Grape Harvesting in Swan Valley: from scam to happiness.

The fear of many backpackers in Australia is the search for (especially, never finding!) work... Lack of money, poor English, little working experience in life or in the search for employment, no resourcefulness; the reasons to panic are numerous for those seeking.

 

vendanges-grape picking-little river-swan valley

How many times have we read that Australia is no longer the Eldorado that it was; that it is very hard, sometimes impossible in some places to find a job; that the Australians never call back when you leave your number...

 

As Matt noticed, many of these complaints emanate from French who do not really speak English (not to say at all...). On the American side, all who seek find.

And if it is certain that speaking English is an advantage, we know two Frenchmen who spoke English like Spanish cows that found a job almost directly in Melbourne; and who, in three months, have earned good money.

 

On our side, after two weeks and a car bought, we felt the need to earn a few dollars before getting on the road. On Monday, we headed to a brewery-cafe (yes, in our sweet dreams, Matt was going to make beer and Lucile waitressing...). Obviously, that did not happen. We ended up spending $70 on salads and beer, and not really looking for a job. We then wanted to stop in the various wineries around there to ask if they needed help for the harvest.

 

Again, we did not follow our plan: not inspiring, too dispersed, closed on Monday, the "chateaux" had let us down.

 

So we worked out our neurons, got back into our host family and Matt picked up the phone. Within 5 calls, he had picked up a job in the vines for Friday. And had left our number to an old gentleman who was to call us back.

On Wednesday, he kept his word and contacted us again. He wanted to meet with us personally to see if we would suit him. This Wednesday was also the day when the nail in our tire decided to make himself known, by deflating the tire by 10 psi. Ready for the battle. As we could not decently drive 1 hour a day with a limp tire, an order was made for 4 Yokohama All-Terrain tires at Bob Jane's Tires.

 

grapeharvesting-vendanges-perth-littleriver-australia

On Thursday, we took Chocolatine again to the doctor... Tire Upgrade Baby, yeaaah(Matt was stoked)! During the makeover, we bought hats and gloves, and it was with those $835 of surgery that we happily went to meet the old vintner a half hour away. 5 minutes later, we were hired for the following Monday. Yes, all this driving for that, it was a bit upsetting, but we have nothing for nothing!

 

On Friday, trumpets from the alarm clock at 4:15 am for a departure at 5:10 am and an arrival at 5:45 am, and already 26 degrees Celsius. On the spot, we are alone with two Germans. The boss, who does not introduce himself, gives us two pruning shears, asks us if we have already done this before, tells us once again that we will be paid by the bucket ($3.5 per bucket), and that we can start when we want. He adds that tomorrow the pick will be finished and we will be paid. All with a disdainful and haughty air and with funny accent that Lucile suspected then French or German.

 

Surprised but motivated, we started to rush. 1h, 3h, 6h30 passed. No boss on the horizon, 4 new pickers arrived in the meantime, it is 12:30, we start to get hungry and very hot (39 degrees Celsius...). We did not fill as many buckets as we had hoped. The vine, very badly maintained, is a real mess with very few bunches in most places. Lucile being bitten by a spider at the elbow (with strong pain that went up to the wrist and skin that goosebumped around), we slowed down the pace to better inspect the branches.

 

At 12:30, the boss finally arrives, to talk only to two pickers. Then they come to tell us that it's time to stop. And we had to pass the message to the following. 36 buckets later, without money, we go back home, exhausted by the heat.

winery-chai-vendanges-grapeharvesting-buckets-wine

Saturday, same again. Waking up early, harvest until 11:30. We then return to the car, determined to claim our money, when the boss, who had not shown up in the morning, arrives and hails us. His two employees for loading and unloading the grapes got wasted the evening before and did not show up in the morning. He offers us $20 an hour each for 3 additional hours of work.

 

After only 66 buckets in total over two days and almost nothing on the pay slip, we accept heartily. Here we are, loading the buckets on his ute, then unloading them in his cellar. We put them in a grinder and get rid of the bare bunches. The old fashion way. In this cellar that does not look fancy at all and to which is attached the cafe.

 

We then clean all the equipment and the floor, and there, our boss finally began smiling a little. A little. Do not ask too much from a French Count who came to Australia 25 years ago and whose family has famous castles in the Entre-Deux-Mers and Saint-Estèphe... Yes, we just met Bruno de Tastes, who knows Carcans. What were the odds of such a meeting in such a large country? M. de Tastes is more than satisfied with our work, he pays us $371 with enthusiasm (pardon, $370, because the $1 coin he held in his hand and slipped into his pocket discreetly...) and proposes us to come back as soon as the harvest resumes, within a week or two.

 

If we want to, we have a job well paid for 3 weeks in...we do not know how long... If we are delighted with the three hours that we spent in the cellar and we earned well, we also understand that to be paid by the bucket was being screwed and that we will not renew the experience.

 

vendanges-grape picking-mannwinery-swan valley-bucket-sitting-beforework

Step two, see how this happens in the other "castle", or we will be paid $20 an hour for the harvest.

 

On Monday, the two zombies that we are get up at 4:15 am. Starting the harvest at 6 am, with the old gentleman, Durham Mann, his daughter, two French (Camille and Anthony) and two Germans.

 

Apart from New Zealand, harvesting grapes has never been so pleasant! A calm rhythm, seated on crates not to kill our backs, we harvested their sauvignon blanc which they will turn into "champagne" (an exclusivity as they hold the patent for this variety, they alone have the right to do so here!). The hours pass, and around 10:30 we stop harvesting. The heat rises, we have to put the grapes on the trailer of the tractor and go eat...

 

4h30 of work to cut the grapes that we did not see pass because the father and daughter are charming, interesting and interested, full of stories and anecdotes! We then spend 1 hour to load the grapes, then we were treated to a king brunch, with tea, coffee, bacon and cheese croissants, marbled chocolate brioche... Two kind bosses who want to see us again on Thursday. We hurried to accept...

 

We then visited three other cellars and were hired for the same Thursday for the harvest in another "castle". So, as soon as we finished with the Manns, we will go for a ride to see the Edgecombe brothers...

 

Anyways, in the matter of 4 days of work, we will be able to put about $ 900 aside for the two of us, perfect to hit the road before trying the harvests further south, in Margaret River.

 

So, within a week, we found three jobs. Do not hesitate to try, to call, to move, to insist. There is work. But do not be afraid to get your hands dirty...or to speak English!!

 

And if we can set aside as much without spending anything, there is a reason. We must thank our Cliff family with all of our hearts for allowing us to stay at their home as much as we wanted, working or not. As long as we do our work at home, they want us to have the best amount of work. It is not everyone who would be so open and generous, and we need to emphasize that. Few guests would accept such a deal. So thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

 




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Commentaires : 28
  • #1

    Lynn (mercredi, 01 mars 2017 07:15)

    This is such an interesting article! I'd never considered working for vineyards while on the go as a means of getting some extra funds for travel. I'm glad that everything turned out ok in the end despite the rocky start! Bonne chance!

  • #2

    Joanna (mercredi, 01 mars 2017 08:50)

    I have never considered working while traveling but I did hear a lot of people talking about the jobs in Australia when I was visiting South East Asia. They were picking grapes, or oranges, and this was their way of finance their trips: 1 month of hard work in Australia and then 6 months of living like a king on South East Asia.

  • #3

    The Curious Creature (mercredi, 01 mars 2017 09:08)

    Wow -- three jobs in a week! That's amazing. I've never worked during travel (well, other than writing/freelance via web). Sounds like an interesting experience.

  • #4

    Kris Morton (mercredi, 01 mars 2017 12:42)

    How interesting. I wish I could take long enough trips that would allow me to pick up work like that when I travel. I've often read about working holiday visas, and wish I was eligible for one.

  • #5

    Travellinn (mercredi, 01 mars 2017 16:35)

    Sounds like you had some interesting days. I love visiting vineyards to taste their wine, but maybe next time I should work hard for it as well...

  • #6

    Sara - I do what I want to (mercredi, 01 mars 2017 19:57)

    I know that working in agriculture is very hard, my grandfather did it and now my brother is doing it. You wake up early every day, you work in the heat during summer and in the cold while it's winter and sometimes it never seems to pay off. I'm glad you had different experiences and that you sort of enjoyed the ride (so to speak).

  • #7

    Meg (mercredi, 01 mars 2017 21:06)

    I've heard similar stories about New Zealand. When we were there we saw a lot of signs on the road saying "no work.." Manual labor is always tough stuff. I worked construction for nearly 6 months - and I wasn't traveling. It was one of the toughest jobs I've ever had. Glad everything worked out.

  • #8

    sophie (jeudi, 02 mars 2017 05:16)

    wow, this looks fun, I have worked in some vineyards before and it was amazing well surely I did earn few good bucks from it which helped me to travel near by cities. Thanks for sharing! Cheers!

  • #9

    The Rimsky Project (jeudi, 02 mars 2017 06:25)

    This was such an interesting read! I've never actually known anyone who worked at a vineyard so reading about your experience was fascinating!

  • #10

    Penelopi (jeudi, 02 mars 2017 07:43)

    I had an opportunity for grapes harvesting while I was in Bordeaux - France but I did not get it. I thought would very hard and hot! Love your story and admire your courage to finally find a good job despite all the difficulties from the weirdo guy!!!! :)

  • #11

    Lucile (jeudi, 02 mars 2017 07:52)

    Thank you everyone for your comments! Grape harvesting is definitely a hard job, but it is still quite enjoyable to be outside! Doing it in Bordeaux sure is easier though and I miss it !!

  • #12

    Luca (jeudi, 02 mars 2017 07:54)

    Never give up! I know it can be difficult most of the times, because you're in a foreign country, you're not native of the language and you're looking for a job to continue your adventure, but if you really want to reach your goal, you can't surrender! Good job guys!

  • #13

    Melissa (jeudi, 02 mars 2017 16:21)

    Very cool story. I wouldn't have thought to get a job "on the go" as a grape picker, but I love how you made it work and adapted the whole way. Glad you guys stuck with it (especially in a foreign country) and didn't give up!

  • #14

    Serena (jeudi, 02 mars 2017 19:42)

    You're an amazing storyteller. I'm from Australia and never knew the hardships a working backpacker encounters. Good on you, you're a total adventurer!

  • #15

    Gareth (jeudi, 02 mars 2017 23:14)

    I've got a few buddies heading Down Under to find work shortly and will be sending this article to them. Certainly, from what I've heard, like on the Picker's Trail and other manual labour jobs can be tough out there, particularly with the high cost of living. Fortunately, if you're lucky enough to land yourself a better job, that bank account balance can quickly swell. Good on you for doing it however and it sounds like you're having a great albeit tiring time

  • #16

    Christie (vendredi, 03 mars 2017 15:44)

    This is such an interesting article! I've heard of people traveling with the harvests but didn't know much about how it worked. What a unique experience, and great stories to share along the way as you continue your travels!

  • #17

    Ami (vendredi, 03 mars 2017)

    I am sorry that the first experience that you had was not so pleasant. But it did get better with time :) And then, you also, discovered and learnt so much. Enjoyed reading this post.

  • #18

    Sandy N Vyjay (dimanche, 05 mars 2017 19:58)

    What an amazing article. Working on vineyards while traveling can give you some pretty good experiences. Moreover, you get to learn so much about the place. . Great way to get extra funds for traveling further.

  • #19

    neha (lundi, 06 mars 2017 05:16)

    I have read a lot of interesting stories about working on wineyards and grape farms while on travel. And I must say, I am really fascinated. This is something high on my bucket list. Although I have a full time job, I would love to explore this option to experience and earn some extra bucks while traveling..a step towards becoming full time travelers

  • #20

    Raksha (lundi, 06 mars 2017 06:57)

    This is a fascinating story. I visited a wineyard recently and fell in love with the whole process of wine making and tasting. And kudos to you, for not giving up! Cheers :)

  • #21

    Soumya Nambiar (mardi, 07 mars 2017 10:43)

    Interesting that you were able to find work in a vineyard. Also good that you didn't give up and were able to make 900$ among the two of you in just a few days. I would love to meet this French boss of yours.

  • #22

    Indrani (mardi, 07 mars 2017 23:55)

    Such a good host! That is a good experience you had in terms of jobs and earnings.
    Working while traveling helps to know the place better too and that too at a vineyard.
    I would love such an opportunity.

  • #23

    Parnashree Devi (mercredi, 08 mars 2017 00:33)

    I haven't worked anywhere while I am traveling to any country or place. Though your story is an interesting read. Got to know a few new things.

  • #24

    Jitaditya (mercredi, 08 mars 2017 03:40)

    Glad to read such a story. I generally work freelance digitally and do not work on location. But if at all I have to do it, vineyard would surely be a good place to start.

  • #25

    Carmen's Luxury Travel (mercredi, 08 mars 2017 07:46)

    Yes, I have heard recently that it's becoming harder and harder to find work as an expat in Australia. I actually have a couple friends who decided to move to New Zealand instead. But I'm glad you persevered! Great tips... especially about not being afraid. Sometimes you just have to go for it!

  • #26

    Jetsetter Jenn (mercredi, 08 mars 2017 08:35)

    Oh wow, that's an early start! I'm sure you adjust but that's definitely hard work. Good for you. Never giving up and being a bit fearless is key! Thanks for sharing your experience with us :)

  • #27

    Adam Biernat (jeudi, 09 mars 2017 14:44)

    I'm really glad that you had written this story. I've never considered working like this, but it seems very interesting. What an amazing experience :-) Thank you for an inspiration.

  • #28

    Sid (vendredi, 10 mars 2017 11:52)

    I agree, English certainly helps in many parts of the world. And manual labour is tough and jobs are getting fewer. I somehow never saw this side of Australia on my short visit there...

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