Up the creek

Cheese!

Cheese!

I was woken at 8:20am by Talia ringing me and telling me to get downstairs. I gathered some basics and met her and Ben in the car park. The plan for the day was to grab a McDonalds, then pack some snacks and drive out of town for some beer, swimming and picnic.

This we did. And, lo, it was fun! For those who say “why are you going to Mount Isa – there’s nothing there”, this is one of the reasons for going. It’s surrounded in all directions by very beautiful, unspoiled nothing.

Lisa chills out

Lisa chills out

Two other people happened to walk past where we were splashing in the entire five hours we were out there. Fish nibbled at our toes, people fell off inflated inner tubes and the sun turned us a lovely shade of crimson. My back’s going to tingle tomorrow once the sunburn sets in but I know I’ll end up with a great tan afterwards.

Sometimes the simple plans are the best, and it was a great afternoon out. The scenery where we were was lovely. Tall, barkless trees with some noisy birds hopping amongst them. I spotted an eagle (or some kind of bird of prey) and a host of dragonflies. The water was clean and cool, but not freezing. And the sky had that beautiful unpolluted blue colour you just don’t seem to find anywhere in England any more.

The water's lovely

The water's lovely

As I type, I’m back in “my” room having had a freshen up. I’ve got an hour to kill before I meet up with everyone for dinner and then we can figure out what to do tomorrow – apart from figure out how the heck I’m going to get to Cairns on the cheap.

Yeah, it was a pricey flight to get out here but to catch up with nice people and see somewhere new… I’m thinking it was worth it.

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Arrival in Mt Isa

I ate well on the flight over. As Qantas isn’t a budget airline, pretty much all flights have a free meal and i was actually given two as they had spare on board. Only a chicken salad sandwich, but they were good enough. I spent the flight reading and doing the crossword in the in-flight magazine.

Talia, her boyfriend and one of their friends met me at the dinky airport in Mount Isa. Like Launceston and Kathmandu, the luggage was just dragged on trollies into a free-for-all area. No fancy-dan conveyor belts here!

Our first stop was, of course, a bar. Tonight was the regular trivia competition which we managed to not come last in. We were joined by a couple of other people, had a laugh then moved on to the Irish bar where we played pool for a dollar a game until they kicked us out at midnight.

The only place left open was “The Club”, actually a strip joint. We had no other choice if we wanted to continue drinking so I ponied up the $15 entry (ow – it’s only $5 if you’re a nurse!) and paid over the odds for bottles of fizzy water.

Now, I’d not booked anywhere to stay. My original plans had been to crash with Talia, but as she got herself all boyfriended-up this became a bit awkward. There is one hostel in town and I’d not been able to sort anything out with it so decided to wing it. And I’m glad I did.

One of Talia’s friends had a key for a spare dorm in the accommodation near where she lives. I’m not saying exactly where in case someone gets in trouble! Essentially, someone moved out recently and there’s nobody to replace them for some time. So – free room!

Happily boozed up, I passed out in my cheap bed.

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Waiting for another flight

Sat at Brisbane Domestic airport and for those who are interested there is a free wi-fi hotspot at the train station outside. Within the station there’s an Optus signal that I can tell you without looking will be charged for. There’s also a Qantas one that I’ve connected to and seems to be live, but the signal’s too weak to be of any use.

As ever, I need to thank people – and it’s that awesome Belinda and Albert again. Guys, thanks once more for the use of the spare room and for dinner the other night (I bought dessert so I feel partially out of debt). See you next time!

To those I didn’t catch on this visit, I hope to see you again another time. I may be back in Bris in 2 weeks or so (very briefly) depending on what my next flight arrangements are. We shall see.

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Catching up with the family

Visiting the cousin

Visiting the cousin

Well, after a quiet weekend I caught a train to the other end of Brisbane to have dinner with my cousin and her family. As ever, I had a great couple of hours with Avril, Jim, Heather, Jamie and Callum. It’s hard to believe they’ve been out here for seventeen years, now. The kids are full of life and I spent a bit of time working on homework with them before Jim started forcing beer down my throat. Bad Jim.

I caught the last train back to B&A’s place and got ready for the next day.

As things stand I have plans for the next week or so and then I really need to start thinking about moving on to another destination. I fly to Townsville tomorrow (24th) to see Talia – a nurse I first met in a hostel in Cairns around two years ago.

From there I must somehow get to Cairns by the morning of the 30th. This will prove to be a challenge if I don’t want to spend much cash as the buses and flights are artificially highly-priced. Only one company runs each route so there’s a lack of competition to keep the fares down.

I’ve got a camper van booked in Cairns which is costing me $1 per day (yes… one dollar) and I have up to five days to get it to Darwin. This journey could be done in two at a push, three without making life too unpleasant. Five is loads of time. The mileage allowance is adequate for the journey and the $750 fuel allowance more so. Got to love van relocations! It’s hit and miss about getting one that’ll go your direction but if it does then it’s ridiculously cheap.

I think I also have a travel partner after placing an ad on Gumtree. Obviously, cost isn’t a worry but it’s nice to have some company if you’re driving 12 hours a day, especially in the Outback. With any luck, I’ll catch up with Tom (from Canada) on the 29th in Cairns for a couple of beers and to discuss the route.

A shame he can’t collect the van on my behalf and pick me up from Mt Isa! Annoyingly collecting the van will involve doubling back and also a return trip through Mt Isa (if I can’t find an alternative route) but it’s definitely cheaper than any other method of getting to Darwin.

With luck I should get to Darwin when Katie’s off work so we can check out the diving if it’s feasible on Thursday. Diving in Darwin does have to take the tides and wildlife situation into account. If not, then I can try at the weekend with one of her friends.

As I said, I’ll also have to start looking at my next destination and how to get to it. I think I’m going to try and force myself to bite the costly bullet and book a flight to Japan along with the foreigner train ticket. This will, most likely, involve doubling back to the east coast as all the Japanese flights leave from there. Again, I’ll see if I can get a camper van relocation so I can enjoy the trip!

So that’s me up to date… Hopefully I’ll be able to snag some wi-fi in Mt Isa!

[Update as I type – Tom’s just texted to say he can’t make the trip as flight prices from Darwin leap up on April 1st. As such, he has to get there sooner. Ah well. At least this means there’ll be no arguments about what music to play in the van!]

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Not doing a lot… and enjoying it

Just another post to let people know I’m alive. I’ve organised a few things, caught up with a couple of friends and hope to see some more before I move on on Tuesday. I managed to book a flight up to Mt Isa which wasn’t cheap, but was by far the quickest method to get there. Around 3 hours including checking in, as opposed to three days during which I’d spend about the same amount of money on food, accommodation and unavoidable transport.

I’m also still pondering where to go after Oz. Dili is tempting, but I’m heading to Bali again later in the year so it goes better with that. Japan’s still very high on the list but flights aren’t cheap. Vanuatu and Fiji have been making themselves known to me as well. Then there’s the Philippines. So much choice!

Well, I should be seeing my cousin and her offspring on Monday. Over the weekend I’m just kicking back with Belinda and Albert. I just found out Elaine is in a cycle race at Mt Cootha on Sunday so I may see about getting there otherwise I won’t get a chance to see her on this visit.

And that’s all she wrote! I’m going to relax and watch the rest of Hogfather with some chips and dip now. Nom nom.

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