Humidity, Homesickness and more Homesickness

25th March

Brisbane is hot and humid. I’m craving a run but I’m also too tired and headachy. Did I mention that I’ve just done an 18 hour bus journey from Sydney? I feel both foolish and accomplished.

My hostel is like an oven.

Pack in the complaining, Liv. You’re supposed to be having the time of your life. Let’s try to see the positives… Ah, my room has air con!

Air con doesn’t work.

Let’s buy some nice food to cheer you up!

It’s Good Friday. Practically everything is shut.

I decide to explore Southbank. It feels similar to London which is nice. The botanical gardens are nice too. Apologies for using the rubbish word ‘nice’ two times in a row, but I’m not very happy right now. I’m feeling lonely. Travelling is amazing because you meet so many people and you become close very quickly… But everyone is on the move, so before you know it, you say goodbye. You then have to be all upbeat and friendly to try and make new friends, but knowing it will only be temporary. It’s emotionally exhausting. Right now, I want to go home. Correction, I want to BE home. I don’t want to just pack it all in.

Whilst alone in the anti-social hostel, the TV grabs my attention. It’s the Antiques Roadshow theme tune! Hi Fiona Bruce!!!! I smile, as it reminds me of home.

Before I know it, some rude German girl storms over and changes the channel. Rudely interrupting Fiona explaining the history of a duck-egg-blue vase. “What is this crap.” She says.

Back to sulking into my pasta…

***

Next day, I meet a lovely girl – Sarah, who is on the bus with me to Noosa. She praises me for lasting this long without feeling my first wave of homesickness. She convinces me of how normal it is, which makes me feel a bit better.

***

27th March

Happy Easter! Noosa has the potential to be gorgeous. But it is jam-packed with it being the Easter weekend. It is also very grey and rainy. What a shame.

I had breakfast with an Italian guy. He is surprised that I am English. “You are too small to be English.” (I’m not sure what that means). He also said, “you look too sophisticated to be English.” I’ll take that, good sir!

Things turned weird when we were washing up. “Can I try something?” He said. The way he looked at me, I genuinely thought he was going to kiss me. Oh good God, no. How cringe. Please no.

Instead he said: “your legs are so muscly. Can I touch them?”

In shock, trying to find an appropriate response, there he was, poking my thigh and laughing, saying “wow! Cool!”

***

The horrid weather is frustrating me and encouraging the homesickness again. The family day, Easter Sunday was a difficult day.

***

28th March

Feeling more positive. The sun has finally come out. What’s more, I’m a very lucky girl and going to Fraser Island tomorrow. Let’s do this!

City Life, Beach Life, Bus Life

20th March

Connie and I ventured into the city centre together. We went in one of Melbourne’s many adorable coffee shops to have a delicious beverage and a muffin, before saying goodbye. Never will I forget the time I worked with such a hilarious, energetic, strong girl who has helped me to have the time of my life.

I spent the rest of the day cruising around coffee shops and catching up on diary writing. Also mentally preparing myself for the 12 hour bus journey to Sydney.

Yes, you read that correctly. TWELVE.

As my Dad would say it’s character building: All part of being British and growing up.

***

I slept most of the way but it was a very disturbed, light sleep – constantly waking up with uncomfortable aches and pains. Some rat of a man behind me had his stinking feet poking through to my seat, so I did loads of short, sharp reclines to tell him to sod off. Before I knew it, we had arrived.

Arrived in central Sydney before 6am. It was dark and weeing it down with rain. Luckily, I found my hostel pretty quickly but you couldn’t check in until 1pm. LONG.

That evening I went for a jog and stumbled across the opera house and harbour bridge. How surreal.

***

Second morning in Sydney was still cloudy but not raining. I took the bus to Bondi beach and from there did the beautiful Bondi to Coogee coastal walk (but I ran it. Classic). It felt very cool to be on Bondi, but I going to be honest with you: it’s just a beach. Bondi itself, in my opinion, is not memorable at all.

I was going to spend the afternoon checking out Darling Harbour. I’m basically there but will come again on Thursday when the weather is better. It’s chucking it down with rain, so I’m in a cafe enjoying a Nutella hot chocolate.

***

I really get on with two guys in my dorm – Dirk from Germany and Marvin from Switzerland. Today the three amigos will catch the ferry to Manly beach! It’s a very cool 30 min boat ride, seeing the opera house and harbour bridge fade into the distance. Our day consisted of ice creams, falling asleep on the beach, and then accidentally leaving Dirk behind! Good job the ferry runs every 30 minutes! Marvin and I took a long walk back, climbing trees on the way. I felt like a 7 year old. It was great. Then Marvin slipped and grazed his arm pretty badly. It was conveniently on his bicep so he kept showing me and tensing his muscles. He makes me laugh. Such a boy.

Guess what I’m up to tomorrow? Taking an 18 hour bus journey to Brisbane (EIGHTEEN, not a typo). Can’t wait.

Car Crash, Crying and Chicken Nuggets with Satay Sauce on Toast

16th – 20th March

It feels great to be in a routine now. Travelling is ace because it encourages the unexpected. But having a job gives you purpose, and that’s pretty rewarding too. The jobs that MUST be done everyday are the morning feeds, morning medications, hay, poo pick yards, evening feeds, evening medications. To give you an idea of how long this takes, with one person (going like the clappers) it would be 6am – 6pm with 1 hour for lunch. May I remind you again that there are 110 horses. However, with two of us, we end up with a couple of hours spare to do other jobs / have a ride.

Connie rode Fabio and my baby RJ today. I have fallen in love with RJ. He was almost sold as horse meat, but Shelia rescued him from the sales. He has the sweetest nature I have ever known. Kind brown eyes with a glowing bay coat – he reminds me of my old pony, Maisie, which in turn, makes me think fondly of home in North Yorkshire.

I want to buy RJ so badly. I genuinely researched how much it costs to transport a horse from Australia to UK.

Up to $30,000. Maybe not.

***

It had been a hard day. Our backs were sore and our heads were tired from the sun. We finished late but then drove into town to do some grocery shopping, buying lots of nice food and looking forward to cooking up a storm in our cute cottage kitchen. After the day we had had, we were starving so very ready to get back. Oh wait. Who do we see in the supermarket car park? Shelia.

Shelia had been out all afternoon getting the horse trailer fixed. On her way back to the farm she crashed the car, wrapping the trailer around a post at McDonalds making it impossible to drive. She asks us to give her a lift. She wants to get a big hammer from the house to then have us drive her back to the trailer to try and fix it herself. Oh Shelia. “First let me just pop into the $2 store and see if they will sell me a hammer.” You’re kidding right!? Shelia was not kidding.

Surprise, surprise, the $2 store did not sell any equipment worthy of fixing a car crash.

After watching Shelia use her own brute force (her foot) to try and fix the dents, she eventually let us drive her home. We then felt pretty sorry for her. “This is the worst day of my life” she moped. “What else could go wrong!?”

Within seconds of her saying those words, Connie and I smelt smoke and struggled to contain our laughter. The timing would just be too hysterical. Turns out, the air con makes the car overheat (of course it does), so flicking it off soon sorted out the nasty BBQ stench.

Defeated, Shelia eventually called it a day. We finally started our dinner at almost 9pm. What a day!

***

I can’t work out Shelia. Sometimes she is so predicable – for example, it’s a classic Shelia thing to think she can fix a car with something from the $2 store. And it’s classic Shelia to have leopard print wellies and have lipsticks and mascaras amongst the head collars in the back of the truck. However, she can also really take you by surprise. She is very, very involved in the farm and really gets her hands dirty. Even though she’s scared of most of the horses, you’ll see her working all day, fixing fences etc. I have no idea how her false nails stay on. Also, even though she’s a little crazy and I’ve never met anyone quite like her, I respect her a lot. She’s an extremely independent, kind hearted woman.

***

Sweet Shelia gives us wooly hats, fluffy socks and big rain coats on the day of the storm. Who’d have thought it was 32 degrees yesterday! Today our toes are numb and our lips are blue. Before Shelia came to the rescue with winter clothing, we were in our summer gear and trainers. Torrential rain all night meant the fields were a bog. We were cold and miserable but moods were soon lifted when Connie dramatically slips under the Ute when trying to get in. I swear I pulled a muscle from laughing so much.

Laughter continues when the Ute gets stuck going up a hill. I’m out in the pouring rain, trying to push as black smoke comes from the engine. A good 10 minutes later we’re free and Connie calls out, “oops! The hand break was on!” Sorry Shelia.

***

Last day on the farm – emotions were running high. I can’t believe I cried when I said goodbye to RJ. Nothing else has made me shed a tear this whole trip, but something about saying goodbye to that velvet nose, brown eyed beauty really got to me. We had a really strong bond and he reminds me of home. Perhaps it was also the realisation that this incredible experience with Connie has come to an end? Perhaps they’re happy tears too. I’m having the time of my life and feel incredibly lucky.

Now we can’t end a crazy week without having a crazy last meal. We had run out of food but couldn’t be bothered to go into town. I had baked beans. Twice. Connie had chicken nuggets with satay sauce on toast for lunch and for dinner she had chicken nuggets with satay sauce and a frozen vegetable pasty. The best thing is, we did not buy these bizarre ingredients… We stole them from next-door’s caravan!

Foals, Tarantulas and Having the Time of Our Lives

12th – 15th March

We’re living our 12 year old’s dream. It is SO cool to be working on a stud farm with Connie. Did I mention it was in Australia?

The week here has been mad. This is probably the most difficult post I have had to write so far because so many memorable things have happened I don’t know where to start.

Please check out the last post to read about Shelia and Blair – that’ll give you a bit of a feel for the place.

We’ve hit the jackpot and have our own cottage. Minus the cobwebs and life threatening bugs – it’s really nice and spacious.

Our fist day we saw a tarantula. Lovely.

I have fallen in love with driving the Ute (a big 4×4 pick up truck). I think I was a farmer in another life. Driving around, up and down hills, through mud, Connie on the back throwing out hay – I just couldn’t stop smiling! Best not to mention my hideous efforts at reversing. However, slowly but surely I improved and felt like an absolute boss. Don’t get me started on us both whizzing around on quad bikes doing the morning and evening feed – so much fun and so many giggles.

Giggles stopped when Shelia asked us to help her take photos of foals. God that was long. She’s screechy, doesn’t know what she wants and she’s scared of horses. Connie probably clocked in about 6 miles running up and down the field with them, sweating buckets in the 30 degree heat. Meanwhile, as ordered by Shelia, I shake a gold cheerleading pom pom to get the horses to look up.

Back to the heat… Good lord, the constant heavy lifting in the heat is seriously hard work. Within three days my arm muscles had seriously, noticeably grown. 110 horses poo a lot. That much poo is heavy. They also eat a lot. Their food is heavy. A full days work probably equates to about 3 hours of none stop weight lifting in the gym.

Hard work gets harder when tyres go flat and the whole days work is put on hold so you have to go like superman when we’re back up and running.

Hard days mean early nights watching some DVDs that we found. “Bunnies of the Playboy mansion.” Oh Shelia.

Right now me and Connie look quite the opposite. We stink. My fingernails have never been so disgusting and my sports bra tan line is quite something. Legs are pretty torn up with scratches and bruises.

Alongside the back-breaking daily jobs, we’ve also had a good laugh fixing fences, playing with foals and riding a couple of the horses. Not so much fun when Shelia asks us to move horses that won’t catch. Winston was awful but I eventually caught him. Turns out he liked it when I sung a lullaby (Connie was in hysterics at this point).

Laughter turns to screams when we see the most deadly spider in Australia. We’re about to pick up a really, really heavy feed bin. Sensible Liv comes out to play. “Hang on, Con, I’m just gonna check what’s underneath…” I get on my hands and knees and have a peak. RIGHT where I was about to put my hand to lift the bin was a red back spider. Thank goodness I checked!

We’re alive, we’re stinky and we’re forever laughing. We’re exhausted but don’t want this week to end!

To be continued… (Car crash, Shelia banter and a very, very strange food combination will be coming soon in the next post!)

A Crying Criminal, A Boss with Botox and 110 horses

11th March

So I’ve spontaneously decided to work on a stud farm for a week and a bit with Connie. We venture to the farm (about 50 mins from the centre on the train). Dilemma 1: Connie loses her Myki card (a bit like an Oyster card) and has to purchase a new one.

Dilemma 2: we arrive in the dark, waiting for a lift from Shelia (our boss / owner of the stud). We’re approached by some guy who’s just got out of jail. His name is Blair. He tries to shake my hand and I am reluctant.

“Erm. Hi Blair.”

“Do yous minds if I sits down with yous?”

Me and Connie look at each other and then spot two policemen coming our way.

“Sure.”

Blair then tells us his life story. How he’s just been let out of jail and how the other day he caught his best friend sleeping with his girlfriend in his bed when he returned home. Blair then starts to cry.

“Is this man bothering you girls?” One of the policemen asks. Before we can answer, Blair gets in a strop and starts swearing at the policemen left, right and centre. The policemen take him away.

5 minutes later he shimmies around the corner. “Yay, I didn’t get arrested!” (Those were his actual words).

Finally, Shelia arrives. We’re safely in the car. Connie had warned me about Shelia and I thought she might have been exaggerating. She wasn’t. Let me paint a very realistic picture for you… Shelia is in her mid sixties. Head to toe plastic surgery – Botox, fat lips, huge boobs, false eyelashes, false nails, false bleach blonde hair. She has a screechy Australian accent and uses intonation in all the wrong places. She seems nice though…

Word on the street is, she used to have a drug addiction. Successful, millionaire Daddy helped her out by buying her a couple of horses, to give her something to focus on. 30 years later her addictive personality has turned to breeding foals. 110 horses later and, here we are. All her staff have quit. So, present day: me, Connie and 110 horses. I can’t wait for what this week will bring…

Goodbye New Zealand, Hello Australia

10th March

Alarm goes off at 4am. There were big hugs with Julie at the airport (come with me!) I thought to myself.

I can’t believe how quickly the last 6 weeks have gone. I’ve seen the bluest lakes, the greenest hills. I’ve hiked over volcanoes, almost lost my voice watching the Rugby Sevens, done a bungy jump off a 400m platform, gone black water rafting, seen glow worms, baby dolphins, experienced some of the most beautiful running routes, seen the Haka performed by Maori, eaten food that’s been cooked under the ground, been in a helicopter over the mountains, hiked across a glacier, gone horse riding through rain forests and met loads of incredible people. Like I said in my last post, New Zealand has been all I had hoped for and more.

And she’s alone again: let’s go. The whole boarding process was quick and straightforward. I sat next to a nice lady on the plane who, by glancing over my shoulder at my itinerary, saw that I was going to Bali. She loves it there. But she warned me several times to be careful because of the past bombings and terrorist attacks. Cheerful lady. How exactly can you be careful about a bomb!? No matter how I act, if death and destruction is going to happen, then it will. If she wanted to scare me, she’s succeeded. Good work. She gasped in horror when I said I was travelling by myself. “Oh do be careful” she said for the 17th time.

Safely touched down in Melbourne. Going through security, a big banner overhead read “UK passport holders 16+” …Whilst waiting in line, a security guard approached me and said, “Excuse me, how old are you?” I cleared my throat and then confidently replied, “18.”

“Oh. You look younger,” he said.

My voice raised an octave higher. “Ha, actually I’m 21!!! Mind blank. Good lord, no idea why I said 18!!!”

Guard then looked at me as if I was an absolute psycho and he slowly edged away.

Thankfully, my head was screwed on enough to get me from the airport to South Yarra (bus and two trains). Here I met a couple of friends from my old school – Jess and George and their friend Rosie. What a treat to see their smiling faces!

Whilst waiting for them I popped into a little coffee shop. Melbourne is famous for its cafe culture and my oh my, it didn’t disappoint. Bold statement, but it was he best cappuccino I’ve ever had.

It doesn’t feel like I’m in Australia at the moment. It feels like London. It’s raining. I spent the afternoon chilling in the girls’ apartment, making myself at home. With a mug of tea on the arm of the sofa, and a bowl of cereal in my lap, I let out a storm of panic when Rosie got off the phone and shouted, “the landlord is coming up!” Act casual, act causal I thought. Pretend I’m just staying for the evening…

Without warning, Connie Thompson (one of my best friends from home) pops her head around the door. SURPRISE! I almost wept a tear of joy.

***

The next day saw me and Connie have an ace, speed tour of Melbourne. It’s such a cool city. It’s got a very arty, chilled, let’s go for brunch and drink coffee all day kind of vibe. Also, everyone is beautiful – they’re probably all famous on Instagram for being a beauty blogger or the ultimate foodie.

Firstly went with Con to a doctors appointment. We’d got the wrong address and we were accidentally sitting in the waiting room of a Plastic Surgery Clinic. Classic.

Then we explored the CBD and St Kildas and went into a travel shop to get my East Coast route sorted. Bye bye money.

Today has been fab. But you know what the best bit was? Organised Liv makes a spontaneous decision to leave the city centre TONIGHT and go with Connie to work on a stud farm for 10 days. WHAT IS LIFE!?

TO BE CONTINUED

Dreadlocks, Hygiene and farewell to New Zealand

3rd – 9th March

After Rotorua, we headed to Lake Tekapo again. I’m with a bus who haven’t visited before, so they have signed up to do the Tongariro a Crossing and such. I bigged it up massively so I hope they enjoy it… As for me, I’m going to chill by the lake and catch some rays and catch up on my diary writing (it’s a hard life).

Tekapo is buzzing because the Iron Man is on this weekend. And we all know what that means: my future husband is lurking around somewhere.

***

After a chilled couple of days in Tekapo, we headed to River Valley. The lodge where we are staying is literally in the middle of nowhere. It takes an hour drive to the nearest house / shop / get phone reception. The people that run the lodge are a little bit… How do I put it politely… Inbred. The guys have thick dreadlocks down to their waist and they’re a little bit too friendly: trying their luck with every girl in sight. Probably thinking, finally, someone who’s not my sister.

The scenery is stunning. An emerald lake is surrounded by rolling golden hills. The weather is hot so perfect for a dip. I had great childish fun jumping off the zip wire and high rocks with the ‘lads.’

When the weather cooled down, I went on a run with the lovely Lou. We came across a beautiful dun horse. He wandered over and let me stroke him. Ah, I’m feeling very content with life right now.

During dinner, I was speaking to a rather simple boy from Essex. As lovely as he was, within 2 minutes of conversation he tells me that he tried a banana for the FIRST time in his LIFE last month. WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL. Is this the new Joey Essex? He dunno why he’d never tried it before. Innit though.

I had a great last night with the Kiwi Experience. When I finally crashed into bed I was very thankful I was in a bunk-bed room, rather than the ONE bed that sleeps 32, known as ‘the orgy pit.’ Yes, that’s an actual thing. Welcome to River Valley.

***

It was a long, painful journey to Wellington with tonnes of traffic. After saying goodbye to my lovely Kiwi peeps, I trekked up the hill and then HELLO Julie and Brett! Had a great time telling them all about my North Island adventures – seeing baby dolphins, black water rafting, Maori experience and making tonnes of new, very special friends.

HURRAH for a proper shower! Feeling clean has never felt so good and never have I been more excited to get my laundry done.

***

The last few days in Wellington have really felt like home. I’ve been on runs, baked cakes, I’ve even met up with a friend from my old school! (Leah). It was so bizarre to see her her and great to compare our New Zealand adventures.

I thought I’d be super prepared and organised and get out some Australian dollars here. Mad to think I’ll be in Australia tomorrow. I finally found the recommended ‘TravelEx’ after walking up and down Lampton Quay about 900 times. When asking to purchase some Australian dollars, the man behind the counter said, “Sorry. We’re out.” I actually thought he was being funny. It seemed funny that a money shop would run out of money. He wasn’t kidding. “We’ll have more in tomorrow afternoon.” Yeah, I’ll be in Australia then, pal. No worries, I’ll get some at the airport, just may have to queue a bit.

Julie and Brett took me to an amazing Surf n’Turf restaurant for my last night. It was mouth-wateringly-good. I was so full it hurt. How on earth do I thank them for their kind generosity? Flowers / wine / a thank you card all seem a bit pathetic for how overwhelmingly kind they have been to me these past 6 weeks. They have helped make my New Zealand adventure so special and comfortable. Shout out to J & B: you’re the best!

I’m shattered but too nervous / excited to go to sleep because then it will be tomorrow: the next leg of the adventure begins. New Zealand has been everything I had hoped for and more.