I spent the next three days in Hervey Bay, honing new survival skills whilst trying to make the most of what a small town can offer when you’re living on the streets. It’s interesting how all those simple everyday tasks that most of us take for granted, like having a nice hot shower in the morning or cooking porridge for breakfast, now become a bit of a mission and somewhat of a luxury. Strangely, you become more aware of opportunities around you and you catch your self pinching salt & pepper and brown sugar sachets from coffee shops, or filling up all your empty bottles whenever you find a tap with drinking water! I’ve also developed an unconscious ability to spot a public toilet anywhere I am, even if I don’t need it, oddly my eyes are mechanically drawn to those two little figures as if a radar was constantly working in the background of my mind. As a result of this, I’ve become an expert on the subject of public toilets, and I’ve seen so many that I’ve started to rate them. In third place I nominate shopping centre and library toilets, generally quite clean with plenty of paper and topped up soap dispensers, but a bit busy and unsuitable for washing your armpits or brushing your teeth. In second place I choose the disabled toilet, I know I shouldn’t use it but it’s so spacious and ideal when you need to get changed, you can also have a shave without being disturbed and the sink is low enough so you can even wash your feet if need be! However, my favourite toilet to steel first place has to be the one in small petrol stations on the highway; most of these have showers (some even hot, what luxury) and you get your own key, so you can lock up for hours and pamper yourself pretending you’re in a spa, till the next hairy arse trucker starts banging on the door threatening to fire off a torpedo in his pants!
Harvey Bay is a great place to practice the art of homeless living. On the beach front, the promenade, you’ll find free gas barbecues for anyone to use and picnic areas, public toilets every 200m and even a dozen free exercise machines, which have been installed by the council a few years ago and are very popular amongst the older generation. Some of the toilets have cold showers, but one morning I decided I really fancied a hot shower so I walked straight into the bathrooms of a backpacker hostel, pretended to be staying there. It worked a treat, and according to the receptionist lots of people do it, I know because I asked her on my way out :-) Also, I get free internet access in many different places and at the library, I’ve discovered that you can plug your laptop and recharge it, as long as you appear to be working.
I settled in so well, that I decided to look for a job and stick around a bit longer. I started with the easy option of using a proper recruitment agency, but they all told me that I needed an Australian bank account and a file taxation number. So I opened an account wit NAB, one of the 4 big national banks in Australia, and applied for the tax number online. Unfortunately this would take up to 4 weeks to be processed, so I couldn’t get a job till then. Disappointed but no put off, I went round every single backpacker hostel and asked if they had any vacancies. This too didn’t work, maybe I look dodgy, though I did have a shower and a shave and put on my ‘special occasions’ t-shirt. There were a few jobs advertised, but for a minimum of 4 weeks, and I didn’t want to stick around that long. Eventually I decided to pull out my Wwoof book, which I bought in Brisbane and try out a different type of work. Wwoof stands for ‘Willing Workers On Organic Farms’, and basically you work 4 to 6 hours a day in exchange of meals and accommodation, no mohoney. I paid £55 for the book, so just 3 nights in a warm and cosy house would pay for it self.
I struck gold when the second person I contacted accepted my request for a whopping week of wwoofing! Unfortunately I had to leave Hervey Bay and drive back south.