For the Curious Mind - An Authentic Travel Story – Working the Harvest, Outback Australia
“Everything popular is wrong.” – Oscar Wilde
I begin talking to you on Monday 28th October 2013. Lets set the scene. I’ve somehow landed in outback Australia working for a grain company as a “shit shoveller” (that's how the boss puts it). It’s 8PM. I’ve just finished a 14-hour shift, withstanding extreme heat, dust, red back spiders, brown snakes and Kiwi Kev's loader. It’s not a long walk home, we live on site in the “Smoko Hut.” There isn’t a supermarket or pretty girl for 100km. My cooker is a portable camping stove (we’ve ran out of canisters). My washing machine is the kitchen sink. My washing line is the barbed wire fence surrounding the perimeter of the site. My morning shower derives from rainwater. My internet café is next to a telegraph pole on a train line (apparently it amplifies the signal?). I sound like I’m moaning don’t I… well guess what, I’m not.
Most would agree it’s far from normality. I believe they couldn’t be further from the truth. I was oblivious at first, but have come to realise through lots of self-study that the basic necessities required to live on this Earth are very simple indeed. In my opinion, we, as a Western society, overload our lives with unnecessary objects that people (advertisers, media) tell us we MUST have. In essence, these very objects create “noise,” which ironically detracts us from the very feeling we are all inherently trying to chase – happiness.
Back to the grain story. “Another day, another dollar” as Kiwi Kev would classically put it. Now, imagine rocking up to work at a grain site in the middle of nowhere and being greeted by a big intimidating Mauri man for the very first time - what would you think?... But no, “everything popular is wrong” holds this time. This guy was like a big soft teddy bear deep down – he didn't have a malicious bone in his body. Mind you, he did nearly kill me a few times on the loader (my fault) - “Dangerous Dan” stuck - the clumsy one – yes ok, lets move on.
Now to the boss. "Leigh Archibald Farkwar Reid” as he proudly named himself. Well it’s fair to say he’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde. At work, he'd always give me and Joe a bit of a hard time. We got good at weighing him up based on his body language before he approached us. If he was flinging his arms about like a windmill on a windy day, we knew we were in trouble. Time to play dumb, hey Joe – good tactic by the way. “I didn’t know that grain wasn’t meant to go in that hopper?”... we’d both explain with puzzled looks on our faces. “Don’t know about you Dan but Barley and Wheat look the same to me.”
By night, with a bit of “grog” (beer) down his neck, he’d go all “Dr. Jekyll” on us, sometimes proclaiming that we were his “two sons” and “the best workers he’d ever had on site.” Underneath the bullshit, the tantrums and irrelevant stressing, this man did have a heart. He was funny and incredibly witty (I’ve noticed a lot of Aussies are like this). From day one, he took us both under his wing. He gave us longer shifts because he knew how strapped we were for money. He took us to his house and introduced us to his family who we became really close to. He even told the bigger boss we were “shit workers” so he could keep us on site for longer.
However, deep down I felt sorry for him. He was caught up in a vicious cycle of routine. Work. Drink. Sleep. Notice the order and what it entails when a car’s involved. One night he was drunk and told us that he’d lost his pension fund years ago when a Pommie insurance company went bust. Understandably, he was always worried about losing his job and not being able to keep his family going. In my time working, I noticed a sour culture and lots of conflict in the company – all the permanent staff didn’t like each other. Our breaks would be filled with everyone bullshitting about one another. Occasionally, we’d manage to change the subject to travelling… I’d ask Leigh, “why don’t you want to see the world Reido?” “I’ve got everything here, what would I wanna do that for?” He was adamant that he didn’t wanna leave the 50km radius his life operated in. This baffled me for a while and I constantly rejected it. After dwelling, maybe he is right, he’s got everything he needs exactly where he is.
Last but certainly not least. Joe Backler - my university flat mate of 3 years and travelling buddy of 15 months. Some say, Bill and Ben the flowerpot men. Others say, the two little PORGS (Person Of Restricted Growth - he’s about 1mm taller and a bit podgier). Ever since we met on the footy field at uni we were in competition with each other. Or rather, I was in competition with him. Tyler, one of our other uni flat mates nicknamed me the “D100” and Joe the “D1000” – an upgraded and more well oiled machine. He’d beat me in most sports – he is that gifted kid we were all jealous of at school. A very good worker too, mind. But you wanna know something? Travelling isn’t like you see it on Facebook. We’re all guilty at times of portraying this idealistic image of our travels (I do this myself and must stop). We upload pictures, statuses, videos etc to demonstrate to our “network” that we’re having such a lovely time – essentially creating a big illusion; whilst also fooling each other. We build a self-created perspective of how each and every one of us wants to be depicted. In actual fact, travelling is far from this picture that is painted. It has its ups and downs. Believe it or not, Joe and I had a few scraps here and there. We were working long hours, sometimes up to 15 a day. We lived in the same tiny 4m x 4m room under each other’s presence for 56 days in a row without a single day off. Of course we’re still best mates and we’re probably gonna go into business together eventually. You’ve just gotta accept that things will go wrong. I’ve failed miserably lots and lots throughout my travels but always looked for the positive in every bad situation. Instead of getting upset, embrace the impurities that come with travelling – there’s always a lesson you can take from each of them.
This is my first blog online. I wanted to describe an authentic story of travelling. No twisted truth, no bullshit, just pure honesty of how it really is away from home. A lot more of these blogs will be coming about my experiences trekking Nepal, hitch hiking Northern Thailand, Motorbiking Vietnam, Road tripping OZ and Campervanning NZ. These are all retrospectively written. I’m going Tazzy for Christmas and hitchhiking America next year so I’ll write and shoot vids as I go.
Please, please, help us get this business going - like and share as much as possible. We wanna change what is a very stagnant hostel industry into something much more lively and exciting for YOU GUYS.
Given time, there’s no ceiling to what can be created. Progress is only bounded by a lack of imagination. Through fusion of great minds and a burning desire to succeed, imagination becomes boundless; possibilities become endless.
Dan Beaumont, on behalf of Team Podstel, 26th Nov 2013.