Feb. 14th (ish) 2011
Alright, time to catch up. I’m offline in a town called Swansea on the east-coast of Tasmania. The weather is cool and cloudy, and I am also, cool and cloudy- working off the ‘goon’ and late night fishing (which was a success by the way, 8 mackerel and 2 cod).
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So, last time we left off (December?), I think we were on our way to a town called Young, in New South Wales, looking for work picking cherries. We found several jobs, but stayed on at just one farm for the season, making usually less than $6 dollars per hour, and having cold showers and no electricity. Does that sound appealing too you? It wasn’t our cup of tea either.
To start, the boss turned out to be a somewhat important biker gang member. Add in the rain we had to pretty much destroy the cherry season altogether. Then add the fact he wouldn’t pay us on the books… or pay us at all… Why did we stay? We were forced to pick a crop that was destroyed in order to get paid the weeks of wages he was holding from us.
Here’s the go:
Usually a person would expect to make $10 for a 15Kg ‘lug’ of cherries, and you would just pick everything on the tree and other people are hired to sort out the good from bad. Instead, we were the ones sorting.. Mind you he paid us $15 for 15Kg.. It just took over an hour to pick and sort one lug. Between the two of us.
Like I said, he held our money. But we stuck it out to get paid, and did eventually get our money. Though the amount we made in 4 weeks for two people equalled less than two weeks wages for one person… and on payday he decided to slaughter two goats in front of all the workers. After work- while we were eating dinner.
Why didn’t we called labour laws or the police? For one, we wanted to get paid, but for two, and the main reason, is this guy was one scary-ass mother *!*! with ties to psycho’s all over Australia. We figured in the end it was best just to let this one pass.
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We managed a field trip to Canberra (Australia’s capital city) one of the days off at that job. Everything ‘National’ in Canberra is free. Great for us broke backpackers! We hit up the Parliament house, Museum and Library and stayed at a hostel with a free (broken) spa. Erica and I also went out and ate some Korean food. We miss the food of Korea in a way that isn’t unlike an addict without his fix.
Kangaroo and Emu
Australia National Museum
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Also during the madness of working for the‘bikey’ farmer, we ended up meeting a really nice family with a home in Victoria, in the snowy mountain region. They were in the same boat as us and we ended up bonding over the whole nightmare. We were invited to their home for Christmas and New Years and they also hooked us up with a job thinning apples (knocking some off to let the remaining grow larger) for a couple weeks.
We relaxed the whole week of the holidays before starting into the new job. Christmas we just cooked a big feast and ate and ate. New Years was all Jager Bombs, beers and a really messy, fun time.
Perfect Place for Christmas
The work was easy, well paying and in the middle of the mountains on a stream. Erica and I had a little ‘house’ we rented off the farmer for really cheap, and we had a much much MUCH more pleasant time working there than the cherry farm. We made double the money of cherries in half the time.
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The job was coming to an end, and we were onto Tasmania to a job I had lined up for us. The employer was one I had worked for the last time I was in Tasmania. Super nice farmer, a really good farm, and a sure way for us to make a few hundred a day. We bought our Spirit of Tasmania ferry boat tickets on sale. $90 for the car and half price for people at $79 each. Non-refundable tickets. Then we got a call from the farmer. The rain had wiped him out too. Now, no job to go to and non-refundable tickets, we were in a bind.
There was definitely work if we stayed and waited a few weeks. But we already paid for the tickets. We decided to take the chance of no work and go anyways. Worst case scenario we just take two weeks vacation in Tasmania.
We drove down to Melbourne for the ferry and spent one beautiful evening along the canal downtown, listening to the buskers and taking in the romantic setting. The lights are dim but cover the entire space along the canal, keeping everything out of the shadows but still in lighting similar to candlelight.
Early in the morning we boarded the ferry for our ride.
On the boat, with hundreds of other passengers, parked right beside us, turned out to be a friend we had made in Young. He told us he was going to a cherry job but two of his friends had bailed on him, and he needed to bring two more people to the job. Thank you Karma.
The boat ride, however, was the iron fist. On one of the stormiest sailings of the year, even crew members were ill for our ten hour gut-wrenching experience. Water was even dripping on us through the ceiling of the top deck! I made it out alive, barely, but Erica didn’t hold it together quite so well.
We finally made it to Davenport, Tasmania, Jan.11 at 7 PM. We drove an hour south-east to Launceston to sleep near an area called ‘The Gorge’ to locals. I’d been last time around. We slept, woke up, and walked around the giant pond of cool water with coffee in hand. Taking in the steep stone walls and scrub, it’s hard to imagine the waking city literally one minute walk away, concealed from the entire park on all sides.
Back to reality, we drove the rest of the way to Campania, our new job, and started immediately.
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We finally made some money in cherry picking. Woot Woot! We averaged out three to four hundred a day and put the numbers in the bank up again. We camped at a free campsite.. more of a park really… but it was free, and there were around 20 or so other travellers there for the same reason. Our presence doubled the population of Campania, though it still had a pub with off-sales and a general store that made the most absolute, hands down, B E S T hamburger AND chicken burger, in the world, as of this far in my life.
Life was good, though short lived. Two weeks of work flew by, and that’s all there was. We made some seriously kick ass friends (Two of them are with us at the moment in Swansea).
We also took a ‘field trip’ to Port Arthur, an old prisoner camp on the Tasman Penninsula. Surrounded by ‘shark infested’ ocean, high cliffs and thick forest, only 4 people managed to escape in all the years it operated. It was a massive place with loads of interesting history and stories.
Cool geology in Sorell
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January 26, Australia Day,. I finally got a hold my ‘brother from another mother’ (one of many) who was down from Melbourne visiting his Mom in Hobart. Erica and I went, and then we proceeded to catch up 4 years of life over 2 cartons of beer. We’ve talked maybe twice since we parted last. I reckon that’s how to tell you got a great friend. No bother of time, you can pick up where you left of like none had passed at all.
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Now two more weeks has passed (I think??) and we’ve been out in the bush doing some serious bush walking.
We are preparing for the South-Coast Track, a week on one of the most remote un-touched wildernesses left on earth- you have to fly in with a single engine plane and get walk back to civilization.
We hiked the Cape Pillar circuit on the Tasman Peninsula. The first day was amazing.! The views of the ‘Totem pole,’ ‘Candle Stick,’ and the highest sea cliffs in Australia were breath taking. The second day rained. A lot. Our water proof gear couldn’t take the test and we got wet. Reeeeeally wet. So we called off the second night stay and put in a super 10 hour day of hiking to get out of there. We just wanted hot food and dry cloths. We got dry, but everything was closed so we had the best damn instant noodles of our lives.
We returned our ‘waterproof’ gear to the store.
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A week ago, we picked up our friends, re-supplied, and took a few days camping at a place called Mayfield. The view over Great Oyster Bay to the Frycenet National Park was mystical, picturesque, idyllic… the whole score of over-used travel writing adjectives can’t come close to the description, but you can try to imagine.
After two days of strictly ‘No Driving’ we were off again to the National Park for a 3 day circuit hike. We passed across Hazards Beach to Cook’s Beach and over Mt.Ghram ending on Wineglass Bay. Another Tasmanian gem. This time around, perfect weather for the whole hike, which made it quite nice for our friends on their first over night hike.
Wineglass Bay 2
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Now resting, doing laundry and contemplating a fisherman’s life, I can only imagine what’s next. We’re looking for work (though not very hard), and we want to do the big hike… there’s a place called the Bay of Fire’s to the north, or the Bruny Islands to the south.
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I’ll try to keep on this a bit more often. Thanks for reading!