A Hidden Gem

Newcastle, a couple of hours North of Sydney, is a place that a lot of people miss out on their way up/down the East Coast; which is a shame as it really is a lovely little town with a relaxed vibe and lots of cute little shops and cafes. 

I’ve been here twice now in the past year and I’m currently just leaving again having spent the past five weeks working for accommodation at the Newcastle Beach YHA (more on that in a later post). 

Granted, if the weather isn’t great, which is hasn’t been for the past 3 weeks, there isn’t too much to do, but when the sun is shining this is the perfect place to be. There are gorgeous beaches, loads of free places to swim if the ocean isn’t for you, and some great walks with fantastic views and photo opportunities galore! 

Below are some of my favourite spots:

Newcastle Ocean Baths

The Bogey Hole 

Anzac Memorial Walk

Every Friday night (unless it’s raining) there is free live music in Pacific Park, which just happens to be right outside the YHA, and if you’re in Newcastle on the 3rd Saturday of the month the Hunt and Gather Markets are well worth a visit.

I also spent a lot of time at Yoga For All on Hunter street which is a gorgeous studio with ‘pay as you feel’ classes everyday. My favourite class is the Sunday night Yin Class; two hours of pure bliss! 

So if you’re looking for a chill after a hectic time in Sydney, or a few weeks of travelling down the East Coast, Newcastle is the place for you! 

A final word about farmwork

So I finally made it to the end of my 88 days and I couldn’t be happier!

I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs (mostly the latter) so if you’re thinking about doing your farmwork to get a second visa, read on and have a good think about whether it’s actually worth it!
When I decided to come to Australia I knew I wanted to stay for 2 years which meant I would have to do my 88 days/3 months regional work. In theory it seems so straight forward; come to Australia, pick some fruit for 3 months at the same farm and be rewarded with a second year. Well it’s really not like that at all. It’s actually pretty shit!

I first came to Australia in April 2016 and after a few months of travelling I started my farmwork in mid July. I had a job on a dairy farm that I should have been able to stay at for 3 continuous months, meaning I would have finished my days by mid October, giving me 18 more months to enjoy my time in Australia, doing whatever I wanted, without the thought of farmwork hanging over my head. But sadly, as you will know if you have been following my blog, it didn’t work out and I only ended up completing 44 days during my time there.

After my stint as a dairy farmer I headed off to Melbourne at the beginning of September to work in a ‘normal’ job in an office, but I constantly had the pressure of comepleting my remaining 44 days hanging over my head. After 2 months I knew I would have to go and get them finished or risk running out of time on my visa so I headed off to Tasmania at the start of November.

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I had high hopes for Tassie as the fruit picking season usually starts in mid November and the working hostel told me I would start working around 2 weeks after I arrived so I thought I would have my days done by January. But just my luck, Tasmania had the wettest winter for years and the season was put back, and back and back. I ended up waiting around a month to start working, and that was only lasted for 3 days.

About a week later I then started another job in a salmon factory which seemed as though it would carry on right up until the end of my 88 days. Again this didn’t happen and I ended up working only 17 days there, finishing just after Christmas.

At the end of December I then managed to get one day’s work harvesting cabbage seeds giving me a total of 21 days worked in 2 months.

I started the new year jobless and with 23 days still to complete. My hopes of finishing my days in January were totally gone at this point.

After about a two week wait I got yet another new job, this time picking blueberries. I had heard good things from people who had already done this so was hoping I’d be able to make some good money and get my remaining days completed. Wrong again! I lasted 3 days before quitting as the I most I managed to make in a day was $78 before tax as I was on a piece rate rather than an hourly wage.

Finally, after crying at reception of the working hostel I got a job on a potato harvester that finally saw me through to day 88! However it wasn’t all plain sailing and took longer than the farmer had initially made out to finally finish my remaining days.

When I did finally get to the end, on Friday 3rd February 2017, I had spent around 6 months of my first year trying to complete my ‘3 months’ farmwork, all to stay here for a second year. Meaning that out of the 24 months, 18 of them could be spent doing what I wanted. Had I decided not to do farmwork I would have had 12 months to do what I wanted, so yes that’s 3 less than I have now but I also wouldn’t have gone through any of the stress which is definitely something that, in hindsight, I would definitely have considered.

So having completed my 88 days and gone through all the stress and ups and downs these are the mains things I wish somebody had told me right at the start of my first year:

My top tips

  • Start pretty much as soon as you arrive in Australia to get your days done and out of the way at the beginning. That way you’ll have the rest of your first year and your full second year to do whatever you want.
  • Avoid piece rate work (I know, easier said than done). It can be pretty soul destroying when you work so hard and have hardly anything to show for it at the end of the day.
  • Don’t wait around too long. If you’re waiting around at a working hostel for a few weeks and haven’t yet started work you should seriously consider looking in another state and moving on. Otherwise you’ll regret the time you wasted waiting for work to maybe start soon.
  • Don’t believe everything farmers and working hostel staff say as a lot of it is just bullshit to keep you happy. If it seems too good to be true then it probably is!
  • Don’t expect to finish your farmwork with savings. After 3 months in Tasmania I left with only $1000 because the work had been so on and off.
  • Don’t bother! If you’re not totally sure you want a second year then don’t do it. Just save up as much as you can before you arrive and spend one whole year doing whatever you want.

With all that in mind, if I had the chance to start my first year all over again I probably wouldn’t bother with farmwork or a second year, I would just enjoy my year to the full (but would definitely arrive with more savings than I had).

However despite it being one of the hardest, most stressful things I have ever done, it has also been incredibly character building and I have made friends for life. Tasman family, I’m talking about you ❤

Goodbye to Hostel Life!

My farmwork is finally done (I’ll tell you all about my ordeal soon!) and I’m back in Melbourne, about to move into a flat with my very own bedroom after almost 3 months spent living in a working hostel in Tassie. And while I’m excited to have my own space I’m sure it will take some getting used to after so long surrounded by 119 other backpackers! 


I stayed at Tasman Backpackers in Devonport and I loved it! The social side of living in a hostel is fab; I made some great friends and had some amazing experiences that I will never forget! 

Mexican Night

Christmas Celebrations

My Birthday & New Year in Hobart 

Australia Day

However there are some parts of hostel life that I am very keen to put behind me! 

I was in a twin room at first but because I didn’t start working for a few weeks I couldn’t afford it and so I moved into a 7 bed dorm, which when you’re working isn’t ideal. It’s hard to get an early night before work or a lie in on a day off because there’s always someone on a different schedule making noise either late at night or early in the morning. So If you’re planning to stay in a working hostel, don’t go for a dorm even if it is cheap. You’ll regret it, trust me! 

I also won’t miss the 4 minute timed showers (which are far from ideal when you come in from a day of work on the farm covered in mud!), the cramped kitchens with hardly any utensils, pots or pans due to people not washing up and I will definitely not miss the lack of wifi! 

The stress of farmwork is also something that I am very glad to be done with, but I’ll tell you more about that on my next post. 

The biggest thing that I will miss though is my Tasman family and always having someone to talk to and spend time with! 

Until next time Tassie, but for now I’m off to Netflix binge, have a stupidly long shower and a well needed good nights sleep! 

The end is (almost) nigh!

I haven’t posted in a while (10 weeks to be precise) so it’s about time I gave an update on what I’ve been up to! 

For the past eight weeks I’ve been in Tasmania trying to get my regional work finished once and for all. I’m staying at Tasman Backpackers in Devonport and I’m absolutely loving hostel life (apart from the four minute timed showers, the kitchens which are no where near big enough for 120 people and the time my cheese was stolen). I’ve met some great people and visited some amazing places: 

Cradle Mountain 
Bay of Fires

Wineglass Bay

Cataract Gorge – Launceston

Boat Harbour Beach

Montezuma Falls

But sadly the work situation hasn’t been as great as the social side and I’m still a few weeks away from finishing my 88 days. 

I arrived on the 8th November hoping to be working within a week or two as the fruit picking season was due to start in mid November. Sadly this didn’t work out as it’s been one of the wettest seasons Tasmania has seen for a long time. Just my luck! 

After a long 3 weeks of waiting around (and lots of colouring in) I managed to get 3 days work planting Brussels Sprouts.


After the sprouts I started work in a salmon processing factory and I got three solid weeks of work. It seemed as though I’d be able to stay there until I finished my days but the work died down after Christmas so some of us were no longer needed. But we did get lots of free salmon so it wasn’t all bad! 

 

Next up was a very muddy days work harvesting cabbage seeds. 


I haven’t worked since the cabbages, but next week I start picking blueberries, so fingers crossed the weather stays dry and sunny and I can finally finish my remaining 23 days and put regional work behind me for good! 

Welcome to Australia!

I’ve been in Australia for almost seven months now, and despite what a lot of you might think it isn’t just one massive holiday; although for the first three months this is exactly what it was!

Yes I do love it here and yes I do want to stay but at times it’s really tough, especially for those of us wanting to stay for a second year, and it can be very tempting to just give up on this idea altogether.

If you’ve read my last post you’ll already know about my awful experience trying to get my second year visa, and I know that I’m just one of the majority that will deal with just about anything to stay here for an extra year. Yet sadly the hard work we put in, often in return for horrendous conditions and very low pay is not always paying off. I recently saw a post from a guy who had his application for a second visa refused because he was paid 5 cents less than minimum wage. Now surely this should be the farm’s fault, but the Australian government doesn’t see it that way and so he either has to leave or pay over $1000 for an appeal. I saw another post just a couple of days later from a girl whose visa was refused, despite supplying all of the evidence the government require, all because her payslips didn’t include the hours she worked every day. Add to this the new tax proposals and it is really no surprise that the number of backpackers coming to Australia has dropped. Yet the Australian government do seem surprised by the fall in numbers and clearly live in some sort of bubble in Canberra.

Currently there is a tax free threshold, meaning that we can claim back the tax we paid on any earnings below $18k (and this is applicable to anybody working in Australia, not just backpackers). However under a new proposal backpackers will be expected to pay 19% on every single dollar earned. I recently saw a post on Facebook with a petition to stop these changes, and an Australian had commented that ‘hard-working Australians have to pay tax’, so why shouldn’t we. But would they be happy to lose an extra $3500 of their hard earned cash every year? I don’t think so! We can also currently claim our superannuation back when leaving Australia, but under new plans the government will automatically take 95% of it when we leave.

But there is one positive thing to come out of the new proposals and that is a reduction to the cost of a working holiday visa in an attempt to attract more backpackers to Australia. This very generous move would see the cost reduced by a massive $50 (from $440 to $390) which definitely compensates for the thousands we are potentially going to lose in tax and super. So thanks Aussie government, you’re the best!

My Farm Work Hell

When I came to Australia I knew I would have to complete 88 days’ farm work in order to get a second working holiday visa to stay for an extra year in this amazing country. I knew the work wouldn’t be easy, and that at times it may not be the most enjoyable part of my time here but I knew in the end it would be worth it. Or would it?

I spent 7 weeks working on a dairy farm in Northern Victoria and at first it seemed like it would be a great place to work for my visa. I was responsible for calf rearing so spent my mornings and afternoons in calf pens feeding them and making sure they had water and straw.

I had read so many horror stories of backpackers stuck working for absolute bullies but the farmer seemed like a nice guy so I thought I had got lucky. However after just over a week I realised this wasn’t the case, and that he was just another bully.

We were constantly made to second guess every task we did, as if we did something it would be wrong but if we didn’t do it we would be told off for not doing so. We were screamed at and at one point even told that they would have to ‘start looking for other people’ when we didn’t know how to do a task we had never done before (I mean putting up electric fences is not something I did that often in my office job). Because of this I would wake up regularly during the night in a panic midway through a dream where I had done something wrong at work; this was definitely not the Aussie dream I had come looking for!

The list of shit we went through goes on (you’d be here for hours if I wrote it all down) and I spent every day questioning whether I really wanted a second visa and considered quitting almost every other day. But sadly I never got the luxury as the farmer beat me to it and as he put it ‘terminated’ me. Apparently I wasn’t up to the job, but he waited until the end of a pay period to tell me, probably so that it would be easier for his wife to sort out my pay, and I even had to sit through a meal with them the night before he sacked me!

Nobody should have to put up with this treatment at work, but I was willing to all in aid of a second year in Australia; and there are so many other backpackers who are currently or have been in the same position as me on farms all over the country. It’s sad that this is a fact of life for many backpackers who are so far away from home and that there isn’t really anything that can be done about it as the farmers know that we need to do this work for our visas; and I could easily end up back in that situation again as I still have 44 days worth of farm work to complete before I qualify for a second visa.

I just hope that next time I will be a bit luckier and end up working for a half decent human being who doesn’t kick dogs and snap cow tails all because he didn’t get enough sleep.

A trip back to normality 

For the past five weeks I’ve been working on a dairy farm in Northern Victoria so that I can get a second visa to stay in this amazing country for another year.

It’s hard work and I’ve been quite ill so I’m finding it tough and missing home and normality. A couple of days ago I decided to do something about the latter and headed into Melbourne for a day away from the calves and the smell of stale milk and cow shit and it was just what I needed!

I started the day with breakfast and some famous Melbourne coffee on Centre Place, my favourite little laneway which to me is what this city is all about.

After some retail therapy I took another break for a trip to Max Brenner Chocolate Bar/heaven!

I spent the afternoon wandering around the Docklands and bagging some bargains at the DFO, Melbourne’s outlet shopping centre, before heading back to Southern Cross to get the train back into the countryside ready to tackle the final eight weeks of farm life.

The Cold Ocean Road

As a Brit, I didn’t think winter in Australia was really a thing given we often get similar temperatures during our summer, but boy was I wrong; and I found  out during a cold, wet trip to the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians.


This was my last tour for a while, and the last one with Linda, my favourite Dutchie who I spent a month travelling down from Darwin with.


We set off from Melbourne on Thursday 30th June and headed first to Anglesea for morning tea on the beach (above). And what a beautiful day it was for it!

We were very lucky though as we managed to time almost all of the stops right in between downpours and we even got some sunshine at times. We even managed to stay dry during a walk through the rainforest.


Our next stop in between showers was Cape Otway for some koala spotting. The weather didn’t but these guys off as they hung out (literally) in the trees and crossed the road right in front of our bus!


Our next stop was the highlight of any Great Ocean Road trip; the Twelve Apostles.


As I said, we managed to time almost all of our stops right with the weather but the next was not one of them. We arrived at Loch Ard Gorge just after a shower, and as we started walking, headed straight into another, giving us an impressive double rainbow and some moody skies on our photos.


Our final stop along the Great Ocean Road was London Bridge and this was the best timing of the day. As we arrived the sun was shining on the rocks, lighting them up and making the sea look extra green and beautiful.


We then headed inland towards the Grampians where our next day was spent. We had an early start to watch the sunrise and yes, we were all as cold (if not colder) than we look!


Next up we headed to Mackenzie Falls, which thanks to all of yesterday’s rain was in full flow and looking very impressive.

Next up we met some of the locals in Halls Gap, a town right in the middle of the Grampians.


Not all of the locals were this friendly though and Linda managed to make and enemy out of a crow who followed her around town after she tried to shoo him away from her sandwich! More proof that everything in Australia definitely wants to kill you!

Our final stop was an aboriginal rock art site before making the journey back to Melbourne and the warmth of our hostel.

Plans are made to be broken

Before I started this adventure I was a planner and an organiser, but now three months in after changing all the plans I had roughly made, I’m starting to live by the above motto! 

After the tour down from Darwin the plan was to stay in Adelaide to find a job, but that idea didn’t last long for long so after a week exploring the small but cute city I had bought a bus ticket to my next destination. 


Said destination being Melbourne and as I write this I’m sat in the beautiful State Library of Victoria, which is definitely the most impressive place I’ve blogged from so far! 


I’ve been in the Victorian capital for a week now and I love it! I was worried that I’d be disappointed by the city given how great everyone says it is but it hasn’t let me down. 

It has a very homely feel (maybe because the cold wet weather reminds me of England) and currently it has the vibe of a European city at Christmas with its ice rink, fairy lights and winter market stalls! 


I love the old(ish) architecture, the cool laneways with their graffiti and relaxed bars, the amazing coffee in the thousands of little cafes and the city lights reflecting on the Yarra River at night. 


So far during my time here I’ve been on a trip to the Great Ocean Road (I’ll write about that soon), watched the sunset over the city from its highest point, spent time admiring the beach huts at nearby Brighton Beach, spotted penguins along St Kilda pier, been totally clueless at an AFL match and paused for thought at the Shrine of Remembrance. 


It’s definitely a city I would love to spend more time in as there is still so much to see but this time I’m not planning anything as I know that I could soon be writing a post from another new place following another change of plan! 

Groovin down to Adelaide

After two nights in Alice Springs it was time to start the next part of the tour down to Adelaide with the company Groovy Grape.

We were picked up at 6:30am to start the tour starting with three days in the Red Centre. Our first stop was a camel farm for a quick, and very funny ride with some amazing facial expressions! 


Then it was time to start the drive towards Kings Canyon, but not before dinner and a bus with a flat battery. Once we had all managed to push the bus to re-start it we continued the drive to the canyon for a three and a half hour hike all the way around the top. If I was to imagine Mars, this would be it. 


It was then time to head to our first camp for kangaroo bolognese, a camp fire and another night sleeping under the stars, (well actually the clouds) in our swags. I woke up around 3am to find the clouds had gone and the stars had appeared. Unfortunately I was too comfy in my swag and didn’t get to spend long stargazing before I fell back to sleep! 


The next day it was time to head towards an Aussie Icon; Uluru. We reached our campsite at Ayers Rock resort around midday and after making pizzas on the barbecue we headed into Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to do a 10km walk around the base of Uluru. Sadly it was a very cloudy day and we didn’t get to see the full beauty of the rock, but there was still time for that as we spent two days exploring the park.


After a very early breakfast of pancakes the next morning we headed off to grab a good spot to watch the sunrise over Uluru in our sleeping bags. This time we did get to see how beautiful it can really be! 


Next up was an early morning, and pretty chilly hike through the Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta. Which for me was one of the highlights of the trip as I wasn’t expecting it to be so spectacular; probably because you don’t really hear people talking about Kata Tjuta as much as Uluru. 


After the walk we headed back to Uluru and this time we got to see it with a blue sky background. 


We spent the next couple of hours sat in a cave at the rock’s base being told aboriginal stories. While I enjoyed this it was slightly overshadowed by a knot in my stomach thinking of what was to come in the afternoon. 


While the rest of the group had a couple of hours free time, two of us were driven to the airport, fastened into harnesses and flown up to 1000ft to jump out of a plane above Uluru. This was not something I had ever imagined myself doing but it was one of, if not the best, experience I have had so far in Australia. I was absolutely terrified but once the free fall stopped and I started to feel like I wasn’t going to die I began to relax and take in what was happening. It was all over way too quickly but in those few minutes I got a view of Uluru and Kata Tjuta that not many people are lucky enough to see; and it made me really appreciate the sheer size of the rock. And I also got a hilarious video to remind me just how terrified I was! 


We made it just in time to watch the sunset with the rest of the group, which was the perfect end to a fantastic last day in the Red Centre.


We woke up at 4:30 the next morning ready for a long 750km (470 mile) drive out of the Northern Territory and into South Australia.


We arrived late in the afternoon in a very weird opal mining town called Coober Pedy. Most of the population live underground in bunkers, as we learnt during a tour of an old opal mine. 


Before we settled down into our underground accommodation for the night we visited an aboriginal art gallery and kangaroo orphanage and ate ‘the best pizza in the outback’. 


We left early the next morning for another long drive down to our final campsite. En route we stopped for kangaroo tacos, and then went for a very strange hike through Alligator Gorge. I say strange as every single one of us spent the hike singing, laughing and screeching like we were high. Turns out that’s a side effect of kangaroo thanks to all of the energy in it; apparently our guide had never seen a group so affected by kangaroo but it’s definitely something I’ll be eating again! 


We spent our final evening together playing jenga, eating steak and telling jokes by the fire in the kitchen before settling down to our final night in our swags (although this time inside as it’s very cold in South Australia at this time of year). 

On our last day we visited a winery in the Clare Valley where we tasted some very nice, and some not so nice wines before having our last meal together and arriving into Adelaide in the afternoon. 


Again another tour came to an end and it was time to say more goodbyes as most of us went our seperate ways after a fantastic six days exploring more of this amazing country together.