Thursday, April 16, 2009

Life in the Bananas

Wow - it's been two months since my last update! I apologise for this, though in my defense I will say that there hasn't been too much going on with me that would be of interest to my readership in general. I'll give a brief summary in any case.

Bob's Lookout near Mount Carbine

As I mentioned, I've been working on a banana farm at Lakeland (about three hours from Cairns or one from Cooktown). This town, where I live, is just a nice little place with a shop, a pub and a caravan park, and is inhabited largely by the foreign backpacker workforce of the farm.

The banana farm is pretty huge - employing about 100 people and with an output of something like 30-40 pallets of cavendish bananas every day (mainly shipped to Perth). My job - the job I did for every hour of the two months I've worked here - has been de-suckering. Bananas throw up lots of 'suckers' (small shoots) around their main shoots, and a plantation left untended would quickly become an impenetrable jungle. The job of the de-suckering team (consisting of about nine people) is to work along each row, armed with narrow spades, and chop out the suckers, leaving one or two in suitable positions at each plant to replace the current stalk following fruiting. It's a fairly tough job, physically, and it takes a bit of experience to get fast and efficient without missing suckers.

All in all I've got fond memories of my stay here - the work itself can be tedious but I have actually really enjoyed the lifestyle. The people here have really made it interesting - so many languages being spoken, different kinds of cooking, stories of diverse lives 'back home'. Most weekends I've driven a bunch of people to Cooktown for shopping and a bit of a swim somewhere on the way back, and we've done bits and pieces of exploring, fishing, swimming, building things, sharing food and opinions. Some people think that this town is boring though I have found my weekends to have been almost exhaustingly full.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked by the local primary school to come in and talk to the kids about frogs and I happily obliged, talking about what makes Australian frogs special, introducing them to some FNQ frogs and telling them a bit about Cane Toads. I was impressed that the kids - about a dozen of various ages - already knew quite a lot about frogs. They all had their own stories which they seemed more interested in than those I was trying to get across, but overall I think it went very well.

There have been some interesting animals in the paddocks too - good numbers of snakes including carpet and spotted pythons as well as some venomous snakes - I had a good look at a brown snake (though I'm not sure if it was a Western or Eastern Brown) that did a great aggressive display with a full-on puffed up throat and rearing s-shaped pose before it climbed a banana tree with surprising agility. I also saw what looked like a black whip snake one day. The most common frog in the fields is of course the cane toad - young toads especially love hanging around rotting bananas and feasting on the insects. Apart from those I've seen stony creek frogs, Ornate burrowing frogs, Green Treefrogs and Red treefrogs.

A few weeks ago when I was driving back from Cairns, I was lucky enough to spot a snake sliding off the road just before sunset. I pulled over and was very glad to see it was a black-headed python. This one must have had a bad day as it was really quite aggressive compared with the others I've found up around Darwin.

I'm hitting the road again this afternoon - I think I might actually head back up to Black Mountain for a night before going back through Cairns and then out to Chillagoe and perhaps Undara. The Cape York parks are set to open up in early May and I'm really looking forward to that leg of my journey.

Wish me luck!


Anonymous said...

hey~ your story was very interesting!!! Actually I'm in Cairns and I and my friend are looking for the farm work, especially banana:)
So can we know about the farm which you worked at??(address or phone number)
I'll remain my e-mail address~

and Good luck to you and us!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your information. It helped me much. I am a backpacker too. And I have travelled a lot. But I haven’t seen as good services as I was provided by Cairns Backpackers. They are really great. Cairns Backpackers