Toad Jerky Anyone?

Trip Start Sep 09, 2008
Trip End Apr 2009

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Sunday, November 2, 2008

It is the Sunday in between our 4th and 5th week of working on the watermelon farm. It's a bit shocking to think that I've survived a month of this back-breaking job - and even more shocking still that I remain intent on doing it for yet another 4 - 5 weeks!! Talk about a sucker for punishment.
Having good people to work for and with makes a big difference for getting through each day though. We seem to have settled in well with John, Roz (his wife) and Anthony; and the English couple that replaced the German couple after our first week keep us well entertained. Vicki loves to chat and his forever cracking us up with her random musings ("I think I would be really good with a sword"); and Michael - who is also very fond of talking - is never at a loss for some anecdote to contribute to the conversation, though the relevance of some of his stories is somewhat questionable ;) Meanwhile, Anthony and John have opened up, and seem to be quite happy with their workers (especially Dave, whose tractor and forklift skills were a rather unexpected treat for them).
Aside from having good co-workers, I think the only other reason (well besides the obvious one -- $$$) I am determined to stick it out is because I reckon that if I can't lose some weight picking up watermelons all day for a couple of months, well then I think all hope will be lost forever! :( Meanwhile, my pipes are getting MASSIVE ;) Now if only I could just get rid of that saggy fat layer AROUND them...
Basically all of our time is spent in the melon patch with only the occasional couple of hours or maybe a day to pick the pumpkins. While the butternuts are much smaller than the melons, it's actually harder work picking them. Firstly you have to cut each stem which gets hard on the hands; but mainly it's because you have to bend over about 5 times as many times (or more!) to get the same volume of produce. And the bins seem to take an ETERNITY to fill for that same reason! So now we all dread the pumpkin picking and eagerly anticipate our return to the melon patch after even a short while doing pumpkins!
Last week we had our biggest picking day yet. On Tuesday we managed to pick 10 trailer loads of melons (an average day up until then would have been about 7). That is roughly equal to about 40 tonne of melons, and, as there are only 3 of us doing the actual picking, that means that I ALONE picked roughly 13 tonne in ONE DAY. No wonder I am so bloody knackered. Even on an 'easy' day I probably pick up about 9 tonne.
Dave, meanwhile, because of his aforementioned skills, has landed a job in the shed - organizing bins with the forklift, making the bins and stapling them onto pallets, loading and unloading the trailers, and driving the empty trailer out to us when we're full. We affectionately refer to him now as "the Shed Bitch" :) He really enjoys that of course.
As I mentioned in the previous entry, we see a fair few critters out in the paddock: lots of grasshoppers and locusts, a few flies and bees and other winged little fellas of various descriptions; but mostly we see cane toads. They'll give you a bit of a start sometimes when you reach down for a melon and the dirt starts moving. Cane toads are an introduced species (a.k.a. "farrels" to the Aussies) to Australia brought in from Hawaii to control the cane beetle (or some such critter). They're probably one of the ugliest creatures around. Basically they look like... um,... well, a pile of excrement with four legs (too graphic??). Yep, they're not pretty. And unfortunately, not only did they fail to do what they were brought into do, but they proliferated uncontrollably because there is nothing to kill them (aside from the odd one who meets his unfortunate death beneath the tire of a passing vehicle) because they're poisonous. Apparently if you lick them it will cause you to hallucinate, though how someone came to discover that fact I don't wish to know! (It's nearly impossible to see a cane toad without Dave pointing and crying out, "Lick it LICK IT!!"). Anthony tells me that dogs get high off the toads sometimes. They'll find a dead one, stash it somewhere till it dries out, and then eat it. Mmmmm, cane toad jerky! Could you imagine if your dog became a cane toad junkie? Would you have to stage an intervention? Is there a rehab centre for pets??
As for snakes, we've only had one close encounter in our four weeks. As we were trying to get the boom on to the empty trailer, a King Brown that was apparently taking refuge beneath our shade cloth, went straight through Anthony's legs, past Michael and under the trailer. He says it's the biggest King Brown he's ever seen (and he reckons he's had about 10 of them go through his legs like that throughout the course of his life). Not to worry though: a King Brown is only the THIRD deadliest snake in the world!! Small potatoes... ;)
Pretty much every day after work Dave and I head straight for the pool. It's nice to swim a couple laps to stretch out our aching bodies, and, of course, it's just so darn refreshing! And Dave has been practicing his handstands with my helpful coaching tips ;) There are some days however, when no matter how refreshing it may be, I just can't drag my ass into the pool for fear that I just might sink for lack of enough energy simply keep myself afloat.
Our weekends are mostly dedicated to relaxing and recuperating. Every other weekend we try to get out and explore an area not too far away. I use the term "explore" rather loosely here as I try to avoid any physical exertion on the weekend, so the extent of our "exploration" is limited to what I can see from the car window or a blanket on the beach.

We spent a weekend on Magnetic Island just off the coast of Townsville - affectionately named "Maggie" by the locals. It has about 2000 residents or so, and plenty of places to stay and a good variety of little restaurants, cafes, etc. There's only about 10km of road in total but it's pretty much all either uphill or downhill! The popular vehicle to drive is what they call a "moke." It's sort of a little beach buggy type vehicle that basically looks like a small, low-riding jeep... sort of. They're quite fun to putter around in anyway. Not the smoothest of rides though since they don't have any shocks, but that's all part of the fun!
We stayed in a fantastic B&B called Myra's. Our hosts, Myra and Walter - "Wal" for short - were really great. Wal picked us up from the ferry and gave us the scenic tour on the way back to the house including some wildlife: he had some seed mix that he gave us to feed some of the local rock wallabies as well as showing us where the local nut-job has set up house - a beached houseboat on one of the main beaches. Apparently he's in his 70's, his preferred attire is nothing but a sarong, and he likes to share with tourists his conspiracy theories on how the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin's death was not an accident after all. Dave and I thought it might be entertaining to stop in for tea and storytime, but then thought better of it - perhaps it was the idea of an elderly man in a sarong that put us off...
Anyhooo. In addition to the grand tour, our $80 got us a cozy little cabin, set in amongst the tropically landscaped garden behind their home, a HUGE bacon and egg brekky feast with grilled tomatoes, sliced avocado, fried potatoes, homegrown mini bananas and toast with jelly made by a friend of Myra's; AND they gave us one of their mokes to come and go as we pleased while we were there for an additional $20 to cover fuel costs.
For dinner we went to a great latin café called 'Noodies,' recommended by our hosts. We shared a pitcher of margarita that came with a giant sombrero, the cheesiest nachos I've ever had, followed by a wonderful seafood paella (though not as nice as the ones we had in Spain!). And for dessert: a sensational slice of Tequila and Lime pie. I ate so much my poor tummy didn't recover until the next morning... just in time for the marvelous breakfast feast ;) (hehe, and I wonder why I'm fat!!!)

In the morning when we went up for brekky, they were feeding a massive flock of rainbow lorikeets! Beautiful, vibrantly coloured birds, just as the name suggests. So Wal plopped an old hat on my head and put some bread in my hand and before I knew it I was covered with birds fighting for food. 

There were so many I could barely hold my arms up, not to mention their claws scratching my arms as they attacked the bread and one another. I had two or three on my head also, as well as one trying to hang off the neckline of my tank top presumably trying to outsmart the others by coming in from above. What a sight I was! Eventually it was all too much so I threw the bread to the ground, at which point I was met by the multiple gusts of air coming off their beating wings as they chased after the bread. I was quite happy to be rid of the spastic little buggers! There's just no telling what a flock of hungry lorikeets might do...
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Myra's Bed and Breakfast
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