Life on the orchard and my big break in NZ

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Oceania » New Zealand » North Island » Hawkes Bay » Onga Onga
April 28th 2006
Published: June 3rd 2006EDIT THIS ENTRY

We moved down to the Orchard on the 26th of February and started picking on the 27th, the first day of the picking season.

The Orchard we were working at was Mr Apple Ongaonga. The Orchard is actually 3km by road from the "village" of Ongaonga (which is named after a large very poisonous stinging nettle). Ongaonga is a very old historical village in NZ terms and it has a village museum, department of conservation information hut, a shop, a car mechanic and a pub (The Sandford Arms)! The nearest town of any kind of size worth mentioning is Waipuk (Waipukurau) which is about 25km away and then Hastings which is about 65km away. Basically everything closes at 5pm apart from one shop 15km away which closes at 8pm and one in Waipuk which closes at 10pm, where there is also a takaway or two. Other than that the local pub did meals 2 nights a week for 2 hours from 6-8pm. Its a pretty quiet area and takes a while to get into it.

We had an induction which lasted about 2 hours and then it was straight into the picking. You have a bucket which hangs over your shoulders and the aim of the game is to fill as many bins (which hold about 500kg of apples) as you can in a day, without bruising the apples!

On the Orchard there are seven caravans and a good crowd of people.

Ashley & Christine, a Scottish guy and his american girlfriend
Jamie & Lynne, an English couple from Ashford in Kent,
Jan & Katarina, a Czech couple from Prague,
Jan & Maca, two Czech guys who had been on the orchard since september
Edgar & Dan two philipino brothers with NZ residency
Steve a Kiwi guy whos benn coming back to the orchard for 6 years in is holidays from uni.

Picking was going well and after 5 weeks I was doing pretty well until the morning of the 3rd April, when at about 8.30am I took a dive off the top rung of my 8ft ladder. I dont know what happened, I had the ladder firmly placed, I wasn't over reaching but some how I managed to fall. I must have slipped as the ladders were still wet from the morning dew, I was just going back down my ladder with about a half bucket of apples. The weight of the bucket pulled me down head first and I just saw the ground coming up at me. I put my left arm out to stop my head from hitting the ground first, in doing so I bend back my left middle finger, snapped my wrist and then banged my head on the ground.

Daniel another picker two rows across heard me and ran over to me and raised the alarm, my wrist was obviously broken with my wrist being limp and painfull and the bulge of the bone sticking out just below the underside of my wrist joint. Andy and Chocky the forman lifted me onto the back of the truck to get me back to the office and then after putting on a sling Andy and Doug the orchard manager took me to Waipukurau medical centre.

After a shot of painkiller in my rump the pain was very slightly more bearable. We had to wait until 10am for the x-ray department to open (as a member of staff from Hastings hospital does this for a couple of hours a few days a week). Although I was first in the que for the x-ray I had to wait until they had sorted me out a medical number and assured that I was covered for treatment.

After the doctor looked at the x-rays he found that my finger wasn't broken as first suspected, however my radius where it meets my wrist joint was snapped and had moved out of place. This therefore meant we had to travel 60km to Hastings hospital.

By the time we were half way to the hospital the painkillers were wearing off and I could feel the bone moving in my wrist. By the time we got to the hospital I was in agony and it was almost an hour later when they moved me to a cubicle, put a splint on my arm and put me on a morphine drip. To get my bone back into place they had to put a cuff around my left arm, stopped the blood flow to it and gave me a local anaesthetic in my arm which made it go numb and a funny red and white blottchy colour. Just before they did this they told me that there was a risk that this procedure could leave me with permanent
Watching time go by at........Watching time go by at........Watching time go by at........

The Sandfor Arms Tavern, Onga Onga
loss of feeling in my arm (due to there being no blood flow to it for 40 minutes) and also that if the cuff failed the local anaesthetic could upset the ryhthm of my heart.

As soon as the aneasthetic had kicked in it took 2 doctors, one pulling and the other twisting to get the bone back into place, Andy looked a bit pale and uncomfortable watching it! They then set my arm in plaster and almost sent me home with the drip still in my arm. We eventually left the hospital at 4.45pm and headed straight for some food. I had been nil by mouth all day and wasnt even allowed a glass of water.

Since I have done my wrist I havent really been upto much. Everone was great who we picked with and I was lent a TV and DVD player and loads of books by various people. I have read all 3 Lord of the ring books plus 2 other books and watched the extended lord of the rings trilogy and watched 10 other dvds!

I was pretty lucky that I had my legal working visa and was covered by the ACC

I hate apples!!!
for my medical care as one I had had the accident I read the fine print on our insurance. We took the policy of specifically for it covering us to work and it said it covered fruit picking, however in the fine print it says you are only covered for working at ground level and not on ladders.
Now this has happened were not going to be able to do the south island as I can't do do most of the things we wanted to do so we are going to do just about everything the north island has to offer, get my cast off and head off to Asia leaving the south island for another time.

One day seems to merge into another on the orchard, especially when we had been working 6 days a week and just relaxing on the day off. We havent got up to too much exciting, other than when Andys folks came over which has already had its own blog. Other than that we have been to the local Rodeo and bull riding competition at Otane. This was quite a big local event and some of the local guys have been competing all over the world namely in the states and Canada.

We have had a couple of trips to the coast to Kairakau Beach, Porangahau and Black Head. We have been with Steve who is a surfer and the last time we went Andy and Steve managed to catch a couple of waves but unfortunately all the best surf has been on working days, typical! The coast in this part of Hawkes bay is beautiful with rugged cliffs broken with sweeping bays and backed by rolling ranges of hills. It isnt the most accessible area but the coast is uncommercialised and unspoilt and there are some nice little camp sites, some of which are free DOC sites.

The rest of our spare time has mainly been spent in the local pub, where I briefly worked in the kitchen for 2 shifts before I broke my wrist. The locals at the pub are a friendly bunch, Andy even managed to borrow some golf clubs and go for a game with the landlord while I worked.

At the end of the picking season the orchard put on a bit of bash which included a traditional Maouri feed called a Hangi. To do do this you dig a hole about a meter square and 1/2 meter deep, then fill it with wood steel and stones and set fire to it. When the stones and steel are hot enough you shovel out all the stones and steel separting it from the ashes of the wood. The stones and steel go back into the hole and then a layer of watercress is put on top followed by huge joints of meat, veg and tinned steamed pudding then more layers of watercress. Sacks soaked in water are then placed on the top of all this and covered in soil so no steam escapes from the ground. All this probably sounds a bit of an effort, well it was and the food tasted a little earthy believe it or not, give me a BBQ any day of the week much easier and tastes better.

Generally apart from my break we had a good time on the orchard, the job can wear you down at times but we met some great people.

Anyway we are now back on the road again heading down to Wellington then upto Wanganui over to Mount Taranaki then to Tongario
Preparing the Hangi 1Preparing the Hangi 1Preparing the Hangi 1

First dig a hole
National Park then to get my cast off again in Hasting, before one last visit to Steve and Lynn in Auckland before we head off on the last leg of our journey.

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


Preparing the Hangi 2Preparing the Hangi 2
Preparing the Hangi 2

Light a fire in the hole with steel sleeps in it
Preparing the Hangi 3Preparing the Hangi 3
Preparing the Hangi 3

Once hot enough remove all the ashes and steel from the hole
Prepating the Hangi 4Prepating the Hangi 4
Prepating the Hangi 4

Replace the steel back in the whole, covering with watercress, place meat, veg ect, in hole covering with more watercress and wet sheets
Preparing the Hangi 5Preparing the Hangi 5
Preparing the Hangi 5

Cover the food in dirt so not steam escapes
Preparing the Hangi 6Preparing the Hangi 6
Preparing the Hangi 6

After several hours and beers later dig out the food and enjoy..

4th June 2006

Hi guys. Why didn't you tell me I looked so wasted (Sandra, Kiri,Tess)? I would have tried to open my eyes a bit wider.

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