Thinking about Picking Mangoes in Australia? Don’t do it!
Thinking about Picking Mangoes in Australia?
The season is on the way.
Are you thinking of picking mangoes in Australia? Perhaps you should re-think that idea. I know, I know…you have red and green, juicy, oval-shaped stars in your eyes with just the right texture. You are thinking breakfast, lunch, and dinner of mango-surprise… Your favorite fruit is the mango… Mango fruit salad. Mango juice. Mangoes on your cereal. Mangoes on your hard-boiled eggs. Mangoes in your lasagna. Mango grilled-cheese sandwiches. Mango mushroom soup. Life could be so perfect…
But wait! WAIT!
Do not do it!
I have some bad news that no Australian farmer is going to tell you…
Picking mangoes makes a high percentage of people sick.
I do not have stats that I have accumulated from anywhere, but my estimate is that about one in four people are affected by picking mangoes. And believe me, you do not want to be one of the one-in-four… It is terrible.
You see, nature has a nearly perfect system, but man loves to interfere with our mother. If mangoes are picked before they are ripe, they have a natural acidic-sap that shoots out of the stems in defense. The sap burns the skin and it keeps animals from picking mangoes before they are ready. It is likely that the acidic-sap is supposed to keep humans from picking them too early as well, but humans do not like to follow rules. In our modern days of refrigerated trucks and ships, mangoes are picked early, acidic-sap is sprayed, and the mangoes ripen on their way to the supermarket…likely in a foreign land. Perhaps the only reason you have had a fresh mango in your life is because of this man-made system.
But it comes at a price!
So, remember that part about, ‘mangoes are picked early’? Someone has to do that particular job of picking mangoes early. Who is going to do that job? Likely not the Australians. They do not pick the fruit. Picking-fruit is a low-end job. You have an Australia Working-Holiday Visa right? Hey, remember that photo you saw about going to Australia and it looked like you were going to be living the dream, hanging out on a beach, and having nothing but fun? Yea, you are going to get to do that, but it is most likely that you are going to finance that with the jobs you are able to find. Since no one is going to give you a real job because you are on a temporary visa, you are probably going to be picking fruit. Get used to it pal!
Generally speaking, picking fruit means for a pretty good party in a rural Australian campground nearly every night with other backpackers. Pick grapes…those are pretty fun. The work is light and you get to ‘hear it through the grapevine’ all day as you chat all day with new friends on the other side of the bush doing the same as you. Puck plumbs…those are not too bad to pick either. Avoid watermelons as they are the hardest work you will ever do in your life. But most importantly, stay away from those darn mangoes.
Picking mangoes is bad…
You are probably on that one year visa. There is one mango harvest each year. No farmer is going to tell you about mango rash. Usually by the time it shows up on your body, the harvest is nearly finished. Then you will use the money you saved to heal up. Hurray! You will probably be broke again by the time you feel better, about a month later! Fun times! And no backpackers really know about mango rash, because if one gets infected, it is likely that they will be out of the country by the time the next harvest rolls around the following year, so word is not passed on to the next and no one is the wiser… A new crop of potential mango-rashers come in!
Now, I know I may have just juiced your mango dreams. Yes, what you were initially thinking is accurate…if you want to eat more mangoes that you could fathom, you would have that chance at a mango farm. Three squares a day of mangoes is the future is a certainty if you decide to go picking mangoes.
But should you be one of the unlucky ones who gets mango rash…well…
It showed up on my hands first. I was swollen but I put up with it. Then it got on my arms.
I told the girl I was dating, “If it gets on my man-goods, we are out of here.”
It got on my man-goods.
We quit our jobs that morning…
Mango, you crossed the line.
Anyhow, heed my warning…
We began our job on November 26th. It was December 24th before I finally began feeling better again and the rash began to recede… It was four weeks of picking mangoes and rash terror.
Here is my journal-log with the after-effects of picking mangoes in Australia. Graphic rash content to follow:
Woke up at 2:00am and scratched my hands for 30 minutes. Woke up at 5:30am and got ready for work, but my hands were very swollen. Quit our jobs.
I can not believe that I actually have a rash on my balls. It is a little ironic considering we used to tease each other when we were 16 and a friend was trying to pick up a girl. We would talk about how he had a rash on his balls that he had been busy applying cream to, loud enough for her to hear. Today, at 28, it finally happened. Mango-acid rash. The bottom of my shaft has a small rash too. I have an ointment and the itching has subsided. Ball-rash. Unbelievable.
My rash is getting out of hand and probably close to 35% of my body is covered and red. My ankles to my fingertips are rashed, but not my back. The itching became too much for me and we went to the hospital to see a doctor. It was going to cost me $178 to see a doctor in the Emergency Department, the only place open on at 9pm on a Saturday. I told them I would probably risk death, then to pay $178, so they gave me some numbers to some practitioners to call tomorrow. We drove 27 kms out of town to a rest area to sleep.
Woke up and drove to a Sunday practitioner. Spent $50 to see a doctor and $47 on medication. My fingers are so swollen that my index finger is too fat to pick my nose because it will not fit in my nostrils.
Woke up in the middle of the night. Had to apply cream. My rash is getting worse. Maybe 40% of my body is hives/rash. My arms to my wrists are a rash and I had to take off a bracelet I got in Vietnam and have wore for over a year, so that the swelling could pass it. I am itchy and miserable and I am being too hard on my girlfriend who just wants to take care of me. This rash is bullshit.
Drove to Bundaberg and spent two hours on email. My rash was getting worse through the day. Hopefully cleaning all of our bedding helps. I am a physical mess and people grimace when I show them the rash.
Woke up at the Sharon Nature Park. My eyelids were nearly swollen shut and my ears are swollen and burn. Things seem to be pretty bad. I saw a pharmacist who thinks I took too many anti-histamine pills and had an allergic reaction. Nadine and I rented a motel room for $70/night. My rash is on the sides of my face around my eyes and up my entire neck. We kept the air-conditioner on, and it is cold everywhere on my body and I am naked, but have to wear socks to keep my feet warm, and still my rash throws heat.
Spent 28 hours straight in our air conditioned room with no clothes on, trying to ward off a rash. By 6:00pm, I decided I was losing the war and spent $50 to see a doctor who really had no idea what to do and prescribed antibiotics and calamine lotion. I told him the itchiness is worse than the rash, so the nurse gave me an antihistamine needle injection. She said it would sting. I hardly felt the needle, but the liquid she put inside me hurt/burned so much that my hip ached to walk afterwards. Even sitting in bed hurt. The itch was so bad at the hotel I was in a cool shower at midnight, unable to sleep. Then at about 1:30am the itch was so bad that I was scratching until I bled in places. Cold shower. I started cracking up and was afraid I would hurt myself, so I tried to go for a walk to calm my insanity. I came back, got Nadine from the room and we went back to the hospital at 3:00am. The same doctor was stumped by my rash and I think I actually gave him the idea of what to recommend. He gave me some cream and some Valium. The Valium dose was 4 X too strong according to Nadine (a pediatric nurse), so I only took half of the tablet. Got to bed at 4:00am and slept a little. My eyes are so puffed up that I can hardly keep the lids off of them.
Decided to drive to Brisbane to find a skin specialist. My ears have sores around them from so much swelling and the skin around my eyes is unbearably dry. By our calculations, and after being told it will cost $170 to talk to a skin specialist, and about $60 for any tests, Nadine and I agree that I am probably allergic to the cortisone cream, and we will see how the next couple of days without it go. It makes sense the way we see it.
Brisbane is our first real city in about four months. It is huge and it totally sucks to drive around in the place. We are not used to any kind of traffic congestion. We found Newmarket Caravan Park to lodge for the night.
I had a pretty bad itch attack again last night. It was nothing like the night before where Nadine described me as being completely out of control, but it was still terrible. The attacks always seem to take place around 3am. Nadine rubbed me down with calamine lotion and I took a ½ Valium to sleep. We got up at about 10am. I was really itchy but I tried to ignore it. We decided to go to the hospital again so that I could see a skin doctor. I need a regular doctor’s referral to see a skin specialist, and they wanted $170 at the hospital for that just like yesterday. So, we found a shitty medical center and I paid a doctor $50 because I wanted the referral letter, but he just prescribed more drugs and wants me to come back Monday. I hate doctors. Doctors are not really good caring people. They run you through like livestock and are not really interested in listening to you. They just want to prescribe something and cash in on you stopping by and get you out the door again. They hardly listen to a word you say. So, Nadine and I are on a little experiment and will use the cortisone cream on half of my body to see if the conditions change.
I feel better, but I am still a rash. It is probably getting worse rather than improving. I am afraid of what a specialist will cost, and if we have time considering the time of year and we will be in Sydney for New Years.
Spent the morning reading while Nadine slept. Left the van after the hot sun was not for fierce, so as not to make my skin worse.
We found ‘Spring Creek Mangoes’ in Coles in Brisbane. We found the boxes that Nadine may have packaged of the mangoes that I may have picked out of the trees in Townsville, that are nearly killing me today. Unreal. Spring Creek was not a very big farm.
I got hit on by a 40–something year old when I was away from Nadine shopping for Christmas presents. I was in a pharmacy and the lady getting help, when I showed up looking for a teeth-whitening kit, told me I had beautiful white teeth and certainly did not need a whitening kit. I told her teeth can never be white enough. I said, “When you do not have much going for you, you have to maximize what you do have going for you.” She replied, “You have a lot going for you!” (even a rash!) She happened to leave the store at the same time, followed me out, and flirted with me as I walked to find Nadine. It had been a long time since a stranger flirted with me. Having a full time girlfriend means girls other than her do not realize you exist. She clearly did not take much of a look at my exposed arms and legs. Or perhaps she is totally into rashy guys and that is her thing…
My itch is going away a little and I have made it through the past two nights without itch attacks. That has been a treat, but my body is seriously wine-stained by a rash.
Went to the doctor at 9:00am who charged me $32.50 to tell me that I look better and I am healing and I look better than he thought I would look. Fuck I hate doctors…