In total contrast to my cattle station experience is a week in organic bliss in Northern New South Wales. I sit here, almost on my last day, enjoying the cool breeze that a passing thunderstorm has left, contemplating the simpler things in life.
Although my host is currently working hard studying a degree, she is able to enjoy and appreciate some of these simple pleasures. Up with the sunrise before 6 am, her day starts when the animals are ready for breakfast, which is usually early. The Dexter cows, rescued horses, her funny looking chickens, her cattle dog Ruby who is scared of calves, Little Doggie who spins on his bottom and Sweatpea the not-so-innocent cat all have an important role to play in the daily happenings of this little farm. Each animal named, each loved, each with a personality and story of its own make up the cast of this wonderfully unique setting.
Playing with Spartacus, Venus, Poppy and Violet has become part of my daily routine since arriving here. These relatively new arrivals were in utero on my last visit and now enjoy having their chins scratched and their necks rubbed, whilst curiously licking my hands, undoing my shoelaces and bunting me to see what happens. Their adorable faces and fearless charm has had me in raptures all week, making them the subject of my camera and the highlight of my afternoon.
As well as the joy the animals bring into this welcome dwelling there are the pleasures of growing and harvesting your own fare. Something I have not experienced since setting food on this land is sharing a space and time with someone who has extensive knowledge and uncompromising enjoyment in food. I have been able to take part in this pleasure; learning this week how to make jam from the plums picked in the afternoon, sharing some Mediterranean memories by making Gazpacho from tomatoes in the garden and being able to use at least one ingredient everyday knowing it has been nurtured and cultivated with no added anythings right here on the property.
I have also enjoyed going on egg hunts to find the one egg that gets laid in a different location daily. Today’s egg was delivered on a scrap of hay on the floor of the barn. Neither in the hen house, nor any of the attractive egg laying places arranged this week, but right in the middle of the barn where Ruby the dog is free to gobble it up if she finds it first.
I have joined in on all activities regarding farm life here, which include the ride-on lawn mower, bathing/showering the dogs, putting the chickens to bed, praying for the rain to come and eating wholesomely and whole heartedly. There are also a great many cups of tea consumed, moments laughing at ridiculous animals and dealing with the odd unexpected disaster.
Before I sign off, it is also worth noting that I have, after nearly 14 months in Australia, encountered my first snake! I was cleaning the pool one hot afternoon and noticed a piece of hosepipe on the ground which I hadn’t seen before. Moving closer to pick it up, it moved provoking a reaction involving words rhyming with “duck” and a lot of shouting. I was told to keep still and get a look at it, whilst the snake, seeming unbothered by my outburst raised its head and slithered right past me. It was, on later investigation, discovered to be a yellow faced whip snake. A couple of days later I saw the same, but bigger chilling out on the grass as I was thundering towards it on the lawn mower. It seems my list of “only in Australia” experiences gets longer and longer.
What a lovely week on the organic farm leaving me nice and relaxed before my next adventure.
Temp: 25 C
I arrived at Bungalow Bay Koala Village and wondered why I hadn’t chosen this hostel. It had a very relaxed vibe, yet the organisation and trustworthiness of a YHA hostel. A-frame cabins dotten in around the trees and a chilled out decked bar/reception/pool area. It’s a little more pricey than Base but it’ll be on my list should I return there. This hostel also has its own wildlife (mini) sanctuary and although I don’t like paying for these things, I feel I got my money’s worth.
A small group of us (7) were lead around the little enclosures by an English ranger who clearly loved her job. She spoke confidently and answered questions gladly about all the animals she introduced to us. I came away feeling I had just had a really interesting biology lesson about Australian wildlife and also had some of my fears about snakes and other venomous creatures greatly reduced.
First was Barbie, a 6 year old Freshwater crocodile. I discovered that some crocs can live up to 180 years and can grow to over 5 metres long! Barbie had her mouth taped shut, which considering she has multiple layers of teeth, I was quite pleased about. They are instinctive animals, with no social skills and live territorially. They don’t get energy from food; they only need it to grow. With no sun, they are very lethargic and not really interested in eating. Maybe you know this, but I found it interesting. They only mate to reproduce and don’t form relationships with other crocodiles or need to have a social group (loners!) and can go for a long time without eating. They are also ambush hunters, which means, a crocodile will not see you and run after you on a river bank or beach. It is the crocs you can’t see that are the most dangerous, as they will leap some 3 metres out of the water to surprise the mammal they have chosen for dinner.
After Barbie was Shadow, a Lorikeet. This was a big, slightly grumpy bird, more interested in men than women, and proved this by puffing out his feathers each time he was sitting on a man’s arm. Not known for their intelligence, unlike Cockatoos; who can be quite cheeky and therefore unpredictable, Lorikeets are a safe bird to have as a pet. I was fascinated at the way Shadow took a seed from the ranger’s mouth: using his curiously shaped tongue to seize the seed and then his large, frightening beak to break the shell and eat the centre. It wasn’t a show; All of us who held him did the same trick, and seeing that huge hooked beak some towards my face made me a little apprehensive but shadow, delicately took the seed from me with his tongue and ate it.
Next; Captain, the cockatoo. Quite a cheeky bird, who speaks and pecks and performs little tricks, and did not like being put in his cage for the night. The birds are locked up night for their own safety, so night animals can’t harm them and so no one can steal them!
The huge wombat was next, called Harry. He was asleep in his log, but we managed to have a peek in as he was waking up from his all day nap. Their closes cousin is the koala, as they have the most similar traits; sleeping aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalll day.
The koalas were just delightful and it was the closest I had ever been to a Koala, so yes, I did pay an extra $14 dollars to hold one and have a photo with Noah, the 2 year old koala. This is the cheapest place to do it in Australia and apparently it’s Queensland law to pay for a photo with a koala. I hope my $14 dollars got the best quality eucalyptus leaves for little Noah. Christina showed us her little baby, very recently born and still in the pouch. Koalas carry their young for a total of 18 months, which I believe is one of the longest periods of time to “mother” their young. This is still not as long as the Spanish, who carry their young until about the age of 30…
Our second to last visit was the lizards and skinks. I held a skink called Sheila, who was one of the ugliest things Mother Nature has produced! They have a tail that looks like a head, appearing double-headed, as their only form of defence. Poor things.
Finally… the snakes. Yes, I held one. Yes I wanted to vomit. No it wasn’t poisonous, nor did it try to bite me, but it was an uncomfortable moment. I still fail to understand why anyone would chose to have this as a pet. Snakes have no feelings and cannot feel comfort and love for a mammal. The only they curl around you ( if they don’t want to squeeze the life out of you) is to get your warmth which is why their favourite place is your neck. Yuk. But at least I can say I have done it.
I was assured that if I am bitten by a venomous snake in the bush (one of my constant fears as the lethal Brown Snake is prominent in this area), I am unlikely to die as long as I can get to a hospital within 4 hours. I have worked out that this is possible, even if an ambulance makes the journey out to the station, I can also “buy” myself two hours by correctly immobilising the area. People in India and Africa die of snake bites fairly regularly because they simply don’t have the medical facilities to deal with it: Australia does. So, stamp your feet whenever you are bush walking and the snakes should slither away. Ok. Noted.
Almost forgot the parakeet feeding! These beautiful birds were just fascinating to watch and feed. Some soggy bread in my hands and a dozen birds swooped down onto me, scratching my arms with their tiny claws and pooing on my head, but making me laugh and smile incredibly. I took nearly a hundred photos of them, in my obsession and awe of them, and a video too, which I hope captures the noise and madness of the moment!