Thursday, April 26, 2007

These mandarins have no stickers

All I can say is “give me a desk job any day”. We have left the relaxed week in Miles with an aim of finding work to supplement our finances. I initially opted for a job in a Roadhouse (cafĂ© style truck stop), unfortunately we didn’t score that job so decided we should start seriously looking for work. This would see us traipsing around farms to see who needed labour. We are in Gayndah “The citrus capitol of Australia”. However, as luck would have it, 20 minutes after this plan was formed a guy literally came and knocked on our tent asking if we were looking for work. We scored a job without lifting a finger. This no finger lifting lulled us into a false sense of security though, as now we are picking Mandarins and let me assure you, we are lifting every finger, and every branch of every tree looking for the little buggers. These are not the mandarins you and I know back home, (for one, they don’t have any little stickers attached to them), and as with everything Australian (remember the insects) they are upsized. The mandarins here are the size of an orange. They are also bloody hard to pick because they are so temperamental. We have to cut them off the tree with little clippers as you can’t pull them or you rip the skin, and you have to be careful not to nick or cut them with the clippers as they bruise and then get chucked on the reject pile.
From this point, I send out a plea to you all, next time you eat a mandarin, spare a thought for the little people who picked them. We are, together, picking 2 bins a day @$75 per bin; unfortunately my back can only handle 2 bins. Some pickers here are absolute machines picking 2-4 bins by themselves a day. We have been picking for a week now and are completely over it, but will persevere, only another 5 weeks to go, until we are rich enough to move on.
The last time we wrote we were at the Lyngary Homestead and had been for 9 days. We had a brilliant time. We had a chance to perfect camp oven cooking over coals and open fire. We did some running repairs and also added a low voltage plug to the back of the truck in preparation for a 3 way camp fridge. Gary helped Johnathan install a shelf in the rear of the truck doubling our capacity to carry more crap. It’s amazing how much crap you pick up. Apart from the chance to just rest and learn heaps from Lyn & Gary who have been on the road for years, they showed us round the sights. We had a chance to see the Dingo fence (Rabbit proof fence, Dog fence, vermin fence, call it what you want) it is the longest continuous fence in the world. It has a maintenance track on either side and has regular crews maintaining it. I was absolutely blown away by this; it is a real piece of living history. (Hire the movie Rabbit Proof Fence).
We also saw a 900 strong herd of cattle on a drovers run right down the main route. The cattle just walk down the road and the verges. There were only 3 people & 2 horses controlling the herd and no dogs. That’s how they get feed and water by sending them on the run. There is a series of designated water stops along the way, and several cattle droves will pass by using the route.
Whilst at Lyngary we found a spider (in a little hole in ground which makes us think it was a trapdoor spider, with very big fangs)(after an internet check we are more inclined to think it is a mouse spider). Anyway, I digress the reason I thought it relevant to share this with you, is this sucker was gi-normous. It was the size of a small mouse. Gary our host at Lyngary suggested we kill it. “Go get something to kill it with Johnathan”, Johnathan proceded to attempt to stone it to death, and then picked up the stone to check to see if it had died. Oh no, the bloody thing, decided it wanted a piece of him, we all jumped back in horror as Johnathan threw the stone at it and then took the shovel to it. As you can imagine my nightmares were pretty rampant that night.
It was rather a shame to leave it (Lyngary) all behind for the safety of Gayndah. Life here is slow like the locals. (Nah just jesting) But must comment on the Australian women, a lot of them seem to have very high pitched squeaky voices (which is very irritating when you live in a tent and your neighbours are only 5 metres away). Talking of bloody neighbours, we are ensconced in the local caravan park and we lucked it (not) with our site. We got the one next door to the drunks, they go to bed, turn their TV up loud because obviously when they are drunk their hearing doesn’t work so well. Anyway, because they are drunk they then fall asleep with their very loud TV blaring only 5 metres from my head when I am trying to sleep. I tell you, I could bloody well near kill them, instead I resorted to only turning their power off in an attempt to reset the volume of the TV, thank god it worked or you might have seen my face on TV for some other heinous crime. Oh! With this travelling lark, you need to have a sense of humour and a pair of ear plugs.
Resident next to the park is the local Sasquatch or so we initially thought, so much so we snapped a blurry shot of it moving through the trees, it’s that kind of place. In fact it is just a very big and very, very hairy man.(photo attached) (Like I said you need to have a sense of humour).
When we aren’t breaking our backs with mandarins we have been fishing in the local river. There are Barramundi, Catfish, Perch and the oddest of all is the prehistoric Lungfish (Ceratodus). We have all caught one; they are over metre and really put on a good fight. They are protected due to their rare status only 3 locations in the world they exist. The Burnett River seems to team with them here.
Seen as it has taken us so long to post this blog we now have an update. We are still in Gayndah, but not for long. The Mandarins on the orchard we were on have all been picked, we picked approximately 29 bins over 2.5 weeks). Wendy is now focused on Cassandra’s schooling and I am working 8 hour days packing 18kg boxes onto pallets in the Gayndah Pack house. (Mandarins, oranges, lemons, grapefruits. limes & lemonades, it is apparently Australia’s biggest pack house) You will love the company name Gaypack, short for Gayndah Packers. (you can imagine the jokes about the place) Apparently a few years ago, some hoons came to town and defaced the town sign. They removed the “n & d” and left a sign announcing “Gay ah”, we’ve been told it made the newpapers as the locals got in an uproar.
On the weekend just gone ( April 22nd) We travelled to Biloela (3.5 hours, NNW of Gayndah) for a job interview on a farm stay. A dream job.
Kroombit Park – the real Australian Outback the farm is called Lochenbar Station and it is a real working cattle station. We start in 2 weeks, both of us will be working, good wages and free accommodation and a chance to do all the activities.
It offers outback horse trails, goat mustering, lasso roping, whip cracking, goat rodeo, clay target shooting, mechanical bull riding, among a host of other things. Cassandra reckons best of all it has a pool.
I have to prepare breakfast at 5am for up to 200 guests (bacon & eggs) then I become the cleaner and general handyman (yes, toilets and pool included) and Wendy becomes the Kitchen bitch/cook.
The cooking is all traditional in the sens,e it is done camp/outback style, in giant sized cast iron camp ovens, the owner was saying the fire underneath has been burning continuously for more than 9 years.
The place is really busy as it has 2 conferences per week this season, a bus tour stops daily with backpackers & weekly a group of kids from Catholic schools, so a diverse daily group. (Anywhere up to 200 patrons a night)
It is hard to explain the rustic nature of the place, not 5 star, just basic camp accommodations in a rough and ready farm style. The surrounding forest is so dense that in 1994 at Kroombit Tops (National Park only a hop, skip and a jump away) they discovered a lost WW2 plane.
We are very excited to be moving to this new job as it is ideal and we get to take part in all that is on offer, real working holiday stuff. We plan on being there for 4 months. Allan, the owner was saying they have just gone through the wet season and did not get any rain. The drought here is really affecting everyone.
We start this role on May 9th and will try and get some photos up shortly afterwards to let you know where we are. Yes, Trish it has been a while since our last posting, sorry we will try to be more punctual.
One thing about moving from Gayndah is we will now have to cancel our Video membership and our Library card, this is how entrenched we were in this little town. I must say though I won’t be sad to see the back of this Caravan Park, it is definitely a lifestyle for some people which I can’t really comprehend, (that is, living permanently in a small van, at least I feel that I am going to move on soon. Lots of people live in caravans here).
Ok another update, we sent you all an email saying we updated our blog and we saw 30 odd visits and no update from us, SORRY! We sent the mail first and went to do the update and the bloody computer we were using was useless.
Anyway more news. We went for a flight around Gayndah in a 4 seat Cessna. The orchard (Yellowstone Citrus) owner Ritchie whom we were working for took us for a flight around town and over the next town of Binjour. We all loved the flight, most impressive, (and free). The dry brownness of Australia is massive, we saw entire creeks dried up and really low rivers and farm dams.
Ritchie owns and runs Yellowstone Citrus; he bought it 5 years back from a lady that was a bit loco. She had claimed to have seen a bear on the property and it made headline news, and the mayor and all got into it, people flew in from America to look for it and all. Local legend has it that a mobile zoo/circus vehicle had an accident in Binjour in the 50’s and the bear escaped. So when she made the claim, the legend propped up her story, anyway Ritchie called the farm Yellowstone Citrus after the Yogi Bear cartoons where Yogi lived. There you are a nice piece of local trivia for you.
Oh my god, we just found our own resident redback spider in our tent awning. We (Cassandra and Wendy) sprayed it to get rid of it and then left it hanging in the web thinking it was dead, we could wait for Johnathan to come home from work to get rid of the remains. BAD, bad decision, we went out for a short while, and when we came home the remains are gone?? We have no idea if it is dead and the ants have it, or if it has crawled away to lay eggs during its last dying breath. Oh, give me the innocuous spiders we have back home any day.
Soon we will have saddle sores and housemaids knees, but will post another blog to let you know if Kroombit lives up to expectations.