After 2 months of working on the Kapitan Khlebnikov, a huge Russian icebreaker in Antarctica I was relieved to get back on land in Perth. My mate Dylan and I had been cabin mates for 2 months and we decided to travel around the SW tip of Western Australia for 10 days.
We walked off the ship in the dock in Fremantle, Perth and headed for the closest hostel. Remember this is the first time travelling alone overseas for either of us!! We had so much gear that we could hardly move and decided one of us would search for the hostel and the other look after the gear.
Eventually we dragged ourselves to the YHA and made ourselves comfortable. In the bathroom there was a guy with no shirt on who declared that “this is what you will look like tomorrow” and proceeded to show us his back covered in red bites. The hostel had BED BUGS!!!
We escaped the bed bugs but moved to another hostel the next night. This one had NO LIGHT in our room!! At least our intro to backpacking was interesting!!
We left 90% of our gear at my Mum’s cousin’s house, got a Wicked Camper for 7 days and headed south.
Our Wicked campervan
There are so many cool places south of Perth. Many small isolated beaches that have great surf or swimming of some kind. The water is warm so you can stay in as long as you want. Different to New Zealand where you need a wetsuit. We camped every night in the van wherever we ended up and just had a great relaxing full time. Just what you need after working 12 hours every day for 2 months straight!
Dylan headed back to Canada and I stayed on and visited lots of Mum’s side of the family who live in Perth.
At the Pinnacles north of Perth
After a few weeks I was getting itchy feet and the $4 an hour I earned in Antarctica wasn’t going to keep me going for long so I started to look for work. Minimum wage in Australia is very high ($18/hour) so it’s a great place to work. I ended up getting an interview for a face-to-face fundraising job, collecting ongoing support for The Australian Red Cross and Med sins Sans Frontiers. In other words talking people into giving up their credit card details and giving $40 a month. Not an easy task but loads of fun. I trained for 2 weeks in Perth in various shopping centres and every day I was able to get sign ups! For one sign up I would receive $120 so if you could get 2-3 a day it was good money! On average I could earn about $A1000 a week and could easily save half of that while having an amazing time. After 2 weeks my group flew to Brisbane and headed on a “road trip” into North Queensland fundraising in some of the remote mining towns where people earn well over $100,000 a year and are looking for ways to spend it! The team consisted of 3 kiwis, 2 Aussies, 2 English, 2 Germans, a Canadian, an Irish, Dutch and a couple of others. All young backpackers so needless to say we had loads of fun. Sometimes we worked in shopping centres in the air-conditioning but if we were unlucky we would have to work outside in the blistering 30-40 degree heat door-knocking. Some days this could be very lucrative but not much fun when you’re dripping with sweat asking for money off people. Some people wouldn’t give money but instead they would invite you in for a cold, lifesaving drink! Australians in general are lovely people but when you are advertising charities it can bring the best and worst out in people. It was normal to be sworn at, doors slammed in your face, rude comments thrown at you. One person rang up and reported me even though I was working with a legitimate company; another lady informed my co-worker that rather than helping the starving kids in Africa, “we should just sterilize them all.”
On doors in the blistering 35 degree humid heat of NE Queensland
Saskia and Jonathan
Eventually after a couple of months we ended up in Townsville where on our weekends we would go out to Magnetic Island just off the coast and on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. We even went snorkelling once! What a disappointment…..we could see about 1m in front of us in the cloudy water and after I met a stingray at close range I returned to shore!
After two and a half months of talking to people all-day-every-day I was getting burnt out. It had been a lot of fun and a great way to save money. I left with AUD$6000 in my bank and when I changed it to NZD it magically turned into NZD$7000! This went on to pay for 6 months backpacking around Europe later in the year. A great lesson on saving money…work hard in a country with high wages and you can travel at least twice as long in a cheaper country.
On my last night in Australia I received an email from Uli the general manager of Porters Ski Field offering me my dream job, a position on the Porters ski patrol for the up-coming ski season!! My Australian chapter, full of great memories and loads of fun people, closed behind me and I headed for the ski slopes of Canterbury, New Zealand.
A big thank you to all the people who looked after me in Australia, especially Mum’s extended family in Perth and Grandad on the Sunshine Coast!! Thank you!