Mango madness is taking hold and backpackers are flocking to Katherine farms to earn money and complete 88 days of seasonal work to stay in the country.
Fast friends, Pei-pei Lee from Taiwan and Matteo Fillipo from Italy, spend 12 hours per day, seven days per week in sweltering heat picking and packing the NT’s most famous fruit.
It is hard work, but worth it for the chance to travel more of Australia.
Plus, there is the added benefit of unlimited mangoes on the job.
“It is a fast-paced job, it is hot whether you are inside packing or outside in the sun, the days are long and you have to be fit,” 27-year-old Mr Fillipo said.
“There is not much to do to stay cool, except maybe drown yourself in water on your break.
“It is only three months and I want to see all of Australia, road-trip the west of Australia and go surfing, so it is worth it,” he said.
The friends met recently at Coco's House and have been in Katherine for two weeks. They started their jobs immediately and haven’t had a chance to see any of the sights just yet.
Before they started work on the farm they had one day of training to become expert mango pickers. There is skill in picking the right fruit at the right time.
“Each farm has a different way of picking mangoes, but we would use long sticks to pick them off the trees,” Mr Fillipo said.
“We are not allowed to drop them, that is bad form and it leaves bruises, but if we did happen to drop a mango that is the one we would eat.
We are living on a diet of five mangoes a day. At least.Matteo Fillipo
“You wouldn’t want to work there if you didn’t like eating them,” he said.
The pair said they both preferred working outside in the sun picking mangoes with friends rather than in the packing shed where the work is repetitive and too fast for conversation.
“It is not so much about the money, we need this work to stay in the country,” Ms Lee, who was previously working as a barista in Darwin, said.
While the friends plan on following the mango season to Queensland soon, they dream of working with a different fruit or vegetable, for a bit of variety.
“We’ve been told avocado picking is good,” Ms Lee said.
“Watermelon and pumpkin are the worst, they are heavy and you have to work close to the ground.
“There is a lot of gossip about where the best place to work is. Everyone’s dream is the solar farm. We don’t really know where it is or what they do there, but it is supposed to be good money and pretty cruisy.”
The pair plan on staying in Australia for at least another year, but will most likely head their separate ways when the fruit picking season is finished.
Both agreed despite the abundance of mangoes available on the job and the tough working conditions they would not be sick of the delicious fruit any time soon. At least not the kind grown in the NT.
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