We were a bit lazy getting away from Goondiwindi on the trip out to Koramba Cotton Farm and we certainly paid for it.
If we’d left an hour earlier we would have missed the cloudburst that hit us halfway along the 100 km trip.
The roads and the ground, already waterlogged from the recent rains that flooded north Western New South Wales and dumped 2/3 more water on the area than the entire yearly rainfall, were flooding within half an hour.
An earlier departure would also have enabled us to get onto the farm and set up the caravan in the dry. Alas it was not so.
Slipping and sliding in deep mud the Nissan hauled the Aussie Wide into the little caravan park area on the farm at the rear of the camp site. It was my job to jump out of the car into the ankle deep mud with the rain beating down and totally saturating me in seconds, and find someone for instructions on where to park.
The mud oozed through the crocs I was wearing and into my feet and up through my toes as I tramped up to the row of dongers that was the camp. I was in search of Jackie the cook who we were there to replace while she was on holiday for 6 weeks in what would be her first days off in 10 months.
Spotting a door open I headed over toward it and was aghast as I experienced my first encounter with Jackie – half naked, getting dressed in her room with her door wide open. I don’t know who got the biggest shock me or her.
I was sort of mesmarised there for a moment till she requested I move round the side for a minute.
I was full of apologies, SHE was full of apologies and we were both laughing as she explained that, “Bloody Hell, No-one’s ever around durin’ the day mate so I leave me door open. Sorry Mate”!
After introductions I went to park the caravan after Jackie’s directions of, “Park anywhere ya like, mate”.
We backed the van into a spot that seemed the driest but was still flooded and covered with the lovely thick ooze, unhooked, got into some dry clothes and headed for the kitchen.
The camp was a collection of older style dongers arranged around a quadrangle with tables and chairs in the middle for recreation and the Kitchen and Mess room further back surrounded by grass and pavers.
The crew of 11 young male workers and one young female was split into a night shift and a day shift for the intensive irrigation that was currently being carried out on the 160 square kilometres of cotton.
Night shift is 7pm to 7am and day shift 7am to 7pm with each crew coming to the mess room half an hour after the previous one.
The crew consists of a couple of Irishmen, a Korean a Portuguese and two Swedes with the rest Aussies.
They’re a nice, pleasant bunch with good manners and very friendly.
After getting the feel of the kitchen and how it all runs and serving the evening meal and helping Jackie clean up, we headed back through the mud to the Aussie Wide and settled in for the night. Thankfully the rain had stopped and the mud was already starting to dry out after just a couple of hours. We’ll set things up a bit better when the ground dries out more.
We were over to help with breakfast at 5:00am next morning and helped Jackie prep up as she scurried around cooking breakfast in her pyjamas!
The day shift left and the night shift returned covered in mud from their night working on the irrigation lines.
The camp is very basic but sufficient for the short 3 month stays that most of the workers seem to be employed for before moving on.
The kitchen has no more than the most fundamental equipment and utensils and could benefit greatly from a good clean and some reorganising, but it does the job required of it which is supplying 3 meals per day, 7 days per week 365 days per year for between 10 and 35 people.
We grabbed a snooze through the day and found it pleasant as the sun was shining, drying out the ground rapidly, a cool breeze wafted
through the van and the whole area was quiet with only the sound of the wind, the birds and the occasional dog barking or the rare passing of a farm vehicle.
Speaking of dogs, there are a number hanging round. Bing is a huge black thing that has made the camp his home and is very friendly. He seems to hang about the van a lot maybe because, apart from Jackie, we’re the only humans in the near vicinity during the day. All the dogs are very friendly and are no problem at all.
We met Jess who is the full time Safety Officer for the farm and also seems to be a useful general hand. She’s an extremely pleasant lass who’s always smiling and has a lovely easy going nature that seems as if nothing could stop the smile. I was taken up to the farm office to be shown the paper work processes and she showed me a package she’d just received which she was excited about. It was a new radiator for her Nissan Patrol Ute. I asked her if she was going to get the farm’s mechanic to fit it for her and she looked at me as if to say, “What planet are you from”? “Na, I’ll do it myself”, she said.
Jess’s father is one of the Farm Managers, Darryl, and we had the pleasure of meeting him later in the day. A huge bloke with massive rock hard hands and an ancient, sweat encrusted hat that sits upon a head with a rugged face that seemed as used to smiling as much as his daughter. He was extremely helpful and when we told him we were interested in looking over the farm he told us we were most welcome just let someone know. He even offered to give us a guided tour.
Another huge man with an extremely pleasant easy going nature is “Kiwi” who is our next door neighbour, living in his own van.
These people are just so down to earth and friendly and everyone we’ve met has gone out of their way to make us feel welcome and to ensure we settle in ok.
We commented to Daryl that we thought the young crew of workers would be more rowdy and he smiled as he told us he “works em too hard for that”.
We’re going to like it here.