|So on the 12th, I began my journey to work. I caught the K-bus this time, instead of Intercity because it was cheaper, but I can see now why it was cheaper. It was like a mini-bus and was not very comfortable, but it got me to Nelson. I didn't stay at the YHA this time because it smelled like a hospital and the clientele (spelling?) was weird. I am at "Club Nelson" which is a real backpackers hostel. It is cheaper and is getting me what I expect for that kind of money, exactly what I got in Picton. I am not sure how I am getting to Motueka yet, there are a couple of bus services, but there are also a couple of groups of pickers at Club Nelson right now, and the manager said I might be able to steal a ride. I am expecting to take the bus.
So, I arrived in Motueka on the 13th of February. Pretty nice place, again, it is a small town of about 6000 if I didn't say it before. It has all the basic ammenities like this internet cafe and a couple of places to buy stuff. I was picked up by Sheldon at the info center and bought some food. First time ever buying a full grocery list. I spent $100 which seems like a freakin' lot. I hope it lasts me. I then was driven to the orchard and shown my billet. I am staying in a 2 bed room that is on one side of the pack house. It has a ton of space and I have it to myself for now. So great, I just need to wait for the picking to start. We start on the 18th and will usually work Sunday to sometime on Friday. I get paid $26 for each bin I fill with apples, each bin is 400 kg which is about 1000 lbs. I got some practice with the ladder for a day and a bit on the 16th and 17th. I was thinning fruit, taking off the small fruit and breaking up big bunches of apples. I got paid $1.80 a tree and did a row of about 50 to 60 trees. It took a long time to get used to it, but I got faster and the experienced guys I met here from the Okanagan Valley (Eric and Felix who are from Quebec) said that picking is better and easier.
Okay, so I have picked for 5 days and averaged 3 bins a day. At $26 NZD a bin, I am not shooting the lights out, but it is steady work and steady pay. One day I hope to average between 5 and 6 like the experienced pickers. I am still in a freaking rush so I will continue the update later
It is March 5th, I have been working hard and haven't had a chance to get into town to write an update. I get up at 6:00 am, eat breakfast and catch the New Zealand sunrise as I walk out into the orchard. I start picking as soon as I can see clearly and start filling my bins. We picked the following varieties of apples: Cox's Orange, Galaxy, Royal Gala and Brookfield. In New Zealand they pick over the trees several times and pick the ripe ones as we go, which I am finding difficult because one side might look ripe and the other side is green. I got crap a couple of times but I didn't get fined so I am happy. After we did apples, on about the 1st of March we began picking pears, the variety is Taylor's Gold which is patented by a local who is working in our packhouse (she gets royalties from each orchard that grows them). Pears are easier to pick, no color and you pick everything you can get your hands on, and the bins are about 1/2 the size so I can pick 6 or 7 bins a day at $19 a bin. I work from about 7 am until about 5 pm and then watch one of the 2 tv channels I have in the evening. Evenings can get a bit boring, but I have done worse work than this. I will try to do some more updates and I will truly try on my next trip to town to get some photos online.
After my hike we got back to picking. We are now picking Braeburn and Lockbuie apples, which are just red apples, nothing exciting. My bin rate is up to about 4 bins a day so I am making a bit more money. The season is about half over and I am not sure how much longer I will stay here. I think if I leave once the picking gets slow I will have made enough money. There is no point staying when there is no money to be made.
More to come