Grant, from South Africa, is on his Gap Year in Australia. Currently located in the city of Yeppoon in Northern QLD, he’s completely embraced what it means to live in country Australia. Things are done differently here and Grant has welcomed this experience with open arms.
We spoke to Grant about his first impressions of Australia and what it’s like working as a boarding assistant. Read on to discover his real-life experiences as a South African living in Australia on a Gap Year.
Tell us about your first impressions of Australia
I’m in Yeppoon, a small coastal town, which would not be out of place on the North Coast of KZN. Its Fitzroy River is swollen and empties into a beach that is currently off limits because of recent crocodile sightings.
The weather is a cool 32 degrees and each day starts off with sun tan cream and each night starts off with insect repellent. This part of the world, despite being developed, is undoubtedly wild. A mob of kangaroos roam the school, spiders cohabit my (their?) room, kookaburras sing from the bush and sheep and goats too. The school is a hive of action with everyone returning for a new year, some coming from far and wide. One boy had a 13 hour drive to get here whilst others, who live far north in the Torres Strait, took a couple of days.
What does a typical day look like?
My duties sometimes include feeding chickens, tending to homesick kids, hiring bikes, supervising, building an aquaponics system, gardening, driving kids to appointments and sports practice, boarding house supervision, reading literacy helper and activities coordinator.
What have you enjoyed so far?
Little things that I have enjoyed about this part of Australia; there are solar panels on just about every residential roof, the speed limit is about 80km which makes every drive leisurely, the scale of the country always catches me off guard, indigenous culture is on full display even if not outrightly accepted, the kids from the country, the greeting “G’day, how are ya?”, bedtime is early, the car I get to drive, the sunsets, the bush.
Share a memorable experience
Outside of the school, I am still exploring. One of my most recent adventures was in a place called the Capricorn Caves which is an above-ground limestone cave system. I was part of a small tour group where I was the youngest as we walked through the caves. My torch was playing up and kept going off intermittently from the get go which was a sign of things to come.
Around halfway through the tour, the guide asks us if we want to try one of the more adventurous routes. This involves going down a tunnel where there would be a gap we’d have to squeeze through. The older participants said no, and of course, I said yes. I went into the cold, damp and dark place with a faulty torch and the promise that the guide had “never seen a snake in the caves before”.
Now the tunnel was small and when I reached the gap to climb through I found that because it had just rained there was a puddle at the bottom. As much as I tried not to get wet and to find a way through, I ended up leopard crawling through wet poo to the other side in the pitch black because my torch went out.
As I stood up, dusted off and hit my torch back to life I was greeted by a fairly large, and thankfully peaceful rock python. I did what most would do and took a picture before scrambling past to join the group. The guide proceeded to take us to a cavern where we were dive-bombed by thousands of bats. Then it was off to climb a mountain and then call it a day. Now it may have sounded terrible, but I had the BEST time.
What are some interesting things you’ve noticed while living in Australia?
The food continues to be weird. I am convinced that Australia is powered by snags. Well, snags, air-conditioning, gas and the F-word. Snags are a peculiarity. Think of a boerewors roll and then minus the roll and any presence of flavour. It is a sausage on a white piece of bread. That’s it. And it’s also what we get for lunch 3 times a week. It’s no wonder I get begged to stop at KFC every time I go driving with the boys.
Australia also has an extreme sport that I don’t think you’ll find in the news. You might think it could be NFL or AFL but it is in fact something much more fun to watch. The sport is lawn mowing. Every weekend on the more rural roads across Yeppoon men bring out their steads, mighty machines with leather seats to tame the overgrowth. Many are armed with a beer (or 5), a large-brimmed hat and country music.
If you’re lucky you’ll see them bring out the tractors with large lawn mower trailers that are the equivalent of using performance-enhancing drugs. It’s cheating, and everyone knows it. The aim of the game is to get the best-looking lawn with immaculate straight-cutting lines but also to look as relaxed and zoned out as possible. The fun trick is to wave to them when driving past in the hopes of them releasing their steering wheel and they veer off their lines. I have a 100% strike rate.