Trevor Modra, or Trev to most, asked us back for a few more days’ work after our day of scraping glue, and we turned our hand to all sorts of things. We ripped out ceiling tiles, cleaned, painted, polished, removed concrete with a jackhammer, washed some windows and stripped old tinting off some others.

All the time we were working for Trev, we were living 10km away in Home Hill at the Comfort Stop. You’re only allowed to stay for 2 nights, but we lived there for 2 weeks, and there were some resident French that had been there for months. The place had hot showers, a kitchen, and power sockets! Team France had extension leads galore, with laptops, toasters and even a microwave plugged in. It’s a hard life, roughing it as a backpacker.

Chrisie had her birthday while we were still at Home Hill, and I managed to get her a present without her knowing. That’s quite a hard thing to do when you spent almost every second of every day together, and she keeps tabs on the budget! We had pancakes, then went for a picnic and a walk along the beach. We had planned a nice meal out to celebrate, but couldn’t find anywhere that looked promising, so we settled for a very upmarket Red Rooster. That’s basically KFC to you and me. We finished the day off back in Home Hill with a film and one of the bottles of Moscato we had brought all the way from the Hunter Valley. Yum!

We weren’t going to get any more work from Trev for a bit, so we decided to head on. We drove the 100km to the next piece of civilisation, Townsville, headed through it and down to the coast. There we spent the night with the sound of crashing waves, beside a sign that said “Warning, Crcocodiles”! Our plan was to get to Mission Beach the next day and find Murdering Point Winery, if only for the name, but as ever, plans changed.

Chrisie had put an advert on Gumtree saying we wanted work, despite me pointing out that there were literally hundreds of other backpacker adverts there too. She was right, though, as the next morning I wandered back from the loo block to be greeted by a smug grin and “Do you want some work?” A truck driver called Paul had seen the advert and needed some help unloading his deliveries around Townsville. The job was only for one person, so Chrisie spent the day surfing the net, shopping and watching films, while I unloaded lots of Ikea deliveries, a home removal to a weird guy and his non-existent Grandad, a stack of medical equipment to a clinic. That earned us another $150, so we splashed out on a chippy for dinner, then drove to Alligator Creek for the night. There we got a call from Trev, saying did we want more work… Is the Pope Catholic?

We drove back to Ayr, holding up the early morning traffic as we crawled along at 80k’s an hour. We met Trev, who put us to work sorting through tons (literally) of sugar cane harvester blades; big solid steel things, with between 6 and 36 in a box. That took us 3 days, during which time Trev invited us back to his place, instead of living in Home Hill.

He and his family are wonderful, and have been so kind to us. Trev has a huge workshop, and  has helped us out with the van, doing a complete re-fit of the leisure battery, adding LED lights, a solar panel to keep the battery topped up, and a new, lightweight table at the back so we can sit outside and eat.

He runs his own Handyman company in Ayr, Trev’s Home Maintenance, and has said that if backpackers are in the area and looking for work, to give him a call, or if you need some work doing to your van, and are willing to work in exchange, give him a call too. His number is 0418 721 290.

We only expected to stay with Trev for one night, but we ended up living with the Modra family for over 6 weeks, over which time we’ve become firm friends. He has nicknamed me “Wrecker” for all of the things I have damaged, bent or broken, including the brand new tailgate on his truck, the jockey wheel of his trailer, their internet (briefly) and the castors on a display stand. He isn’t short of revenge, though, as he took a slice out of my chest hair with clippers, and takes every opportunity to take the piss out of the Irish. His favourite joke is: “Why did the Irish get the potatoes and the Arabs got the oil?” “The Irish had first choice!”

So we have been putting up new ceiling tiles in a fruit and veg shop, painting and putting up a fence, moving more harvester blades, and getting to know Bill and Yvonne Saxby. They are the 81 year old owners of Burdekin Distributors, and we spent a week moving everything from one warehouse to another. They sell hardware and chemicals, so we literally moved lock, stock and barrel. True to form there were a few mishaps there, with Chrisie getting an impressive bruise and ripped shorts from some falling angle iron, and Yvonne landing flat on the ground after a fight between the trailer’s drawbar and her shins. The trailer won.

In a few days where Trev had no work for us, we took the opportunity to do some more to the van. We had it up on axle stands, changed the gearbox oil, the differential oil, the engine oil, oil filter, air filer, spark plugs, and ignition leads, as well as installing a couple of fans in the back to keep us cool at night, a low-voltage disconnect to stop the fridge wrecking the leisure battery, and made some new drawers at the back to give us more space and less weight.

Meg and her fabulous Sculpture Work

Trev has a Granddaughter, a 1 ½ year old called Eliza, who has recently learned how to climb onto chairs and now reaches for everything she can find. She wandered up to me and handed me a sewing pin she’d found (1 of the 10,000 she’d scattered all over the floor), and another day brought Chrisie a bottle of vodka from the cabinet! Alcohol was a regular feature of our time in Ayr, with Trev introducing us to McGuigan’s Black, a mid-price Merlot that tastes like a $30 wine, and we also had a Wine of the Year Finalists’ wine tasting (and a barbecue, because this is Australia and they need little excuse for a Barbie and a piss up).

The 6th to 8th July was a big motor racing event in Townsville, the V8 Supercars, and Trev, very generously, shouted us a set of tickets and pits passes. We went up with him on the Friday, and met the teams from Ford Performance Racing, Stone Brothers Racing, and Dick Johnson Racing, and got lots of signatures on our newly-acquired V8 Supercars shirts. We watched the teams doing pit practice, and got a good look round the cars, before watching the test laps and early races. The noise from the V8’s was incredible, but the most entertaining were the Aussie Race Cars, miniature vehicles barely big enough for the driver, and the come round corners 4 side by side! Formula Ford and the Dunlop Development Series also put in an appearance.

We spent Saturday working on the van while Trev took the family back to Townsville for the Qualifying, then the 3 of us went back on Sunday for the main event. It didn’t disappoint: the Formula Fords had some spectacular crashes, the Aussie race cars spun out all over the place, and the V8 racing was exceptional. It was all won with a clever set of pit stops by Team Vodaphone.

Eventually the time came for us to leave Ayr and begin the next leg of our Aussie tour. Bill and Yvonne kindly took us and the Modras out for a meal the night before we were due to go, but then severe flooding all across Queensland stopped our departure. Instead we spent a great few days grinding paint off Bill and Yvonne’s balcony, earning ourselves a little extra cash for the journey.

Chrisie and I both feel indebted to Trev and his family, as well as Bill and Yvonne, for their kindness, help and support, and for giving us a family and friends so far from home. We have no doubt we will see them all again, sooner rather than later.

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