Thursday, June 07, 2007

Working Stiffs

Well we have left Gayndah, which was with some relief. Johnathan reckons it’s likely to be a feeling many a traveller has experienced after leaving the place, or at least those who have had the privilege of staying in the camping ground.
We took a roundabout route to Biloela, doing a detour to the city of Bundaberg. Which was incredibly green compared to Gayndah, this is mainly because of the sugar cane which is grown there. The soil is really red, the sky and sea really blue and the cane vivid green, we really enjoyed the bright colours after 6 weeks in dry, brown Gayndah. We took in the colour contrasts and the sights of the city by scaling the ‘Hummock’ (tiny hill) it is the only bit of raised ground for miles.
We stayed at Mon Repos` beach, which is a famous Turtle rookery (where the turtles come ashore lay their eggs and then 6 weeks later hundreds/thousands of little turtles attempt to make their way back to the ocean). It is a stretch of beach less than a kilometre long. Unfortunately we saw nothing, our timing was out, as this process happens between November and March. We did a couple of tourist things, Bundaberg Ginger beer, a working Cooperage (they make traditional barrels). We found a brochure promoting some mystery craters so we went to see them. They are hard to explain but basically it is 35 odd craters in the ground that scientist can’t explain, there is speculation they might be alien, meteoric or volcanic. Now 35 odd holes in the ground may not sound interesting at all, but having seen them they are quite odd and very interesting. They sit in a patch about 10 metres by 50 metres, with no sign of anything similar anywhere else.
After leaving Bundaberg we headed in land to Biloela.
Having now arrived in Biloela (Aboriginal for White Cockatoo) and working we are beginning to understand the Aussie urge to drink. We are situated about 500+ km North of Brisbane and about 180 km from the coast and the weather is dry and hot, temperature between 25-31*c daily. By the end of the day you are very thirsty, and wanting a drink. This place has it’s own bar so it is slowly becoming a ritual to sit and socialize with anyone who is around. My main concern is about developing a beer gut which seems to be common place with many Aussie drinkers (male); some guts here would be the envy of many heavily pregnant women.
We need to make an observation here, the culture here is a drinking one, perhaps we were a little sheltered at home because we weren’t a social couple and never really went out. It appears nearly everyone drinks, usually starting early afternoon. The pickers we worked with in Gayndah all appeared to be heading to pub at completion of the work day. Also noticeable are those that drink and then drive, remember the drunks from the camping ground in Gayndah, well they had a habit of drinking and driving and it always astounded us. Johnathan found a story in a local paper which he found humorous and wanted to share with you. It goes like this “A police officer is keeping an eye on the local pub at closing time intent on catching drunk drivers. Whilst he is sitting watching, a guy stumbled out the pub door and fell over; he got up and staggered to the car park where he tried his keys in several cars. When he finally finds his car he promptly turns the lights and windscreen wipers on, it was a fine night. He starts his car and reverses back a bit then finds a forward gear and moves a bit forward and stalls, at which point the cop thinks he’s got a right one here and pulls up in front of him. During this time other patrons have been filing out of the pub going to their cars and leaving. The cop gets the guy to do an evidentiary breath test. The cop is stunned when it is totally clear. He asks the driver to hop into the patrol car so he can take him to the station for a blood test as his equipment is faulty. At this request the guy says I don’t think so, “your equipment isn’t faulty mate, tonight I am the designated decoy.”
This article/story was titled Queensland where drinking and driving is considered a national sport.”
Back to Biloela, this place is very cool and rustic, we have our tent set up overlooking a gully of trees (Johnathan saw 2 deer about 40 metres away his first morning and almost had conniptions, he is chomping at the bit to go for a hunt now. The deer were domestic stock, let loose to feed and have never returned). There are trees everywhere within the camp grounds, the backpacker/guest cabins are situated under trees as well, which acts to keep the sun rays down a bit. The kitchen, dining hall (outdoor) and bar are all situated together. The cooking for the main meals is either done on BBQ or by camp oven, and the menu is repeated several times a week. The guests generally stay only one to two nights so hence the ability to repeat the menu. There is a saying here in response to the question “what is for tea tonight” and that is “beef” as that is essentially all they serve, either beef stew, beef roast, or corned beef or steak(beef). Along with this is soup (yes, ‘beef’ and vegetable) and damper. The damper I have made a few of and am getting quite proficient at making, so as long as we have flour we will not starve once we start travelling. It is a really easy recipe, 6 cups of flour, 4 cups of water and salt and that is it.
We have really settled here, we have all been on the horse ride, Cassandra has taken to the horse riding, and really enjoys it, she seems to have a natural ability and confidence for it. The horse ride involves a muster, where we round up goats and then they put them in the yards and guests do a mini rodeo with them. A team of three goes into the ring and one catches the goat, one tips it over and one mock brands it. This event is timed. Johnathan got on a team with a couple of guests and he was the catcher, (apparently he was shit at it, his team took over 50 seconds to complete the challenge), I saw three girls do it in 25 seconds, Johnathan reckons it was because they gave him a big goat. It is really funny to watch the goats first run around the pen and then once caught; get all passive resistant when the catcher starts pulling on their horns to get them to the tipper. I will attempt to get some pictures at some point.
Johnathan has had lots of fun since he arrived here, a school of 80 kids stayed (they were about 10-11 years). Anyway one of the little darlings left Johnathan a gift in the bathroom, which he didn’t find until after they left. Just remember Johnathan is the resident toilet cleaner. Johnathan has a very busy day ahead of him because he has 2 extra blocks of toilets to clean. So imagine his delight when he gets to the toilets the boys used and finds his gift, shit smeared all over the wall. (Johnathan told me he used to gag just changing Cassandra’s nappy when she was a baby). He was not amused and was ready to string the little bastard up.
Now he has spots of some unknown origin, and they are all over his body. He has been cleaning a dorm which has had bedbugs in it and we wondered if it was this, but Johnathan says it isn’t because he hasn’t felt it biting him. Hopefully it will disappear soon or he might find himself sleeping in the hammock outside.
They have a mechanical bull here which Johnathan reports he had a go on the other day, (my day off so I was still in bed and I missed his first attempt). Anyway he claims he mastered it really well (not) and he came straight of the front every time the bull started. Next time we write he might be able to actually ride the thing.
This place is close to paradise in some respects, but there are some pitfalls to the job as shown by Johnathan’s experience. For me, the kitchen bitch (as Leanne would say) the biggest issue is the age and maturity of some of the workers here, they are between 17-21 years old but some of them behave like kindergarten kids, lots of sulking, backbiting and a big lack of common sense or consideration for anyone other than themselves. They stand in the kitchen and get in the way when they aren’t on duty, either that or they are on duty but just don’t do any work. However, I will have it all sorted out soon, either that or I will turn into an alcoholic to deal with stress of it all. Nah, it’s not that bad, at least I don’t have little gifts left for me.
We are thoroughly enjoying ourselves here it is a cool place to work and live.