02.05.2010 - 30.07.2010
May we caught the bus down to Stanthorpe, a small town in southern Queensland following research on places to fruitpick in Queensland. With only six weeks picking under our belt from last year we needed to build up our time to qualify for a second year visa which was why we'd sacrificed our cushy lifestyle for something more testing & poorer paid.
Upon arriving in Stanthorpe we were subjected to icy temperatures unlike anything we'd known since Sapa in northern Vietnam!
We checked into our shared dorm hut in the hostel & had a wander round town. It was a cosy town. Afew shops, pubs & restaurants spread out over a half a kilometre ending near the river. It was sunny but chilly. In the evening we met our roomies, a mix of irish, german, dutch & english all scruffylooking after a hard days picking apples. This was the reason why we had come - to pick apples. For the next month we would be getting up at 5am, rushing hot porridge down our throats & being driven by the hostel owner Doug several kilometres out to the apple orchards. In the dark we would struggle up slippery wooden ladders in three layers of clothing to pick the icy apples in zero temperatures until the mornings heated up & we could shed layers. We would work in teams of 4+ with a lovely, mad girl called Lisa in fear of being fired for bruising the apples until one of the farmers took a liking to her. I would wrestle our beast of a tractor between the orchards, slopes & packing sheds pulling two to three big bins & we would make peanuts but at least earn enough to survive & count towards our visas. Evenings would be spent wrapped up tightly shivering in the canteen/kitchen whilst making dinner, warming ourselves in the heated hut or entertaining ourselves at the local Central pub. It was fun, we made some great friends & was worth the experience alone.
A month after our apple-picking began the season finished & we were left doing odd days picking berries whilst waiting for pruning to begin.
Sadly we were worst at pruning than picking so were fired half a day in.
As a result, left with no work we were forced to leave the area & find something further north through gum tree.
We caught the bus back to Brisbane then another several hours up to Ayr, north Queensland.
The temperature was a major shock as we transitioned from ice-cold south to hot, humid north in less than a day.
Wandering round in that kind of heat in the dark wasn't fun but luckily the town was small in an easy to navigate grid.
We found our hostel just down from the bus stop & checked into our double room, situated down a maze of corridors. We only stayed one night as the reason we had chosen the more expensive hostel was the pool which was toxic & the room itself wasn't even a proper room, more a hanger divided into sections with the walls not meeting the roof. One guy forgot his key so climbed over & every door slam shook the walls.
The day after we found a little further out of town (10min walk) The Lazy Lizard Lodge, a smaller, friendlier place with a nice communal area/t.v. lounge & kitchen & nice people staying who bothered to speak to us. The beds were in small dorm room huts & bigger metal sheds with double beds. Unfortunately we only stayed about an hour typically meeting some really cool people then got a phonecall confirming work at a farm in Dalbeg 1hr outside Ayr.
We took it as work was on a long waiting list in Ayr & we needed picking work asap. The only mode of transport, a local school bus drove us into oblivion (also known as the outback) & dropped us off at the side of a dusty, little-used road, exchanging places with the angry-looking backpackers waiting there.
We should have taken that as a sign of the hardships to come but we were just glad to be somewhere we could work for the last vital days needed for our visas. We walked up an long, equally dusty track past some tin structures to the farmhouse 'reception' where a kind, friendly girl signed us in. We were then led back round past the smaller metal huts to our dorm in a larger, pokey hut with 18 bunkbeds packed together & a bathroom in a hut behind. Suffice to say we spent more time outside, in the evening cooking in the open kitchen hut patiently waiting to use one of the 8 electric hobs (when the electrics didn't overload from dodgy wiring). For a week we got up at 6am, had breakfast then trailed up to the field, attached a bucket to our belt & 3/4hrs a day would drink little water in the harsh heat, & be bent double picking the correct sized squash (like pumpkins). The larger & spotty diseased ones we had to rip out whilst keeping up with the tractor conveyor belt & standing up to load the fruit onto the belt every 5-10 mins. Once finished we took lots of painkillers & often lay on a bag of ice from the agony for a bit then explored the outback especially the nearby river – watching out for crocs. Vix was moved jobs halfway through the week to pick packs of chillis off the bushes, paid per box until the delightful farmers' wife finally fired us. It was a relief & luckily we had done enough days to apply for our second year visa, so we returned to Ayr & civilization at out The Lazy Lizard & killed a few weeks cycling round town & down to the beach (2/3hrs away), drinking beer at the local pub & hanging out with other backpackers including an English couple Kim & Pete. After getting one days work picking zucchinis in the rain (carefully off the bush with a knife) we decided on a change of scenery & got a lift an hour north to a place called Townsville.