After Tara, we spent days looking up and calling farms, trying to find some fruit or veggie picking work. It was kind of demoralising.
We just missed the vine pruning season for grapes, we were a month too early for all the veggies around the Lockyer Valley region, they all told us to try back later. Strawberries were booming on the Sunshine Coast, but so were the swarms of backpackers, waiting to pounce on anything available.
We finally thought we had it in the bag when a lady who had a strawberry farm told us she needed five more workers the following week. Yes, we said! We’ll do it, we said! All was going well until she found out we were Australian, at which point we were told that they only hire backpackers for picking jobs, because they will work hard for poor pay.
Uh lady…obviously you haven’t heard about our apple picking experience!
We honestly called at least 200 farms, and couldn’t scrounge a measly day’s work. So we decided to head towards the coast anyway and start getting in peoples faces where they would be unable to resist our charm and wit and would immediately offer us employment.
We headed to Dalby, ran some errands and then camped out at Oakey Creek Reserve, which was a lovely little spot a few kilometres off the highway. We have Camps 5 (I think they are up to 7 or something now) which lists lots of rest stops and free or cheap camp sites. It has sure saved our butts a few time, but sometimes it is so off the mark. We first went looking for the rest stop before that one, which was marked with a tick – meaning it’s supposed to be pretty damn good. What we found was a semi circle of gravel with a rubbish bin at the centre, right on the highway. Toilets way up the road. Thankfully we kept going, because Oakey Creek was lovely (and popular too – with about 10 other groups there), with stacks of space and nice grass to camp on.
Next day, we drove on to Toowoomba. I can’t remember why we decided to do that, because we wanted to go through Kingaroy to the Sunshine Coast and as such the quickest route would have been to go north from Dalby. Anyway, we headed east and got to Toowoomba. I guess we just wanted to be moving after being quite still for some time.
We marveled at what it was like to be in the ‘big city’, ate some gelato and ran some errands. We camped about 10km out of Toowoomba at a noisy rest stop off the side of the highway. You kind of get used to the constant sound of trucks on a highway after a while. In the morning, we headed back into Toowoomba, where Billy got a few hours in at one of the skate parks there, and then set off north for Kingaroy.
On the way out of town, we stopped for a quick bite to eat at a place called Wray Organic, which I had spotted on the way in. Wray Organic consists of a cafe, as well as a market to buy grocery items, and I think it’s part of a chain of stores. The cafe had very few options for vegans – I think there was a choice between a roast vegetable sandwich, or a roast vegetable salad. Everything was pre-made, so there wasn’t much flexibility with the menu. Most of the vegetarian dishes had either egg or cheese, and though there were several gluten-free options, the majority contained meat. I went with the salad.
The lady pointed at two containers and asked if I wanted small or large. I asked for small. After saying that we wanted to eat in, she informed me that the small when eating in was smaller than the takeaway small and was really only a side. I thought that that was kind of weird, but I wasn’t super hungry and wanted to get a smoothie as well anyway.
The salad was okay, but lacking flavour in a simple oil dressing, and I ended up adding a good dose of the pink himalayan salt that was on the table. I did like the fact that they used silverbeet as a base, and the additions of crunchy buckwheat and pumpkin seeds were welcome. It just wasn’t outstanding.
I also got a blackberry smoothie, which was good. It was made up of banana, blackberry, almond milk and rainbow blend, and was topped with shredded coconut, which was very cute. Billy ordered a custom juice and drank it before I could get a picture.
Wray Organic offered a decent selection of grocery items, however I wasn’t overly impressed with their cafe menu. Perhaps it was my own expectations and assumptions that got in the way, as in my experience organic cafes have tended to offer a wider range of vegan options. It wasn’t helped by the strange exchange that took place with the lady there, who didn’t say ‘hello’ or smile once in our dealings, giving the impression that she had better things to do than to take our order.
It wasn’t a terrible experience – the salad could have been great with a bit more flavor and the smoothie was definitely on the mark. It was just nothing to write home about (even though I just did…)
Corner of Russell & Mylne Sts, Toowoomba
Monday to Friday – 8.30am – 5.30pm
Saturday – 9am – 4pm
Sunday – 9am – 3pm