I’ll be honest by saying I don’t think the outback is everyone’s cup of tea. It’s certainly not mine, but as I find myself working in Moura, a cow and coal town in rural Queensland, after I can at least admit it has its charms, and I have no major complains about being stuck here for a few weeks.
The Peace and Quiet
With a population of 1774 according to the most recent census, and being located 2.5 hours’ drive from the nearest significant airports and cities of remotest interest, it’s safe to say Moura is pretty quiet. After the chaos of working in India, the Southeast Asian megacities and cramming into the Tube in London, the tranquillity in such a sparsely populated area is a refreshing change to the pace of life of the last year. Even working my food shopping around short opening hours and everything being closed on a Sunday (my homeland of Scotland is without Sunday trading laws). For sure, I couldn’t live here forever – it’s a little too quiet for that – but for a few weeks at least I’m enjoying life in the slow lane.
I had been a little apprehensive before I arrived that I would have found myself shunned and unwelcome when I got here – that when I walked into the shop silence would fall, that people would stare as I walked down the street, and that there would be one or two slightly derogatory comments about foreigners. Partly that might be down to hearing how protectionist Australia has gotten about its industries, the trade unions trying to exclude foreigners as much as possible, and immigration dragging their feet granting my work visa. The reality however was very different; my first Sunday here I was invited to join the tiny Anglican congregation for a pot luck lunch, gym goers are really generous with advice and inclusiveness, people are incredibly chatty in the shops and even remember conversations we had a few weeks before. I’ve even had older women trying to set me up with the local girls, bless ‘em! The level of friendly conversation I’ve had here is a big change to what I’m usually used to.
January and December are typically winter months for me, but after 6 months or more spent in warm countries (even the UK was respectably balmy last year), I am relieved that I have found myself in Australia. While the northern hemisphere is in climatic misery, days in the outback were reaching a scorching 45°C recently, while I was thankfully much cosier in 30°C during the night shift, and enjoy the cool morning air as I come in from work. It may be uncomfortably hot at times (especially when the aircon packs in), the exposure to sunshine definitely is working wonders for my mood, and completely justifies the purchase of a rather expensive pair of Ray Bans on a whim on my way out here.
Places to Eat
Truth be told there isn’t much in the way of places to eat here, but of what there is on offer, there are a couple of gems. The day after I arrived a new tavern opened in the centre of town – not only was it much nicer than the dubious looking truckers’ motel bar on the other side of town (on certain nights of the week the circuit girls who serve drinks will get their boobs out if their tips are high enough – clearly not my cup of tea), but they serve a really, REALLY good steak and beer-battered chips. There are also a few nice cafes which do great food and ooze the friendliness that is often missing from the likes of your urban multinational chains. And if that all wasn’t enough to offer a change to slaving over a cold stove, naturally everyone here has a BBQ grill as the weather lends itself to al-fresco dining.
Easy to keep fit
Ultimately the biggest thing I’ve loved about Moura is that it has been so easy to stay active; the town may not have much but it does have not only an Olympic swimming pool, but also a gym with 24 hour access. Most importantly, the weather (again) is perfect for living an active lifestyle (particularly of outdoor pursuits such as fishing and “’roo shooting”) and I’ve discovered the joys of going running at sunrise or sunset, with cockatoos flying around or thunderstorms crackling overhead. My morning run down the wide empty streets has been one of the things I look forward to each day and I’m really glad I got into this habit while out here. In the 4 weeks since arriving I’ve lost over 2kg and feel great about myself as a result of the lifestyle changes I’ve made (daily exercise and 80% vegetarianism). My only regret is I’ll have to return to the bitterly cold UK soon and we’ll see how well I keep it up!
So that’s what I like about my life in the outback? Have you had similar experiences? Or have you had an even better time living in Australia? Let me know!