A Travellerspoint blog

June 2012

New entry for the resume!

We're back in Gymps and working again!

overcast 18 °C

Queensland has been hit by a huge number of backpackers and there just isn't enough work to go around. We spent two weeks calling the Harvest Line, calling local ads in the newspaper until we found one who called us back. It was one of the local ones so we haven't had to go far or move for it. We're picking green beans. Its about as much fun as you can imagine, we work with some other backpackers, two couples from France. Our supervisor is from Italy and has worked for this farm for awhile now, she was sponsored by them I think I caught. I have trouble with the accents at times. The Italian though is working hard on her English and is always chastising the French people for speaking French while picking. The only language we all have in common is English so she prefers that we all speak it while picking. I think I can manage that. For bean picking they usually try to get three picks off of each patch, each time you go through and pick the ripe ones and leave the little ones to grow and in a week or so you come back and pick them. We spent our first week going over a patch that had been really messed up on a first pick, beans had been left, bushes we're uprooted, it was bad. We would spend all 7 hours and maybe pick a bag each, and a bag holds about 20 kilos. We get paid $1.30 per kilo, so it wasn't really worth it. We were told though that once we get some practice in and show we can do a good job we'd be moved over to the better patches and do better picks. Yesterday we were moved over to patch like that and we're now doing second picks on good patches with a group of professional pickers. In that patch we only did one row each to start, but we picked more in that one row that we had in the other patch all morning. Hopefully we continue to pick in the better patches now. The professional pickers that we met yesterday are a 70 year old woman and her neighbor, Bill. I didn't quite catch the woman's name, but Jeff and her we're chatty for awhile, she's been picking for 40 years now. She retired two years ago, but was bored and came back. Her and Bill could run circles around Jeff and I, they just fly up and down the rows. Bill averages $1100 a week picking beans during the season. I only wish I could pick that fast, only another 39 years of experience to go.

Its been getting cold here, really surprisingly cold. Not down to freezing, not quite, but close. And most houses are built to encourage air flow and cooling for the summer and not really insulated to trap in heat. Its dang cold at night. Was not expecting that here. We were told it would be cold in the winter, but we laughed, pfft cold in winter? You don't even get snow, how cold can it be? We thought we'd seen the end of being cold after we traded in the tent and moved back in a house. I will not question all the time we spend insulating our homes and businesses anymore, its worth it. If it gets that cold here, I would not want to experience a MI winter without any of that.

Aside from that we've been back in town and spending time with the family. We're not sure what our next plan is, it all depends on how much money we can earn before we leave. We do know that on 4 July we're going to Brisbane to watch QLD smash NSW in the final State of Origin rugby game. Its a best out of three series and they're one and one right, going to be awesome.

Less than two months before we're headed home! Where did the last year go? It doesn't seem that long ago I was writing about seeing a cassowary up north or even what having a warm Christmas and swimming on the day is like!

Posted by owensj11 21:39 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Alice Springs NT to Gympie QLD

It's a bloody long way!

rain 22 °C

Last night we watched the sun set across Uluru and this morning we woke early and packed up so we could rush off and see the sun rise across it as well. It was cool and all, but I think sunset was better. We drove around Uluru, stopping at points that looked interesting (read: the whole thing) and wandering around it on foot. Its just so amazing and the stories that the local tribes have concerning it are just fascinating. The climb to the top was closed due to high winds at the summit, which depressed Jeff greatly. Before setting off we drove 30kms or so west to the Olgas, a set of rock hills similar to Uluru but smaller and more spread out. We did the scenic walk through the Valley of the Winds and returned to the car. As we bid a fond farewell to Uluru and the Olgas, we left Yulara and did our longest stretch of driving of a tank of gas, from Uluru back to the Stuart Highway: 436 kilometers!

Hooked a left turn and started towards Alice Springs. Passed tour bus after tour bus coming from the city to Uluru. Also saw our first and only wild dingo. Got into Alice and since we planned to spend at least two nights we just made dinner and went to bed. Driving for so many hours really can take it out of you. That and the Nance had get up at 5:30a to be sure we made it for sunrise so everyone was a little tired. Woke up the next day and went into Alice Springs the largest outback city, it has a Woolies AND a Coles, that's civilization for sure. We went to the info centre grabbed us a map of town and took off on a heritage walking tour. We saw Adelaide House which features a very early example of passive cooling system where they routed air from a cellar throughout the house to cool it as well as shading all the windows. Pretty neat. Also got to try out a pedal radio which they used to communicate over long distances way back when there wasn't electricity readily available. Went to the ANZAC memorial which gave a great view of the city and also stepped in a chunk of glass and of course Jeff thought he might die. He didn't. From there we wandered the Todd Mall and looked in at the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the School of the Air. It's weird to think that Australia or what they call white Australia is still so young even compared to America when yesterday we saw Uluru which the Aboriginals have been aware of for possibly thousands of years. It makes for some interesting histories. Alice isn't really hopping so we called it a night pretty early to get ready for more driving the next day. Jeff woke up hella early and found that there was ICE ON THE COROLLA yeah whole thing was covered, but by 8:30 it was completely gone and was 20 some degrees. That's the desert for you!

From Alice we drove all day and got to Tennant Creek before we called it a day. Tennant Creek is, well I'm not sure what you'd call it. It is a town I suppose but there isn't anything there to make for a town. No body of water no mining or anything that we could see so maybe it's just risen because people stop there because it's the only thing between Katherine and Alice Springs. Stayed a night caught up on some postcards, emails, marked the map, and just chilled. This would the last spot of any collection of buildings bigger than a lone road house until we made it Katherine in the late afternoon, a distance of over 600kms.

We didn't stay long and left early again (no frost thank goodness) and made for Katherine. Jeff was especially pumped for Katherine because the Katherine River has formed a large gorge that you can kayak up and swim the river and all that. It's been formed like the Grand Canyon just a wee bit smaller. We got into town and stayed near the Katherine Hot Springs. They are not hot nor really spring-y. Wasn't nearly as nice as the one we stopped at in Mataranka where Jeff had a swim and relaxed in the tropical heat. Also came across the Daly Waters Pub the most 'isolated pub in all of Aus' or so they claimed, though from the convoy of caravans it didn't seem all that remote. Was a nice stop before getting back in the car. Jeff had looked up kayaking the gorge online and here is what he has to say about his experience in the gorge: "It just sounded amazing. The gorge is separated into 8 different sections and you can take a full on river cruise through the first 2 or with a kayak you can see up to six depending on how hard you paddle. It's 30 Ks out of town and we left early so we'd have as much time as possible. JUST TO FIND OUT THAT YOU CAN'T KAYAK OR SWIM BECAUSE THERE ARE SALT WATER CROCODILES IN THE AREA! WHHHHHAAAATTTTT?!! Of course upon reading this Jeff was like psh yeah I'm sure. So instead we got ourselves a map and turned into to super fit hikers and began what ended up being a 20-25 km hike. Totally worth it. Got to swim under a waterfall in a rock pool. Saw the three of the different gorge sections and even got to climb up the side of one of the gorges. It was here that I sat down on the small little rock ledge to have lunch and rest after hiking all morning when one of the river cruise boats sailed by and stopped close enough that I could hear. "can everyone see the croc there under that tree?" so maybe it's for the best that we didn't kayak."
For those of you who are curious here's the Wikipedia description. 'An adult male saltwater crocodile's weight is 409 to 1,000 kilograms (900–2,200 lb) and length is normally 4.1 to 5.5 metres (13–18 ft). However, mature males can exceed 6 metres (20 ft) and weigh more than 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb), and this species is the only extant crocodilian to regularly reach or exceed 4.8 metres (16 ft).'

It's only 4 hours from Katherine to Darwin so we took our sweet time and even stopped to swim in another waterfall pool. Life's rough I know. Then we got into Darwin and went and got our map and got walking. Was beautifully warm and humid. Was so nice just what we needed after all the cold weeks spent down in Victoria and Canberra. Darwin is a small but full fledged city and it was a nice change from the outback towns we'd been at since Port Augusta. Spent two nights and just enjoyed the heat. Hung at the man made beach and wandered the plentifully parks. Wasn't anything iconic that you HAD to see in Darwin so just spent all day wandering before hitting up the pool near the campsite. Was great.

Now we had been as far North as you can go so we headed South and are going to look for work along the way if we don't find any then it'll be back to Gympie and the family because we miss those guys.

To start the trip we had to backtrack along the same path we'd taken north for almost 1000kms back down to Tennant Creek. We set out as early as the Nance could get out of bed and attempted to do as much as we could in one day. We did make it to Tennant sometime in the early evening and stay in the same place we had just a few days before when we were going north. Just north of Tennant is Threeways, a road house set on the cross roads of the Stuart and Barkely Highways and it was there that we pointed the car to begin or journey back east and into QLD.

Its a long boring stretch of road, but we're used to that by now. Now over in QLD and our eventual destination of the day,is Mount Isa; A mining town where they mine zinc, lead, copper, and a whole host of other minerals. It was a mine first and since it's such a big mine employing over 3000 people the town emerged from there. And emerge it did. Then town is right next to the mine. You can see it from anywhere in town and the mining explosions are commonplace and even listed in the tourist brochures as something to look forward to "You can literally feel the earth move!" We stayed two days, it was starting to green up and from here on in our drives should be getting easier so we wanted to rest up before setting off again. We did learn that Mount Isa has no actual mountain so it cannot be called Mt Isa, but is always written Mount Isa. Oh and its the rodeo capital of the southern hemisphere, hosting the largest one where competitors arrive from all over to compete for the largest purse offered anywhere.

After our rest there it was off to Longreach home of the QANTAS Founders Museum. QANTAS is an acronym for Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service and the national airline of AU which began over 80yrs ago in this small outback town as a mail route between towns. From the humble beginnings here and the confidence in air travel grew the service began to grow and help people travel between far flung towns. We had the opportunity while touring the museum to also tour the insides of the first jetliner QANTAS ever purchased, a Boeing 707. QANTAS eventually would purchase 13 of these aircraft of which two remain, the first which resides here and the 13th which, are you sitting down? You may want to for this, the 13th is still operational is owned and flown by John Travolta. Yes, at some point he purchased this craft and somehow learned its history and deal was made with QANTAS, the plane would be painted in the original QANTAS scheme and Travolta would become a Goodwill Ambassador for QANTAS. Wonder if they help pay for fuel? Now the first jet, named the City of Canberra, was remodeled many times throughout its life, at one point being a luxury liner available for charter and was used by the Beatles, the Queen, even Michael Jackson was a passenger. It was wicked cool and if all planes were like that I think I would enjoy flying. It had maybe 30 seats, a sofa, a full sized bed with ensuite, it was crazy.

We left Longreach as the weather was turning gray and we planned on driving as far as we possible could before stopping for the night, there wasn't much left between us Gympie now! But as the weather deteriorated and rain settled in when we reached the town of Emerald we called it a day. We checked into a campsite, snagging the last available site they had and did our best to stay dry and last throughout the night without floating away. We awoke early and pushed off for the final leg of our journey, the end was in site now. We drove the last 8hrs or so through rain, making it back to Gymps and the family around 4:30pm.

After four months of being on the road we were back. We'd been to Sydney, Melbourne, the Nation's Capital, survived the outback, and met some great people along the way. It was the journey of a lifetime and I feel privileged to have been along for the wild ride it was. It'll lend itself well to a lifetime of "When I was in AU..." stories.

Posted by owensj11 17:41 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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