18 things you learn from working in the Australian outback
So after three amazing months of living and working in Darwin, it was time to move on and get my regional work done – I was determined to get that second year visa signed off so I could come back and do it all again. I had been hoping to move down to Tasmania or hit up Western Australia, but then a job came along that I just couldn’t turn down. More about the job itself in another post, this one is going to focus more on what it was like to live in an outback town in Central Queensland, if you like, a real Aussie experience. I arrived in Charleville after a full 24 hours of travelling by car, plane, train and bus took me from the Top End, out to Brisbane and then nearly 800km west. As the 12 hour bus ride ticked by, I dozed between spurts of gazing out the window as we drove further and further away from ‘civilisation’ and further into the bushland that dominates the centre of Australia. It was a strange feeling to not only be so far away from home, but to be so far away from the family I had created along the way. It was actually the first time I had been entirely alone in Australia, despite having been here for around six months. A pretty empowering and terrifying feeling at the same time, this feeling was something I had missed from travelling solo – that thrill and adrenalin rush you get when you know you can only rely on yourself if it all goes wrong.I arrived at around 7.30pm to a pitch black town, just a few useless streetlights were dotted around. I was the last person on the bus and the bus driver jokingly offered to take me back to Brissy if I was having second thoughts, but I laughed, hauled my bags off the bus and prepared myself to meet the people I would be working for. This week my three months will come to an end, and with three months of working in the Northern Territory, I’ve learnt a lot about what life is like in the outback. So if you’re thinking of doing the same to get your visa signed off, or just for fun, read on to find out what you need to know about bush life. Here are 18 things you learn from working and living in the Australian outback:
- When Aussies say outback, they mean it. There is literally nothing there. No shops, just a post office, a bank and a supermarket if you’re lucky. Sometimes there’s even less than that and you can be hours away from the closest shop. When you buy supplies, stock up on everything you need and even the things you don’t realise you will need.
- The lifestyle is totally different – gone are the days of doing something every single night, gone are the cinema trips, dinner dates, after work drinks. In the outback people work all week and save it for the weekend.
- Any event is a huge deal. The races, a Christmas party – anything like this that involves the whole town will be a huge affair and people will plan for weeks, or even months for it.
- Phone signal and wifi become huge luxuries – sign up to Telstra who seem to be the best – but don’t expect to rely on your phone for anything. Even electricity can be unreliable at times – as I write this I’m glad I charged my iPad as the power has just cut out!
- The landscape is something incredible – at first you see it as this dry, barren desert but soon you start to see the beauty in it, the gorgeous, deep red of the earth contrasted by the intense blue of the sky.
- The flies – the further into the centre of Australia you get, the more flies will swarm you. I was warned, and I’m glad they’re not too bad here in town but I’ve heard some horror stories from other travellers who ended up in the centre.
- There is not much to do around work, so naturally, people in the outback love to drink at the weekends. But don’t expect those bottle shops to be open as long as they are in the cities. Stock the fridge up and you’ll be sorted.
- Fear for your life. Well, not quite that extreme but do be careful and remember that this is the place you are most likely to see all those dangerous snakes and spiders people warn you about when you come to Oz. Always kick the toilet seat and check your boots if you leave them outside.
- The stars at night are some of the clearest and most incredible you will see. With so much less light pollution and clearer skies, you’re bound to be spellbound by the night sky, I know I am.
- You’ll be loving the simpler way of life and the break from city living, and simultaneously hating it and counting down until you can leave and return to life as you knew it.
- The people are amazing, you’ll meet some great characters and really have the chance to see how real Aussies live. You’ll never find a place more welcoming.
- There’ll be animals everywhere! Horses, goats and cows in the fields, dogs, cats and chickens in the houses. And they’re just the ones that the families invite in, don’t forget all the bugs, bats, birds and more that will be lurking outside.
- Everyone drives everywhere. The distance from the house to the shop, to a friend’s place or the post office will always be so great that everyone will just drive. Gone are the days of walking everywhere as a backpacker, you’ll be back on the road and probably in some real outback vehicle.
- Everything will be trying to eat you alive – there will be mosquitoes, sandflies, midges and many more. Sometimes itchy lumps will spring up on your skin and you won’t know why – don’t worry, most of the time it’s impossible to tell because there are so many things it could be.
- The weather is intense and hot, it’s a heat unlike any you have felt elsewhere. Often it feels like the heat is radiating up from the very ground as well as shining down on you from the sun. Plus when it rains, which it will do at times, it will be serious, tropical showers.
- You will always be dirty and sweaty, the breeze is constantly blowing around dirt and dust, and no matter how you try to keep clean, you will never feel it. You’ll soon accept it and come to enjoy being a bit grubby, especially if you’re doing farm work – trust me, no shower feels better than that one at the end of the day.
- There are so many opportunities to get out there and embrace the Aussie lifestyle and to get to try out things that you never thought you would. On your days off try helping out at a nearby cattle station, learn to ride a horse or shear sheep. It’s a skill you’d never get the chance to try in the city.
- That outback life isn’t for everyone, but everyone can give it a go. There’s nothing more satisfying than being a total girly-girl who loves make-up and shoes, but giving it all up to live rough for three months. Proving to all your friends and family at home that you can do it, and giving you a new appreciation of life when you return to city slicking.
Have you ever worked on the Australian outback? What kind of work did you do? Where were you based for it?