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A few years ago I travelled to Queenstown to tie vines in a vineyard. It was a beautiful time of year. The first frosts of winter were beginning to appear and every morning the young vines were frosted over. We started work early in the morning, before the sun came up, and were picked up from the shared accommodation by the foreman in a van. The temperatures were brisk, and though the sun had already come up, the vineyard was shaded by the mountains, and there was no warmth to thaw our hands until around 9.30 in the morning. The men I shared accommodation with and worked with at the vineyard were all of very different character, and doing the work for different reasons. Some were studying viticulture; some were seasonal regulars, following the vineyard season up and down the country. I was trying to quickly earn an extra buck to buy an engagement ring for a woman I wanted to propose to. When the sun came over the mountain range, it was a truly beautiful and satisfying place in the world to find oneself. And with half the working day already behind, we would stop for lunch on the hill side, among the vines in the sun and chat and joke among ourselves. The working day would finish around 3pm, and often a chill wind could be felt travelling up the valley, from the river. The mornings and the evenings in that part of New Zealand are the longest parts of the day. By the time we arrived back in Arrowtown where our shared accommodation was, it was well into dusk, and very cool. As I said the mornings and evenings take up the greatest parts of the day in the high mountainous regions of Queenstown and Arrowtown, and though it was cold at around 4pm every night, one could enjoy a spectacular array of dusky colors in the sky almost every night. The air is so clear and dry at that altitude, and the weather is consistently good. I assume due to the outdoor work, and clean clear crisp working environment of the mountains, everyone was very subdued after work, and would usually retire to bed early. But before bed we would share a meal. Every night it was someone else’s turn to cook, and there was a big pot, that was used by everyone. The meals were basic fodder. Mince and boiled potatoes, mince and beans, stew, stew and cabbage and potatoes, stew and beans, etc. I will always remember this time working in the vineyards of Queenstown, and would encourage anyone who wants to have a go at doing seasonal work to give it a try. The starts are early, the days can be long, and the work hard, but it is an unforgettable experience.
Submitted by: Morgan Barrie Date submitted: 20/11/2011 1:00:12 a.m.