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On The Road
Riversands Vineyard Images
On The Road
I left the Gold Coast, Queensland about lunchtime Saturday 14th September 2002.
It was an emotional and teary departure having to say good bye to my daughters and parents.
My new life of working and travelling Australia was underway. I was headed for St George in central south west Queensland. This small and picturesque township is sprawled along the banks of the Balonne River which is a fisherman's paradise legendary for the elusive Murray Cod and plentiful Golden Perch or Yellowbelly fish.
I felt a mixture of emotions. Looking in my rearview mirror I saw the faces of my loved ones quickly disappearing together with my home. Looking in front of me I could see a life long dream unfolding.
I must mention here that two months earlier I had sold my Corolla Seca and bought a second hand Toyota Hi Ace Poptop Campervan. Bright yellow! I had been driving my campervan to and from work each day for the last two months and I felt confident that I had purchased a reliable car.
I had only travelled about 15km when I heard crashing and banging coming from within the living area of the van. I pulled over to the side of the road to investigate and quickly discovered that I hadn't secured the kitchen cabinet doors so most of my groceries were rolling around the floor! While I was putting everything away my parents, who had not long ago waved me goodbye, pulled up alongside of me thinking the worst or hoping for the best. We had a laugh at my first minor mishap and then I was on my way again.
That day I drove as far as Goondiwindi a total of about 400km, but in that time I had managed to second guess myself and wonder if I were truly insane. I pulled into the Gundy Star caravan park for the night feeling like a lost child. The two ladies, who at the time ran the Gundy Star, were very impressed with my bravery of travelling Australia on my own. Brave is one thing that I wasn't. Eccentric maybe. If only they knew how much their encouragement and support lifted me.
I set up my campervan for the night. The fridge was cold, the gas stove worked and the bed was comfortable. Again I analysed my situation and what lay ahead. I think that was the daunting part - not knowing what lay ahead. At the same time I could not suppress the flicker of excitement I felt. All I could really do now was to follow through and see where the bitumen led me.
The next morning I dawdled over my breakfast as much as was reasonably possible. Eventually I resigned myself to the fact that I was on an adventure and had a job waiting for me at the Riversands Vineyard in St. George, 200km away.
It took me nearly four hours to drive the 200km to St. George.
My Arrival in St George
My first impressions of the small town are still with me today. It was spring and the streets were lined with Jacarandas in full purple bloom.
This picturesque small country town on the banks of the Balonne River immediately sent my spirits soaring. There were no flashing neon lights or towering highrises. It all made sense now. I knew in my heart that I had done the right thing and I could almost smell the future and all the promising adventures to come.
The first thing I had to do was find my way to Riversands Vineyard. I cannot put into words the excitement and anticipation that was welling up inside of me.
What a difference a day makes.
The vineyard wasn't hard to find and before I knew it I was in front of its majestical entrance.
Date palms stood like proud grenadiers along the front boundary. The well graded drive wove its way between rows upon rows of grape vines finishing at a large garden amass with the vibrant colours of petunias, roses and trumpet lilies which encompassed lush green lawns. A golden rain tree dripping with sprays of yellow flowers marked the garden's entrance.
Irresistably the mingled scent of jasmine and bush frangipani carries you into the embracing cooling shade of citrus trees, alexander palms, pecan trees and an albezia lebbeck tree. One minute you are standing in the harsh heat of the outback, but in little more than a breath you have stepped over the threshold into an oasis.
A formidable eight metre high corrugated iron shed belies the charm and character of the wine cellar contained within.
I climbed out of my car and was immediately greeted by a fair skinned, red haired man wearing dark blue Hard Yakka overalls and an obviously much loved torn and tattered Akubra hat. His name was David and like his vineyard he possessed a rakish country charm.
I introduced myself and we talked for a few minutes about ourselves. Then he told me that I would be working for his Manager who was named Trevor. David pointed me in the general direction of where to find Trevor so that I could make myself known to him.
I made my way amongst the grape vines wondering how much further before I would see Trevor. What I first saw stopped me in my tracks. It was the biggest white Akubra hat I had ever seen. Bigger than the ones the Texans wear I'm sure.
At my approach the big white Akubra walked towards me and grabbed my hand with its big square dirt filled finger-nailed hand attached to an arm that resembled a huge leg of ham.
So my first encounter with Trevor shook me to the bones literally. Then he smiled. Well I didn't think it possible but the size of his smile dwarfed his Akubra. It seemed pretty apparent that everything about this man was big and as I soon found out this was so. He had the biggest, kindest heart and human spirit that I had ever had the privilege to know.
Within an hour of arriving here my past life seemed hard to imagine. I felt the pioneering spirit of the two gentlemen I had just met and the vineyard that they toiled in. I no longer felt lost but that I had come home. I was only 24 hours into my adventure and I was awakened and stirred deep within my soul.
Setting Up Camp
I was told that I could set up my campervan down the bottom of the back garden in a small citrus orchard. The day was warm and sunny. The fragrant scent from the gardens uplifting. Trevor showed me the way and helped me set up camp. I asked about the bathroom. There was an outback dunny and a cold shower in some unused shed. Not a problem, it was too warm for hot showers anyway.
I asked where everyone else was camping and was told that I was the only one staying in the vineyard. Trevor had his own home to go to. So did David and his wife Alison. The other workers were international backpackers and none of them had a campervan so they stayed in rental cabins or caravans in the caravan parks.
I was told that I would be good for security by staying on the property. What! Were these people crazy. I have just left the office and city life behind me and had never seen a real live person wearing an Akubra before and they wanted me to camp by myself on a property I didn't know, have a cold shower and use an outback dunny! Let the games begin!
Obviously I didn't want to upset the apple cart or appear too naive so I hid my surprise and went along with it. Before I knew it everyone was knocking off for the day. Cheerily they waved goodbye and told me to report to the wine cellar office at 6.00am the next morning to start work in the vineyard.
It was only 5.00pm in the afternoon. I had only arrived three hours ago. Now what was I supposed to do. I wandered around the gardens for a bit and then took a stroll down to the river where the sun was setting in an orange sky behind the eucalyptus lined river bank.
After cooking and eating my dinner I decided to have a shower. They didn't mention that there wasn't any electricity to the shed so not only was the shower cold but there was no lighting. And no I didn't have candles. It didn't occur to me when packing for this adventure that not everyone in Australia had electricity. I decided to forget the shower and have it the next morning when it was light.
I thought I would have an early night so visited the outback dunny. The lid of the toilet had been left up and the bowl was full of green tree frogs. Gorgeous some might think, but I screamed. My past life didn't have frogs in the toilet. I was used to the ugly cane toads that have taken over Queensland but they don't live in your toilet. I flushed the toilet hoping that would get rid of them but that only flushed more of them out from under the rim. Needless to say I couldn't use the toilet. Or wouldn't.
I slept well and woke to my alarm at 5.00am. Immediately I was aware of the darkness. It should have been quite light. I pulled back my curtains to be greeted by black clouds and drizzling rain. The temperature had also plummeted. Yesterday was so sunny and warm with the sweet smell of summer. Now I was confronted with a damp, dark and cold misery. So much for my cold shower and as for the toilet I was going to hang on until 6.00am when the wine cellar office would be open and I would use the one inside.
This hub is far too long. I will pick up the story in my next hub.
Working in the Vineyard, Western Australia
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