Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hay Contracting in NT

In the last couple of months I have worked in one of the most remote areas I have found myself in. As mentioned in my last blog I was going up to the NT to start a job working in a tractor and it was brilliant. Flying up to around four hours, which just showed how massive Australia is again. Four hours in Europe? We would have been gone from England to Egypt in that time.
The evening before flying up I spent with Reds nephew Paul and his fiancée in Melbourne, where for once I finally had adequate internet. Even with living so close to the city it is bad, but it IS internet (so “JAJ”).
Flight up was like any old flight. Start/Landing is interesting and fun, flight is meh. Landing in Darwin I stepped out of the terminal and was hit with thick, muggy air that had sweat dripping in minutes. Considering the wet season was “over”, I was surprised. With parrots squawking in the trees I made my way to what lots of (white) Australians dub the “stink”-bus (Google it yourself, I'm not going to explain that) and set of on my journey to Katherine, talking to the bus driver about bitcoins and crocodiles.
After arriving in Katherine I was picked up by Penny and taken to where we were camping. The first night was spent with introductions and the next day I was already sitting in a tractor getting lessons on how to mow. Very nice touch to mowing is that you are scarring up all the locusts and the hawks and falcons just love them. Due to that you have birds of prey dive bombing the grass around the tractor near constantly. The most I ever counted was around two dozen circling around. First lesson with Keith also saw us seeing a dingo but that was it. I was set up for night-shift from then on and for the next two weeks I was on night shift with Stijn, a Dutch guy. Learned a lot about the mowing and how to fix said mower. Very ruff country with rather a lot of stones.
Stones and metal inadvertently at some point cause fires and so it was after some days. We had had a few small ones here and there but after a while with the right wind, we had two mayor ones come through that took half a day to extinguish. After that there was no more hay being cut during the day and Stijn and me where working twelve hour nights in two mowers to stay ahead of three balers chasing us.
Two weeks after my arrival we had finished up at the first place and I was relocated to the second joint of operations, in the Douglas Daly region. No phone, no internet. The most modern thing was a sat-tv connection and UHF. I stayed with an older guy which was the caretaker of one of the grounds there. Rather fortunate actually, as he had a new house with no mayor issues. The others had the power-generators fail for them sometimes at night (no aircon!), no running water the first night, run out of gas, etc. First few days I was busy with mowing, as planned, but it rained on and off for a week after that, which was very unusual. Due to that I was on a rake for the week after that, trying to get the hay to dry so the balers could come through. Around that time is when we saw rather a lot of snakes. Ben found a very vicious thing (black head, sand brown body with brown stripes, 2m long) that attacked his Ute tyre. Myself nearly squashed an Inland Taipan with the tractor (most venomous snake in the world) and most of the other found a massive python on the road whilst shifting gear. I also hit the only buffalo which had been sighted in the close area which resulted in a bashed up Ute. But it was still a really fun time, even when you where working 16 hour days. The mantra to myself was “at least it's not fruit-picking. I'm in air conditioning in the tractor”.

After fours weeks of work there was no hay left to cut or rake, so I and a few others left for Darwin where I spent the next couple of days with two Germans before boarding the plane to Melbourne again. Getting to the Darwin airport was a bit of a workout. Normally I don't break a sweat walking one kilometre somewhere. When you lug close to 30kg around and it's low 30s in the temperature department it does get to you a bit. Arrived at the airport wet and boarded the plane after cooling down in the air conditioning. The flight was uneventful, but arrived in Melbourne at 11PM to rain and 10°C, complete opposite of Darwin. After worrying about accommodation (I had booked zero) I found a backpackers hostel on King Street and spent the night there. Next day the journey went back to Tahara, with Red picking me up in Hamilton, to pick up my car and leave for warmer climates post haste.

(picture belongs to the hay contracters I was working for)

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