So to my time spent in Tasman Backpackers in Devonport in Tasmania, Australia! Tasman Backpackers is basically a dwelling place for harvest and factory workers in the city of Devonport, Tasmania. I guess you could call it a working hostel if you wanted to, but I don’t want you to. But I will anyway in this post. It’s not a normal hostel or a backpackers as people tend to stay here a bit longer.
I found out about it by chance on the internet in early January 2010, when I was checking on the possibility of harvesting jobs in Tasmania and it cropped up on a random search, possibly on “Bing.” I tried to book myself, Daniel and Neil in there but it was full on the particular nights we wanted, so we ended up in Devonport staying in two other hostels first – Hawley’s Gingerbread House and Molly Malone’s Backpackers Pub. Both cracking places and to complete the hat-trick there was this wee gem…
…After the dust had settled, a new dawn broke, the kids (Daniel, Neil and Paul) left and I was left on my own again, I checked into Tasman Backpackers. There was a Northern Irish lady working there. I knew this because she had called me on Daniel’s phone to confirm my booking. It was Sara, from Dromore and she was travelling with Stephen from Lisburn. So I had Northern Irish company, yet at the beginning ended up rooming with 5 guys from Hong Kong, an Australian and a South Korean dude.
Tasman Backpackers itself gets a lot of job opportunities, and when I arrived I filled in a job application form for any jobs that came up, though they told me that in 2 -3 weeks I could get guaranteed work on apple picking at farms nearby, one of which was at the coincidentally named Parramatta Creek. Only a coincidence because it combines the name of a place I once lived and a TV show I once loved. Within two days however I had gotten a cushy job on my own accord, working for a farming and labouring agency called Work Direct, I was placed immediately onto broccoli harvesting, a job I would stay in right up until May, when the broccoli season ended in Tasmania.
And that was me settled! In Tasman Backpackers, where the fun and work could begin. The work meant long days out in the field, having to get up early around 6 am ish and sometimes not getting back to the hostel until 7 pm at night. My clothes would get dirty and within a week I had written off a nice white SoulCal fleece top (which I had become rather attached to, and which Noemi recommended I should buy), a pair of jeans, a pair of trainers and manys a pair of pants and socks. So very soon I developed two types of clothes – ones for work and ones for leisure. My white SoulCal fleece was now brown with mud, even the best washing powder and stain removers couldn’t remove the mud marks! I threw a few pairs of pants and socks out – some had become holy, some too muddy, some so wet and soggy they always smelt bad! This was the life of a farm worker in Tasmania. And I loved it.
Once home from work, Tasman Backpackers was the perfect place to relax. Friendly staff and guests make it a great place to live. Everybody there seems to be in the same boat. They all work in farming or labour jobs from early morning till early evening so you can make a lot of friends really quick. That said, I didn’t always like to mingle with everyone there, so that I could still enjoy some privacy and relaxation away from the busy farming life.
There were full laundry facilities for $3, essential for washing working clothes, unless you really want to spend hours after work hand washing mud and shite from raincoats, waterproof trousers and wellies. Actually if you’re clever enough, the laundry use is free, if you can work out how to trigger a dryer, without using coins…There were full internet facilities for $2.50 every half an hour.It was nice to keep touch with the outside world, as Tasmania is pretty remote to say the least. But the local library in the city centre of Devonport offered just $2 an hour for internet, so on half days or rare days off, I’d go there instead.
Tasman Backpackers ain’t central – it’s on Tasman Street, a 20 minute walk from Devonport city centre, but it’s fairly easy to walk there. The nearest big shops were a hat-trick in one – in the same car park just 25 minutes walk away we had Coles, Woolworths and K-Mart. Everything you need in life. Items I bought there aside from food and drink included a flask, a lunch box and wellies for work. All at a very decent price, meaning you could easily save a lot of money in Devonport. And still live a life of luxury.
At Tasman Backpackers, a Taiwanese chef named Yasmine used to arrange an international food night every few weeks. These were excellent and gave everyone in the hostel the chance to cook (for a cost of around $10 each). These nights were excellent, very enjoyable with so much food around from different countries and so many people to talk to. At two of these dinners there were around 60 people present. They were always held on a Saturday night as more people had Saturday nights or Sunday days off.
The hostel didn’t organise nights out – but we had a few of our own. We went with a crowd down to Molly Malone’s pub one night to watch live music and have a few beers. We also had an excellent St Patrick’s Night party both at the hostel and again in Molly Malone’s, by far the most popular and best pub in city. In amongst all the madness of staying at Tasman Backpackers, I also managed to have a 30th birthday, form a new Northern Ireland Supporters Club and get a new best mate (for the time being) in Jesper – my Danish room mate who I will hope to see again sometime soon!
Jesper worked on potatoes and I did broccoli, we both worked similar shifts and tried to go out for drinks once or twice a week. We enjoyed the Thursday Nights in Molly Malone’s pub with live music and also the Friday Night Happy Hours at The Central, where you could eat for free from the buffet. A Godsend for the weary traveller, or broccoli harvester.
The hostel also had pool competitions every Saturday night and there was a free barbecue one night. On my very last Saturday night there I managed to win the pool competition, collecting a winnings of $26 or something, by beating the Brazilian guy Hermano in the final. It was a nice way to end things up. The day after I also played football for the only time with the Tasman crew – my team lost 6 -5 on a wet afternoon down the local “soccer” centre. It fun all the way at Tasman Backpackers.
Plus the reception could help with many things – maps, directions, car rental, sightseeing, printing from internet etc. They also sold a lot of food and drink and were fully licensed. Red Bitter tins were just $2, so of an evening I’d find myself having the odd beer.
Of all the people I met there I became good friends with Marina Oesterle (from near Stuttgart in Germany), Daniel Hsin Chui (from Taipei, Taiwan), Stefan (from Germany), Jesper Hansen (from Nastved in Denmark), Sharon Leonard (from Perth, Australia), Chang Kyun Oh (from South Korea) and Jenny Chen (from Taichung, Taiwan) and will try to keep in touch with them all, as well as the two Northern Irish ones and a perky young Scottish lady called Leanne. With e-mail and bakebook these things become easier as life doesn’t.
Of course, like anywhere there were some negative aspects of Tasman Backpackers. The kitchen was always too busy to cook, so I always had to wait until a quiet moment to cook, as I hate crowded kitchens and standing around waiting for your food to cook. This meant more ready prepared meals, eating a lot more bread and occasionally popping to Hungry Jacks or the local chippy for takeaway food. No big deal really, as after a day’s work you don’t always want to cook, but perhaps the hostel should have a few more kitchens or a bigger kitchen! For over 100 people to share two kitchens (one of which is tiny) is crazy.
The hostel was also costing between $113 and $126 a week depending on where you stay (8 bed dorms were the cheapest), which was a lot dearer than my flat in Parramatta (and I shared a room in both) and a great deal dearer than the $5 I currently pay per night for camping up in the mountains at Poatina! I was still making and saving loads of money though, sometimes earning around $900 a week harvesting broccoli. But the hostel could easily have been better priced I guess.
The showers were also a problem. You could only shower for 4 minutes a turn to save heating, water, gas or electric (or all 4), which I can understand, but after being muck till the eyeballs on a long day in the field it takes a good 20 minute shower to rid all the dirt! I learnt to either queue and use the shower with no timer or stay in the same shower and wait till the 4 minutes started again. I certainly won’t miss the 90 second countdown timer as the mud drips down your legs.
After two months, suddenly I was leaving Tasman Backpackers and my lovely wee room 22, with a balcony. It was through no choice of my own. It was to get more hours, more work, more money and to have a new experience up in the mountain village of Poatina, near Longford and Launceston. Broccoli harvesting in and around the Devonport area came to a bit of a standstill, after a quick two week cutting period in East Sassafras, so overnight just after my 30th birthday I made the choice to move on…
…On Easter Thursday, April Fool’s Day I bought a car, secured a job working on broccoli near Poatina and asked co-worker Jenny Chen (from Taichung, in Taiwan) if she would like to accompany me to Poatina. I now had a car, more shifts on broccoli and as sad as it seemed, I left Tasman Backpackers behind on Good Friday morning, saying some fond farewells and getting many new friends, e-mail addresses and contacts from yet more corners of the globe…
All in all a great place to stay and two months on my life which I won’t forget.
Where Is It? – TASMAN BACKPACKERS, Tasman House, 114 Tasman Street, Devonport, Tasmania, 7310
Nationalities Met – Australian, New Zealanders, French, Belgian, German, Swedish, Taiwanese, Hong Kongese, Northern Irish, Welsh, Scottish, English, Irish, Danish, Japanese, South Korean, American, Italian, Brazilian.
When I stayed There – February – April 2010
Dorms I stayed in – Room 40, Room 22
Stupid Pointless Fact – TASMAN BACKPACKERS, with its four storeys is the tallest building in Devonport.
VIDEO FROM DORM 40:
VIDEO FROM DORM 22:
VIDEO WALKING UP TASMAN STREET TO TASMAN BACKPACKERS:
VIDEO FROM AN INTERNATIONAL FOOD PARTY AT TASMAN BACKPACKERS:
LAST NIGHT STAYING AT TASMAN BACKPACKERS, JESPER AND I DOWN MOLLY MALONE’S PUB LISTENING TO A GUY PLAYING AN EXCELLENT COVER VERSION OF OASIS CLASSIC, “MORNING GLORY”:
PLAYING SHARON’S ACOUSTIC GUITAR IN THE BACK YARD AT TASMAN BACKPACKERS:
CHILLING IN THE OASIS GARDEN AT TASMAN BACKPACKERS:
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