Issue 117: A Backpacker’s Odyssey Part 2

Serving My Time
Each year thousands of backpackers find work helping to bring in fruit and vegetable harvests.
It’s a great way to travel around Australia at your own pace while working and earning money. NEIL JOHNSTONE shares his experiences on the harvest trail.

The WHM visa permits young international travellers from 19 countries the right to work
and travel in Australia for up to 12 months.

Touching down at Alice Springs airport, seeing the barren land for the first time, it appeared far more grand than my previous two stops, Walcha and Stanthorpe – these were the stereotype bush images I had seen before. Alice was the ‘real’ Australia, something unique to the country. Manly beach could have been in Italy or Spain if not for the surfboards. The airport paid testament to the local heritage, black and white photos decorating the walls, old cars and pictures of wildlife.

Uluru, a sacred site to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal people.

Alice Springs is the second largest town in the Northern Territory, known as Mparntwe to its traditional inhabitants, the Arrernte.

Already I noticed the flies were relentless. I felt them scamper around my neck and trickle across my eyebrows, not allowing one minute’s rest. On the shuttle bus I was thinking about what I should expect from the town. A little fearful from various stories, reinforced by the award-winning fight I saw at the airport. The immediate surroundings were vast, the hills fading in the mist and the colours drowned out by rain clouds. The bus driver told us, “very rarely do you see flooding like this… there was no water here this morning,” as we passed two closed-off streets with 9 inches of water flowing over them. The entire road was running with red, sandy water and the River Todd flowed strong for several days causing many roads to remain closed. The shuttle bus driver had to change route three times, as we finally found a way round the floods.

The Todd River is an ephemeral river in the southern Northern Territory of Central Australia.

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