Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Exploited, exhausted and moving deep in the Australian mountains

I thought people were joking when they said Australia gets cold in the winter. The posters don't exactly boast young people prancing round Bondi in their parkas. Misleading bastards.

It's 6:17AM and minus three degrees outside as I write this from a tiny town buried deep in the bush. I'm cold to the bone, the winter clothes I had my mam ship got lost in transit and I'm now living in an old hospital six hours from Sydney. There's no heating, not much hot water and no phone signal. In a matter of minutes the mice roaming what was once a waiting room will run and hide as the ten backpackers calling this home bounce between the billion bathrooms.

A couple of years ago someone bought the building, chucked a few bunkbeds inside and changed the sign from 'hospital' to 'hostel' with a few more renovations.

The upstairs is blocked off with signs shouting the word 'asbestos,' the town has one single supermarket shop and some locals say this place is haunted.

Conditions are so questionable I phoned my boyfriend in a panic during my second week here to stress the fact that I don't recall the last time I had an erection. You know shit is bad when even your cock can't be bother rising for that awkward moment each morning. Shrivelled up as I sleep in a room many have failed to wake up in.

The place is surrounded by mountains, farms and vast stretches of fucking nothing. And random yet raging bush fires too we've since discovered. The world could be reacting to something catastrophic happening on a global scale and we'd be none the wiser here.

Thankfully manageress S and partner T provide both the parental figure we all crave and basic comforts as they battle with the boiler and wrap you in extra blankets. And as shit as it all sounds, it's surprisingly homely. For everything the place lacks it makes up for in hope.

Between the multilingual strangers sharing a bedroom, there's a real sense of camaraderie. I imagine similar to how inmates on death row felt as they walked towards that chair. Because as the clock strikes seven each morning, we're hurdled like animals into a minibus, treated like twats and paid like paupers to work on the farms.

Picking fruit, pruning trees, you name it and we're paid massively below the legal minimum wage to do it. Exploited, exhausted and powerless to do anything about it.

Why? Because the Australian government requires backpackers on a one year working holiday visa to complete 88 days of regional work in order to stay in the country for a further year. Which basically translates to: if you wanna stay, go do the shit jobs we don't wanna for a couple of months and we'll let you. It's not very fair but nothing ever is.

Others obtain their visas through work sponsorships, spouses or family members but I felt almost excited at the prospect of throwing myself into something so out of my depth and getting back to the backpacking. Thankfully my dearest boyfriend dropped me off, instead of the ten hour bus here, after apparently getting far too settled in Sydney. Alongside my backpack of essentials I arrived with a mobile gym, potted plant and striped rug among my possession.

So far the single thought getting me through is I am Hannah Montana and this is my time to take the wig off. I've said goodbye to the bright lights and put on my dungarees back home in Crowley Corners. Or something like that.