It’s the 12th of January, 6am and I’m laying on the floor of airport Tullamarine on the sleeping bag that I got from Sean. My face is as red as a tomato and I haven’t had a shower or a bed for 2 days. What happened?
20 hours before: My alarm scared the shit out of me. ‘Where am I!?’. My head hurts and I knew I had to hurry, but I just couldn’t figure it out at that moment. I almost fell out of my bunk bed. Shit! It’s 09.55 am. I need to check out in 5 minutes. I remembered the sign at the reception of the hostel that said: $25 charge for late check-out. That’s a lot when you’re living of noodles. I hurried and chucked everything in my backpack, ran downstairs and went to the reception to check out. No $25 charge, but no shower either.
The night before I went out with some friends, had a massive party and ended up on the beach with a sunrise. I just had 1,5 hour left to catch some sleep. The morning when I hurried out of my hostel I was completely hangover, so I went to the park to chill out. Trying to get rid of that headache. I had my backpacks on me. A good moment to build myself a nice bed with all the stuff I was carrying. I should have taken a picture of this bed… When I woke up the sun was hiding behind the clouds. It started to rain. The next moment I was hiding in a public bathroom. The mirror and painful face told me that I should’ve put sunscreen on. My face was completely sunburned. Rule number 1 in Australia: ALWAYS put on sunscreen when you’re out for a while, clouds or no clouds. I learned this the hard way.
I wandered around for the rest of the day, caught up for a good burger, went into the city at night, had a call with home and went to the airport around 2am to find out that my flight was delayed…
Cairns and Innisfail, Australia
12 January – 23 January
At 9am I got on board for my first flight in 2017. I’m heading to Cairns to make money at a banana farm after 4 months of spending it. I’m actually very excited at this moment. But soon, that drastically changes.
I took the bus to Innisfail, 1 hour away from Cairns. Innisfail is a small village in the middle of the rainforest, surrounded by banana farms. I went to a working hostel just out of town and – of course – Renzo got lost in this forest. It was raining season so I got hit by a massive rainstorm. My phone was almost about to die, but I had just enough battery left to ring Rabinder. I asked him to walk into my direction. As far as I could explain where the hell I was… This was the only way to find the working hostel (my accommodation for the upcoming 3 months). Halfway our call my phone died. I was just hoping that we would run into each other. Fortunately, not much after I saw a guy jumping and waving far in the distance. It was Rabinder! I got so, so happy for these 2 reasons: 1. I’m not dying alone in this rainforest and 2. Rabinder welcomed me with open arms like he has lived here for years with his massive beard. Rabinder and I met each other last summer while working (read: sunbathing, SUP-ing and canoeing) for a ‘summer school camp – thingy’.
I saw my boss and he told me that he placed me at a farm called Wadder. I was about to start the day after. I had some chats at the hostel and told some people about the farm wadder. They all cracked up laughing. ‘Dude, you’re on the worst farm you can imagine’, ‘oh shit, nobody lasts on that farm. It’s too intense’ and ‘haha, well, you should go to bed right now and try to get some rest. You won’t get it tomorrow’ are some of the things they said. Apparently I was placed at the most productive farm of whole Queensland (this huge state is literally full of bananas). tho’, their words didn’t scare me. With a salary of $22 an hour I was ready to carry bananas all day if I had to.
But what I didn’t know was that one banana hump was between the 50 kg – 80kg. No jokes! That wouldn’t have been too bad if I only had to carry 20 of these things a day. Keep reading, keep reading. This is the fun part!
Let’s get to work!
13 January: again, my alarm scared the shit out of me at 5.30 am. I wasn’t used to waking up this early. I had to jump in the trey of the pickup. ‘you better hold yourself brother, they don’t give a fuck about your life’ is what the Italian dude next to me said. The Indian guy behind the wheel started driving as if he was being chased by a monster. Bumps, gaps and sharp turns, but he didn’t use the break in any occasion. We arrived at the shed: everything covered in dirt, trash piled up everywhere and food splattered all over the tables. I saw everyone changing shoes and powdering their feet with baby powder. ‘What are you guys doing?’ I asked. ‘We don’t wanna get trench foot, mate’ one of the guys said while handing me the powder. ‘Almost all of us had it before’ he continued. ‘Because of the rainfall last days the ground is really wet and muddy. It makes your feet wrinkle. They can’t breathe. They will start hurting and at some point you won’t be able to walk and work anymore. Some people are injured for days.’ He said.
And now we come to the part where my plan of 3 months on a banana farm got screwed up.
This morning I ran at least 100 banana humps until the break. We were out in the forest with a few Indians with big machetes and a truck with a big trailer. The Indians cut down the banana tree. The weight of the banana hump pulls the tree to the ground. We had to catch the hump on our shoulder. They swing the big machete around and cut the hump from the tree. 50 kg – 80 kg is resting on 1 shoulder at that moment. Then we had to run this hump to the trailer, while trying to keep balance on the muddy and slippery ground. After putting the hump on the trailer we had to run back to catch the next hump before it hits the ground. Indian guys screaming to you ‘humper, humper, hurry!’. I hated it from the 1st minute. Minutes felt like hours here. The sun was out and it hit 35 Celsius and 95% humidity. Hands are hurting, shoulders are burning and bodies are drowning in sweat. The sap of the trees got in one of my eyes and my eye started hurting like crazy.
We had a break at 12.30. This 30 minutes, I was hoping that this break could last forever. I ate my lunch and passed out over the dirty table. A hand on my shoulder took my out of my dream about bananas ‘time to get back to work mate!’ it was the manager of the farm. An Indian old man with a big beard and a turban on his head. Looking into his eyes was like staring right into a dead soul. My shoulders were already bruise and my headache was insane. I started asking myself why people would do this work!?…
I can write so much more about everything I’ve seen and felt this day, but I won’t. The point is made. Life tested me and I pushed through. Most of the guys quit in the first hours. But I refused to do that. I got back at the hostel that night. I was completely broken, but slightly proud of myself.
The next day the owner of the hostel woke me up ‘mate, there’s another farm and they need someone. You wanna help them out today? ‘. ‘Fuck yeah John!’ I screamed. I didn’t go to wadder for the whole week. I had a better farm. But still this work was far from satisfying. Now you might be wondering what I was doing? I was literally killing baby banana trees with airplane fuel!! I’ll break it down in the simplest way:
The mother tree grows baby trees around itself. The farmer doesn’t want those baby trees because they slow the growth of the mother tree. Now there is one guy with a knife cutting down all the baby trees ahead of me. I had a backpack with a drum filled with kerosene (airplane fuel). I had a big needle in my right hand with a hose to the drum and a pump in my left hand. I had to stick the needle in the hearth of the baby tree and pump the kerosene in its innocent body. ‘Kill all those fuckers’ were the words of the farmer. This man was on top of my list ‘the most annoying bosses’.
The only reason that I’m laughing here is because this is my last day and I was the only one who knew that 😉
Not only I killed the baby trees. Also I killed my own brain. The most boring and brain killing work I’ve ever done. Minutes felt like hours (again) and days like weeks. The kerosene was dripping down my body and started annoying my skin really badly. The sun and humidity made my body drowning in sweat from the morning until late in the afternoon. My brain started running from ‘what am I doing with my life?’, to ‘money is worth nothing if you’re not happy with your life and your work’ and these thought weren’t excluded either: ‘what if I just stick this needle right in the hearth of Sam (the owner of the farm) and chuck him full with kerosene’. But the worst part was that I started disliking my time in Australia. I didn’t like this country at all at this moment.
Saaya’ never again John and your shitty hostel.
Rabinder and I were eating our favourite backpacker meal with pasta and other stuff that a normal person would never combine. The right hand (not literally, but I can’t remember her name… 🙂 ) of John walked up to us. ‘Rabinder, there is no work for your tomorrow’ she said. Rabinder lost it here and said: ‘WHAT!? Again… this is the 3rd time and I’m paying $200 for this crap hostel every week!’. I started laughing and looked at Rabinder were he screamed to me ‘I’m gonna leave!’ and of course I said ‘dude let’s get outta here!’.
I finished 2 more days of work until it was payday. I checked my bank account that said: +$1100, I packed my bags, booked a Greyhound bus ticket and left the hostel that night.
I felt so good and so happy while I was waiting for the bus. The happiness hit my whole body as I hopped into the bus. I sat in the back of the bus (by myself) with a weird smile on my face. Some people must have been looking at me and wondered what was wrong with this creep. But I didn’t care. I saw the rainforest passing by and I was trying to describe how I felt while I was writing about it. Impossible. It’s funny and weird how this 1,5 week had such a big impact to me.
Back in Cairns
As I got back in Cairns I went for a late swim. I walked to my hostel and took some time for myself to write and relax. I went for a run two days after and instead of smelling like sweat I smelled like kerosene. I’m not even kidding. I was a wild kerosene bomb on 2 legs. I bet that if someone put a lighter on me that day, that the flame would have blown me up.
Two days after Rabinder came back to Cairns as well. We went to a surf shop with our banana money and made the best $100 purchase by buying a penny board. We cruised around for 4 days. We ate pizza’s, drank beer, chilled for hours in the lagoon, went for some parties and did public BBQing with a group of friends. Yes, we were celebrating our freedom! The band Passenger had a performance that night in one of the parks. We enjoyed the music outside of the fence of the sold out concert with 2 friends that left the working hostel as well. Man, that guy’s a legend!
But, unfortunately, $1100 was only enough to keep us going for a while… and we had to start looking for a place to work. After some brainstorming we figured that there’s one city with the biggest change of work. And that city is Melbourne *sarcastic hooray*. So, we’re about to buy a ticket back to Melbourne!
This picture carries a really good story. When Rabinder and I didn’t know how long our money would last we decided to transport cheap. We took our penny boards out, put our backpacks on and started pushing the shit out of it at 4am to make it to the airport.. we’ve been skating for 45 minutes until we reached the main road to the airport. We hitchhiked the rest of our way down to the airport.
Worst idea ever. But good fun!
For some reason this whole trip made such a hectic impact on me. I’ve really learned a life lesson here and I’m grateful for this whole experience. The situation was a big accumulation of different things: work that sucked enormous dicks (yup), a terrible hostel, tropical rush all over my body, a lack of sleep and surrounded by people who were drugged in any change possible. I could’ve done this for 3 months. But I just didn’t want to be depressed for 3 more months.
I always used to say that being happy with work is far more important to me than money is. This was the proof. I started getting depressed after the 4th day. I wanted to leave so bad, but I tried to see the bright side of the work. But I just couldn’t see it. No matter how hard I tried, a 2nd year visa and $1100 per week didn’t satisfy me at all. The one thing that did cheer me up were the sunrises. When I sat in the back of the car on my way to work, the sun slightly shined over the tropical nature to welcome us to this new day. I knew the day would suck, but it made me appreciate being alive.
So guys, next time when you’re eating a banana. Think of the hard work that is put into it. Also know that you’re not only eating a fruit, but you’re swallowing kerosene as well 😉
Happy days and a lot of love!
Next stop: Melbourne! 🙂 But not before we stake to the airport: