Updated: Dec 26, 2018
I was a young and preppy 19 year old kid. Fire in my belly. Lead in my pencil. I stepped off the plane in Sydney a determined youth. It was January and I was here for business. I needed to make cash in big volumes to fund my van, and I needed it quickly.
The first hurdle nearly had me tripping when I got to Sydney Airport.. A sniffer dog probed my backpack, which made security usher me to a place where they could check my belongings. I was fairly clueless as to what was happening, genuinely puzzled. They found a cracker with marmite in a side pocket, just some lighthearted contraband that pulled some laughs. My mum packed me some food for the journey. I thought we were in the all clear. Then the banana happened.. Her grin vanished.
‘You're aware that you cannot bring fruit in to the country and there's a fine of $300 for doing so.’
Shit. I didn't even know there was a banana in there. Mum tried to get the police on me early doors in Australia. She must have been laughing in her chair back home in Ireland, cheering for Roger Federer on the TV. Cheeky sket. I pleaded ignorance to the rogue banana and security thankfully let me away with it.
This was only the beginning of my troubles. Initially, I had hoped to magically fall into well paid construction work. This did not happen.. I found myself in a complete dry spell. Days turned to weeks and no matter how hard I tried to save money in Sydney, it disappeared effortlessly. Stress became overruling.. I got desperate for work and found a farm job on Craigslist, just seven hours north of the city. I made contact on my burner phone; they were leaving tomorrow and were willing to give me a lift. Off I went, ignoring some crucial red flags.
The next morning I caught a train to North Sydney, where there was a Toyota Hilux waiting for me. A mid thirty year old Italian-Australian man and a similarly aged aboriginal guy sat waiting. Despite their oddities I found myself actually enjoying their company. They wound up making a long drive somewhat enjoyable. I sent a text to the friend I left behind in Sydney.
‘Hey man, I already know this is gonna be great, they're hilarious.. I’ll see you in April, best of luck with your restaurant job’.
I was some idiot.
The sun had set. It was in blue hour and light was fading. We had been off a tar road for about 30 minutes at this stage, crossed two rivers and saw kangaroos jumping through fields. It was both beautiful and unnerving where we were, because I had no clue about our location and phone signal was long gone at this stage. The pick-up stopped outside a large wooden house, where I was told to hop out. This was it.
I was unsure if this was where we were leaving the tools or if we were sleeping here, too. It turned out to be both, because I slept on a shitty mattress on the floor right next to those tools. The house was a shell. There were no doors inside, no electricity, no running water; a ladder led to a hole in the ceiling, which was the only way to get to the second floor. Metres away from me in the next ‘room’ was where the aboriginal guy slept. The house was a shit hole. ‘Basic’ farmhouse accommodation was what I was told. They sadly didn't undersell.
The next morning, the main man Chris told us we had to go to the nearby town to pick up the other worker, Anna. She was an English girl in her twenties. She had been there the week before, and was told if she stays 3 weeks then Chris will sign her off for 3 months of farm work. Her presence seemed to jumpstart the place’s weirdness to levels I wasn’t ready for.
I had found out that she was made to sleep upstairs with Chris in his double sized mattress on the floor. She was a trooper and put up with a lot of his shit. She told me that in the first week she had woken up twice to him wanking in the bed.
‘Chris mate, what the fuck?’ she asked him.
‘You may get used to it’ was the reply from the man who recently had sex with his ex-wife and feared she might be pregnant because they didn't use protection. Geezer.
This man appeared driven to become the world’s greatest piece of shit.. From day one he was at me. He saw my pink underwear and from then on I was known as ‘gay boy’ and ‘faggot’. I have no problems with someone having a go at me, but that was the start of it all. To be fair to Chris, he was extremely consistent; always a dickhead.
At night he was usually much more approachable. We would sit around the camp-fire, our only means of cooking and listen to him talk incredible amounts of garbage. Be it his staunch views on multiple conspiracy theories, or his countless sexual endeavours (all of which involve speed or cocaine), Chris was happy to talk.
He was a flat earther, holocaust denier, satellite disbeliever, and by the sound of some stories, a possible rapist. By far one of the most ridiculous people I've ever met. One story of his stood out in particular, where he apparently had an eighteen year old in a headlock while punching another, telling a third that he was ‘going to fuck his mother’. This was a week ago when he went to pick up Anna at the train station. His reason for doing this was because they looked at him funny. The man was mentally disabled.
There was another day where he’d lost his flip flop in a creek. He and I walked up the river hoping to find the missing shoe snagged on a rock in the water.
‘Just be careful of the snake’ he warned me.
I look to my left, and only metres away was a huge snake curled up on the river bed. This was no zoo. I could be dead if the snake wanted me that way. It was very humbling, but also terrifying. This, by the way, was the same super clean water that you can drink out of. The only problem was that it gave you diarrhoea and we were also not allowed to use soap in the river, either. After five days my whole body stank of rancid piss.
The work was actually pretty irregular when I was there. I worked about four hours a day, usually. You would think this was great, but not when the reason I went there was to rack up big hours to make something comparable to working a construction site job, though. The reason we were stuck to just a few hours a day was because we had to accompany Chris to the nearby town (forty minute drive through the rivers) so he could check how his gold stocks were doing. This usually took an hour. Then we grabbed some food from the shop, which I was made to pay for.The work was true dog work. He had me barefoot in the river, hauling huge rocks to the back of his jeep. I stumbled through it with the help of his ‘excellent’ supervision, the dickhead.
After about 3 days at the camp, Anna and I had had enough. We saw clearly that this was going nowhere and definitely not worth the consistent abuse. We told Chris we wanted to head back to Sydney. He confidently declined. He didn't want to go back to face his potentially pregnant ex-wife, he wanted to stay in the ‘peace and quiet’. He still had plenty of points to give on why Earth is flat, and definitely more stories on other women he's slept with. He wasn't interested, and this really got to me.
Being told no to leaving, it really trapped me in. After three days of being his pocket bitch I was relatively broken, mentally. I protested against work and settled on being called a ‘little baby’ and ‘gay cunt’. The words of a middle aged man in his prime. In retrospect, I found them to be hilarious names to be called by your boss, but at the time I just sat in the back of the truck soaking up the abuse and damn well trying my best not to cry grown man tears. Maybe I really was the ‘faggot’ that Chris so consistently labelled me as.
Midday of day 4 came and we found ourselves back in town. As Chris checked his gold stocks, Anna had the pleasure of being told by her family that her dad had a heart attack the day before. Relentless tears came from the back of the pick up truck.
‘I just want to go home. I want to see my dad’ she told our kind boss.
Chris, using every ounce of empathy in his ‘dad bod’ figure told her, ‘Everybody dies.. Suck it up.’
You cannot make this shit up. He was the most peculiar character I've ever met and possibly ever will. He put off his usual trip back to Sydney because he was running away from the inevitable talk with his ex wife. He prioritised it over letting a girl see her potentially dying father.
Anna and I were both getting desperate at this point. There was a genuine fear for our safety as Chris seemed determined on keeping us by the farm. I asked him could he drop us off to the airport in Coff’s Harbour and we'll find our own way back to Sydney. He agreed, on one condition. The 50 minute return trip from the town to airport would need fuel. I said I'll pay, which is completely fair and we went to the station to fill up. The 3 litre Hilux engine could take a lot. And if that wasn't enough, Chris proceeded to take out two 20 litre Jerry cans and fill them up, also to my expense. I sat watching the price hit a cool $100, extremely uncomfortable knowing I was running very low on money at this stage.
We drove back to the house to get food and our bags. Chris, of course, was in no rush at all. He seemed rather cosy, in fact. He decided before going, that we should head to the creeks again for a bit. My skin was itching. I could see he had no intention of bringing us. ‘Don't bring your bags, we'll get them on the way back’ he told us. I slumped in to the car, knowing full well that I wasn't going to Coff's Harbour that night. I asked him later and he said we'll go in the morning. Typical.
Day 5 and all mental health was absent, well and truly fried. Chris told us after breakfast that we were going to stay another day. Anna was in disbelief. With minimal contact to her family, the last place she wanted to be staying was on the farm with a psychopath and his rent-a-friend aboriginal bro that he paid $200 a day to basically light a fire in the morning and night for food. Cliff, the aboriginal, also gave me the great life lesson on how to make ‘real money’. Not by doing this dog work on the farm. He said one day I'll get it, and went on to tell me that the secret is getting land given to you by the government and then selling it on immediately. He told me this with deadly amounts of seriousness. How was I being cuckolded by two of Australia's biggest morons?
Again, we went in to the town for Chris to check his gold stocks. I went in to the ice cream parlour on my own, ordered a milkshake and, before leaving, told the woman that the two men with me have been horrible bastards all week and to make sure that the town knows who they are and have that house be as difficult as possible to sell.
The final night of the trip, Chris told me the business plan behind buying this land and house. Most of the houses in the region go for a million dollars. They got this deal for near half the price. A law in Australia states the owner must tell only about their experience with the house, not about the owners before it. This means that they would only have to tell the next potential buyer they bought the area and refurbished it. They didn't have to explain how the owner before them lost his mind one day, wrote ‘God is great’ on the wall in the kitchen before putting his head through another wall and hung himself on the tree outside the house. It was such a perfectly fucked up story to wrap up the week I had. I could barely believe it, but at the same time completely accepted it.
The next morning we finally packed the pick-up and set off. We stopped in the town again and I went to get another ice cream. The guys came with me, this time. The tension was film-quality stuff.. The woman I spoke to the day before saw me with them, the same woman I told to let the whole town know these guys are pieces of shit. My heart was pumping. She looked at me and I tried my best to signal that I'm okay and to not say anything to them. Chris made me pay, too, which didn't look too good for the situation. Please don't confront them. Don't make this be the longest seven hour drive of my life. He probably wouldn't have brought me to Sydney if she had confronted them. She said nothing. With sweaty armpits, I left with them and broke free of that uncomfortable energy.
Seven hours later, we were dropped off in Sydney after writing our bank details and hours worked on a piece of paper for Chris. He sent us on our way. Anna and I were giddy with freedom. We never heard back from Chris, obviously. The week cost me about 300 dollars in food and fuel and don't even dare think I was paid for my stone collecting. But at least I was out of it.
The trip was full of red flags. I can only blame myself for ignoring them, really. $300 at the time was a lot of money to lose. But now as I look back on it, it was well worth the story. The rest of my time in Australia brought repetition through work, so I'm glad I have this little tale to tell. It helps make my time in Oz a memorable one.