And so life continued in a similar fashion as to how it had the previous month. The household of backpackers became a close-knit crew, and we became familiar with the nearby area for short excursions to waterfalls, rivers and beaches. The house was a revolving door of backpackers, and after almost six weeks, I soon became an old hand.
Unlike backpackers in Asia, who generally have a firm start and end point to return to their prior lives, travellers in Australia are mostly venturing in the long term, searching for a new way of life or something that is missing from home. From an American who had never left America and made his money from making music and selling t shirts, to lost students and chefs hunting for new international cuisine inspiration, the house was full of interesting characters.
One day I headed to Caloundra, a picturesque town on the Sunshine Coast in search of some additional work. The town is quiet with clean beaches surrounding the area. I had prepared 20 copies of my CV (in which I had quietened my career in the technology industry, and highlighted all my “rich” experience in the hospitality industry – of which there was in fact very little).
Due to a combination of the nervous apprehension of rejection and lack of interest in most establishments, I only entered a single bar to speak with management about work. My first and only attempt was a classy bar overlooking the beach front. I was greeted by a stony faced manager who was in fact looking for bar staff. The manager, Jimmi, offered me a shift after quick reflection of my CV and I was on my way to mixology.
Although not clear at the time, the bar was not in the best of shape. I will not mention the name of the bar itself to muddy its reputation, but safe to say it was not a smooth operation. However, the opening weekend of vigorously mixing cocktails was a good one. Margaritas to Mojitos to Martinis flowed over the counter, and beer poured freely. Unfortunately the following week would be less fortunate.
The bar and restaurant had in fact closed due to a disagreement between management and the kitchen, resulting in the firing of the chef. Jimmi’s permanent dress code of flowery shirts was clearly not a good reflection of his personality. When I finally returned the following weekend, I was asked upon arrival to assist in the kitchen with the cooking. My astonishment was clearly plastered over my face, accompanied only by a stuttering acceptance to help out. So instead of serving drinks I was shelling prawns and prepping plates with a fixed frown. I guess it wouldn’t be right for anything to be predictable on this trip.
Outside my daily working life, I took advantage of the surrounding natural beauty, and climbed mountains and trekked along rivers. Along with an American called Max, I ascended Mount Beerwah one afternoon (not the best time of day at the peak of day’s heat). The climb was steep, scorching and continuous. The sun-baked coarse rock provided ample grip, but we were scrambling up every step and any slip would be costly. Fortunately after one sweaty hour, we reached the top to an amazing view over Queensland. Blue Ocean to the east, and waves of forest to the west.
Through all the twists and turns of my adventure, I feel I’ve had my fair share of lucky hands thrown at me. And through the people I met whilst in Queensland, I was given another one. Diego, a Spaniard who had spent the previous 12 months in Australia kindly lent me his car whilst he travelled the Pacific Islands for two months. Other than being involved in an incident involving a Kangaroo several months ago, the car was in very good condition and a very welcome gift. I had forgotten the freedom of having a car, and I immediately felt the relief of being able to travel whenever I please again. A spot 30 minutes north of Glasshouse Mountains called Maleny became my favourite town in the area. Although far from the majestic Ocean and bold mountains, it is dominated by rolling hills and farmland. By late afternoon surrounding lands effortlessly glow from the Sun’s dying rays.
Our favourite beach was a small rocky enclave near the town of Coolum, and it became a regular stop after a morning shift in the cafe. The vast supply of unspoilt beach means that they are never overcrowded throughout the Sunshine Coast, and always an easy way to spend the afternoon.
But, the easy life was soon to be on its way out. It was time to earn some money, which meant finding a more permanent position. I just received an offer to start work at a farm, and no doubt be humbled by the true heat of Australia.