Posted by: Josh Lokken | October 9, 2011

Life in the Vines

So I’ve held off on writing about my work in the vineyards, because since I stopped working there about one month ago, I would have been writing in the past tense. I always fear writing negatively about past experiences, fearing that a cruel and ironic twist in karma would make me re-live the horror. With the arrival of spring however, that’s no longer possible, pending some freak change in the earth’s orbit. So at last, I can recount my experience.

At first I was thrilled to have landed a job. Not the best job, but at least it was work. I was told it’s challenging vineyard labor, but if I work hard, I could make decent money.

“Cool” I said to myself. “I’ve worked hard before, so that’s nothing new. Plus what better place than New Zealand to be working outside, right?” Hahahahaha!!!

Don’t be fooled by the pretty scenery – this exercise in abject misery will strip every ounce of joy from your existence. What was supposed to be an adventurous working holiday suddenly turned into a tragic recreation of indentured servitude. Endless rows of Sauvignon Blanc waited to be pruned by my aching and callused hands. I yearned for anything, anything but this.

Okay, it wasn’t that bad. But it’s certainly wasn’t fun. And in case you’re wondering, here’s the job description:

1. Make cuts with loppers in the excess branches, or ‘canes’ as they’re called in industry speak.
2. Pull and yank excessively to remove canes from the wires.
3. Get repeatedly whipped in the face, neck and back while removing canes.
4. Curse, often loudly.
5. Move to next plant and repeat steps 1-4.

To be fair, I did make decent money during the 6 weeks I was working the vineyards. I did work hard, probably the hardest I ever have in my life. But at the end of the day, I’m glad I did it.

Sure it came at a great expense to my body and soul, but it’s a memorable New Zealand moment. I can commiserate with other backpackers subjected to the pain. I can impress my friends with my knowledge of New Zealand whites. Just please, don’t ever, ever send me back.


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