THE OTHER PART OF THE STORY

TrustedHousesitters—the app I was using when I was refused entry to the US—won’t update their advice for international house sitting.

The company continues to say it’s OK for their paying members to house sit on a tourist-type visa (e.g. ESTA) because they “don’t regard house sitting as work”.

In their opinion, what happened to me was all a “misunderstanding” because US immigration didn’t get “the concept of house sitting”.

Hi. I’m Madolline.
And I’m seeing the world One cat at a time

Another year spent house and cat sitting within Australia

Another year spent house and cat sitting within Australia

The past 12 months has seen me travel to places like Darwin and Sydney to house and cat sit, and I’m in Sydney again at the moment.

I also accepted a house and cat sit in Newcastle in lieu of being able to travel overseas, but that trip was cut short because of interstate lockdowns. You’d think an international travel ban would make for an excellent opportunity to see new places across Australia, but nope. Not the case. You might be able to fly interstate, but you mightn’t be let back in. State borders could close at at any time, with as little as a few hours notice. Even travelling one or two hours away from where you live isn’t easy when there’s a COVID-19 outbreak (an ‘outbreak’ in Australia has previously been as little one or two unlinked cases within a community).

When I came to Sydney earlier this year, I was almost turned away at Sydney Airport because Brisbane had a COVID outbreak. A government worker at the airport said something like: “People from Brisbane aren’t welcome in New South Wales right now.” A few questions and phone calls later, I was told I could stay. They reminded me I had to isolate for three days—and I knew this was going to happen—but I didn’t see it as a huge issue. I was just grateful to be spending the Easter break somewhere other than Brisbane.

Fast forward six months and the Sydney couple I sat for over Easter were the ones facing the COVID-related problems this time ’round. They messaged me to say there was a positive case in their building and, understandably, they were starting to freak out. It was possible they’d been exposed to the virus in the building’s elevator and now all of our plans were up in the air (no pun). The couple wanted to get tested ASAP—not just for peace of mind, but they needed a negative result to fly home to France. They both tested negative and left for Paris on 18 December.

I did contemplate spending December and January in the United States before agreeing to look after Pixel for a second time. I’d already accepted a sit in Baltimore and I was planning to organise more sits before I flew out. All the COVID uncertainty was starting to get to me so I thought it was best to cancel. And I didn’t want to leave the Baltimore couple without a sitter at the last minute. There was also a bit—or a lot—of pressure having to make my way from Brisbane all the way to Baltimore by 20 December. International flights were due to start up again only days earlier, but there was no guarantee they actually would. Flying in to Baltimore City was going to add an extra $2,000 AUD to my airfare which meant I was probably going to go via D.C. While this was the cheaper option, it meant I then had to get two trains before finally arriving in downtown Baltimore. Getting the additional modes of transport would be stressful at any time, but it would’ve just been too much after being in the air for 20-something hours.

As it turns out, this Christmas–New Year house and cat sit will be my longest one yet. Just short of 30 days. I’ve been using the extended stay to see different parts of Sydney and organise my 2022 trip to the USA. My plan is to fly out three days after returning home to Brisbane and I say ‘plan’ because who knows what COVID-19 has in store for us. My first potential roadblock: I must test negative in order to get home to Brisbane. The second obstacle I’ll face is returning a negative result a few days later to be able to board my flight to Los Angeles. Let’s hope I get my test results back in time (and that they’re negative).

House and pet sitting questions answered

House and pet sitting questions answered

People are always intrigued when they hear I house and cat sit my way around the world, and they usually have a few questions about it. I’ve compiled a list of the more frequently questions I get and I hope my answers shine some light on what it’s like to do this.

How do I get started as a house and pet sitter?

I’ve already done a post on how I got started as a house and cat sitter, and it includes some advice on how you can get started. But it’s really not that hard. Pick a house sitting website to join, add photos to your profile and talk up any relevant experience you can bring to the sit, and then start applying for ones that interest you.

Do you get paid to house and pet sit?

I don’t get paid to look after people’s homes and their cats, but there are websites out there where you can get paid for your time. The websites I use operate on an exchange model where the sitter provides care for the person’s home and pet, and the sitter gets a free place to stay.

How much time is spent looking after the pets?

I can only comment on cat care, but it takes no more than half an hour out of your day. Feed the cat, change their water, clean up after them and play with them. You’ll probably be asked to replace the litter every few days, vacuum around the litter box once a day and hand out the occasional treat.

Does the home/pet owner pay for your airfares?

No. It makes me laugh that people think someone in the US is paying for me to fly from Australia to look after their cat. Domestic airfares aren’t subsidised either. None of my travel is paid for.

Are you ever tempted to go through the person’s belongings?

Also no. That’s their stuff and it’s of no interest to me. Sometimes the person I’m sitting for will offer me space in their wardrobe, but it’s easier to keep my clothes in my suitcase.

Are there cameras?

There might be. I’ve never been told someone had cameras and I’ve never asked. I do feel like the owners should probably disclose this at some point though.

Do you pay for stuff like toilet paper and washing powder?

This stuff is almost always provided. I will, however, purchase more toilet paper if I use the last of theirs.

Do you get a car as part of the sit?

I think I’ve been offered use of a car for one sit. So, in my experience, a car is not usually part of the deal. I’ve seen listings where a car is included, but I think this also presents a lot of problems. What if you crash or damage the car, or get a speeding ticket?

Is it weird sleeping in someone else’s bed?

It’s no weirder than sleeping in an Airbnb or hotel bed. The owner puts fresh sheets on for you, and I make sure to wash and change the sheets before I leave.

Have you ever had a pet emergency?

No pet emergencies in the three years I’ve been doing this. TrustedHousesitters is the only house sitting website I’ve used where the owners have to list a preferred veterinary practice (a good thing) otherwise I guess you’d take their pet to the closest one.

What happens if the owner cancels on you?

A cancellation isn’t something I’ve experienced, but COVID-19 has made things a lot more uncertain. I’ve had to change my flights to arrive earlier or later than originally intended, but I’ve never had to seek alternative accommodation because a sit fell through. This is something that plays on my mind a lot, especially when I’m travelling to the US to house and cat sit.

How do owners know they can trust you?

Some of the house sitting websites have security checks in place and sitters can pay extra to have a police check/clearance visible on their profile. I think you start to become more ‘trustworthy’ after getting your first positive review. Other people can then see you did a good job (and didn’t steal anything (or cause any trouble)) and you can probably be trusted with their home and pets.

Isn’t house sitting just for older, retired people?

Nope—anyone can do it.

What’s your favourite thing about house sitting?

There’s many things to like about house sitting. These include:

  • seeing how other people live—what products they use, how their house is decorated, etc.
  • having access to a proper kitchen and washing machine when I’m travelling
  • getting local recommendations from the owners
  • all the cute cats I get to look after.

And it saves you a lot of money. Sometimes up to thousands of dollars in accommodation per sit.

What’s your least favourite thing about house sitting?

Garden maintenance is my least favourite thing when I’m house sitting. I’m not a gardener and some people’s gardens have been very… heavy on the upkeep side. A place I cared for in Launceston had the most beautiful garden, but there was no mention of how much work was required. The lady didn’t upload photos of it either so it was a bit of a surprise when I arrived.

Other questions

Please comment—or email me—if you have any other questions about house and pet sitting. I’m sure there’s a million other things people might want to know, but these are the questions I find myself answering most often.

Cat sitting in Australia’s best-known city over Easter

Cat sitting in Australia’s best-known city over Easter

After a crazy few days, including a snap lockdown back home, I was pretty keen to start my house and cat sit in Sydney.

I applied for the 10-day sit the same day I was knocked back for a sit in Launceston. This was back in early March when I was house and cat sitting for my mum’s friend, and thinking about where I’d like to go at Easter. While I would’ve loved to return to Launceston, it was kind of lucky I didn’t get that sit because Brisbane had a [small] COVID-19 outbreak days before the Easter long weekend.

Leaving Brisbane

Brisbane recorded 3 or 4 community acquired COVID cases within about 48 hours. Even though they were linked, every Australian state and territory except New South Wales closed their borders to Brisbane residents. This all happened within a few hours of the Queensland premier declaring Brisbane a hotspot and announcing the city would go into a snap lockdown. I started to freak out. I didn’t know if I’d be able to proceed with the interstate house sit and I didn’t want to leave the Sydney couple hanging.

I decided my best chance of making it to Sydney would be to fly out on Tuesday (i.e. the next day) morning. I couldn’t change my flight on the Virgin Australia website so I had to call up. It took several attempts before I could even get through, then I had a wait of about 45 minutes. My Thursday flight was finally re-booked for Tuesday and I was hopeful New South Wales wouldn’t shut Brisbane residents out before then.

Brisbane Airport was like a ghost town on Tuesday morning. More than half the flights were cancelled and I’m sure many more were cancelled later on in the day. A flight attendant announced he was expecting 32 passengers on the Sydney-bound flight, but it seemed like there was only 10 of us. We were told to fill in an entry declaration form and abide by Brisbane’s lockdown rules for the next 3 days. This message was repeated a few times throughout the short flight, but at no point did anyone—Brisbane Airport staff, Virgin flight crew or the state government—tell us we needed a legitimate reason to enter New South Wales. This turned out to be a bit of a drama when I got off the plane, but I was eventually granted entry. Another passenger wasn’t so lucky.

Meeting the owners

I’d been in regular communication with the couple since responding to their TrustedHousesitters listing so it felt like I kind of knew them when we met up. Julien and Ariane made a French eggplant dish for dinner and apple crumble for dessert, and I got to try their home-brewed ginger beer. They told me they started brewing their own beer during last year’s lockdown. We also talked about their previous house sitters and about some of the sits I’ve done. I learned they’ve been in Australia for 4 years since moving over from France in their mid/late 20s and travelled to more places within Australia than I have. We continued the conversation at a nearby gin bar before calling it a night.

Starting the sit

I spent a short amount of time with Julien and Ariane again on Friday morning before they left for Darwin. Pixel, their cat, a Scottish Shorthair, was quick to jump on my suitcase and inspect my backpack. It wasn’t long before I realised Pixel had to suss out everything I brought back to the apartment. This included sniffing, then lying on, brown paper bags and shoving his head in my takeaway dinners.

Not only is Pixel incredibly inquisitive, he’s a creature of habit. He would jump on the bed at the same time every morning demanding pets and attention in hope of being fed. He’d spend his evenings relaxing on his window bed, or what Julien calls the ‘recharge station’, before demanding dinner. I was told Pixel’s favourite thing is an afternoon birdwatching session on the balcony and he enjoys chasing flies, too. Pixel was always supervised outside, but even predictable Pixel has the potential to be unpredictable sometimes. Pixel actually reminds me of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland and we all know what he was like.

Pixel was relatively easy to care for. All he wanted was food, some attention and/or to be let out on the balcony. He’d meow occasionally and it was usually for one of those things. He tried to escape out the front door a few times, but he didn’t go far. Just a few metres down the hall.

Getting around

The couple’s Surry Hills apartment was the perfect base for exploring the city. Buses come every couple of minutes along Oxford and Crown streets, or I could walk a bit further to get the light rail or train. Oxford Street, to one side of the apartment, is known for its gay and lesbian community. Crown Street, to the other side of the apartment, is all cafes, bars and restaurants in both directions. Deciding what to eat—and from where—with so many choices wasn’t easy.

Speaking of food, there was one thing that took some getting used to. The New South Wales COVID check in app. I had to check in *and* out of each place I dined in at as well as having to check in/out at the supermarket and on the bus. Some retail stores even wanted you to check in. Checking out of a store is something I would always forget to do.

Things to do

There’s no shortage of things to see and do in Sydney. I could’ve easily spent another week exploring.

Australian National Maritime Museum

I went to the Australian National Maritime Museum with the sole intention of seeing Wildlife Photographer of the Year, but another exhibition intrigued me just as much. Everything featured in Beach Couture: A Haute Mess was found on the beach or floating in the ocean. One outfit had been made from underwear left behind at Coogee Beach and Gordons Bay.

Markets

There’s no shortage of markets in Sydney. I went to the Surry Hills one (first Saturday of the month), Glebe Markets (every Saturday), Paddington Markets (every Saturday) and Bondi Markets (every Sunday). There’s also Paddy’s Markets in the CBD. Paddy’s is open all day every day, and is very big on Australian souvenirs. I don’t think you’ll find anything handmade here, but it’s still worth a look.

Watsons Bay and South Head Heritage trail

I decided to get a ferry one afternoon and randomly went with the one going to Watsons Bay. Watsons Bay is the second—and last—stop on the route before the ferry goes back to the CBD. There’s a few smaller beaches in Watsons Bay and the South Head Heritage trail up to Hornby Lighthouse offers a scenic, relatively easy walk. I didn’t know about this trail prior to getting the ferry, but random adventures are usually the best ones.

Bondi Beach

Easter Sunday was spent at Bondi Beach. It was my first time checking out the Bondi Markets and attempting the Bondi to Bronte walk. The couple warned me these beach walks would be very popular over the break and they were right. It seemed like half of Sydney was at Bondi on Easter Sunday. I had lunch at a vegan Lebanese restaurant across from the beach and tried their vegan gelato. Their website says it’s ‘cashew nut based … refined sugar free, gluten free’. It’s pretty good considering it’s vegan.

Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are beautiful. I visited Katoomba and Leura, and went to Echo Point and Elysian Rock lookouts. You have to pay for parking at Echo Point ($4.40/hour (a bit of a rip-off considering you’re ~100km out of the city)), but it has the best view of the Three Sisters. I had hoped to stop in at Blackheath while I was out there, but there’s no way I would’ve had the hire car back by 6pm. It took almost 2.5 hours to get back to Sydney despite heading off at 3.30pm.

Newtown

Newtown is in Sydney’s inner west which is somewhere I haven’t ventured ’til now. People’s houses and the streets are decorated with murals, and there’s lots of interesting shops. It’s a very diverse part of the city.

Waverley Cemetery

Cemeteries aren’t for everyone, but the Waverley Cemetery is definitely worth a look. It sits atop cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and is situated between Bronte and Clovelly beaches. There’s always people passing through—making it seem a bit less morbid and depressing—as it’s on the Bondi to Coogee walk. This walk is another thing worth doing.

Next stop

My next stop is home. Brisbane’s snap lockdown is over, but I believe we still have to wear masks for another week. I don’t have any upcoming house and cat sits planned, but I’ve updated my destinations list to include Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. A winter sit out that way would be amazing.

How to become a house and pet sitter

How to become a house and pet sitter

A lot of people have asked me how they can get started as a house and pet sitter, and it’s really not that complicated.

I managed to get the first house and cat sit I applied for despite having no house sitting experience. What’s crazier is I was in Australia and the sit I applied for was on the other side of the world. What made the San Franciscan couple pick me? I’m not sure, but I’ll share what I do know applying for sits.

Please note the house and cat sitting ‘jobs’ I take on are not a form of paid employment.

Sign up to a house sitting website

I’ve signed up to several house sitting websites over the years, but remained loyal to TrustedHousesitters. Aussie House Sitters has become a recent favourite largely because Australians still can’t travel overseas. This doesn’t mean it’ll be your go-to, especially if you’re not looking to house sit in Australia, but it got me a sit in Darwin last Christmas.

Have a look at each of the websites before you decide which one to sign up to. TrustedHousesitters is good for those looking to travel to multiple countries while country-specific house sitting websiteslike Aussie House Sitters and House Sitters Americamight be a better option for those looking for something closer to home.

Work on your profile

Your sitter profile is like your resume. It’s where you should highlight what skills and attributes you possess, and talk up any house sitting experience you have. If you don’t have any experience, don’t worry too much. TrustedHousesitters has a ‘References’ section where people in your life (e.g. an employer) can comment on your character. I asked about three or four people to leave me a reference, and I think they helped a lot.

Personalise your preferences

Owners can search for sitters without putting an ad up hence why it’s worth specifying the places and pets you’re interested in when you create your profile. You can select more than one pet type and as many locations as you like. You can also select no pets, but that seems like a strange thing to do.

Upload photos with pets

Most people on house sitting websites have pets which is why it’s a good idea to upload a few photos of you with the animals in your life. If you volunteer at a farm or animal rescue, or foster animals in your home, these are other photos you could include as well. Remember to mention you volunteer or foster on your profile, too. If you don’t own a pet, it’s OK to upload a photo with someone else’s so long as it’s an animal you’re comfortable with.

Start applying

Once you’ve found a sit you’re interested in, respond to the ad. I think your initial communication to/with the owner is just as important as your nicely-worded sitter profile so keep it short and sharp.

Don’t send the same message to every owner you reach out to. Personalise the message. Mention their pet’s name, tell them why you’re keen to house sit in that location. If their pets have special needs, let them know if you’ve administered injections and/or are confident in medicating animals.

Be prompt

You’ve got to be quick. I’ve found some owners give the sit to the first person who responds to their ad. Others start reviewing applications after they get three or four responses. If there’s an ad that interests you, message the owner as soon as you can because it might be taken down by the time you get home.

Other things to consider

These are a few things I’ve learned on my house sitting journey and I thought they’re worth touching on.

  • You’re not going to get every sit you apply for. I’ve been unsuccessful many times.
  • Half the people I’ve sat for have wanted to Skype or Facetime before confirming me as their sitter. Others felt my application letter, profile and reviews were enough to make a decision.
  • Owners might suss you out on social media—make sure there’s nothing inappropriate on your accounts. Or at least make them private.
  • Even though most sits are more about pet care than home care, some sitters will be asked to maintain the pool, mow the lawn or weed the garden. Most ads touch on what chores are required and more detail is provided at a later stage.
  • Sitters need to be flexible. You can’t ask to arrive a few days earlier or leave halfway through the sit because that works better for you. You need to work in with the owner’s schedule.
  • Things can go wrong. Appliances break, pets can go missing, get sick or die; pipes burst, you might accidentally start a small fire. You need to be prepared to make yourself available to have these things fixed or take the person’s pet to the vet. This can put a damper on your holiday, but it’s all part of being a sitter.

Final bit of advice

It’s really not that hard to get your first house sit. You just have to be able to sell yourself and back up those claims with experience (or kindly worded references). It’s like applying for a job. Don’t overthink it and just go for it.

A Christmas cat sit in Australia’s Top End

A Christmas cat sit in Australia’s Top End

I don’t think anyone plans to visit Darwin during the summer, but I decided to brave the humidity when I accepted a house and cat sit commencing mid-December.

It’d been a good eight or nine months since I’d travelled anywhere, and this meant some Australian destinations had suddenly become more appealing. I started to think Darwin—in Australia’s Northern Territory—might be a good option for a Christmas getaway. I’d never been to Darwin, the Northern Territory was letting Queenslanders in without having to quarantine and there hadn’t been a COVID-19 outbreak up there in months.

As luck had it, something came up on Aussie House Sitters. An almost month-long sit in Darwin. There was a bit of back and forth during my initial conversation with Pepper the Persian’s owner because I was in Queensland and these guys are in the Northern Territory. I also had to check with work, check border restrictions, and look at flight availability, but we got there in the end. I was flying to Darwin on 16 December 2020.

One four-hour flight later and I’d arrived in Australia’s Top End. ‘The weather isn’t as bad as they say,’ I thought to myself as I exited the airport. But that’s because it rained less than five minutes ago. I was now on my way to meet the couple I was sitting. One of the first things I remember them telling me about Darwin was it’s unusually busy for this time of year. They said most businesses close for the wet season because there’s no backpackers to employ and tourist numbers are down. I guess I chose the best wet season to venture up here because not much was closed.

The couple’s apartment complex was a bit of an unusual one—instead of a single high-rise tower, it was made up of five or six four-level buildings called ‘residences’. They told me they’d just finished moving all their stuff in to this particular apartment over the weekend. They’d been living in the complex for a while, but in a one-bedroom apartment in a neighbouring residence. With their upcoming holiday, Christmas, and everything else going on in the world, they didn’t have time to unpack some of their stuff. The main bathroom was being used to house their art collection. But because they’ve got two bathrooms in the new place, showering wasn’t an issue.

Pepper popped her head out of the second bedroom as if to say ‘Who’s this?’ She was much smaller than I imaged. And she’s got the cutest lion cut. These guys get her shaved regularly so she doesn’t succumb to the heat. I was then briefed on to prepare Pepper’s breakfast and dinner. She gets a small serve of mince mixed with pumpkin twice a day. Her treats include a small bowl of biscuits no more than three times a week, and a sachet of wet food once or twice a week.

I was also shown the pool and gym areas, and told the beach was five minutes down the road. Fannie Bay is really beautiful, but you’re not allowed to swim there because crocodiles and box jellyfish might be lurking. The couple mentioned I could walk to the CBD in less than an hour, but I would be crazy to do that:

  1. given how sweaty I’d be, and
  2. when the bus comes every half hour.

Darwin’s bus service proved to be somewhat reliable for a smaller city. The bus I would be catching most days ran every half hour regardless of whether it’s a weekday, Saturday or Sunday, or public holiday. And it showed up every single time. On time, too.

The first day

I returned to the apartment the next morning for the first day of the sit. I noticed an A4 print out in the lift detailing the complex’s cyclone procedure. Cyclones—not something that occurred to me ’til this moment. And, thankfully, not something I had to worry about in the end.

Pepper hid in the second bedroom for about 20 minutes, but was sitting with me on the couch in no time. While Pepper spends most of her day in the second bedroom, she enjoys relaxing on the balcony just as much. Cats on a balcony makes me a little nervous—you never know if they’re going to jump over or not. The couple said Pepper is good like that, but we agreed you never know what they’ll decide to do one day.

A few days later

I decided to hire a car so I could visit places not reachable on Darwin’s public transport system. Hiring a car up here meant a ridiculous amount of rules I haven’t encountered anywhere else in Australia, the USA or Japan. Big name rental companies have a limit on the amount of kilometres you can do each day. You can do more, of course, but you’re billed per kilometre. The Budget Rent A Car customer service lady then decided to tell me I’m only covered for accidents within 50km of Darwin CBD after I had paid an extra $100 for insurance. Thanks. And I was advised not to drive between dusk and dawn because I won’t be covered either.

My first stop was at the ‘world famous’ Humpty Doo Hotel. My uncle said this pub was worth a visit. He remembers it being a bit of an unruly joint when he was here in the ’80s or ’90s, but I knew I wasn’t going to see much at midday. Just a couple of tradies having a beer on their lunch break. I did get a bit of a shock when someone called out to me. Turns out it was one of the ladies from my Kakadu tour.

I continued down Arnhem Highway to get to Window on the Wetlands for my crocodile cruise. There’s several companies doing crocodile cruises, but I booked with Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise. All of them charge about the same price and each tour goes for an hour. We saw about six or seven crocodiles in this time, and one of them was the rare white-headed girl called Pearl. The guy told us she’s the only one in the world like this. And they think she’s related to another white-headed crocodile, called Michael Jackson, who was shot in 2014 not long after he ate a local fisherman.

The next day was spent venturing out to Adelaide River. The town’s bar is known for its taxidermy’d buffalo who featured in Crocodile Dundee. It’s also full of fun memorabilia dating back to World War II. But other than the bar and rail museum, which was closed, there’s not much else to see in Adelaide River. I planned to drive straight through to Robin Falls, but the road was partially flooded. Another big no-no in the rental car. So to Berry Springs it was.

By now it was Christmas Day. The first day I got to relax. I slept most of the morning before getting lunch. Hardly anything is open in Brisbane on Christmas Day and I thought Darwin—being way smaller than Brisbane—would be the same. Nope. I was able to dine in at the local momo and kebab shop, and there was no public holiday surcharge. Christmas lunch cost me $13. I then went for a walk along Fannie Bay and called mum for Christmas before calling it a day.

The rest of my time up here was spent sweating it out around Darwin and relaxing with Pepper. Pepper was incredibly easy to care for. She didn’t lash out once. I enjoyed seeing her chase flies at night, pole dance up her cat tree and run through her tunnel at lightning fast speed. I think everything Pepper does is made funnier because she has that classic Persian face.

Things to do

Street art

Street art wasn’t something I was expecting to see much of up here, but I was wrong. Austin Lane, Shadforth Lane and West Lane are good places to start, but Darwin has murals scattered all over the CBD and suburbs.

Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory Darwin

The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory Darwin is definitely more museum than art gallery, but that’s how I like it. There’s a Cyclone Tracy exhibition, crocodile Sweetheart has his own display, and a huge shed out the back houses 20+ boats and canoes from all over the Southern Hemisphere

Fannie Bay Gaol

Fannie Bay Gaol is part of museum and free to visit. The tour guide gave everyone ‘homework’ that needed to be presented before we could leave. He asked me to tell him the name of the gaol’s cat and when it died, and the names of the last two men hanged there. He seemed genuinely excited to hear the answers and helped me navigate the The Territory Check In app.

World War II oil storage tunnels

Not something on my original itinerary, but I went to visit the World War II oil storage tunnels on my last weekend in Darwin. The tunnels were built to hide and protect oil supplies from the Japanese. It’s a pretty interesting attraction and the guy who runs it told me it’s often hired out for art shows.

Litchfield National Park

I visited Litchfield National Park on an AAT Kings tour. I hate group tours, but, sadly, it was cheaper to do it like this. We visited Florence Falls, Tolmer Falls and Wangi Falls, and made stops at some termite mounds and Howard Springs. I planned to visit most of these places on my own, but Darwin’s car rental rules put an end to that plan.

Nightcliff Beach

I walked up to Nightcliff Beach after being disappointed by the suburb’s Sunday markets. Unlike some of the other beaches up here, there’s plenty of green space to sit and watch the ocean. There’s even a coffee van/cart/caravan across from the jetty.

East Point Reserve

East Point Reserve is at the back of Fannie Bay. It’s a nice stretch of coastline, with more amazing red-, orange-, yellow- and white-coloured rocks. East Point Reserve reminds me of Tasmania’s Bay of Fires except you can’t swim up here.

Cafes

Darwin has no shortage of good cafes. My favourites were Laneway Coffee and Ruby G’s. Ruby G’s has two locations—in the city and at Coconut Grove. The Coconut Grove cafe has more dishes and pastries to choose from. Ray’s Patisserie and Cafe isn’t bad either. It’s one of the only coffee shops in the city open from 6am. And Salvator’s has a good selection of cakes.

Things not do

Parap Village Markets

I was told the laksa at the Parap market is probably the best in Australia, but I couldn’t think of anything worse than eating something hot when it’s already 32°C at 10am. There’s long lines for ATMs and the queues to order food are even worse.

Kakadu National Park

A lot of people come to the Northern Territory to visit Kakadu National Park, but I don’t think the AAT Kings tour showcased the most memorable parts of the park. I know you can’t see much in one day, but I wasn’t wow’d by the billabong cruise or Aboriginal art walk. Especially when I paid nearly $300. Most of the day is spent onboard the bus, with only two or three hours (if that) dedicated to activities.

Nightcliff Markets

There wasn’t much on offer at the Nightcliff Markets. A few people selling clothes, someone else selling plants and some hot food stalls. It still drew a substantial crowd, but I can’t work out why.

Darwin tips

If anyone’s reading this and thinks they’d like to visit Darwin, here’s some things I’ll share with you first.

  • Buy calamine lotion and hydrocortisone cream. This is for the heat rash you’re bound to get. I developed heat rash after a mere two hours in Darwin, and had to apply the hydrocortisone cream once or twice a day for the rest of my stay.
  • Invest in a thermos water bottle—cold water won’t stay cold for long without one.
  • Your hair will get really knotty from the humidity. I don’t have a solution for this, but I can’t wait to put a proper treatment in it later today.
  • Take bug spray if you’re doing a crocodile cruise. There’s flies aplenty along the Adelaide River.
  • Always take an umbrella with you. The rain will come and go throughout the day, and it can storm in the morning and again in the afternoon.

Next stop

This trip was limited to just the one house and cat sit so my next stop is home. Or at least I hope I can get home. Brisbane was declared a COVID-19 hot spot after a quarantine hotel cleaner contracted the UK strain of the virus. Once in Brisbane, assuming my flight doesn’t get cancelled, I’ll be there for the next six months at least. That’s because my contract job was extended until the end of the financial year. I’ll re-assess my travel plans towards the end of May.

One final thing. For anyone who’s interested (and I know there’s a few of you), there’s more photos of Pepper on my cat sitting Facebook page.