For the next three days, we drove full speed towards Hyden. Monday was our first day of work. It hadn’t sunk in yet, and we were still enjoying the journey. On the first day, we drove 800 kilometers from Exmouth to Geraldton. On the second day, we drove to Perth and did our final grocery shopping at Aldi. On the third day, we headed towards Hyden. It was getting closer and closer! About twenty kilometers before Hyden, we felt like turning back. We didn’t feel like it! However, a brief meeting with the hotel manager gave us a good feeling, at least better than our previous encounter with a potential employer in Hopetoun. Since there was no accommodation available for us yet, they provided us with a hotel room for one night. In the end, we stayed there for two weeks. For free! After a while, it started to bother us because all we had was a room to spend our days in, even our days off. But we didn’t complain because it was free.
On our first workday, we cleaned rooms together and made beds. It all went quite well. From day one, we could already see the lack of organization here. The chaos made things difficult. Over the next two weeks, we had alternating tasks. Cleaning rooms, helping in the kitchen, serving customers in the restaurant, and working in the roadhouse. We clocked in between 125 and 130 hours during the first two weeks. It was tiring, but the pay was accordingly high. You can easily earn between 4,000 and 5,000 euros here in about five weeks.
After our first two weeks, we moved to a house five minutes walk from the workplace. It felt good not to stay in the hotel room anymore. We could cook, and relax in the living room, and the bed was not bad. We shared the house with Mirthe and Tom. We had met them in Coral Bay and kept in touch. They had also come down here to work based on our recommendation (as they were also looking for work but couldn’t find anything).
The manager asked us if we wanted to continue working here until the end of May. The question caught us off guard, but we agreed. We were hired as “casual workers,” which means we didn’t have a formal contract. They provided us with a fixed work schedule for the next month. We were satisfied with the hours: 45 to 60 hours per week. However, it also meant that we would hardly see each other. Inez had to open the roadhouse (service station) almost daily from 5:30 am to 1:30 pm (often extended to 2 pm or 3 pm). Then she had a short break until 5:30 pm, after which she started her evening shift in the kitchen until 9 pm (sometimes even until 10 pm).
The early, late, and long days made the work exhausting. Suddenly, I was only on the roadhouse shift from 1:30 pm to 9 pm. I had to close up every day, and often I was alone. It was an adjustment for us, and we didn’t always enjoy the fact that we only saw each other briefly in the morning and for an hour in the evening before going to bed. The hours didn’t bother us, but working separate shifts was not our thing. It was mainly about the money but it also had to remain enjoyable.
After four weeks, starting the fifth week, we occasionally had shifts together, which broke up the week for us. We always looked forward to having a day off on Tuesdays. We didn’t do much on those days because it was pleasant to sleep in, not have to be on our feet, and finally spend time together. There’s nothing to do around here unless you drive one to two hours away. So we spent our days off mainly indoors, watching TV shows like The Mole, Temptation Island, Married at First Sight, and Game of Thrones. Deciding when to stop and continue traveling is not so easy. We were both fed up with it, but the money kept rolling in, which wasn’t bad.
Everyone was delighted with us. We worked hard and learned quickly. Everyone could see that right away. We were happy to have satisfied colleagues; everyone wanted to work with us. The manager heard about this and offered us sponsorship. This meant working for them for three or four years, after which we could apply for permanent residency in Australia. We were incredibly flattered, but it wasn’t a decision to be made lightly. Ely also had his diabetes and all the necessary medical equipment he needed every day. Moreover, after a few weeks, we realized that many things were not acceptable. Cameras were everywhere, and the manager would sit and watch them almost all day, checking if you were doing your work. There were also rumors that she was listening in. Strange situations! Additionally, there were many issues with the organization, such as constantly changing work schedules and colleagues frequently gossiping about each other.
After five weeks, we were getting tired of it. A small incident regarding the schedule was the last straw for us. The manager wanted to show that she had control over us. We both felt that was unnecessary and had outgrown that kind of treatment. We let them know on Saturday that we would finish our week (working until Monday because Tuesday was our day off), which would be enough for us. We didn’t see her anymore because she had gone to Perth on Saturday. We sent her a text message but never received a response. On Sunday, I worked a double shift and ended up together with Ely in the roadhouse. Just to be sure, I wanted to check the schedule for Monday. She had taken us off the schedule without notifying us. It was clear that we had made the right decision!
The next day, we said goodbye to everyone. Some were surprised because they hadn’t heard that we would quit. We thanked everyone and packed our belongings. We will remember this adventure as a good friendship and many experiences. We’re very happy that our savings have been replenished, allowing us to continue traveling for the last three months. We learned a lot about ourselves and each other.
We also stayed in touch with Steve & Sheila. They warmly welcomed us to rest after our hard work. We both worked almost 12 hours a day and were utterly exhausted. We arrived in Mandurah at Steve & Sheila’s on Monday evening.
In all the hustle and bustle, we hardly took any photos. It’s a shame because it doesn’t give you an idea of where we worked.
X Ely & Inez