So it’s 6.25pm in Cairns, its about 26 degrees out and the sun has just set over the mountainous rainforest. I’m sitting out by the esplanade, the bats are swooping and the sky and clouds have that redish-orange tinge that you get no-where else in the world. Yep, it’s your typical Australian, northern Queensland sun set.
Though sitting here and enjoying this has actually been a rare break for me in what has been one of my toughest weeks in Australia. Tomorrow it will be 2 weeks since I’d arrived in Cairns, and 2 very contrasting weeks I’ve had.
The first week was a week of partying, amazing trips and tours and my last week with my travel companion Georgia. We kicked off the week with the Cairns ‘Ultimate Party Bus’ with our friend Becca. This somehow resulted in me busting out some insane breaking-dancing moves to almost 100 people, that got me recognition from strangers for days to come. I felt like a celebrity. Though some have ridiculously suggested the recognition may be based upon how shocking my dancing skills were- ridiculous.
It was one of the best weeks I’ve had in Australia. I saw some amazing sights that I could see no where else in the world, some unbelievable tropical rainforest, some beautiful waterfalls, including the infamous falls where Peter Andre shot one of his many, many worldwide hits. As you’ll undoubtedly be at a loss as to which song I’m referring to I’ll help you out-‘Mysterious Girl’.
I certainly can’t spot any difference.
I also did a reef tour and a trip to Green Island with Georgia. Unfortunately, the conditions weren’t the best out, but we still got to see some pretty fish and coral. And if nothing else I got to see Georgia frantically pant about and flail as if her life was on the line down to the shark infested waters. But hey, we both came out alive; devoid of any wounds from shark attacks, sting rays, jellyfish or blue ringed octopus.
It was also nice as we got to meet up with our friend Becca, who was finishing up the east coast in Cairns before flying home. The three of us got to enjoy some quality time; reminiscing of drunken shenanigans back in Sydney and planning out the raves we’re going to have in the summer back in the UK. On top of this I had a top bunch of roommates, who filled me up with goon on a regular basis.
Last Sunday that all came grinding to a halt. Georgia departed for Airlee Beach that morning and Becca flew to Sydney to catch her flight back to Heathrow later in the day. My party loving room mates had all moved on to pastures new. For the first time in my travels since that first week in Sydney, I was a lone- really a lone- 14,000 miles from the people and places I loved. 14,000 miles from Bexley, the Furze Wren, the village caf, my severely obese cat, my dear borderline-alcoholic friends, my little black cat, my loving family and dare I say it, even that sticky club in the dregs of Dirtford, Zens.
Though I’d never forgotten about these people and places over my travels they were never as prominent in my mind as they were at this stage. I could just see myself walking into the caf, Naz serving up my usual, sitting down and having a heated debate with Joe and Jake about the weekend’s football over a village breakfast, the smell of brown sauce tickling my taste buds. Anxiety kicked in and I began to feel homesick in a way I’d never felt homesick before. Well I suppose I’ve never spent 4 months away from before.
But as much as I missed I thought to myself ‘I’m not ready to go home yet, I still have unfinished business in Australia, and now will be the making of me. It’s time to start proving your cut out for the real world.’ I had been looking for jobs in Melbourne, but at the same time I’d had a group of friends a round so I perhaps didn’t give it the focus and attention that I should’ve done. Not to say I didn’t try but I think I just went the wrong way about it, which is why I landed shitty sales jobs. But I wasn’t going to make the same mistake in Cairns.
I was really divided as to what route I should take, would my work prospects be better in Brisbane? How much will it cost me to get to Brisbane? How much money do I have left? However I’ve learnt the grass always seems greener on the other side, but often it isn’t. Plus financially it made no sense to go down the coast and then back up. Would be an extra $300 I don’t have. So my conclusion was to give Cairns a real go, and that’s exactly what I did.
Day and night I trawled through gumtree, seek, the backpackersjobboard looking for work. I spoke to a few places but no one ever got back to me. Yellow pages was the next step, ringing up every, bar, café and restaurant in town. I ran round rifling CV’s into every place I could. It was tiring, it was demoralising and every lead seemed to wither away into nothing, as much as I pestered. Until on Saturday a string of hope came my way- a trial shift.
So I sweated and toiled in the bars kitchen for 2-3 hours (as the bar only hired girls) thinking that I’d proven my worth to my potential employers. The atmosphere was friendly and I felt as though I’d got the position. I was completely wrong as it is now Monday night and they have not yet called me.
So now I’m left in Cairns, no money, no job and very few friends. So I figured now is the time to do something completely ridiculous, but something memorable- that would send me out on a high in one last blaze of glory before if it does actually come to arriving home a tad earlier than anticipate.
My first thoughts are taking up John the circus coordinators offer to join his small Australian circus (this is deadly serious- I was offered a position in the circus). John seemed keen for me to join his team and tour the outback in a caravan with him, a guy called Dave and 4 illegal monkeys. He asked if I could ride a unicycle and assured me that even though I couldn’t it’s not a problem as I could learn. After taking my measurements for a clown costume I thought, well it’s not exactly what I’d like, but it’s different. Until I heard the story of the previous employee who’s mum drove up to collect him from the outback and tried to free the monkeys in national parks. It now seemed more likely to be a paedophile rouse than anything else. But still in my position, I can’t be fussy.
Other than that, there’s doing a skydive, which could be fun. I would be absolutely terrified but I guess that’s half the appeal- and I can do it right here in Cairns. Then there’s moping around, drinking and feeling sorry for myself- always an option worth exploring.
Either way now is make or break time. It wasn’t always going to be a stroll in the park. In hindsight I was perhaps a little naive in my first 2 months. But regardless, the real down to it stuff has really kicked in.
I feel like in Australia I seem to be so distant from the rest of the world’s problems. Whilst in Sydney, I had been completely out of touch with a lot of the news plaguing the BBC and other international news stations.
This was made abundantly clear to me when I found out about the world supposedly being on the brink of nuclear war through the inevitable onslaught of facebook statuses. I thought to myself ‘wow I’m out of touch’. I need to read into this situation. Well I have found, combining what knowledge I have of Cold War history and articles I have read, that I’m probably in a small minority of people who think the North Koreans are being a little hard done by.
Now I’m not denying that things are a little backwards in the North. The poverty, and cult like society that takes place in the country is a scary prospect- as demonstrated in BBC’s highly controversial panorama. The way the Kim’s have propelled themselves to God like status in the North through manipulation and totalitarian control over the people of Korea is somewhat repugnant. And if that’s not enough for you to prove people are a little coo-coo in Korea just watch Team America.
But what is slightly unfair is the way North Korea are being portrayed by the Americans and the BBC as the sole aggressor in this situation, when in fact a country so small, isolated and scarce of allies has every reason to be frightened and intimated by the US, who, post World War 2 have arguably been one of the worlds more aggressive nations. It is worth remembering the only country to ever have utilised nuclear weaponry are the USA.
So taking into account America and the UN’s harsh criticism of the regime (despite the majority of it being legitimate), the US’s aggression towards socialist states and it’s tendency to flex it’s military muscle at any given opportunity, the North Korean’s might get a little bit edgy when year upon year the US runs military drills with the South right on their borders. Rumour has it these drills are actually simulating an invasion of North Korea (something which I’m sure would not come as a surprise to a lot of people).
So if you’re little ‘communist’ (I use the term loosely) North Korea, riddled with the paranoia that so often comes with totalitarian regimes then what are you going to do. To the North Koreans their nuclear program is the only thing preventing a US invasion. So when the UN come a long and say ‘hold up mate, I don’t think so,’ you’re going to feel pretty pissed off.
North Korea in this situation are comparable to that creepy loner kid in school, who gets repeatedly bullied and ridiculed year after year by his class mates until one day he looses his nut and threatens to stab someone with a freshly sharpened pencil.
The freshly sharpened pencil is this scenario represents the North Korean rhetoric. They’re unlikely to fire a nuclear warhead, this was further consolidated by BBC’s panaroma demonstrating the lack of warheads ready for action on the Korean peninsular. But even if they did they know as well as anyone that they do not have the capacity to reach the US mainland. Kim the 3rd is probably trying to rile domestic support as well showing the UN they are not pushovers, despite the fact they obviously lack the capability to carry out their threats.
But I wonder would North Korea have felt the need to pursue a nuclear program with the absence of American presence in South Korea? I doubt it. If the American’s had withdrawn from the South as the Soviet’s did the North following the Korean War in the 1950’s, North Korea would not feel the need to be so aggressive (or as they see it defensive).
The North is seeking a peace treaty, an end to the Korean War; not the armistice that currently stands. However, one of the conditions for the north is re-unification, but they are happy to abide by one-nation two systems. The US are seeking for the North to embrace capitalism. However, I wonder were the two allowed to re-united, the North might gradually follow in the route of fellow communist state and only remaining ally China. Over time exposure to the global markets would make it a more prosperous country, inevitably incorporating elements of capitalism, but still remaining a socialist state. With more international exposure it may also release the country from the tight grip of the Kim family.
By leaving the DPRK so secluded it only enhances the powers and the deity like status of the Kim’s.
But why then is no agreement struck? Well another condition of the North Korean’s for a peace treaty is that the Americans leave South Korea- something they are extremely reluctant to do. Why will they not withdraw from the South as the USSR did the North?
It is evidently somewhere they are not ready to leave happily. South Korea are the US’s military base in Southeast Asia and by withdrawing, they clearly feel they would relinquish any sort of influence over the area. Russia are not quite the force or threat to the West they once were (though still highly influential), but with the prospect of an emerging Chinese superpower America may be keen to retain their position in the southeast. Is North Korea a convenient excuse to remain there?
With the current crisis, and the erratic hissy fits being thrown by Kim the 3rd, North Korea could now be perceived as a genuine threat. The US will feel they have a genuine reason to be there as they now provide a threat to the US (if not realistically the US mainland, their military bases) and their allies. But I suspect, the US’s persistent presence in the South and insistence on carrying out it’s annual military games have been highly antagonistic. In the absence of these factors the confrontation would never have arisen or would be far easier to diffuse.
Now, don’t get me wrong- I am in no way endorsing the disgusting regime run by the Kim’s or the oppression of the North Korean people. I am not trying to suggest that Kim the 3rd is by any means a rational man or a victim. He is behaving like a sexually frustrated, teenage boy who’s been up all night playing ‘Age of Empires’. But when all considered, the international community has not necessarily always had North Korea’s best interests at heart, and has perhaps turned a blind eye to what might be considered antagonistic behaviour the US and the west.
I take a keen interest in Cold War history and international politics but by no means am I an expert, so please if any of my information is inaccurate, I have left out an important factor influencing the situation or you have any criticisms of my hypothesis, then please correct me or criticise by leaving a comment. But from the information I have obtained the label being portrayed by western media as ‘North Korea- sole aggressor’ is inaccurate and unfair label given that historical events have meant the confrontation was always inevitable- it was just a matter of when.
One of the first things we did in Melbourne was attend Future Music Festival. With 3 bands to tick off my musical bucket list, Bloc Party, Stone Roses and Prodigy, not to mention the one and only liquorice bitch, Azelia Banks, I was buzzing for this musical medley.
However part of me was slightly cautious after some of the troubles with Big Day Out back in Sydney. At Big Day Out there had been people passing out from the heat, generally looking lethargic all day and spending horrendous amounts of money. I knew it was of the utmost importance I did the responsible thing and get absolutely trollied before the festival, to avoid being financially crippled and potentially even sober.
Georgia and myself, along with 2 French girls we befriended at Oslo set off for Future Music. However finding a festival in a big city you’ve only just arrived in when you’re all moderately to insanely trashed is a big ask.
An hour and a half later there was an air of solemnity shrouding our day. We were still no closer to finding the festival and to capitulate our misery we had missed the vast majority of Ellie Goulding.
But there was a light at the end of the tunnel; upon getting on to yet another tram a sound hit my ear, a familiar sound I had not heard in a long time. Yes, it was the sound of English festival goers, equipped with many a can of beer and bags of goon, chanting in that oh so English football fan style we’re all familiar with. We knew there was only one place they were heading. We followed them to the festival and even managed to make it in time for ‘Starry Eyes’.
So after this it was the moment we’d all been waiting for, Azelia Banks time. Well what can I say with regards to Azelia? She was… shockingly bad. The entire gig she just paced the stage, looking rather ghetto, singing what I can only presume is the mega extended version of 212. However whilst she was shit, the gig itself wasn’t. Everyone still appreciated the fact Azelia Banks, the liquorice bitch, was a legend and got on with drunkenly stumbling about to her spin on the Harlem shake.
So anyone who’s been to a festival with me will know that I’m sometimes difficult to keep track of. At this point I separated and didn’t see any of the girls I came with until I was back at the hostel. I did something for 2 hours, I’m not quite sure what, to hazard a guess drank more or befriended a group of elderly Australian bikers. But either way I managed to find myself at Temper Trap, who were a good show as expected.
Following that Stone Roses and Bloc Party blew me away. I wasn’t even fussed that I was on my own and beginning to sober up. So here I’ve tried to upload some videos took, hopefully they work… If not there are some pictures too.
Once the music had finished I befriended a Chillean guy called Mike (I was surprised too) and discussed the mental night we were going to have next week for his birthday (something which never happened) and then managed to make the supposedly half an hour journey back to the hostel take 2 hours. All in all whilst the Australian festival atmosphere doesn’t hold a thing on the British festival atmosphere, musically Future Music was insane; undoubtedly a highlight of Melbourne.
About 7 of us from bar school arrived in Melbourne ready to make the city our oyster. But unfortunately there’s always some reason why every single hostel in Melbourne is booked up and this weekend it was to be because of the Grand Prix. So we ended up in Oslo Hotel, a hostel come hotel in St Kilda, the beach suburb of Melbourne.
As it turns out this was one of the best things that happened to me in Melbourne. Oslo was goon central, with a mass of French and Irish people getting slaughtered on the cheap every day. This proved to be the catalyst to spark budding friendships and awkward inter-lingual holiday romances into full blossom, on the most solid foundations possible, the only real foundations you have as a back packer.
On a separate note, we’d hit Melbourne during a serious heat wave and were conveniently located right on the beach, providing even more opportunities to go moderately pink for a day and not tan in the slightest. Undoubtedly it was one of my favourite beaches I’ve been to, with some beautiful sunsets.
Exactly a month and two days since departing Sydney for the prosperous pastures new of Melbourne my time on Australia’s southern coast flopped to an end.
The plan was to live the Australian dream, put my new found bar skills into practice and instantly find work in one of Melbourne’s stylish and scenic bars. It was all going to be just glorious.
However it didn’t quite work out that way. The problem with Melbourne is that any of the bars that might actually hire backpackers or needed work were so ridiculously hipster and indie that it was just impossible to find any of them. Because it was either ‘a cool little place just on the rooftop of the old Chinese museum’ or ‘downstairs in the cellar of the central library’, ‘in the backyard of this shut down Thai restaurant’ or a million miles up your own arse. You catch my drift, they were difficult to find.
Resultantly my Australian dream became door to door knocking in expensive suburbs giving away to free energy saving plugs, to people who mainly thought I was going to rob them of their hard earned possession or sexually assault their loved ones (a-side from one Kosovan couple who were actively trying to set me up with their daughter and adopt me into the family).
So as you can imagine that didn’t last too long. After a couple of failed interviews in other sales positions, job prospects in Melbourne were looking bleak and many of the people who I arrived in Melbourne with were already scattering off to different parts of the country or planning their departures.
Despite disappointment on the job front, my time in Melbourne was actually not as bad as I’m making out.
Unfortunately because of severely depleted finances, the nights I had in Melbourne were not as wild as some I had in Sydney, but overall as a city Melbourne kicks Sydney’s arse every day.
There’s always some sort of free festival going on. There’s a lot of culture, a lot of cool bars (despite them being horrifically difficult to locate), beautiful architecture and just a generally friendlier and more homely vibe than Sydney.
You might be questioning what I actually did in Melbourne other than bum about and sell plugs. Well the answer is not as much as you might think. I just didn’t have the money to. But I’ll quickly some of up a few of the highlights, because there were some good times. It might take a long time to read them all so have a click on whatever you find interesting.
St Kilda- https://obc1993.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/st-kilda/
Future Music Festival- https://obc1993.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/future-music-festival/
Next Level Incompetence (Uncensored)- coming soon….
Great Ocean Road + Phillip Island- coming soon….