Travel.P #19 – Blueberry for breakfast, lunch & dinner

The ultimate goal of the architect…is to create a paradise. Every house, every product of architecture… should be a fruit of our endeavour to build an earthly paradise for people.

Alvar Aalto

We got picked up by a friend, JayJay, that drove us from Odin in Napier to the hostel, where I spend my next three weeks. From there we drove 15 minutes to the blueberry picking farm, where we filled out some papers and were allowed to work from the next day. The orchard in Hastings was huge and the work conditions were great. We could start when we want, and leave when we want. We could take the days off we want to have off and pick our breaks when we wanted to.

The ‘hostel’ were we stayed with around 25 other backpackers, mostly French, German or South American, was a house of a guy and his daughter on a big property in between Napier and Hastings. We paid 100 dollars per week. It was all pretty fucked up, but it did the job. Shelter, cooking areas a restricted by the owner Jacuzzi and some fruit trees. A slack line and a big garden. The fruit trees were all bearing tasty beautiful pears, Avocados, Oranges and Asian Pear. Between two trees was a around seven meter long slack line installed, just next to the pool. The house had a big porch with a pool table and the Jacuzzi. Also there was a hammock set up by a girl from America, in that I slept most of my nights.

There were four kitchens, two inside the main house (one in an extension part of the house without light), usually used by the South Americans, the one outside under the shelter with a big table, usually used by the French and the one in the small house, usually used by the Germans. We traveled between the last two kitchens, depending on accessibility. We pretty much used everything on the ‘hostel-campsite’. Ced slept in a tent, while I slept under the starts, on the grass or in the hammock. On very rainy days I slept on the couch in the small house.

Our days usually started with a breakfast at home, a ride to work and picking for eight, nine hours until our brain was mash potato and we left home. The Orchard on the blueberry farm was covered by nets, 2 meters above our heads. We had fife different types of blueberry and each one gave different money per kg. Work was mostly fun. I was surrounded by a big variety of people from different countries. I had a trolley with two baskets, later four, that I had to fill with the picked blueberries. Picked with my thumbs, putting gentle pressure on the berry so that they fall straight into my palms and from there into my baskets/trays. Once a basket was full I switched it with an empty one. Once all my baskets where full I had to swap my baskets against empty ones. I wore a card, that was scanned by the supervisors. It was scanned when I entered a row, when I left a row and when I gave my buckets away, and in exchange received the kg weight as a recipe.

Already after the first day Ced and me found different ways to boost our productivity, from skipping bad rows (small berry) or jumping into other rows, picking the biggest berries as fast as we could. Together we had a lot of fun and challenged us who could pick the fastest. I lost, haha. ‘We worked like bastards’, like we used to say and had short breaks. Our lunch were potatoes, eggs, that we cooked the eve before with mustard or mayo. Usually we grabbed some fruits from the hostel for in between. Everything fit into a 12 egg container, so that was our lunch box. Since we picked together, so that one would get topped up to the minimum wage and the other one can make a lot of money. Our record was 100 kg in one day.

The nice thing about the job was that the weather was great, we could snack more berries than I would have ever imagined in my life and there was different music everywhere. It was like a festival. Every tenth person had their own speaker with music, and through the day you hit different spots with different pickers.

Driving home was always exciting because there was always something going on at the hostel, and we had a few funny parties. I ate french food, found out that I like, yes even love cheese and I never enjoyed cheese before in my life. I absolutely hated it. I drank a lot of red wine and good Belgium beer, mostly with Spaghetti Carbonara. Some days we went to the hospital to check Flos health condition, that went slowly from horrible to good. We also checked the boat from time to time and searched for a new water pump. We made calls, checked shops but we couldn’t find the missing part.

We were relieved when Flo finally left the hospital, with a machine, sucking the stuff out of his cut. He had to walk on clutches and we received the horrible note that he won’t be able to join us on our sail from Napier to Wellington. The most dangerous of our routes, with only Ced and me on the ship. On our last week in Napier and a seemingly good weather window in between the cyclone and storms, the next week, we decided to leave. Before that a group of South Americans moved in. We played together on the small Super Nintendo, went to see car races, where in the end one car out of 20 was driving. Not everyone was working picking blueberries, some were picking apples, and they preferred that. I would advise you to choose the blueberries, advised by different opinions through them I made a conclusion pro Blueberries. On the Hostel I met awesome people and had a lot of fun and a great time.

One day even Lorna, Kate and Banana made it through the floods and visited us for a day. While we were spending our time in Napier and picking Blueberries, we ordered a home brew kit and started brewing our own beer in the front room of Odin. It turned out delicious and strong, and was in constant movement, through the waves. We drank it together with friends that we met on our journey and celebrated life with them.

Getting close to the end of our picking time, and goof money in our pockets for the water pump, we kept watching the weather window and saw that we could just make it before ending up in a storm.

Next time I will tell you about our parting from Napier, Flos journey by car to Wellington and ours by boat. I will tell you about missing the chance to avoid the storm, because of one day without wind and ending up at night at the cook straight, with a wild sea and bad conditions. About sleeping at night, exhausted falling asleep, even if the wind was strong around us and the anchor alarm went off twice, a fight against nature and a surprising switch in our journey to Wellington, with crossing ferries and calls on the radio about our weird movement. All while our engine was leaking cooling water and we had to be careful to avoid using all our petrol, to leave us the chance to fight the conditions with a running engine.

Here I am, in the library of Toowoomba, a town with around 130.000 inhabitants and great views over a green forest scenery, that is about to be crossed by a new highway. After three lifts from my last host, that I left in a small drama caused by the moody housewife, I arrived here and wait now for my next host to pick me up, this evening. I would love to stay longer in Australia and see the beautiful parts of Australia, but I will leave sooner than planned to join Ced and Flo in south France, repairing a sailing boat to go exploring by the sea hopefully soon again. I am scared of the sea, but at the same time I am always pulled back to it by a weird force, kind of a crave, even if I never lived at the sea in my life so far.

A great rule that changed my life. The chef cooks the eater cleans up. If everyone’s cooking everyone is cleaning, cleaning the dishes is part of the meal. It is like throwing a party and cleaning up afterwards. If you have good guests they even help you cleaning up the next day.

Leave a Reply