The Journey Begins:
It should go without saying that any backpacking trip is incomplete without the great wilderness of Australia. This is emphasized when I inform people that my journey will start in Australia, each and every person will reply along the lines of “oh did you know so and so are in Australia now…my cousins’ aunties’ nephew have been there 2 years”. However despite the obviousness of visiting this shrine to independent travelling, it never really appeared as an option. Since I had first started to plan out this trip, it has changed dramatically, resulting in me actually taking a trip completely different to what I first imagined.
Originally the plan was to travel from the UK all the way to Indonesia, before paying up for a flight home from one of the Indonesian islands. However after more research into the matter, it would seem that travelling in the opposite direction would make more sense, if not purely for financial reasons. This way if I happen to run out of funds quicker than expected the price for that final plane ticket home will at least be less than if it was travelling TOWARDS Australia. As well as that, by this point my beloved cousin Vanessa had decided to join me on my travels, where she was the one wise enough to suggest travelling to Australia first. In the end I suppose it made much more sense, with flights to Australia being cheaper than flying directly to Indonesia, plus, who can turn down an opportunity to explore Australia?
I decided to book the flight to Australia ASAP to get the cheapest price possible before the year ends, I was determined to travel before that happened. I finished University in late July, where the first order of business was to gather up some funds fast, and grab a ticket even faster! With the aid of www.skyscanner.com in early September, I was able to find a selection of dates of travel from various airports for less than £400 (You’ll be lucky to find any cheaper) before the end of the year, which kept my hopes high. 2 weeks later when I had enough funds to start buying tickets, I was only able to find one single flight across all airports that was £400 or less…£400 exactly in fact. Just goes to show how much time really is a factor on these matters.
Date is set:
On the 29th of September I bought my first ticket, and my fate was sealed, there was no going back now. A flight from Manchester airport (reasonably close to home) to Melbourne, an ideal location to start my trip, with 2 connecting flights in all, a full 24 hours of travel. A few days later my cousin called to confirm that she’d be joining me along the East coast for a couple of weeks before flying back home from Cairns.
From then on it was a matter of planning where and what I was going to do while I was there, and for how long. The first question people always seem to ask when you tell them you’re going to Australia, “To work?”. That would be a favorable option, I wouldn’t be against spending a considerable amount of time somewhere while all the while earning some pocket money for the rest of my journey. For my Australia trip I’ve decided not to work, and I was unable to get a hold of any decent volunteering opportunities along the way. This will be purely leisure, take it easy for the first few weeks.
Me and my cousin began meeting to arrange the trip, and we quickly realized we essentially wanted to visit the exact same places along the East coast. I suppose everyone does, as its a trail utilized by backpackers for years! I decided that as my trip was going to last considerably longer than hers, she should be aloud to plan out the East coast trip, seeing as that will be her entire trip. She decided on arranging a package tour along the East coast, accommodation, travel, food, activities, the lot. This sounded quite promising as that takes out all the hassle of planning, where you can just relax and everything is arranged for you. However I suspected that this wouldn’t be a cheap option, I was right.
The initial quote for the package tour from Melbourne to Cairns over 3/4 weeks would of cost roughly £2000 through the website www.peterpans.com.au , which immediately I rejected the idea. Simply because to pay for that 3 week trip it would eradicate the majority of my budget! However I had to bare in mind that this was HER trip, I want her to be able to do what she wants to do, but balance that with my wallet! In the end, and I will say thanks to the websites great customer service, we asked if there was a possible cheaper option, so they customized the trip to suit our needs, cutting out a day or two in one city or missing out on one or two activities, but bringing the price down to roughly £1400. Still is quite a lot of money considering my mission statement of finding a bargain at all opportunities. However I’ll consider this my one treat, to ease me into the backpacking life. Having everything sorted for us, not having to spend anything outside of alcohol, not too bad, as well as including excursions such as a 2 day yacht cruise and a tour of the great barrier reef included.
PeterPan Adventures 3-week tour, Melbourne-Cairns:
From the 23rd of November until the 18th of December, meaning I will find myself in Cairns for a fact on the 18th of December.
That’s almost 4 weeks of travelling with everything sorted all the way up to Cairns, the question now was, where next? My targets were set on one place in particular, Indonesia. That is where I wanted to go next, badly, so my objective was to get to Indonesia, by whatever means. I knew that the cheapest destination to get to Indonesia from Australia would be Darwin right on the northern tip of the Northern Territories, so that was my next target. How I got there and where I went through to get there was up to me. To be fair my options were quite limited from the start, as I mainly had one of two options: to fly to Darwin from Cairns, or to travel by road. Maybe in the long run, a flight would work out to cost about the same as if I went by road, but where’s the fun in that? Where’s the adventure in flying directly from one point to another, so I lay out my own route
So how can one travel this route, I see two options. Firstly the bus; a cheap option in most other countries, but in Australia the costs are MASSIVE. To be fair they take you over considerable distances in great comfort, but still, hundreds of pounds for a bus ticket after spending a grand and a half did not take my fancy. One particular company would be www.grayhoundbuses.com , which have varying bus routes, one of which was the one I intended to take to Darwin. This is definitely an option if you have the funds to spare or would need to be there in a rush.
The only other option that I can see, which maybe a risky one considering movies such as “Wolf’s Creek” etc, but one that’s been utilised for years, hitchhiking. The obviously huge benefit of this for me my is that it is COMPLETELY FREE. I’ve seen it been done, from Cairns to Darwin in 5 days solely on grabbing a ride by a complete friendly stranger. I’m not so cocky to give myself as little time and to assume if I stick my thumb out there the first car will pull over. I could be unlucky, and of course I have things I want to see along the way, namely Ayers Rock and possibly a kangaroo. So I’ve given myself 2 weeks to get from Cairns to Darwin, to see everything I can in-between, where I have booked my next flight.
This means that this year will be my first Christmas away from home as I will be spending it in outback Australia this year. On the 30th of December I will be catching a flight from Darwin to my next country, Indonesia, landing in the most praised island of all, Bali, where I will be spending my New Years, after 5 well spent weeks in Australia.