Despite her initial fears, Canadian VANESSA DUNBAR enjoyed working as a topless barmaid in the Top End.

Have I made a mistake? Maybe I’ve boarded the wrong plane? Why am I the only female passenger? And what the heck is that smell?

More importantly, have I gone mad? Flying alone to the middle of nowhere to be met by God only knows who, I prepare for death and make a mental list of things I’ve yet to do as we barely make it airborne in what I can only assume is a plane fit for fugitives. And by the looks of my fellow passengers, this is not a far off assumption.

You see I’ve been successful in landing a job as a topless barmaid in Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory, or Gove as I will later refer to it. Gove is a remote mining town of 4,000 people, with a five to one male to female ratio. I must say for a first experience in the nudy business I sure have chosen to jump off at the deep end, as usual.

Arriving in one piece, thankfully, I’m greeted by a young lady who escorts me from possibly the smallest airport I have ever set foot in, out into the darkness to a company ute. Although my nerves have eased a little, there is still plenty of time for all this to go horribly wrong. And with my luck, it will do just that.

Having given the third degree to my escort, I find there is only one road out of this town, which is accessible only with a permit. Trapped, I start to feel a little claustrophobic as we drive through what appears to be absolutely nowhere and I’m warned about all the dangers awaiting me, including the massive water buffaloes which roam the streets, day and night, looking for their next victim.

After arriving at what I’ll call home for the next month, I’m whisked off to the nearby watering hole (the tavern I’ll be working half-clad in) for a tour.

One foot in the door and a hush settles over the crowd, I can feel all eyes on me. Fresh meat. Once again, no females to be seen. Fighting the impulse to high tail it out of there, I’m introduced to my fellow staff and some of the regulars, who waste no time in small talk and quickly lay on the sexist wisecracks.

“Get yer tits out, ya slag!”

Thankfully years of taking the butt end of my father’s sick humour has more than prepared me, and I spit it back in their faces. To my delight it ends in a laugh. With a pat on the back they tell me I’ll fit right in. Only later do I decide fitting in here may not be something to celebrate. Mum would be so proud.

Over the next month I have a lot of new experiences – my first State of Origin rugby game where my breasts are painted with “Go the Blues”, my first X-rated fruit and veg show, performed by my stripper room-mate and fellow ‘toppy’, as we’re referred to. But I spend most of my time strolling the deserted beaches and exploring the wildlife, feeding the cockies who lodge on our balcony and laying by the pool.

I also learned a lot about the local aboriginal culture and got to experience first-hand how they live. As you can imagine I met some real characters, among them a girl who shares my birthdate and who invited me back to her hometown of Geraldton to celebrate it. She introduced me to her best mate who I’m now happy to say has become more than just a friend and has plans to accompany me back to Canada.

I am satisfied with what has become my favourite adventure in Australia so far. I left with a handsome paycheck, a lifelong friend, a souvenir stubby holder that reads “Gove, an ugly girl’s paradise,” and a great traveller’s tale.