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Published: August 18th 2007
Lovely to be back together
After accepting the tractor driving job. Drummond had arranged a meeting with a friend of his (Dellis) who runs a bush stay in Regans Ford about 40km from the olive farm, as we didn’t have to meet Dellis for another eight hours we had some time to kill and it was only about an hours drive north. We figured that there was Yanchep national park and a few little towns along the way, so we should pop in to see what they had to offer.
Yanchep national park was really nice with Crystal cave, which used to have an under ground river running through it but due to environmental changes, the drought and increased demand for water in the Perth area no-longer runs through the cave but runs deeper underground. However all the stalagmites and stalactites were still there to be seen and very impressive. Yanchep is also home to many different forms of wildlife, more Cockatoos than you could point a stick at (its much better seeing them in the wild in a flock opposed to in a pet shop in a cage), the kangaroos seemed pretty used to the tourists as they were pretty much oblivious to our
I like the photo
presence and quite happy to pose for a photo or two. The Koalas however were a little less willing, hiding high in the tree tops and pretty hard to spot (small grey furry thing hiding high up in a big grey tree usually asleep too).
Leaving Yanchep we travelled up the coast to explore the sea-side towns Yanchep (itself), Two Rocks, Guilderton, and Seabird. Nothing much really to these towns just some small houses, some beautiful coast line a lighthouse at Guilderton and some inviting sand dunes. The sand dunes looked a little too tempting with 4x4 trails running all over them, we just couldn’t resist trying out Jessie’s four wheel drive. As Richie grew more confident with all the extra traction the four wheel drive low range gave, the sand got softer, and as he went for a gear change suddenly she stalled! He hadn’t been quick enough with the gear change and the sand sapped our motion to a stop. Normally not a problem on hard ground but on the really soft and dry sand getting going again proved tricky. I was beginning to panic and so was Richie. After about ten minutes or so we had
The Crystal caves
Yanchep National Park
managed to get ourselves turned around but the soft sand just sapped the motion from our wheels, every attempt to free ourselves was stumped by the same piece of extra soft sandy hill. After realising that we were not going to get out that way we deflated our tyres and attacked the little hill from another angle doing a quick turn we scrambled for traction and were over the hill and out of the little sand pit. Without stopping or trying to change gear we headed for firmer ground and the way out. We arrived back at the entrance to Guilderton at the gas station hearts still racing as we inflated our tyres back up to normal pressure. Lesson learnt! Don’t stop on soft sand, change gear fast and have another 4x4 with you to pull you out should you get stuck! And don’t get too cocky! 4WD course could be handy.
Our first off road lesson over and still a little shaken we headed further north to meet Dellis at the Regans Ford roadhouse. We met Dellis a little before dark, after a quick hello we were off to “Soulhaven Bush stay” (Google it). Dellis’s little Suzuki didn’t
seem the ideal car for dashing down the dusty unmade road grounding out at almost every bump in the road. We arrived at Soulhaven crossing the top field we had to wait for the Kangaroos to decide weather or not they wanted to play chicken with the Landcruiser or not.
The next day Drummond arrives with the paperwork for employing us and all the forms for taxation (boring) but then explains (unofficially) that if we are to tick certain boxes we get taxed at a lesser rate, 13%! BRILLIANT!! After Drummond take us to the olive farm for a look round and a quick tutorial on driving tractors and forklifts. We also meet our new boss Jim (he’s really nice and so unbelievably chilled) who lets us go practice driving. The tractor is not like driving a car with five gears forward and one reverse, oh no it has one lever for really silly slow (very low ratio), slow (low ratio) and normal tractor speed (high ratio). Then you have a normal five speed gear box, but each gear has three in-between gears that you control with a switch on-top of the gearlever and then you have a lever
for forward and reverse. So in total you have forty-five gears forward and forty-five gears backwards. Sounds complicated but really you only use fifteen or so gears, you can still pull away in 45th gear if you want. Driving a forklift is harder than it looks with one lever for forward/neutral/reverse, with one hand on the wheel you control three levers up/down, tilt and side shift. Trying to co-ordinate all of them and not impale things as you are steering is a challenge in it’s self. This wilL takes some mastering, and then there is reversing with a trailer to learn too…
Our first twelve hour shift at “Dandaragan estate olive farm” wasn’t a bad first day if you discount us both getting our tractors stuck (I jack-knifed trying to reverse and Richie’s trailer wheel fell down a hole) with a little help from Ivo the harvester driver I managed to get the tractor out. Then at the end of the day Richie, had a small accident with the forklift. As he lifted a box of olives (about half a ton) his forklift caught the stack next to him and the box he was lifting just jumped off the
forklift and plummeted to the floor spilling every olive across the floor… OOPS! In front of the boss too. Just as well the boss is so nice. He simply explained how not to do it again. Always tilt the forks back while carrying a load. The oil makes the bins slip.
For the next few weeks we work most days only having a day when the harvester is really broken. As the harvester breaks down nearly every day. There is a lot of hanging around waiting for repairs. But this does mean that we get ride around on quad bikes fixing the irrigation system. This is great fun, even if I end up getting a little wet.
At the end of the day we have a forty minute drive back to soulhaven. Where we are greeted by Jilly a tame kangaroo that was hand reared from twelve weeks old. She loves being fed apples, bread and biscuits, as well as main food goat muesli. Soulhaven is a wildlife conservation area. WWith a few tin shacks to house Dellis and about ten paying guests. It’s very peaceful. When we first arrive there is only us and dellis. But we
How it all works
The Harvester shakes the trees and collects the olives. then drops them in to the bins on the trailer.
soon have the company another English couple, Natalie and Charlie who work the night shift in the processing plant, and then Terry and Natsuko from Korea and Japan. Who were also driving tractors when the second harvester arrived. At one point due lack of staff on the harvester. There was me, Richie our bosses’ nephew Matt (also our Good Friend) Operating two Tractors and a one harvester. When the harvester alone needed three people. So we had this kind of tag team going on. While one of us was busy filling up our bins the other jumped into the harvester to work the picking heads and unblock the conveyors at the back. We were the A team. When the final day of harvesting came it was a miracle that the either harvester made it to the end. The harvester me and Richie were working with no longer had any working lights, the sensor bar had also stopped working and the picking heads no longer moved in and out. But we made it. By the aid of the headlights from the tractors. One of us go up head and light the way while the other followed close behind shining their lights
Mist at dawn
Driving to work in the morning
through the harvester. By the end of the harvest we had made lots friends and earn a fair bit of money. After helping with the clean up for an extra couple of weeks we decide is time to start travelling again. In preparation we thought it would be wise to in role on a 4wd course.
The first day of our course, started with bush terrain. When we arrive we are met by a group who all had lovely new 4wd vehicles, and there was us. I think they thought we were having a laugh. But we showed them. The first hurdle was to drive thought a patch of water and then up a steep slope. After having a good talk with the instructor we all climb back in our cars and have a go. We were feeling a bit dubious but were willing to have ago. We had no need to worry though Jessie made it through. So when the next hurdle came up, with some serious thought we decided to have a go at that to. Unfortunately we were not to be so luckily. The obstacle was a rather large water rut which if you fell in
The Harvester Crew
Pete, Ivo, Katherine and chi-whan
it was likely to do some damage. So the idea was to straddle the rut with your wheels and take it slow. So with Richie at the wheel we headed over the ruts. The first part started off fine until the slope got steeper and we lost low range gear. Opps this meant we slipped forward into rut. Panic. We had our front right wheel in the rut leaving the Jessie’s back left hanging in mid air. After a quick check over it was decided that we could drive her out. We are pleased to say that there was no damage at all. Although at the time we didn’t realise that we had lost low range totally until the last big hurdle of a really steep rocky slope. After going up one side we went to down the other. Low range slipped out and we skidded down the hill and stopping rather abruptly when we hit the bottom. Oh dear, old age has taken its toll on Jessie. She needed to have her transfer case looked at so it was with regret that we had to reschedule the second day of our course for a couple of weeks while Jessie
The view from my tractor
went to the doctors. Good job we were still working at the time
While Jessie was at the mechanics we stayed at the olive farm. Our Jim offered us the use of his caravan, which was really nice. It also coincided with him being on holiday and Natalie and Charlie looking after his house. So it turned out to be a lovely last week at work. As well as Jessie being fixed. Roger our supervisor was lovely enough to make a ladder which we could bolt to the side her. Great, now we can get up on the roof easily.
So it’s with a fixed Jessie we went back to do the second day for the 4wd course, Sand terrain. Once again we have the oldest car there. But she didn’t show us up. Once we sorted out the correct psi for the tyres we were managing better than most. Although even having the correct tyre pressure can’t always help you it depends on the sand. Sand is very difficult to drive in. I even had ago, and yes I managed to get stuck and couldn’t coordinate feet well enough to rock us out again. Opps so I handed
Richie and Jilly
The tame kangaroo at Soulhaven
back to Richie pretty quickly. At the end of the day we were feeling a lot more confident about what we can do and can’t do.
After the course is over we head back to Soulhaven for a few days to pack up and sort out before we head on our travels
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