Crows Nest – Part 1: Bunching roo paw

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The town.

In Queensland, Australia, at almost 160 km (98 miles) from Brisbane lies a town with a little over 2,000 inhabitants. One of the stories is that the town was named after Jimmy Crow, an Aborigine who helped early European settlers to find their way around. He may have lived in a hollow tree near the police station. His home was being called ‘Crows Nest’. In honor of Jimmy Crow a wooden sculpture was crafted in 1969. According to sources this may be the only statue of an Aborigine a town was named after in all of Australia. Unique or not, I always found it a fascinating statue of the man standing in front of his hollow tree. I spent 2 weeks at Crows Nest and during that time I experienced many adventures.

Job search.

It all started on the 25th of October 1999 in the city of Brisbane. I just got off a night bus from Dubbo and was desperately looking for a job. I was lucky, because the hostel I stayed at had a job center. In exchange for $10 they got me a job in Toowoomba, so they said.

I could also work in the hostel’s lunchroom for one day. After 5 hours of cleaning tables and preparing food in the kitchen I had earned 5 meals and I got to keep the hostel’s t-shirt. This was actually a nice job. The co-workers were friendly and the work was easy. I could only hope the work in Toowoomba was going to be just as good. All I knew was that an English girl was going to do the same job as me: bunching flowers. Although I met her on the way to the bus station, I did not get a proper chance to talk to her until the bus arrived in Toowoomba.

The journey.

In the bus I was seated in the front next to a man who was almost retired and couldn’t stop talking about his travels. In Toowoomba the English girl and I had to catch another bus, because our job turned out to be near Crows Nest instead of Toowoomba. We had to wait several hours until the bus would go. That was a good time to get to know one another.

People always seem to think it’s always hot in Australia, but that day in Toowoomba it was cold and rainy. The bus, when finally there, was no regular bus. It was a school bus and halfway the empty bus stopped at a school and was all of a sudden filled with screaming schoolchildren in uniforms. We stopped at the gym. Children got off and others entered. Then it was our turn. Before we knew it we were standing in the pouring rain in front of a caravan park. This would be our home for the coming weeks.

The caravan park.

A smile can make up for a lot of misery. The two owners of the caravan park welcomed us at the reception with such friendly faces we quickly forgot about our rainy journey. They even gave us both a muffin with chocolate topping as a welcome gift. During our time in this caravan park we were continually spoiled by them. Yes, we paid for the freshly baked bread we got in the mornings, but it was delicious and during our stay with them they went out of their way to give us a good time.

Crows Nest is a small town, but back then it had a supermarket, a library with internet, a post office, a video store, a newsagent and even a pub. We could use the bicycles from the caravan park to get into town. We only had to be careful cycling back at nighttime, because there were no lights along the road to the caravan park.

Bunching roo paw.

The next day we were picked up at the park at 6.30 am. My job was to bundle kangaroo paw, or ‘roo paw’ as the Aussies call it. Roo paw are flowers that are endemic to the southwest of Western Australian. They slightly resemble the paw of a kangaroo, hence their name. I had to measure them and cut them at 90 cm, 1 meter (3.28 feet), 1.10 meter and 1.20 meter and then bundle them by five. After that the flowers went in a special room filled with gas. We there covered them with a plastic sleeve. They then went into a cooling chamber and later on in boxes.

There were about 15 people at the flower farm as well as two peacocks that made horrible screaming sounds, a dachshund called Sausage, a medium sized dog called Mitch and an enormous dog whose name I have forgotten. All dogs were lazy and as fat as can be. Some of the people working there were locals, some were backpackers. It was an interesting and international bunch.

Our caravan.

The first days I shared a small caravan with the English girl. After a few days we moved into a bigger one along with another English girl we were working with. It had a bunkbed and a double bed, a table with chairs and a small kitchen. With three women in one caravan the walls were soon covered with posters and pictures of handsome man or ‘peaches’ as my roommates called them. Especially Ricky Martin was a favorite.

The first week at Crows Nest was quite dull and mainly went as follows: shower, food, work, shower, food, sleep. And making some crossword puzzles in the few puzzle books I had bought at the newsagent. The week that would follow was far from boring though. The real adventures started though with an invitation to have dinner in another caravan. But more about that in my next story on Crows Nest.

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