Spending over two weeks in Kununurra meant it was a bit more of a pain to be back in a bus trying to kip down for the night, but it was good to be on the move again after what seemed like a wasted last week spent stranded in the Kimberley. Arriving in Katherine, I got the same feeling that quite a few other people I’ve subsequently met also got when passing through the town: there’s not a lot going on here and I’d rather move on as soon as I can. But with a renewed motivation to find a job I knew I had to at least have a look around the town and find some recruitment agencies before jumping on the first bus that would have me.
Going on the guidance of my Lonely Planet, I headed for Coco’s Didge Backpackers as it should have been the cheapest place in town, so I was a bit surprised to find Coco asking $26 for a night’s stay at what seemed like the most basic accommodation I’d yet come accross. Anyway, I was too hot and bothered to walk the two blocks to check out the other backpackers so I bit the bullet. It turns out that all the accommodation is part of Coco’s house, which makes for quite a different feel to the place over a normal backpackers. The kitchen, outdoor shower and lack of pool definitely make it feel more basic than a typical backpackers but it had a certain chilled out atmosphere that just worked. After scoping out where the recruitment agencies were, I didn’t mind that I couldn’t go for a swim as I sat out under a tree, watching thousands of flying foxes heading off to feed under an intensely red sky, while frogs hopped about the grass and a guy played one of the many improvised didgeridoos made from pieces of plastic pipes.
Morning gave me a chance to do a very quick bit of sightseeing, which basically covered the road and old rail bridges over the Katherine river. On the rail bridge I met two guys who explained that they were the traditional owners of the land around river here as well as an area to the north-west. The guy who laid claim to the local land did have a pretty strong smell of booze on him so I didn’t get a lot more insight into his people, but he was pretty keen on me taking a photo of him and his mate on the bridge, overlooking their land, so I obliged with that. By then the Australia Regional Employment Agency office was open so I headed there hoping, with not a lot of optimism after my fortnight in Kununurra, to get some work that count towards my eligibility for a second year working holiday visa in Australia. Shreyas, the recruitment manager, seemed almost hesistant to tell me that there was one position left and explained that it was a mango picking job 100km from here, it would be long days and hot work and there was always the risk of mango rash which can be quite bad… I think by that point I didn’t really care and just wanted the work so an hour later I was signed up and heading round all the charity shops desperately trying to find some long-sleeved shirts, trousers and a hat.
Back at Coco’s, I was talking to the man himself and got round to my IT degree, to which he said I could be of use to him, so it turned out he was actually planning a bit of renovation and extension to his place and had some plans drawn up on his computer. He wanted some changes made to the car parking layout but didn’t have a clue how to use the software so I gladly earned almost two night’s worth accomodation for sprucing up his plans. Hopefully they’ve passed the scrutiny of the council and he gets to go ahead with his work. Incidentally, the name of the backpacker comes out of Coco having a small shop which sells a lot of didgeridoos and a bunch of indigenous artwork and it’s definitely worth having a look in by for this even if the level of accommodation isn’t up your street. Also, if you’re a cyclist, it’s worth stopping by as Coco offers good discounted accommodation – although it might only be for camping spots outside, i can’t remember exactly.
By the middle of the afternoon I was back at the AREA office with my stuff and the new set of fairly oversized clothes and I’d scraped together from the charity shops and was feeling a lot better about the month ahead. A quick check of the staff list confirmed the name of the place I was going to – Mataranka – and a quick of my phone confirmed where it actually was. After the fairly slow pace of life in the last week it was relatively exciting to have gone from being a jobless backpacker hopping on and off a pre-definied bus route to having a job in a place I’d never heard of, that wasn’t part of my original route, with some a guy I’d just met that day, and for how long? As is the way with a lot of harvest work, nobody really knows the timescale until it’s over. Not that it mattered anyway – I’d done what I set out to do, and I was getting away from Katherine too.