Beach fires, waterfalls and introspection...

I've spent the past week really settling in, and as I meet and bond with more people this little place has started to feel like my new home.

Tuesday night was Oceane's leaving do, and we had an ace night on the beach. The fire was like a beacon, and we attracted various people who'd come looking for a party. Ever mindful of my early alarm (and the fact that however laidback everyone is, I probably shouldn't turn up too hungover on my second day) I decided to head back at about 1am. Only to be persuaded to stay for 'one more drink'. Hopeful that vegemite on toast and a litre of water would magically help my liver overnight, I fell into bed at about 2.30.

Hmm. Even my twenty second commute felt a long way on Wednesday. And I felt even worse when I realised there were 12 checkouts to do... I also had to swap dorms into the long-term room (only four of us rather than nine - hurrah!) so needed to pack and unpack. It was a long morning.

On Wednesday evening I decided that I was definitely going to watch the moon rise. The man in the moon however, must have somehow slept through his alarm because even by 10.30 he was nowhere to be seen. Tired and achey, our group gave up and came home to fall once more into bed. Next time, I'm googling what time to expect the moon. At least I got to show off my mad fire building skills. All bowed down to the prowess of my ex-scouting knowledge. I got to be bossy and MAKE FLAMES so I felt better about the moon-less skies.

Somehow I managed to get the morning off on Thursday so I had a delicious lie-in, relishing not having to clean any toilets right after I'd eaten breakfast. Then it was time to go to the first shift of my second job!
The Zenbah is owned by the same people who own the hostel and the two couples who manage the hostel (Louise and Alex, Stacey and Ash) work between them to manage both places, meaning that I already knew everyone I was going to work with. It's a bar/restaurant/cafe/whatever you make of it and it only opened a couple of months ago. I like it, because after much persuasion from Stacey they stock pear cider - a rarity in Australia as everywhere seems to be beer only!
I did well and (aside from smashing a stack of plates, spilling passionfruit pulp all over the bar and forgetting to put someone's main through the till...ahem) managed to learn the ropes pretty quickly. Customers are the same everywhere, and I started to flex my bar muscles. My leg muscles, however, are unused to being used for such long periods of time and by my last shift of the week on Saturday I was feeling seriously achey. Long gone are the days of my uber shifts at BonDs, I've been sat behind a desk for the past 19 months! I
sold chairs - I had to sit down a lot.

The only problem is that I get fed every shift. Doesn't sound so bad, but when you consider that Rudi the chef is french and worked in a Michelin starred restaurant back home...well you pretty much want to lick the plate when you've finished. And the French aren't exactly reknowned for their low-fat options. I'm hoping that running on the beach will counteract the calories. It's amazing what being half naked all the time does to your commitment to healthy eating.

On Sunday I was invited by one of the long termers to go on a road trip to Milla Milla falls up in the tablelands - and obviously I said yes. Despite having 12 people checking out I worked like a machine and managed to do all my cleaning, shower and pack and be ready on time to leave at 11. Skills.

The Milla Milla falls are just over an hours drive away, and even wedged into the back next to the eskie I enjoyed the journey, watching the scenery change from thick rainforest, to mountains, to rainforest-y mountains. There were four of us - Pete the driver (who stays at the hostel and works as a painter), Rudi (chef at my place of work, and also brother of Oceane the previous housekeeper) and Rudi's friend Jess; we were joined later on by Ann and another long-termer Ben who's originally from the tablelands. We visited two other waterfalls (Zillie and Ellinjaa) before Milla Milla and they were beautiful, literally carving out holes in the rainforest. It's cooler up in the mountains, and with spray from the falls I enjoyed feeling free from heat and humidity for the first time in nearly a month.
Milla Milla was beautiful. Just....gorgeous. (I'm not eloquent enough to do it any justice in description - I suggest you google it.) We even managed to get the falls to ourselves at some points in the afternoon, before another bus load of tourists turned up. Hungry, we tucked into the paella that we'd brought with us that got 'cooked' on the dashboard of Pete's car and heated up by the sun! It was over 24 hours ago and I've not got food poisoning yet, so it must work. It's a trick Rudi learnt from his mother apparently, and it must have been worth it just to see the look on my face... I really bemoaned not having my camera yesterday (I still haven't fixed mine/got a replacement) but more for the lack of paella-cooking proof than anything. Thankfully Ann had her camera and took a snap of me...

This is one of the locations for a herbal essences advert. Don't I fit in perfectly?

After warming up in the sun I decided to join Pete for a swim. He'd warned me (and I'd expected) that the water would be cold, and woooooah it was. Not quite 'Bantham beach in April' cold, but probably 'north Cornwall in August' cold. It was certainly fresh, and it was nice to be able to splash about without the sting of saltwater. There is something liberating about wild swimming (I love the Hampstead ponds) and it was a novelty being able to enjoy SUCH cold water without the worry of how to warm back up afterwards. Although after spotting a black water snake after I'd got out, I did remind myself that the worst you have to worry about in the UK is probably weaver fish. There are advantages and disadvantages to living everywhere...

We spent a few hours at Milla Milla falls, each managing at least one swim and a nap, before we got too cold and decided to head off. Pete's parent's own a pub in Milla Milla and we stopped in for a beer and - drum roll - my first proper Aussie meat pie. I don't know if it was the pie, or the appetite the fresh air had given me, but it was bloody tasty. Yum. I approve of Aussie pies. After Pete and I roundly beat Rudi and Jess at pool (I helped - by potting two balls) we were knackered and made our way home.

Last night was spent forcing my eyes open to read until a semi-reasonable time, and I've just finished my work for the morning. My plan of beach-read-swim-repeat has been foiled because I stupidly left my bikini in Pete's car last night (forgetting to remove it before he went to work today) and I'm pretty sure no one needs to see me sunbathe in my pants. It's probably a good thing though, as rather than laze my afternoon away I'm ticking things off my 'to-do' list.

Tomorrow is my first full day off since a week last Sunday - no waitressing, cleaning or pot washing. Hurrah! I intend to do nothing other than read on the beach, swim and get even more tanned. Don't hate me too much - I'm doing housekeeping and split shifts at Zenbah for the rest of this week, so I've got to squeeze in downtime somehow...

So, after my first week as a fully paid up member of the working-beach-bums scoiety how am I doing? Well, I only wear shoes half of the time. And I'm starting to look pretty tanned (having white bits and looking tanned are very different things for me). My hair is accelerating from red to blonde, and I barely wear makeup; if I do it's pretty much just a slick of mascara to darken my even-lighter lashes. Surprisingly I'm coping with the insular nature of this place - until yesterday I don't think I'd walked further than the 500 yards to the stinger net on the beach. Having people come and go helps because there's always a new face, but I'm actually OK with the contrast to my old life in London. In fact, it's one of the reasons that I like it here so much. No tubes, no targets, no rush, no stress.

I do love London, and I want to go back; I miss home far more keenly than I thought I would. This is compounded by the desire I have already to extend my visa to a two year one (it really is amazing out here). When I planned to come to Australia homesickness was something I'd expected, but how hard my goodbyes were took me by surprise, as has the amount I miss home. Not to say I want to go back now - I'm so excited to be here - but I think I'd just like to have a mate or two with me. I'm jealous of the people travelling in pairs! It's hard not being able to access the people you love all the time - the time difference is a bitch and it's no fun having to plan exact skype times with people. It's an adjustment, and I'm sure one that I'll make, and I know my other life will be waiting for me again when I return. I want to see the world, and I'm much happier here than I was before - just in a different way. Routine is comforting, but it doesn't necessarily make you happy in the long run. I love that I can go and have adventures where and when I fancy; the only thing that limits me is 'can I afford that?'. Given the popularity of work-exchange hostels I think I'll muddle through and go on all the adventures that I like. Knowing me, I'll be way more 'Australia-sick' when I get back to the UK!

One of the advantages of being here (and being signal-less and internet-on-my-blackberry-less) is that I'm not chained to my phone anymore. Not obsessivley tweeting, texting and calling. Guaranteed, I'd have taken and uploaded pcitures from the falls yesterday. Tweeted about it. Called someone with a 'guess where I am?' boastfullness. It made me think of the John Mayer song 3x5, and I liked it.

Wow, this has all gone a bit intropective, eh? That's what happens when I can't go for a swim. THE MADNESS SETS IN. I doubt anyone will want to hear me moan about working split shifts as you all work equally hard back home and don't have a beach to lie on after work. But if anything interesting happens I'll probably blog. Until then, g'day and g'night.

I don't know if anyone's tried, but my Aussie phone isn't working here as Vodaphone don't cover the area. Thanks Vodaphone. I'm working on getting a new sim, but until then should you need to contact me urgently then loosen the purse strings and spend 30p on texting my UK number.

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