A Travellerspoint blog

HelpX in Darwin

sunny 30 °C

We have been so busy since our arrival in Darwin that I must admit I have been completely and utterly neglecting the travel blogs. What with helping out host-families, finding employment, hunting for accommodation, finding our way around and generally getting used to this new chapter in our lives, there has simply been no time to sit back and write to you! As a result, my usual diary-like entries will have to give way to more condensed summaries.

After a lovely first day in Darwin and a good long sleep in the hostel, we immediately got back into HelpX-mode helping families out in exchange for food and accommodation. We had two home-stays back to back of approximately a week each. Both were similar in the fact that our hosts were moving and that both were somewhat hectic.

Our first stay was with Carolyn, who lived in Leanyer. As it turned out, she was moving from one suburb to another and there was very much still to be moved, to be cleaned and to be organized. Only problem was: Carolyn lacks serious organizational skills! Despite already having moved most of her belongings, there was still a lot of work to do, but when we heard we would be joined by two more sets of helpers in the coming days, we were quite shocked. What would she do with a total of six helpers? Would that not add more work and chaos? And so the next day, we were joined by a lovely French couple: Laurie and Julien. Despite the initial embarrassment of being in charge of making the evening meal with a limited amount of ingredients and finding out that Julien was in fact a professional chef, we immediately seemed to get along really well. The following morning came a Spanish couple: Ivan and Ainhoa, who were travelling by camper-van. They were friendly enough, but spoke very little English, which made communicating very hard. Both couples were struggling with English in varying levels and as a result I ended up doing a lot of translating. As Ben and I were the only ones understanding Carolyn perfectly, we were the ones who were given all of the instructions. This created a fair bit of drama as every time someone did not agree with the task at hand, we were blamed. And no one seemed to understand the golden rule of "don't kill the messenger"! A lot of the work was heavy lifting, so us three girls did a lot of standing around while the men were given task after task. It was a chaotic, disorganized and at times frustrating stay, but we really enjoyed the company of others.

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The 6 Helpers at Lenayer Waterpark

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Carolyn and her pet-snake Cleopatra!

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Posing with Cleopatra, Carolyn's pet-python!

Our second stay was with Brett and Brigit and their two little boys, who were moving to Melbourne. Thank goodness they had arranged for a removal company to pack up all their items and furniture, so all we had to do was help to clean the house in preparation for the people that would be renting the house from them. There was also the odd babysitting and helping out with family duties. Everything was very organised, there was no discussion needed about what to do and we got the flexibility to choose when to do the work. Yet with their two little boys: Xavier (4) and Elias (2), who wake up around 4.30am with lots of loud screaming and regular temper tantrums, it soon became very exhausting and we were often trying to get away during our time off.

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Birgit, Elias, Brett and Xavier!

Maybe not our most exciting home-stays, but we were very grateful that the families took us in at such short notice and helped us to save our precious pennies. It wasn't great of course that we were yet again stuck into helping people to move and all the drama that comes with it, but we did not know this in advance. Luckily, both locations were close to the Casuarina shopping complex and library, which meant that we could escape and get some research and job-applications done. Whether we were successful in this, you will find out in the next blog post!

Much love and see you soon, xxx

Posted by Fat Face 16:53 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Contact Information Darwin

Hello everyone,

Getting in touch might seem tricky when we are constantly on the move, but now that we are in Darwin and intending to stay a while, it should be a little easier. We have put together a blog post with all our contact details so far. As soon as something changes or as soon as we have our own address, we will immediately inform you of this!

Time-Difference:

Ever heard the rumour that some countries have a half hour time-difference? Well, guess what? Darwin is one of them. This means that Darwin's time-difference is -7.5 with Europe, -8.5 hours for the UK and -13.5 hours for Canada. To make this somewhat easier, I have created a chart with time-differences for the morning, midday, afternoon and evening:

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Due to working hours, through either HelpX home-stays or full-time employment, the evenings would be the best and most convenient times to contact our family and friends abroad.

Contact Us:

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We now each have an Australian mobile phone number.
Ben's mobile number is +61 415 099 851
Emilie's mobile number is +61 415 099 438

We only decided to get one mobile number in New Zealand because we would be spending most of our time together. Once we find 'proper' jobs in Australia though, we might not see much of each other, hence the decision to get a number each. At this point though, as we are yet in the planning stages, you can get in touch via either numbers. We have also gotten ourselves a special international package, which allows us to call the world at a cheaper rate. So if ever you would like to talk to us, but do not want to spend a fortune, send us a text message or an e-mail with the time and date that you wish to be contacted and we will try our best to give you a call then!

Our e-mail addresses remain the same and you can continue to reach us via
benconnon@gmail.com (Ben) and iarlanthirien@hotmail.com (Emilie)

Facebook is also a great way of keeping in touch, so if you haven't already: send us a friend request today! Facebook is what we use to put all our pictures on the internet, but as always, we will send out a public free link so that even those who do not have an account can see the albums.

As of yet, we do not have a home phone number or a home address of our own, but if you wish to get in touch, we would be happy to pass you on the details of the host-families or hostels we are staying with at the time. Once we have our own internet connection, we will also ensure that Skype is set up as well.

If any of the above details change, you will be able to read up about this in a future blog post and as always you are welcome to leave us a comment after each post. We love hearing from you!

Take care, Ben and Emilie xxx

Posted by Fat Face 18:04 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Darwin, the Northern Territory's tropical capital

25 °C

Arrival in Darwin

We have arrived in Darwin! No incidents of travel sickness this time, although we both did feel the adrenaline of having finally arrived at our destination pumping through our veins. So this is it: Darwin, the Northern Territory, the region which has given us so much hope over the past weeks. We landed at half past midnight and according to Mr Pilot, the temperatures then were a good 25'C. Sounds good to me! There was not much we could do at this time of night and by the time we had retrieved our luggage it was already 1am and sleep was slowly clouding our minds. There were many travellers alike, who decided to spend the night at the airport to save money. We did not get much sleep though: Darwin Airport is tiny and with many flights scheduled for the middle of the night, the constant hustle and bustle, lack of space, bright lights and constant announcements over the intercom, made it a bumpy sleep. You can't help but check the time every so often to see how much longer you need to wait and when it finally came to 6am (the time we are allowed to drop our bags off at the hostel) our first reaction was: "Oh thank goodness, we made it through the night!" You could tell who had spent the night at the airport by their completely over-dressed attire. With my three layers of clothing, I was definitely a laughing matter, but with the air-conditioning and sleep deprivation, you can really feel the chill.

As the sun rose into the sky, we stepped into a bus and headed for the CBD (Central Business District). It was a short distance to Banyan View hostel, where we booked ourselves in for the following night. We were there a good few hours before check-in, but the friendly staff allowed us to store our luggage and make use of the kitchen facilities, so that we could head out and explore the area a little. One staff member in particular, a bubbly Tasmanian girl, was a huge help to us and provided us with any information we might need, from addresses of recruitment agencies, to free wireless internet spots, to the nearest supermarkets, to the best free tourist attractions, and so on. Her love for Darwin was contagious. And so, armed with a map and all the information one might require, we set off and walked into the centre. The weather was mild and enjoyable and we soon found ourselves smiling with contentment. Unlike Brisbane's gigantic hustle and bustle, Darwin remains friendly and compact, with a strong tropical influence. Despite the considerable difference in size with other such cities, Darwin still has all the same amenities, services and bargains on offer than its bigger siblings. Our fears that the remote location would come at a price were unjustified, which we appreciated with a sigh of relief.

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Tropical Darwin

The travels had worn us out and so after using the free internet facilities and getting some basic needs from the supermarkets, we walked back to the hostel, where we literally crashed down on the bed upon arrival. Though not before setting our alarm clocks for this evenings anticipated event: Mindil Beach Market! Rated as one of Australia's best markets, we were so excited to be experiencing it on our very first day! After a welcoming nap, and a hearty lunch/dinner, we set off and followed the swarms of people that headed into the same direction. From a mile away you could hear the vibrant happy music and smell the most delicious of foods being prepared and consumed. Mindil Market was everything we hoped for and more: we loved it! Set up on the car park by the beach, all corners of the world seem to come together to celebrate the end of the week. There were crowds of Europeans, Africans, Asians, Australians and Aboriginals. It was a melting pot in the truest fashion and the culinary delights that stemmed from it were served in more than 30 stalls. Thank goodness we had a large meal before coming, otherwise the temptation to tuck in would have been irresistible.

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Anyone fancy a "Crocodile Roll"?

We walked around for a while, sniffing up the atmosphere, then headed to the beach to admire the gorgeous sunset and then sat down to watch several talented buskers playing their repertoire in front of a captivating audience.

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Performer at Mindil Market

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Gorgeous Sunset at Mindil Beach

A better end to our first day we could not imagine!
Much love and take care,
Ben and Emilie

Posted by Fat Face 16:30 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wellington Point with the Moore Family

all seasons in one day 20 °C

And so from Elli, we moved a few streets further to spend our last days in Queensland with the lovely Moore family. Lyn and Doug are good friends of Elli's and as they were considering becoming hosts on HelpX, we were there 'taster session', so to speak. From the moment we arrived, we felt very much at home, most likely because we weren't living amongst boxes anymore and it was in actual fact a home. But the Moore family too were so accommodating: Lyn and her husband Doug are extraordinary people and despite our short stay, we very much enjoyed their company. In retrospect, it was probably more along the lines of what we wanted our home-stay in Brisbane to be like and we really got a personal feel for the area through the family's sharing of their experiences and life-style. I suppose we were a little unfortunate to have met Elli at her most stressful time, but then again, we knew we were of great help to her and that in itself was very rewarding.

Lyn and Doug have a wonderful story of two people and their children coming together to create their own family. Lyn previously had five children and Doug previously had two children. Together they had two more of their own. A little of yours, a little of mine, a little of ours = nine, now grown, children in total with a handful of grandchildren along the way. I could listen to their stories for hours and loved seeing all their family pictures adorning the house. We only got to meet their youngest daughter, Zoe, who was really lovely. She was about to follow her dream to open up her own café with her boyfriend David and with checking out venues and coming up with ideas, experimenting with baking recipes, which ended in lots of delicious treats for us to eat. Zoe could have easily become my new best friend, if it weren't for the fact that sending treats to Darwin would be costly and messy undertaking ;)

We helped Lyn and Doug to move a paved area from one end of the garden to the other, from where a clothes line would be hung. This involved digging up the stones, shovelling the ground, shifting it all to the other end, where we had to dig a new area and start all over again. It was a fun project, but unfortunately, the weather kept interrupting us. We went from sunny and blue skies each morning to drizzly 'sunshowers' (sun and light rain) to heavy rain and back again. It was a little frustrating and our shoes soon turned bright red from the same-coloured red clay'ey soil. We were soon walking around with more soil hanging from our shoes than on the ground and it was incredibly messy. We did eventually manage to get it done in the two days and also managed to do some odd things on the side, such as planting of some herbs, including a mint and chocolate plant (!!) and doing some waterblasting. We were happy we got so much done and Lyn and Doug were really appreciative.

Our time off, due to the foul weather, was spent reading and spending time with the family. Lyn lent Ben and I both a book which we devoured in a day. I read 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen', the book behind the movie we saw at the cinema during our last evening in New Zealand. It was great to be absorbed in a book like that without being disturbed and which pushed away all our worries and the world around us for a short while. We loved it. And the evening meals were another enjoyable moment during our stay. Doug and Ben had so much in common and the two made a happy pair going on about their shared love for engineering and other geeky things, whereas Lyn and I were able to bond over other things.

What was more, we felt as though we now had a sense of what Brisbane and Queensland was like and enjoyed throwing constant questions at poor Lyn and Doug about anything we wanted to know. They have lived all over Eastern Australia and so they were a wealth of information. They were so excited about our move to Darwin that we ended up feeling more and more excited about it as well. Doug kept telling us how great he thought it was that we were going there and he was genuinely interested in finding out how we would be getting on. Lyn gave us the contact details of a friend of hers, who lived in Darwin, which gave us the feeling that we would have a friendly face around if ever we were in need of it. So, when the time came to pack our bags, we were very sad to say our goodbyes, even more so when they kindly offered to drive us all the way to the airport! What lovely people!

And so ended our week and a half 'gap' in Brisbane. The weather was unusually wet for that time of year and we did not have as much time to explore it as we wanted to, but we were happy to have visited it and to have met some wonderful people. Next destination: Darwin!

Posted by Fat Face 00:58 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wellington Point with Elli

all seasons in one day

We have been staying with Elli and helping her out as much as we can. Despite being retired for the past 10 years, Elli is in the middle of moving to a 'nearby' town (some 1600 km away) called Winton where her husband Graham recently got a job. Not exactly what poor old Elli had in mind, but she has made peace with it and needed help to get everything packed and ready. So enter Ben and Emilie. Ben was being made in charge of all the outdoor jobs, such as tidying up the grounds, painting rusty patches of staircases and decks, waterblasting the house, trimming the trees, weeding, etc. all in preparation for the people who will eventually rent the house. I became Elli's right hand (wo)man with all the packing. And despite only two people having lived in the house, there is an enormity of things. The things (mostly useless as well!) people amass in their lives is pretty scary and it makes you realise how much possessions are valued.

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Packing, packing and more packing

The first few days the weather was not that great and we took advantage of that to recharge our batteries. Then there was a brief spell of nice weather, but there was a tight deadline to finish packing all the furniture and items which would be put into storage, so our free time was limited. The deal is that we do our hours and then have free time, but with so much to be done, and Elli wanting to chat away during lunch, we usually weren't "free" until 3pm, which gave us a couple of hours only before the darkness crept in. And then we were in charge of dinners every other night, which gave us even less free time. Everything literally evolved around packing, and more packing.

On Sunday however, we were given the day off to explore the surroundings. We were so grateful for this opportunity, but unfortunately it turned very cold during the night and we both did not get much sleep. What was meant to be an early rise to enjoy the day to the fullest, turned into a late start and so Elli's advice to visit Stradbroke Island fell into the water. To some extent, it came as a relief as we weren't bothered about visiting an island for its wildlife when we could instead get to know Brisbane better. If ever the opportunity came to find employment there in the future, it would be handy to get a better feel for it than our brief wanderings upon arrival. Elli still insisted we visited Manley and as it was on the way to the city, we did. It was a lovely sea-side township with a cute local market being held during that same morning. It was really nice and after having walked around for a short while, we headed back to the train station. A section of the railway lines were being restored and so a free bus service operated the route. Not that this bothered us as it saved us lots of money and gave us a different, more scenic ride into the city.

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Manley

We took our time to walk around Brisbane this time and soaked up every little detail. We crossed one of the bridges, which led us to the South Bank and were surprised by its charm. There was clearly a strong investment to make it into a social, yet relaxing area along the river and we loved it. It boasts many hip cafés and restaurants, Australia's only inner-city (man made) beach with free swimming facilities, a Nepalese Peace Pagoda dating from the Brisbane World Expo '88, a giant ferriswheel and beautifully kept gardens.

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Brisbane's South Bank: Nepalese Pagoda, Ferris Wheel

We strolled around and our walk back towards the centre of the town happened to coincide with the sunset, creating a magical outlook.

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Brisbane at night.

During other escapades from packing and tidying, we walked to the actual point of Wellington Point, a short 45 minute stroll from Elli's house. It was a lovely spot where families gathered for picnics, students for a beer on the beach and kite-surfers for a session. We really enjoyed, but as with its name-partner Wellington, capital of New Zealand, it was very windy. What's in a name?

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Wellington Point

All in all, our week with Elli was alright. She is a lovely old woman, energetic, passionate and interesting to talk to, but our timing with her move to Winton made it very stressful. There was a deadline to keep to and with our worries about our impending move to Darwin, we just weren't able to settle our minds through out our stay. Luckily, Elli organised for us stay with a friend of hers across the road after the removal men came over to take away the furniture (including our bed) and boxes for storage and that stay suited us a lot more. But for that account, you will have to wait until our next blog post!

Much love, xxx

Posted by Fat Face 00:57 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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