One way to keep the bank balance healthy on the road
The biggest questions I had when travelling were: how can you work on the road? Is there a lot of work and where do you find it? I could not travel unfunded, but after a bit of searching I got my answers.
Yes, there is work; work of all sorts for every traveller, from the short-term backpacker to the long-term ‘big lapper’. There are Harvest Trail jobs, which are accessible through a local MADEC office, part-time work in your chosen profession, odd jobs and then there are farm jobs. Farm work is strenuous, it’s long, unusual hours, but you can save money as you really don’t need to buy anything, plus, if you are remote enough, you have nowhere to spend your hard earned cash.
We were busy working on an orchard in Victoria and keeping an eye out for other ways to bring in extra money.
Trawling through Gumtree I came across a post seeking people to work on a camel farm.
Yes, that’s not a typo…a camel farm in central Victoria. With piqued interest we applied and were asked to go for an interview.
Now, I have been around horses of all sizes, dogs, cats and most domesticated animals, but I had never been up close and personal with a camel.
Standing next to these noisy, hairy beasts with feet bigger than dinner plates, the farm manager asked us if we were interested, as people tend to back out once they get up close to these dromedaries. We were keen though. It was something we had never done before and who doesn’t like a challenge?
Feral camels are a pest in the Northern Territory, but some enterprising people have decided to harvest their milk – white gold on the growing consumer market. Camel milk is the seen as a new super food, well, new to the western world anyway.
A camel milking farm is a bit like deluxe room service for camels; food and water whenever they need it, clean bedding every night and all for the cost of a few litres of milk.
These feral camels have to be trained to be milked, you have to gain their trust so they allow you access to their udders, in order for you to attach the milking machine to them.
Camels are not like regular cows that you can milk every day for a long time; these ships of the desert will only let their milk down when their baby is close by. They stand in the milking run, their baby rudely nudges the udder, and suddenly it swells like a balloon and you have 90 seconds to take their board and lodging payment!
The work is challenging, exciting and yes, there are elements to the job which aren’t glamorous. The unrelenting flies are the biggest challenge, and then there is the mucking out. Camels eat a lot, but fortunately, it’s pretty much odourless and looks like giant chocolate balls.
Camels are interesting animals: they spit, they bellow, they’re incredibly sensitive and family-orientated. Bring out a camera and they are curious. Wear a new hat and they pull it off to see if it’s really you under there.
The three months we worked on the farm was a priceless experience. I never realised how gentle these animals are; each one has a unique character. Gentle animals on the one hand, but temperamental on the other, with hyper-extensive limbs that can kick in every direction. And they kick hard – I have the bruises to prove it.
On our time on the farm we watched a newborn take her first tentative steps, converted the lounge room into a giant incubator and nursed a rejected newborn though the night. We cut wire off a fully grown camel’s leg, cleaned stuck grass seeds from their mouths, popped giant abscesses, and soothed many wounds.
You have to give at least three months of your time to work on a farm because training to work with these animals takes time – most farms want you for three to six months, sometimes more. But if you can find a job like this, moving on isn’t easy to do, it’s certainly not every day you can say you got kissed by a camel!