Australia, One Month In

Last time I updated you all I had just completed my first few days of farm work in Ayr picking watermelons. This was about 3 weeks ago now, so I thought it was about time that I update you all regarding what I have been up too. (unfortunately, it hasn’t been too much).

View on the way to the watermelon farm one morning

After my first two days of picking watermelons on a farm, I did actually go back to the same farm after having a three-day weekend which I was pleased about. The first few days were always going to be tough seeing as I hadn’t done anything too strenuous in 7 months. But after I had got them initial 2 days out the way the watermelon picking was actually pretty easy. The farmer was nice which helped, and the work wasn’t too full on. You would pick a tractor load of melons and then have a bit of a break help unload the melons then start again. The day was very much broken up into lots of little bits so wasn’t too hard or repetitious. I worked Monday to Thursday on the melon farm picking lots and lots of watermelon. Each day we picked about 6 tractor loads full, which was 9 boxes per run, say there are roughly 60-80 melons in a box that’s (9 x 60 x 6 = 3240 melons a day, roughly) for 4 days obviously I didn’t pick them all but over the course of 4 days that’s a lot of melons haha.

The tractor and boxes full of watermelons, 9 boxes per trator load
Got to steer the tractor for 5 m when it broke down one day

On the last day of the week which was Thursday we even spent about 30 minutes picking some eggplants which made a nice little change (I would later come to hate eggplants with all my soul). So, there we were things were going well, the farm work wasn’t too bad I could have happily done that work for the next 12 weeks or so but unfortunately, that wasn’t to be. I was expecting to have one day off on Friday and go back into work on Saturday to continue with the eggplant (aubergine for us English) picking. That didn’t materialise though, instead of taking back the 4 boys to do the eggplant harvesting, we had been replaced by 4 girls instead as apparently the boys aren’t needed for the eggplants just the melons on that farm. I was without a job again and very very pissed off, to be honest. I didn’t really see what difference it made if girls or guys picked the bloody fruit and the farmer had expressed he was happy to have us back. No idea what really happened but I suspect it had something to do with the lady who runs the working hostel telling the farmer he needs to take some girls as she has too many not in work.

Since I now no longer had work on Saturday I was instead able to go to the horse races which was occurring in the next town over and was apparently a big social event in the local calendar with it only happening once a year. Although money was a little tight I bite the bullet and decided to go as I didn’t come halfway around the world to sit on my bunk bed all weekend feeling sorry for myself. A group and I of fellow backpackers from the working hostel, therefore, got dressed in our finest travelling clothes, which for me was a pair of short, trainers and a floral shirt and headed off to the horse races, woefully underdressed compared to the locals haha. Regardless it was a fun afternoon out and enabled me to become closer friends with other people staying in the hostel. Con and Fred decided they didn’t want to come which in a way was good as it forced me to speak to new people. The races itself was actually great fun and you could tell the event meant a lot to the local community. The race venue itself was hardly Ascot but everyone made an effort. Plus, at the end of the day if horses are racing around a track and people can bet money on them it doesn’t really matter what the venue is like its still a horse racing track. Safe to say I didn’t win any money but only bet a little to start with so wasn’t too bothered, although a little win would have come in handy to pay for the day. As the day was drawing to a close there was even a fresh produce give away with many people taking home boxes full of fruit and vegetables. Which was ironic for us backpackers seeing as we had probably picked the majority of them to start with. All in all, the small-town horse races in Home Hill was a great way to take my mind off being annoyed at having no farm work and I’m glad I went along for the experience if nothing else.

At the races

Monday morning once again rolled around and thankfully I was back in work after having 3 days off again over the weekend having been “sacked” by the watermelon farm. This had therefore pleased me, and I also heard the farm was good hours 7.5 a day and 5 days a week which was exactly what I wanted and needed. This time however the farmers were far less welcoming and to be honest treated us backpackers like shit. The problem with this whole farm work gig is we are so easily replaceable and have no power so it’s very easy for the farmers to take advantage and get away with it. My first day on the farm consisted of picking eggplants again, but instead of doing it for 30 minutes like last time I did so for 7.5 hours. I very soon came to hate eggplants. The problem with the new farm and the eggplants was the farm was a lot stricter regarding breaks. I.e. we worked solidly from 7:30 until 9:45 picking eggplants before a 15-minute break (smoko in Aus, which is paid) then worked from 10 until 12, before an hour lunch and then 3 hours solid after lunch all picking eggplants. Now don’t get me wrong this is all within the law and nothing illegal and could have been worse, but after the last farm, where it was more relaxed and you kind of had little breaks all day it was a bit of a shock. Plus, eggplants are an utter bastard to pick. They grow basically on the floor in a dense shrub which you must battle out the way to get to the vegetable before you then use shears to cut the stalk and collect the fruit. This wouldn’t have been too bad if the shears were sharp, but you guessed it they were blunt and terrible. The bushes which had the eggplants on were also full of little white flies which got everywhere, and my nose was dripping snot, I presume from pollen or dust or something. To cap it all the eggplants also have little spikes which really hurt and stabbed you even with gloves on. Therefore 7.5 hours of picking eggplants is probably one of the worst things I’ve ever done in my life. There were 5 of us and we all had one row each which was 400 m long bent over the whole time which kills your back. Then 400 m on the way back so 800 m in total picking eggplants hunched over in a horrible position and with shit shears. Yeah, it was hell. Around the 5-6 hour mark, I pretty much lost the plot and nearly quit there and then thinking it really isn’t worth it. If it wasn’t for the fact that even if I did quit and walk off I would have to wait for everyone to finish to catch a lift home I would have been very close to doing it. Still, I finished the day, the same can’t be said for two other new employees on the farm, who were literally sacked and replaced at lunchtime for being too slow, as I said the farmers were arseholes and us backpackers so easily replaced they could do so. You couldn’t, squat you couldn’t kneel you couldn’t do anything to try relieve the pain on your back and to add insult to injury, literally, there was a health and safety poster in the packing shed about proper lifting technique and care for your back, absolute joke haha.

I was, therefore, dreading going back on Tuesday to do another day. My wrist was killing me from the shit shears and I simply thought I wouldn’t be able to pick the eggplants again. Luckily for me, we spent the day picking chillies instead which were far better but still the farmers were horrible. It was far easier to sit on your bum while picking the chillies as it was easier to see them and pick them, plus far easier on your back, but no that wasn’t allowed as apparently, it was too slow even though, I was complimented on not missing any and one of the furthest ahead. Luckily the farmer only stopped by every few hours, mostly to moan at us so when he was gone I sat on my arse and shuffled along on the ground picking chillies, yeah, I probably looked like an idiot but trust me it was far easier. Thankfully the second day was far better than the first and I convinced myself I could probably stick it out and that it would get easier. Fortunately, and kind of not at the same time I wasn’t given the chance as after 2 days I was no longer needed on the farm and was once again back on the waiting list. I really felt like I couldn’t cut a break when in work I hated it, then when I wasn’t working I hated that too. If I’m honest it really got to me and for a few days I was pretty depressed and miserable, it didn’t help being sat around the hostel with nothing to do so your mind is just allowed to run and fill with thoughts and you simply overthink everything. It’s by far the worst I’ve felt since coming away and it was shit. I’m pleased Con and Fred were working and doing much better than me but that only made me feel worse as I wasn’t earning or ticking off my 88 days and it felt at this rate I was going to be here forever. The days ticked on and I went more and more inside myself. It got to Friday and I still hadn’t got any new work (this is now Friday the 24th of May, in Aus for a whole month now) it appeared I would be waiting again till Monday. I had ended up applying to loads of things online anywhere and everywhere and was seriously considering not doing the 88 days of farm work and just getting a normal job to save up money for travelling again. Thankfully I was uplifted a little by getting a phone call Friday from the working hostel saying I had some cash in hand work for a guy that lived locally just helping him out. It didn’t count towards my farm days, but it was money and got me out of the hostel, so I was happy. Also, the guy was a remarkable character and the few days’ work on Friday and Saturday really boosted my spirits. The work wasn’t hard I was basically helping him build a small structure and did some odd jobs around his house, but he was a caring man. He was also disabled and, in a wheelchair, but that barely hindered him, he was right beside me helping me out with everything as best he could, even welding in his wheelchair. He was really an inspirational character and made me think long and hard about myself and how miserable I had been. Realistically there are far worse things to be happening to a person than trying to complete some stupid farm work that I don’t even have to do. Plus he even tried to help me get a new job in the area. It was a really uplifting and fulfilling few days helping this guy who lived in a wonderful setting in the middle of rural Australia. I even saw my first snake and wallaby.

The setting of my few days cash in hand work

It is now Sunday the 26th of May and that brings you up to speed with the last few weeks since I last wrote. It’s safe to say it really hasn’t been that glamorous or great and to be honest most of it has been shit and depressing, but I think it’s important to highlight these points as well. life isn’t always plain sailing even when from the outside it could look to people I’m still having the time of my life, but it has been a slog. I’m now in a better state of mind about the whole situation, at the end of the day it is what it is and if things don’t improve I can always move and do something different, which I might very well do if nothing materialises in the next week. I will wait and see tomorrow if I have any farm work, but one thing is for certain is that I will earn some money as the lovely guy Wayne in the wheelchair has said he has more work tomorrow if I want it and if I don’t have farm work. Ideally, I would like to get on a farm and smash out a good few weeks work, but if that doesn’t happen I have a backup plan. I shall keep looking at all my options and see what happens going forward. I wonder what I shall be writing in the next blog, but I guess that’s all part of the fun.

7 thoughts on “Australia, One Month In

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  1. Just read your story on fruit picking (takes me back to picking strawberries ACHE ACHE). Glad you got a few days working though I am sure you will soon be best picker on the field. Thinking of you lots of love N&G xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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