Published: May 28th 2011May 27th 2011
Hello everyone, I wish I could tell you that I am working on a cattle station now, learning and experiencing the life of a wrangler and earning the fantastic pay that goes along with it, but that would be a lie. 7 backpackers from the hostel as well as myself went down to reception a couple week and a bit ago (in my case I actually leapt out of my top bunk and ran down the 2 flights of stairs bare foot) after they announced that there was a rancher looking for 8 people to start work the next day, earning $250 a day. Now $250 a day may sound suspicious, but that is honestly about the going rate for cattle ranging. The job usually entails waking up ready for work at 7 in the morning, and working until about 5-6 in the evening. Mustering the cattle is either done on horseback or dirt bike, and a person will follow with a truck and trailer containing the kitchen and food. You generally sleep outside in an outdoor, weather proof sleeping bag called a swag.
Sounds good right? Well it would have been if it were true. It was clear to all of us that when we met the man (Cody he claimed [rancher and bull rider]) that he was fairly drunk. He said it was his birthday and he and his brother had come into Brisbane to celebrate as well as pick up people for work. All ok so far, what do bogans (rednecks) do when they get into town? Go out on the piss (drink heavily)! So we all packed up our stuff and were ready to go out early the next morning, the only thing was that our new boss man was clearly NOT ready to go. He’d been out drinking all night and hadn’t got back to the hostel until 6 in the morning where we found him snoozing on one of the couches in reception.
Ok, whatever! The guy was drinking all night, his brother was sure to have everything together, right? Well, maybe not. Apparently the truck that was supposed to pick us up at the hostel was getting it’s breaks done at some mechanic’s place a ways out of town. The brother apparently took it out there while we were waiting on sleeping beauty. Our only option was to take the train out to where the truck was getting fixed. So all of us, laden down with all our belongings as we were, headed out to some town (Beenleigh) which happened to be in the opposite direction of Toowumba (where the ranch was supposedly located) for some odd reason. Either way, we all got on the and took the 45 minute ride out to Beenleigh where we were to eventually be picked up.
After we were supposed to get to the ranch, there was going to be a party on account of the fact that it was his younger sister’s 18th birthday. At this point we were starting to think that some things here were odd, 2 siblings with birthdays 1 day apart, though there was something like 10 years worth of age difference? One of the members of our group has a sister who was 3 years his junior but they actually shared the same birthday, it wasn’t that odd!
We arrived at Beenleigh and found ourselves waiting at the shopping mall near the train station. It was something like 2 in the afternoon at the time and we found ourselves waiting and waiting. Cody made several calls (always on a cell phone he borrowed from one of us) to get in contact with his brother and sister. It seemed that his sister now wanted to celebrate her birthday in town as opposed to the party her family had planned for her at the ranch. Cody then asked if we minded staying in town for a night to go out with his sister and her friends before going to work the next day, there was no problem as we were all going to be paid for the day as well as have our hotel paid for.
This put up a hell of a lot of red flags as not only would he be paying us $2000 plus the cost of a hotel for 8 people for the night. Time was stretching on and he made more phone calls to determine where his brother and sister were and when they were going to pick us up. We were starting to get fed up with the excuses and the fact that we had been waiting there for several hours so our fearless boss decided to take matters into his own hands. He figured it would be best to reserve hotel rooms before it got too late and take a taxi out there since our rides had not shown up. I’m sure your thinking that seemed reasonable, the only think is that boss man didn’t have his wallet on him and couldn’t remember the ranch business credit card number.
We wanted to believe that it was simple a case of the dummer younger brother who had taken one too many knocks to the head on the farm, but things were starting to smell very fishy here. He then takes some of us aside, one by one, when talking on the phone. After later conferring with one another, we gathered that he was attempting to get credit card numbers from us to make the booking reservation while he waited for someone on the ranch to get back to him with the business card number.
By this point it’s 5PM have had warning bell going off in our heads for at least the past hour, so we all pretty much got up and told him we’d be more than happy to work for him, but he needed to get his stuff together. We walked back to the train station and hopped on the next train back to Brisbane.
Even as I write this I am having a hard time believing that he strung us along so far, but I think it was just the combination of the fact that we were all so desperate for work that we were practically making excuses for his odd behaviour, and the frog in the boiling water theory, where you adjust the temperature by a degree every 10 minutes and the frog will eventually be boiled alive. We got minor excuses and reasons the whole way along and just stuck with it to the point that it was absolutely absurd.
We all got to talking on the train ride back, piecing together what actually took place and could barely believe that we as a group bought any of the bullshit he was feeding us. All in all he got $50 out of me and another guy the night before for a swag he or his fictitious brother never had, a couple of kebabs out of some of the other guys, and a train ticket to Beenleigh.
Ok, so he got $100 out of 8 guys, great job! He’d better not show his face in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley any time soon though because 2 English guys, 2 Welsh guys, an Irish guy, 2 French guys, and a Canadian guy are (to borrow an Australian term) well pissed at him. The guys from the UK and Ireland were very vocal about the violence they would like to commit (specifically on him).
I had one more night at the backpackers that I had pushed back to another day, but many of the others were not so lucky as I was, and had days they simply cancelled. The reception at Bunk were quite helpful since it was they who announced the job over the PA system and put us all in an 8 bed dorm, since we were all so familiar with one another we had no problem sharing the room (though I was lucky enough to race up to snag a lower bunk before the others sorted out their number of days left over!).
So I was swindled out of out of $50 which I am more than sure he put to damaging his liver the night before we left, but I also gave away my cool bag that morning and all of my food since I believed that I would not need it. So we arrived later that night (some time around 7PM) and I had no food. My friends Michelle (Ireland) and Mazz (Netherlands) insisted that I join them and made enough for the 3 of us.
Food in my belly, me and the other 7 suckers decide that after that ordeal we would celebrate our fortune (good [we were still alive] and bad [we got swindled]) with the choice drink of backpackers Australia wide. I am of course referring to goon (boxed wine of the cheapest quality)! When I say cheap, I mean you can get 4.4 litres for $12, so when you have 8+ backpackers together what do you do? You buy to casks of course! We obviously drank too much and were paying for it for the majority of the next day.
So besides the learning experience, I’ve been looking for work via other avenues. I took my white card (your government required basic safety test confirming that you will not auto-darwinate as soon as you set foot on site) which is very basic and similar to Canadian WCB (Worker’s Compensation Board) regulations. I’ve signed up at several job agencies citing my background as a first aid attendant/safety officer/labourer in construction and my warehouse experience. Most were very impressed with my experience, one going so far as to say that I’m “more than your average worker.” Above average or not, work is still hard to come by here.
So what does one do when no work seems apparent? Well if you’re me (I know you aren’t, but for sake of conversation lets say you are) you’d hop on a plane and fly clear across the country for greener pastures! That’s right, I’m in Perth WA (Western Australia is the largest and wealthiest state Australia) now. Western Australia is spoken of the in the backpacker circles in hushed tones as the holy grail for work that is not only easy to find, but high paying as well. Why is this so? Well the cost of living is higher, and honestly not a lot of backpackers go there.
The majority of Australia’s action is on the east coast and I must admit that I am a little disappointed that I did not see more while I was there. I didn’t get to Melbourne, Tasmania, Fraser Island, Whit Sundays, Adelaide, Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, the list could go on, but I’ve made goals for myself and I was forced to make some choices. As I have hinted at before, I plan to get to Europe by early September, and to do that I need to work and save money accordingly. It shocks me to say it, but September is only 3 months away! That is why I have to skip out on some of the sights of Australia for now.
Looking back on my time here, I really wish I’d only spent 1 week in Sydney instead of a month and maybe a little less time in Byron Bay, but in my travels I’ve come to learn that there is no use lamenting what could have been. You can only control what is ahead of you, not behind you, so you might as well focus on making sure that what you will do is something you can look back on with no regrets.
I’ll tell you all what Perth is like after I’ve spent a few days here and I’ll tell you what the job front is looking like.