Travel Talk

Drinking to keep warm in Melbourne

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Melbourne, Australia: We are cold and broke and I go on my first date EVER

We fly from Alice Springs and arrive in Melbourne on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon. Kirsten, whom I met in Sihanoukville last year, is so nice to pick us up and drop us off at Metro YHA, before we head out with her for a few beers. She leaves around 6 to meet a friend in town, while we stay at the bar and eat dinner and get drunk. I even manage to get lost trying to find the toilet. We get back to the room, which is full of guys, surprise, surprise. A hippie with dreadlocks from Byron Bay and a cocky English lad keep us up, talking to us until we pretend to be asleep.

The next day, we walk into town to find an H&M and a Topshop, and I end up embarrassing myself at the counter, when I try to pay $50 for a scarf and a cardigan, and none of my cards have sufficient funds, and my Danish internet bank is closed. I end up paying half in cash and the rest by card, while I have to wait another week for money to arrive in my Australian account. The walk and the shopping has exhausted us, so we don’t get a chance to see much else. We watch NSW play against Queensland in a State of Origin game and have some beers. In the evening, we sit around in the common area and watch a State of Origin rugby match, and I sit on Tinder and write creepy pickup lines to people as well, just for fun. I match a guy named Pat, who invites me out for drinks. The guys in our room decide to talk again in the middle of the night, when Byron Bay Hippie comes into the room at 1 AM, packing all his stuff. He gets up around 6 in the morning to pack again and then leaves for the day.

When we get up, we walk into town again. I have decided we need to see Federation Square, because we are tourists, after all.

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We’ve ended up booking tickets for The Lion King – The Musical, so we also walk around trying to find Regent Theatre for later. We buy ourselves some flasks to bring with us in case we go out one day. We have no money whatsoever. Back at the hostel, I have a quick nap and then dinner and beers before we walk to Regent Theatre, which is absolutely packed. We have seats pretty much as far away from the stage as possible – that’s what you get for $50 – but the show is absolutely amazing! It’s beautiful, sad, funny and super nostalgic. We are completely hyped and exhausted at the same time on our walk home. Of course, our roommates repeat their success of waking us up in the middle of the night once again.

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Friday we are “forced” to the roof top of our hostel to join a charity tea party. The theme is Alice in Wonderland, of course, and Johnny Depp doesn’t join us. We drink tea and eat a shit ton of cupcakes and cookies, and talk to cool people.

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Later, Sharon is meeting up with Ciara, a girl from home, and I’m meeting up with Kirsten. Craig tags along with me, and we take a tram around 6 in the evening and go to Randy Dragon for beer with Kirsten and her colleagues. One by one they all disappear, and Kirsten decides we should go to the casino. I didn’t even know there was a casino, but apparently it’s a very Melbourne-y experience. Sharon meets us at the casino, and we visit a few bars before heading upstairs to a club. After a couple of cocktails and shots, Kirsten and I are told by security that we are being too rowdy, and that they’ll be watching us. This is a first for me, being told I am rowdy because I am dancing? And it’s a bad thing? Come on.

In my drunken state, I decide to agree to meet Pat for drinks the following day. I very much regret that decision all of Saturday, while I am in bed, only getting up for breakfast and dinner. Oh, and we also change hostel, so we have to pack our stuff, drag it through town and check into YHA Central. Eventually, I get up and fix myself before walking 2 km in the rain to Asian Beer Café. What Google Maps fails to mention is that it is located in a mall, not on the street like I expected. As I have been panicking the whole walk there, I have been calling all my friends (who didn’t pick up, thanks guys), so I am talking to Craig and Sharon who look it up for me. I walk every floor of the mall, but can’t find it, so I give up and call Pat, who comes to get me.

We have beers and talk, and of course I am being inappropriate, constantly sharing stories like the one about getting groped in India. I don’t really care that much about being weird, and he doesn’t seem to mind. He does however introduce me to one of his friends, and we walk around and visit a few bars that none of them really want to stay at. The bottle shops are closed, so their plan B, which is having a drink with Sharon and Craig in our room, is a no-go. His friend eventually leaves, and I’m not tired, so we go to the casino (again!) and play Black Jack and have drinks. While Pat gets us a round, a guy at the table next to ours is talking to me, and asking me to take pictures of him. I have a laugh and Pat comes back, and we continue drinking. It doesn’t feel very date-y, and I guess we’re just really good drinking buddies, so eventually we say goodbye, and at around 3.30 AM I am finally in bed, so drunk that I don’t even bother putting on my PJs.

While I die a little bit all day on Sunday, we arrange to meet up with Zakk from The Pink Palace later that day. I don’t hear from Pat again, so we decide he’s a cunt. My friends don’t make it easier, either not caring about the fact that I just went on my first date EVER, or by suggesting that perhaps I am too fat or unattractive. I solve my problem by buying some goon which I decide to force into my system, resulting in me getting very tipsy from just one cup. That’s right, we’re still drinking boxed wine out of coffee mugs. Zakk, who’s wearing his Pink Palace T-shirt, shows us some funny videos on YouTube and eventually, he leaves while Sharon is passed out on the floor and Craig and I snoring loudly in our beds.

We repeat the success the following day, when Zakk takes us out of the central area for burgers and drinks. At this point, I am exhausted. I have been drinking way too much for too many days, so I have a cider and then I’m ready to go home.

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At this point, it’s officially winter in Australia. It’s raining and the temperature is around 9 degrees. It’s extremely cold when you don’t have a jacket. I am bundled up in my hoodie and cardigan, a scarf and my Brisbane Lions beanie, and I’m still freezing. Funny, you would think I’d be used to the cold, hey? It’s a bit different all the way over here, though.

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Our room, a 4-bed dorm with just the three of us living in it, is badly isolated, so the cold seeps through the windows. We have a radiator that we have to turn on every two hours, so we decide to just spend our last days in Melbourne, bundled up in blankets in our heated room, eating popcorn and watching movies.

Melbourne is a pretty cool place, but Sydney still has a special place in my heart. Now we are off to Mildura for our three months of farmwork!

The search for Uluru and the death of Rosie

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Townsville, Cloncurry, Middle of nowhere, Australia: Trying to get to a rock we apparently can’t pronounce the name of. And failing.

That big, red rock in the middle of nowhere in Australia? I’ve always wanted to see it in person. For us, it means we have to drive back to Townville, before moving inlands. Since we have a late start because of the mechanic, we only do the around 4-hour drive to Townsville that day and stay at Town and Country Caravan Park in Townsville for the night. We end up chatting up a local camper who seems a bit too keen to smoke weed with us, so we go for a stroll into town for some drinks. We end up at an Irish pub for a couple of hours and drinks before heading back.

The next day we head inland on a 9-hour long trip, making a stop in Hughenden, then arriving in Cloncurry around 8 in the evening. We stay at Cloncurry Park Oasis, and decide to head to a bar and grill across the road for snacks and a few drinks. We sit there until closing time, talking to a nice Dutch girl tending the bar. She gives us chocolate and tries to convince us to buy desserts (oh, the luxury), and suddenly it’s time to go back to the van.

Next day, we reach the border and head into Northern Territory. We come up with a game where we wave at every backpacker van we see, but at this point, we wave at everyone, since cars are a somewhat rare sight around here. We are around 140 km past Soudan, when Rosie starts to shake and then breaks down. We are parked at the side of the road, 100 km from the next town. There are several holes in the engine, leaking oil everywhere. Princess Rosie is dead. Two cars with a group of brothers heading out on a fishing trip stop and look at the car, get our details and promise to phone someone, so Rosie can get towed – we have no cellphone service in the Outback. They feel sorry for us, and treats us to TWO BOTTLES OF WHITE WINE, and then, because the wine isn’t cold, they give us a cold beer each, and then pour some of their ice in our cooler and put the wines in there. We start drinking it right away, getting drunk under the harsh sun, watching the occasional car pass us every half hour or so. We pass the time taking some pictures, of course.

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The bush flies are everywhere and beyond aggressive, so we huddle up on the front seat and put on some stand-up videos on my laptop. We realise that there’s no fixing Rosie, that she’s really dead. We mourn her by taking a few pictures to remember her by.

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Sharon enjoying one of our free, cold, beer

And of course, I was bored, so I also did this:

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We then have some canned soup for dinner, while watching the incredible sunset and worrying about attracting wildlife. We go to bed at 7 o’clock.

Next day, Craig hitchhikes into nearest town, Barkley, and arrives 4 hours later in a car with an older local, Tony. He drives us to the only motel in Barkley, where we have to stay for two nights until we can catch the next bus to the nearest city, Tennant Creek. The owner is so nice to give us a discount, 1/3 off the price a night. We stay in a 3 bed room with AC, a fridge, TV and a nice shower. We are the luckiest unlucky bastards ever!

Cairns

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Cairns, Australia: Last stop on our coast tour!

We pull up to Cairns Holiday Park and spend the night with a bit of goon. The next day, we take the 30-40 minute walk on the Esplanade into town, and find Calypso Café for breakfast. Their iced mocha is to die for!

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After a bit of exploring, we go to Woolies and stock up on a few things. We have goon, as usual, and then we fall asleep.

The next day, the guys go skydiving – we decide to go drink. It is our friend Devon’s birthday, after all. We go to Calypso Café for a great breakfast and coffee first, then we go shopping for a bit, and then we end up at a bar on the Esplanade. The guys eventually join us, and by then we’re beyond tipsy. We’ve made friends with the only male bartender, Dane, since he makes the strongest drinks, and we stuff our faces with $ 18 nachos and equally expensive buffalo wings. Eventually, we go back to the campsite, where we keep the drinks coming.

The next day, we go for breakfast at the same place yet again, and then go next door for day drinking. I really love day drinking. We book a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef the next day with Reef Daytripper, so we head to bed quite early.

We get on a nice boat with a bunch of very boring couples and sail for around 2 hours before we reach Upolu Reef. We jump in, and within minutes, we have found a white tip reef shark! The waves are hitting us hard and knocks us back, so we get quite the workout swimming around, seeing bright blue starfish, clownfish and other colorful species, when we stumble upon the day’s first sea turtle. We follow it for what seems like ages, before we get back on the boat for lunch, and then we sail for a little while to snorkel a different area of the reef. Here, we find even more turtles.

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On the way back, we aren’t feeling too great, but we are offered a GLASS of goon, cheeses and fruits. The day can’t possibly get any better, can it?

We have been talking about going to Nandos for ages, since I have never tried it before – and Cairns happens to have one. We go get ourselves some delicious chicken, although I am being a bit moody, since my fries are way spicier than I though. I don’t do spicy food very well, which I like to remind everyone of. We walk home in the rain, and I am too exhausted to even consider goon. I try to read my shitty crime/horror/romance/erotica novel about cowboys and naïve blondes (why do I even bother sometimes?), but I can’t process the words. Craig reads aloud a chapter of the book he’s currently reading, The Rosie Effect, which is the follow-up to The Rosie Project, that I previously read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve said this before, I’ve swallowed books over the past weeks. I think I am up to 5 books since we left Brisbane. While I appreciate Craig’s fatherly gesture, I quickly fall asleep, unable to make sense of the English language anymore.

The next day, we have our last iced coffee at Calypso, and we decide to pick up a few things at Target. It quickly turns into a full-on shopping spree. Several hours and dollars later, Sharon, Craig and I jump into Rosie and drive back to the camp site, waiting for the onsite mechanic to fix her up before her big trip to Uluru. He hasn’t received all the parts he ordered, so we wait until the day after, which is our check-out day. He is late, as expected, so we go to Woolies to pick up 30 litres of water, 3 kilos of pasta and several cans of soup. We’re ready to go.