Our last meal in Bali was a $1 bowl of spicy broth and what I like to term “mystery meat” from a street cart. So landing in Australia felt a bit like coming home. If home was sunny, healthy and about fifty times bigger. But you know what I mean. It felt familiar.
When I visit a country I like to try as much of the local food as possible, but being in an English-speaking country not dissimilar to the UK meant – for once – it was quite refreshing not to feel the pressure to eat noodles every day!
Our time in Oz was defined by two things. The first was distance. We drove a loooong way in those six weeks – the equivalent of driving from London to the middle of Russia (but with a better climate and less political hostilities). The reason we opted to drive was we wanted to see Australia; it felt like we’d be cheating if we hopped between highlights on a plane.
In hindsight, perhaps a little bit more hopping would have been ok. Australia has vibrant cities and stunning natural wonders. It is also very, very big, and the distances between those cities and amazing sights is, inevitably, large. Huge, even. We spent about four days just covering ground between places (and we found Australian small towns are rarely worth getting excited about, so our plan to see extra things was less fruitful than we had hoped). If we had been ruthless, it could have allowed us to add another destination in, such as a trip to Uluru. That said, we enjoyed the freedom of being able to sling our bags in the car and not having to neatly repack our rucksacks whenever we moved on to a new destination!
The second thing that dominated the trip was money. Despite doubling the daily budget we’d been living on in Malaysia and Indonesia, living on £55 each per day was a bit of a challenge. We skipped nights out in favour of occasional supermarket beers at the hostels, walked to a local train station to avoid expensive airport transport and had fun debates in the supermarket about whether we could justify buying an avocado… That said, we just about managed to stick to our budget and only went over by 3%, even though we did every activity on our wish list – and some of those didn’t come cheap! Being able to spend a week staying with friends in Melbourne was a huge help, and we are very grateful to Pete and Alli for being such wonderful hosts.
Despite budget restraints, we had an amazing six weeks. Craig made some excellent progress on his Traveller Beard, we saw one of my dear friends get married, explored two great cities, befriended a kangaroo and spent a magical two days sailing on turquoise seas. It was lovely to finish with a week in Melbourne at a proper “home” too; a nice change from hostel dorms! We were sad to leave Australia behind, but excited about our next adventure – three weeks in a camper van in New Zealand!