My second day in Tasmania was like chalk and cheese. Water tanks and Chocolate. Tank making and transport was not what I had expected, and presented some pretty big challenges for drivers- bulky but almost weightless freight and then there is the challenge of making the tanks. Extreme heat to melt hundreds of kgs of plastic in the summer months, coupled with the requirement to wear covered clothes for safety means if you want to lose a little weight, this is the place to come and work and be paid to work in your own personal sweat box!
For the other half of the day I felt like I was the star of Willy Wonka. Yep the Cadbury factory was out of this world. But I couldn’t convince them to let me see the process of pouring the chocolate. It was amazing to see that the SeaRoad Logistics trucks came down to Hobart to the factory loaded with sugar, cocoa, milk powder and packaging and then load up with finished product to take back to the main land to be sold.
Ewan from R Stephens Honey called me that night to let me know they were going down the west coast on Wednesday and coming back Thursday. This was my chance to get this job done. But it was going to be touch and go as it was a 4 hour drive in the wrong direction to the boat which left at 7pm on Thursday…..
I took the gamble and headed south following the truck. We got to Struan and the rest of the crew had set up camp for the night and were starting to cook dinner on the campfire. Oh and did I mention that there were two trucks loaded with bees parked right beside us and I was just supposed to be ok with rolling my swag out on the ground beside them! Not wanting to feel like a fish out of water (which I did anyway as I was the only girl and they were a pretty rugged bunch of blokes) I just rolled my swag out and bunkered down for the night.
The next morning we were up early and the train arrived to load the trucks up and take us into the mountains. I left a very disgruntled Barney tied up to my car in the shade and tried to buy his love with a left over bone from last night, even though we both knew it was never going to work. I got to ride up front in the train and learnt a bit of history about the land on the way in.
Some council workers came in with us and agreed to bring me back to the train early enough to get out and make it to my fairy crossing in time. I spotted them a couple of copies of The Drover for their help.
We got to the top of the hill and to the first plot of hives. Everything was pretty quiet and still in the mountains, no traffic noise, just birds and the men chatting amongst themselves as they set up. I was given a jacket to wear with a face mask to reduce the likelihood of getting stung, but was told not to expect to get away scott free!
And then it started. The hum of bees. The more hives they stirred up while collecting honey, the louder the hum got. Being inquisitive and having never found myself in this situation before I was right in there taking photos and videos of the process and the bees swarming on the ground.
I had a few rogue bees trying their little wings off to get to me so I went for a walk up the hill away from the hive and eventually they retreated back to their buddies. I went back to the excitement and kept capturing the moment, while bees left deposits of poo on my camera! I guess they were not fans of the camera.
I got to a point where I felt like I had captured everything I wanted for the book and I took a back seat and just watched. The men were getting stung left right and centre and some of them started to lose their patience over it. It’s a fine line between how much smoke you use when collecting the honey. Too much and they get angry, too little and they get angry!
In my down time I started to realise that I was in a helpless situation. There was one of me and hundreds of thousands of angry bees and well I didn’t actually know if I was allergic or not, and in the back of my mind I was worried about making it to the boat in time, but then my mind was back on the bees and concerned that if I go stung, what would happen to me? would I react? I was a long way from anywhere and not even phones worked out here so getting help was not going to be simple if this all went pear shaped.
Luckily for me I managed to get away without a single sting. Call it bee respect!
And I made it to the boat. Another glass of wine, sea sick tablet and it was lights out for me.