This turned into a ludicrously long story! It was originally only meant to be a little paragraph to explain where I got the money in my last months in Australia to travel around Asia, but now it’s this long story lasting three posts! No hard feelings if you’d like to give up here…
The first time we (my travel buddy Michele and I) worked we got a job on a cherry farm near Orange, New South Wales. We met a girl in a hostel that put us on “the list” of the farm she was working at. All we had to do was catch a 6hr train from Sydney to Orange once the season started and voila: two and a half months of well-paid work picking and packing cherries. We were picked up in town by some contractor. He brought to the first farm to pick cherries for a couple of weeks until work started in the packing shed. Packing is always better than picking, because it is more likely to be paid by the hour. Fortunately, we managed to get work in the packing shed after only a few days. As you can see in the photo below, there weren’t much cherries to be picked…I think I earned $6 the first day.
Have you ever seen two people look this horrendous?
How backpackers find farm work in Australia
In New South Wales, we met and worked with many backpackers that had gotten the job not by luck, but by driving around the farms and asking for work. They left Sydney with a cheap, barely roadworthy car/van and a tent to sleep in, possibly. Then, if they arrived when the season was starting, a farm would hire them. They would either stay on a campsite the farm provided (ours actually had one) or anywhere else it was allowed. A car gave them the freedom to pick up and leave if the work wasn’t paying well and the mobility to be able to drive into town for food and necessities.
We didn’t have a car at the time. We just had a tent, and relied on others while we were there. That was fine too, and we weren’t the only ones just catching rides into town. There are other ways, sometimes it is better to call a local contractor who manages the workers for farms in the area who will tell you if they need people. Other times, the only option is to stay at a working hostel where the work is organised for you (and you subsequently pay a higher rent). These places can be shady though. You end up in a vicious circle of only earning enough to pay rent, or stay for ages hoping for work to start and it never does.
Yellow cherries, they taste the same basically
Our plan to find work in Cairns
Anyway, this experience got us into the dangerous mindset that once we owned a car, we would find work easily. After our big east coast trip, the bank account balance wasn’t looking good for either of us. The big plan was to look for work around Cairns after the east coast road trip and then stay at a cheap campsite for a few months until we’d made enough money to finance SE Asia. We were pretty confident in finding work within a week.
In the end, it took us around three weeks to a month of driving all 1400km back the way we came, from Cairns to Bundaberg (with a few detours inland that added at least another 400km to the count), to find work.
Below, I’ve got some pictures from the farm we worked at in NSW.