Tumbarumba appeared in a torrential rain. It has been raining for three days and I am not sure what to do. My only goal in mind was to reach the village because this is where one of the Costa farms for the blueberry harvest is located. The season is supposed to start in early December. So here I am in a small desert village. A central street with a few 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 mountain air and the strange feeling of being in the right place. Tumbarumba is a tiny village that has grown in the middle of the hills. The Australian Cordillera, the great mountain range that stretches along the east coast of Australia is not far away. The Kosciuszko National Park, where the mountains run, is only a few kilometers away. This is where the highest peak in Australia is located (2228m). Here they call the place the Australian Alps. Three ski resorts share the few snow-covered slopes in winter. I find it hard to imagine Australia with snow. But given the state of the weather right now, it does not seems so impossible.
In the rain I go see the Costa farm to find out about the blueberry harvest season. But there is nobody. No one in the campsite either. I have a bad feeling. The camping ground is completely soaked and the small river which crosses it threatens to overflow. Apparently according to the camping owner, the fruit-picking season does not start until December 11. Maybe even the 18th! Bad news. What will I do in the meantime?
Taking advantage of a moment of sunshine, I go walk around the village. A small path goes up the hill behind. No one except an Echidna who quickly ran away while seeing me arriving. A shrill sound suddenly twists my eardrums. I spot a brown and white thing on a tree in front of me. A passerine makes vocalizations. For a very small bird, it has a voice!
The next day I call Costa. It is good, I am on the list of registrants. Introduction Thursday to start work Monday! I am happy. But it still means a week behind what I thought. I ask Angeline, the lady of the farm if she can give me leads for accommodation in the area, not wishing to stay at the campsite. She tells me to go see the hotels in the village. She will also contact a lady she knows who may have a room available. I go see the hotels. Too expensive. Fortunately Angeline contacts me with the number of Pauline, the lady who could house me. I call her, explain my situation to her and she want to meet me in the evening. So at the end of the evening, I meet Pauline. She seems nice but it is the first time that she welcomes someone into her house and she hesitates a little. But she ends up inviting me to come and sleep at her house. She lives in a pretty secluded house, 14km from Tumbarumba. We are discussing the organization. There are several points to settle but we will see that later. Right now I am warm in a good bed!
In exchange for a not too expensive accommodation price, Pauline asks me if I agree to take care of cleaning her garage and gardening. I accept without problem. And so here I am living in a superb quiet place. The house was built by Pauline and her husband on the extension of a hangar. The interior is very nice. I have my own room. And the kitchen and bathroom are of a higher level than almost anything I have seen since I started traveling. A large veranda and a garden surround the house. It is full of flowers and the view of the surrounding hills is superb. No neighbors, just a horse almost wild in the paddock next door. There are birds everywhere and chimes stir in the breeze and play a sweet melody. A little paradise! I feel very lucky to have come across Pauline.
Angeline call me back two days later. With a good surprise. She asks me if I want to be an assistant supervisor! The job is to help the supervisor manage the picker team. It is paid by the hour, $23. I said yes although I hesitate a bit wondering if I wouldn’t be better off being a picker (blueberry picker). By being fast it is possible to make a lot of money. But since I have never been picking, it is very unlikely that I would be fast from the start. The next day is the induction for the assistants. So I go to Costa around mid-morning for a presentation by Angeline and the signing of a whole bunch of papers. The organization looks a little less developed than in Trevelyans in New Zealand, where I worked in a warehouse paking kiwis. But I guess packing and picking work differently. And Costa Tumbarumba seems to be a bit smaller than Trevelyans. However, the atmosphere that the place gives off pleases me.
Today I go to Wagga Wagga, the big city of the region, to buy food supplies. Quinoa, Soba, Ramen, Tamari sauce, Tofu, dried fruit, etc. On the road, I save a turtle! She was on the white strip in the middle of the road and narrowly escaped my wheels. I stopped and went to catch her to place her on the side. I saw her little head and her yellow eyes. She was apparently a tortoise. I didn’t know there were any in Australia. In Wagga Wagga the buses are all stamped “busabout” which refers to “walkabout”, an Aboriginal rite of passage, where young men go to live in nature for several months in order to make the spiritual and traditional transition to adulthood. The day was busy and on the way back, the late afternoon light was sublime. The landscape in the region consists mainly of rolling hills, large meadows of yellow herbs and Eucalyptus.
The days pass and here I am at the end of the week. I continued to work in Pauline’s garden and continued on my blog. I also went for a walk around. Right next to Pauline’s house below is Paddys Fall, a pretty waterfall. A small path runs along the creek for two hours. But with everything that rained last week, the trail is overgrown with grasses. And as I am wary of snakes I quickly turned around. Instead I went for a walk in the little forest exploration in front of Pauline’s house. It is a little less beautiful but I did not feel in danger. In the vicinity there are quite a few areas covered with pines which are in fact private exploitations. The trees are cut and then replanted in a cycle of several years. Inevitably 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 to humans. I feel good and I am happy to find myself living at Pauline’s. But a slight feeling of depression still hangs over me. Probably the end (hopefully) of the previous months filled with doubts, discomfort and questions. My resignation from Arkaroola, almost three months ago, has affected me much more than I expected.
Pauline has put two feeders on her terrace with seeds to feed the local birds. A couple of Parakeets very often come to peck a few seeds several times a day. Chloé, the house cat seems to be a little warm with her thick fur. She is a bit shy and does not really let herself be caressed. In addition to the beautiful view and the animals, a honeysuckle scents the terrace with its delicate smell. Pauline’s house is very pleasant to live in.
In the middle of the day, Sunday, I learn that work in Costa is postponed by one day, one of the supervisors being unable to be here in time. So I spend my Monday between the library and Pauline’s garden. I also contact Tiandi Farm, the voluntary work I am supposed to do in January, to ask them if it would be possible to delay by one month, to give me time to do the whole blueberry fruit-picking season. Julia, the very friendly manager, answers me positively. They just need to find someone to replace me during January. Tomorrow, start of the long-awaited job. A change of pace that will, I hope, do me good.