88 Days a Slave, Completed

The 88 days of glorified slave labour have been done, though I have to wait until next weeks’ payslip to apply for my visa, so I have to stay here a week longer than expected. I’m a bit paranoid about applying for the second year visa as there is actually no clear information on the immigration website about what counts as a day, but I’ve been to work for 88 days so hopefully my payslips can prove that.

Over the past week we have pretty much just packed melons and my opinion of it hasn’t changed. This morning I walked outside and someone told me that I looked like shit, then I got to work and had to ask my supervisor how to put the melons in the box so was pretty clear to them that I had a good night out last night. My title of being the only backpacker to not throw up on a Sunday at work on the farm remains.

This weekend has been a two night bender – both Friday and last night we went out and got absolutely twatted. When we first got here there was this obsession with jumping into the hedge that goes all the way around the roundabout on the way to the pub and we decided to do it again. It turns out that there is a metal box on the other side of where I jumped and I am now sporting the worst bruise that I’ve ever had, on my arse, after landing on it – it has started to turn black so maybe I’ll get that seen to on my day off tomorrow. It’s quite lucky that I landed on my arse and not my back because I would be in a really bad way. Not even five minutes before that I also fell out of a shopping trolley (sorry Mum) but that was injury free.

Also I’m quite surprised that there is not another alcohol ban. We behaved ourselves in the hostel but someone managed to shit the bed in the only available bed in their house that someone was meant to check into yesterday. The mattress was taken outside to air – apparently the person being showed around had to walk past the disaster zone; I don’t know what I’d be thinking about the hostel if that was me checking in.

Tomorrow I am off which means that I need to download some TV series from Netflix onto my phone in the library and Tuesday is supposed to be busy again at work. I’m now leaving on the 30th – I was looking at going to Tokyo straight after but that’d mean spending five hours on a bus to get to Cairns, then staying the night, getting to the airport then arriving really tired and having to find my accommodation. Instead I think I’m just going to go when my job in Melbourne is finished so I have more money and something to really look forward to.

Nine Days a Packer To Go, One Workweek Left

 

On the work front it’s been less busy so we’ve had a few days off that haven’t been complained about; I have no problem working ten plus days in a row, but when it comes to only packing melons for hours I get way too bored after not even ten minutes of day one. Sometimes it gets so boring that I sometimes start wondering, sometimes for hours on end, how much I don’t give a shit. Over the past few weeks, people have been outside in fields, picking and getting tans. On the melon farm, we’re just inside and getting muscly hands and fingers. Brilliant.

I set a date on when I’m getting out of here: 22nd June. The plan is to get a flight to Melbourne, take the weekend off, then start working again. I need to remember to let the hostel know that I’m leaving three days prior so that I don’t get fined $200 (surprise!). I’ve also set a date to go to Japan in August so I’ll be booking that when I’m out of here/

On Wednesday a group of us from the hostel went to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean film. It was pretty good but not as good as the first three. This coming week we’re off to see Wonder Woman and there’s a late showing of the film on backpacker night so even if we’re working till 8pm, we can catch it. We have to try and not get busted bringing our munchies from Coles into the cinema this time.

So. Many. Rules.

Also, the alcohol ban has been lifted after three weeks of it not being 100% kept to so now there’s a pretty empty crate of what was 30 beers under my bed. We went out to celebrate on Friday night after some drinks at the hostel and I only had an hour and a half’s sleep so work wasn’t much fun on Saturday. I now hold the title of the only melon packer who started in April who hasn’t been sick at work after a night out.

I’m hoping for no days off between now and day 88, and am applying for my second year visa in two weeks’ time. It’ll be a really, really good feeling when day 88 is over and done with. Although people say never say never, I’ll never be in a rush to work on a farm again.

26 Days a Melon Packer Left

I didn’t post an update yesterday because I spent 8 hours at my get-fired-if-you-turn-up-hungover job packing melons with a hangover, and I wanted nothing more to lay in bed with a pizza and watch movies when I got in.

Work has really picked up this week – I think that I’ll be able to save $1000 from this weeks’ payslip. Packing melons is getting really boring so I’ve been told off for pissing around at work; I’m going to have to behave myself for the next couple of weeks at least so that I can get out of here quicker.

During the week we’ve had a couple of piss-ups; Saturday night as usual which was pretty decent, though we had to pre-drink down the park due to the alcohol ban and Thursday night.

By now you would think that if my living conditions were to change, they could only get better: currently I’m in a three bed room the size of Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs with no door to a six bed dorm, so effectively it’s a nine bed dorm. My stuff was organised in such a shit state that the owner just looked at me and said “what. the. fuck.” We have no air con – instead there’s fans that blow hot air around the rooms, WiFi has been banned unless you want to be robbed in daylight to use it at $2 an hour and I could probably go on for a while. The room next door has had their outside/front door confiscated because someone in the upstairs took a spring off their door – the owners got pissed off and wanted to prove a point. There’s now what is supposed to be a garage which has been turned into an eight bed dorm with no toilets, showers or kitchen so now our already overcrowded kitchen that I was under the impression I shared with seventeen other people I now share with 25, with two tea towels to last the day. There is also two bathrooms to share between all 26 of us.

I’m not too sure when my next day off is – tomorrow is day seven in a row and I’ve heard that rain is due so hopefully Wednesday we’ll be off. I’m going to stay a couple of weeks longer here because although I do just chat shit about it, I have grown to like it here and I also need to get extra days done as I’m pretty sure that if my visa application gets investigated, days that are two hours long that I’ve counted probably don’t count.

Melons Melons Melons

I have honestly never seen so many melons in my life.

Like the previous week, Saturday had taken a couple of days to recover from and Monday we didn’t get our lay-in. There is always a first time for everything, and this week I had to ask a work colleague if they were responsible for me waking up next to a McDonald’s breakfast.

The first couple of days were spent packing watermelons; I wouldn’t be surprised if we did hundreds of tonnes over two days. On Monday my job was to look at a conveyor belt for seven hours to make sure that the melons didn’t get stuck or fall off. Tuesday started with throwing watermelons to/at people depending on how big they were to sort them, then after a break I was back to looking at them. I really do think that I have found my calling, and that is throwing and catching melons, though I am terrible at throwing them up into a truck – instead they hit the side of the truck, break and go bloody everywhere then I get moaned at.

We also did a ten hour shift; it got to the point where I was debating whether or not to pretend to collapse to get out of it. Other people were considering taking themselves out with blunt force by melon. Around nine of us sorted 24 trucks.

One thing we were not warned about was how much it hurts to have a melon hurled straight at your hand off of a conveyor belt. During the week I was leaning on a conveyor belt and a melon just flew at me and pinched the skin down and Jesus Christ did that hurt and require several swear words. I also thought that I broke a finger at one point when a melon came at me from out of nowhere

Another injury I had this week is absolutely ridiculous, as in perhaps the most stupid thing I’ve ever been admitted to hospital for. I really over-enthusiastically got into the van for work and smashed my head on the frame – all my body weight going straight for the head. I was OK during the day but the next I had a migraine all day, not helped by the fact that the melons are fluorescent. I went to the hospital and got told that I gave myself whiplash from getting into a car.

Of course, last night we went out, and of course, we are in recovery mode. Yesterday, I went out with some girls from work who wanted to watch the local rugby, then we also went out in the evening at our regular three spots. I came back to the hostel and one of the girls from next door was sleeping in my bed so I hung around for a bit and did my laundry, then ended up going to bed at midday.

Same Shit, Different Day

To start the week I didn’t have a job. Bearing in mind that I am within the first ten people on the priority list and all the new people are working, I had a moan to the owner of this hostel, and luckily I am very good at having an answer to absolutely everything. I landed myself a job, two days a week. To be honest, I’d rather repeat the day where I thought I might cry because I planted so much five times over than be stuck in the hostel for five days, but at least it’s something.

Monday, I worked at a farm that I was on last week and weeded for six hours. At first I thought that it’d be easier to crawl to ease the back and knee ache, though I ended up giving myself a dead leg after three hours of crawling and couldn’t feel my foot properly for the rest of the work day.

Wednesday was my first shift on another watermelon farm. It was quite amusing to hear people talking tactics in the van about how fast to go and a couple of others and me went at least twice as fast as the ten others without too much effort. Planting can actually get quite tactical and competitive; my tactic is to get a good playlist on and to go near the other quick people and keep up – with that said, I usually finish a row in at least third place anyway. There are days where you know that you’re just going to be working for a couple of hours so a lot of people will go slower as more time spent on the farm = more money. Having worked with quite a few half jobs in the hospitality industry, I’ll end up just annoying myself if I’m too slow.

Thursday, I was off again and was back to work on Friday. The people I was working with seemed to only be able to talk about goon, how drunk they were, how they were still drunk or about how they were going to get drunk after work. I was bored of it after two minutes of being in the van, and it carried on for the whole of the shift.

It got to the point on Friday where it was so hot (surprise!) that the farmer drove me to another part of the field and we just sat having a chat in the ute for five minutes with the air con on full blast. It was one of the days where sweat just drips off your face onto the plastic sheets that we plant onto. He asked me what I’ve done with myself before the farm work so I said about working in France, living in London and travelling pretty much the whole of last year, and he thought that I was a lot older than the people that I work with. I’m actually one of the young ones.

Friday was St Patricks Day. I wasn’t in the mood to go out so I hired a few movies and had watched a couple. Saturday night I actually didn’t go out and opted for a movie marathon, but only managed one and a half. Today, I’m two and a half movies in, about to watch the third and perhaps a fourth which I probably won’t manage.

I can’t remember if I mentioned it in another post but Sunday is the day to get a Domino’s for $5, nearing the $10 mark if you want a cheese stuffed crust (obviously I do), as the supermarkets are shut. Just an excuse to have pizza. It’s going to get to the point when I would’ve had pizza every Sunday for around 20 weeks in a row, and that might be one of my personal favourite achievements of my past 22 years. Today, I had one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had; not as good as the one I had when I accidentally booked a flight to Milan instead of Venice last year but definitely in the top ten.

Another Day, Another Field of Watermelons

It’s supposed to be autumn here now – I’m not too sure how much I believe it as I was sat drafting out this post at 9.15pm, dripping with sweat.

Our week started off with a 32 degree-90% humidity day. To be honest I don’t know how I didn’t pass out on the watermelon field; it seemed as though whatever we drank sweated straight out, although at least we knew for sure that the alcohol from the weekend had left our systems by then.  On the way to work we put the watermelon emoji sponge on the rear-view mirror which the farmer apparently wasn’t terribly amused by, but it is now hanging from my shelf in the room, much to the despair of my roommates.

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Tuesday turned out to be the last day of planting watermelons… on this farm, anyway. One of the nearby farms had a thermometer that measured the temperature as 37 degrees, and I’m surprised that there was any sweat left in me after Monday. I was seriously struggling with it, and on other farms quite a few people passed out. Luckily, it was only a half day where we were supposed to be joining the farmers for a BBQ at the end of the day. As we finished so early, the farmer gave us some money to go out for dinner which was much appreciated, so I rather enjoyed a steak dinner.

We’ve got a pretty good analogy for planting: it’s like being on I’m a Celeb – only that we don’t have Ant and Dec to warn us that there may be something out to poison us whenever we stick our hands in the holes in the ground.

As the jobs on the watermelon field had ended, Wednesday and Thursday were days off. There is more or less nothing to do here – there’s a swimming pool, bowling alley and a cinema  so Wednesday I was trying to kill the day. Thursday, we went down the pub and Friday I did a shift for just one hour, though it secured me work for Saturday too. Today has been another day off after a night out last night.

Planting Watermelons Like There’s No Tomorrow

Work this week started off with chilli picking; the first job that I’ve had so far that isn’t on a watermelon field. It’s work that no one really wants to do as it pays $2.50 per kilo and most people pick 25-30kg which means that I’ll get paid around $100 for 16 hours work. I got paid a bit less than four and a half times this for the same amount of work in Melbourne.

Our first day on the farm, the farmer met us at a petrol station to take us to his farm and the next day we got pretty lost on the way there. It took 45 minutes, half hour on the phone to the farmer and two phonecalls to the hostel to get there, almost running over a dog in the process. One of the things that no one really warns you about for farm work is that there aren’t really any toilets on the farms – this time a year ago I was tasting port in Portugal, and at the start of the week I’m advising a friend on where the best place to pee on a field is. Still living the dream.

After two days of having my head in chilli plants and my hayfever going wild, I was so, so happy to be back planting watermelons. The happiness did not last long, though. As there have been a lot of people leaving over the past couple of weeks, a small group of us are working double as we are having to do our work, then helping the fifteen  or so new people. Thursday, I would say was either the joint worst or second worst shift of my life (going out on the piss three nights in a row and the fourth day was a menu change at work and I am never ever doing that again). It got to the point where I had been working for nine hours and had done so much work that I could have cried if I had to plant another watermelon for someone else. Luckily, someone else was on hand to help me help someone and to listen to me chat shit about watermelons. It turned out that I planted somewhere around 6km of watermelons all day Thursday. On Friday morning someone forgot to wear their shoes to work. When I had a day as shit as it was on Thursday, having something like that to laugh about was well needed.

During the week it was one of my roomates’ birthday so I cooked seven of us a lasagne, not going to lie it was pretty bloody good. It was also pancake day so three of us had pancakes for dinner – first course chorizo and cheese, followed by chocolate and salted caramel.

I found a mascot for our work van; an air freshener probably wouldn’t help whatsoever when you consider how bad we smell by 8am most days. In the supermarket, I saw a sponge in the shape of the watermelon emoji for $2 with a string around it. We’re going to hang it from the rear-view mirror in the car as though it is an air freshener and see if the farmers humour us.

Today I am definitely feeling as though I went out last night. As per usual, most people staying at this hostel went out and got absolutely twatted.

After almost three years, my tablet has finally broken. I decided to opt for a small laptop instead of a tablet as I find that it’s just easier to use a laptop. For a while I have wanted to change the layout of the blog to something a bit more professional looking which is pretty hard to do on a touchscreen, so over the next coming weeks I’ll be giving onewomanonebackpack a makeover.

Melbourne & The Australian Open

The main reason I came back to Melbourne was the Australian Open – I’d booked tickets whilst in Sydney, and have since been looking forward to the Melbourne climate. What should’ve been a five or six hour travel day from Cairns turned out to be around the 13 hour mark, but bearing in mind that I have a 30+ hour travel day next week it’s not too bad.

Unfortunately, my first day was eventful: a change of plans on the tram into the city made me miss Bourke Street on the day a car got driven down there, had they not changed I would’ve been either down Bourke Street or very close. The first couple of days I spent in Fed Square watching the tennis on the big screen there, as well as a visit to Hosier Lane.

On Monday I went to see the games. My ticket covered four matches,  but after three my brains were pretty fried. I saw the mens doubles where Bryan/Bryan won; the only remaining Brit Johanna Konta beat the Russian Makarova and Brady from the US pay against Lucic-Baroni. I missed the last game, a mens singles, but enjoyed my day and caught the Nadal game back in the hostel.

For me, time spent in Melbourne isn’t complete without a trip to the pub so I made sure that happened. Last time I was in the city I wasn’t too fussed by it, but now I’ve been gone and the weather is heaps nicer, I realise that it is actually bloody good.

If all goes to plan between now and the end of the year, I should be able to take some time off work in Januay and I intend to re-visit the Australian Open. I hope to splash out a bit and see a few matches and maybe even a final.

Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

There is not a lot to do in Cairns besides chilling out near the lagoon and finding places to eat sushi. I came here to see the Great Barrier Reef and have it live up to the name, as it was the Alright Barrier Reef  at the Whitsundays. I booked up a trip on the boat Silverswift and whilst expensive at AU $200+, it’s completely worth it.

As I’m not a decent swimmer, I did think about getting a see-through bottom (probably has a proper name)  boat tour as I’d be more comfortable, but like most other things within reason it’s more worthwhile to push the boat out and do the more daunting things.

With an early start, I made my way to the pier and caffeinated myself up on board. It took just over an hour and a half to reach the reef then once suited up, this time with a buoyancy jacket, we were let loose into the sea. I don’t have pictures, but what I saw was amazing; the fish were were so brightly coloured and was incredible to swim/float over the coral, watching the fish. One thing that I have to say is that if your internal sarcastic monologue, like mine, is hilarious, don’t laugh because it loosens the seal on the goggles. I also saw some fish that looked like someone I used to work with, as well as someone from school so I had to sort the goggles out a few times.

The second snorkel was the best; there were so many more fish and I was more trusting of the buoyancy vest. I saw a few fish that I recognised from Finding Nemo, though no clown fish, but a similar anemone fish which is close enough. I also saw a jellyfish and some patterned like a giraffe, there were also a lot more fish in the coral, but no turtles this time which I was eager to see.

There was a snorkel tour done by one of the guides on the third and final swim, and there were too many people. I opted to hang at the back then go my own way which paid off – there was a turtle that the group missed so I stayed to watch it for a few minutes, and went behind it as it swam up to get some air. I didn’t expect to get so close to the turtles because of the vest, so this was awesome. The fish were impressive during this snorkel, though not as much as the other two. One of the most noteable things I saw was a ray digging around in the sand.

Once the third swim had finished, we returned to Cairns. This was by far one of the best experiences I’ve had in the past year of travelling, the highlight being getting so close to the turtle. I’m going to have a Google of snorkel spots in Australia, get an attachment for my gopro and snorkel again during my second year in this country. I may not be the biggest fan of Australia, but this is one of the things that has made coming over here worth it.

Byron Bay

To get to Byron Bay was a 13 hour bus ride from Sydney. I go into these things thinking that I’ll get a fair bit of sleep and like every time I’ve travelled overnight, only managed an hours sleep or so.

As I had arrived at 7.30 am, I ditched my backpack in the hostel and went for breakfast at a cafe nearby. I got the impression that I’d rather like the town, but there is only so much you can do there if you’re not a massive fan of beaches. I had a look around the shops and read a book in the hostel.

My second day there I did the Coastal Walk to the famous lighthouse, which to get to you have to be at the most eastern point of mainland Australia. Of course with these things there is someone who had to outdo everyone by climbing over the safety barrier to be more east than everyone else. Twat.

The next day I went on a day trip with some other backpackers to a small hippy town called Nimbin. On the way there we stopped off at a pub to get some bevvys for the journey, and I’m not too sure what impression a bus full of people in their 20s, most with a drink in their hand gave before midday. After Nimbin, we stopped off at a National Park for a BBQ, and then a waterfall that would be more accurately described as a leak.

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I didn’t do much else during the week; I manged to read four books and had a tasting at a brewery. To be honest, the East Coast hasn’t excited me so far. I have to hang back a bit because I have a trip booked over New Years, so I’m hoping that next month I get back to travelling at the same pace that I did Europe at.