To begin with, I must say I didn’t finish my farm work; unfortunately I had to interrupt it because I had a big trip planned, and when I got back to Australia I didn’t have enough time to finish it. That’s been the biggest mistake I’ve made in a long time. I deeply regret it. These last two sentences should make it obvious for anyone thinking about quitting or just not doing it, to toughen up and get it done.
You won’t regret it.
In this post I’ll speak about the good things and the bad things, and from there you can decide whatever you want, but I think in the end you’ll think just like me and you’ll do it.
The main reason why you should do it and everyone wants to do it is to get that second year working/holiday visa. It doesn’t matter if you want to use it straight away after your first year, if you plan on saving it for later, or if you just want a few extra months in Oz, what matter is that having it is worth gold. Yes, gold. I’ve met more than one backpacker that would pay thousands to get it.
Now let’s get to the point.
I was on board of the Greyhound coming from Townsville, I had just spent four cool days in Magnetic Island with two British friends, when the bus stopped in the middle of a small run down town: Innisfail. This was my stop. I got down at around 9 pm and made my way to my hostel following the directions on Google Maps. When I get to the famous (or infamous) Iniisfail Backpackers I found five gorgeous but shitfaced blondes drinking. I explain that I have a reservation, and they try and help me out, although it took hours.
As I waited for them to phone the person in charge, I could hear people shouting and laughing as maniacs inside the hostel. Where the fuck was I?
After a long wait the girl in charge arrived and showed me to my room. Then she said:
“You start work on Monday morning. The bus will come and pick you up at 5:15 am and after like twenty minutes you’ll be at the farm. You’ll be working for Franco, Franco’s Farm. It’s tough, the bosses are tough but if you work hard and don’t mind them giving you shit, after two weeks you’ll be used to it and it’ll be fine”.
Great, I hadn’t been there for even an hour and I already had a job. The problem was that it seemed to be in the worst possible farm.
And it was tough. I must admit that my first two weeks were something unbearable. I questioned myself so much, I questioned my discipline, mi mental strength, my physical strength, my work ethics, and why on earth humans can be so cruel.
Every day I woke up at 4:45 am, had a bowl of cereal, some fruit and a coffee. Then the bus picked me up, we picked another guy at another hostel and at around 5:40 am we were in the farm. It was always pitch dark when we got there, and cold. No one was there, they started to arrive after six, and at 6:30 am I already had a 50 kg banana bunch over my shoulders.
In the morning the temperature was good, but after 8:30 am it became hell on Earth. Temperature rose to like thirty-five degrees Celsius, with the sun burning our skin, us dripping wet in sweat, dehydrating every second and getting more and more fatigued.
There were four different jobs at the plantation. First the humpers or carriers, I was one of those, and we had to carry the bunches all day long. The cutters were the bosses, who should choose the bunches we had to carry, so they ordered one of us to get under the tree, grab the bunch by the stem, get into position and then they’d cut it from the tree with a machete. After we had loaded all bunches in the trailers, we’d take them to a warehouse where other three guys would cut them and put them into a machine that washed them. Finally, the fourth group was those who grabbed the clean bananas and put them into boxes.
Our job was of course the hardest one, but time went by really quickly. We had to carry on average around eighty bunches, each one around 50 kg, per day. It was six of us.
When I felt the weight of the bunch dropping on my shoulders, my legs would bend downwards, but I resisted. Through mental power I would inject myself with courage to make it towards the truck. My vision was blurry and every second I just wanted to drop the fucking bananas and yell to the boss: “I quit!” I never did. Instead I kept doing it, walking through the trees, on top of the slippery banana leafs, and delicately laying the bunches on the trailer even if that meant injuring my lower back.
Not everyone would have made it.
Especially when we dropped a bunch and we heard the bosses yelling at us:
“You idiot! Those are my bananas! Once more and you’re gone!”
Welcome to the days of modern slavery.
The day would come to an end and all I wanted to do was get a shower and go to bed. However, the moment I got back to the hostel everything changed for good. We were all there, boys and girls, complaining about our inhuman work environment. Funny thing is that none of us had ever done something similar, maybe a few had done construction, but not under that heat.
Everyone had their say when it came to complaining about bosses or work conditions. Little did it matter though, we had to do it. We were all in the same boat, sailing towards the same promised land: the second year.
Farmwork was tough, but the environment in the hostel made everything else irrelevant. We laughed with silly things, funny stories of travels or high school, we joked around, we drank, we went out, we did everything, and we did it together, as a family. The town had nothing cool to do, the work was shit, but again, we were a family. And family comes first.
After a month I had to leave. Time to go on my trip and so it all ended there. I left with a lot of money and great friendships. I left sad, not only because I didn’t get that second year, but because I was leaving behind a great group of people ready to do anything for me, from having fun to solving a problem. You don’t get that everywhere.
I was lucky to run into more than one of them later, even to travel with a few. Whenever we met each other again, we’d look into our eyes and it’d be as if we knew each other for years. It didn’t matter if we came from different countries or cultures, we’d remember that month, that experienced we shared, and we were friends again, and we respected each other for doing the farmwork and putting up with it.
I didn’t finish my farmwork and I regret it. What I don’t regret is having been there for a month struggling, putting up with the heat, the body aches, the insect bites, the rude yelling. It was all insignificant when brought into perspective. The bigger picture was that feeling of belonging to something bigger, better, something real. And in your case, something that could also give you a second year in Australia. Enough said.