Contrary to popular belief, macadamia nuts are dangerous. At least they are if you farm them on the side of a hill. Each kernel is safely contained in a perfectly spherical nut with a steel like constitution. Scatter these naturally occurring ball bearings around the base of trees planted on a steep slope and you have an accident waiting to happen.
I know this from recent experience.
Unbalanced from stepping on one and then another, and another, I staggered around drunkenly. Inevitably I lost the battle to stay upright and tumbled downhill until a barbed wire fence (because only barbed wire will stop the trees escaping) arrested my descent.
It’s funny where ballooning takes us. We needed a 100-hourly inspection for Quit, so went to see John on his macadamia farm to get it done. As with everything ballooning, the check was over in a couple of hours so we had plenty of time to explore his property. Tucked in the hills near Byron Bay, John’s farm is set atop steep country with stunning views of the surrounding country side. Idyllic if you’re sat on the verandah at breakfast. Not so, if you’re in the middle of harvest.
A wet harvest at that, which makes the process of scooting around the hillside on machinery even more perilous than normal. John has concluded, after his own impromptu inspection of the boundary fence, that in some places the harvest is best done in part, by hand. Enter then, the lifeblood of Australian agriculture… the backpacker.
While their mates were sleeping off hangovers by the beach, Gabrielle (German lad) and Emma (French lass) spent all weekend using leaf blowers to make wind rows of fallen nuts. When the ground dries enough they’ll be scooped up by a dinky little harvester that may have started life sweeping council footpaths. Compared to the massive machinery used in cotton country, the stuff on John’s farm is tiny.
His little Kubota RTV was put to the test with just four passengers and an esky. After a pleasant evening in a valley standing around a bonfire with beer and nibbles, we made a move back to the house for dinner. Gretta and I hopped onto the tray of the RTV while Gabrielle drove with Emma beside him. The beer hadn’t made the slope any less steep than the trip down so getting back up involved a few false starts. Eventually Gabrielle threw caution to the wind and floored the throttle.
‘Aller! Aller! Aller! Ne s’arréte pas!’ Emma yelled at him over the noise of the racing engine.
‘Geddup it Gabs, geddup it!’ I cried from behind.
With whoops of laughter and tri-lingual imprecations we slowly crawled back up the hillside, avoiding low branches, sliding back down the wet grass or falling over on the marble like nuts. I hadn’t realized that morning how challenging staying alive can be some days.
Before you complain about the price of macadamia nuts remember this, they really can be quite dangerous.