River of golden dreams

Day 237 - Margaret River

The train cut through an orange land so sparse that not even clouds bloomed in its yawning blue sky. It passed stations so small that the platforms could hold 3 or 4 people at most. I saw dwellings here and there, each a battle against nature won though the ongoing war still inevitably lost. From the eastern hubbub to this western desolation I wondered, as I would many times over the coming months, how on earth I ended up here. I carried a knot in my stomach, whether from fear or food deprivation I couldn't be sure. This was new, this was different. Barring a few days in Brazil I had never so boldly struck out on my own. Leaving behind a pleasant Sydney existence, friends, a well paid job, the comfort of familiarity, to start again on the other side, to create a life over again. Yeah it was probably fear. I changed from train to bus at the end of the line and the landscape softened as we continued south. Wetter and greener, life returned in the form of new and exotic birds and the yin-yang of friesian cows. But I was not here for the fauna, rather it was the region's flora that had pulled me 2500 miles across the continent. The first vineyards I spotted were at a place called Wilybrup, the vines as bare of foliage as the rows were of workers, not a great sign of impending employment. The bus deposited me, appropriately enough, at a bus stop in the centre of Margaret River. I was struck by a wave of uncertainty over what I would do next. Were would I live? Were would I work? Who would I drink with down the pub? Nobody could answer these questions but me, I was going to have to take full responsibility for my own life for once. I gathered my luggage, I gathered myself and set off for a hostel whose name I had noted down in a sole concession to planning. The Margaret River Lodge YHA would be my home for the next 3 months but as I strode down its driveway I could have no idea of the bacchanalian chaos that lay ahead. All was quiet for now though so I dropped my pack on my bunk and decided to swing by the various agencies in the town that organised vineyard work. "Have you got any experience?", "No". "Have you got a car?", "No". The look that resulted from my regrettably honest answers to these two standard questions did not fill me with confidence with regard to my employability and, by extension, my second year visa. But the agencies took my name and number and sent me on my way damned with faint encouragement. After covering them all I retired to the pub in the knowledge I could do little more to secure appropriate work. As if to amplify my home-from-homesickness the song 'Mr. Brightside' played as I drank my extortionate pint. Were people looking at me as I mouthed the words? Was the lump in my throat as visibly big as it felt? It wasn't the first TBS (take me back to Sydney) moment I would have here, it wasn't the last.