Tuesday, 22 July 2014

21 Bags

Mundubbera, A quaint town on the west side of the great divide and about four hours north of Brisbane in Queensland. This is where I have spent the last two months picking mandarins and I must say that the whole experience has had a hugely positive impact on me as a traveler and as a person.

Picking mandarins is not the hardest work in the world, but it is long tedious work with lots of alone time. This alone time is not so strange for the first few weeks as most of your concentration is taken up by just doing the job right and picking the right fruit when picking to size and color. Once you get into your rhythm and picking requires less concentration, your mind really starts to wander. So I did a lot of self-reflection and a lot of thinkning about future travels, friends, family... the list is endless, but all worthy of these long periods of reflection. Reflection a lot of us dont normally have the time for. 

So I was able to really think about myself and a lot of thinking about mastering myself and achieving happiness and I believe this set me on the right track to achieving this, but this is only the mental voyage. There is still the entire story of the physical experience to tell.   

The Hard Times

I first arrived in Mundubbera brimming with confidence, and full of hope that it would be a great place to find a job quick and easy, that payed well and would get me my visa extension. This eventually happened, which I am lucky and eternally grateful for, but only after a very tough three weeks of adversity in the job market. 


Mundubbera is primarily a fruit picking town and most of those fruit jobs are in mandarins, oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. Other than that there is a fair bit of beef industry and a mill in town. Up until the last few years the town has relied heavily upon seasonal backpackers for the fruit picking jobs. Droves of French, Japanese, Korean, German, Dutch, Belgian, and Taiwanese backpacker usually fill up the caravan parks and free camping spots around town.

I am not sure of the precise reason why it was different this year, but this season saw very few jobs for the working holiday nomads. Reports I heard or investigated over my time in town was it was partly due to a bad season, bad flooding, frost, and farmers scaling back the number of varieties led to not a heck of a lot of fruit, and short seasons. As well one will notice the flood of Tongan nationals that are in town, this is due to a program set up with the Australian and Tongan governments, and local contractors to allow Tongans to come and pick fruit. So now a large portion of the contractors use the Tongans to fulfill their picking needs. 


All of this led to a to a relatively empty caravan park and Mundubbera perpetually would chew backpackers up and spit them out back toward Gayndah and Bundaberg. I felt this big time while I was there, looking for jobs ever day, driving around to farms, and always the same answers, no work. So it was tough sitting in the caravan park for three weeks without work while other would come back after a hard days work with beer in hand.

But all my luck did change and persistence prevailed.

Orange Gold

One day the skies did clear and one farm, Trotts Orchard, started to hire. Trotts is a family owned and run farm and is renowned in the town, all the locals know the farm and family. The farm is also one of the largest citrus producers in Queensland which meant lots of work and fair bin prices. 

We picked 5 different varieties of mandarins(Imperials were my favorite, so tasty) and we were paid per bin. It takes 21 bags in the kangaroo pouch style bag to fill a bin and generally we could do 2-4 bins a day depending on variety. Mandarins were great to pick because the trees are relatively human scale, not to big and your not bending over to pick anything. The weather was the toughest aspect for sure, minus temperatures over night and then 25 Celsius by 11am means that my Canadian thermostat never really got used to the weather. 

I had worked and lived on the farm for about two months in a house with a German named Stephan. It was a great set up for us and sometimes only a short walk to work. Despite being extremely bored and land locked still managed to meet some great friends and see some of the surrounding landscape and a few national parks(Auburn River and Mt. Walsh). 

Picking was tough at times, and at times it was boring and hard to be away from the city and bike polo but overall it was a great experience to live outside my typical comfort zone. I will most definitely cherish these memories for a long time. 


Friday, 30 May 2014

Auburn River National Park

Two weeks ago my room mates Stephan, Andrew, and I decided to get some much needed time out in nature on our day off. Working on the mandarin farm is outdoors and quite nice work outdoors but still hard work and a load on the mind. So we made the 40 minute drive west out of Mundubbera to Auburn River National park. 

Auburn River NP is not a very big park with few features other than the impressive river, water falls, rock pools and lookout points over this rough section of the upper Auburn River. 

A short 600m descent from the car park spits you out amongst a valley of rocks that dwarf any human. What was most worthwhile about the rock was that you feel like a kid again, in a giant jungle gym with so many big rocks, rock pools and caverns to discover. Just have to be carful, there are open mine shafts in the park. 

This park was totally worth the visit for a sunny afternoon! 


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Mt. Walsh National Park

On out way back from a bit of stress release in Harvey Bay we thought it would be a cool idea to swim in the ocean and mountains in one day. So we stopped at the Mt. Walsh National Park rock pools for a dip and some great photo ops. 

It's a difficult one to get to, with winding long, dirt country roads and little signage(even the Queensland Parks Website directions are wrong) but we made it. To get to the pools it's a 15 minute short hike up to them. 

Once there it is a bit of a playground. With about 6-8 natural pools to chops from, it's a place best enjoyed at 4:20 or with a case of beer. Remember to truck your litter out. 

Here are a few photos of our stop at this beautiful natural landmark! 


Saturday, 10 May 2014

On the Road: Australia

I have a few photos from my travels up the coast from Sydney to Mundubbera, QLD that I thought would be cool to share. 

The story is, I needed to get up to Mundubbera to find some farm work. So I left Sydney with my back pack and set out hitch hiking up the coast. In total it took me 4 days to get to my location. It was a great experience with lovely people. 

Here are a few good shot of my time on the road thus far. 

I'm sure I will have more parts like this to follow, throughout my travels. Somewhere along the highway folks. 


Thursday, 17 April 2014

Brisbane; A Photo Set

25,990 km

My third stop on my way to join up with the harvest trail in central Queensland was in Brisbane. I stayed in the area of Petrie Terrace with my friend Morag that I know through the bike polo community back in Vancouver. It was a great home base and my hosts seemed as much up for the task of tackling pretty much a four day pub crawl. 

Here is a set of some great shots I seemed out during my visit. 

Stay tuned for an "FYI; Brisbane" post! 


FYI; Brisbane Craft Beer

(Apologies in advance for the lack of pictures of ACTUAL beer) 

A mix of pearly office towers and awful 60's era precast concrete monsters bound together by a rats nest of urban planning errors, Brisbane still surprised me with things that may go unseen by the naked eye. Luckily I had a host of great friends that were able to guide me to the best craft beer bars, cafés and breweries all while seeking out some of the cities remaining architectural landmarks. What resulted was a four day long craft beer crawl. 

To my surprise Brisbane is actually home to a pretty developed and thirsty craft beer scene. What it lacks in the number of local or state craft breweries it more than makes up for in taphouses, cafés, and bars. The start of our tour began at one of the marquee craft joints in town, Archive Beer Boutique. Here I enjoyed some really good pints notably, Brewcult's Beer Geek Rage Quit IPL, and local a by Noisey Minor(Fortitude)'s RSVP Baltic Porter. Archive is know throughout Brisbane for its over 20 taps, and large selection of local, Australian and International bottle selection, of which I had to have a local favorite from back home, St. Ambroise IPA! After that we hit up a newer joint down the street called Burrows. 

Burrows has 4 craft taps and a moderate Australian and international craft bottle selection, and was fortunate to enjoy Mornington Peninsula Brewing's Mosaic IPA on tap. So delicious! Burrows is also a quaint little cafe with great coffee and lots of good food. 

The next day it was worth while to visit the Bottanical gardens where downtown seems to pop out of the far corner of the park. We also paid a visit to the Treasury(a great market is open out front every Wednesday), and the gallery upstairs in the old Brisbane city hall building. The exhibits were great photo collections of the indigenous people that populated the area and the history of Brisbane, which had maps, and I love maps.

We then had another big day of boozing on the craft tour starting at the Belgian Beer Cafe in the CBD. I personally only found the outside beer garden the only thing it really had going for it... Otherwise it was mostly AB InBev product and a rather uninspiring bottle list. 

Next stop was for a few jugs at the Brisbane Brewhouse, I would recommend trying the Belgian Wit, Rye Brown Ale, and if your into something a bit more sessionable the Brisbane Pale Ale. Next stop was the small taphouses that are almost directly adjacent to each other, The End and BOSC.

(Sorta related... Near Brisbane Brewhouse)

At The End you need to The End/BlackStar's Collab Mocha Stout and also they had one of my favorites on tap, Mountain Goat's Rare Breed India Red Ale. The bar sports craft 4 taps and a small bottle menu. 

At BOSC you can expect to find a bartender that is no stranger to chatting about beer, we went on and on about brewing and great beer. Also they sport about 8 craft taps and a moderate bottle menu. 

My final day was started nice and early out in the north east suburb of Teneriffe at the Newstead Brewing. The luxurious interior of this former warehouse turned brewery totally does justice for the food and beer menu. They have everything from sessionable to the $80 Bottle of scotch barrel aged ale made with truffles. They have twelve taps and from what I had I definitely enjoyed the Rye IPA and IPA's the most. 

Next stop was another brewery in Teneriffe and my favorite beer in the city, Green Beacon Brewing. They have about 8 taps and my favorite had to be the Reds Dead West Coast Red Lager, such a well balanced beer with Centennial, Columbus, and Citra hops. So good. 

The last stop and the spot that I think will have to take best customer service would be the Bar Scratch. The bartenders were so nice and they also have about 8 taps and a moderate bottle menu. It's a cozy place with relaxing couches and I won't forget, a great Stout spider with beer infused ice cream! 

One more shout out for a few good beers(4 taps) and great coffee, is the alleyway gem called "John Mills Himself". This little spot is off 40 Charlotte Street in the CBD.

That's is for my FYI Brisbane!