The sun, as usual, was out and bestowed those under it with a pleasant warmth on the late afternoon. Wonderful moods were all around, people smiling and being goofy. I could hear laughter and many involved in lively conversations. Lots of drinks were being consumed, and with that, inevitably, plenty of other substances. From all over, masses had gathered in cars bearing tents, caravans and some had even managed to carry with whole furniture sets to either upgrade their camping setting or for a more comfortable view of the show that would be near the small town Meredith. Amidst the highlands was the festival of Golden Plains, and I, wearing black on black, was going to be working there. There was a bit of confusion though, as I was channelled through a different agency and I somehow ended up being the only person working alone and doing 12-hour shifts. But, it was what I preferred anyways. Because of this special ordeal, I got to enjoy the pleasures of both conversing with coworkers as well as having my own escape.
When the clock struck six, my shift began. The entirety of the evening and night, I would be scavenging for all garbage amongst the dancing crowds, as well as empty all the bins from the amphitheatre to the food stalls, the outskirts and the beginning of the camping. The thing I must applaud the organisers for, is that together with paid workers were a bunch of volunteers working half a day for a free ticket, which releases any stress from the job and quite frankly, made working a pleasure. I emptied bin after bin, whilst listening to the music and watching people glow with joy. All dressed with their own, at times strange styles, all types of people poured in as the hours passed. The outer parts viewing the stage was now a maze of comfy sofas and chairs, with unopened cans forgotten and lost. A few hours in, I bumped into a volunteer, with whom I joined the dancing cluster and together we picked up rubbish thrown on the ground. Now, here a surprising personality of these folk awaited me. People began thanking me for my service as if I just came back from fighting a war. They shook my hand and helped along. Before we knew it, a bunch of them during their dance moves cleaned up half the area for us. Once the volunteer had done her hours, she was off to join the other side.
Another benefit of being solo, was that I made my own breaks. So, whenever most of the rubbish was dealt with, I would take off my high-vis, open up a found, forgotten can and keep it company as I joined in with the festival-goers. Making friends went easily, both on and off duty. On duty, I eventually got to waste away some hours with two guys who oversaw most of the ground by car, as well as handled diverse smaller tasks. From cleaning up a faeces massacre that had occurred in a shower to assisting a highly buzzed lady from a cold ditch to a warm tent, they managed it. This was on the second day, when they pitied my long, lonesome hours and shoved me inside their jeep. For the better half, we simply drove around searching for anything out of the ordinary. Apart from the mentioned wasted woman, there was little to do.
It was three days of hard work as I cleaned, cleared and partially broke down, and with that, one of the better jobs of my working history. And despite having worked basically the entirety of the festival, with fun coworkers, a job not too stressful nor hard and people on ground helping, I had felt I experienced it all the same except with an impressive pay. My hat goes off to the organisers, as they did, in my opinion a terrific job.
Strange is the accurate description. My train from Mildura, where lovely Sheree hugged me goodbye, would take me all the way to Melbourne. A city I knew little of, but one I was putting all my faith in. Though it was not a complete bet, as I knew of a little helper. So, with the few sad pennies left upon paying all the due fees, I had one night booked in a bargain of a hostel, before my, I am loath to say it, guardian showed up. That bizarre man. Through the web, I came in contact with an Australian-turned Dutchman that required a helping hand with moving. Having heard about my situation when I had cancelled before, – due to not having the sufficient funds for a train back then – he had offered to let me reside under his roof upon lending a hand. Without charge, I could make use of the facilities until I get back onto my feet. Now, you should have been there when I had to explain to my family that a strange, grown man offered his home without charge. That was a feast of a tale. I know too how it sounds, however after all those years of travelling, though not perfected, I know a fair bit of who I can or cannot trust and this man was incapable of harming a fly. I literally believe he wouldn’t know what to do with a swatter. So, there was the harmless, deviating, yet intriguing man ready to, as initially planned, house me for time be.
From Melbourne it was a drive out of town to the outskirts of Geelong, into Corio. Then, in the matter of a few days, we ever so gracefully manoeuvred all the furniture into the new house. I even had a pick of room. Getting comfortable, I unpacked and made my room functional in the way I would want it to be. After all, this would be my home for a while. The neighbourhood was filled with, what I assume to be, Australia’s finest. If it was America, all it needed was a Walmart. It didn’t take me long to figure out that there was no dress code either, when I saw folk getting there groceries in their pj’s. It had also been on more than one occasion that someone warned me for the people there. Though a needless caution, consider it appreciated. Geelong though, is actually worth it for a visit. I have been there on numerous occasions, both as a hermit and within group. But, I did’t come here for sightseeing or touring about!
Starting in Corio, I foraged near and far for suitable jobs. Doing one-day gigs breaking down a circus or walking multiple flyers – of which one turned out to be a scam. Through an app I became auditor and collected wine bottles and I had worked a festival. I ransacked the web for any and all applications, as well as traversed to parts of Melbourne for employment agencies until the right, fitting job finally passed by. It would be quite the journey, but with the bike provided – truly inordinate – and the low-priced train, doable. Daily, I would hop the train back and forth for coming six months – which is the maximum one can work with one employer under the working holiday visa. This, would also be my final months and the man, Henk, would let me remain under his roof – under condition I paid a part of the bills – for that period.
Why this figure was so strange and fascinating, involves me to tell a tale so long and deeply embedded with years of psychology and human studies, that I would lose your attention along the way. Therefore, keeping this post short, I will mention few of his greater traits, which will indubitably feed his ego. Talkative was one. Though at moments he would push that boundary, he was talkative and attentive to stories, making him great for conversations. He was sophisticated and knew his way around a business. Where he spent his time and focus on this aspect, he had lacked the ability to read people. Despite not being that great at knowing how people felt, he would try hard to make them feel welcomed. Cared for. At home. Though some, including a French couple that for a short, unpleasant period inhabited the place, abuse it, it is a good thing. He is very giving. I rarely asked anything from him, but if I would, he’d have given it. The same he would do for his neighbour. Those qualities should be around more and it is also the reason he let me stay for the greater part of a year, at really low cost. Besides that, he has done me more favours than I could ever possible ask from any one person and for that, I am grateful.
Thank you to the strange man, all is much appreciated!
*Scroll down to skip the story and read actual useful information*
From Mildura it was a short drive on a few long roads passing barren land. Sheree, a lovely lady, had picked me up and made sure I had the appropriate licenses before taking me to the quaint village under the name Wentworth. Entering the petite area, it felt almost as if we traversed back in time. The townhall and post-office, fire department, the few smaller shops and pubs, even a functioning phonecell, all living and operating in a different era. The style of residences and accommodations had been a lot different than what I was used to. It reminded me of American shows that I had seen. The motel was situated on the village’s main road, across from the grocery store and the pharmacy. It had a main building, where Sheree and her two sons lived, about five rooms attached to it and then two rooms parallel to the main building. At the beginning, I stayed with two others in the room closest to the main building. The way this worked, as do most regional farm jobs for foreigners, the farmers would reach out to Sheree and other backpacker havens letting them know there is work. Then, you will be picked up or dropped off, which tends to be in groups – meaning you will often return at the same time as the others.
Before I got to strap on my working outfit, I was given a day to explore the close area and I found there was a fair bit to see and learn within this tiny dot on a map. First, I randomly wandered about and came upon what is called the Darling-Murray junction. It is where the petty 1472 kilometres long river melts into the 2508 long Murray. The latter also holding the title of the longest river in Australia. Whilst I read the sign giving me a brief history lesson, a picturesque sunset was happening. The sky there had always amazed me, how it at all times could be so clear and bright blue at any point of the day. Then, when the moon had replaced the sun and it was stars covering the sky, it would feel similarly bright. I could always watch it in awe for hours and now with the setting of the sun painting the sky in many colours, it was especially breathtaking. On the way back, walking parallel to the river, I had seen a couple of old paddle streamers that are nowadays used for short cruises. If the lovely junction’s town isn’t enough to steer you if you happen to be near, then perhaps the mini-Sahara near here is worth it. Perry Sand Hills, a must for a sunset. But, alas, before I got to that point, the time for working had come.
Before the sun had dawned, a small group stood at the edge of the town awaiting pick-up. Dazed, with a hint of excitement, I joined the bunch. We all wore our mandatory, bright hi-vis shirt with long sleeves and an old pair of rugged jeans. It was advised that you’d cover the entirety of your body, as it would be harmful to let the merciless Australian sun beam for too long without proper protection. That was the same reason we worked before daybreak and finished beginning noon, departing when the sun becomes too fierce to work under. Once we were picked up, the French supervisor drove us on a long, vacant road to the orange fields where more people waited. After a quick introduction, we were off in pairs. I had been paired with the oldest son of Sheree. Since the pay isn’t hourly, but per bin, and it is also per pair, praise to heavens the other person is sweating their ass of just as hard. Although plenty of the oranges from my partner were flung at the pair in the next row and a fair amount of time was spent telling me about his time in jail and thereafter, he got in a decent amount of work. Truly. We both did. Hot as it was, we picked orange after orange, chugging them in each of the bins we filled that day. Nonetheless, we, the son and I, but also the people in the rows that followed, learned rapidly that the math is off. Taking into account the minimum wage of Australia, on a typical fruit farm, only the best of the best would come even close to making that amount.
Now, seeing how I was not the only one that knew how to do a simple equation, the day after only half the people had showed up. People weren’t stupid enough to work for far below the minimum. Unfortunately, I had no other choice than to accept the measly pay, as my debit had run through and I was solely depending on credit. Having had spent nearly my last money on the tickets to that tiny town, I had no other choice than to fight for a little buck. Another thing I had found, that if you didn’t pluck the trees well enough like many didn’t, or, with figs, if there are too many wrong ones, you simply don’t get paid. What do I mean with wrong ones? Well, figs are about the most sensitive of the bunch that require delicate handling as a simple, quick snatch would damage it. When there are about 5 out of 25 damaged figs, you will not get paid for that box. On top of that, the pay was a helluva lot worse. But, having thought I had experienced all, the worst had been the drought in jobs for the two weeks that followed. No jobs at all, yet the owner of the motel consistently came with a nearby date that marked the start of grape season. But, unsurprisingly, that got postponed about daily. At this point many people left. The ones that needed their 88 days remained and so did I, as I was already living on borrowed money.
Not that it had been a hellish experience. I met loads of backpackers. We did sightseeing around the area or complained merrily about the ordeal. We had tried looking for a job, but that fell through. One guy I met, eventually ended up cycling around a greater part of Australia, all in the name of charity. Some went on to travel more, others tried their luck in a bigger city or a farm elsewhere. But, a number of us remained until the grape season had started. The owner of the land of grapes had been a lot more pleasant to work with than those of previous ones. He’d chat between work and bring us sandwiches, before hopping back on the tractor. The work itself, was laborious, satisfying and fun. Passing the occasional spider, we snipped branches full of juicy grapes and filled dozens and dozens of buckets on a day. Knowing the pay wasn’t going to be horrible added on top of the motivation of course. Then, on the final day we cheered to a few brewskis from the farmer and collected our pay. Upon receiving, I was left with little after the borrowings and due weekly pays were handled. But, at last, I was back in the positive. Thus, with a hand full of dimes and a mind full of new ideas, I took the train to my next destination, Melbourne!
Are you interested in working on a farm in Australia? Here is some advice based on my experiences, heard stories and own opinion:
If you want work on a farm purely to make money, keep the following in mind;
You need to have a specific guarantee that you will be working on hourly pay. A simple email won’t suffice as it has possibly been sugarcoated.
Working inside – which tends to be for women I heard – or with machinery such as on a tractor gravitates towards having an hourly pay that is minimum wage.
For watermelons, it requires you to be both in great condition as well as mentally strong. I heard its toughness has had many people quit, including the “stronger” ones.
Otherwise, grapes are decent. Not the greatest pay, but for a good buck you’ll have, in my opinion a fun job. Oranges goes the same, however lesser pay.
That figs and apples ought to be avoided.
If you want to work on a farm for the 88 days or simply the experience and make a little bit of money on the side, absolutely do go! Make sure that you know where you will be staying and to have at least one or two proper reviews of that place. I have heard stories far worse than what I had experienced. Yes, Sheree should have been more clear about the conditions and been straight. However, she and her assistant cared about their guests. She had lent me money, at times they would come with a bbq or we’d go out for food and drinks partially on her expense and she’d make sure that we would get paid. I have heard stories of people being in an accommodation where the owner lied about the conditions and didn’t care much about whether they’d get a job. Furthermore, I still suggest avoiding figs. Try to go for grapes, watermelon or oranges and you will have a splendid time, just like I did.
Once I returned home, surprising my family with a sudden knock on the door – followed by an hour waiting as no one was home – things quickly got back to the routineus life that had pushed me to travel in the first place. A few breaths and my feet were scurrying from pole to pole, resumes in my hand. I switched jobs faster than tides until my employment agency placed me into the transporting business. Seven months working in a warehouse amidst all kinds of coworkers.
During these months, I had the opportunity to ponder over what the story of the following chapter of my life would be. Many suggested study. Some seemed to know what was best for me, cocksure what I should do. Too many foolishly thought I would actually cage myself within the walls of a study. A moment’s thought, so did I. However, for me, depressions seeps from these walls. As long as I have no motivation to enter such building, bearing the answers to my life passions, it will be a place to drain my happiness. The friends that knew me best, pushed me to follow my heart. Soon after, I was convinced.
Thus, the making of a new travel plan arrived. With heavy heart, my family smiled upon me, as their dreams of me in college shattered to the ground. As expected, they had my back and with every step I took, they were there offering a hand. Their support allowed me to work hard and save my money tight as if a new economy crash was upcoming. To keep my mind out of the gutter that is the boring life in the Netherlands, I spend my time focusing on the upcoming trip and writing about the past one. Even during work, my mind was on the beaches, in the jungles and so on. This worked for some time…
Until the well of motivation had gone dry and my taste for the water faded. Feeling caged in my world of writing, I had to bring a pause to my stories. Unhappy with the words on my screen, feeling forced with every post, I no longer wallowed in the bath of words I used to love. Days were slow and boring, yet my mind was at all times a roaring lion, a machine gone to overdrive, a tornado and volcano burst at the same time. Thoughts, worries, and fears flew in thousands. They hung heavy in my head, bringing exhaustion. Workdays got longer and slower. The same faces, the same boring conversations, the same dumb questions over and over. Days off, I often felt bored. I wanted to go out and live.
But for once, I felt afraid of travelling. I had announced to make the longest trip I ever would. That wasn’t what brought shrivels down my spine however. What shakes my mind, is the fear of being unable to find a path for my life. A direction. Of failing myself. Despite that constant dread chaining me down, I prepared my wings for the next flight. Taking a leap from the nest and hoping my wings would carry me. To find my purpose. Quitting my job to be with my family was a begin. Buying my ticket a second. It took a while before that happened, as I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t want to fly, afraid of falling. Nonetheless, I did. Giving up on studying, I hope I find what I desire out there.
Now, about my posts. Fresh, I shall begin, hopefully finding my spot in the world of writing. But not before I give you a nip of the last months in Europe (+ a short family trip in Sweden).
Some poorly shot pictures of the beautiful town that is Odessa, Ukraine.
Then, sweltering in a train, I made my way to Chisinau, the capital of beautiful Moldova. Here a wonderful family took me in and showed me around for a few days. Two young, but incredible smart and talented children.
After giving me more than I could take, I was shown the ancient Orheiul Vechi, a lovely village on the side of a hill. Thereafter, I moved on to Romania.
My travel through Romania was rapid, however grand. Turning into a smelly swamp at 40 degrees, I received long rides in a beetle, a bus and a worker on duty, offered food with some gin by dry-humoured workers in a warehouse, slept in a warm guesthouse bed in Bran for free, braved the vampires and hitchhiked together with a first-timer. In this week of Romania exploration, I have not a single bad word to say.
I soon arrived in Austria, heading to my work-away location. A small village, filled with drama. Taking care of camels and horses was my job. In exchange, accommodation, meals and riding lessons were provided. A village of all kinds. Four weeks of getting to know them all through long conversations. Besides the village, I visited the town Melk nearby, beautiful Vienna, and some farms.
Then time had come to head home. Without letting my family know, I hitchhiked in three days across Austria and Germany. Astonishingly fast I received rides of many nice people all the way up to final city.
Up next follow a few pictures I took when in Sweden for a family trip (Stepmother’s side).
For now, I am doing well. I have all under control and I feel ready to embark on my new adventure. The 11th of August, my trip will begin. I feel ready. I will live, smile, write and be happy. Pictures will come. If you want to stay posted, you may follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook.