The Farmwork Chronicles

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It’s been a little while since I popped up a new post, apologies. I’ve worked ten days straight blueberry picking in Coffs Harbour, Australia and it’s been…busy. Our hostel, as wonderfully clean and closely located by a beach as it is, does not have unlimited wifi and the small amount we get for free daily is not enough to upload pretentious pictures onto a privileged blog post. It’s been good for me. But I have a free day and a nifty cafe with awesome wifi, coffee goodness and vegan cake so I’m coming back at ya with some wordy rambles. So here I give to you my new series ‘The Farmwork Chronicles’. I’ll start way way back in the beginning with my very first nightmarish attempt in February, delving deep into my journal and bringing back the dark memories just for you.

The journey is fine: one train, one bus, approximately seven and a half hours in total. We arrive in a ghost town. The bus station is an empty shed of seats and a loo. Though we see houses there are no people, despite it being only 4:30pm. When we are picked up by a smiling lady with a bubbly demeanour it all starts to be looking up. After a quick supermarket sweep and idle car chatter we arrive at the Fruit Shack. Though slightly intimidating with its broken down retro vehicles, scattered as trophies around the site, it looks as I’d expected. Lots of dust and shrubs. But the dust carried on into the tin accommodation huts, the too small bathrooms and then into the kitchen with its mess of stinking dishes, dirty counter tops and insects on every surface. The mattress was floral, stained and sunken with the weight of many a weary backpacker, the linen faded and mismatched, the dorm itself a cramped shipping container, no air, very dark. But despite first impressions I am delighted by our room mate Rosie and the other smiling faces greeting us around the site. It gave me hope that this maybe wouldn’t be so bad…

I am not a quitter

I am not a quitter

I am not a quitter

But then I guess maybe I am and I’m starting to see that maybe that isn’t so bad when the that which you quit is not benefiting your happiness. It was too early on in my Australian adventure to have any kind of motivation for a second year let alone this level of discomfort.

Forty two degrees and I’m in direct, mid day sunlight, cutting at bundles of wine grapes in bushes which snag at my clothes and scratch at my skin. Spiders crawl down my arms and I shrug them off, too tired to care much anymore. My T shirt is drenched in sweat and I’m interrogated by a supervisor on my way to top up my water bottle. Apparently I should of done that at lunch, three hours of thirsty work earlier. I look around at the other machines tainted by their tasks, lost in the repetition. And the owner Michael, a tyrant on his bulldozing throne, has servants drugged into worshipping him. I laugh as they talk so highly of him around wooden, rotting, picnic benches. “Michael this, Michael that, we must do what we can to keep Michael happy.”

Then I leave, we leave (my travel companions too) paying more for our train just to get out of there. At the other end we rush out of Sydney central and almost kiss the ground in relief. The comfort of city lights, traffic commotion, pollution in the air and no shrubs in site. We leave our two days at Leeton behind us and talk of the Fruit Shack as a fading nightmare. I’ve since seen many an advertisement for the place on backpacker job boards. The pay was dire, the accommodation pretty much inhabitable (I don’t care if it was free) and the work was brutal (this opinion comes after more experience with farm work in a couple other places). Don’t go there, I don’t care how many of those people thought it was a good experience or not so bad, there are so many better places you could spend your time doing farmwork.

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