Australia has been a whirlwind! I cannot believe we have only been here for 5 full days, it seems like we’ve been here much longer already! We touched down in Melbourne on Monday night and headed straight to the hostel with our 20kg backpacks on our backs and our only slightly lighter bags on the front. We looked like every traveller that we always giggled at in New Zealand who was wandering the streets lost in a city. Luckily the hostel was easy to find and we had our first sleep on Aussie soil. The next two days were spent exploring Melbourne and getting sorted with new bank accounts, tax numbers for working and finding some work. The plan had initially been to try to find some fruit picking work. In Australia, the Working Holiday Visa (which is what we’re on) allows you to stay and work in Australia for up to 12 months. If you do 88 days of farm work during that first year you are granted an additional 12 months of work in the country.
We thought we would try to do some of that work now so that if we decided we wanted to stay a second year we had the option. So we quickly found a hostel about two and a half hours north of Melbourne in a town called Shepparton. The hostel promised fruit picking work within the next 7-10 days which sounded perfect to us. Wednesday night we were on a train to Shepparton and arrived at our “hostel” to find that there would be work the next day. We were pretty glad about that because the thought of spending a day sitting in the hostel was a scary one. It is more like a prison than a backpackers hostel. When we arrived we were given a container each that had one plate, one bowl and one of each utensil. We were to keep our food only in those containers and anything else would be thrown out. When we got to our room that was supposed to be a double bed we found instead two single beds, bunk beds. There are signs everywhere telling you all of the things you are not allowed to do and if you are caught doing them by the numerous security cameras you will be fined and/or evicted. To top it all off, after a hard day working in the fruit fields, it is absolutely forbidden to drink in the hostel. Unfortunately for us we paid for an entire week when we first arrived and this isn’t the type of accommodation that gives refunds. We also used this address for our tax number and bank cards to be sent to, so we needed to stay until they arrived.
Our first day of work seemed daunting. We had to be up and ready to get on the bus at 6:45 to get to the orchard to pick cherries. The work itself isn’t all that bad. You are given a container that gets strapped around your waist and you put the cherries you pick into the container. Once you’ve filled that up you put it into another larger container. That larger container gets you $14.40. Luke and I are picking one of those an hour collectively, so we are making $7.20 an hour. Minimum wage in Australia is $16/hr. So to add insult to injury not only are we staying in a heap, but also we are being largely underpaid. The perks are that we are out in the sun all day and even with SPF 30 on we are getting some pretty nice tans! We have met some really nice people as well and although English is the second language of all involved, everyone manages to have a laugh.
As you can tell from the descriptions we are less than impressed with this situation and will be leaving once our week is up. Most of our mail has already arrived and that which doesn’t by Wednesday will just be returned to sender. We always said we would give it a try, and we have! After spending a year travelling, camping and hiking rugged New Zealand, we are ready for city living again. Our new plan is to head back to beautiful Melbourne and try to get some work there and an apartment as well. Please wish us luck!!