In August 2010 we hit our two year travel anniversary. Just 24 months since we
first boarded our plane out of the UK, on the way to South Africa and the start of our wonderful adventures.
However it might have been that we’d been on the road for too long, or maybe it was six months in fascinating, irritating, ‘incredible’ India, but we were feeling kinda beat up and….to be honest tired of.. well.. traveling. And we mean traveling in the constantly-on-the-alert, daily planning, visiting, haggling, exploring kind of traveling. We weren’t ready to head home just yet but we just needed something easier. With the world at our feet where would we go? Luckily Air Asia, our budget and the strong desire to see our gorgeous sister and her lovely boyfriend made the choice for us. With a super-cheap free-seat offer on we were able to hop, skip and jump through Kuala Lumpur and onto Gold Coast Australia.
The timing looked really good. Australia is the home of the permaculture movement and we could spend some weeks working on organic farms, in exchange for our food and accommodation. We could camp, surf and barbecues. And primarily we’d get to spend
some quality time exploring the east coast with Esther and Simon and could join them when they relocated from Sydney up to the Gold Coast. There was a lovely kind of closure to it – over a year before we’d road-tripped with the whole family from Melbourne to Sydney and left Est and Si there, where they both found work. But they were over Sydney life and ready for a change, so we planned a fantastic road trip from Sydney right up to the Whitsundays.
Barely had we touched down than we were on the road to Hunter Valley, Australia’s premier wine region (where else after 6 months of no wine!). There we met Est and Si and had an awesome weekend wine tasting and hanging out together. Our best discovery? Sparkling dessert wine at the Peterson Vineyard. Our best wine tasting? Si with his ‘connections’ had blagged us a freebie wine lesson at Tempus Two where the staff was so knowledgeable and friendly.
Somewhere in the wine tasting we got talked into running the 13 km Sydney City to Surf by Esther – just a couple of weeks to train but we were up for it. And we
did manage it, finishing in Bondi and being able to walk back to Est and Si’s Bondi beachside apartment where we could watch the finish line and ‘rehydrate’ on bubbly wine. The following weekend we caught up in Kangaroo Valley, staying at a chalet on the golf course we did some serious ‘roo and wombat spotting.
We then had about a week until Est and Si left Sydney – we hadn’t had a lot of luck with gaining Woofing placements although had set up a placement for the following month when Est went back to the UK. So in the mean time we hung out in gorgeous Port Stephen, finding a cheap trailer as the weather was a bit cold and wet for camping. The next weekend we were ‘helping’ Est and Si pack up their worldly goods and it was off to Coffs Harbour to meet Si’s grandparents. It’s a gorgeous area, so many different bays and beaches - some perfect beginner waves for us. We could easily have spent a load of time there.
We were set up by a mate of Si’s in a awesome apartment in Coolongatta for a night and then it was off to
the Whitsundays for us, we made a one motel stop on the way north in Miriam Vale before getting there. On the advice of others we didn’t book in advance but headed to the super friendly and efficient tourist information centre at Airlie Beach. Within literally minutes we’d booked a cheap package deal to one of the more resort style islands, Long Island, including that night’s accommodation at Airlie Beach, plus sorted out being dropped off with our tents on Whitehaven beach for a night and then being picked up and dropped at Hook Island for a couple of nights.
Long Island was great – kayaking out we were all startled by the sound like a pressure hose behind us, which turned out to be a whale spouting really close to us. According to Si if you dived down to the reef you could hear the whale song.
Doing this all again we’d so recommend taking tents and heading out - the guys on the good ship Scamper will drop you wherever you need to go, the only challenge being taking all your food and booze (hungry goanna lizards, crows and our own ability to drink lots worked against us
here!). Hook Island was great but the resort was a little odd and run down (some of the other drop-off points looked a little more exotic). But we did some amazing snorkeling, saw a few too many sharks (Si’s spearfishing brought in a few big-uns, including a big tiger, to investigate which was a bit scary) and we were delighted by a procession of whales heading through the channel, many of whom hung around for quite a while, playing and flapping their fins.
A week later Est returned to the UK for a friend’s wedding. We headed off with Si for a few days camping on Stradbroke Island, camping rough on Main Beach for a few days with plenty of beer, fishing and no toilets or showers for a few days! Caught a few fish, a few waves and saw plenty of dolphins and sharks in the channel. A good few days and then back to Coolongatta while Si looked to get himself and Est set up there. Meanwhile we headed to the Channon to Geoff Lawson’s farm which is the Permaculture Research Institute.
We’d definitely recommend doing your research before Woofing in Australia. If you are looking to hang
out, get some food and accommodation and have a good time then you should find some good places. However we were after some more training and interaction and, because we were Woofers in a place where there were some 20 interns paying over $10 000 for their placement, knowledge came at a premium. Hence a lack of direction, plenty of rendering and shoveling shit. We still learnt loads about permaculture, food forests, mulching and had some great experiences like discovering a new-born calf and miking goats (okay a bit smelly but still… different) but we’d recommend thinking about what you want out of the experience. It inspired us but not quite enough to take the Permaculture certificate at the time ( although we are absolutely certain this is the key to our smallholding in the future – so exciting!).
A short time later Est was back and we had a few more days hanging out – and here it was certainly the “Himmelhoch jauchzend und zum tode betrubt’ (the highest highs and the lowest lows). In that period Est and Si got engaged, we headed to Noosa where Zoe had the best birthday morning, surfing, walking with her sis and
sparkling wine breakfast, then Si came off his skateboard in a freak accident and sustained a life-threatening head injury. Our last few days were spent around the Brisbane hospital. As we left Australia to join Mum and Dad in Kuala Lumpur Si and Est were in a great place in Kirra, but were waiting to hear news on Si’s head injury. A really hard way to end an amazing few months together.
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