January 29, 2016

Day 833 – Cairns

After talking to a friend, I realised that I had spent 3 months in Australia, 3 months already! Jesus and all I’ve seen is Brisbane, Bryon Bay, the gold coast and Townsville. So it was time to get my skates on as I only have a one year visa. Sure I can apply for a second year work visa but I’m not so keen to work out on a farm. I’m not sure how the Australian government get away with it but second year visa applicants are required by law to work on a farm, supporting the agricultural work. Now, in principle this sounds reasonable but in practice the conditions and pay are terrible. I’ve not done this work first hand but many backpackers have and the stories were not so pleasant. In essence, these workers are exploited and authorities seem to turn a blind eye.  Back home, migrant workers who don’t speak English or enter illegally are on occasions exploited but then we have bodies in place to help them. Here it is a requirement and reinforced by immigration so how does one get round that? Surely they are not oblivious to working conditions and pay.  The reality is backpackers are made to do this hard labour because locals don’t want to.

Thus, I’m not so keen to apply for a second year visa and will avoid it at all costs if I can. So I want to make the most of the remaining nine months I have here. So I searched for cheap flights, some backpackers drive around the country which would be great to do only I don’t have a car and I don’t have a group of friends to share the cost or experience with- shame. There are many great cities to explore and many amazing experiences I want to sign up too but I need to pace myself. Working full time limits the spontaneous element and of course now I actually have to plan- Jesus Christ. I’m hoping to work through my list but I’m in no great hurry as Australia is not going anywhere.

We visited family in Australia many, many, years ago. I was perhaps fourteen and I remember spending time in Sydney and Brisbane. My dad’s family reside here so we spent more time with them than exploring the city. I remember the opera house and the harbour bridge. I don’t remember exploring much more in Sydney and I don’t remember Brisbane much either.  Having searched around, I decided to head north, to Cairns. Had mixed reviews about this city, while some of the women at work love it, others were not so keen. So what better way to find out then to go myself.

Cairns is known as the tropics of Queensland. It is hotter and far more humid and the icing on the cake is they don’t have a beach. Instead along the esplanade they have a public pool which locals and tourists use to cool down. The city itself is small but good. I was keen to see Kuranda, a rainforest forty minutes away.  It is a touristic hotspot but beautiful. There is a trail you can follow to lose yourself and appreciate what the rainforest has to offer. There is also a train and cable cars showing great views and lush greenery. I wondered into the markets once I was done and it amazed me how many items were from India, Indonesia and Thailand. The markets had some stalls selling local items especially gem stones.  The highlight of the day was my conversation with a lady working at the information centre, she was born in the Netherlands but has lived here for over twenty years. She also speaks Swiss German and Italian.  She was delightful and so positive, she joked about how I could move here and settle down.

I spent the next day up in Port Douglas, a beautiful city just north of Cairns. The journey is about an hour but beautiful.  We drove along the coast line and it was amazing.  Driving up to Port Douglas made me think of London and how we don’t have beaches, sure we have some beautiful scenic routes but no sandy beaches, no rainforests and no mountains. We have peak district and the last district which is beautiful but it’s not the same.  Australia has so much more to offer.  Of course, they also have the Great Barrier Reef where most people spend a day snorkelling or diving. We have the River Thames in London and then Devon, down south. Whilst London and England generally is great, it doesn’t really compare to Australia.

Sure you need to consider the weather, the humidity and heat is immense. It is harder for those of us from colder climates but if you can adapt it isn’t the end of the world. Most of us Londoners moan about the weather, it’s too cold or wet and people get miserable. Many people want sunshine and some heat and then it gets past twenty five degrees and it’s too hot! Makes me laugh how much the weather can impact on someone’s day. I would rather the cold, if I had the choice, but I have been to some beautiful cities in the heat and survived just fine.  I’m not a fan of mosquitos, I don’t think anyone is, it would be great not to be eaten alive but again you get used to this. I have a great appreciation for fans, air-conditioning and cold beers.

I met a very cool Brazilian girl while in Cairns. She has been here for over a year studying in Melbourne. She is due to travel around South East Asia for two months with her sister before going back home. We hit a jazz bar and shared stories over a beer. We talked about relationships, long distance relationships, our parents and their take on us travelling and living aboard. She is only 21 and so has plenty of time to figure out what she wants to do in life. Sometimes not knowing is great because you can try out many different things.  As Elizabeth Gilbert said, sometimes not having a passion can lead us to a more fulfilling life. She used the example of a hummingbird pollinating different flowers while searching for its passion.  We as people try and go from one field to the next, spreading our love and positive energy before finding and embracing what our passion is. I didn’t know what I wanted or where I was headed in life but I managed to figure it with time. I have many passions but at the heart, I want to make a different, I want to support others around me and help others make the most of their life.  What’s your passion?