Howe to brunch down under

This post may make you extremely hungry and/or hopefully point you in the right direction if you’re an egg lover like myself and in Australia… 

Here are my 10 top cafes I willingly tested out in Australia:

 1) Cozzi Cafe, 233 Coogee Bay Road, Sydney

Coogee big break $17

Our first breakfast in Australia and it was an incredible start, and on New Years Day on route to go back out and see Derrick Carter at Greenwood, this was especially vital. Everything was deconstructed; mushies piled up, a fat chunk of avo lay on the bottom left of the iron slate, 2 fried eggs marinated in green pesto oil in a hot pot and 2 slices of crusty sourdough. A build your own breakfast. Everyone had their own way of putting it together, mine rivalling the lot. I lay out the bits of bread; first layer of each slice – avo, second – the bacon, scattering the mushies on top with the egg glenty placed to allow for the runny yolk to flow below. 

Cozzi Cafe in Coogee

*Sydney Cafe top tip: Three W’s in Waterloo. Mars Bar milkshake is a must!!

*Sydney’s second best breakfast goes to Pancake on the Rocks for its amazing fluffiness and fantastic harbour views. 

2) The Eatery, 18 Johnson Street, Byron Bay. 

Eggs Benedict $21

After a very humorous evening in Byron Bay, including a discography of John Mayer, a stripped onesie and a full moon, me and my friend Steph desperately needed to get out of the Arts Factory, where people insisted on playing the drums completely out of rhythm and search for our breakfast fix. 

This was one of the best eggs benedict I am still yet to beat! We sat out on the street watching the characters of Byron Bay go by, with our collection of flat whites and orange juice to reenergise ourselves and this beast of a breakfast! Steph has even been back since and it’s just as good! 

The Eatery, Byron Bay

Call me…


*Cafe top tip: Twisted Sista Cafe – their cakes are to die for!! We went back for another round, the banoffee pie even rivalled my own! 

Twisted Sister Banoffe Pie

3) Double Shot New Farm, 125 Oxlade Drive, New Farm, Brisbane

Big Breakfast Plate $23

Holy hell!! This was the mother of all deconstructed brunches!!! The best thing about being single on Valentine’s Day is you don’t have to share! This is what we did this wonderful V Day of 2015. Our friend took us to this lovely hidden spot in New Farm. There was a glorious selection of: avo, poached eggs, salmon, haloumi, mushrooms, pesto oil, cherry tomatoes and sourdough. Definitely worth finding if you’re in Brisbane, it’s worth the trek! 

Big Breakfast Plate, New Farm

4) Caffiend, 72-74 Grafton Street, Cairns. 

Eggs Benedict $21

For anyone who stays in Cairns for a long period of time, you’ll need to head to Caffiend for some insane juices to cure a brutal Gilligan hangover. It’s a little taste of Melbourne in this crowded cafe which spills outside into a graffitied side alley, where you can have your morning hangover flat white and cigarette. A little expensive, especially if you are on your last $10 while desperately searching for farm work, but it’s worth skipping a night in The Woolshed for! 

*Cute cafe: Tinies (to the left of Giligans) Egg Benedict $18 – splash out for a juice here as well! 

*Award winning pie alert!! For only $8, pick up an amazing selection of apparent prize winnings pies at Meldrums, Grafton Street, Cairns. 

Northern Territory and West Coast stops to tick off:

  • Coffee Clubs are found all around Australia, but the butterscotch and caramel cheesecake is truly delightful. 
  • Three-way Roadhouse on the way down to Alice Springs. They offer the best steak and ale pie in NT for only $5. We made sure we stopped here on the way back up from Alice Springs, but alas we were too late and all the pies had gone. 
  • Zanders at Cable Beach in Broome boats some of the best sea views on the west coast, I was enjoying my $20 Eggs Benedict while watching humpback whales breaching in the distance. 
  • Pop into Brumby’s Bakery in Exmouth for a delightful vanilla slice. 
  • Before heading to Monkey Mia early in the morning, if you stay the night before in Denham, The Old Pub on the high street makes you feel like you’re back in a good old English pub on a winters day. The sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce was to die for. A lady next to us asked if we’d be walking home after seeing the amount of food 3 girls put away. 
  • Yanchep National Park, north of Perth is a lovely stop to spot local wildlife like the Kookaburra or if you’re hungry, visit the Chocolate Drop Cafe inside the park and try their amazing coconut and maple syrup caramel slice.  

Chocolate Drop Cafe in Yanchep National Park

5) The Bakery, Margaret River

Devonshire scones $7.50 & 
Banana and Honeycomb pancakes $16

The winner of all bakeries! We came here two times in the 2 days we stayed at Margaret River. And both those times I went for the banana and honeycomb pancakes. They are stacked up high and drizzled in maple syrup with a dollop of whipped cream and a bowl of banana slices on top! The bakery had an amazing menu and selection of cakes. It was beautifully decorated with antic treasures and comfy sofas. 

The Bakery was so good it deserved a montage

*Nearby in Perth: The Little Bird Cafe in Northbridge. The Eggs Benedict for $18 is lovely but if you’re sick of eggs by now they have a great array of cakes, pastries and vegetarian foods, particularly the zucchini lasagne. 

6) Tall Timber, Commercial Road, Prahran, Melbourne. 

Sourdough toast, Poached Eggs, Salmon and Avo $16

Having just moved to Melbourne, we were overwhelmed with brunch spots and didn’t know where to start. Scroling through Broadsheet Melbourne, I had compiled a list of cafes I had to visit before leaving and this one was at the top. It took a while for us to navigate the trams, having come from Richmond to Prahran but we finally found this white walled cafe teaming with Melbournites. We asked what was highly recommended, and I’m guessing from reading so far, you’ll already know what I went for….eggs…but I did try some of the pumpkin toast and pumpkin spread and it was so flavorsome! 10/10 for presentation with everything! 

pumpkin toast and pumpkin spread

Avo and smoked salmon

7) Issus Cafe, Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Issus Eggs $18

As many of you may know, it rains a lot in Melbourne. So when it does and you get caught in it while shopping, what do you do? You run into the nearest cafe! What a find this was! The first time we got rained on and ran into this tiny eatery, I went for a duck pasta from the specials as it was a little late for brunch and nearing dinner time, but I did check out the menu for the next time and the Issus eggs were well worth returning back for. 

Not always on the hunt for brunch, this duck pasta was delicious

8) Fifty Acres, Richmond

Chorizo Scotch Eggs and Avo $18

What a revelation! Scotch eggs for breakfast! And lined with spicy chorizo with a runny yolk in the middle. Absolute perfection and just around the corner from my first flat. 

9) Two Birds and One Stone, Claremont Road, South Yarra

Two Birds breakfast $19

I’m not one for going to the same place twice, but I do make some exceptions and this was one of them. I even had the same breakfast both times, because who wouldn’t want mushrooms, haloumi, avo and poached eggs over and over again. 

*Best hot chocolate found just around the corner – A La Folie Patisserie was perfect for a Melbourne winters day. 

*Best selection of muffins found at Tom, Dick and Harry Cafe – the crunchie muffins were out of this world. 

10) Top Paddock, 658 Church Street, Richmond

Eggs Benedict with ham hock $19

You need to get here super early to avoid waiting for over an hour outside. And if you don’t make it early, make sure it’s a nice day, you’re with a good crowd and find a good patch on the opposite lawn and maybe sit near a group with a dog to make the wait more fun! This place is epic and definitely worth the wait! The coffee here is so fresh and the choice is overwhelming. Do you go for the hot cakes, or the eggs benny or go all out and have the steak sarnie?! Keeping to my brunch theme, I had to try the eggs benedict but did get a side of blueberry hot cakes to share. If you’re not too hungover or maybe you are, go for the Aperol Spritz to start the day as you mean to go on. 

Blueberry hot cakes

Eggs Benedict and ham hock

Line up for a fresh cup of coffee


It’s safe to say they don’t do brunch better anywhere else but down under! 

A-frican Good Holiday – Kruger National Park

I find it very difficult to portray my experiences aloud after I’ve been on safari so I thought a collection of photos could do this for me. 

We don’t do safari like many, for some it entails an early morning drive, with a spa treatment and a dip in the pool before going out again in the afternoon and having dinner served up. For us, we make sure we are the first ones out of the gate at 4.30am and the last to get back in to camp for 6.30pm to start our BBQ. A full 14 hour day of searching for these elusive creatures that some only see on TV. 

I have been visiting Kruger in South Africa with my family since I was 9 years old, we are drawn here the most as you can drive yourself around this national park that is as large as Wales. 

Here are some photos of our latest visit: On our first day we had a hyena filled afternoon. I’d never appreciated these as much as we were always on the hunt for lions, but when we watched a whole family with cubs scavenging on buffalo bones and hiding in their den, we realised they are incredibly alert and resourceful animals, and the cubs were absolutely adorable.

As we visited in November this year, there were a lot more younger animals who had been born this summer and were getting used to their new legs and surroundings. This baby elephant was learning how to charge and almost managed to convince us! The park hadn’t seen rain all winter since February and of course on our first day, being from the North of England, the rain followed us, filling the river beds and the locals with joy!  One of my favourite animals, it was an incredible experience to follow this curious leopard from within the bush to across the road. 

It was so fantastic to see so many Black and White Rhino during the week. Apparently rhino poaching has decreased in 2016 with so far 458 carcasses being found instead of 557 last year in Kruger ( However Black Rhinos are still critically endangered. It was amazing to be able to see a few Black Rhino families despite there only being just over 5000 left in the wild. The White Rhino has recovered remarkably and this is one of my favourite shots of one so gracefully crossing the road. These resting lions were rudely interrupted by a family of elephants marching down the bank to get some water giving us the perfect opportunity to get a close up shot. 

This is one of our most popular watering holes in Kruger, it’s just north of Tschokwane rest stop. It is always teaming with wildlife, giving us some authentic African images of the graceful giraffes dipping down for a drink. Dad has always wanted to make bacon and eggs in the bush and this is what we did…on a ‘bush scottle’. We had a couple of monkey muggings during our week. The first was being broken into and having our food bag ripped apart leaving our necessary coffee sachets everywhere, the evidence could only have been from monkeys as there were bite marks everywhere. The next was a bit more risqué. It involves a crunchie blast ice cream and a very big baboon. We were coming out of a rest stop all with a refreshing ice cream in hand. I was almost at the car door when I saw something in the corner of my eye…a bounding baboon with his hands reaching out. I crouched into the foetal position to protect myself (and my favourite ice cream) when the baboon grabbed my the wooden stick from my hands and I unwillingly let go. He then retreated to his mound eating the ice cream as you and I would, making light of the situation. Death played a big part in our visit this year, there were lots of buffalo carcasses picked clean by scavengers and this giraffe carcass that had recently been taken down by lions. This was our ‘David Attenborough’ moment. We had been driving round the back roads and weren’t having much luck. When we saw some ‘skittish’ looking zebra and wildebeast, we tested where the wind was coming to determine where any potential predators would approach from and funnily enough, there were 2 blurred spotted creatures moving towards us. We followed these 2 male cheetahs for a couple of hours as they posed up a height and scouted the plains for any nearby prey. 

West Coast Road Trip: Week 1 Darwin – Uluru – Katherine 

Week 1: Darwin – Uluru – Katherine = 3744km

These are the stories of 3 English girls, Sophia (myself) and Ellie, who take on their longest drive yet, while Rose sits in between as she is chauffeured around the West Coast of Australia. 


Tourists: Ellie, Rose and me


My original plan for these blog posts was how to do the West Coast on a budget. However, after our first week and first $2000 down, this was not going to be cheap. So instead I thought I’d capture the most interesting stories that can come out of travelling in a camper van with two other girls for a month and pass on my knowledge to any of you wanting to undergo a similar trip. I will also explain how petrol, campsites and countless chocolate bars and diet cokes will drain your bank account dramatically. Nonetheless it will be a trip I will never forget and would already recommend it to anyone. 

For our camper van rental we went with Travellers Autobarn in Darwin. It came to $3320 between the 3 of us ($1106 each), which covered us for the premium insurance and the camper van for 30 days. I would recommend going for the full insurance package because even if you just chip the windscreen you’re already paying $400, which is more than the extra insurance itself! 

Day 1: Saturday 11th July 

Darwin 🚐 ➡️ Ubirr 

I had volunteered the day before to be the designated driver for our first day, but fine well knowing I had to be sensible the night before, I instead got too carried away with the cheap gin and tonics and suffered the consequences the next day with a hangover I had never quite felt before…so I passed on my role to Ellie, our other responsible driver who didn’t overdo it and who took note on how to operate our new home for the month.


Our main man Rupert at Travellers Autobarn laid out all the information about our new van. 

Here’s what we learnt:

  • There is a gas canister which you can fill up at caravan sites. To turn it on, you turn the knob to the left and there’s a yellow lever that you turn so it’s vertical. To turn of, turn to the right and bring the lever on its side. 
  • There is a hose which you attach to a tap, usually found at caravan sites, so that you can use the sink. 
  • There is also a power cable which you can use at powered sites, allowing you to use the microwave and charge phones. 
  • The fridge should be turned down at night so it doesn’t make too much noise. 
  • To make up the beds is quite self explanatory but don’t be lazy and definitely put them back before you start driving, especially the top bunk as everything moves around. 
  • They advise you not to drive at night as animals may be on the road and could write off the car or seriously hurt you. You are also not insured for night time driving. 

After driving to MacDonalds, but not the drive-thru as the car is too tall, we made our way out of Darwin and onto Stuart Highway to enter the Kakadu National Park. 

We entered the monotonous woodland area with countless trees and bushes for kilometers at a time. The late afternoon silhouettes on the road are extremely trippy as the trees are very close together and their shadows make it seem like your traveling at a lot higher speeds and make you go slightly cross-eyed. 

Kakadu National Park

It takes a while to get used to the feel of the van. Any gust of wind in this tall and non-streamline vehicle can get your steering all over the place and make tipping over easier. I would get down to 40km/h to take on a corner, this is just for the first day though.
Just in time for our first sunset of the trip, we got to Ubirr, an Aboriginal rock art site. It is a 1km circular track that takes you round several rock art sites. 

The Aboriginals used the rock art to tell stories that had been passed down from their ancestors, and many were drawings of animals and the first encounters with Europeans. The act of painting was generally more important than the artwork itself, many older paintings, which are dated from almost 4,000 years ago, were covered over by younger ones. They used red ochre to stain the rocks and a lot of the original paintings are still intact. 


The best place for the sunset is up the 250m climb to the top of a rocky lookout that overlooks the Nadab floodplain. 


Just before dark we managed to find Meryl campsite, where we haggled down to $10 for the vehicle. It was unpowered and the toilet block was a long way a way in the pitch black. This was the start of our becoming ferrel and the outdoors became our new toilet as we were too afraid of the dark to venture away from the van. We made up our beds and tucked into our first meal of the trip, chicken salad wraps. Very hot night, all these sheets and sleeping bags were unnecessary. 

Total km = 287km 

Full tank included. 

Day 2: Sunday 12th July

Ubirr 🚐➡️ Dunmarra

We were all awake before our 6am alarm went off as the cockatoos crawed and the sun had already risen. 


We had a big drive to do today so we set off through the National Park and experienced our first kangaroo crossing and then a dingo run out from no where. 


We bombed it down Stuart Highway all the way through to Katherine, where we took a lunch break. I was left to look after the van while Ellie and Rose found a toilet. We’d been warned about the locals trying their best to break into cars but hoped they wouldn’t do anything if we stayed inside, so that’s what I did. It was only until we drove off did we notice a group of women disperse after they had been hanging around waiting for us to leave the car alone.

Dusk was upon us and we were still a way from our campsite. The only thing to do was look out for potential road kill and avoid swerving into the side of the road. One amusing piece of road kill was a dead cow that had been recently hit and had blown up like a balloon! 

We camped at Dunmarra caravan park which was $8 per person. It was a powered site and even had a lamb spit roast for $19 per person. We had pumpkin soup and bread for dinner instead. 

Total km = 616km

$50 each petrol

Day 3: Monday 13th July 

Dunmarrra 🚐➡️ Alice Springs

We had a long day of driving. We made it to Three Way roadhouse for 11am, which was the perfect time to try their homemade pie. It truly deserved the title of ‘the best’ pies in the Northern Territory. Highly recommended stop. 


We drove through Tennant Creek and to Devils’ Marbles, which were a group of large rounded rocks, which the Aboriginals believed were carved by a serpent, a bad spirit, hence why they belonged to the devil. 


The next stop was extremely surreal. A service station obsessed with the idea that there had been UFO sightings in the area. The bar was covered in news-clippings about backpackers and travellers being chased by alien type figures and disappearing in the outback. 



On the road you will see that people in the Northern Territory have somewhat of a sense of humour. For example, termite hills have been dressed in t-shirts and caps and some into snowmen. I think some of the Aboriginal communities have too much time on their hands but they do amuse you while speeding down the never ending straight highway. 

We were on the outskirts of Alice Springs, the girls were asleep and I had been driving the afternoon stint. I estimated another 90km to go until we got to the main town. All of a sudden the petrol light flashed a red warning. Without panicking the girls, I slowed right down to 80km/h to drive economically, a tip I’d learned from a friend’s mum – which was to drive slower and in 4th gear with minimum breaking. I’d also remembered seeing an episode of Top Gear where Jeremy Clarkson drives from France to England on a full tank and drove at a much slower speed when he was running low. So this is what I did for 45 minutes on my own. Rose eventually woke up and then so did Ellie, who both questioned my going a lot slower. I continued to creep all the way into town, anticipating the worst but to our surprise we managed to crawl all the way to the doors of the first petrol station in Alice Springs. 

We then found Heavitree campsite, just outside of town for $44 a powered site. It was an extremely cold night and I woke up shivering. At one point it reached minus degrees. All the sheets and sleeping bags were necessary. 


Total = 868km

$60 each petrol

Day 4: Tuesday 14th July

Alice Springs 🚐➡️ Yulara

We drove around Alice Springs to see what it offered. Turns out there are no springs in the town as the name would suggest and it was extremely cold and gave us quite a dangerous vibe so we were happy to leave and make our way straight down to Yulara. 

We arrived at Ayers Rock resort campground just in time for sunset. It was $69 for a powered site. You could put a deposit down for Monopoly, so that kept us entertained for a while. I even won by getting very lucky with the community chest cards. 


Total = 445km 

$33 petrol each

Day 5: Wednesday 15th July

After 4 days of continuous driving, we finally reached the entrance to the Uluru National Park. It took us 2,216km to get here, which is the equivalent to driving from London to Serbia. 


Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is the biggest stand alone rock in the world. Uluru is the name given by the Aboriginals and the white Australians named it Ayers Rock. 

At the Culture Centre there is a video representation on how the white Australians first came across the Aboriginal tribes of Uluru (Anangu) in the 1930s. They introduced to the tribes tinned food in exchange for dingo skulls, which the government paid them for at that time. These new foods brought in deadly diseases, such as diabetes.

In the video it makes the Aboriginals seem like animals, as they are scared of these mysterious tins and the humped camels that the ‘white fellows’ arrived on. The Aboriginals have only been classed as ‘people’ since 1967, before then they were legally known as ‘fauna and flora’. 


The Australians took over more and more of their land and brought cattle in that destroyed much of the bush tucker and scared off many of the animals that the tribes hunted and so many starved to death. 

They then introduced the White Man Law, which legalised the use of Aboriginals as slaves. Many were pushed away from Uluru and other camps by police and white Australians who were exploring the rock. 

In 1951 there was an application to allow tourist flights into the Peterman’s Aboriginal Reserve, which was originally set up to protect the Aboriginals. In 1958 land around Uluru was taken out of the reserve without taking any consideration of the Aboriginal tribes living in the area. 


In the 1960s the tribes earned money by selling dingo skulls to the government but they stopped paying them as they gave them rations instead. They then returned to making traditional artefacts and paintings to sell to tourists, which they still do today as a source of income. They then were hired as workers and cleaners in the National Park but when tourists started to complain about them, the council started to hide them away but “they always came back to protect Uluru“. 

The Aboriginals say:

“The Spirit of the animal in the rock is not of the white people and we have a more spiritual connection to the land. The white people should listen to us and learn, and pay us more attention. We are the only people who truly understand this place. We’ve lived by their white man law but we still don’t gain any respect or attention.”

In 1978 Uluru was declared as a National Park within the Northern Territory so the Aboriginals could no longer claim it as their land. However, in 1983 the government decided that Uluru shouldn’t be part of the Northern Territory but of the Australian Government, to respect the significance of Uluru for all Australians as a national symbol. 

Now the Aboriginals apparently have real control of how the park is run. Many are on the board of management and only ask that the tourists respect their sacred areas by not walking over them or take pictures of. The tribes live there safely and have given back to Uluru their Aboriginal spirits. 

You can drive around the entire rock to get a feel of how big it is, but it is very disrespectful to climb to the top. Many Australians ask if you have done the climb and are surprised when your answer is no. Some are still not aware of the spiritual significance of Uluru and by disrespecting their spirits which live inside the rock, can in turn disturb the Aboriginals’ way of life. 


A great way to see the rock is to get to the Sunset car park at around 4.30pm to secure a good spot. The sun sets behind you which casts a red glowing shadow. It’s very chilly but worth watching how it changes shades. 


The caravan site has free gas BBQs which is perfect for a sausage sarnie. 

Day 6: Thursday 16th July 

Uluru 🚐➡️ Connor’s Well 

Before setting off from Uluru, we took advantage of the showering facilities and then made our way back to Alice Springs. We also filled our small gas canister for $15 in a caravan park. It shouldn’t normally last only 6 days, but in such freezing conditions, we needed copious amounts of hot drinks and a little extra heating. 


In all the excitement of reaching civilization and fast food, we had a binge stop in a car park and a snooze to get out of our fried chicken coma before making it to a free campsite, Connor’s Well, 92km out of town. Out of boredom we decided to see how many marshmallows Rose could fit in her mouth. It was 18. 


It also got down to minus 5 in the night and frost was on the ground when we woke the next morning. 


Total km = 565km

$45 each petrol

Day 7: Friday 17th July 

Connor’s Well 🚐➡️ Warlock

We were forced out of bed earlier today due to how cold it was and how desperate we were to get into the front seats with the heating on full blast. We zoomed back up to Katherine where it was a lot livelier than last time. The rodeo had been in town and a fun fair was kicking off. In all the excitement we treat ourselves to an Eggs Benedict and an unbelievable butterscotch cheesecake at the local Coffee Club. 

Ellie got excited after a group of army men crossed the road and almost flipped the car over as she enthusiastically turned into the petrol station. It was the most testosterone we’d seen in a whole week. 

To reach another free campsite, we had to drive into the night. After 5.30pm the roadkill starts to appear and nosy kangaroos hop to the side of the road. A dingo even took a chance at crossing. To avoid hurting any of the animals and making a huge dent in the van, I dropped down to 50km/h. 


I wouldn’t really advise driving in the dark as we are completely not insured but the stars looked really pretty and it’s a great way to spot local wildlife. We reached the campsite at 8.30pm and had our latest night of the trip after steak, egg and salad. 

 Total km = 963km 

$50 each on petrol. 

WEEK ONE = 3,744km 

Thoughts of a sweet potato picker

For the last 11 weeks I have had the pleasure of doing my regional work in Tolga, part of the Atherton Tablelands. I have been moved about from farm to farm experiencing how to pick avocados from trees (who knew they grew on trees!), plant blueberries, sort bananas and most of all I have learned the ins and outs of the production of sweet potatoes.

Our first week avocado picking

I have been placed at Tindel for the majority of my stay. A farm I was warned about from the beginning of a dragon slayer farmer who was a top class bitch. So I had my worries naturally and joined a group of boys and began my education in potatoes. I hid away from Jackie the boss and did as I was told, or of what I could understand as she yells constantly with a fag hanging out of her mouth. It was Fiona, another supervisor, who showed me the ropes and who people confirm with about what Jackie had told them to do. She takes the be nice to backpackers approach, treat them as you would like to be treated. In the end you get used to Jackie and I actually admire and respect her for having the balls to shout at people all day long. It gets the job done and any of those that give her attitude are replaced the next day. When you get to see her everyday you see that she’s actually a big softie at heart when she talks about her little dogs and when she teases the Italians. She makes each day interesting.

RIP Packer: the farm dog who was run over by a fork lift

When you spend all day standing around, you get a lot of time to think. Ex boyfriends who you haven’t seen in 6 years make an appearance and what your lives would be like if you were still together…of course magical and full of joy which makes you question why you ever broke up with them, which is how farm life can make you insanely crazy. You question all life choices and many other things…

The crazy thoughts of a sweet potato packer…

I have imagined a scenario of there being farm scouts who travel the distance in search of the best backpacker fruit packer. The idea is that each job you do during the day are rounds. So for example with sweet potatoes…

  • Round 1: de-vining rows that can stretch to up to a kilometre.
  • Round 2: digging the potatoes on the machine.
  • Round 3: the making of crates and cardboard boxes.
  • Round 4: sorting and packing premium sweet potatoes. And finally;
  • Round 5: cleaning of the shed.

Now in each round you have to be the quickest and most efficient worker to impress these imaginary farm scouts. As it is just me playing this game I get to chose who is the fastest. I don’t mean to be biased but some days I am the fastest. I pride myself on how fast I can throw those potatoes from one belt to another, flinging them up and hoping for the best, spraying mud and dust into everyone’s faces and having the occasional potato falling back onto the first belt holding us all up. I’ve never moved my hands so fast but when there’s important scouts on the loose, you have to do anything in your power to impress. I just hope one day they will see my talents and see I am meant for better things.

After a hard days work

I think by listening to my thoughts I have found out some traits of my own. I seem to be a perfectionist, want to impress and also to be approved of. I think it stems from not being able to get the top grades at school or at uni, which didn’t impress my parents or myself so I have started to use practical skills to impress instead as I have found out here at the farm, I am good with my hands and not with my head. Being a perfectionist though in farm life is useless. It slows you down rather than does a good job. Imagine cutting every single weed on an entire kilometre row. I found out the hard way…it takes twice as long as those who ignore the little buggers.

A 9 hour day of weeding and no breaks

We are given the instructions of “nice and fast…nice and neat”. It’s very hard to get the right balance between the two but after 11 weeks (yes that’s right, I’ve been here longer than I was in South East Asia!) on sweet potatoes I think I am getting the gist.

However, compliments are given out as many times as Jackie has given up smoking…once.

So instead I fake her approval by making up dialogues between myself and the top boss and how she comes up to me to personally tell me that I am a really hard worker and one of the best girls they’ve had at Tindel, when in reality I’m actually being yelled at for letting the good spuds go past.

6am starts

Farm life takes away the horn from some people, for others it definitely doesn’t. But for me while I have three bruised fingers, covered in mud and dust reaches inside my nostrils and eardrums, feeling sexy isn’t on the agenda. Even when revisiting Fifty Shades of Grey or upgrading to Silvia Day – nothing happens, no spark, no tingle, nothing. Just barren thoughts of sweet potatoes. It takes over your whole life. Close your eyes, sweet potatoes. I can’t even sleep on the far side of the bed anymore as I think I’ve turned my back on the conveyor belt of potatoes.

Farm girls

When Friday comes along, girls being girls, we change out of our muddy and torn, second hand weekday clothes and transform into real life ladies masked in eyeliner ready to hit Tolga. For such a small town, the drama that goes down each weekend keeps us entertained all week. The third Friday of each month is when the real debauchery lets loose. Atherton’s BV hotel offers out its’ bar services to host a wild party for all backpackers of the Tablelands. Some end up face down on the street, some walking home, some in a strangers bunk bed and others in a cell.

The Tolga family

Naturally at Tindel where smiles, laughter and joy are closely controlled by Jackie, any musical device is confiscated. Therefore to keep a hold of what’s left of my sanity I supply a personal radio station inside my head. I have a special collection of songs that go on shuffle while standing at the conveyor belt for hours on end. Knowing me, people would probably think I’d have an electronic track list running through my head, but I just can’t recreate a wobbly baseline in my thoughts…I need lyrics! (None of these songs are even on my ipod)

Optimistic as the day starts, I begin with this catchy tune. However the happiness of it soon fades after lunch.

‘I’m walking on sunshine woowooh, and it’s time to feel good yeaahh [trumpets] da da da-da-da-d-da-da-da!’

On repeat at 6am while viscously vining those kilometre rows of potatoes. Who knew Australia could get that cold!

‘You’re as cold as ice, you’re willing to sacrifice.’

My inner gangster waiting for pay day with some Kanye.

‘Naa naaa Na Na wait till I get my money riiiight….ah ha you can’t tell me nofing.’

Obviously the Bublé cover, his velvety voice soothes me as I struggle to push back a mountain of potatoes for the sixth time that morning.

‘…it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.’

I tend to finish the day on a motivational song to make those last 10 bins fly by. (Take That if you couldn’t get it)

‘Heyyyy forget where you’re coming from heyyy…oh we’ve come so far, da da da da daahaha’

[Do not take these lyrics seriously because they are probably all wrong]

Another fun game is guessing songs that people are humming or whistling along to. We had a French guy that worked with us for a week and he was always whistling away. As soon as I heard the intro I’d surprise him with the artist…Bruno Mars! Manu Chao! It’s the simple things.

All there is to do at the weekend is drink!

Each night after a long day packing away sweet potatoes, I go to sleep and dream about the perfect potato. My aim for the next day is to find the dream shape and tell it it’s beautiful and worthy of being gently placed into a crate and sent to Coles across Australia. I even freaked myself out after working many hours into the night packing continuously and found a potato shaped like E.T!

I spend a lot of time thinking about Christmas and not about the rest of my time out here. It’s the thoughts of going home and being looked after and fed by my mum that gets me through the days. I imagine the whole family in Christmas attire waiting for me at the airport on my arrival…this time I’m not in a wheelchair like after Spain. I get to go through my wardrobe and pick what Christmas jumper I want to wear…it’s almost always my pink and gold bobby dazzler. And the spread of food on Christmas Eve and Dad’s homemade turkey and ham pie that’s definitely one the the highlights.

Our very own Tolga Sunday Roast

I have definitely lost some brain cells while working on the farm but I have finally gained some strength in my upper body, can find you the perfect potato, I can still hear Jackie shouting demands in my head, found a new love for getting covered in mud, I will never complain about another job in the future, bought a holiday to Bali and most importantly met the best people ever that will hopefully be in my life for a long time.

Our first weekend at Tolga Country Lodge

Farm work can be horrific but it’s worth it if you have something to come back home to, like a movie and a home cooked meal with your favourite girlies, and of course a box of goon.

Girls Sunday dinner

What I learnt from the Galapagos Islands…

A blog post I wrote in July 2013 after a visit to the Galapagos Islands with Mark Todd, a good friend who I have known all my life.

Day one:

Waking up at 4.30am proved difficult for the two of us, although we managed to roll out and be downstairs for our taxi at 5am. No one had to know that we went for a cheaper taxi than the one we had ordered, it came first, it would have been rude not to.

Waddling around the airport with wods of cash stored in our bulging fanny packs, we soon realised that getting to the airport 3 hours early was highly unnecessary and our Sunday afternoon stress of searching to print of an immigration form could have been avoided, as they looked at me silly when I said that we hadn’t filled it in and would it be a problem? Of course not,we’re in Latin America, nothing is done in advance.

Stocking up on a hearty English muffin breakfast, which was more of a cheesy omelette between a stiff, stale muffin, we waited for our gate to be announced. I’m following the ways of Mark and not of my dad. Dad would have had us hanging around the gate printed on our passes one hour before departure, not even allowing us time to get a take out coffee just so he can be the first on the plane. But why? Why do you want to sit and watch and wait for all the incompetent people who can’t figure out where their seat number is or stuff their bag in the overhead storage. Why not just casually sip on a cafe con leche while people squeeze on to the buses and sit in a stuffy plane you’re planned to be on for the near future.

Our concern was who was going to be joining us on our cruise. The average age was around 55, but not counting the 30+ school kids in their matching mahogany school trip  uniforms, clearly all American teenagers emerging from puberty. We were promised a 12 man boat, who would be the fortunate 10 accompanying us? I hoped none of the people present on this flight. Stopping at Guayaquil we prayed for newbies, fresh and younger faces. Instead more Ecuadorean old, fat, balding businessmen.

Arriving to Baltra, we found our guide, Giovanni and Jimmy, the ‘panga’ boat driver. News: people had missed their flight, therefore there would only be 3 of us. Not ideal, as our other passenger was a grey haired outdoor adventurist from Alaska. Turns out he’s actually quite interesting to listen to, but thinks he knows a little too much than he actually does.

We see our Archipello 2 boat bobbing in the murky water. We’ve been greeted by clouds, but Dan the American assured us that because he had such good weather scuba diving here over the last few days, we must get some sun…right? We greeted our crew, picked out a brooding hotty already and were told two others were coming, to make us a group of 5. Relief! Not sure how long exactly me and mark could have been entertained by Dan.

We are in the ‘Penguin room’ which suited mark well. Everyone in Quito now knows of the famous penguin riding a uni-cycle tattoo, after revealing it in a John Lennon themed bar. The two other girls arrived and are lovely, Jamie is a bit in your face, but can humour Dan’s bullshit, so respect. And Jackie is the opposite, very quiet and sweet. They create a lot of atmosphere on this large boat!

After all the normal initiation meetings, our first excursion began. We were Snorkelling off North Seymour island. It took some courage to get into the water as Luigi has already seen a shark when he got in. Somehow the idea of jumping into water where you know a shark is lurking, was not appealing.

However I made it into the water, first seeing a beautiful floating sea turtle, the first one I’d ever seen that close up. Dan got excited that he’d spotted a small sting ray (rayo del sarten), this didn’t impress me too much. In the back of my head I was waiting for this shark to reappear.

I swam within schools of fish, feeling them glide against my leg. Mark got the fright of his life when a sea lion sped past him, shouting ‘shit’ through his mask! I was thrilled to be this close, the sea lion was rapid and making circles round me, sometimes slowing down to take in what he was seeing.

Me and Mark

Me and Mark

In the afternoon, near to sunset we went for a walk around the island.  Just chilling on the lava rocks, being splashed by the waves, lay a few black marine iguanas. They were a lot smaller than I had imagined. The males have longer spikes along their spine compared to the females. With the marine iguanas there is only one species but 7 races. These change colour depending on the type of seaweed they eat which changes on each island. They also vary in size. The one we saw today is a lot smaller than the ones compared to western Isabela.


We also saw laying in the middle of the path was a long orange land iguana, a bigger species to the marine one. These are more endangered and kept in research stations to be introduced to Baltra on Santa Cruz island.

North Seymour was an island  where blue footed boobies nest. We saw a flat piece of land where they were many of these birds. Some were with their new chicks, and some bachelors were still trying their best to woo a lady one. To attract a lady bird, they have a dry whistle sound and they always lift their blue padded feet and spread out their wings. The ladies respond with a deep ‘waaa’ – like those annoyingly whiny Hornbills in Africa.

The male boobies have smaller pupils than the females and usually darker feet, but this is not always true.

Flirting male Boobie

Flirting male Boobie

Friggits were another type of bird that are common to the Galápagos Islands. Giovanni told us that there are 2 types of this bird, which you can distinguish by the colour of their feathers behind their head. Ones with a green tint, white face and brown chest are called Minor friggit birds and the Magnificent boast a purple tint and white face and chest. These birds don’t dive to catch fish as they don’t have the oils in their feathers for the salt water. They climb to 2,000 metres in the clouds to clean their feathers with the water vapour. They swoop down and elegantly scoop the fish in their beaks.

Our last animal to see on our walk obstructed our path, something these creatures are seen doing throughout the island. Sea lions can be seen everywhere here. These are different to seals, which I continuously mistook them for. Firstly sea lions have ears which seals do not. Also sea lions have two front flippers which enable them to waddle around the town and climb up to the piers. The alpha male makes the most noise, where as the pups will ‘bah’ likes lambs. Other male sea lions will attempt to fight the alpha to take control of their area. The fallen hide in coves to recuperate and wait for the alpha male to weaken so they can fight once more and take control.
Back on board, taking a shower on a rocky boat is very difficult. Luckily they provided us with rails to cling on to! If you suffer from sea sickness, a small catamaran is probably not the best idea. For someone who didn’t even know they suffered from this, I’m sure anyone would suffer nausea when eating prawns and being jolted around. 8pm came along and all we could do was go to bed.

Day two:

Feeling like I’m on a real boat now as we’re woken by a bell that alarmed the entire catamaran at 05.45. Quick turn around and we’re on the panga bobbing around Bartolomme island. A newer island formed by an erupting volcano; when I say new, I mean less than 1 million years.

So 25 million years ago the old Galapagos got pushed down under water when the Nasca tectonic plate submerged. Forming volcanoes to rise and create islands; the new Galapagos. On Bartolomme you can see the lava tunnels that have collapsed and the lava flows. One had been crushed by tourists when there wasn’t any set paths in the past. These trails are really good for preserving the surface and you can see all the untouched animal trails.

The new Galapagos now is only 5 million years old, San Cristobal being the oldest one. The islands became part of Ecuador in 1832 and Darwin arrived in 1835, staying for only 21 days, discovering all different kind of species. The Galapagos now as a national park is only 54 years. Before then there was much more of a civilisation, but now only 25,000 people live on the islands, helping together to conserve this magical and extraordinary place.

But in the 1500’s pirates found the islands and anchored here after they had stolen gold from Peru, probably from the Incas. They introduced species from the mainland such as rats, cows and goats. To feed, the pirates hunted the cows and goats. The rats were easily exterminated but the new species caused a disturbance to the endemic ones: such as the penguins – there were 14 endemic species, but now there are only 10. One of which we saw today, the smallest; Galápagos penguin.

On the island we saw a red faced lizard, a small snake curled up under the stairs and seal poo, which Dan walked in after being warned a million times. We reached the top of the trail, offering us a stunning view of the pinnacle and Santiago island. We also saw a collapsed volcano which was a round circle of dark rocks. Coming back down, you could imagine the lava pushing its way down the island, destroying and fossilising   anything in its path, leaving a dull and rusty  collapsed crater in its way, making way for new species to create a home.


After a satisfying breakfast, bread and lurpack butter being a luxury, we were ready to be thrown back into the water. Luigi, the owner of both Archipells assured us we would see sharks. I felt excited but not too over keen to be sharing their waters.  I was once again the last one to jump in, but for other reasons than the water being cold. It’s the jumping into the unknown, the deep darkness where anything can be waiting for you.

We were in the water for maybe 15 minutes when Luigi shouts SHARK. I’m anxious to find it and when I do it’s fast approaching me. It stares at me with its googly eyes and slithers its way towards me. I’m saying “shit shit shit” but i know any sharp movements and I’m brunch. I freeze and he just glides away, unbothered by our presence and he’s gone. That was the highlight of today’s snorkelling. The rest were schools of fishies and an abundance of multicoloured starfish. Once getting out of the water we see a sea lion playing with a boobie but its the stalking hawk that Giovanni wants to follow.

Foolishly I didn’t put on my flippy floppies to avoid the burning sand. None of us did and we whimpered like little girls, skurtling up the sand banks. We come to the sea turtle nesting ground, freshly stocked with eggs. We see some remains of broken egg shells where the awaiting hawk lingers for any more to appear.

My attention was on the 10-15 tintoneras – black tipped sharks surfing the waves in ankle deep water. A dead fish floated beside them but they weren’t interested. Their fins broke the waves revealing how many there were. I edged a little closer towards them until one suddenly sped up near me, shaking my confidence. I could have watched them all day, I was almost tempted to grab a snorkel and join them.

I have soon tested the theory that the sun is stronger at the equator as the rocking motion of the wind with the boat sent me to sleep in the sun. However the tan is topped up but with a little red face.

Our next excursion was to Isla Santiago where we followed the story of a lava flow. From what I understood/remember, the lava came from a broken tunnel of the volcano and erupted, spilling tonnes of lava 2 metres deep, therefore not leaving any ash remains on top of the lava as it did not come from a main eruption. The lava has formed over the older island, destroying any vegetation. The lava did not reach everywhere on the island and around the edge is what used to be there thousands of years ago, such as broken oxygenated lava rocks, sediment and ash from the previous eruption.


The most recent eruption here on the island was 1890, so the surface of this island is still very new and no vegetation has yet grown, except for the lava cactus, which grows on top of a previous one. The lava has cracked due to the pressure from underneath. Under lies flowing lava and on top of that are older layers of solidified lava, too heavy to be supported by each layer, causing pressure to crack and separate.

Once the lava stopped we came to the beach where we had an amazing snorkelling experience. With a nippy wind and freshly cold sea water, we were a little reluctant to go snorkelling. Once Mark had spotted a penguin swimming around we were definitely going in. At the start it was just me and him searching for marine life when the others joined to watch a very curious sea lion.

We had been with this sea lion for a while. He stared at us intently, we feared he might attack but in reality he was just as curious as we were. With the last few shots of my disposable camera, I captured the moment of us floating around with a grazing sea turtle and energetic sea lion. Being cheeky we dipped under water to lightly touch the turtles flipper, another animal to add to the list.


We then spotted the penguin as he caught air and we were off to follow it. One last shot on the camera, this one was for Mark. We hung around while he dipped and dived catching the occasional fish and being chased around by a clingy Parotfish for any failures he might make. He sped off in the distance, with the cling-on fish as his shadow in the depth.

Suffering another batch of sea sickness, we took some Dramamine, supplied by Jackie and our drowsiness took over and 8.15pm was one of our latest nights.

Day three:

Another brutal wake up call at 05.45. I was so tempted to keep curled up in my bed, but we both slowly got up to get ready for our morning walk. We got into the panga to get to Isla Tintoreras (meaning white tipped shark). We were greeted by a sleepy sea lion which didn’t budge when we landed.

Here we saw a lot of coral pieces on the ground. These were washed up after they died when the sea water temperature rose to almost 30C a hundred years ago. They break down and erode into pieces of sediment which make up the sand and therefore beaches. Volcanic beaches are made up of broken up lava rocks and coral pieces. You can see the start of a beach on the east side of the island where a heap of marine iguanas were chilling and sliming on top of one another. There are still whole coral pieces which look like mini bones and you can see where they have started to erode and become tiny sand granules.

A few grumpy sea lions lay in the way of our trail. Being the sacred Galápagos Islands, we can only stick to the designated paths as to not disturb any habitats or possible nesting grounds but in this case it was safer to go around rater than try and get too close. One gnarled and showed its teeth….he wasn’t smiling.

On this island was a sheltered cove and a channel where resting tintoneras hid. A playful sea lion bit one of the sharks tails but got no response. I’d like to see the response if one of us was to get in! This area was also a kindergarten for baby marine iguanas, where an eager stalk waited for one to slip.

Round by Isabela, the ocean is a tranquil turquoise, inviting us in to swim with the animals that enjoy this clear water. After breakfast we slid in to some shallow waters hidden in another cove. I was slightly apprehensive to go in when a little puckerfish started to attack my ankles. I suddenly felt unwelcome. The little bugger left a couple of marks on my legs! Nevertheless I went in alone, always on the look out for sharks. Singing the jaws theme tune in my head to syke myself up for when the time came. This is since Mark told me he did it just after we had seen one, its been stuck in my head ever since. Along with “vamos a la playa…a mi me gusta la“.

I followed a prehistoric looking Iguana, slithering along the water like a mini crocodile. Although they only eat seaweed, I still felt threatened. Giovanni was in search for some resting sea turtles which apparently had been in our area but we missed them. God knows how we did that as these ones were huge. I however didn’t miss the speeding by sea lion that made me jump out of my wet suit.

This cove is where the sea turtles come to rest. I’m not sure how much rest they get as tourists come splashing by disturbing them. Can’t say we weren’t the same, as me and mark crept up behind them to feel their flipper, its pretty slimy. In this spot lay around 12 turtles, some were ginormous. The male sea turtles have long thick tails, which look like a third leg. The females don’t have this. Following them up and down, catching a breath as they brought their head up to the surface was a magical moment. As well as floating a long side them as they rested. Mark spotted one whose behind had risen before its head with the current, lifting his back end in the air. Laughing in snorkels echoes through the water so you can always follow something that’s funny.

This water was one of the coldest so we didn’t stay in for much longer. The current that is flowing in the Galapagos at the moment is the Humboldt current, bringing over the cold water and with it more marine life, including sharks. On the west side of Isabela there is the Cromwell current, supplying the perfect conditions for whales.

In the afternoon we went to see the Giant tortoises. In the past there used to be 14 species on the islands but after constant hunting there now only remains 10. Lonesome George was the last of his kind, a unique species on Pinta island, and was found by rangers and in 1972 he was taken to the Charles Darwin research station.

He was put in a pen with 2 females from Wolf volcano but the eggs were wrong and didn’t hatch as the hybrid breed couldn’t survive. He was the last of his kind and died in 2012 aged around 150 years old.


Out of the 10 species the biggest type is the ‘Dome’ tortoise which are found in the highlands of Santa Cruz. Then there are ‘Intermediate’ in San Cristobal who can be found roaming wild.

The ‘Saddlebacks’ are the smallest of the tortoises. This translates from “galapago“, which is an old Spanish term for horse saddle. It is a term that came from a Spanish bishop who was sailing from Panama to Peru. He got lost and found the Galapagos. From the ship, he only saw the saddleback tortoises who were grazing in the lowlands. The term ‘galapago‘ gives the name to the archipelago of islands.

Any new hatches are under inspection by birds who prey on them. Many eggs are brought to the centre and kept there for 2-4 years. The tortoises that are kept in captivity are generally the Domes. They will be released in the lowlands where they were collected from at around 5 years old and they will start walking upwards to the highlands to live there and breed when they are 25 years old.

Day four:

We’ve said our goodbyes to the crew with a friendly picture of the gang and headed over to Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz to see more tortoises….

500 years ago pirates and sailors killed over 200,000 tortoises for meat and oil. The males weighed 250kg and females 150kg so they collected more females and young ones as they couldn’t carry the heavier ones. Any eggs left in the nests were eaten by rats, diminishing the population.

Now in the centre they keep the eggs at 29,5C which is the temperature for females. To grow males they are kept at 28C. 90% of eggs are females to breed with Diego and the other males of the research station. In the adaptation pen 1,300 young tortoises are mixed together. The different species were kept together but they are released when they are 5 years old so before they try to breed later in life. The rings on their shells keep growing which expands the shell. When they are older it no longer needs to grow and the shell is then smooth.

This was the last stop on our tour, saying our goodbyes to Giovanni we were now to make it on our own…

Our original hostal, Los Amigos was full up, so we have resorted to the next cheapest looking one we could find…Hostal Elizabeth. First impressions were bleak, but for the price of $20 we have separate rooms with a double bed each, a private bathroom and I have the luxury of a TV. The appearance of the hostal doesn’t bode well for the owner but for something cheap it does the trick. N.B cheap being less than $50 for a b&b.

We have visited every single souvenir shop of the first block in search of family gifts. Everything seems to cost around the same, t-shirts being $15 and playing cards being $5. When skimping on the accommodation, it means we can splash on last minute gifts I haven’t managed to do in the last 4 months!

As we had the afternoon free, we decided to do an activity of our own. Less information to be given, but enough to be told that the first beach we were aiming to go to was unswimmable. 2 km away from the town, we find Tortuga Bay. A hidden paradise, a lagoon tucked behind deadly currents and vicious waves, we lay down our newly stolen towels from the boat and find this guy next to us…


We had adopted an American/Puerto Rican guy who is coincidently staying at our hostel and he accompanied us to the beach from the entrance to the trail. He has taken out a kayak in search of what has become a novelty for us…the marine iguana. He is a very excitable guy on his own adventure around Peru and Ecuador, collecting fellow travellers on his way and enjoying recounting each others stories.

We left him to trek back home as we had missed our usual three course lunch and were feeling peckish. I found some chocolate milk and a breaded plantain stuffed with fish. After rebooting, we took to the shops. We did all of them. Starting from the end of the main avenue, we checked in each store that sold the exact same thing, only varying in colour and size availability. It took us a while to be successful, but after trailing around I treat myself and mum and dad. Elliott has been the problem. Is he too old to be wearing ‘I love boobies’ t-shirt? I didn’t think Dad was…

At 7pm it was time for happy hour at The Rock bar, where we reunited with our new pal Adrian. For very well respected personal reasons, he let us have our Cuba libres as he had a coke. The place we were at was a little touristy and not what we should have been experiencing on the Galapagos. Thankfully Adrian pushed us to try elsewhere, a little more fresh and local.

Throughout the day we had spotted a local fish market; the locals included a handful of pelicans and 2 hungry sea lions…

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 00.05.50By the time we got there, it looked like all the fish had been taken so we asked a few local women where we could try some local cuisine. We were pointed in the direction of the Main Street leading to Bahia Tortuga. It had been closed, the road full of tables and smoking grills. We picked one which served it all, and to our taste. On the right hand side of the road, called Galapagos, with a friendly picture of lonesome George, we were able to pick what we wanted, how we wanted it and what sauce we could have it cooked in. To feed my pulpo addiction, I requested grilled pulpo cooked in a garlic sauce. It was done to perfection, for only $10.

For spending the day with Adrian, he wanted to treat us to a kids train ride around the city. We were quite excited to end the night on a giant catapillar train, a huge difference compared to a luxury boat. Unfortunately it was a late night for us and for the train which had already left. Making 22:30 the latest night of the week.