Last week I told the story about turning down an opportunity to work with an iconic Australian rock band, and I promised that this week I'd let you know where I ended up when I got in my car and drove north from Sydney with no real goal in mind.
I was a very restless girl in my twenties. Growing up I was kind of like a second mum to my younger siblings (there were five younger than me), and so my focus as a teenager was on their well being rather than my own dreams and aspirations. When I left school, I had no idea what I wanted to do, I simply had the travel bug. The world called me and I followed, blindly, without fear or hesitation. I still do, but I have a whole lot more purpose in my wanderings these days.
So I travelled north from Sydney in my car, visited my parents and sat for a little while to contemplate my immediate future. I asked myself constantly, what do I want to do? What would be a really fun job for me to do? Clearly, I was still not ready to go out and play music.
Very soon an idea came to me. I remembered from working in the travel agency, that I'd at some point thought it would be fun to work on those camping tours as a guide/hostess. I looked them up in the phone book and rang a couple of companies. The first one I called was at the very top of Australia, Cape York Peninsula, operating out of Cairns. They actually told me that they'd just hired someone but if I wanted to take the three day drive up there, I'd be sure to pick up a job before long.
I loved the sound of Cape York, but wasn't sure if I wanted to risk going all that way and being stuck without a job. I tried a company closer to home which ran tours up and down the East Coast between Sydney and Cairns. They asked me to come into the office, which I did, and immediately they offered me a job. Goodness, this was easier than I thought.
Once again however, I was being called in a different direction. I couldn't get Cape York out of my head. I imagined sleeping under the stars in a swag every night due to the remoteness of the area. This appealed to me more than tourist parks on the coast. So you know what I did right? I told the East Coast company that I was going to Cairns to try my luck up there and off I went.
I checked into a hostel in Cairns when I arrived, and I phoned the lady that I'd spoken to on the phone previously. She said to come to the office and introduce myself which I did.
She didn't have a job for me, but a man named John Hardaker walked in at that moment. He owned a tour company called New Look Adventures, and when the woman asked if he needed a hostess, he said yes! We're going out tomorrow. Can you start tomorrow? I was beside myself with excitement. How could this be happening!
For the next two years (in the dry season), I worked on those safaris, sleeping under the stars in a swag, cooking for up to 24 people, swimming in remote rivers (the ones without the crocodiles... I think hehe) and snorkelling on the Barrier Reef with the guests. Don't get me wrong, it was 16 days each trip of dusty, corrugated roads. It was hot and we'd drive all day just to get to the next watering hole where we'd camp for the night, but It was the most amazing experience for me and just what I needed at the time to work out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life.
The lifestyle was so raw and wild, I even got kissed by a wild horse one night as I lay sleeping in my swag. We were camped on a remote airstrip (airstrip in Cape York means a flat stretch of grass where the mail plane can land). I was just dozing off to sleep when I felt whiskers on my face and some very large lips on MY lips. I'm not kidding. As I woke to find a wild horse checking me out, I was surprised at how calm I was. He got more of a fright than I did I think, and he took off running.
It was after these two years that I enrolled in university (at age 28). I was ready now to begin my inevitable journey in the music industry.
I hope you've enjoyed my story this week and please leave a comment below the photos that I've posted.
You can also join the mailing list by downloading my cover of Chasing Cars.
Until next time.
Top left: Crazy fun jumping into a waterhole.Top right. Traversing a flooded river. Middle right. Cooking pancakes on the sandy river bank where we were camped. All the cooking was done this way. Bottom right: Swag. Bottom left: Map of Cape York Peninsula - referred to as Australia's last frontier.