Saturday 29 May 2010

Australia Adventures: 10. Dreamin' Avocados, Livin' as a Tourist Attraction and My One Trick Pony (well...Horse)

G'Day Everybody!



Its been a while since I've been near a computer as I've been way out here getting grubby and dirty in the country.

Well for the past weeks I have been working on Avocado farms in a small town called Kairi outside of Atherton in the Tablelands of Tropical Northern Queensland. The town is the complete reverse of life as I am used to in London with it consisting of one road with a pub and a shop....thats it.


The job at the first farm I was initially working for packing avocados into boxes only lasted 2 weeks which wasn't going to be enough funds to get me up to Rainforest and to The Great Barrier Reef so I had to come up with a contingency plan which are really helpful to have on the road when you get unpredictable curve balls like this.

I moved into the Kairi pub manned by a jittery old Aussie bloke named Finn who sat in the laundry room drinking 'XXXX Lager' or 'Toohey's New' the popular Queensland drink in a small bottle 'Stubbie' (contrary to what the outside world thinks, Aussie's don't drink 'Fosters'). The word 'Bloody' over here is used in pretty much most sentences which makes no one utter in disgust as a curse word - even on the beer labels the serving instructions tell you to serve it 'Bloody Cold' ha!

The pub was extremely cheap rent, a tip off I got from another backpacker picking Avocados at my last farm and borrowed one of the locals scooters to cruise around the surrounding potato, peanut and 'Avo' farms that were in season asking for work to the drawling farmers telling me to go somewhere else. I survived nibbling on the corn from the fields and of course on free avocados and faced getting chased by dogs and spooking out rock wallabies in the grass.




Fate smiled on me and I eventually landed myself another job on a neighbouring Avocado farm where the farmer I was working for lent me a bicycle from his family shed so I could get to the farm and didn't leave me totally anchored at the pub. The farmlands were beautiful cycling through them at sunset after work. It was a godsend and with that and my scooter I occasionally borrowed, 'Boots' and I could take some adventures exploring across the farmlands and down to the enormous artificial Lake Tinaroo



A cute thing I have noticed out here in the Australian country is that farmers families harvest their crops and then sell them in a little shack on the roadside with an 'honesty' system where passerbys donate a few dollars in a money box in exchange for a bag of avocados or paw paws. How sweet! can't imagine it happening in London, but the mentality of folk are refreshingly honest and different out here. My boss' son Joel made it his own little business with his dads Avocados and I always found it charming passing his little stall on the roadside after I'd finished work offering a bag of Avos for $2. Bargain.


It has been a far more authentic experience for me living with the locals than living in a backpackers in Atherton or in the city beause I was seeing the 'real' australia - living and drinking (kind of hard not to when you live in a pub) with the small town local characters playing dart and pool against them and in theory treated as one of them (even though at times I did feel quite a tourist attraction being the only girl aside from mature Margy the barmaid in that pub for a long time, you have to tolerate quite a bit) I've come to know everyones dog here as all Aussie farmers have a faithful friend - this one is Schooner who's a regular and is happy to give you a high five...


And some that like to drop by too...


As I was such a 'nice pommie girl in gum boots' 'Boots' were put to good use as we were treated to motorbike rides into the Queensland hills, fishing outings, swimming in the lakes and the Millaa Waterfalls, and an aboriginal led Rainforest walk by a member of the Ngadjonji Aborigine community in Malanda. Most names of places have a very evident and distinct Aborigine influence here - Yungaburra, Malanda, Millaa....kinda cool.
You know I thought there were things out in the Amazon rainforest which were bad but in the Australian Rainforests up here in the tropics, there is a certain type of plant called a 'Stinging Tree' which is pretty much a no brainer for most people. Well they are this small stemmed plant with a heart shape and jagged edges, if touched the folicules from the leaves getting under your skins and cause a rash and burning pain - yikes!





spying a very rare 'Tree Kangaroo'...I was so lucky to see one because they are not out and about often.


Of course, I've had to keep myself entertained in the pub too and was asked to join the towns pool team and travelled around the Tablelands playing pool against other towns which was great excuse to go see other places and meet more Australian folk - besides I was the only 'Shiela' too! I even played against the native Aborigines which was quite a highlight for me - and perfected my house of coaster card building record too of course.....can even hold a stubbie of Cider


Queensland is a beautiful part of Australia, my favourite so far. Just when I found myself starting to dream about Avocados after a month or so, the market for them went down - they weren't selling enough so there was no need to harvest them anymore. I alternately stayed at the pub and started washing farmers cars and even their dogs (would you believe) while they came in to have a drink and cleaning locals houses and sheds for money - some were very generous but not so keen on washing cars anymore! I also helped collect firewood from farms and cut them for the fire and helped out in the pubs restaurant at night in exchange for my rent. So I've been working as the Aussies say 'Bloody hard!'

There is definitely some interesting people living in pubs why they are there, how they got there - many of them alcoholics! but usually if you advertise the fact you need a job, many people will try and give you some leads. Its the kindness of human nature.
Every year, the Australian Sporting World erupts with competitive aggression for something very poignant in their Sporting Calendar called the 'State of Origin' rugby game which is like the World Cup here in Oz. Its an iconic showdown on the rugby pitch in a series of matches between the states of Queensland and New South Wales which the whole town gets into. Being in Queensland I had to go with supporting the 'Cane Toads' and it was a great match to watch for the first time in the Kairi pub with the locals especially because Queensland won.

To finish off this blog I also had my own horse up here...very random I know and this is something I always wanted as a little girl as I love horses. He's not really mine in theory - a 6 year Clydesdale named Pablo, he's gorgeous but doesn't get ridden much by the guy who keeps him in his boatyard and offered me to come and treat him like my own. I've been learning to ride him bareback but he hasn't been ridden in a long time so he's very lazy but I love him. Horses are much more accessible here than they are in the snooty Equestrian world of England where your mother needs to be in the Pony Club....ok bit of an exaggeration but still I can have him all to myself.


But as life is going on, the snowball affect of sadness will be rolling as now its time to play so 'Boots' and I will be saying goodbye in a couple of days and will be leaving the sleepy town of Kairi and the quirky Aussie characters behind to embark on the next stage of my travels up through the Daintree Rainforest enroute to Cape Tribulation and out to the Marine paradise of the The Great Barrier Reef...


 Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!

See ya

With Lonely Planet Travel Guide - Australia