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Packing kiwifruit in Motueka
How is the common worker in the pack house? Deprived of clean air and silence, uncontrolled in his/her movements. This is because the kiwifruit pack house makes you a little twitchy.
But when one wants a winter of snow, one needs one thing: money!
Thats right. My choosing a job in kiwifruit was not out of a pure poetic plight we Europeans tend to have with New-Zealand and kiwifruit. I have to say though, it did sound like a delectable way to spend my autumn months.
March 2015 I left my home country Belgium for New-Zealand. It was the first country that I travelled to where I knew nobody. My plan for the first months was very simple: to find a job as soon as possible to replenish my savings. If possible on the South Island. Fruit picking was an obvious choice, since it is very Kiwi. I searched google and found the seasonaljobs website.
It had a job offer from a pack house called Inglis packers. They needed 30 people to start at the beginning of April. The pack house was situated in Motueka, a town at the very top of the South Island. Having no idea of what Motueka would be like, I imagined finding a lovely countryside community. Fruit trees on every corner and lush hills with sheep and cow. This was not so far from the truth.
I arrived in March with no more than my backpack and snowboard. The pack house was on the outskirts of town. There I met the pack house king: Mr. Kong. Mr. Kong offered me a job as a grader. $14.75 per hour + 8% vacation pay. 45-50 hours a week. "Work starts next week.", said mr. Kong. It sounded heavenly in my ears.
A grader makes sure that our ordinary Smiths and Joneses in the world are not confronted with anything confusing. Blemishes, haywood marks, watermarks. Because we know what will happen if the customer picked up a kiwifruit with a blemish. The horror! Terrorised by non conformity they would run away in tears. For sure we do not want anyone to cry.
Now that I had a job, I needed somewhere to stay. I still had time to find a place since work only started work after a week. With this wonderful area to explore but no money to spend, I decided to do a tramp. Because this was Abel Tasman country! Cheap fun. My gear was stored at the I-site in town. Then I packed my backpack with peanut butter and appels and was on my way. The Abel Tasman was simply beautiful! I found a friend on the journey named Mark. We did not finish the tramp together. When he left, he donated a block of cheese. For a hungry tramper eating nothing but peanut butter and appels, this was the best gift ever. Since we were both working in pack houses in Motueka, I was going to visit him when I got back.
I found Mark again, a couple of days later, in the Motueka backpackers campground. A rugged sort of place but the cheapest accommodation in town. I met the owner Lesley who outfitted me with one of his own tents and a weekly rent of only $90. Now that I had found my palace, I was ready to tackle the job.
I graded in Motueka for 8 weeks and finished with $2500 in savings plus 2 boxes of kiwifruit. Money used to buy a season pass for Cardrona ski resort. All this time I lived in a tent at the Motueka backpackers. I met some of the most colourful people there. Kiwis and travellers: a writer named Jonesy, a whitebait fisher named Ed.
Motueka was a great place to stay. The place to make money and new friendships.