The bugs buzz relentlessly outside your tent, as you crawl out of your sleeping bag, you hear the distant voices of your friends and colleges lining up for breakfast. The dirty hippies ravage the food prepared by the cook(s) while jibbing one another with gossip from last night’s campfire, what kind of land, or trees, or road conditions you may face. It’s often the most positive time of day, as everyone psych’s one another up to ball (Plant A LOT of trees). By 7am, everyone loads into the work vehicles and heads down the old logging roads, smashing potholes, ditches, and puddles the ride to work itself is often a fun off-roading experience, but a shitty way to suffer from a hangover.
Once you arrive at the block (work site) you load up your bags, weighing approximately 22kilograms, while you hike through the bush to find your piece of land on the block. You sprint through the dirt, the rocks, the swamp if only to avoid the bugs. They are relentless and unforgiving; looking for an opening in your clothing, biting through if possible. You begin to regret the shower you took last time you were in town; the scent of the soaps has attracted the swarm and you swear you’re done showering until the seasons over. You vault over fallen trees, trudge through mud knee deep, clank your shovel off rocks and adapt quickly to the changing weather.
You try to time your smoke and lunch breaks with your friends in the pieces beside you, the only humans you’ll talk to for the next 12 hours, often the ones keeping you from insanity. The isolation of the woods allows for deep meditation for days you’re taking it slow. The repetitive work gets boring, your joints begin to ache, and the bites begin to itch. Nothing is making it easier, and you become left with a choice, slow down, speed up, stop or keep going. Do you give into the pain and the hardships, or do you fight through and go for the goal you set yourself? The harder you push the more it will hurt, and there’s always tomorrow, but there was also yesterday. Sometimes you give up, somedays you don’t, and on rare days, you push beyond your old limits, gaining an immense feeling of satisfaction. You make bets on who can plant more, or just friendly competition, as you yell at the bugs and take your frustration from your “normal life” out on the ground. You vow you’ll never complain about a regular day job again.
You climb back onto the bus with your comrades, you share your numbers, congratulating the ballers, and mocking the under-performers. The vehicle is packed with bloody, muddy, sweaty planters laughing, sulking, and rambling about their day. Once you arrive at camp, some b-line for the fire, some shoot for the mess tent and others go to their tent. A massive community dinner is held, and many gather around the campfire to sing songs, drink, smoke, tell stories and generally just get weird and live judgment free.
The hard conditions, enclosed community setting, and alcohol make everyone close and comfortable really quickly as ‘shells’ become replaced with competitiveness and a drinking habit. You share the day’s glory with your bush family, congratulating each other for their high production, and offering encouragement for low days. You keep one another from quitting, laughing away the pain, and drinking to the weirdness. You expand one another’s tastes in music, movies, books, and life in general. These strange dirty hippies become your best friends, people you plan on traveling, living, or working with, in the future.
You’re surrounded by the most interesting people you would have never met back in ‘civilization’. You leave your comfort zone to the point where you’re not sure what normal is, or what does and doesn’t cross a boundary. As the fire fades, and people stagger off, tipsy, drunk or wasted to prepare for tomorrow’s work, you stare at the night sky, seeing stars like never before. Sleep is quick to come; your body is exhausted and sore. Lying in the sleeping bag, the buzzing of the bugs has not stopped, but the music and screaming have. You can’t wait for the contract to end so you can leave this wretched place, yet you never want it to end.