Hanne Højgaard Viemose
The journey out
I once worked at a banana plantation outside Tully in Northern Queensland. Tully wasn’t a place for a girl like me. ‘Get out of there, sweetie,’ Donald said and handed me my passport when I returned to Bundaberg to pay off my debts. He didn’t seem surprised at all when I handed him the money. It was eight months since I had run off.
I was surprised that he had an opinion on the matter, but in some ways he was right. Tully wasn’t a place where you would ever want to settle down unless you had a very good reason. It was the wettest place in Australia, a one horse town hidden behind countless banana plantations, millions of sugar canes and rainforest that undulated all the way out to the sea. The locals hit the bottle every payday, Friday at four o’clock; it was easy to get into a fight and it took very little to start one.
There were islanders from the Torres Strait, aborigines from Tully and Yarrabah and a mixed bunch of white Australians, most of them rednecks, whose lives had come off the rails in other parts of the country. In addition to these was a fair number of Kiwis, Maoris and whites, and backpackers like me.
People drank XXXX beers from coolers, walked around barefoot and wore one dollar T-shirts.
When the pub closed at midnight people would drive to Country Club Feluga in a battered Chiquitas truck, stagger around in an echoing concrete room to Dirty Old Town, playing the same old Springsteen and Metallica records over and over. They would smoke pot and drink until they fell down or went outside to screw a random person from the plantation on the riverbank across the road until the laughing bird, the kookaburra, sounded its morning cry across the sugar canes, the rainforest and banana plantations.
Here I lived for the best part of a year in a caravan on the other side of the railway where the tipper wagons were loaded with sugar cane and driven inside the factory. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I settled down, but neither did I make any plans to leave; I seemed to stay on without making up my mind what I wanted to do.
Translated by Charlotte Barslund