The many faces at Hostels and how to handle them

During my stay in hostels I came across many different ‘types’ of people. There’s your classic European single guy vying for attention, groups of girls or guys who all met travelling and are now making their journeys together, and lots and lots of single female travellers.

As we made our way around various locations of Oz, women started telling us their experiences whilst staying in hostels around the world. On a tour around the Daintree rainforest we were shocked to be sat with a group of girls from all walks of life and each of them have a negative story whilst travelling around Australia. One girl had had a way too friendly hostel owner offering her a private space expecting benefits in return, another had had men coming onto her in a mixed dorm, all of these experiences are the kinds of things you don’t expect to hear these days as most posts speak highly of the safety of women travelling alone these days (but we all know to still keep our wits about us). Luckily these women had their heads screwed on and knew how to handle themselves – that’s the reason they’re on their independent journey –  but it came as a shock to us that amongst a table of 5 women, 3 of them had already felt unsafe somewhere during their travels…

…Which could be a good reason as to why I found so many mixed groups during my trip. These people had met up randomly whilst hostelling elsewhere and formed such a bond that they were happy to carry on their experience together. I never got to speak to the groups but from observation they appeared a lot more confident and seemed to always be having the time of their lives. Yes, a few of them were probably having holiday romances, but if it keeps you feeling happy and safe, what’s the down side to this story?

As for ‘Crazy Dave’ who walks in a room wearing some clashing luminous clothes, shades indoors, and shouts about how much fun he’s having, he’s not as original as he might think he is. When we greyhounded our way down the East Coast we came across many ‘Dave’s, and tried to ignore them as much as possible. For me, they’re too full on and I wouldn’t be able to cope with having that amount of energy around me all the time, which is probably why they’re usually found on their own during the day. At night, however, they’ve finally become the centre of the party they wanted to be and all the drunkards love him. Good for you ‘Crazy Dave’, may you always find ways of expelling your energy through travelling.

Even though we may all be there for different reasons, we still all want the same thing out of it; to see the world. As long as we look out for each other, and ensure to enjoy our time together respectfully and happily, then there should be no problems. Guys respect those girls, and ladies, you continue being the kickass bitches you’ve always been. I salute you all for embracing that travelling bug and running with it.

How I came to appreciate the UK again

During my travels I saw many sights and met many people from all different kinds of backgrounds. As I reached my final destination, back in the UK, I had learnt one very simple but important thing:

No matter where you go, the story’s always the same.

In each country across the world there will always be someone moaning about:

  • Immigrants
  • House/Rental prices and ‘foreigners’ buying them
  • Big companies buying up all the produce/land and hiking up the cost of food

It’s sad, but it’s true. As human beings, we can’t all get along and agree on the exact same thing; that’s what makes us human!

In learning that the rest of the world appears to have the same issues as home, I started looking at what the UK has, to appreciate it once again.

Free Healthcare – The NHS gets a bad rep, mostly by Conservatives, but if we didn’t have the NHS I don’t know how we’d survive. Over the years I’ve needed them for surgery, check-ups, injections etc. and although you get the occasional hiccup with waiting times, I’ve always felt looked after.

Food – We have such a large variety of food here in the UK. Not only do we have amazing restaurants bringing us cuisines from all over the world, but we also have great variety in our supermarkets.
I found Australia’s shops missing a lot of items which I thought were staple products, and their curries were nothing but heartburn to me. In Dubai however, they appear to have everything, and they have it beautifully presented. I’m always amazed at how neatly the fruit is stacked whenever I shop at Waitrose in Dubai Mall.
When you reach places like a remote island in Fiji you’re once again reminded of the ‘Western World’ we live in in the UK, and the amazing choice we get. For 10 days straight we were fed whatever the local fishermen had caught, and at some points the chefs struggled as it was the stormy season and no boats could come near us. Our fruit plates became banana plates, and the main courses diminished in size. Being based in the UK we have all of Europe growing fruit and veg, and we even have the specialised shops offering (highly priced) imported foods from America or China.

The BBC – Whilst living in Oz I couldn’t watch BBC TV over the net because I wasn’t in the UK. When I went on the BBC news website whilst in Oz, it was filled with adverts. When you’re in the UK looking at these things there are no adverts allowed as it is funded by us, the people of the UK. Other channels and countries have to have adverts all over their stuff to make money. I’m happy to pay for the Beeb as it’s given me Attenborough, Sherlock, as well as many classic TV comedies such as Blackadder and Only Fools and Horses. Now who can compete with that?!

The Countryside – I grew up in the countryside but have spent the last 10 years based in cities, rarely stepping out into a woodland or field. Over this time I completely forgot the fact that the UK is still at least 80% countryside.
When we drove around New Zealand I was amazed at how much was untouched. In the entire country there are only a few places heavily built on, the rest was just little towns or villages surrounded by mountains or lakes. It was stunning but also similar to the views of Britain. So as our plane flew in circles coming into land at Gatwick, I looked out at the land below and took in the fields and trees I’d forgotten about for so long. Now I’m back, I plan on seeing the country I grew up in.


We may all have the same problems of mass corporations buying everything out and hiking the prices, people buying out all the properties to invest and make more money, and an ever-increasing population from both immigrants and procreation, but the point is we ALL have that, and we’re ALL just people. If we can learn to respect one another and accept what’s going on around us (to an extent), then we will find a happiness within ourselves. I’m still working on this one but at least I’ve come to appreciate the land I grew up in and all it has to offer.

A Pommes Perspective of Australia

During my travels in Australia I came across many wonderful and weird things. Here’s my view overall of Oz.

Roads – Brilliantly signposted! When I arrived in Australia I was so relieved to see maximum signage on the roads. They direct and warn you about everything.

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TV Promos – ‘You’re not going to believe what happens.’ ‘What they did next will amaze you.’  One thing I’ve noticed about Australian TV promos is; they’re all the same. Even if the programme doesn’t contain any drama, they’ll make a promo to make it look like it’s one filled with it. Coming from a background of working in the TV industry, I know the deal, but in the UK they certainly seem to mix it up a little bit more than over here. The UK certainly doesn’t try to make a home decorating show look like a dramatic reality TV series. I’ve not watched a lot of American TV in my time, but the Oz promos certainly seem to be heavily influenced by the American way.

Walking side – Where in some countries you have a bike path and a pedestrian path, here you have a pedestrian path side for whichever way you’re walking. It’s quite cute, but a waste of road paint, because no one really abides by them.

Food – I seriously struggled to eat a good meal in Australia. To many Australians, you’re not to know any different, but curry isn’t supposed to taste like that. Kiev’s aren’t supposed to have bones in them, and pasta should not taste so thick and stodgy that you won’t pass it for weeks. It took me a while to know which items to pick and choose out of the small amount of options, but I gradually learnt what not to eat.

Franchises – I soon learnt that the well-known chain restaurants I’m used to are not going to taste the same in Australia. They’re franchises, owned by some local who’s got the famous menus up behind him, but different products behind the scenes. One day I really fancied a Nandos so I asked for my usual of a chicken burger and chips with halloumi and the guy looked at me with utter confusion. Halloumi is not on the Nandos menu here. I mean c’mon. It makes the chicken burger if you stick the slab of halloumi on top of it, and then there are the Nandos fries I love so much. I was given your typical cheap-ass, worst tasting fries you could ever imagine; horrific. Australia, you have no idea what amazing food you’re missing out on.

Double glazing – Okay, I vaguely get it. We have double glazing in the UK because it’s cold 99.9% of the year, but you guys (depending on which part of the country you’re in) get cold spells too! Not only do you actually have winters where it’s low in the single figures, but double glazing also helps cut out sounds. So far, in the many places I’ve stayed, I’ve wished for double glazing. I don’t want to hear the really noisy birds outside, or the boy racers burning rubber on the street. When I get inside, I want peace and quiet. I want to feel like I’m in my own space, not still sharing it with the whole world. On top of that, door-makers really need to learn to measure. I’ve still not seen a door that goes all the way to the floor – even front doors. You have massive fences up to protect you from all this dangerous wildlife, but you’ll leave an inch gap at the front of your house so that all the little critters can crawl on in.

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Heating – This ties in with the double glazing. Some parts of the country do get cold and yet none of them have any form of heating installed. All of the people I’ve met so far have complained about the lack of heating in their apartment and have had to buy standalone radiators that hardly give out any warmth, but use up a lot of electricity.

Loud birds – Going back to the double glazing again, it would be really nice if you had some so that the bird that insists on calling out to his friends in front of my window every morning wouldn’t be so loud. There’s a whole range of them, and I’m sure I share this pain with most people.

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Internet options – You guys are being taken for a ride. There are adverts all over the TV for super-fast broadband at a rip-off price and it’s still not unlimited! I just don’t get it. It’s already well-known that this country doesn’t have very good internet coverage, and I can understand why – you’re huge with massive expanses of nothingness to get across – but I don’t understand why these companies can’t just offer you unlimited rather than 200GB a month. If you’re asking for 200GB a month it should be classed as unlimited!

Where to buy what – You go through life learning what items work for you, and go buy them whenever you need a top up. When I arrived in Oz I soon found that my staple products might not exist in this country. In the UK, supermarkets contain a large variety of everything from knickers to noodles. I’ve found that in Oz you may need to go to a few stores to get everything on your shopping list. It began with toothpaste. I must have walked around 4 different supermarkets and discount pharmacy’s before assuming that my brand wasn’t made here and settled on something similar. Then I ran out of face wipes, deodorant, and shampoo. It’s not so simple that once you’ve found it in one store you’ll find it in another one of theirs – that’s what makes Oz shops so confusing! Different Coles stores will have different items. So where I might be able to find a shampoo I want in one of them, another Coles elsewhere doesn’t stock that particular brand.


Over the months I began pointing out more negative views of Australia, but overall they’re not a bad bunch. They have advert campaigns like this one:

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And have a far more relaxed view on life than most European countries. Australians know how to work a sufficient amount, and play to the absolute maximum. They’ve learnt how to handle big bugs, and ferocious storms. All in all, my view of Australia is it’s hot, independent, and very, very beautiful.

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What I learnt whilst in Oz

Cancer awareness – Everyone is very much aware of cancer in the world, and it’s always prevalent, but my trip began in Brisbane where skin cancer is rife. All my cousin’s friends had cancer; there were ads all over TV for it, and skin cancer clinics on every corner. Sunscreen was cheap, everywhere, and was made in high SPF’s.

Healthy Eating – When I moved to Manly, it was what I was putting into my body that I became more aware of. Manly appears to be a very health conscious town, and my new housemate had been taking it one step further and started to buy organic products for cleaning, and make up as well so that anything she touched or ingested was chemical free, and 100% natural. I’d always felt bloated after pasta or bread anyway, so I knew I should try cutting out gluten. After reading about other things that you could remove from your diet and how it could benefit you, I started to seriously plan my eating habits and embraced the new meal options.

It’s hard to change lifestyle habits, but since having my eyes opened to a new way of living, I now follow healthy eaters on Instagram like @chloescountertop @kirstywaterman @deliciouslyella who show me a new way of eating and viewing. I also came across Quirky Cooking which has some delicious recipes and suggestions.

In learning more about the products you put onto your body, I’ve started compiling a Pinterest board of DIY products, and the many uses of coconut!

As I made my way further south, I found Sydney and Melbourne to be the most health conscious. There were lots of independent shops including health food stores with plenty of variety for the intolerant people. I felt like I was walking into a magic, Harry Potter shop when I entered a store in Melbourne. Outside it had a stand of wicker baskets which you could use whilst walking around the shop, and they’d used every single space imaginable for something. The crevices in the walls were filled with tubes of every seed and nut you could think of, and they even had a mini bakery on sight! These sorts of shops do not exist in the UK, but certainly should.

Australian TV – I found their TV to have quite an American influence, with a slight environmental and health conscious vibe. During my stay in Townsville, the local TV adverts were mainly focussed on obesity, and how to lead a healthier life. At the beginning I found it funny that people in such a sunny state could have an obesity problem, but actually, the heat can be too much for exercise, and the sea can have crocs, sharks and stingers to be wary of! Most coast towns do have pools which filtered in the sea water though, so there’s no real excuse.

Aborigines – On the road in Western Australia, I learnt about how much the Aborigines’ were quashed. I went on a 6 day tour of South West Oz and at nearly every stop it was all about how the Aborigines once were this and that, as if they don’t exist anymore. It makes me rather sad that they’re talked about this way, and have been removed from their lands to make way for a western world who didn’t even know how to cope in this harsh environment.

Australian Made – Independent companies appear to be thriving as well as state made adverts encouraging people to shop at independent stores rather than big businesses. It’s great to still be able to buy your meat from a butchers, vegetables from a greengrocers, and fish from a fishmongers; this is something you’d struggle to still find in a built up UK city, as the big chain supermarkets buy out all the smaller stores to make ‘locals’.

And finally, what I’ve learnt about me…

I’ve learnt that I love a Wintery Christmas in the northern hemisphere. It was weird going through December with Christmas films showing, and having no relation to the weather outside. Even topics and stories online weren’t corresponding to the heat of the Australian summer. I found it so weird that I wrote a blog entry about it.

Survival at the Hostel (Australia)

When imagining a hostel, I would always picture dirty rooms with tired facilities and cockroaches galore. What I came to find was a variety of different forms of accommodation around the same cost.

In Oz, I found that most hostels offer very similar things:

  • A recreation area – usually consisting of a pool table, and many benches.
  • One or many kitchens – all containing your basic cooking needs, with a few going so far as to containing a microwave.
  • An outdoor pool – A nice addition to a hostel, but the majority of the time looked a little dirty and run down.

I began my hostel experience on the West Coast, in Perth. I stayed in the Billabong backpackers for 2 nights between tours I had scheduled. This means that I have no idea if it was a good base for heading into Perth as I always got picked up. However, I do know that there was a bus stop right outside which regularly dropped people into the city, and a petrol station on the corner where everyone bought their food.
Billabong is a very popular hostel, with signs up all the time stating that you must book in advance. During my time in this hostel, I was in a 4 bed, female only dorm, and met a mixture of girls who’d been staying there for a week, and others like me who were using it as a base before moving on. There was a pool out back and a bar which seemed pretty popular. The rooms were always stifling hot but there was a small but noisy air con unit that probably could have been left on but no-one ever dared ask.
Our dorm had an en suite which was good enough, although I was never sure when it had last been cleaned, and the tap had come away from the sink making it awkward to change temperature.
The best thing about Billabong, and something I never came across again, was their free breakfast. In the morning you would pick up your crockery and cutlery set and head into the kitchen where you had a choice of corn flakes, bran, or coco pops, and both brown and white bread with an array of jams and spreads. This may sound fairly basic, but is the most choice I ever found on offer and was FREE!
After maxing out on the coco pops I would give this place 4 out of 5.

My next hostel is the start of our East Coast trip, where we began in what appeared to be a depressed Cairns. My agency lady at Peter Pans had booked our whole trip with my age and tastes in mind, but sometimes there just might not have been much choice.
We reached Cairns on a grey day with a storm looming, and got a free shuttle pick up from the airport by our hostel; Njoy. The name speaks volumes, and we’d already read a few dire reviews. The staff all seemed to be Brits, and we’re fairly certain none of them had meant to be there but had found themselves stuck, and in need of a job.
In Njoy we were given an en suite double, and it was certainly made out to sound like a luxury, but when we opened the door to our room we were confronted by a huge cockroach struggling on it’s back in the shower. After a bit of a struggle on our side we lost the roach out of the door we’d just come in through, and hastily blocked that one inch gap with our bath mat.
The bonus to this room was a working fridge. We were based in Cairns for 3 nights so being able to keep cold food in our room was a bonus, and soon a necessity as we found the place infested with ants. They found every little crumb we dropped and created lines all over the place. We soon shoved anything slightly food orientated into the fridge to alleviate the situation.
The kitchen was basic, the pool untouched (from all the algae), and everyone around the place looked utterly miserable, so we kept to our rooms and only came out when necessary. I’d give Njoy 2 out of 5.

Fortunately our next stop was Magnetic Island. Unfortunately we only had one night booked there. The island had expensive accommodation, even for hostels, and we ended up in Koala Bungalow Bay – which I think is the best option of them all.
Bungalow bay is a short bus trip across the island from the ferry terminal, costing a few dollars. We were in a private A-frame bungalow, next to the shared facilities. It was very much a camping ground and we would be classed as glamping. Our bungalow consisted of a double bed, fan opposite an air con unit, and a warm fridge. Its location was within a koala ‘sanctuary’ although we never saw any koalas ourselves. They appeared to be kept in the areas where you pay to breakfast with them. We didn’t pay for breakfast, but we did grab some of the cheap food they had on offer at their bar.
The shared facilities were good enough, with a warm and powerful shower, but the occasional bird did like to pop in and say hello, which if you’re not a bird lover, wouldn’t be too nice a surprise.
We checked out in the morning but had all day before our ferry back, so used their secure lockers by paying for a padlock instead of their open storage room. In having this, we continued to use the hostel’s facilities, and relaxed for a while on the bean bags in their nicely decked area. Overall, this was a hostel I’d happily have spent a week in. The pool even had people in it! 5 out of 5.

Our next destination was Airlie Beach, which we arrived at in the evening when all the clubs and bars were pumping out their music. Not my kind of scene, and so not a great first impression. It was like a wannabe Ibiza, and the brits loved it. Most of the backpackers here were part of the bars and clubs meaning that there would be no hope of a good night’s sleep if you were based there. We’d been placed in a hostel which is co-owned by Nomads and Base. It was like a campsite, but with permanent buildings. Due to the hostel ground’s immense size, we didn’t have any problems with the noise of the town, and even had our own facilities. The toilet didn’t look great but didn’t smell either, and the shower was warm. They had a bar, swimming pool, numerous shared facilities and a good laundry hub. We also stopped by and used their facilities on a day we arrived back from a boat trip. Hostels are so handy for free showers sometimes! For our needs I’d rate it a 3 out of 5.

The Southern Cross at Agnes Water has a few issues it needs to deal with. They have a shuttle bus which picks up people from the greyhound bus. This gets in at 6:30am. When we went up to reception the lady said, ‘I can check you in, but reception doesn’t actually open until 8am’. Now why would you set your reception to open at 8am when you pick people up every day at 6:30am?! Next, she made us wait while everyone else got ‘checked in’, and once we had all been seen to she took us to our rooms, which we found were 10metres away from where we’d been sitting all that time. Most hostels have a map on reception to point you to your room. It saves her and us the hassle, if they just point it out when checking in. The place isn’t even that big. Then she told us that none of the doors have locks on them, right as she opened a door up on someone who was sleeping. Later, when we were catching up on some sleep, the same thing happened to us. A couple opened the door on us and said they’d been checked into our room. So there’s something going wrong with their room allocation too. On top of that we’d been told that we had a free breakfast included and to go to the kitchen when we were ready. What we found was the remains of the cheapest white bread you can find, and a couple spreads. Yes, we’re in a hostel, but I’ve been to Billabongs remember!
The hostel itself was nice. It was based in the middle of nowhere with a nice looking pool, the room had a big shower in it, and the shuttle to and from town was very handy, but the little things let it down. If they change their reception hours and give rooms locks, I’d give this a high score, but for now; 3 out of 5.

Next was a place called Pippies in Rainbow beach. In this small town there’s a street with the backpackers along it, and Pippies seems to be the most hippy hostel. The reception staff were laid back and said to not worry about a late check out. I feared that their reclined attitude may reflect upon the cleanliness of the place, but thankfully, it did not, and our room and shared bathroom were clean enough. There was an issue of a mound of black hair clogging up the shower drain, but I could place that blame on the occupant of the black-haired girl in the one other room we shared the bathroom with. Our room even had a balcony with a table and chairs, overlooking the pool. Our free breakfast here was once again bread, but at least we had a choice of white or brown. 3 out of 5.

Our longest stay was at Halse Lodge in Noosa. Halse Lodge is part of the YHA and also has a restaurant and bar which is popular with the locals, giving the whole place less of a backpacker vibe. We had shared facilities here which appeared to get cleaned every other day and could’ve done with being cleaned every day as there were a lot of people sharing the two showers and toilets the hostel had. We also struggled to find the right time to cook in the kitchen, but that’s probably the same for every hostel, we just hadn’t needed to before. It’s very convenient that there’s a restaurant on site with a 10% discount for guests, and we used this opportunity on more than one occasion. The room itself was nicely decorated and at no point did I fear that a cockroach or spider would join us. As they have a restaurant, there’s no free breakfast here, but we had no problems with the staff, room, or facilities so I’ll gladly give them a 5 out of 5.

Begrudgingly we headed into Brisbane. Being a big city, we didn’t have high hopes for a nice hostel. At Brisbane Base Embassy, what we found was a maze of corridors with rooms off of them that somehow were cool enough to not need air con. It was also quiet enough with double glazing. However, the bathrooms were filthy even after the cleaners came out of them. I felt like they were just pushing the wet toilet paper around the room a bit more rather than cleaning it up. I didn’t even dare shower there. I spent as little time in those rooms as possible. Being a city hostel you also assume there will be noise once the clubs close, and there was. I got woken up at 3am to lots of ‘woo’s and shouting, and even though this place has a 24 hour reception, no one appeared to move them on or advise them to be quiet on entry.  3 out of 5 – it would’ve been a two with the lack of air con as well, but thankfully the rooms were chilled.

Our final hostel was Nomads in Byron Bay. This large hostel was based down a back street from the main street of Byron. We’d already heard that our hostel was a ‘party hostel’ but I found it hard to believe that all the others weren’t the same. Like Airlie, Byron had a party atmosphere, and many Brits drinking throughout the day – this time trying to be surfers or hippies as they go.
This hostel has unisex toilets and showers as well as female only toilets and showers. Most of them are based in the same section but there was a female only room at the end of the corridor near to our room, which was useful. Our private room contained a bunk bed of a double bottom, and single on top. Unfortunately it was DJ night so they had music ‘til 10pm, then the party moved onto the street below, to a nightclub, and came back into the hallways around 1-2am. None of the hostels in Byron seemed to be bad for location, but I do feel like there would have been a quieter one than Nomads. 4 out of 5.


Overall, the accommodation chosen for me was fine. At the end of two weeks moving from one to the next, I’d had enough, and I didn’t want to see another hostel for a long time. The prices do vary depending on the amount of privacy you’d like, and being in the older age bracket than your average traveller, I chose to spend that little bit more whenever I could afford it.

For most travellers, if you don’t mind a bit of muck, partying with the rest of them, and sharing with a bug or two, then you’ll enjoy your time in hostels. I’m just sharing my opinion of the ones we visited to give you another perspective of where to stay.

Fun things to do when you’re poor and travelling

I’m now based in one area for the next two months. All my money is tied up in future ventures, and because of where I am nearly all of my earnings are going on rent.

In this predicament it’s easy to feel like I can’t go out and do anything touristy, so I’m now going to try coming up with a list of free things to see and do, to help me cope with the next two months but also help anyone else out there in the same situation.

Let’s start simple – walking. Walking is free and healthy and so a great way to pass the time if you find the right routes to take. I’ve already mentioned my walk around Shelly beach to North Head in Manly, and there’s another walk to Spit Head which I plan on going on fairly soon. Other than that, one short and rather cheap bus journey can get me into the heart of Sydney city where I can venture as far as my legs will carry me. I may even try the Bondi to Coogee walk.

Free entry to Sydney sights:

  • The Rocks
  • Botanical Gardens & other parks
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Luna Park (rides are $10 though!)
  • Australian National Maritime Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Art & Art Gallery of NSW
  • Bondi beach
  • Markets & shopping centres (window shopping)

Every city will have the same situation of offering free entry into certain museums or sights. I used to love spending my lunch times in London walking around the British History Museum. Chilling out for an hour of culture during my hectic day made the afternoon of work so much more manageable.

After giving all of the above a go I’ve also found Free Events in and around Sydney. Centennial Park hold free events during the summer months and there’s always a book launch or guided tour I could jump in on.

The larger cities of the world usually have a Time Out guide which will keep you updated on what’s going on that week. A simple web search usually brings up everything free for that week – but look a little deeper – you could find some cheeky free launches or gigs that aren’t being shouted about. These will likely be the best experiences to try and get to.

Other than touristy things to do, there’s always the classic ways to fill my time for free – reading, watching TV, sleeping – I enjoy all these things very much!

If you have any other suggestions or ideas of things to do while I’m poor in Sydney, let me know!

A Pomme’s Perspective of: TOWNSVILLE

Usually when I mention Townsville to an Aussie all they say is ‘Bogan central’. Being a Brit, I had no idea what that meant so I ignored it. I had pre-organised a month housesitting a parakeet and a bearded dragon for a lovely Canadian couple who were off to introduce their baby to their family back home.

I’d managed to organise this via Trusted Housesitters where for a small fee you can create a profile and contact people who need sitters. This is a great way to get free accommodation somewhere whilst living in a normal house setting and having the wonderful company of all sorts of animals.

Townsville itself is relatively quiet. The town is formed around the base of a hill, and has Magnetic Island just a ferry ride away. Whilst I’ve been here I’ve been to Reef HQ and Billabong Sanctuary, two great places that help teach people about all the different kinds of animals found in the area.

Reef HQ is more of an education centre than an aquarium. It’s been created to teach people all about the Great Barrier Reef; from what lives there, to how it’s being damaged by us.

It’s main tank is a man-made reef with natural sunlight, and it contains a large variety of fish and sea creatures. They also have a turtle sanctuary which you can go around on a tour at certain times of the day.

The Billabong Sanctuary is also very educational but not like Reef HQ. Where Reef has lots of things to read, Billabong has constant talks and shows on each animal.

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I spent all my time there hopping from one talk to the next whilst checking out other animals in between. I learnt all about native birds to the area, wombats, koalas, dingoes, crocs, and turtles.

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You can also buy packets of food for the kangaroos and birds that live on the billabong and hand feed them.

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Housesitting in Townsville was a great month for me. I got to chill out with some beautiful animals, see the local wildlife, and bask in the sun whenever I wanted. It may be a quiet town with a few boy racers, but I wouldn’t let that put you off stopping there on your way up/down the coast.