Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts

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 

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Australia Adventures: 9. My Night In The Australian Bush...

Ever wondered what the Aussie Bush is like at night? On the Yurt Farm besides the Village, Mike had built four more Yurts spread across his land for more private stays for people or for the more adventurous types. I was one of the those people and having visited some of the other yurts with my fellow Wwoofers, I wanted to experience being out in the bush overnight on my own with my new found skills, wanting to shake off my push-button city girl background and fend for my self. So I packed my bag, threw in a tin of spaghetti and armed with 'Boots' headed into the bush with the snakes and Kangeroos to find a yurt for the night.....
The good news is....I survived it! and I cannot tell you how beautiful it is to walk back through the bush at sunrise listening to the laughing Kookaburras and watching the flight of wild grey Kangeroos for the first time.
I stayed at the farm for 2 months and more WWOOFers came along, Leisbeth and Nele from Belgium, Dan from Canada, Struen from Scotland and Heather and Sean from Ireland, so I was meeting different people from around the world and working and living with them. It’s a very unique experience, especially when we were the first WWOOFers to find the surf boards and clean them off to surf the farm dams! Its been a blast and I’m gonna do more WWOOFIN’ working my way around Australia. I’ve had so many good times and adventures so far It’s the best way, you get to meet actual Australians and be part of their lives which I feel is a much more of an adventure.

I began painting a horse mural as a gift to the family for their kindness but the avocado harvest is starting so I plan to return one day to finish it. It feels good to be here ready to work, the weather is getting bad in NSW so I bought a plane ticket with my last set of funds and ran away to the north for the winter! ha (seems to be the only country where you can actually escape from the winter so you can have an endless summer - very sweet)


I leave the Yurtfarm for now, remembering the wisdom of Mike as he told me Five Golden things that most people may need to find their lives fulfilled.

1. To be in Love with someone
2. To have someone Love you back
3. To have something to play
4. Have a passion
5. Have a job you like

But onto the next chapter of the adventure……..and I hope its a job I like which will finally get me some money in my pocket…one eventually gets tired of Nutella Sandwiches and Apples haha!


With Lonely Planet Travel Guide Australia 

Friday, 9 April 2010

Australia Adventures: 8. Woofin' The Yurtfarm

'The core of ones spirit comes from new experiences'


Which you believe its April already and have a track record of existing in the Land of Oz for 2 and a half months now and I'm still alive!

I've ended up in the tropics of Cairns, Far North Queensland and it is scorching hot!! I feel I can’t stand outside for too long as the heat is so overwhelming but hey better than the cold! I flew here after slumming it on the floor of Sydney airport, I felt homeless, nice insight into the world but 20 other people were doing it too. I pretty much got little sleep so I pretty much crashed out when I found this earthy backpackers in Cairns city. There has been an oil spill on the Great Barrier Reef which is not good for its well being. So finally having time to sit down and reminisce about the adventures.

The reason for my whereabouts up here in the Tropics I owe to two people I was rooming with in Sydney - with my funds rapidly depleting, one Australian girl was kind enough to give me a phone number of a Avocado farmer she knew near Cairns who might be harvesting soon. Without a doubt I called him up and he could give me a job in April.....which was two months I had to come up with a way to stall my spending till then. Word was on the 'backpacker scene' about a scheme called 'Willing Workers On Organic Farms' or 'WWOOFing' as its commonly known. This was an organisation (which is all over the world apparently) which acted kinda like a cultural exchange getting you off the tourist trail. You buy the book with a membership fee of $60 which lists all the farms in Australia who take volunteers to come help out on their farm and for 4 hours work you get food and board. No money spending from there on and boy my money was scarce and the farm life would be so novel for me, having not really been involved with a farm except the petting farms we would visit on school trips.

Flicking through the handy sized book (which I instantly warmed to being printed on recycled paper and with plant based ink), I first saw advertised in the Sydney area a number and brief description of a WWOOF farm called the ‘YurtFarm’ it was in a country town called Goulburn home of the giant 'Big Merino' statue, 3 hrs away from Sydney.
Now I actually have no real idea what a 'Yurt' was and I am one for novel, unfamiliar experiences so I went for it and gave them a call to ask if they needed any help. I was in luck, I could go in a few days and could easily catch a train straight there from the city. 


So I did......

and getting off into the small country town, I felt a sigh of relief to be out of the honeypot trap of Sydney and into the calmness of this little town with its buildings echoing the scene of a Western film set. I couldn’t get in touch with the farmers and then realised I would be needing some Wellington Boots - if I was going to be immersing myself in farm life for a while I needed the look for it. So I walked nearby and found an agricultural kind of place which catered for the labouring man (or women) but when I asked for 'Wellies' I got a strange look and was told 'Nah you mean Gum Boots' and taken to the Gum Boot department...... and that's when I saw them, we were the perfect other footwear needed.
After being preached to about Jesus by this old guy who introduced himself as Tony, now equipped with my hard wearing 'Boots' I was lucky enough to hitchhike up to the farm which was about 20kms out of the town, through the rolling hills and dusty road sides. Really it was pretty isolated but this was the adventure of it. I knew this was the right place as I recognised the farmers name on the cute little letter box on the roadside next to a sign clearly stating 'Yurtfarm' so you didn't have to be a moron to work it out.

I entered pushing the long wooden gate, closing it behind me of course remembering the Country Code - and was met by an old VW beetle with wooden figures dressed in clothes sticking out of it which sort of confused me and proceeded to walk with 'Boots' of course down the main path channeled by these glorious pink flowers flourishing in the summer bloom. A little down the path, I became surrounded by a tree house and psychedelic decorated trees and shed making it look like some peaceful hippy retreat with signs saying 'To the Meditation Garden'. It was so cute, just like you'd imagine a chocolate box idea of a proper farm, barn, tractor and horses...... 






Two English girls Josie and Sophie and a German boy Flo had arrived the day before to start work there and told me I could find the farmers partner Judit who was busy shearing sheep in the barn when I turned up with two daughter Ruby and Tess. The farm was abundant with art work from past Wwoofers and cultivated the idea of a primitive 'Back to Basics' ethos which really attracted me to the place with various signs saying 'No T.V' and 'Live Life'. I knew I was going to like it....

Mike the farmer came home from town and showed me his Yurt Village about 2Km away from the main farmhouse on his 1175 acre sized land which he's been building since the 80's. I was extremely impressed with his self made village with 13 different coloured Yurts looking very much like giant cupcakes dotted around a lake. Mike invited youth groups and visitors to come stay in the village to learn how to be self sufficient and adopt a more country 'back to basics' lifestyle, something that has faded in the digital age of the today's world. But these places still existed and I was enchanted by the womb like bubble of the farm like Peter Pan's NeverNever Land where you don't have to grow up and are free to release your spirit in the simplicity of the place


In case you're wondering - a 'Yurt' is a wooden round house taken from the idea of the Mongolian Yurt tents and made into houses – they are WICKED everyone should have one. You can make them for any use, and they have open fires and are cheap to make. He got the idea to bring them to Australia when he was broke in the USA after the wool industry collapsed and was forced to close his Merino sheep farm. Mike discovered the Yurts at a self help centre in California and brought them to Australia as a new business in Goulburn and is pretty famous here for doing it, he was on the TV and had magazine interviews the lot.


Mike proudly showed me around his village after a quick knock of Ping Pong in one of the Yurts and was astonished to find he had constructed a crazy golf course, a sports field, a workshop where he would teach kids to build mini boats, a flying fox, a bathroom and two toilets whos walls were adorned with inspirational messages from past visitors and the like.


      Hand on heart - I absolutely loved the place and its ethics.

So life as a farmhand....its great fun and has given me the opportunity to do thing I'd never had the chance to do in life before. I'm kinda converting to a country girl. The great thing is that everyday was unpredictable and would wake up not knowing what we would be doing as everyday was never the same. We had our own WWOOF House which was a charming little cottage sharing it with the Huntsman Spider 'Spartacus' (you get used to them, they are harmless). We started work at 8:00am till 12:00pm where we squeezed in a 'Smoko' (a break), Mike getting out his guitar to sing us a few Aussie country songs 'Home Amongst the Gum Trees' and recite some Aussie poetry before the heat of the day crept up on us. I've actually wanted to do more than 4 hours because I had enjoyed it so much.

Insy, winscy Huntmans Spider....they're harmless

First glimspe of Boots and I....

I even learnt how to throw a boomerang which were primarily hunting tools by Aborigine huntsman....and it came back first time! haha

When kid camps came to the farm, we got stuck in helping out with them, learning how to herd sheep and light fires, taking care of the farm animals, picking fruit and just helping to entertain them even pretending to be a ghost in the forest ha! (now this is where my experience at USA summer camp came in handy)

The type of work we had to do involved us really getting stuck in regardless of your background or where you came from, which was the Australian country way of being - gravelling the roads, making signs, picking grapes, stripping bark, collecting firewood and even milking the old cow Princess like a maid..ahhhh


In our free time I would go running in the farmland, canoeing, golf, teaching the kids and Mike Tennis on his home made tennis court which is nice because we were also allowed to get involved in the families life as I would take Tess and Ruby to the country show, playing cricket, riding in the trucks with them and playing practical jokes. The sort of life I'd craved for such a long time. I was even around for Mike's 70th birthday so he had a big farm party from everyone he’s known for years rocking up to the farm.

My next blog will be about my night I spent in the Australian bush this space...

With Lonely Planet Travel Guide Australia 

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Australia Adventures: 7. Major Wet Weekend, The Olympic Stadium and Meeting Godzilla!

I wanting to spend too much time in Sydney, my buddy Tahlz from summer camp put me up in her place in the suburbs of Sydney and offered to accompany me in visiting some highlights of the city even though it was atrocious weather. We got lost driving up to sample the buttery Northern Beaches still in the stormy rain (I seem to have ruined Sydney's summer) to show me ‘Summer Bay’ home of the Aussie Sitcom rival to Neighbours ‘Home and Away’ (I actually preferred Home and Away as a school girl) it wasn't exactly 'Summer Bay' that day anyway. You find some funky things on beaches though - I love them, when there's nobody there.


Not so Summer Bay

Not so Summer Bay

Returning to the city, Tahlz knew I was a sports fan and kindly whisked me over to the Olympic Park which staged the 2000 Summer Olympic Games when I was a wee 18 year old school girl. It was pretty magical to look out onto the Stadium where I had been glued to watching all the Athletic events ten years previously. The tour also included a peek inside the dressing room where the 2004 Rugby World Cup final was played so I took a seat in Jonny Wilkinson's cubicle....he didn't mind

Mmmmm they do spoil you in the Rocks....


Mmmmm they do spoil you in the Rocks....

'The Rocks' is a popular, quaint and charming little area of Sydney which is like the trendy place to hang out. Tahlz took me to a really popular pancake restaurant in The Rocks, something like 'Pancakes on The Rocks' or something like that. But boy, the pancakes were divine....I never will have another one again.
Now what else can you do on a rainy day in Sydney? well there's the Wildlife World and the Aquarium and guess what there was a 2 for 1 deal so we could go to both, how lucky to come on such a day. So off we trotted to spy some more Aussie animal friends which I think would have left Tahlz yawning at my eagerness to the Southern Hemisphere species spying the Red Kangaroo, a baby Koala (which I didn't get to hold booo) and the biggest crocodile I have ever seen in my life GODZILLA woah! seriously Australia's not for the faint hearted folk and in fact has the most venomous snake, spider, bird being the exotic turkey looking 'Cassowary', fish, octopus and something else.




Funky Aboriginal Kangaroos

Funky Aboriginal Kangaroos

Now the Sydney Aquarium, that's a treat walking through underwater glass tunnels amongst the daily life of Oz's rich and diverse marine life. Wow! quite a kaleidoscope of colours, oozing tropicano - its magical. I faced the introduction of the 'Dugong' on my 'I Spy Animals of the World' book - a real gem of Australia. They are adorable, nicknamed the 'Sea Cow' and 'Mermaids' (I couldn't really see their likeness to 'Ariel' the Disney mermaid though) and look very much like walruses....see for yourself


Speaking of Disney, it was very evident where Disney had got their inspiration for the cast of 'Finding Nemo' (that film did wonders for sea life) coming across the stars themselves in
the favourites the Blue Tang very cool fish complete with a spike in the tail



                                                  Is that Nemo and Dory?

Not forgetting the forboding presence of the sinister Sharks, smirking at us with that jagged smile of theirs and the flashy jellyfish (which are actually really dangerous here), not forgetting the cool as a cucumber curious sea turtle checking us out. I cannot wait to get out into the Great Barrier Reef...


Sea life...all out to serve eachother, nice shady spot fishies???
Sea life...all out to serve eachother, nice shady spot fishies???

My money is now zapped and gotta get out the city, so see you next time from where the footsteps will be going...

With Lonely Planet Travel Guide Australia