Travelling Australia: Part 1

Whitehaven Beach

When I lost my job and my relationship within the space of a few hours of each other one day back in June, I never thought it would have resulted in quite possibly the best five months of my life.

As I write this I’m currently on a flight from Sydney to Bangkok as a part of a marathon journey back home to the UK to surprise my family for Christmas.

When I arrived in Australia on the 6th July 2014, I wasn’t really sure how everything would pan out. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do but like any new venture I had doubts and at first I missed what I’d left behind.

However, the past five months of my life have been a whirlwind of ups, downs, crazy parties, hard work, bananas (lots of bananas!) new friendships, new relationships, amazing sights, breathtaking experiences, skydives, bungees, exploring the ocean, too much goon, too little sleep, bustling cities, hippy towns, long bus journeys, love, laughter, arguments but most of all fun, and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Scotty's Beach House

Home away from home…

The first month I spent living it up in Sydney & Cairns, partying almost every night with a great bunch of people I met doing OzIntro.

Shortly after this we parted ways and I started work on a banana farm in Tully, which was possibly the best and worst experience of my life, but one I’ll never forget.

If it wasn’t for the family I became part of at Scotty’s Mission Beach, then I doubt I would have lasted on the farm and may not have got my second year visa, something I’m so happy to have.

Scotty's Beach House

Some of my Scotty’s family!

After the farm, I spent the next five weeks travelling the East Coast of Australia with my best friend and an awesome couple we met on the farm along with their friend. This was probably the best part of my time in Australia, spending literally everyday for five weeks in some of the most incredible places I’ve ever been to.

I plan to blog more in-depth on the East Coast trip along with putting out an East Coast video I filmed soon, as soon as I find some time back home!

The last few days I spent in Sydney, catching up with some of the guys from OzIntro and the farm and putting plans in place for my return to Australia sometime in February 2015.

Lake McKenzie Fraser Island

The beautiful Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island

For now I just wanted to write a quick post to say thank you to everyone who has been part of the last five months of my life.

There’s far too many of you to name individually but if we met and either; spoke, shared stories, worked together, partied, drank goon, had a dance off, did something irresponsible, laughed, argued or all of the previous then thank you!

I’m going to enjoy a few months with my family and friends at home over the festive period before I return to begin part 2 of my Oz adventure!

-Craig

First week in Mission Beach

Rainforest Mission Beach

So I’ve been here in Mission Beach for a week now.

It’s fair to say it’s pretty chilled out here, with a perfect beach just a few hundred metres from the hostel and with a pool and hammocks to lounge around in the day, most people spend their days relaxing.

Mission Beach

The gorgeous Mission Beach

After two crazy weeks partying with my OzIntro family in Sydney and Cairns, moving to Mission Beach has been quite a culture shock and I spent the first few days feeling quite anxious, especially as I was told the waiting list for farm work could be between six weeks to two months for guys, not good for my already dwindling bank account.

I did however on the third day of being in Mission Beach do the most incredible thing I’ve done to date, which was Skydive the Beach on Australian Christmas Day. I’ve done a skydive before, in Prague many moons ago, but this one blew that one out of the water.

Skydive Mission Beach

Christmas Day Skydive!

As we were lining up for the jump, the views of the Barrier Reef were incredible and after plummeting back to earth via a cloud, the canopy opened and the view of Mission Beach was breathtaking. I could even see my hostel as I glided down to the beach landing. Definitely an experience I won’t forget anytime soon!

It’s been quite strange staying at the hostel, my best mate Zac is already here and has been for a while. He’s holding on for me to do my farm work so that we can travel the East Coast together and then get a pad in Sydney.

Bonfire on Mission Beach

Bonfire on the beach!

The last few days I’ve been doing night watch at the hostel for free accommodation, which basically means I drink with everyone until they go to bed, then do a bit of cleaning. It’s not a bad gig but I’ve been desperate to get my farm work started with time running out to do the East Coast and get back to Sydney in time for Christmas.

Fortunately, I’ve managed to get on the farm on Monday, meaning I’ve only had to wait just over a week, which I’m stoked about.

As there’s not much to do around here in the days, I’ve been trying to get out of the hostel to do something with my days. Yesterday I went on a free rainforest walk, which was around 15k in total.

Rainforest Walk Mission Beach

Morning Walk!

It was pretty cool but it wasn’t spectacular and I didn’t get to see any snakes, though I’m assured I’ll see plenty on the farm next week!!

I also did a spot of Mangrove fishing the other day, though I didn’t manage to catch anything. An Aussie guy fishing before us left about ten puffer fish lying around though, which if you don’t know, they are very poisonous!

Mangrove fishing

Afternoon spot of fishing

This weekend I’m going white water rafting and then we have a New Years Eve party on Saturday which is pretty surreal given it’s only July, but then again I’ve come to learn that Aussies make any excuse for a party!

For now, I’m going to enjoy the last few days of lounging around before returning to the world of work next week…

-Craig

Three Months on a Banana Farm

Humpers and Cutters

On Friday 7th November, after three months (which at times felt like forever), I finally finished my regional work on a banana farm in Tully, Queensland.

Now that I’ve finished, I wanted to write a follow up after my first post Life on a Banana Farm.
The rest of my time on the farm was a roller coaster of highs and lows. Truth be told, there was a few times I thought I was facing the sack. This sounds a bit melodramatic but during my time on the farm, I witnessed just how ruthless they could be when it came to getting rid of and replacing backpackers at their convenience.
Not long after my first post, I found myself taken off humping, the job I most enjoyed and instead was taking out stringing.

Banana Irrigation

Stringing is essentially tying next generation trees to either dead trees or sturdy baby trees so that when the bunch comes through, it doesn’t blow over in a strong wind or buckle under its own weight.
Stringing wasn’t the worst job in the world. I got pretty good at it quite quickly and it was a bonus that you could do the job outside in the sun with your music for company.
Aside from that and the odd day doing random jobs in the shed, the other job I did on a regular basis was irrigation.

Humping Bananas

Irrigation involved fixing and replacing irrigation pipe and sprinkler heads whilst also improving water pressure to ensure all of the trees were getting enough water.
Again like stringing it wasn’t a bad job, but it could get pretty boring if there was nothing that needed fixing. You also got pretty wet doing irrigation which got kind of annoying at times, especially on your feet!
I was also involved in the planting of two new paddocks. I say involved, basically all I did was drive a tractor of baby plants alongside the planting tractor so that when they ran out of plants, new trays were readily available.
This was probably the easiest job I did on the farm!
Looking back, the three months did go pretty quickly. At times on the farm, I thought it would never end, but now that it’s over I do miss certain aspects of it.

Humping Bananas

I was lucky enough to strike up a good rapport with one of the supervisors, which enabled me to spend the majority of my last week out humping so I could take some pictures and videos to show family and friends back home.
I’ve heard stories from other types of regional work and based on my own experiences, I’d say you could do much much worse than to work on a banana farm and would recommend it to backpackers looking to get their second year visa!
Now that my regional work is done, I’m currently travelling down the East Coast of Australia, where I hope to put out more regular posts, which don’t talk about bananas!
-Craig

Life on a Banana Farm

Banana Farming

Unless you have an endless pot of money or don’t want the option to extend your working holiday visa to two years, at some point on your travels, you need to do some type of regional work.

I was going to write this post on my first week on the farm. In fact, I got pretty far into the post until I realised that it probably wasn’t going to be a fair assessment of what it’s like to work on a banana farm in Australia.

Now I’ve finished my first month on the farm, I feel better placed to write a fair account of what it’s like to do your regional work on a banana farm.

Banana farming

The farm I’m currently working on is in Tully, Queensland. The hostel I stay at has a relationship with the farm and so the process of finding work is handled for you. You just need to complete your Yellow Card safety course prior to starting work on the farm and then just show up on the day you’re due to start.

I’m not going to lie, the first week on the farm was hell. I genuinely thought about quitting on the third day as the type of work and how you were treated and talked to was unlike anything I’ve ever done before, plus the 5am starts didn’t help!

Fortunately, the other farmers and my adopted family at the hostel talked me into sticking it out and I’m glad I did.

There are lots of different jobs to do on the farm, which are split between ‘the shed’ (inside) and outside in the paddocks. Generally speaking, the better jobs are those outside of the shed, but here’s a few of the jobs that I’ve done during my first month on the farm.

Banana farming

Bags on spikes: Not really a full-time job on the farm but it’s generally where you get put when you start or when there’s a quiet period. It is as it sounds, you basically pick up a bag that has been taken off a bunch of bananas and put it on a pair of spikes. You repeat this process until you have enough bags to roll up ready to be put back into storage.

Clustering: This job involves cutting bunches of bananas into fives or sixes ready to be sorted and packed. It’s a fast paced but incredibly monotonous job that I did for one day and hated.

De-bagging: As the bunches come into the shed, they are hanged on a conveyor system that takes the bunches through the wash before they are cut and put on the sorting belt. De-bagging basically involves removing the bags before the bunches reach the wash. I did this for a few days and it sucked, although the prospect of a bunch going through the wash with a bag on it, turned it into a little game for me as I didn’t want that to happen!

Knots & Trailers: This isn’t really an official job, but I did it for a couple of sessions. Before the bunches can be hanged the hanger has to  untie the knots in the bag. To help the hangers out on a busy day, someone generally unties the knots and removes the empty trailers to keep everything ticking over. It’s not a bad job to have as you’re generally left alone to get on with it.

Laying Pipe: I spent a few sessions helping the farm owner lay pipe for a new paddock that’s currently under construction. I only did that for a few hours before I got pulled off to do what is my favourite job on the farm….

Banana farming

Humping: This is probably the best job on the farm. Humping involves taking the bunches from the tree and then taking them to the trailer. It’s a physical job and my first day on humping destroyed my shoulder. I’ve since got the technique down and I actually really enjoy it.

There’s a tonne of other jobs on the farm that I haven’t done yet, including sorting, packing, stacking, hanging, irrigation, de-leafing, diesel injecting and stringing.

Hopefully the next two months will go as quickly as this one has as I’m dying to get travelling again. In the meantime I’ll continue to spend my days humping in the sun!

Banana farming