Today was our last day on the strawberry farm. I must admit, I'm a bit sad to leave the countryside.
I'll miss waking up to the laugh of the Kookabura (Australia's iconic bird), eating fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs everyday, and mostly, the beauty of the early morning clouds that loom over the hills of the rain forest. This place is absolutely gorgeous. Being out in the "bush" really makes you appreciate Australia and all it's ruralness...if that is even a word. We've been sharing our living space with numerous large spiders, cane toads, and a pretty big brown snake, all potentially deadly, but none have seemed to bothered by us. We've made really good friends with Sofie and Ant (the pommies) and have just really enjoyed working on Marg's Strawberry Farm and staying at the hippie commune. Such an interesting dynamic here. The boys from the strawberry farm are real "true blue" (or as we would call 'em red-neck) Aussies, and the next door neighbor hippies couldn't be more opposite. The farm boys like to ride motorbikes, shoot kangaroos and go "pigging" (I'll explain later) while the hippies live a quiet, communal, conservative, no-kill existence. The two groups don't seem to see eye to eye on a lot of things, but somehow they coexist as next-door neighbors with completely different attitudes on life.
Okay, back to the pigging. So Australians actually "hunt" pigs. Actually, they buy dogs that hunt the pigs. They also have "utes" (pickup trucks) complete with pig cages. When they spot the wild pigs, they release the hounds, and the dogs grab the pig by the ear until the boys can make it out to stab the pig in the heart. Sounds pretty damn brutal to me! These boys (aged 16 and 18) absolutely love it. Oh, and get this, they even have a monthly subscription to Bacon Busters Magazine! The magazine itself is an absolute riot. They have "bush girls" posing with dead pigs, strange. If the hippies only knew...
Yesterday 4 new workers arrived from France and Germany, so it feels like it's time to go, after all, they are our replacements. Before they came, it was just me, Mick, Sophie and Ant, and we were feeling pretty cozy and settled in. Now it's a bit crowded at the commune, so it's our time to start heading north. We've got enough veggie oil to get us to the next main town, and the truck is running great since we put a new fuel filter in it. The plan is to head up to Darwin, which is in the far northern part of Oz to try to find work picking mangoes. There should be some good money in it, but it's meant to be pretty hard work. Darwin is very hot, and most people seem to be allergic to the mango sap (you break out like poison ivy if it stays on your skin longer than 30 minutes) which means we'll have to cover up our skin. I know, it doesn't sound like the most glamorous job, but I should at least make enough money for a plane ticket and change, and see some beautiful country on the way.
Our next stop will be Airlie Beach, which is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, a pretty big tourist attraction. We won't do the islands, but will stop in the town for a day or two to check it out (and try to get more oil!). From there, we'll head straight across the desert to Darwin...I'm told there is a whole lotta nothing between the east coast and the northern territory, kind of like middle America. I just hope the truck goes okay.
We took home about 10 kilos of strawberries yesterday and cut, stewed, and jarred them for the journey, and to give to the hippies. I'm really looking forward to being on the road again. Who knows what will happen next, I just really hope we don't have a problem finding a job. That would certainly put a wrinkle in the works!