Travel Journal: Blaze Aid

First day on the job and after a pretty rough introduction from the guy who’s temporarily in charge, the group of us head out to a lettuce farm not too far out of Tully.

Now, I’ve been told Tully is the wettest place is Australia and to expect rain every day but first day out and it’s roasting. A group of 7 of us are given the task of dismantling what’s left of a wire structure similar to those used in vineyards. Wires are strung about 5 foot off the ground or they were before Yasi ripped half the posts out the ground and tangled them into a spaghetti junction and just for good measure threw some trees into the mix as well.

So from 8 in the morning till roughly half 10 my job is to cut sections of wire and roll or fold it up and throw it on the trailer to take to the tip. Sounds simple but the sun is absolutely baking with no shade and the ground we’re working on is heavily over grown with weeds which are past my knees in places. I’ll be honest I was struggling a little and actually kind of annoyed as I thought I was acclimatised to the heat but as it turned out at smoko ( that fun Aussie word meaning morning tea break) the temperature is 28 degrees in the shade so heaven knows what it is out it. I feel a bit better knowing that I’m not completely pathetic and that it is actually a hot day.

After smoko it’s back to pulling and winding wires but our group makes a friend while we’re there. After Cyclone Yasi, due to the amount of tree damage, there isn’t the same amount of bush food for the animals and wildlife workers set up feeding stations for them on the more remote farms. This lettuce farm is a cassowary feeding station and the giant thing is quite intrigued by us and what were up to and seems happy enough to wander right up to some of the men while their working. Only our resident crazy Russian who rubs everyone up the wrong way and who, of course, I am sharing a room with, chases after it with a camera. Had she simply sat still or perhaps walked slowly up to it, it may have stuck around but I’m sure her method was well thought out as well.

Part of the Blaze Aid deal is in exchange for the days work the farmer provides lunch and after our smoko break with tea and muffins we were presented with a mountainous plate of sandwiches at about 1 o’clock. There seemed enough to feed an army but as Roddy true to form of a young Scots lad soon showed us this was but a snack for a working man.

Turns out that there isn’t anything more for us to do after lunch so we can knock off early and head back to base camp.

The Golden Gumboot to show annual rainfall.

First impressions? Seems easy enough just a bit hot today though, after mentioning it, I was told you never cuss the sun in Tully because you never know when you’ll see it again. Apparently I’ve jinxed things and it’ll rain tomorrow. All the easier for me to work in then.

Second day and though it’s pretty cold in the morning it’s a clear sky and by 8 it’s another 28+ day. This time we head to a place called Murray Upper where we help an old woman clear her access roads by clearing the many, many fallen trees. Roddy and an older man John work the chainsaws while the rest of us clear things into piles though the Russian doesn’t carry things larger than a twig so really it’s just myself and a new German guy René clearing. Turns out just to make the heat a bit more unbearable we will be burning the piles as well. With no less than 5 massive bonfires burning I think everyone ends up feeling a bit rough with both the heat and the smoke. Lunch turned out to be hamburgers and chips from the local shop, local being half hour away, which the lady nipped down to get for us. So even if I’m feeling a bit worse for wear I’m definitely not hungry at Blaze Aid between the farmers lunches and cooked meals at night.

The days aren’t too bad and even if Russia is turning out to be a nuisance both on the job and back at base she’s proving to be common topic of conversation ‘Did you see what she did today?’ on this occasion it was that while we were all taking a break she decided to take her top off to ask if something had bitten her on the back. I’ll point out she was not wearing anything under her shirt. And then while the rest of us washed our hands for lunch Elena chose to take a bath in the ladies kitchen sink. And I share a room with this interesting and unique individual. The fun can only continue.