A Travellerspoint blog

April 2012

Yes! We are out of Canberra!

Relaxed in Merimbula and have made it to Melbourne!

sunny 23 °C

Sorry peeps that the last post was so broad and vague but we had to breeze through so much and I wanted to get to the present. Not only because I've sort of forgotten a lot of it and we we really did work a lot so there wasn't too much to tell.

So we left Canberra and made for the coast. After being inland and going for the longest stretch without seeing the ocean since we got here, it was a no brainer. We chose Merimbula as our destination because our friends Sarah and Maira worked and have friends there. We camped on some cliffs just down the road from the main beach and spent three days, soaking up some sun and getting reacquainted with the ocean. It was great. We went to the restaurant/aquarium that Sarah worked at and it was very very cool/very very delicious. It's right next to the Merimbula Fishing Wharf which in the warmer months you can jump the 15 feet into the ocean. Looking off from it we got to see some giant and I mean GIANT manta rays swimming around all over. It would have been awesome to jump from because Merimbula sits on a bays so the water there is smooth and clear as glass. Sadly no one was game enough to take the plunge with me so I'm saving for my next trip. The aquarium features all local marine life and taught us heaps about the local fishing culture. We went out with one of Sarah's old coworkers and had quite the fun night out even if it was pretty tame being a small town.

After our relaxing time in Merimbula we decided to book it to Melbourne because our picking friends Andrew and Mary were camping there for a few days before they head to Adelaide to fly home to Canada at the end of the month. It was a long day of driving and we drove through some beautiful country and saw some nice little towns that would probably be nice to stop over in but we had been lazy long enough and I was super keen to see Melbourne. We got to the outskirts before I realized that we were going to be trying to drive straight through the city to the other side to camp with Andrew and Mary...during rush hour. That coupled with the fact that Melbourne has this tram system that we've been hearing about how crazy it is since we got to Aus. They were not wrong. The trams run in the same lanes as cars do AND they have a whole other set of traffic lights just for the trams and everyone is always dodging in and around them. It was hectic. We also had gotten a text from our other friends who had driving into Melbourne two days prior that the tolls were pretty dear so we took the risk and got off the highway and were cutting through the city itself. We survived but it was some of the most nerve wrecking driving I've done. It was also Cory's first trip into a big city since the Brisbane fiasco so I was nervous about car problems the whole time too. Cory drove like a dream thank goodness. We found the campsite in one of the outer suburbs and got the campsite right next to Andrew and Mary! Rich and Scaff were in town too but were taking off to Tasmania for a bit so will see them again when they get back before they leave the beginning of June.

Today we went into Melbourne city and since it doesn't really have anything that you HAVE to see like Sydney has the Opera House or Canberra has Parliament we just wandered. Andrew and Mary and Mary's sister Nancy (it's so confusing having two Nancys around) have been in Melbourne for a few days so we caught the tram in with them and then met them in the evening for drinks in St. Kilda before catching the tram back. In between all that Nance and I toured anything that looked appealing and I had some delicious cheap coffees. We had lunch at a little back room asian restaurant for only $10 each! I love Melbourne! While we were wandering through a shopping centre we happened upon an advertising promo for a bar in this super cool atrium where they were filling 170 balloons with helium and going to float someone up through the 100 foot atrium. It wasn't the best laid plan because the guy they wanted to float was too heavy so they kept filling more and more balloons and when that wasn't going to work they tried to use another guy but even though he weighed less he only bounced around 40 feet up and then came back down. Might not have been worth the 45 mins we waited around but still pretty cool. Am looking forward to spending more time around Melbourne in the coming future because we are hoping to work around here for a few weeks if we can swing it. Also we are going to go see the penguin parade on Phillip Island too! Really starting to set in that we only have 14 weeks left and we still have so much left to do!

Posted by owensj11 03:55 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

What happened to March?

WOOFT! Can't believe it!

all seasons in one day 3 °C

So its been awhile, hasn't it? Um, when last we spoke it was March and we were ever hopeful about the joys of grape picking. Well now that it is April I can say that our hopes on the picking were not misplaced, as we have had heaps of fun, made some money, and met some great people.

We started by working at Surveyor's Hill Winery, where we met the previously mentioned Anthony, and through him and the owner of Surveyor's Hill, Lee, we were put in touch with the other Wineries in the area, when were not needed at one, we could usually be found at the neighbors. First there was Jennifer, who normally would machine harvest, but due the very wet weather, any attempt at getting the machine in would find the tractors bogged down in the mud. We worked alongside the Canadians we met over at Surveyor's and we were soon joined by two Scottish girls going for the required 80 days of agriculture work to qualify for a second year visa. Working at Jennifer's came with a perk though, although trying to get tractors up and down the rows was unavailable, we were able to drive a quad with a trailer behind carrying a bin into which we could dump our buckets. It was way nicer than carrying them from one end to the other. We worked there for three days I think, she provided us with coffee and tea at breaks, which was great. We worked for her through the end of the week. On Saturday we worked in the morning for another Winery, Pankhurst, which is across the road from Surveyor's. That wrapped up the season pretty much around here for the white wine grapes.

We had about a week of no work, broken up by a few days of putting up bird nets over the red grapes at Surveyor's and a new winery, Brindabella Wines, owned by Roger and also home of the actual Wine making facility, ran by Brian. Putting up the nets isn't so bad, it takes four of us, Jeff and I and the Canadians usually, plus Anthony driving the tractor. Three people walk behind the tractor, which carries the net on a big spool, two out in the rows that are being covered pulling the nets down and one right behind the tractor making sure there are no snags in the net. The fourth person walks behind us and using little plastic clips, clips the nets down so they don't blow away in the wind. On Sunday we were back at Pankhurst, first foray into red grapes and met some friends of the Canadians that they knew from picking grapes up in the Hunter Valley, Rich and Scaff. They've come into the area from Adelaide to pick up a few weeks of work with us. We got a call from Anthony about picking at another vineyard, this one called Wallaroo, they're looking for as many as they can get to pick for the next couple of days, they usually machine harvest as well and have a lot of ground to cover. We go out there on Tuesday and meet the owner of a local contractor company called Vineworx, he's one of the angriest men I've ever met. Even though we don't work for him, we were brought in and paid by the owners of the vineyard themselves, he still yells at us and isn't really helpful. He leaves though and we go about picking. The grapes here are so rotten that we would walk up and down the row with only one bucket and never fill it before reaching the end of a row. It started to rain so we cut out around 4. Called from Jennifer, who was managing the vineyard while the owners are away, not going to bother trying to pick anymore, there just isn't enough there to justify going after it. On Thursday we were back at Brindabella, picking shiraz grapes. We're down to only six of us, the Canadians left the night before, they're flying home soon and have many things left they want to do. Over the weekend we're headed about an hour north to another winery called Mt Margeleux to take down nets and pick. Its a smaller vineyard, the owners only do it as a weekend sort of hobby. Two of us go up on Saturday to take down the bird nets and all of us will go up on Sunday to pick. Jeff and Scaff go up Saturday to a day of hard work. Since they're small and only do it as a weekend thing, they don't have the machine mounted nice net handler, it all has to be done by hand. So Jeff rode around on the back of a trailer pulling the net in by hand and stuffing it into bags while Scaff unclipped and pulled the nets free. They were gone for most of the day while the rest of us lounged around. On Sunday though, picking there was so nice, only 23 rather short rows, and since they have the time to keep the vines pruned, picking was a breeze. There was no disease in the grapes, no rotten ones, so we could just go down the rows cutting everything. We worked for about six hours and finished just as it started to rain. We pile in our cars to drive up to the house, Jeff and I go up and park when we get called from the girls, their car won't start. Crap. None of us own jumper cables, so we have to ask the owner if he has any. He does! He'll go up and find them, if one of us will ride up with him to bring them back down. Cool we think, so Jeff and I park off to the side and wait. But then only Rich walks back down carrying the cables. Oh, so we're going to jump their car, got it. We drive up to the house, they offer us some of last year's wine to try and we settle up. On Monday we're back to picking around Canberra for a few days at Brindabella and Surveyor's. On Thursday though, we're headed to another new vineyard, this one called Gundog Estate and owned by Geoff Burton, a famous cinematographer. Really nice to work for, gives us breakfast and lunch as well as pays us quite generously. He has about 18 rows to do and we worked with some other people recruited for the day, we finished around 1, had lunch and came back. The girls left us after the Easter weekend to meet friends of theirs in Melbourne, we're down to just four of us left. Jeff coined "The Family that picks together, sticks together" weeks ago, but our family is slowly dwindling. We picked at Surveyor's for the week, but on Thursday we finished up at noon and for us, that was it. After five weeks of being in the Canberra region picking grapes, it was time to move on. We said good bye to Lee and Anthony (who gave us a bottle of home brew rum, good, but potent, it'll put hair on your toes) and the following morning we packed up the camp site, a sad occasion, as the Canberra Motor Village had been our home for the entire time.

Now Canberra wasn't all about picking grapes, though that took up most of our time, we also camped at the Motor Village next to Sarah and Mairi. We camped with them, hung out with them, picked grapes with them. We met them and in less than 2 weeks we had a bought a gazebo together. And that gazebo saved our lives. Canberra was pleasant enough when we got there but the week before we left it was getting down to 0-5 C every night. Let me tell you camping is NOT pleasant in that temperature. It is far far from it. Though no one succumbed to hypothermia so no harm no fowl. Between the cold and the mozzies I think we would have died but with the gazebo at least we didn't get bitten as much. Mairi has the unfortunate tendency to develop welts so she might have been the most excited. Our fellow pickers Rich and Scaff also stayed at the Motor Village for a spell so we could frequent the local pub together and drown out grape inspired woes in a pint together. By the time we left we had made some pretty awesome friends and might be lucky enough to meet them again in Melbourne because we all have that pegged as the next stop.

Posted by owensj11 04:20 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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