For more than three months, Darwin was my home. I lived on Esplanade, one street over from the hub of the city, and worked on Darwin’s main street, rolling burritos and cooking cafe food at a family attraction. It was a strange existence. For the vast majority of my time I slept, worked, ate, and drank in an area that could be traversed by bike in about four minutes. When I rolled that last burrito, I walked away with delight.
Darwin is a fairly bizarre town in the centre, built largely around the excessive consumption of alcohol and wiggling of bodies. The strip is powered largely by backpackers looking for those high Australian wages, filling any and every vacancy that arises, myself included. In fact, on one particularly busy week I rolled burritos, served drinks, cooked cafe food, and even mopped floors, earning more in one week than the ‘average’ British dentist earns. While working a reasonable number of hours in a peaceful environment would be far more desirable than sweating in the Darwin heat whilst performing my remedial tasks for seventy-something hours a week, I chose this comparison to show how mad the wages are in this country. At the time of my arrival, it was home to the highest minimum wage in the world.
For the final month of my time in Darwin, I worked considerably less after asking for two days off in one week, cueing my immediate replacement with a new member of staff. As I had worked six or seven days a week without complaint for multiple weeks, I found it rather unfair, but it actually worked out quite well, allowing me to finish my Iceland book and start producing videos, but I found it rather unfair after going out of my way (and losing money to do so) to help my employer on multiple occasions. After having four jobs in Australia and witnessing friends who had many more, my conclusion is that working conditions in Australia are best avoided, except for the high wages. It is these high wages that have kept me here through this madness, finally giving me the opportunity to save a small amount of money for the first time in nearly four years. We don’t need money to enjoy ourselves, but sometimes it is nice to have as a safety net, hence my decision to spend much of 2015 working in this country. [Note: I have been lucky with my work and have generally had very positive relationships with all of my employers, largely because I came here to work, so I work hard, never take a sick day, and cover any shift at very short notice. Although I have essentially had the carpet pulled from under my feet in two and a half of my four jobs, I have seen people who have experienced far worse than I have. Money does curious things to people. Maybe we should all go live in the forest.]
After Darwin, I was due to head to Bali, then Lombok, hoping to climb Mount Rinjani, a beautiful volcano. Unfortunately the volcano decided to start erupting, cancelling all flights from Australia to Denpasar. Jetstar offered us a free flight to Thailand a week later than our original flight. With no home and no desire to spend vast sums of money staying in Darwin, we were forced to fork out over five hundred dollars (each) for flights to Jakarta, a city of London proportions located on Java to the west. [Note: I feel Jetstar were entirely unreasonable, refusing to refund us for a flight that was cancelled. I would recommend avoiding them if possible and consider taking an airline that has the slightest shred of moral decency.]
I wasn’t sad to leave Darwin because I was happy for what I would experience next. I met good people, had fun times, saved a little bit of money, and moved forward to somewhere new. Two weeks in Indonesia, climbing volcanoes, playing with monkeys, and swimming with pretty fish, followed by a brief foray back to the UK to see my family has been a lovely recharge. Now I move to Tasmania to work the final two months of my visa. I heard it has big hill and lots of trees. I had better pick up my hammock and sleeping bag. I am actually excited about Australia for the first time [and post this from Kuala Lumpur airport, midway through my 45 hour journey from the UK to Hobart].