A Travellerspoint blog

September 2011

Long hair, ticks, and he'll never feel hugs cause he's dead.

Last post about St. George!

sunny 35 °C

Well it's finally happened, we've moved on from St. George, but before I fill you in on the new stuff, let me finish up talking about the wonders of St. George. First off, I've decided that I can make it a whole year without cutting my hair. It's already past the point where I would get so fed up with it in my face or actually needing to comb it that I think I can make it. Our job helped because I wore a hat for most of the day so I'd shower and then put on my hat and never once think about it. Just wait it's going to get pretty crazy.

I can't believe I never blogged about the tick I got, it happened at the end of our first week of work and it wasn't as traumatic as you'd think. It's not uncommon for us to pick up ticks when you're going through the grape vines so I wasn't completely surprised by it. A few of the blokes had gotten two or three and not noticed them soon enough so it was more of a production to remove them. The one I had must've fallen down my shirt at some point that day because when I first noticed it, I just thought I had a piece of dirt that I missed when I showered stuck right below my ribs. When I couldn't brush it off I looked a bit closer and realized why. I'd taken a tick out of my dog's fur before so at least I knew what to do. The tick was no bigger than grain of rice and it had only just latched into my skin it hadn't been there long enough to get too comfortable. I just took a pin heated it up with a lighter until it was red hot then just put it on the ticks back. It's pretty weird because it's so small and if you didn't see it you wouldn't even know you had one, but when you use the heat to make it unclench you think you can feel it moving. Anyways after that I just used a pair of tweezers to pull it off and bam, tick free once more. Cool story, right?

Our last few days of work consisted of taking the bolts that hold the wires that the grapes vines grow along out and then moving them up the post a few inches to spread out the vines. Pretty simple and mind numbing work. The most exciting thing was that the holes that were drilled previously for the bolts to go into have become the favored living quarters for a little 3 inch lizard that usually would scamper out of the hole prior to us putting the bolt in. Usually. Not always the case. I was the one who used the wrench so that the Nance could use the ratchet to take the bolt out. What you need to know from this is that the Nance was the one who held the bolt and placed it into hole. So we'd be going along and sometimes we'd see a tail hanging from the hole and Nance would put the bolt in slowly to give the lizard a chance, but there were times, 12 in just the last day alone, that we didn't see the lizard first. And the little guy would meet his end by Nancy hammering a bolt over top of him. Now when we had dinner with the fam a few weeks ago, I heard from Kirstyn that her little girl Molly was riding in the car and saw something dead along the road and proceeded to tell Kirstyn that the poor thing wouldn't feel hugs anymore....cause he's dead. Imagine a little toddler saying this. It's more hilarious if you've met Molly, so of course every time Nance offed a lizard I would think about how he would never feel hugs anymore....cause he's dead and I'd laugh a little.

Posted by owensj11 15:19 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Bee Eee ayy utiful St. George.

Still in this lovely locale.

sunny 38 °C

So not too much to report from here in St. George. The hostel is packing up because it is getting closer to grape harvest season, it's cool to hear other people's stories and how we all ended up here in this small town. Our job is also wrapping up because we can't work in the rows of grapes when they're all overgrown with this year's crop. Should be heading out towards the Gold Coast later this week. Not sure what to expect, but that's half the adventure! It's known as Surfer's Coast, according to our coworkers, so if conditions are favorable perhaps I'll get my first chance to try surfing. Boss had us knock off early on Friday and had beer on ice for us. Now that we're acclimated a bit more to the climate, really liking the job. We are FINALLY done putting up the posts and are now just moving bolts about 2 inches up on another set of posts so that the grape vines can spread out more. It is actually worse than rattlin the posts because it goes slower and the bolts are old so they break or bend or are embedded in the post that you have to hack away to get at them. At least it's work. That and are crew is pretty cool. Bossman (Graeme) and two others from the Peter Smith Contractor Company (Whatshisface and beardface), a french couple (Frenchie and the only girl on the crew so we only have to use female pronouns), two aussies just following the work (Rocky (real name is Johnnie) and Bullwinkle (Brandon)), a South American dude (I'm pretty sure he's from Brazil, but still unsure), and a steady stream of locals who can't seem to last too long. For those of us who can handle it, it is funny to watch them struggle until they freak or quit. I was feeling bad that we were working with them all this time and still didn't know anyone's name until I heard us referred to as the American Boys, by Whatshisface to Bossman, made me feel better. Hostel isn't too bad because the kitchen is half decent so we can usually cook up a good meal and we need a good meal because although it's not back breaking work, it is a long day and we need the fuel. We had brekky for dinner tonight. Oh and last night since we knocked off early then too so we hit up the St. George nightlife. Well come to find out there is no nightlife. So instead we got takeaway from the Asian Pearl Restaurant. Pretty fantastic, made some Kool-aid and it was a nice relaxing night. I like it here well enough, but I'm also ready for something new. We shall see what's in store...

Posted by owensj11 01:47 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Sick

sunny

I haven't been feeling well for a few days and today this feeling of unwell decided to ramp up. Thus I am not working today and have instead spent my day between sleeping and the bathroom. Fun times. Good to know I came halfway across the world to the little town of St George to get sick. Alas I'm being a little harsh, we're here for a year, we can't expect to be healthy for that length of time, can we? Sitting in this backpacker's hostel, which is being nice, after this experience we're pretty sure we'll have a better understanding of what being a migrant worker is like, is the peak of fun. Its a metal prefab trailer essentially, broken up into five identical box rooms. We have a bunkbed that is almost too short, when stretched out I can feel the bars about 2" above my head while my feet bang the bars at the other end, a cabinet, two shelves, and a plastic stool. Oh, and a fluorescent light and a loud rattling A/C unit, that does work but I'm not using because of the noise. Bathrooms are in the next block over, they too are a prefab with 4 bathrooms, each with a shower stall, and at one end, a laundry room with one machine that costs $3 a use. Two clothes lines hang out behind the building. Kitchen and dining commons are in another trailer, by far the oldest looking one. Yes, we certainly are living large here in St George.

Jeff's update from the other day sums up the last week rather well I think, it doesn't go into the level of innocuous detail that I enjoy, but it does well. You can get a sense of how busy we've been the last week, why the updates haven't happened. He's right and I have no rebuttal against his claims, I didn't call anyone that day and we drove the seven hours and had no where to sleep. My fault, but it did give us a chance to work out our tensions a bit, nonviolently of course, and our time in St George since has been relatively well since then.

We are planning our next trip, if we make enough from this to not have to work for a while we're going to take our time and see the Gold Coast on our way back to the family so we can be around there when our Grandmother gets in at the end of October.

Posted by owensj11 20:12 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Yeah it's a bit sporadic, a bit therapeutic, a bit boring..

Hit me up on Facebook if there's any serious jumps, I'll fill them in for you. After reading you'll understand why we don't do it everyday.

all seasons in one day

Just some general musings, a little food for thought. The Nance is driving for his first long stretch of the Bruce so gives me a little time to type. Not sure what’s been posted thus far on here from Jake about our time spent in Cairns, bear with me if there are some overlaps.

Let’s go back to our departure from Airlie Beach way down the coast. I’d had it in my head that finding a job up here would be much easier done than said, but I was wrong. Job hunting is cutthroat right now, especially since the cyclone knocked out so many banana farms, so after driving the 6 hours to Tully where I swear every website said things like “jobs year round” or “busy all year” it really meant if you’re lucky then possibly, maybe you can find a crap job during the slower season. That and Tully kind of sucked as any sort of urban centre, it was on the west side of the Bruce away from the ocean and it just seem dirty. Thank goodness it had the giant gumboot to signify that it was the wettest place in AU or else I would have expected some compensation just for stopping in. From there it was to Innisfail a much better city and somewhere I wouldn’t mind spending a month or two, but the fates decreed it not to be so (no jobs and hostels full). On to Cairns it was then, only another two hours of driving with the sun in your eyes and a bit of anxiety about not finding any work (what had we signed ourselves up for?). Tensions were high, so we spent the next day catching our breath and avoiding each other because honestly I’d spent more time with Nancy than I had in years, it gets to you after a while. I lounged by the hostel’s pool for a few hours, then walked to the Cairn’s esplanade lagoon and lounged some more. Nancy read and did some stuff I suppose, I didn’t see him. That time apart worked and we began planning just a few days holiday then we’d go back to the fam and hope they’ll take us in until we can find something. Of course I was emailing and calling about jobs, but nothing, and I mean nothing was coming up. So we did the reef, absolutely amazing even though it was the second time for me. I’d went back in 2007 with my cousin and it was great but this time was probably a little better. Swam with a sea turtle, how many people can say they did that? Even though we did very little actually sailing on account of the wind, I still loved the notion of setting sail around the tropical paradise of the reef with nothing but the sound of the ocean and smell of the sea spray around you. I’m going to live by the ocean, I could’ve spent all year out there. Of course after spending the day staring at the cute and lively fish of the reef, all I wanted for dinner was a delicious fish dinner, but couldn’t find any place that struck my fancy so instead just got the cheapest fish and chips we found and guess what? It tasted like the cheapest fish and chips you can find. Ah well I guess not every meal can be the best.

The next day after dragging the Nance up, we headed into the Daintree Rainforest. The place just feels old, it’s basically been unchanged for over 3.5 million years and you are just sort of hit by that unexpectedly while traveling it. The only way to cross into the heart of the Rainforest is by ferry over a crocodile infested muddy brown river. Nancy straight up decided he did not want to take the river cruise that gets you as close as you can to these beasts so instead we took off into the mountains that form the rainforest. Not sure if you remember but Cory (our Toyota Corolla) is 16 years young and has been known to burn a fair but of oil on occasion, so taking off into a largely uninhabited mountainous region was an adventure all of its own, but we knew Cory has the heart of a champion and would do us proud. Our destination was the last part of the only sealed road through the Daintree called Cape Tribulation, where to go any further north you need a fourwheel drive. Having decided to just drive ourselves meant we weren’t sure where the good bits to stop and explore were instead we stopped at them all. And I am glad we did. When we were basically shoved off the road by a ute with a deathwish we saw a Cassoway and it’s chick in the wild just trucking through the woods! Now Cassowaries are close relatives of the Ostrich meaning that I was slightly nervous that it was going to run us down and kill us, but totally worth it to see it in the wild. Then after what felt like hours of driving we get to a sign that says “unsealed road ending in 1.3km’ and I’m thinking, Cape Trib is pretty big how did we miss it? So we got out and lunched on the beach that was there. After that we just drove the last 1.3 km and wouldn’t you know it. That’s Cape Trib. Hung out then headed back and in what seemed like no time we were back at the ferry and then back in Cairns.

Then we got a call back on a job! Sure it was actually further South than Gympie and they want us there by Thursday, it’s Monday. A 4 day drive in two days? Sign me UP! The drive was terrible, hours upon hours upon hours of the same road we drive last week, the Bruce Highway and I am over it. By the time we got to Kyla’s again we were beat, just another 7 hours tomorrow til St. George and hopefully some time outside the car.

Well it finally happened. It was a long way coming and better that it happened now and not when we still had days of driving together. Of course I’m talking about blowing up at the Nance’s inability to perform any task independently(I considered not posting this bit, but I know if I was following someone’s blog, I’d want to read it hahaha). Yeah we drove 7 hours to St. George and we missed a call from our prospective employer (I do most of the driving and it is a serious offense to be caught on the phone while driving so I thought I could leave it up to him) and the most he’d done in the way of looking for accommodation was email some places and when he finally said that no one emailed back was when I snapped. It’s practically the Outback did he think people would email back in less than 24 hours? I was most displeased. It took an extra 20 mins to call those places find prices, locations and vacancies. It needed to happen, cleared the air in a way and now that it’s over we are better for it. All worked out in the end and we are staying in beautiful St. George for the next few weeks.

Alright, St. George, it is a small town in the beginning of the Australian Outback. So it’s got it all, desert heat, frigid mornings, and it’s hard to explain, but seriously the sun here is so much more brutal than back home. It might have something to do with thinning ozone or something else entirely I don’t quite know, all I do know is that if you go without sunscreen for even from 6a to 10a you will get a burn, it’s awful, but a reasonable risk as long as you wear some freaking sunscreen. As Nance learned in Cairns when out on the reef his back got it bad. No Mackers no Hungry Jacks, not even a Coles foodshop. Overall though I don’t mind the town, situated on a decent river with some decent fishing (not that our job allows for this) and some alright folks.

Our beautiful accommodation features a bunch of metal siding sheds a few Ks out of town with a nice walk through the grass to the kitchen shed or the toilet shed. It’s cheap and that’s why we are here, to make money to fund our trip through the year end if necessary. The couple who run it are a bit strange, but at this point it takes a bit more to shock us. Even though we’ve only been here three days, we have had quite a bit of turnover, a few Frenchies, some Tahitians, a few I believe Chinese, and even an Aussie. Good to meet people like us, just following some work.

The job is…well let me say it pays $19.50/hr and we work 10-11 hours a day, seven days a week. Sound awesome yet? Let me tell you what we do for that period of time. We are working with a contracting company that is working on table grape farm. The work is putting up steel posts on top of each post, that forms the network of wires that the grapes grow on. Now about 5 meters separate each post and there is a “bike” (ATV) that you ride between each row that has a gas generator on the back that powers a drill which, with one bloke holding the post at the prescribed height the other worms the drill between the wires and vines to drill in two screws. The first bloke holds the pole while you start the top one then the driller gets to put in the second one while the other bloke drives the bike to the next post and you do the same thing. It’s about 20-30 posts per row and then about 100 or so rows to each section and we are doing 9 sections. At the rate we’re going should be about 2 weeks to finish. I worked with Whatshisface (we are not doing well with names so we provide our own so we can keep track) the first day and it was tough, I won’t lie, we do that procedure from 6a-10a then it’s morning tea (America needs to implement this tea business, I know I’m hooked and will continue it when I come back), then it’s 10:30a–1p and then lunch and then from 1:30p to 5p and it’s qutting time. We wake up at 4:30 and everyday though it gets a little better. It’s seriously about 12 degrees when we wake up and by 9a it’s already 22+ it is all about dressing in layers, props to growing up in MI we know about this. So I only worked with Whatshisface the first day since then it’s been Nancy and I and two employees of the contractor company, Popeye and Kiddo, working two rows every 30 minutes. It is boring, hot and when you are the one drilling, it starts to rattle your brain, not to mention the cuts from the grapevines, blisters from the drill and the ever present danger of venomous snakes. Though I do hope we encounter a snake, just one, so we can cross it off our indigenous species of animals bingo we’ve got going. See wild Kangaroos every morning on the way to work and they are the deer of Australia because they’ll run out in front of you quick as you please and easily total your car. Though I still think it’s cool to see them. Ah the joys of manual labour, I’ll persevere and be a better man, what’s left of me.

Posted by owensj11 02:26 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The Journey to the Tropics

Day 5, The Great Barrier Reef

sunny
View The Adventure in AU on owensj11's travel map.

Woke up early to make our check in time. We get there and boarded and they have coffee and some muffins out for us, nice. Our ship today is a nice catamaran, very clean, sleek. We get underway around eight. Excitement is high. We meet some of our crew, Geordi, Mel, Ashley. Mel leads us through the safety demonstration, it shows she actually likes her job and she makes it fun. The wind has kicked up and we’re bouncing a little, but we stay out on the deck to enjoy the sight and the feel of the sea spray.

Near our first stop of the day we’re called inside for a short pep talk, I don’t like being inside, I feel a little seasick with the motions but not seeing them. We’re to get out fins and masks (and a wetsuit if you want for $7) and line up to board the glass bottom boat they keep out here to ferry us to the shore of the sand bar. We opt not for wetsuits, its windy, but warm, the water is around 25 degrees. Once reaching shore though we notice a problem, the wind is whipping the sand hard enough that it stings. Our time on land is brief then. We don our gear and dive in.

IT IS SO AWESOME.

The colours, the fish, the coral. There was one fish that was such a vivid rainbow, it had all the colours, but was primarily violet along its back. And out closer to the boat we saw Angel Fish. Back on the land the sounds of the birds is respectably around nightmares about Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Estimates are that at any time there are about 70,000 birds on this spot of land. Back in the water some more, the giant clams, more fish, more coral, some of them move in the currents, others that look like brains or bumpy rocks.

Back to the boat for lunch. A nice buffet of warm and cold dishes. Hungry from the swimming. They have a license to feed the fish the left over seafood from lunch, we gather on the deck to watch the Angel Fish fight for it.

After lunch it is time to move to the other site. We are secured to some buoys and it is on again. Not many people take the plunge. By this time the wind is getting worse, we’re all wet and cold. The water is very choppy and you dive into deep water and swim to the reef. Jeff and I debate for a while but decide no, we came here to do this, and we’re going to do it. He goes first; I wait to see how it goes for him. He’s in and gives me the thumbs up. I follow soon after.

Don’t know why we hesitated, this is even better than the first site. You jump into water that is maybe 15-20m, it sounds daunting, but once you’re in, the water is so clear, you can see down there and its cool. The fins make a huge difference in swimming and in no time we’re at the reef. The fish here are so amazing. There was one that had to be 1 to 1.25m long! Thankfully it kept its distance. So many more fish here and they have no fear of us, in fact that they don’t even to notice we’re there. One passed right across my chest, I thought for sure it was going to hit me, but it didn’t. Its much deeper here, the coral is way bigger and more colourful too. We swim for a while, for those that don’t feel as comfortable in the deeper water some of the crew take the round life preservers and you can hold that and they’ll help guide you around. We don’t grab on, but we follow them a little to see if they’ll show us cool stuff. Plus it is a little apprehensive about being so far out there by myself. You don’t hear it much, and on a map it looks like the reef is right next to the mainland, but it is not! Its over thirty nautical miles out and we’re all that is around for many miles. We swim for about an hour this time. Start heading in when we each see, from different points a Sea Turtle! I almost ran into it before I saw it, Jeff was coming from the other direction, and watching to see if I’d hit the turtle. I didn’t hit it, but came close. It was so cool! We didn’t get a chance to ask how old it was, but we followed it until it went deep.

I don't know what else I can say about the reef, maybe Jeff will add something later, but its just incredible. So vivid and lively, you have to see it. Put it on your list of things to see. It'll be worth it, trust me. You can see pictures of it, and Finding Nemo, but you don't get the scale of it from them. You have to see it to get the whole picture. I would go back, if any of you are coming to see it, let me know, I'll go again.

Back on the boat we get our spots on the deck from before and settle in for trip to shore. The wind has turned the water into a field of rolling swell, on average around 1-2m. It makes for a fun ride home, but we don’t get to sail. They raise the sail for us anyway, but we continue on the motors. We’re bounding on the seas and at a few times it does push our stomachs into our throats. I stare at a point on the horizon to calm my stomach. That really works. Pick a spot out there, take some deep breaths, and the upset feeling goes away even while you're bouncing around. We get soaked with spray. There is whale spotted a ways away from us. All we can see is the spray when it clears the blowhole. Another boat traveling closer to the whale has to change course so they don’t collide. As we get closer to shore the sea does calm and the ride becomes smooth and relaxing. We go inside for afternoon tea, coffee and some biscuits.

The crew gets off and stands in line to shake all of our hands when we disembark, it feels a little weird, like being in kid's sports again, but a nice gesture. They all were a joy, they all actually seem to enjoy their work and it makes for a much better experience for us.

One thing we were not prepared for was the salt. Ok, we all know the oceans are salt, but have you ever spent a day snorkeling in it? Being drenched by it? When the water evaporates there is so much salt left on everything, our clothes, our towels, us, even our sunglasses. Okay, it might not have been just from the swimming. We probably would of been okay from just that, but getting drenched on the way back from the spray is the likelier culprit. First thing we do is each take showers when we return. That’s when I find out how bad it is on our towels, trying to use my towel from earlier just smears salt back on me. I do a load of laundry, our stuff from today, to get the salt out and to keep it from smelling. We go out and have some pretty bad fish and chips at the Night Markets. Back to the room, I finish a book and Jeff looks into how our trip into the Daintree is going to work. We’ll drive into it tomorrow and come back to our room in Cairns, there are not any rooms up closer or farther down, as we thought we might start out trip back towards Brisbane tomorrow. Looks like we’re setting out for that on Monday, hope to stop in Airlie Beach again for the night.

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

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