I was lucky enough to spend a year working and traveling around Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. I started in South Australia, working in Adelaide and living on Kangaroo Island. In the summer, I traveled around Melbourne and rural Victoria before settling in Tasmania to work for the autumn. In May, I traveled up the coast through New South Wales, spending a few days in Sydney and Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory before making my way up to Brisbane in Queensland. After reaching Cairns in the far north, I explored the Great Barrier Reef. I took a trip in June to Darwin to ride the GHAN train through the Northern Territory to Alice Springs and Uluru, in the center of the country.
South Australia was magnificent. I arrived at the end of August, my first landing place in Australia, and I wasn't at all sure about it at first. I landed in Adelaide, tired from 40 hours of travel and dismayed to see a sprawling city where I had been told there would be a place with "the feel of a town." I think whichever Australians refer to Adelaide as "feeling like a town" must come from one of the other capitals, because they certainly don't come from the towns in South Australia. The second largest city in South Australia only has 23,000 people; hardly a booming metropolis. Compared to that, and to my hometown, Adelaide's million plus seemed daunting indeed. I found some relief for this by visiting Mount Lofty, the mountain which overlooks the town, and visiting Cleland Wildlife Park. I saw, for the first time, kangaroos and koalas, emus, a Tasmanian devil and some dingoes, and the empty cage where a wombat should have been. Still from the summit of Mount Lofty, you could see the massive spread of the city beneath you. The city intimidated me, the suburbs made me uncomfortable, and the beaches- well, the beaches were fronted by so many hotels and shops that it was barely an escape from the city at all. Nevertheless, I spent nearly a week there before I fled to the remote wilderness of Kangaroo Island.
Unfortunately I was looking for work, which wouldn't be readily available on KI for about another month. So I returned to Adelaide, seeking employment, hoping that I could find a way to pay for my travels around the country. I found it at the Royal Show. For those non-Australians, the Royal Show is a massive festival with a carnival atmosphere which travels around the country from city to city. They were in Adelaide for ten days, and I found work with a booth selling Anime merchandise. Every day at my lunch break I would wander around, and there was never a shortage of things to see; the hall full of exhibitors, trying to sell products, the prizewinning food, crafts and art entries which had come from all around the state to be judged, the outdoor carnival rides and ring for horses, cattle, sheep and other animal events, and of course my favorite- the show bags. Show bags contain toys, or makeup, or any other sort of products you can imagine. You get show bags packed with goodies, theoretically at a cheaper rate than you could buy the pack of them individually. I spent most of my free time staring at all the strange new Australian candies, treats and sweets which I had never seen before, wondering on which I ought to spend my hard won dollars.
When the show closed, I called Kangaroo Island, and was happily invited back to work at a hostel in Kingscote. Kingscote is the biggest town on Kangaroo Island, and with about 2,000 inhabitants contains half the island's population. This was much more my speed than the hustle and bustle of big-city Adelaide. That's not to say there weren't nice parts to Adelaide- Victoria Square is a beautiful spot, and the Central Business District is surrounded by a greensward. The northern terrace faces a lovely water feature, and the museum and the library are lovely. The central market is certainly worth a visit, as well, as are many markets in Australia. I'm just personally more attracted to the quiet, wild, small towns than to cities.
Kangaroo Island was a blessing. Beautiful, wild, idyllic. I found work straightaway, and soon had three part time jobs, but it was never too much. People would come to the hostel and ask "how do you live here?" and say "There's nothing to do." Unsurprisingly, most of these were city folks. It was a perfectly lovely place to visit, for someone from a city, but after a tour (you could get from one end of the island to the other and back again in a day) and some relaxation by the beach, most tourists were ready to go back to their lives.
My interests have always been a bit slower paced, and life on Kangaroo Island suited me perfectly. I read books, did research, wrote stories, and walked about the town. I drove to the national parks, and watched the wildlife. Kangaroo Island has never had the infestations of rabbits and foxes from which the rest of the country has suffered, which has left it with an incredible variety of native wild flora and fauna. I visited the wildlife park and found some secret spots which were best for visiting the wild animals, unconfined by gates or fences, unnecessary to pay money to see. I watched the sheep in their paddocks, first full with winter's coat and then shorn to bare skin. I watched a shearing competition, which was an astonishing spectacle.
The beaches on kangaroo island are some of the finest I have ever had the pleasure to walk down, and I did so, for hours upon hours, walking the shores of the island. I went out with the dolphin watch, and we were surrounded by a pod of frolicking animals. I ran along the coastal route, and jumped, sweaty, into the freezing rock tide pool at the end of my track.
I learned to waitress, and I made friends with some of the locals who were regulars to the restaurant where I worked. I learned what life in a small town- a real small town- was really like. My hometown is rural, but not small, and I never run into more than one or two people I know on a day out. By the end of my stay on Kangaroo Island, every other person on the street would wave or say hello when we passed on the street. Many of those who didn't were visitors, in from out of town.
I stayed nearly four months, until the New Year. I was delighted to spend a real Australian Christmas by the beach, sipping Pina Coladas and eating cold lobster and macaroni salad. It felt more like the fourth of July than like Christmas, but I suppose that's simply because it was summertime.
My mother came to visit at the end of December, with a conference in Melbourne to attend in a few days time. It made me an excuse to leave Kangaroo Island, just as summer was starting to make things a little too hot. I had spent 1/4 of my year in Australia, and barely left this island- it was time to move on. It was hard to say goodbye to Kangaroo Island, and I hope that I will have a chance to return someday. It is truly lovely.
My mom and I left Kangaroo Island on January 1, 2016. We traveled through South Australia to the Great Ocean Road, along the coast of Victoria, and on to Melbourne. We made the trip from Kangaroo Island to Melbourne in just three days. I recommend a longer journey, if time permits, with plenty of hours built in for sightseeing and stopping in the little towns that line the Great Ocean Road.
The Great Ocean Road, something I'd heard about again and again from tourists, something mentioned in every travel book of Australia, failed to impress as much as I'd hoped it would. Perhaps this was because of our tight schedule, or perhaps because the weather was remarkably uncooperative, or perhaps because of the immense crowds of tourists who thronged to see the twelve apostles, and whose cars filled every lot along the way. For me, the most fun part of it was the fire which sent us on a detour into the hills, such hills as I'd never expected to encounter in southern Australia. There were ferns as long as me, tall trees that looked as though they'd traveled from the Carboniferous era, and so much lush greenery that I was overwhelmed. My first visit to Kangaroo Island had been at the end of winter, when everything was wet and green. By the time I left, everything around was golden brown, dry and dusty. The whole of the country seemed to bake, and as yet it was merely the very beginning of summer.
It was a relief to be traveling again, and lovely to have a visit from my Mom. It was the first Christmas that we hadn't all been together, my parents and siblings and I. I was sort of ashamed that this was my fault- that I, of everyone had set the precedent for Christmases spent apart. It was reassuring to be able to spend the first days of my travels with a familiar face- at this point, I had no idea where in Australia I was to go next, and that prospect was a overwhelming in a country so large as this.
For some reason, Melbourne was not nearly so intimidating as Adelaide. One factor may have been the lack of suburbs. Melbourne is my favorite type of city- high and compact. It is the kind of place where you build up instead of building out, and that is certainly something to aim for in these days of large carbon footprints. Probably, though, it was because I knew I was only a visitor to Melbourne- I had never planned to spend more than a week or so in the city, and that made it easy to just explore and enjoy.
I did have to make a decision as to how to proceed, however. I couldn't just wait until my week in Melbourne was up before deciding what I was to do next. So I thought- I ought to visit Tasmania. It's easy enough to get a ship from Melbourne to the large island state, and I knew I'd want to visit before my trip to Australia was over. If I continued in any direction, visiting Tasmania would become less and less likely; it could only get farther away. So I booked a ticket on the ferry- the next two weeks were fully booked, and prices didn't drop until after a third. So I planned to spend the rest of the month in Victoria, traveling to the various national parks and seeing the rural country before going south at the end of January.
It is an incredibly diverse countryside, in Victoria. I saw mountains in the alpine national forest, which reminded me of home but were, in a way, still very strange. I saw deserts and lakes filled with salt- so salty, in fact, that the crust of salt surrounding the water was thick enough to walk in, like mud squishing beneath bare feet. I saw lovely coastline, beautiful rugged rocky shores. I saw jungle, as I'd just barely glimpsed on our path along the Great Ocean Road. It was incredible, this vast array of wilderness in a country one tends to think of as desert, if one thinks of it at all. I spent a few days couch surfing in Ballarat with an English woman who took me fully into her life. While in her care, we swam in a natural lake, exercised with a cross-fit trainer, explored the oldest architecture and the gold mining history of the town, and meditated. I watched television, and slept on a couch, eating cooked food and glad to be back in the real world for a visit after sleeping in my car and living all my life outdoors.
That was how I spent the rest of my days in Victoria. I found National or State parks with campgrounds which were free. The number of these surprised me, in contrast to America's parks which require payment for upkeep. To be honest, there wasn't a lot of upkeep in Australia's parks on the whole. Pit toilets and abandoned visitor's centers with cobwebs draped across the doors. While I was traveling Victoria, a lot of them were empty too. This changed when I traveled again in May, the roadside pullouts and campgrounds filled with Grey Nomads. I spent my days hiking, driving, and writing in my journal. In the evenings I read book after book. There was no internet, and very often there was no signal for my cell phone either. I ate fresh fruit and vegetables that I picked up every few days, keeping them in a cooler in the backseat of my car, and other foods which wouldn't spoil. It was a miraculously relaxing way to live, and the only fault I can take with it was the discomfort of sleeping with insufficient padding in the folded down back of my hatchback.
Soon, January ended and it was time for me to go to Tasmania. I drove back to Melbourne and couch surfed again, enjoying the delights of the city markets and tall buildings for another day before heading off into the unknown.
Tasmania was fascinating. I spent my first week there exploring, used to my on-the-road habits and not accustomed to sleeping in hostels with other people. I arrived in Launceston, touring the museums and market, then worked my way down to Hobart, where I did the same. I passed Australia Day in a youth hostel in Hobart where the inhabitants decided to celebrate rather raucously, despite not a one of them actually being Australian. I climbed down Mount Wellington from the summit, wandering back to the hostel via the Cascade brewery and the Female Factory Historic Site.
Tasmania was once an ideal prison. I visited Port Arthur, where the ruins of a large penitentiary establishment are the main attraction. It is rugged and quiet and beautiful there, but I imagine the convicts did not see it that way. There are lovely old buildings constructed of sandstone, a harbor with boats that will take you out to rocky islands which acted as burial grounds and yet further removed holding areas for convicts. Port Arthur is situated on the Tasman Peninsula, which is connected to the main body of the island only by eaglehawk neck, a very narrow isthmus. Across this passageway was strung a chained line of guard dogs who effectively blocked the escape of prisoners. The nearest place to which you could swim is Antarctica; it is no wonder that it has been described as the end of the world.
Despite its gruesome history, I found the place serene. The rest of Tasmania, bits and parts scattered throughout also used as convict labor, was also lovely. Mountainous and lush, Tasmania's summer season is short, particularly compared with the rest of Australia. It is much farther south than the mainland, which means short daylight hours and more cold and bitter weather.
I arrived in the middle of summer, and got the full benefit of Tasmania's lovely warm (but not too hot) weather. It was a respite after my travels on the mainland, and this, along with a dwindling supply of ready cash, convinced me to settle and work for a while in Launceston. Launceston is a smaller city than Hobart, with houses that climb into the hills surrounding the river. I was able to rent a room in a house along Cataract Gorge, with plentiful walking trails right outside my front door. I found a job working as a housekeeper and a receptionist in the hostel where I'd spent my first nights in Tasmania, and I just lived for a while.
It would've been almost like getting a job and settling somewhere in the United States, but for a few minor differences. The biggest one was the lack of Internet. In Australia, the phenomenon of personal wifi in your home is incredibly recent- so recent, in fact, that it was just starting to be spread to cities like Launceston and Cairns by the time I left the country! This is much different from the apartments I've had in the United States, where I could have as much internet in my home as I liked for about $30/month, and so I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with myself.
I listened to a lot of audiobooks. I hiked along the gorge and walked around the city center. I worked, and when I wasn't working I hung around the hostel to use their wifi. Deprived of the Internet as I'd been for months now, practically since I'd come to Australia, I was desperate for some little connectivity. But I tried to spend some of my time occupied with less meaningless pursuits. I took up cross-stitching, in place of the knitting I'd left at home. I finally started writing a book that I'd promised myself I would write nearly a year before. I read more books, including some very interesting stories set in the era when Tasmania was a penal colony. Incredibly, it wasn't until the last few weeks of my trip to Tasmania, when it began to rain incessantly and I decided it was soon time to move back to the mainland, that I continued those first eager bouts of exploration.
I found, when I was making plans to leave, that I hadn't yet visited Cradle Mountain; I hand't yet climbed the peak of Mt. Amos to see the views of Wineglass Bay. I hadn't seen a wild Tasmanian devil or wombat, though I'd seen both camels and long-haired Scottish cows. Wallabies were interrupted in the act of chewing the garden whenever I arrived home late from work, and I shone my flashlight on beady eyes as they hopped away, but I hadn't seen much other Australian wildlife besides. I think this lack of exploration had been prompted by my first eager forays into Tassie. My voracious reading of the guidebook on the way had told me of the best tourist spots to see, and I'd reached as many as I could before I settled down. The other excuse I gave myself was that my job often gave me only one day off at a time, and so I'd had little enough room for exploration of the countryside.
I booked my ticket back to Melbourne, loosely planned the route of my journey around the rest of the country, and bought a pass for an overnight stay on the GHAN, a train which traveled Australia from top to bottom, beginning in Darwin and ending in Adelaide. I gave my two weeks notice, and stated spending every free afternoon or day off in seeing what I could of Tasmania. I visited Richmond, and saw the oldest bridge still in use in Australia, built by convicts. I saw the hydroelectric dam which powered much of the country. I took a day trip to visit the Nut, a large jutting rock which extrudes from the northern coast of the state. I simply drove around, a little aimlessly, trying only to see parts of the landscape which I had never seen before. There were lovely farms, beautiful beaches, and stunning mountains. It was a beautiful country, and I think I made up much for my lost time in seeing as much of it as possible in my last days.
New South Wales
After departing the ferry in Melbourne early in the morning on May 5th, I drove straight out of the city and raced towards the open highway. I spent a few days crossing through Victoria, seeing such sights as Hume Lake and Glenrowan, the site of Ned Kelly's last stand (Ned Kelly is an Australian outlaw hero, much like America's Jesse James) before crossing the border into New South Wales.
It was autumn now, and that made driving through Australia's backcountry fascinating. Australia's native fauna does not change color in the fall, and so most of the trip looked much like the summer- golden brown fields, green and white eucalypts, hazy mountains in the distance. Whenever you approached a town, however, you could see the shift towards imported trees- suddenly, the main street of every town was lined with red and gold and orange foliage, yellow leaves scattering the ground and making the sights lovely. Then, as you passed out of town again, the scenery changed back to classic Australia. I found this incredibly funny, having grown up in New England among some of the most spectacular autumn foliage there is.
The first thing I did after reaching New South Wales was to enter Mount Kosciuszko National Park. There, I climbed the tallest mountain in Australia, with a summit topping out at 7,310 ft (2,228m). Australia is really not prone to altitude, but it was great fun to be mountain climbing again! I continued northeast towards Sydney, visiting coastal towns and inland national parks. I stopped in Royal National Park, a gorgeous getaway for Sydneysiders, and watched the surfers tumble in the active waves. I enjoyed the outdoors, now equipped with a tent, sleeping bag and portable gas stove with which to cook up soup, oatmeal and rice. I saw wild kookaburras, lyre birds with beautiful big tails and, on a trip to Jenolan Caves on the far side of the Blue mountains, I sat for three hours at dusk and watched a family of platypus play in an eerily blue lake.
I also spent four days in Sydney, a city which, despite its size, I loved intensely. I don't know if it was the thrill of being on vacation, the fun of spending my birthday trying all the most unfamiliar foods I could find in Chinatown, or the excellent location of my AirBnb, but I found Sydney marvelous. The harbor sparkled, and the ferry ride across the bay was delightful on its own account. The bow bridge was impressively long- so long that I gave up halfway across and turned back. The Opera house- now, everyone has seen the Sydney opera house. There are pictures of it everywhere. But pictures fail to capture the sense, the feeling that you get when you look at it, especially at night. I don't know how a mere building could have had this effect on me, but it most certainly did. My favorite area of Sydney, though, was the Rocks. The oldest part of the city is filled with delicate historic buildings and narrow winding alleys. It felt like the best parts of Europe combined with the best of Australia in one glorious city, and I couldn't get enough.
Of course, soon it was time to leave- I had a schedule to keep, if I were to drive all the way to Darwin in a month's time. So I left Sydney, and New South Wales, and headed up the coast.
Australian Capital Territory
The trip through New South Wales was interrupted by Canberra, the nation's capital city, which belongs to the minuscule (at least by Australian standards) Australian Capital Territory. This sits inside the borders of New South Wales, between Sydney and Melbourne. It was created as the result of a dispute after federation as to which city deserved to be the capital. The relative prominence of Sydney and Melbourne has shifted back and forth over the years, while Canberra remains quietly settled in its own watershed in the bush.
I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Canberra. It is a planned city, and my brief stint as a landscape architecture major was thrilled to note how beautifully done the design really was. Lake Burley Griffin, an artificial water feature, comprises the center of the city, with a triangle extending from Parliament to the other major government buildings. Straight down the center of the triangle, across from Parliament, is the Australian war memorial and this is emphasized by an intentional layout of gardens between the two buildings.
Within the central triangle are all the national museums and galleries. Some tourists complain that these are too far apart from each other, but I enjoyed walking through the city and examining its layout and features. It's called the "Bush Capital" because it is out in the middle of the wilderness and a great deal of the territory is parkland. It's lovely to walk in a city full of parks; much more refreshing, certainly, than a city with none.
Canberra was apparently much less welcoming to tourists ten or twenty years ago. Apparently they've been putting a lot of effort into renovating the capital, and from what I can see it's been working. It's a lovely place to visit, at least for a few days.
From New South Wales I traveled up Queensland's coast. This was very interesting, as the landscape changed dramatically the further north I climbed. Along the central coast there were a lot of surf resorts and sunshine, beaches and skyscraper laden cities. I didn't spend long in Brisbane, though it looked like a city I wouldn't have minded exploring for a day or two.
Further north, the golden dry fields of southern Australia began to churn and turn over into banana and mango groves. I enjoyed fresh pineapples, and visited the Bundaberg Rum factory. I learned to surf at the northernmost surfing beach on the east coast, Agnes Water. This was such a magnificent experience, I became determined to surf again when I reached the west coast. Unfortunately fate had other plans for me, but I'm still determined to surf again, whenever I get the chance.
Eventually I reached Cairns, the major tourist jumping off point for the Great Barrier Reef.
I took a tour out to the reef, and it was somehow more wonderful than I'd expected. Everyone talks about the wonder of the Great Barrier Reef, of course, but I'd heard more about its bleaching and devastation than about the thriving colors and life. Indeed, the reef was quite bleached. The corals and anemones aren't doing very well. But the fish. The fish were spectacular. Even though the reef is dying, it was still something magnificent in its own right. It was huge, and every tiny piece of it was different. I could have snorkeled for a week, just looking at it. Unfortunately, tours to the reef are expensive, and so I settled for just a few hours of a day. If there is any part of my trip to Australia that I would do again, it would be to visit the Great Barrier Reef- not the Opera House, not Uluru, but the reef.
After a few days in Cairns I headed north, to Cooktown and the real Australian jungle. Traveling up the Cape York peninsula was not an option for me, as my car was not 4WD and it is certainly necessary to trek farther north. So I visited the Daintree, which was wild and completely unexpected. I saw a few of the big blue Ulysses butterflies which frequent the area. I even spotted a cassowary! But I didn't stay long up in the rainforest; the facilities are minimal, and I had to get to Darwin to catch my train.
I returned to Cairns for another night and then went into the outback, heading across the width of Queensland towards the Northern Territory. At first, everything was lovely; the first campground was a wallaby sanctuary, with beautiful rocks and a stream and hiking trails. The next night, I camped at Chillagoe, visited the nearby caves and hiked a rocky outcrop looking for Aboriginal art. The stars from both of these sites were phenomenal, more stars than I had ever seen in my life.
The next day, however, while I was driving, disaster struck. I spotted a kangaroo at the side of the dirt road. I'd seen enough kangaroos dead on the side of the road to know I had to slow down. I kept an eye on it as I drew level, but the kangaroo was facing away from the car, and certainly looked about to hop off into the bush. Before I knew what had happened, just as I'd reached him, the kangaroo jumped straight on top of my car, and within heart splitting seconds he was on the road behind me. I was dazed. I didn't know what to do. I pulled over. The car was badly damaged. The kangaroo was dead. That put paid to my plans to drive to Darwin, or any further around the country at all. I drove slowly back to Cairns, keeping an eye on the car' lights and gauges to ensure nothing would explode.
I've been told that no road trip is complete without something going wrong with the car. This accident, however, derailed my road trip entirely. The rest of my time in Queensland was spend in arguing with my insurance, which I had thankfully purchased, and walking to and from town while my car was in the shop. Thankfully, as a diversion, I'd already purchased tickets on the train from Darwin to Adelaide, a 3-day tour of Uluru and a flight from Adelaide back Darwin- where I had imagined my car waiting for me. I added a round trip flight from Cairns to Darwin- I wasn't going to miss seeing the red center just because my car was in the shop.
The GHAN is the train which crosses Australia from north to south. It begins its route in Darwin, and ends in Adelaide. The Ghan only goes once a week in each direction. I was lucky enough to be one of the last passengers to take the Red service- a cheap option where you're permitted (nay, expected) to sleep in your reclining seat instead of paying for a cabin. It suited me perfectly. There were a few other backpackers on the train, and we played cards and chatted about our various adventures across the country. The train made a stop at Katherine Gorge, where we could hike and look at the wonderfully large fruit bats.
After arriving in Alice Springs, I was forced to stay in the little city for an entire week before I could take the train and continue my journey to Adelaide. This was perfectly alright with me- how often does one get the opportunity to spend a week in the heart of such a country? I spent my first day seeing Alice Springs' few sights. The telegraph station, the hill, the open air mall full of Aboriginal art and other Australiana. The second day, I decided I wanted to ride a camel. It was wonderful. The camel was a lot more comfortable to ride than a horse- the rider had to put in very little effort. The camels took us out to see the Macdonnell ranges, some lovely odd little mountains near the central city. In the afternoon, I went to Kmart and bought leggings, sweatpants, and three layers of sweaters as well as warm socks and a winter hat. I had forgotten, in the warm humidity of Cairns while I was packing, that the desert gets very cold at night, and we were once again approaching winter. I'd spent nearly an entire year in Australia.
A three day tour took me and twenty other travelers in a bus from Alice Springs to King's Canyon to Kata Tjuta to Uluru. It was a great deal of fun. We spent our nights in swags under the stars of the desert. I expect that these stars would have outclassed even the ones I'd seen in outback Queensland, but unfortunately the moon was full and bright. Swags are big canvas sacks inside which you stuff a sleeping bag, with a big hood that can cover your head. I dressed as warmly as I could, with three layers of pants and five layers of shirts, sweaters and jackets. I also wore my hat and fluffy socks to bed- the desert was cold. There was a pit toilet in the corner of the campground, and getting up to use it at night made for a bit of a complication, not to mention the fear of dingoes who our tour guide assured us were nearby. She also warned us of the ways to prevent snakes and spiders and scorpions from entering our swags. It was not a thrilling lecture.
We spent the days hiking through the red rocks of the central Australian desert, and the evenings making camp, cooking, toasting marshmallows and roasting a kangaroo's tail as a delicacy. It was a wonderful expedition, and Uluru was certainly something to see. My favorite thing about the big famous rock was that it is covered with imperfections, crevasses and pockmarks that told stories to the aboriginal people who lived here long ago. It was certainly not insurmountable, though definitely a challenge, but no one with a clear conscience should try. It is a sacred place, and I felt very sad to see so many tourists crawling all over it, a parking lot abutting the sacred ground. It made me feel guilty that I was one of the masses of the ignorant, come to see the big rock for a lark, haha. Watching the sunrise and sunset reflected on Uluru was wonderfu- it changed hues from red to purple to black as the sun moved.
When I returned to Alice Springs, something strange happened. I was in a grocery store, searching for sustenance, when the sound of rain began. Soon, crowds of people were gathering at the windows to the shop, so I followed. It wasn't rain, but hail! The hail was sticking to the ground like the closest thing to snow this desert town had likely seen in years. Suddenly, as we were occupied gazing out the window, the ceiling began to leak. Before long streams of water were gushing through the roof and onto the aisles, the checkout counters, and the water level on the floor was rising. We were all rapidly evacuated from the premises, while the workers tried to figure out how to deal with this strange weather! Outside, the streets were flooded. It was like a holiday, everyone outside marveling at the odd behavior of the weather. It stopped, soon enough, but the streets still ran deep with frozen water. I took off my shoes, as many others were doing, to make my way back through town to the hostel. The streets smelled of Eucalyptus from the broken branches of trees. It was the closest to feeling like real Christmas that I got in that country, and it was in the middle of June.
I returned to Cairns after my adventures in the outback (though not before I'd ridden a racing camel and spotted a wild dingo) with the hope that my car would be fixed and I could make the drive to Darwin after all. Instead, the work on it had not even been begun. By the time I got the car fixed up, there was less than a week before I was to fly back to the United States, so I found a used car lot who bought it off me and prepared to finally go home.
My year in Australia was an incredible experience which I would not trade for a year doing some more typical activity, warts and all.
I will have to return someday to spend a few months visiting Western Australia, an entire half of the country of which I was unfortunately deprived; but this deprivation only means that I have someplace to visit in the future, an excuse to return to the country that brought me so much joy and so many wonderful encounters in the year I lived there. Perhaps I'll use that opportunity to return to the places in Australia which meant the most to me, and made the most lasting impressions on my heart.