"Surviving a deadly spider attack in the bush...!"

Trip Start Oct 04, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
El Questro Wilderness Park

Flag of Australia  ,
Saturday, July 2, 2005

aWelcome people to our new home... well for the next 5 weeks anyway, Kunununarra.

With a mighty population of only 5000 and only 2 pubs, our time here was never going to be spent partying the night away, sadly it really was just work, work, work.

As you can imagine, being office boys, the thought of doing actual hard work filled us with dread, especially as the only work we could find at first was watermelon picking - literally backbreaking stuff!

Fortunately there was a 'fruit-picking' work agency in the town and after a few days wait, we got the phone call saying we had work; "Bring lots of water and sunscreen and be at the post office at 5..." 5, what were they trying to do to us! I now realise why there isn't much of a nightlife here, everybody is in bed by 9pm!

So, at a god awful time of 4.30am, our alarms rang for our first day of corn de-tassling. Funnily enough, we didn't have a clue what this was, but had on good authority that this was the best paid and easiest work in the town. I was yet to be convinced though - it started a 5am every bloody morning - 7 days a week!!

After a quick introduction by the farmer, we were hastily threatened with expulsion if we took any sicky's or were late for work. He would have no mucking about on his farm, put your head down and get on with it! Sounds like we were going to have fun!

As I said before, we didn't have a clue what corn de-tassling was so unless you're from family of farmers, I guess you won't either? Well to put it simply, we just walked up and down rows of corn, pulling out all the tassle's as we went along (you can see what a tassle is by looking at the photo's, there's also a short video of what we do on there as well). The farmer tried telling me a few times why we did this, but each time it sounded like a science lesson and I lost interest! From what I remember it had something to do with stopping the tassle pollinating the corn, either way it was mind numbingly boring!

Ands that's all we did, day in day out, for 12 days, finally 'earning' the right to a day off. The first few days was absolute hell, 10 straight hours of walking and picking caused my legs to ache continuously and my hands to lock into a claw! There were a few times during the first days that I just wanted to quit and sod the second year visa.

The only good thing to come out of the job was that it occasionally paid quite well. Because of the urgency to get them done, the farmer paid us by row completed; eventually, when we had got fast at it, we started to earn $200+ a day (80). Not bad for agricultural engineers... that's posh for fruit pickers!

The problem was, for every day you got paid 'contract' (per row) there would be another 2 or 3 days of rechecking the rows to make sure none were missed, paid instead at a low hourly rate. Because this was even more boring, you daydream and miss the last tassle'e you're looking for. Not good when you have 'supervisors' (usually arrogant backpackers that had been doing it longer than you) walking behind checking! I lost count how many times I was tapped on the shoulder by one and shown a fist full of tassle's!

It was probably down to that and the fact Dan was forever getting told to redo his lines, that we didn't get asked back to work after our day off. They were arseholes anyway!


I've never been 'let go' before, it was quite a weird feeling, part of me was happy, I wouldn't have to work with all the mini Hitler's for a start. But we were still 8 days short of our 20 days needed to be counted as 1 month, not good. Part of me was annoyed though, I had eventually got good at the job, making about 100 a day and my tan was starting to look good!

Annoyingly we had to wait another 7 days before Grunt (our agency) could find us more work. Because of this, and the fact there really isn't anything to do in Kunununurra than go to the outside swimming pool, we, along with a friend we met in Perth, decided to hire a 4 wheel drive and do a little camping trip.

Warning bells started ringing when we got to the hire place to discover they only had Toyota Rav 4's left. Laughably labeled a 4 wheel drive, the hire woman said it would be fine to drive to the El Questro National Park in. Funny that, I thought Rav 4's were designed for the sole use of picking the kids up from school; Rav 4 drivers are usually either Mum's, hairdressers or Tots dj's! They just aren't designed for off road use, this weekend will be interesting...

With our hair dryers and make up packed, we set off to drive along the famous Gibb River Road to the El Questro National Park. The size of Switzerland, El Questro has quickly become the National Park for the rich and famous. For $2000 (1600) per person, per night, you can stay in isolated luxury - Kylie stays here regularly apparently.

Luckily for us peasants, they set aside a bit of land for us to camp on, miles away from the rich of course, can't have the upper and lower class mixing now can we!

At least it was a nice spot though. We had our own campsite and private river, although upon inspection realised we wouldn't be doing much early morning swimming due to it only being ankle high! Dry season remember!

After struggling for an hour with the tent, and collecting enough fire wood for later we headed off in the beast for some serious 'off-roading.'

All went well at first, the car even managed to cross a few tricky water passages, but it wasn't long before the thing broke down, overheating whilst we were reversing up a hill - don't ask, John was driving! Stranded in the middle of no where, with no phone signal or supplies, isn't particularly my favorite pass time, luckily, after a bit of playing about with the engine (we actually just pulled the oil stick out and said 'um' and 'er' a few times) the car eventually started. Not wanting to risk it we headed back to camp, stopping only to watch the sunset by a beautiful isolated river.

Stupidly, not one of us thought of bringing any music, so the entertainment for the evening lacked a little. We did have a laugh when a spider jumped onto Dans legs by the fire. Jumping up like a girl, I instantly took the piss, until it jumped off him and onto me; the realisation of the size of the thing came as a bit of a shock, and I to jumped up and down! [We actually found out later that it was a jumping bird spider - highly venomous, one bite from it can kill a human, it made the fact we acted like girls a little bit more bearable!]

My first reaction was to kill the bloody thing - it was huge after all, but the other 2 stopped me so we got a few photos as evidence instead!

We spent the rest of the evening searching for the kangaroo's jumping about in the darkness around us. When its pitch black and you only have the light from the fire, seeing those animals suddenly appear is a frightening thing. Realising we'd never get a job in Australia zoo, we called it a night!

We were up early the following day so that we could swim in the hot spa's found in the park. Usually we wouldn't rush things, but here at El Questro they only give the campers use of the springs until 11am, at which point they must be vacated before the rich turn up at 12 (remember what I said about us mixing!?)

Feeling suitably refreshed, we left and headed to one of the many gorges for a walk. We would have liked to have gone to another couple first, but shock horror the car wouldn't make it down the tracks!

After a couple of hours walking inside the gorge, through what reminded me of a rainforest, we reached a stunning waterfall. It's easy to get complacent when you've been to so many waterfalls, but this really was beautiful. Being the only people there, swimming in water so pure its drinkable, was an amazing experience.

Walking back through the gorge we noticed an aboriginal painting of a man upside down. Although probably a few thousand years old, we still think it probably meant someone met their death falling off the steep sides!

Although we only spent a couple of days in this National Park, it gave us a 'taste' of 4-wheel driving. There is so much more of the Kimberley's we have yet to see, but first things first, there's a small matter of the 2 1\2 months fruit picking left to do!
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