1. Not like it changes anything, but we are obligated to inform you that we are using cookies - so, we just did. Learn More.
  2. Hey you! Yeah, we see you there, lurking! Well, this notice is just to let you know that there's several sections of the website that are available to members only! You're missing out on a lot of stuff by not signing up for an account! It's free, so what have you got to lose?
    Dismiss Notice

Featured 5 months in the land down under

Discussion in 'Travel Stories' started by Koala, Dec 23, 2016.

  1. Koala

    Koala sleeps 22 hours a day, eats chutes and leaves

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2015
    Messages:
    212
    Featured Threads:
    4
    Achievements:
    17
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Student
    Address:
    Miami, FL, United States
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +471 / -3
    In July 2016, I set off to Melbourne, Australia to study at one of the uni's there for a semester. And man, lemme tell you, it's been one heck of a ride. I was a little bit bummed out that I'd be stationary in Melbourne studying for most of my time there, but I had a pretty small course load and planned to see the east coast once the semester finished.

    The first thing I did was get my hands on a bike. A bike is the best form of transportation (in a bike-friendly city). And Melbourne is a bike-friendly city (for reference, when biking in Miami, I have a near-death experience nearly every time I ride, where in Melbourne I only felt I was going to die on a bicycle maybe 2 or 3 times in 5 months).

    IMG_0133.JPG
    July 2016
    Hank, my affectionately named ride-or-die.

    Melbourne's got a nice public transit system of hella trains, trams, and buses. The best in Australia. And you can bring your bike on the train, which is rad, so you can take the train from the eastern suburbs to the western suburbs and beyond.

    Next I got involved with Food Not Bombs. I'd been involved in Miami and found it a great way to meet people and get involved in community so I was stoked to hear Melbourne had not one but 3 sharings per week.

    IMG_0447.JPG
    July 2016
    The FNB van

    IMG_3325.JPG
    December 2016
    The one time we ever put the sign up (at a Monday lunch sharing)

    After sharing the first week I joined for FNB, one of the FNB regular's asked me "Wanna go for a dive with us?".
    I'd never pass down a dive, and I was insanely curious about Australia's dumpsters (actually they call them 'bins' here. Which I think is adorable.) So I threw my bike in the back of the van and we headed down to the city center, right near Flinders Street Station where I would take a train back to my uni later that night.

    I followed my new friends into a brightly lit alley, off one of the main streets of downtown. At the end of the alley sat loads of bins, and my friends went and unlocked 2 or 3 of them with keys kept on their belt loops. Sweet.

    There's a set of bin master keys floating around and everybody's got copies. There's three national grocery chains in Australia - Aldi, Coles, and Woolworths (aka 'Woolys'). And they don't have any of that regional grocery chain stuff that the US has, like Price Chopper or Ralphs or Publix. Every Coles bin is locked with the same Coles lock and every Woolys bin is locked with the same Woolys lock and 80% of Aldi bins aren't locked.

    We were at a set of Coles bins and ended up finding loads of bakery products - I loaded up on a few to take home for myself and we loaded a few boxes up for my friends to take home with them. We handed out some extra goodies to the people sleeping rough outside the train station and bid farewell. I was excited to learn more and get more involved - plus I had gotten invited to a show that weekend, too.

    The show was at a place called Hot Shots. It's a DIY collective at a warehouse in the western suburbs where there's shows pretty often and festivals a few times a year. They also have workspaces, a room full of tools and building materials/random parts for people to use, a bike room, a kitchen, and storage space, mostly to accommodate squatters extra belongings. People are always hanging out and talking, they have weekly dinners and martial arts, and even brew their own beer.

    IMG_0503.JPG
    July 2016
    Show at Hot Shots

    I started joining new friends on big bin diving missions, beer- and coffee-fueled nights stopping at 8 or 9 sets of bins located all throughout the city's suburbs. We'd often come up with large hauls of produce and other food goods and we'd bring everything back to my friend's squat - where he squatted next to four other squatted houses.

    This was the Bendigo Street occupation where a mix of homeless people and activists squatted a set of government-owned houses to bring awareness to Melbourne's public housing crisis. At least 6 houses on Bendigo Street were occupied starting March 2016, slowly facing evictions until all had been evicted as of late November 2016.

    IMG_0783.JPG
    August 2016
    Number 8 Bendigo Street

    Only having classes 2 days a week, I started spending more and more time with friends squatting the western suburbs and was soon squatting with them, occupying new places every 2 or 3 weeks after getting evicted, cleaning out new places, having bon fires, and scoping out empties on long walks home at night.

    002_27.
    October 2016

    003_26.
    October 2016
    Places are often empty but this one wasn't...the solution? Burn it.

    004_25.
    October 2016
    We found not one pair, but TWO PAIRS of these bear claw slippers in the house.

    018_11.
    November 2016

    Squatting in Melbourne is pretty chill, as far as squatting privately-owned houses go. There's a bit more drama with the gov't owned houses (police and security presence, gov't-issued evictions, court summons). With privately-owned houses, police can't get involved unless occupants refuse to leave or are causing serious damage, etc.

    The last few places we squatted were about a 5 minute walk from a metro train station, and behind that was a small freight yard. Australia has got freight, but not nearly as much as the US and it hardly ever stops in Melbourne. Trains'll likely get filled far outside the city and then ship off west to Adelaide or north to Sydney and Brisbane.

    The Tottenham yard has got a few long strings of grainers, flatbeds, and tankcars that sit pretty much unmoving, although occasionally things will move around or new strings will come in. This yard is a popular spot among painters. You can't walk two feet without stepping on an empty spray paint can. The yard is also completely unmanned and gates are usually left open in multiple places. It's a go-to drinking spot and if you're lucky you can watch a freighter or two roll by.

    IMG_2362.JPG
    October 2016
    IMG_2365.JPG
    October 2016

    Knowing a bit about trains but never having hopped anywhere before, I was weary to try hopping in Australia, where fines for trespassing railyards were known to be huge if you're caught and freight almost kind of scarce. So I stuck with hitchhiking. As the end of my semester neared and I had a few weeks free, I packed my bag and headed north towards Sydney.

    On the train out of the city, I ran into two other hitchers heading to a music festival. We were heading to the same hitching spot, via all of us having read the Melbourne HitchWiki page. That was a cool little positive boost to start the trip out with, knowing I wasn’t the only one out there. We headed to the same spot, and decided it would be better to split up. We said our goodbyes and I stayed close to the stop light and entrance to the highway and the other two walked a bit further down the Aussie highway.

    I stuck my thumb out and smiled big as cars drove by. I had my iPod playing, an earbud in one ear, keeping me company, and my spirits up. It was about twenty minutes before a car stopped.

    “I usually don’t pick up hitchers but you and your smile looked so friendly!”, the woman in the front seat said as I opened the passenger side door. She wasn’t going far, but was a nice and talkative woman who also took the time to take me a bit out of her way so I could see Ned Kelly’s house.

    Ned Kelly is pretty revered in Australia – he was a convict, robbing banks and assaulting police in homemade armor suits. I’ve had a friend in Melbourne take me to the State Library of Victoria in downtown Melbourne to see the remains of Ned Kelly’s armor suit, on display at the library. People love him.

    I was determined to get to Sydney that night, as the idea of pitching a tent by myself in an unknown land was still nerve-wracking to me. This would change later in the trip, but after reaching out to a friend and Sydney and getting an a-ok to stay on her couch, I beelined it for Sydney.

    My first glimmer of hope was when a tour bus stopped for me. It was empty – the driver was working, moving the bus from Melbourne to Sydney. So I was all set, and would be in Sydney by that night! Perfect!

    Turns out this bus driver was also selling cell phones as he went up the coast. I was sitting among a few cardboard boxes of phones and accessories. And he was constantly pulling over on the side of the highway to take phone calls about theses phones, and checking his stock. There was also another peculiar phone call to the wife of one of his friends.

    “So what spirits do you like to drink?”, he asked me.
    “I like beer,” I answered.
    “Oh yeah? We’ll have to stop and get a drink later. A drink and dinner”.
    “I’m just trying to make it to Sydney really, if you’re hungry and wanna stop and eat that’s cool though”.
    “Yeah we’ll get drinks and dinner later, what do you think?”.

    This went on for a while until I loudly said, “I DON’T WANT TO”. I was realizing this ride wouldn’t work out. We were still probably about 6 hours from Sydney. I had dropped my headphones somewhere on the highway a while back. So I couldn’t even drown him out.

    The final straw was when he squeezed my knee as he passed me to rummage through a phone box in the row of seats behind me.

    “DON’T touch me”, I said firmly. “I’m getting out. Open the door.”

    He began spewing out ‘sorrys’ and weak excuses and opened the door looking at the floor like an ashamed puppy.

    I knew I could get another ride, a better ride, and I’d rather not make it to Sydney than ride with that guy any further. Not five minutes of walking down the side of the highway, I got picked up by a wonderful man from India who was traveling to Canberra to visit his wife and daughter. We said goodbyes at a service station in Yass where he would turn and go to Canberra and I would continue north.

    I solicited a car full of backpackers at the service station to get the rest of the way to Sydney, and arrived at my friends apartment doorstep on Bondi Beach just after 10pm. I had a shower and passed out. The next day, I walked a beach-side trail along the coast of Sydney's greatest beaches and lounged around, soaking in the sun. Even in late October, Melbourne had still been struggling to get out of winter and into spring so the Sydney sun felt amazing on my pale skin.

    harbor.
    October 2016
    I watched the sunset from next to the Opera House and grabbed dinner in another part of town. At the restaurant (a vegetarian, pay-as-you-feel place), I ran into some people I knew from Melbourne - they had hitchhiked up too!
    006_23.
    October 2016
    We jammed into the night and then we parted ways, as I was heading north early the next morning. Unfortunately their friend and host could not offer me a place to stay, so I took a night bus up to the northern suburbs of Sydney to camp at a spot recommended on HitchWiki.

    007_22.
    October 2016
    It was an awesome spot between an on-ramp and a tall fence behind an apartment complex. Only way to access the spot is to walk down the highway shoulder. Being my first night ever wild camping without company, I probably didn't sleep more than a few hours, but it was a 2 minute walk to my hitching spot in the morning so I really couldn't complain. Within 15 minutes or so, I got picked up by a kitesurfer headed north to a lagoon to surf with his buddies for the day.

    Things were pretty uneventful the rest of the way up and back down the coast.

    010_19.
    November 2016
    Biking around Brisbane

    012_17.
    November 2016
    Pitched up in a nat'l park in Noosa, Queensland, a few hours north of Brisbane (Sunshine Coast).

    014_15.
    November 2016
    Pitched up at a surfers beach in Byron Bay, New South Wales, a few hours south of Brisbane.

    015_14.
    November 2016 - West Ballina, New South Wales
    Australia's got a strange knack for large things...seems more like an American thing, honestly, but Aussie land has got a huge everything - this prawn, a banana, a mango, a pineapple, even a cod fish...the prawn is my favorite.

    Shortly after my stop at the giant prawn, and a quick relax and phone charge at the home improvement store the prawn is situation in front of, I walked back to the highway onramp and before I could set my pack down, a car stopped for me. A dog was in the passenger seat so I hopped in the back. The driver was a typical New South Wales dude - long hair, slow talking, relaxed. Our banter was chill at first, but soon after it seemed as if we had gotten bored of each other. After a stop for coffee and breakfast, and a little walk around with the dog, conversation had picked up again and we were getting along like old friends. He was headed quite a long distance south, to about just a few hours north of Sydney, and I asked if he minded if I joined him all the way there and he said he didn't. For the next leg of the trip, I sat in the front seat, the dog switching every once and a while from the back seat to sitting on my lap, anxiously or excitedly (I couldn't really tell which).

    016_13.
    November 2016 - Port Stephens, New South Wales
    Sunset from a mountaintop vista view area, drinking a few beers with my ride from that day. He and his friends even invited me to stay the night at their beachfront house!

    017_12.
    November 2016
    New friends and their dog where I stayed the night.

    On my last day, with plans to make it back to Melbourne by that night, I was walking along the highway when I saw a guy at a pulloff standing in a shirt, cap, and a towel wrapped around his waist. "Oh man, here we go", I thought. As I got closer to the man, he waved and said 'hello' with a goofy smile.

    Turns out he was part of the support crew/was acting as the hype man for a group of cyclists riding from Canberra to Melbourne for charity. He also quickly explained why he was wearing a towel, as he noticed how strange he looked. He was driving about 15km at a time, stopping, waiting for the cycling group to pass, and when they did, he would do some sort of interesting cheer. This time, it turned out, he was to be a hula dancer and was substituting his lack of hula skirt with a towel. Suddenly, he had to cut conversation because the group was coming. He jumped up on the guard rail and began dancing, yelling "ALOHA, BITCHES" as the cyclists passed.

    img_31871.
    November 2016
    The group taking a water and refuel break. Quite an interesting group of characters I did meet.

    I rode with the hype man in his car for an hour or so, again stopping every 15 or so kilometers to get out and cheer the group on. I parted ways with them after a bit because as much I would have loved to tag along for the next 5 days until they made it to Melbourne, I had to return for a final exam to complete my semester once and for all.

    A 20 minute sweltering walk down the highway would be all it took to score a ride the rest of the way to Melbourne with a Syrian man who spoke little English. However, we communicated through his cousin over the phone who was bilingual and a real funny guy at that. The driver and I shared a couple cans of Pringles and coffee, he kept apologizing for stopping to take cigarette breaks, and we both learned there are not many radio stations in the bush of Australia.

    I made it back to Melbourne just in time to make it to FNB Monday night sharing, and catch up with my friends.

    Melbourne's been rad, to say the least, and I can see why it's voted one of the most livable cities in the world - tons of empty houses, fully stocked dumpsters, and decent public transit. The only downside I found was that a 6 pack of mid-par beer in Aus costs the same as a 30 rack of Miller does in the US!!! :p
     
    • Like Like x 9
    • Epic Epic x 5
    #1 Koala, Dec 23, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2016
  2. etpyh

    I deleted myself

    Ratings:
    +0 / -0
    You can get free booze at the dumpsters of Dan Murphys, or with a bit of luck even at Aldi etc. though! Sounds like you had a good time, good read.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  3. OP
    OP
    Koala

    Koala sleeps 22 hours a day, eats chutes and leaves

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2015
    Messages:
    212
    Featured Threads:
    4
    Achievements:
    17
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Student
    Address:
    Miami, FL, United States
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +471 / -3
    Thanks for reading!

    Hmm I've checked Dan Murphys and didn't have luck but I'll definitely give it another go when I get back there!;)
     
  4. todd

    todd Sir Posts a Lot

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2016
    Messages:
    340
    Achievements:
    19
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    artist blacksmith
    Address:
    Drummonds, TN, United States
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +303 / -21
    awesome post! and love the pictures
     
  5. OP
    OP
    Koala

    Koala sleeps 22 hours a day, eats chutes and leaves

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2015
    Messages:
    212
    Featured Threads:
    4
    Achievements:
    17
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Student
    Address:
    Miami, FL, United States
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +471 / -3
    Thanks @todd!

    Photos are a mix of my camera, my phone, and a disposable camera I brought around for the last few months I was there
     
    • Like Like x 2
  6. Felix Rivers

    Felix Rivers is getting to know the place

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2015
    Messages:
    13
    Achievements:
    8
    Address:
    Balgowlah, New South Wales, Australia
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +9 / -1
    man that's awesome! Seems like it was really easy to hitch here (I live in Sydney), i haven't tried but definitely want to now. Also, you mentioned that people call dumpsters bins but at least in Sydney everyone i know says dumpsters and dumpster diving. Thanks for posting!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. OP
    OP
    Koala

    Koala sleeps 22 hours a day, eats chutes and leaves

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2015
    Messages:
    212
    Featured Threads:
    4
    Achievements:
    17
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Student
    Address:
    Miami, FL, United States
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +471 / -3
    Yeah super speedy hitching all the way, I definitely say go for it @Felix Rivers ! Sweet as, I'll actually be hitching back up thru Sydney sometime in the next few weeks. Any recommendations of stuff to do there?

    Oh that's funny!! Maybe it's just the people I'm around who all say bins hahaha
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. kokomojoe

    I deleted myself

    Ratings:
    +0 / -0
    Australia always looked appealing to me, definitely want to check it out. Here's a vid of some train hopping there that might have been posted on here before,
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. OP
    OP
    Koala

    Koala sleeps 22 hours a day, eats chutes and leaves

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2015
    Messages:
    212
    Featured Threads:
    4
    Achievements:
    17
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Student
    Address:
    Miami, FL, United States
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +471 / -3
    Yeah @kokomojoe I've definitely seen that video posted, or at least mentioned, when searching around here for info on Aussie freight. Maaaan that footage is insane though! I think riding thru Australia would be like nothing else!!
     
  10. Felix Rivers

    Felix Rivers is getting to know the place

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2015
    Messages:
    13
    Achievements:
    8
    Address:
    Balgowlah, New South Wales, Australia
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +9 / -1
    Aw well I won't be round otherwise I could give you a little tour!
    In terms of recommendations, check out the North Head to the harbour (it's technically called Sydney Harbour National Park I think..) If you take the fairfax walk at the very point of the head and jump of the path and explore around the cliff edge there are some massive fisherman's ladders that go all the way down the cliff which is pretty cool.

    There's the anarchist bookstore Jura Books on Parramatta rd, petersham. Of course there's Lentil As Anything on King St in Newtown. There's also a new queer space Romantica Social https://www.facebook.com/romanticasocialcentre/ which i'm yet to check out.

    Some friends run this art/whatever else space on Parramatta rd in Annandale which holds some good free for all jam/chill nights as well as a lot of other things. https://www.facebook.com/spaceartgallery/?fref=ts

    For more nature stuff the train to Blue Mountains is easy and there's some choice walks through there. Also, There is a place called Brooklyn, just north of Sydney on the train line which has a real lovely and easily accessible camping place by a little dam, I love that place.

    That's about all i can think of atm, Sydney is a bit dead with the Lock Out Laws and other mundane, outdated, fucked laws and institutions governing this city :\
     
  11. Ontoanar

    Ontoanar is getting to know the place

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2017
    Messages:
    5
    Achievements:
    7
    Occupation:
    Student
    Address:
    Campbell, ACT, Australia
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +1 / -0
    Great post! I feel like I learnt heaps of stuff. Esp interesting is how chill the privately-owned housing situ is in Melbourne. Thanks :)
     
  12. OP
    OP
    Koala

    Koala sleeps 22 hours a day, eats chutes and leaves

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2015
    Messages:
    212
    Featured Threads:
    4
    Achievements:
    17
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Student
    Address:
    Miami, FL, United States
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +471 / -3
    Thanks a bunch for the suggestions @Felix Rivers! I'll keep this thread updated when I check out some of those spots. Yeah I noticed all the homeless hate laws the last time I was round Sydney, impossible to find a place to sleep in the city:(

    Hey thanks for reading @Ontoanar !
     
    • Like Like x 2
  13. OP
    OP
    Koala

    Koala sleeps 22 hours a day, eats chutes and leaves

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2015
    Messages:
    212
    Featured Threads:
    4
    Achievements:
    17
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Student
    Address:
    Miami, FL, United States
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +471 / -3
    Hey @Felix Rivers I took some of your reccomendations!!

    Sydney Harbour Natl Park
    IMG_4596.JPG
    Didn't climb all the way down the ladders, but went part way down...damn, the view was amazing

    And currently set up here at Brooklyn Dam! :)
    IMG_4662.JPG
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Useful Useful x 1
  14. boozeliteyear

    boozeliteyear is getting to know the place

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2016
    Messages:
    10
    Achievements:
    8
    Address:
    New York, NY, United States
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +7 / -0
    Such a great post! This really makes we want to visit Australia sometime. Really exciting read, thanks for all the info : )
     
  15. OP
    OP
    Koala

    Koala sleeps 22 hours a day, eats chutes and leaves

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2015
    Messages:
    212
    Featured Threads:
    4
    Achievements:
    17
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Student
    Address:
    Miami, FL, United States
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +471 / -3
    Thank you @boozeliteyear !! Thanks for giving it a read :) Yeah I highly, highly recommend Australia. I'm still here, currently on another hitching trip...the beaches, the people, the scenery, it's all freaking amazing
     
    • Like Like x 2
  16. freegander

    freegander Celebrated Poster

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2017
    Messages:
    101
    Featured Threads:
    1
    Achievements:
    10
    Address:
    Last Chance, CO, United States
    Country:
    View on map:
    My Website(s):
    Ratings:
    +88 / -0
    when i was in europe, i was mistaken for an aussie on several occasions.

    this thread confirms that i must go there. thank you for taking the time to share this! your experience is super inspiring. :)
     
  17. OP
    OP
    Koala

    Koala sleeps 22 hours a day, eats chutes and leaves

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2015
    Messages:
    212
    Featured Threads:
    4
    Achievements:
    17
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Student
    Address:
    Miami, FL, United States
    Country:
    View on map:
    Ratings:
    +471 / -3
    Of course!! thanks for reading @freegander ! Yay I wish you heaps of rad adventures whenever you get over here to Australia :)