Eight weeks down, two to go! The time has flown impossibly fast, and yet the itch to move on tugs at us more and more, encouraged heartily by the increasing heat and humidity (it's been as high as the 90th percentile!! Eeek! I never knew it was possible to just sweat 24hrs straight), and the daily dose of rain we seem to be getting.
We're on the cusp of tropical North Queensland summer - a.k.a the wet season. Not too long from now, rivers that are currently bone dry (such as the one we drive across every morning to get to the shed on the melon farm) will have water levels up to 15-20 feet or more! It's hard to imagine looking at them now, but if the 6inches of rain that hit Townsville last Thursday morning - closing down a major shopping centre due to flooding - is any indication of what's to come then maybe it's not such a far-fetched idea.
Dave and I hope to be gone before the fury of the true wet season unfolds, but in the meantime we have a couple weeks left in the melon patch. Work has mellowed down a fair bit from what it was. For a couple of weeks we were doing as many as 16 trailers a day, and no fewer than 12. I don't even want to attempt the math at how many tonnes passed through my hands on those days!
Although, at that point we had an additional 4 workers on our crew: the German couple, Connie (short for Constantin) and Bella had returned and we had also gained a pair of Pommie (English) boys, Paul and Darryn. With the addition of so many boys, I got moved from the actual picking of the melons on to the trailer to help Vicky "catch" the higher volumes of melons we were now dealing with. And there I have stayed for the past 4 weeks, thus thwarting my efforts at slimming my silhouette. It's not necessarily easy work on the trailer - very hard on the arms!! - but not quite the all-encompassing body beating that I got from picking. I do have a lot more bruises to show for my trailer efforts though!
Paul and Darryn brought with them a side-splitting element of slap-stick humour that kept team morale above ground level. There was no predicting what might come out of those two, but chances were good that it would induce a delightful fit of laughter - you know, the kind where you laugh so hard that no sound actually comes out even though your mouth is wide open and tears are streaming down your cheeks... or is that just me??
Vicky and Michael left two weeks ago now, followed a week later by Paul and Darryn, leaving Dave and I friendless in the caravan park (the Germans stay out on the farm in their camper van). It's been a bit of a dull existence here without them but we're numbing the pain of our loss with alcohol (just kidding!) and trying to remember how we entertained ourselves before the others came along :)
Work has been a bit tedious at best, having lost our entertainment, and also because the patches we're in now have struggled, leaving a lot of bad fruit. Bella has taken Vicky's place with me on the trailer where we now have to smack each and every melon, listening for the tell-tale sound that distinguishes a good melon from a bad one. A good melon has a sound like that of a bongo drum with an accompanying vibration that reverberates in your hand. A bad melon has a deep, flat sound with no vibration to be felt - kind of like slapping a dead fish, minus the sliminess.
In some patches we've been lucky to have 1 good melon in 4, which was very hard on the boys picking because they had to work 4 times as hard to fill each trailer. Meanwhile the bad melons get to "tell their story walkin'" off the end of the trailer, leaving a trail of melon massacre behind us. It's a depressing sight indeed. You could actually see the boys' morale physically sink lower as they looked behind us to see their efforts blazing a trail of juicy pink and green debris.
Bella and I couldn't help but feel a bit guilty, being the presiding judges sentencing the unacceptable melons to their destruction off the end of the trailer conveyer belt. Sometimes, we were like doctors in an ER: as Bella tapped the melon checking for signs of life, she would give me a somber look with a slow shake of her head as if to say, "There's nothing more we can do." My reply would be an equally somber and knowing nod, before sending the deceased melon off to the morgue, (a.k.a off the end of the trailer onto the ground) with a longing look of remorse. Sounds depressing doesn't it? Well, it was probably even more depressing for John who reckoned there was about $100,000 or more worth of melons smashed to pieces in the roadways between melon beds.
There were times when the melons were so consistently bad that when a really good one came along, Bella and I let out genuine shrieks of excitement, prompting strange inquiring looks from Anthony and the boys. I think it might be a sign that we've been doing this too long - how giddy we get to hear the sweet bongo sound of a nice melon. Or, for me at least, maybe it's because this is the closest I have ever been to realizing my lifelong yearning to play the bongo drums - not to mention as close as I will ever get... I think playing the bongos requires some amount of a little thing called "rhythm
In other news, with the festive season upon us, Dave and I got ourselves a modest little tree to cheer up our tent :P Can't let living in a tent cramp our Christmas style!! It's a little 4-footer artificial arbre de noel that we purchased for a very budget-friendly $7.99 from Crazy Clarks (Where Everyone Gets a Bargain!). Also at bargain-basement prices, we found a set of 20 red ball ornaments, a few metres of gold mini-garland, and a string of 20 Christmas lights (oh sorry, I believe the new P.C. term is fairy
lights... um, WTF?!). Like I said, it's a modest tree :) Oh yes! I almost forgot, we do have one other additional ornament that we picked up a while back - a little koala in a Santa hat :P And the piece de resistance would have to be the star that I geniusly
widdled out of some extra garland and the gold ribbon that came on the box of ball ornaments, for the crowning glory. Ok, ok, so it looks more like a gold tinsel flower
than a star, but it gets the point across!
Needless to say, it's a bit of a struggle to genuinely feel like Christmas is almost here. Living in a tent in a humid tropical climate where one's sweat glands are on the brink of over-exertion somehow doesn't fit the stereotypical festive setting. I certainly can't recall another Christmas when I could feel beads of sweat as they trickled down my spine while setting up the Christmas tree (nor have I heard such a thing mentioned in any of the Christmas carols I know). It's a novel experience indeed...
There are more photos in the album that I haven't included throughout the text of the blog in case you're interested! :D)