Australia – Travel diary n°2 – Tumbarumba
Tumbarumba appeared under a torrential rain. It’s been raining for three days and I do not know what to do. The only goal I had in mind was to reach Tumbarumba because that’s where one of Costa’s farms is doing blueberry fruit-picking; the harvest of blueberries. The season is supposed to start in early December. So here I am in a small desert village. A central street with some shops, an information center and a campsite. And that’s all. I have a moment of hesitation. But there is something in the village that I like. A friendly atmosphere, a mountainous air and the strange feeling that I am in the right place.
Arrival in Tumbarumba. Very small town in the hills. One can feel in the air that we are not far from the mountains. It’s still torrential rain. I go see the Costa Farm to learn about the blueberry harvest season. No one. Nobody in the campsite either. I have a bad feeling. The campground is completely soaked and the small river running through it threatens to overflow. Bad news. Apparently according to the camping guy the fruit-picking season does not start until December 11th. Maybe even the 18! Shit. What I am gonna do in the meantime?
Located in the state of New South Wales, Tumbarumba is a small village on the edge of the Kosciuszko National Park. The park is home to a long mountain range with the highest peak in Australia (2228m). In the country, they call the place the Australian Alps. Three-four ski resorts share the few snow-covered slopes in winter. I can not imagine Australia with snow. But given the state of the weather right now, it does not seem so inconceivable. A phone call to Costa earlier this week tells me that the fruit-picking season will start on December 11th. I have a week to wait. I have to find accommodation, I don’t like the idea of staying in a crowded campsite.
I called Costa this morning. It’s good, I’m on the list of the registered. Induction Thursday to start work Monday! I’m happy. But it still means a week late compared to what I thought. I ask Angeline (the lady of Costa) if she can give me directions for accommodation in the area. She tells me to go to the hotels in the village. She will also contact a lady she knows who might have a room available! I go see the hotels; too expensive. Angeline recontacts me with the number of Pauline, the lady who could shelter me. I call her and explain my situation. She wants to meet me tonight! Yes! I spend the afternoon at the library working on my website. It’s raining again. And it’s super cold. In the late evening, I meet Pauline. She looks nice but this is the first time she welcomes someone into her house and she hesitates a bit. But she ends up inviting me to sleep at her place, this evening! She lives in a pretty isolated shack, 14km from Tumbarumba. We discuss the organization. There are several points to settle but we’ll see later. For now I’m warm in a good bed!
In exchange for an accommodation price not too expensive, Pauline asks me if I agree to take care of cleaning his garage and doing gardening. I accept without problem. And here I am to live in a beautiful quiet place. The house was built by Pauline and her husband on the extension of a shed. The interior is very nice. I have my own room. And the kitchen and bathroom are of a higher standard than almost anything I’ve seen since I started traveling. A large veranda and a garden surround the house. It’s filled with flowers and the view of the surrounding hills is superb. No neighbors, just an almost wild horse in the paddock next door. There are birds everywhere and chimes that move with the breeze and spread a sweet melody. A little paradise! I feel so lucky to have met Pauline!
Angeline called me back two days later. With a good surprise. She asked me if I wanted to be assistant supervisor! This is to help the supervisor manage the pickers team. It’s paid by the hour, $ 23. I said yes although I hesitated a little while wondering if I would not be better to stay picker. By being fast it is possible to make a lot of money. But since I’ve never done picking, it’s highly unlikely I’ll be fast from the start. The next day was the induction for the assistants. So I went to Costa in the middle of the morning for a presentation by Angeline and signing a lot of papers. The organization looks a bit less organized than when I worked at Trevelyans in New Zealand, packing kiwis. But I guess packing and picking works differently. And Costa Tumbarumba seems to be a little smaller than Trevelyans. Other than that, I worked quite a lot in Pauline’s garden removing weeds. It’s all beautiful, all clean now.
Today I went to Wagga Wagga, the big city of the region, to buy food supplies. Quinoa, Soba, Ramen, Tamari sauce, Tofu, dried fruits, etc., that I did not find in Tumbarumba and to take advantage of the wifi of the library which hope that it will be better than the one in Tumba. On the road, I saved a turtle! She was on the white stripe in the middle and narrowly escaped my wheels. I stopped and I went to get her to drop her on the side. I saw her little head and her yellow eyes. It is apparently a land tortoise. I did not know there were any in Australia. At Wagga Wagga the buses are all stamped “busabout” which refers to “walkabout”, an aboriginal rite of passage where young Aboriginal males go to live in the wilderness to make the spiritual and traditional transition into manhood. Busy day but I have not advanced enough on my blog I think. As usual, it takes time. On the way back, the light of the late afternoon was sublime. The landscape in the region consists mainly of rolling hills, large grasslands of yellow grasses and Eucalyptus.
The end of my first week in Tumbarumba went well. I continued to work in the garden and to advance on my blog. I also went around exploring the surroundings. Below Pauline’s house is Paddys Fall, a beautiful waterfall. A small path runs along the creek for two hours. I had in mind to go hiking on Sunday morning. But with all that has rained last week, the trail is overgrown. And as I’m wary of snakes I quickly turned around. Instead, I went for a walk in the small forest logging in front of Pauline’s house. It’s a little less beautiful but I did not feel in danger. In the surroundings there are quite a lot of pine-covered areas that are actually forest exploitations. The trees are cut and then replanted in a cycle of several years. Forcibly the cut areas are not very pretty. I came across an Echidna searching the ground for insects and ants. They are really interesting little beasts and then unlike most animals in Australia, they are not dangerous for humans. All is well and I am happy to find myself living at Pauline’s house. But a slight feeling of depression still hovers around me. Probably the end (I hope) of the previous months filled with doubts, ill-being and questions. My resignation from Arkaroola almost three months ago affected me, in the end, much more than I thought.
In the middle of the day, Sunday, I learn that work at Costa is postponed for a day, one of the supervisors couldn’t be there in time. It irritates me a little, feeling ready to start. Well, only a day to wait. So I spend my Monday between the library and Pauline’s garden. I also contact Tiandi Farm, the woofing that I’m supposed to do in January to ask them if it would be possible to pushback in February rather than January, to give me time to make the whole season of blueberry fruit-picking here. Julie, the very friendly manager, responds positively. They just have to find someone to replace me during January. I hope this will happen because otherwise I will not really stay in Tumbarumba for a long time. Tomorrow, start of the long-awaited job. A change of pace that will, I hope, do me good!