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Published: April 8th 2012
Happy Easter to one and all
I hope you’re not getting too stuffed on Easter eggs and DIY! Here is our latest blog, we hope you enjoy. Remember to look at all the photos as we often give a little bit more information about where we were on them (scroll right down to bottom of page).
It is sometimes hard when you travel to keep perspective on things. Days roll into weeks and you lose a sense of time.
One thing we often ask ourselves is: is this right? Is it right that we are thousands of miles away from family and friends? Is it right that we haven't settled down, got a career job, bought a house or started a family? Is it right we are having such a good time whilst others work to pay the bills?!
When you lay on a deserted beach, with the waves crashing against the shore and an eagle soaring in the blue sky above, then the answer is easy. When you are slaving away in the sun and travelling no longer seems like fun then the answer becomes more cloudy. Often for me it is tragedy which helps puts
things in perspective. Recently a young 15 year old boy died in a lifesaving competition here. Also a friend of someone we are staying with died suddenly in his sleep. Like the tales of young men who lose their lives in war, it makes you question what is important to you in life. For us at the moment we want to see the world and sample a different way of life to the humdrum.
After our last blog we headed into Perth to pick up our rental car for our tour of the southwest. We received a free upgrade to a 4x4, which gave us more room but guzzled more fuel. Leaving Perth we travelled south to a place called Margaret River. This area is famous for wine (cheers!) but our destination was a free-range chicken farm. The farm we stayed on had several other wwoofers there. Our host was not around when we arrived so we headed straight out with our new friends to the local pub and watched a live band over some beers. The band was called OKA, complete with an electric didgeredoo and one member who had an afro bursting out of his cap. Very
cool and some good music.
The fun soon ended and we were put to work at the chicken farm. This was a big operation, no easy-going here, these chooks lay thousands of eggs each day and it was our job to collect them. They mainly laid in boxes that allowed the eggs to roll out onto a conveyer belt. But we also had to walk through the sheds and pick up eggs off the floor. With thousands of chickens in each one that made it interesting. They would peck at you when you reached to pick up an egg, or all get scared and frantically scatter away bringing up lots of dust (dried chicken poop - nice!). They would also follow you as you made your way down so it would often be fun to turn around to see hundreds waddling behind. It is also pretty dirty work at times, with egg poop, blood and dust on the shells and belt (not to mention half-pecked/eaten mice!).
The boys got tasked with doing some heavy labour as a few of the sheds were 'cleaned out' ready for a new batch of chooks. This involved catching the chickens by their
legs and then putting them in boxes to be taken away and prepped for a dinner plate (not) near you. It was a dirty job, not only physically but at times mentally as well. It was hard to see an animal fight to get away from you, when you knew what the end result would be. But then I am a meat eater and this is the reality of what that entails. But sometimes you wouldn't feel sorry for them because they 'annoyed' you or simply because they were so 'dumb'. Any escapees would simply hang around and some would even climb into boxes that hadn't been filled yet. For this harder work we got paid some real money for the extra hours worked so it was good to earn some dosh instead of seeing Fiona spend it all the time, lol. It was certainly a different wwoofing experience than the one we were used to - much more regimented on breaks and start times. Up at 6 am and working til 2ish, it was difficult to get used to at first. Most people were there to get their 2nd year visa. If you work in the rural areas for
Our First Winery visit
Margaret River is full of vineyards and most have cellar doors where you can sample several wines for free! This was our first and was run by an eccentric Frenchman (aren't they all?). He hated Aussie women, Yanks, tours, but loved the English and he only started drinking wine when he was nearly 40?! Mostly they can spot those who aren't interested in buying wine, but you can still get a good measure (oo err). We also visited coffee, chocolate and olive tastings
88 days in the year then you usually get your second year signed off. We weren't really looking for that so F was a bit peeved about the amount of work she did! So many people are looking to extend their visas that they don't always get treated that well. On our farm we had Koreans, Japanese, Taiwanese, Germans, Brits & Irish wwoofers plus French & Colombian workers. It was funny and dangerous at times having so many different languages in one place. It was funny seeing a Colombian trying to explain how to put a crate together to a Korean and a Taiwanese in broken English. Particularly when there were Brits who didn't care what he was saying and were doing it wrong on purpose/out of laziness. We also nearly lost Fiona when one of the Koreans pulled straight out onto a T junction without stopping or looking (first time driving in Oz)!
We also got to eat a lot of eggs and bread. The owner had an arrangement with a bakery so we would get sackfuls of bread and cakes to munch through morning, noon and night. It may not have been too healthy but it helped
Margaret River has plenty of underground caverns to explore. This one was Giants Cave. It was great because you actually get to clamber over rocks and is not lit up. We were the only ones there so we were able to turn our lights off and it was pitch black!
us achieve as many 'no dollar days' as possible.
It was not all hard work though, as there is plenty to do in the area. Whilst we were there a big pro-surfing competition was taking place. We got to see some of the best surfers in the world do their thang. This included the multi-world champion Kelly Slater. Now to be honest we have no point of reference to ascertain how good these people really are but they were impressive. Unfortunately the 'surf' wasn't that great so there was a lot of waiting around. It would have been nice to see them surfing non-stop. A lot of people surf out here, even after work or first thing in the morning. Whether it is riding the waves, catching some rays or heading there for the sunset sipping a beer, the beach is where it is at. There are beaches aplenty down here. People would suggest a nice beach to go to but they were all great; I wonder if there is such a thing as a bad beach in Australia? Some have strong waves, some gently lap the shore. There are so many that you can often find one all
On the cavern floor we turned our lights off and tried to walk in a straight line (without bumping into outcrops of course!)
The roads down here are so easy to drive on when they are sealed that you can go a long way despite the slow speed limits. You need to be careful when they are unsealed though as you can have a bumpy, slippedy-slidy ride. One night we got diverted onto an unsealed (gravel) road, with no phone signal or idea of where we were. Still you can't truly experience Australia until you are lost in the bush. I've also had visions of Mad Max when being followed by a hairy biker gang or chased down a hill by a logging truck.
On our days off we did quite a bit of travelling around. We headed north to Dunsborough, visiting some wineries, choc shops and olive farms along the way. Dunsborough was nice but is home to these crazy flies that just won't leave you alone. They attack your face, ears, mouth etc so it wasn't very pleasant to walk outside.
You see a lot of signs for Poison 1080 scattered about. This is sodium fluoroacetate and is used to kill non-native 'invasive' animals such as foxes and cats. Apparently some of the native animals have
some immunity to this poison so it should only affect those that have been brought over by settlers.
It was nice having fellow Brit wwoofers Mark and Holly at the farm. Having another couple to hang out with was good, as we went out a few times. They have done a lot of travelling themselves and being younger than us that inspires us to do more. Though we might give India a miss and the diarrhoea that forced Mark to go to the toilet on a train track next to a crowded platform!
Whilst on the farm we also got to see some beautiful starry nights. I even saw a shooting star that crossed the horizon for about 8-10 seconds! Also had emus and kangaroos outside everyday.
Although it was hard work we were sad to leave the farm because we enjoyed the company of the other wwoofers and mixing with other nationalities, cooking for each other some national dishes (bread n butter pudding for the UK!). When we left the farm we headed further south and then east to Albany, stopping at some amazing places such as Greenspool and Walpole.
Where's My Precious?!!!
One of the highlights was the TreeTop Walk near Walpole (see pictures). Here they have erected a steel walkway up and through the giant Tingle trees. Some amazing views can be experienced in the canopy though it can be a little shaky in the wind.
We also had our first Australian Couchsurfing experience in Albany. For those who don't know, Couchsurfing is a social network where people/travellers sleepover at stranger's houses for free. We had great fun doing this in the US and our first host in Oz was equally great and lively company. Paul came across as quite camp at first but he surprised us by saying that he had just come out of a long-term marriage but not for the reasons we had thought. Anyway he was enjoying his new lease of life, which mainly involved hosting strangers from all over the world and taking them to see the sights. He got us drunk most nights and made us play computer games til late on his giant projector TV (NB need to get one!). He introduced us to Mango beer and choc liquor party shot buckets. This no doubt contributed to him throwing a few sickies from
The Very Green South West
When you picture Australia you imagine dry, arid, flat land that goes on for miles. The South West is stunningly beautiful and we couldn't get over how green it was. This is the end of summer but hundreds of kilometres were covered in green forrest. It reminded us of a dry Wales as we drove through. Very hilly, with lots of vegetation, only the weather is better and the grass is brown!
work in order to show us around!
One of the advantages of having a hire car is that you can (hopefully) give it a good pounding on the Aussie roads. Leaving Albany we did around 800km in a day to head north to Waverock and then back to Kalamunda (Perth). We dropped off a fellow German Couchsurfer on the way. He was hitchhiking his way around Oz. I hope he got back to Albany OK. Anyway Waverock is an outcrop of rock in the middle of nowhere. There is little to see on the way other than get our first taste of the flat, arid Outback. The rock has been weathered to form a wave (obviously) and we bascially went there to 'surf it'. We think it was worth it and is one of the iconic parts of Western Australia. And at least F got a chance to drink yet another iced coffee (a new passion she has discovered!).
One of Fiona's other passions (besides hot/cold drinks) is Netball and she has been able to indulge quite a lot over here. The owner of the farm's daughter ran a netball night and we both got involved to
play a mixed game. Yes I did indeed play a full match in fetching walking shoes and socks. Those of you on Facebook will be able to see pictures of the sweaty aftermath. I think Fiona was a little impressed by some of my silky skills and competitiveness (was I?! - F). I even played attack for a bit and scored some hoops (shots you mean - F)! One night when we were heading to Albany we stopped off in a small place called Walpole for the night. The first thing F looked for was the sports centre and low and behold there was women's basketball on. We hadn't been in town one hour and she was on court playing. She has also been able to watch some of the ANZ Championship professional league, which kicked off in Perth last week. It involved around four hours travel via public transport and a lift from some old guy she chatted up but she enjoyed it. As they also show matches on normal TV here she has got me to re-arrange the TV setup so that we can record some when we're out!
Back in Kalamunda we took a walk
Aussie Wildlife - Kangaroos
This is what you all wanted! You see a lot of kangaroos when you drive around. These were behind the farm we stayed on at Margaret River.
into the bush with our host Leeann and saw the moon rise. So struck were we that we didn't even notice the ants nest we were standing on! The weather has got noticeably cooler in the Perth area, though it still hits mid-high 20s each day. We've had the first real rains and the nights can get a little chilly in our caravan. It means more cuddles in bed and F 'borrowing' my warm clothes. Autumn is here and most of the mozzies and spiders have gone. Only to be replaced by Portugese milipedes and flying ants (they really do insects proper over here). The wasps seem a little more dormant too, lucky since we've found a few nests near us. I forgot to mention last time that I got attacked by some when we cleaned some solar panels. Luckily they were a bit groggy and just hit me without stinging.
We've just headed back from Fremantle and the Street Arts Festival. It was good and hot. There weren't many acts but the Aussies lapped it up. It is very similar to what we have seen regularly at home but you get the feeling this kind of thing doesn't
Aussie Wildlife - Kangaroo (again)
You often see them before sunset or at dawn (we had to be up that early for work!). This can make it difficult when driving as they tend to jump over the fences and across the roads! (The first Kanga we saw was a dead one on the road :( ). They mostly just stand there and look at you.
happen too much over here.
Now we need to decide what to do next. We're heading north for a bit, but then do we stay in Oz for the winter, head to New Zealand or go to Bali and back to extend F's visa? (It is cheaper to fly to Bali than to Sydney!)
Well so long people. Enjoy the weekend and until the next time have fun and keep well
F & M xx
Some Oz quirks:
375ml cans & 600ml bottles
They don't get internet shopping. It is cheaper to buy an Australian bird book in the UK and ship it over here than buy it in Oz?!
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