Showing posts with label Work. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Work. Show all posts

Friday, 24 September 2010

Australia: 15. The Art of Fruitpicking, Under The Bridge and Escape To The Outback...


Hello! or G'Day! should I say...

Thanks for checking in to my latest blog from my Cross Country trip Down Under....

Still in Queensland, think its my favourite Aussie state so far...

After jumping on a Greyhound bus out of Airlie Beach for 9 hours further down the east coast to Rockhampton (honestly to get from one town to another in this country is a holiday in itself - but I've come to enjoy the mishaps and colour of a long road journey).

I was anchored in Rockhampton which isn't really anything I would say to stick around for. Still I was anchored there for five days.....waiting for a ride in country to the harvest town. I did a lot of wandering around - I figured I'd rest before my physically demanding work as a fruit picker commences where I'll be grateful for these days off....but five days nearly killed me... 

I was making my way inland to Emerald to start work again as I was running on empty with the dollars and thanks to my friend, got a job at a farm picking mandarins, limes and pulling fruitless shoots off grape vines (well that was the idea anyway).

I lived in a remote workers camps with other travellers and many travelling Australians who had retired or spent their lives working the 'Harvest Trail' following the fruits and vegetable harvests around Australia in their campervans and caravans....quite a life. I lived pretty remote for two months beside the orchards way out of town but it was an interesting and funny experience being involved in the Australian Harvest Trail and being mentored in the fruitful 'art of fruitpicking'.

In fact I actually really enjoyed the peace and tranquility for a while.

I had a pet horse too, 'Duke' who I'd go and feed everyday after work and also joined the Pistol Club next door to the orchard where I learnt how to shoot pistols at targets on my days off. That's how I like to spend days off haha. 

Fruitpicking can pay well if you work hard (I aimed for three full bins of Mandarins a day) and it is back breaking, but it's weather or not you can withstand the pain for a while, but man you get fit. I think I lost a bit of weight too but have had my fair share of cuts, bruises, injuries and laughs in the orchard - I had a cool picking team which makes sometimes being treated like you're in the army much more of a laugh. 

A hit at the Pistol Club next door and with the 'true blue bosses' boss ever

Anyway, the majority of my time has been out there living in the orchard working really hard out there in the sun - 35 degrees and thats winter! but the great thing about fruitpicking is you have such a monotonies lifestyle, you are not even tempted or given the opportunity to blow your hard earned cash on trivial matters - so I've got enough money to hit the road again after 8 weeks after the winter had passed (and you'd rather be up here in Queensland in the winter anyway).

Never thought I would say this but I actually ended up homeless for a few nights with some of the other fruit pickers. Unless you're driving, the only way out of Emerald is the bus and train and - well guess what, Greyhound stopped the bus route so we were stuck job finished, and no where to live. So....I lived under a bridge, no really, I was sleeping under a bridge. It was cool though, other travellers were too and here is Dan with his campervan joining us as he works his way around Australia.  

Funny enough, we actually missed our train heading out of Emerald because we went to get a sandwich! The lugguge was on the train so we had to get a friend to drive us to the next town to catch it as it came through ha! honestly.....its been a great adventure and come to realise there are some very kind and hospitable people out there on the road.

Spring is now here in Oz and I was yearning to head into the outback to live the REAL Aussie outback stuff, y'know the stuff Clint Eastwood is about. So....I jumped on a bus heading out to a lil outback town called Biloela and found Kroombit Lochenbar Station 35km east of the small town.

I spent a fantastic week there fully living and indulging in tasting this cattle station lifestyle. With onsite station hand tuition from the resident 'Jackaroos' and station owners - I learnt how to muster up cattle (well baby goats) on horseback, sleeping (under the cloudy skies) in swags by the fire, fire a shotgun, lassoing goats in the bull pen, I can even crack a whip now! (and kept it too!)  - it rained pretty much the whole time but was a great experience. I recommend you all have a go if you're after a real authentic experience if you come to Australia!

 But can't ride the rodeo. I suck at rodeo riding.
[Horse Head View] Mustering cattle....well goats anyhow
Yehawwww learning to lasso in the goat pen

Swaggin' and Shootin' it up...

London-city girl turned Aussie Jillaroo......

Now I'm back in Rockhampton (again) I'm getting to know this town prettttyyyy well, but I'm planning to head further down the coast to Hervey Bay and beyond to visit the famous Fraser Island and those cute lil dingos..
Thanks for checking in. Laters.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Australia: 10. Dreamin' Avocados, Livin' as a Tourist Attraction and My One Trick Pony (well...Horse)


G'Day everybody!



Its been a while since I've been near a computer as I've been way out here getting grubby and dirty in the country.

Well for the past weeks I have been working on Avocado farms in a small town called Kairi outside of Atherton in the Tablelands of Tropical Northern Queensland. The town is the complete reverse of life as I am used to in London with it consisting of one road with a pub and a shop....thats it.


The job at the first farm I was initially working for packing avocados into boxes only lasted 2 weeks which wasn't going to be enough funds to get me up to Rainforest and to The Great Barrier Reef so I had to come up with a contingency plan which are really helpful to have on the road when you get unpredictable curve balls like this.

I moved into the Kairi pub manned by a jittery old Aussie bloke named Finn who sat in the laundry room drinking 'XXXX Lager' or 'Toohey's New' the popular Queensland drink in a small bottle 'Stubbie' (contrary to what the outside world thinks, Aussie's don't drink 'Fosters'). The word 'Bloody' over here is used in pretty much most sentences which makes no one utter in disgust as a curse word - even on the beer labels the serving instructions tell you to serve it 'Bloody Cold' ha!

The pub was extremely cheap rent, a tip off I got from another backpacker picking Avocados at my last farm and borrowed one of the locals scooters to cruise around the surrounding potato, peanut and 'Avo' farms that were in season asking for work to the drawling farmers telling me to go somewhere else. I survived nibbling on the corn from the fields and of course on free avocados and faced getting chased by dogs and spooking out rock wallabies in the grass.




Fate smiled on me and I eventually landed myself another job on a neighbouring Avocado farm where the farmer I was working for lent me a bicycle from his family shed so I could get to the farm and didn't leave me totally anchored at the pub. The farmlands were beautiful cycling through them at sunset after work. It was a godsend and with that and my scooter I occasionally borrowed, 'Boots' and I could take some adventures exploring across the farmlands and down to the enormous artificial Lake Tinaroo



A cute thing I have noticed out here in the Australian country is that farmers families harvest their crops and then sell them in a little shack on the roadside with an 'honesty' system where passerbys donate a few dollars in a money box in exchange for a bag of avocados or paw paws. How sweet! can't imagine it happening in London, but the mentality of folk are refreshingly honest and different out here. My boss' son Joel made it his own little business with his dads Avocados and I always found it charming passing his little stall on the roadside after I'd finished work offering a bag of Avos for $2. Bargain.


It has been a far more authentic experience for me living with the locals than living in a backpackers in Atherton or in the city beause I was seeing the 'real' australia - living and drinking (kind of hard not to when you live in a pub) with the small town local characters playing dart and pool against them and in theory treated as one of them (even though at times I did feel quite a tourist attraction being the only girl aside from mature Margy the barmaid in that pub for a long time, you have to tolerate quite a bit) I've come to know everyones dog here as all Aussie farmers have a faithful friend - this one is Schooner who's a regular and is happy to give you a high five...


And some that like to drop by too...


As I was such a 'nice pommie girl in gum boots' 'Boots' were put to good use as we were treated to motorbike rides into the Queensland hills, fishing outings, swimming in the lakes and the Millaa Waterfalls, and an aboriginal led Rainforest walk by a member of the Ngadjonji Aborigine community in Malanda. Most names of places have a very evident and distinct Aborigine influence here - Yungaburra, Malanda, Millaa....kinda cool.
You know I thought there were things out in the Amazon rainforest which were bad but in the Australian Rainforests up here in the tropics, there is a certain type of plant called a 'Stinging Tree' which is pretty much a no brainer for most people. Well they are this small stemmed plant with a heart shape and jagged edges, if touched the folicules from the leaves getting under your skins and cause a rash and burning pain - yikes!





spying a very rare 'Tree Kangaroo'...I was so lucky to see one because they are not out and about often.


Of course, I've had to keep myself entertained in the pub too and was aksed to join the towns pool team and travelled around the Tablelands playing pool against other towns which was great excuse to go see other places and meet more Australian folk - besides I was the only 'Shiela' too! I even played against the native Aborigines which was quite a highlight for me - and perfected my house of coaster card building record too of course.....can even hold a stubbie of Cider


Queensland is a beautiful part of Australia, my favourite so far. Just when I found myself starting to dream about Avocados after a month or so, the market for them went down - they weren't selling enough so there was no need to harvest them anymore. I alternately stayed at the pub and started washing farmers cars and even their dogs (would you believe) while they came in to have a drink and cleaning locals houses and sheds for money - some were very generous but not so keen on washing cars anymore! I also helped collect firewood from farms and cut them for the fire and helped out in the pubs restaurant at night in exchange for my rent. So I've been working as the Aussies say 'Bloody hard!'

There is definitely some interesting people living in pubs why they are there, how they got there - many of them alcoholics! but usually if you advertise the fact you need a job, many people will try and give you some leads. Its the kindness of human nature.
Every year, the Australian Sporting World erupts with competitive aggression for something very poignant in their Sporting Calendar called the 'State of Origin' rugby game which is like the World Cup here in Oz. Its an iconic showdown on the rugby pitch in a series of matches between the states of Queensland and New South Wales which the whole town gets into. Being in Queensland I had to go with supporting the 'Cane Toads' and it was a great match to watch for the first time in the Kairi pub with the locals especially because Queensland won.

To finish off this blog I also had my own horse up here...very random I know and this is something I always wanted as a little girl as I love horses. He's not really mine in theory - a 6 year Clydesdale named Pablo, he's gorgeous but doesn't get ridden much by the guy who keeps him in his boatyard and offered me to come and treat him like my own. I've been learning to ride him bareback but he hasn't been ridden in a long time so he's very lazy but I love him. Horses are much more accessible here than they are in the snooty Equestrian world of England where your mother needs to be in the Pony Club....ok bit of an exaggeration but still I can have him all to myself.


But as life is going on, the snowball affect of sadness will be rolling as now its time to play so 'Boots' and I will be saying goodbye in a couple of days and will be leaving the sleepy town of Kairi and the quirky Aussie characters behind to embark on the next stage of my travels up through the Daintree Rainforest enroute to Cape Tribulation and out to the Marine paradise of the The Great Barrier Reef...


 Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!

See ya

Friday, 9 April 2010

Australia: 8. Woofin' The Yurtfarm

'The core of ones spirit comes from new experiences'


Which you believe its April already and have a track record of existing in the Land of Oz for 2 and a half months now and I'm still alive!

I've ended up in the tropics of Cairns, Far North Queensland and it is scorching hot!! I feel I can’t stand outside for too long as the heat is so overwhelming but hey better than the cold! I flew here after slumming it on the floor of Sydney airport, I felt homeless, nice insight into the world but 20 other people were doing it too. I pretty much got little sleep so I pretty much crashed out when I found this earthy backpackers in Cairns city. There has been an oil spill on the Great Barrier Reef which is not good for its well being. So finally having time to sit down and reminisce about the adventures.

The reason for my whereabouts up here in the Tropics I owe to two people I was rooming with in Sydney - with my funds rapidly depleting, one Australian girl was kind enough to give me a phone number of a Avocado farmer she knew near Cairns who might be harvesting soon. Without a doubt I called him up and he could give me a job in April.....which was two months I had to come up with a way to stall my spending till then. Word was on the 'backpacker scene' about a scheme called 'Willing Workers On Organic Farms' or 'WWOOFing' as its commonly known. This was an organisation (which is all over the world apparently) which acted kinda like a cultural exchange getting you off the tourist trail. You buy the book with a membership fee of $60 which lists all the farms in Australia who take volunteers to come help out on their farm and for 4 hours work you get food and board. No money spending from there on and boy my money was scarce and the farm life would be so novel for me, having not really been involved with a farm except the petting farms we would visit on school trips.

Flicking through the handy sized book (which I instantly warmed to being printed on recycled paper and with plant based ink), I first saw advertised in the Sydney area a number and brief description of a WWOOF farm called the ‘YurtFarm’ it was in a country town called Goulburn home of the giant 'Big Merino' statue, 3 hrs away from Sydney.
Now I actually have no real idea what a 'Yurt' was and I am one for novel, unfamiliar experiences so I went for it and gave them a call to ask if they needed any help. I was in luck, I could go in a few days and could easily catch a train straight there from the city. 


So I did......

and getting off into the small country town, I felt a sigh of relief to be out of the honeypot trap of Sydney and into the calmness of this little town with its buildings echoing the scene of a Western film set. I couldn’t get in touch with the farmers and then realised I would be needing some Wellington Boots - if I was going to be immersing myself in farm life for a while I needed the look for it. So I walked nearby and found an agricultural kind of place which catered for the labouring man (or women) but when I asked for 'Wellies' I got a strange look and was told 'Nah you mean Gum Boots' and taken to the Gum Boot department...... and that's when I saw them, we were the perfect other footwear needed.
After being preached to about Jesus by this old guy who introduced himself as Tony, now equipped with my hard wearing 'Boots' I was lucky enough to hitchhike up to the farm which was about 20kms out of the town, through the rolling hills and dusty road sides. Really it was pretty isolated but this was the adventure of it. I knew this was the right place as I recognised the farmers name on the cute little letter box on the roadside next to a sign clearly stating 'Yurtfarm' so you didn't have to be a moron to work it out.


I entered pushing the long wooden gate, closing it behind me of course remembering the Country Code - and was met by an old VW beetle with wooden figures dressed in clothes sticking out of it which sort of confused me and proceeded to walk with 'Boots' of course down the main path channeled by these glorious pink flowers flourishing in the summer bloom. A little down the path, I became surrounded by a tree house and psychedelic decorated trees and shed making it look like some peaceful hippy retreat with signs saying 'To the Meditation Garden'. It was so cute, just like you'd imagine a chocolate box idea of a proper farm, barn, tractor and horses...... 







Two English girls Josie and Sophie and a German boy Flo had arrived the day before to start work there and told me I could find the farmers partner Judit who was busy shearing sheep in the barn when I turned up with two daughter Ruby and Tess. The farm was abundant with art work from past Wwoofers and cultivated the idea of a primitive 'Back to Basics' ethos which really attracted me to the place with various signs saying 'No T.V' and 'Live Life'. I knew I was going to like it....

Mike the farmer came home from town and showed me his Yurt Village about 2Km away from the main farmhouse on his 1175 acre sized land which he's been building since the 80's. I was extremely impressed with his self made village with 13 different coloured Yurts looking very much like giant cupcakes dotted around a lake. Mike invited youth groups and visitors to come stay in the village to learn how to be self sufficient and adopt a more country 'back to basics' lifestyle, something that has faded in the digital age of the today's world. But these places still existed and I was enchanted by the womb like bubble of the farm like Peter Pan's NeverNever Land where you don't have to grow up and are free to release your spirit in the simplicity of the place


In case you're wondering - a 'Yurt' is a wooden round house taken from the idea of the Mongolian Yurt tents and made into houses – they are WICKED everyone should have one. You can make them for any use, and they have open fires and are cheap to make. He got the idea to bring them to Australia when he was broke in the USA after the wool industry collapsed and was forced to close his Merino sheep farm. Mike discovered the Yurts at a self help centre in California and brought them to Australia as a new business in Goulburn and is pretty famous here for doing it, he was on the TV and had magazine interviews the lot.


Mike proudly showed me around his village after a quick knock of Ping Pong in one of the Yurts and was astonished to find he had constructed a crazy golf course, a sports field, a workshop where he would teach kids to build mini boats, a flying fox, a bathroom and two toilets whos walls were adorned with inspirational messages from past visitors and the like.


      Hand on heart - I absolutely loved the place and its ethics.

So life as a farmhand....its great fun and has given me the opportunity to do thing I'd never had the chance to do in life before. I'm kinda converting to a country girl. The great thing is that everyday was unpredictable and would wake up not knowing what we would be doing as everyday was never the same. We had our own WWOOF House which was a charming little cottage sharing it with the Huntsman Spider 'Spartacus' (you get used to them, they are harmless). We started work at 8:00am till 12:00pm where we squeezed in a 'Smoko' (a break), Mike getting out his guitar to sing us a few Aussie country songs 'Home Amongst the Gum Trees' and recite some Aussie poetry before the heat of the day crept up on us. I've actually wanted to do more than 4 hours because I had enjoyed it so much.

Insy, winscy Huntmans Spider....they're harmless

First glimspe of Boots and I....

I even learnt how to throw a boomerang which were primarily hunting tools by Aborigine huntsman....and it came back first time! haha

When kid camps came to the farm, we got stuck in helping out with them, learning how to herd sheep and light fires, taking care of the farm animals, picking fruit and just helping to entertain them even pretending to be a ghost in the forest ha! (now this is where my experience at USA summer camp came in handy)

The type of work we had to do involved us really getting stuck in regardless of your background or where you came from, which was the Australian country way of being - gravelling the roads, making signs, picking grapes, stripping bark, collecting firewood and even milking the old cow Princess like a maid..ahhhh


In our free time I would go running in the farmland, canoeing, golf, teaching the kids and Mike Tennis on his home made tennis court which is nice because we were also allowed to get involved in the families life as I would take Tess and Ruby to the country show, playing cricket, riding in the trucks with them and playing practical jokes. The sort of life I'd craved for such a long time. I was even around for Mike's 70th birthday so he had a big farm party from everyone he’s known for years rocking up to the farm.

My next blog will be about my night I spent in the Australian bush this space...