2018: The Wanderings so far

After taking a break from travelling I have now been back n Australia for two months and the time has flown by. But that doesn’t mean it’s been without the usual calamities that follow me around.

So far I’ve had my phone stolen, I was fired from a job I quit and have been bitten by a pig whilst up to my knees in pig shit. But overall I’m happy to be back in Australia.

I returned to Australia just after New Years, and started in Adelaide, South Australia, which I only spent a day in last year, after spending 6 months in Queensland last year I wanted to avoid it at all costs and see the rest of Australia like I had planned last year. I spent a week in Adelaide visiting the museums and galleries, eating way too much Lord of the Fries, and searching way too hard for bottles of Great Northern.

One afternoon after visiting Café Troppo I decided to go and sit under a tree in the park across the road, after a while a drunk woman came and sat next to me and began talking to me. To be honest I found her unnerving and should have got up and left but, as a friend of mine later said, my Britishness meant I didn’t leave. Instead I sat awkwardly with her watching her eye up my rucksack, before she took my phone out of my hands after pinching the earphone out of my ear and asking what I was listening too. At this point I was shouting at myself in my head for being so silly I’d let the woman take the phone out of my hands and she was obviously going to steal it. Within moments she stood up and asked if I wanted a joint, I said no and asked for my phone back, and then she walked off.

Luckily, I suppose, there were some police officers on the other side of the park, so I quickly walked over to them. Running through how ridiculous my “she literally took the phone out of my hands” story was going to sound. They were more than happy to help, and took my statement in the car, before two officers set off on foot down the streets and I ended up being driven around residential Adelaide. After about ten minutes we drove back to the park, just as they were taking my statement, a guy on a park bench called out and pointed across the park, there was the woman in a newly acquired baseball cap pulled down to hide her face and a pink scarf, you couldn’t make it up, it looked so silly. The policeman drove across the park and caught up with her, as I just about died of embarrassment in the car. He got out of the car and stopped her, and she came over opened the door and dropped my phone in my lap. “I was just borrowing it, she got paranoid.” The woman said.

I sat and waited as a police van arrived and then finished my statement before being dropped off back at my hostel by the two police officers who had a great sense of humour. I asked whether all Australian police are armed and the officer driving said “yeah, two arms!” And waved his arms around, the other one had spent time in England and knew what chavs were and the word ‘munted’ and other bits of slang that I know from home. As a joke on me they pulled up in front of the hostel and let me go, which I couldn’t help but laugh at.

Pretty shortly after that I started applying for jobs, initially I said I wouldn’t go back to Queensland, particularly not outback Queensland, as I’d spent so much time there already. But then I saw an ad on gumtree for a hotel in Cloncurry and thought I was sure to get a job there.

I knew it was a mistake the moment I walked through the door of my room, it made me realise that I completely lucked out last year both at the hotel and the farm. There were weird stains on the wall, gravy on the carpet, grime in the shower and the toilet was filthy too. I had a flashback to being back on the farm and the hours I’d spent keeping the place spotless, and how impressed I’d been at how clean the farm was. How nice my room in the hotel had been in Winton, and now I was here. At the induction meeting with the boss I asked if housekeeping had gone over the room, apparently only to put the sheets on, “some of the girls aren’t good housekeepers,” the hotel manager said and I pretty much knew what I’d got myself into.

Backpackers are a disposable workforce and have a reputation for being lazy, unclean and a destructive bunch, and apparently over the years of hiring travellers, the owners of the hotel didn’t care to keep the staff quarters clean for workers. I wouldn’t say I’m a neat freak, I’m quite a messy person, but I’m not dirty, so the first thing I did was go out and buy a lot of wet wipes. I hadn’t planned to have to clean my accommodation, but I told myself it was part of making the place home for however long I’d stay there.

It was slow season in Queensland, summer sees 40 degree heat and high humidity, the walk from the hotel to Woolworths was like walking through treacle and I’d lived through this season in Winton last year. The locals at the pub were an uninteresting lot, on my first shift there were three fights, the first broke out between two men and one of their girlfriends picked up a pool cue and beat the other guy ineffectively. It got busy on poker nights and at the weekends, where the bar would be open till 2am. I didn’t mind the busy shifts too much, it’s just it only got busy after 11pm. The management didn’t believe in breaks (because you’d work split shifts or have most of the day off). But starting at 4pm or 6pm through to 2am was a massive ball ache. During this time I was also trying to finish my masters application at the library, thinking the librarian would be as lenient as the one in Winton, there was literally no one using the computers. But nope, there was a one hour limit and the librarian was strict about it and I got chased off the computer numerous times. Somehow I managed to get the damned thing done.

After a week working I was already having doubts about the job, and then I got told I would be getting a roommate. Initially I was furious at the idea, but thankfully my roommate was a lovely, down to earth person (like me), Alex honestly made my time in Cloncurry worth it.

A couple of weeks into the job I messaged my boss at the farm and asked if they’d be hiring in February as I was sick of the pub already, unfortunately they could only take me in March and so I did my best to stick it out until the end of the month.

One day when I went into work the book keeper came and wanted a word with me, “Management think you’re unhappy, and if you are you don’t have to stay,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said “I was meaning to tell someone I’m planning on leaving at the end of the month.” (Which would have been within their three week ‘notice’ period). She left and came back ten minutes later and said “I’ve spoken to Igor, and he said if that’s the case can you work this week and then leave.” Clearly I’d made an impression.

Initially I was a bit shocked but then realising I really didn’t give a shit about the job. Fuck it I thought I’ll go to Magnetic Island! I left the next week and arranged a HelpX on Magnetic Island. Part of not wanting to go back to Queensland was not wanting to revisit the places I visited last year. (But I ended up in Cloncurry d’oh!). The team I worked with at the hotel were lovely and I couldn’t fault them, it was the management that irked me and I was relieved to leave.

(Arcadia)

I got back to Townsville to clammy humidity, and got the ferry to Magnetic Island where I spent the week staying with a lovely couple, Mark and Thalie, who in return for doing household chores let me stay at their house in the room they let out for Airbnb. Honestly it was probably one of the best things I’ve done whilst travelling, someone recommended HelpX last year but after working so hard at the farm I didn’t fancy working hard just for a place to sleep. However this time round it worked out fine. Whilst on the island I experienced tropical storms, the light lit up like strobe lighting and the thunder roared all night long. I went on the forts walk and saw the koalas, which are so cute, and then on my last day on the island my hosts took me on a tour of the island and it was amazing. It makes me smile thinking about my week on Magnetic Island and I miss Arcadia beach a lot.

(Radical Bay)

Then I returned to the farm, which my friends and family and even I was a bit apprehensive about, I can remember last year as I neared the end of my 88 days saying to my Mum on the phone “I’d definitely come back and visit but I don’t think I could do 90 days again.” And well here I am. I’m planning on staying until May or June, which means I will be domestic during the muster season again – I’m hoping for fewer meltdowns, stay tuned.

(Saxby River cutting us off from town)

The day after I arrived we got rain, and it rained for a few days continuously. I got to experience wet season, the river overflowed cutting us off from town for two weeks. The power went one day and to pass the time my boss and I made fudge and rum balls. Supplies began to start running low, leaving us with an alarming amount of tinned beetroot and pineapple, and having to look up flourless recipes. As of last weekend the river went down and the mail man came today, I don’t think I’ve been so excited to receive carrots and self-raising flour before in my life.

One of the first jobs I was given alongside our newest member of staff was to clean out and move the pigs water trough, which was submerged in mud and pig shit, not helped by the recent rain. Due to a lack of gum boots (wellies, whatever), the newbie didn’t join me in the shit pit at first. I climbed over the flimsy wire fence and tried to carefully land in the pen. As my feet landed in the swill, a splash of mud and shit jumped up and hit me in the eye, “can you please get me that hose?” I said calmly as I held my eye shut and took a few deep breaths. I washed my eye out, before trying to lift the water trough out of the mud. The problem wasn’t the weight, as my coworker noted later, when he joined me to help me free the trough, after returning to the homestead to find a pair of wellies and returning unsuccessful and finding me stuck in the same position. Whilst he was away, I had tried and tried to lift the water trough out of the mud, up to my shins and elbows in pig shit. It was at this point that one of the eight pigs decided to come over for a sniff. Nothing to worry about I thought until suddenly the sniff turned into a bite, I screamed in its face and probably smacked it, I can’t remember, although I know I didn’t cry. Pigs can bite through bone and so I suppose I got away lucky with a gigantic bruise on my arm. My coworker stripped down to his boxers to help me get the trough out, which impressed me (no, not in that way), that he was willing to get down and dirty on his first day (again, not like that).

I’m glad I came back to the farm and it’s nice being a trusted member of staff, meaning I can just get on with my jobs, and listening to newbies get lectured (though I have made some mistakes already!). The other day the new guy got in trouble for unknowingly parking too close to the septic tank which then led to a lecture from my boss about septic tanks, and later when my boss was relaying the lecture to me, turned into a discussion about toilets. Apparently the amount of water used in flushing away wee is wasteful, and then somehow the conversation led to being asked whether I scrunch or roll toilet paper, I never did find out what the point was. Hey ho never a dull moment on a cattle station.

Finally for anyone wondering about Kelso, the goat I raised as a newborn last year. He is gorgeous and cheeky and banished from the garden. He wanders from paddock to paddock eating all the other animals foods, apparently even eating the stallions’ food. Every morning I am greeted by his bleeting and the sound of him squeezing his tubby body through the fence to come and eat the sheeps hay, before going back and engaging in head butting contests with the cows over food. If he fancies something different he has a tendency to find a tree and stand on two legs to sample the leaves it’s a funny sight. I’d like to think he remembers me, though I can’t be sure, he’s no good at responding to his name but he lets me cuddle him. Everyone else thinks he’s a pain in the neck but he’s my baby and I love him.

(Look at how tiny he was!)

So that’s it for now, I’m working hard and waiting with baited breath to hear back about my masters application but luckily preparations for mustering are keeping me busy.

Thanks for reading

Hx

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