?

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Darwin | Spectacular Jumping Crococodile Cruise | Australia

imageI worked pretty much flat out while I was in Darwin. I may have been on a mad partying phase but I was also determined to work as many hours and save as much money as possible. Because of this, I ended up not having very many days off in the three months or so I was there, even if I only worked a few hours, I was pretty much working every single day and I was happy about that. My working hours fitted in well with still having a social life, I often wouldn’t start until lunchtime so I had my mornings to relax and see friends, the. I would work a ten hour shift, or split shifts across both jobs, and then I would finish as everyone was getting into the party mood. It was great, but it did mean that I didn’t get to see many of the Northern Territory’s natural wonders. I never had the chance to go to Litchfield or Kakadu to see the waterfalls or the amazing landscapes. But when I had l had particularly sad few days after some close friends left, another friend decided to get me out of my funk by insisting we get out of the city and do something fun. He was certain my bad mood was down to being trapped in the city and all I needed was a bit of wide open space and a bit of nature to feel good again. It made sense – after all, being a Norfolk girl I’m used to having endless fields, wide open spaces and the ocean at every turn, why wouldn’t I be affected by the lack of it?imageimageA group of five of us hired a car – for incredibly cheap at just $20 each – and off we drove on the highway. I ended up driving and even that was such a relief, I didn’t realise how much I missed having the freedom of a car since travelling and it was great to have my first real experience of driving on Australian roads. We headed out further into the outback and as the city disappeared, the land because dryer, dustier and emptier. It was brilliant to see the bright red colour of the earth contrasted against the clear blue of the sky and with the music turned up we sped out further and further. Eventually we arrived at our destination – it was the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise! Located on the Adelaide River, on the road to Kakadu, the cruise gives tourists the opportunity to see one of around 80,000 saltwater crocs that roam the waterways of Northern Australia. The creatures became protected around 30 years ago after nearly facing extinction thanks to hunting, now you can see them in their natural habitat thanks to the work of the company. The crocodiles recognise the boats and know they have a chance of food from them, which means you actually get to see animals that would normally be hidden away under the mud of in the shade. But don’t think that means the crocs are tame – you wouldn’t want to mess with these guys as they are still forced to hunt for their food and will happily hunt you too.imageDuring our cruise we spotted at least five large crocs – two of them were absolutely huge and the other three were still pretty big. You definitely wouldn’t want to cross any of them, whether in the water, or on land as we saw. They were magnificent creatures and it was interesting to see how they hunt – especially how they naturally jump up out of the water to stalk their prey – something I never realised they did. Both terrifying and fascinating at the same time – especially when you see the size and number of their teeth! A few people in the boat were a little nervous, but I have to admit I wasn’t scared, just curious. One of the crocs came right up out of the water on one of the banks and it was really great to see his entire body, to see how powerful his legs were and his scaly hide, plus to have it pointed out to us how his scales are designed to absorb the sun and warm the creature’s body. On our way back to our landing spot, our guides spotted an eagle up in a tree and wanted to show us the power of the creature so after stringing up some meat, we got to see the huge bird swooping in for the kill. Plus all the gulls swooping on either side of the boat for scraps of meat – it was amazing to see them flying around us so precisely and yet so chaotically – for someone who doesn’t really like birds, it was a beautiful sight. We drove back to Darwin with smiles on our faces after a brief stop in Humpty Doo for some food, it was a great day out and one I would recommend. And trust me, if, like me, you felt trapped in the city but were unable to fit in a trip to one of the national parks, this one is a great one to fit in around work. You can easily make it there and back in a few hours then go and work a night shift like I did.image

Have you been on the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise – what did you think? Have you ever had that feeling of being trapped in a city and needing to get back to nature?

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* There is also a Crocosaurus Cove located on Mitchell Street in Darwin, which I purposefully chose not to visit because I felt it was cruel to have an crocodile as large as that enclosed in such a small tank. I had seen from photos by friends who went along how small it was and I didn’t like that it was being kept this way. I would always choose to see the animals in the wild instead of locked in a cage. This trip was using the crocodiles’ natural hunting behaviour as a way of enticing them into our view instead of teaching them unnatural ones that would inhibit their lifespan.

Darwin | Goodbye to the East Coast and on to the next adventure | Australia

imageAs all the trips came to a close and we wound up our time in Cairns, we started to think about the next adventure. I was all out of money and it was time to find a job and try somewhere new, after five weeks on the East Coast and a month in Sydney, I was eager to see somewhere totally different and a bit more ‘real Australia’. I wanted to see a bit of outback, some really hot weather and dust, lots of red dust. I always had this niggling thought in the back of my mind, a memory from when I was in Cambodia and met a couple in Siem Reap. They had actually both met in Darwin and travelled Australia together – knowing I was going to Australia a few weeks later, I wanted to know everything they had to tell me about travelling and working there. All they went on about over two nights was Darwin! They loved it there, had returned several times and found work easily, they loved the place, the people, the atmosphere, the money and the memories. I may not have realised it at the time but I was already sold on their recommendation and that when the time came to find work, I would be heading there. It’s so strange to think back on it all now – it just seems like Darwin was exactly where I needed to be. I ended up spending three months there and even now, over two months later, my heart still remains there. It’s just amazing how things fall into place when you travel – like there really is some greater plan for you, I feel like this so often when I end up in places I never dreamed of visiting. To be honest, Darwin wasn’t even on my radar before I met the couple in Cambodia.imageimageWe booked our flights and after a few hours in the air, we touched down to find exactly what we were after: intense heat, dust and dry barren land. It was the Northern Territory, and it doesn’t get more outback than that. I was instantly in love with the place and after we rocked up to our hostel and got settled, we went out to wander the streets and see what lay in store for us on Mitchell Street. We were staying at Dingo Moon Lodge, which was down one end of Mitchell Street, and anyone who moves there should prepare for their life to centre around this one street which is full of hostels, bars and a scattering of shops. Now I did t really know what to expect of Darwin, I had never been anywhere like it before, but I instantly loved it and felt like it was a place I wanted to settle for a while. I started my job hunt and had two jobs within 24 hours of being in the city – great news for my bank balance but not so great for getting off the main street as both my jobs confined me to around 300m of street and I was working as many hours as possible. For the first two weeks all we did was keep to ourselves – we were sick of meeting new people and exhausted from the east coast – it was time to recuperate and relax. Luckily the hostel had a pool and wifi so most of our time, around me working, was spent making the most of these and at the markets.imageimageWe were lucky and arrived at a great time to enjoy some of the great things Darwin had to offer, we spent our Thursday and Sunday nights at Mindel Markets which were packed full of food, music, jewellery, clothes and trinkets. It was a fabulous place with a great boho feel and I have to admit I couldn’t help myself when it came to the jewellery stands. They would have fire shows, magic shows, plus a great variety of music acts from acoustic singers to reggae artists on tour. Plus it all took place right next to the beach and started at sunset, a perfect time to head down with your friends and a bottle of wine before perusing the stands. Another night was spent at the flicks, but this wasn’t just any cinema. I finally had the chance to tick off going to an outdoor cinema in Australia from my to-do list. We caught Mad Max at the Deckchair Cinema and had a brilliant evening – the air was so warm and we could watch bats swooping over our heads as the sun set and the screen filled with action. The cinema is amazing and I’m just sad I never had the chance to go back around work – perils of working nights in a bar! It’s well worth a visit and shows a great selection of movies, plus it hosts the film festival. We also arrived perfectly in time to catch the Darwin Festival – a yearly event filled with music, arts and culture spread across several locations within the city. I was actually working at a venue that was hosting some of the acts. It was great for us poor backpackers because they also hosted several free events including some lunchtime sessions and live music in the evenings at a special park they created. It was a beautiful location and had lots of food and drink stalls, a great atmosphere and the music was lovely. I was amazed to arrive in Darwin and find so much going on!imageimageimageThere’s plenty more to tell but I’ll save that for some upcoming posts. After a week of quiet life, we met a group of awesome people who had arrived at around the same time as us, we ended up forming a little family that soon grew to the entire hostel as more and more people arrived. I’ll talk more about this in a special post I’m working on, but I’ll say this, there was a lot of love there and there’s a lot of memories in my heart because of that place. After three weeks there, I had to say goodbye to Mark once again, this time after we had spent two amazing months together, and it was heartbreaking, all over again. I’m not sure I could have coped if it wasn’t for my Dingos, they refused to let me mope around, they filled my life with laughs and craziness so that it didn’t feel empty without Mark there. I never actually spoke about how hard it was to say goodbye to him and the fact that they just knew and they were just there to make everything better was what sealed us as friends for life. That and a whole lot of naughty Dingo behaviour that I probably can’t publish on here. Let’s call this ‘to be continued’.imageimageimage

Have you been to Darwin? What did you think of it? Have you found an amazing hostel family?

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