When I got to Childers I found out I had shared the coach ride with Julia a German girl that had been on Fraser Island at the same time as me. She had been in one of the other 2 trucks that departed on the same day as us and with whom we made camp every night. She's a nice girl and we were both glad of the company.
We were both in Childers hoping to find work fruit picking, but there was none. Apparently we had hit town during one of the lulls where one crop has just been picked and the others are not ripe yet. Everywhere we enquired told us to come back in 2 - 3 weeks when the tomatoes would be ready. Bummer.
The hostel we were in was great. Some of you might remember the notorious Childers hostel fire of 2000 where 15 backpackers died when the Palace hostel was deliberately set on fire by a disgruntled Australian man who had been refused entry. The hostel has been rebuilt and you'd now never find a more safely designed hostel with large rooms, wide corridors and large breezy lounges. There is a very moving memorial in the tourist information office next door.
I would have loved to stay there longer but as my bank balance was running incredibly low I couldn't justify the expense of sitting on my bum doing nothing for 2 weeks waiting to find work. So Julia and I both decided we had to leave Childers for some where we could find work.
We decided on Bundaberg (Bundy) the next city up the coast (and home of Australia's beloved Bundaberg Rum). TNT the backpackers magazine had a whole page of adverts dedicated to Bundaberg hostels. Each advert was large brightly colored and proclaimed things like
*resort style pool
*friendly staff etc etc...
I always like to double check any place I haven't had a personal recommendations to so I opened up my lonely planet and my favorite hostel review site BUG Australia. I love BUG because people submit their own reviews of hostels they have stayed in which are usually more reliable than the reviews in guide books which are usually at least a year old. A lot can change in a year.
Here's what people had to say about Federal backpackers in Bundy. (it got an average of 1 star out of 5)
"Please for your own sake don't come here its depressing " August 2005
" If your looking for work then you have to suck up to the old farts, because of this i only got one day-4 hours- waste of time,wont get paid. The hostel is dirty, rooms never cleaned, free mice, you wont get sleep as wake up calls start at 5 and when we left 20 people were on standby so not a great place for work. nice kitchen, crap showers, nice bar, crap tv room, at least one robbery a day, daily roster for work goes up at 8 the night before so you cant plan ahead, and the farmers are redneck slavedrivers. So stay away!!" July, 2005
"Well, where to start...?
Upon arrival the staff were pretty unfriendly and it went downhill from there. There was no blankets left so we got THE DOG'S blanket, the room had cockroaches in it when we moved in, one of our 'bowls' that came with the cutlery had been used previously as an ashtray, the kitchen was infested with ants and was THE most digusting kitchen ever. The cooking/cleaning utensils/cutlery are a death trap - the dishclothes NEVER get washed and must be breeding germs!
The place is over-run with mice and there were reports of rats in the rooms. The work is hard - granted - but you expect that? There is no comfort to be seeked in this place.... The 'beer-garden' that everyone seems to 'love' is actually a few benches in a car park. Bundaberg itself is full of redneck inbreds with nothing better to do than shout at people out their cars, do hard drugs and fight each other in the street. To top it off, when we were there the hostel had a few unsavoury Australian residents (questionable in itself???) - who passed the time by smoking weed in their room (putting everyone's lives in danger because it's a timber building) and throwing KNIVES against the wall in their room!!!!! WHAT is wrong with these people??? IF you have the misfortune to stay in 'Bundy', go to a motel - if you value your life...
The showers and toilets DO NOT get cleaned - EVER. Some people (lunatics) go barefoot in the fields, then wash the mud off in the showers for everyone to wallow in..... nice. The toilets are a health hazard. Someone was sick in one and the remainders were still there a few days later.
We lasted one week - only because we had paid for it and didn't want to give them the satisfaction of making extra money out the place. An absolute, total, 100% DUMP." June 2005
And my personal favorite review entitled Japanese prisoner of War Camp. . .
"Be aware when entering this hostel you are signing your life to one of abject misery and slavery.
I was whipped up and down the fields of fruit by savage Aussie redknecks and left to wander the unrelenting outback to find my own way home without food or water after being sacked for sitting on a plant.
If you can , get out now, if not, settle down to boxes of Stanley wine, smokin weed, fighting with locals and upping sticks to the Big Orange , Mundubbara, the El Dorado of fruit picking.....where even more delights await" March 2005