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Helpx : A home on the Central Coast

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We were in Byron Bay when Juz got assigned to a cartoon camp in Gosford for the school holidays.  It was easy enough to get there on time, but we needed somewhere to stay for the week and Dave needed to be kept occupied while Juz was at work, so we consulted the Helpx website for a new assignment.  We found a host near Gosford who needed help with clearing fallen trees in the garden and were willing to put up with us for a week.  Perfect…

 

Nigel and Sophia live on a large block with their two boys Kit and Jeremy.  Nigel is an artist while Sophia runs a home away from home dog kennel called Hip Hound Holidays.  On our arrival, we found nearly a dozen dogs in the backyard and got initiated with a few paw prints on our pants.

 

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Work

The working week started with Juz heading off early to her job at the cartoon camp while Dave got started on a few tasks around the house.  Apart from chopping wood for the fire, he also used a chainsaw to chop up branches from a fallen tree in the backyard, and then stacked them up to dry.

 

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Due to a vicious storm that blew through in April, many trees in the Hunter Valley and surrounding area had fallen.  The council collected the trees and turned them into free mulch, so another job was to collect a boot full of mulch and lay it out over the garden bed.  Aside from the garden work, there was always playtime and patting time with the dogs, and we took a couple of them for a walk as well.

 

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When Juz would come home, it was time to prepare dinner – not only for us but for the dogs as well.  Each dog would have a unique dinner made up in their own bowl of various foods that the owner prescribed, such as chicken pieces or a mixture of wet and dry food.  The dogs would watch from the windows with anticipation, and one by one, each dog would be invited inside for their evening meal.

 

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Once the dogs were fed, it was the humans’ turn. Sophia is an incredible cook and made delicious curries while Nigel was a connoisseur of well-priced wine.  This was our favourite time of the day – sitting around the dinner table, talking and swapping stories from the past.  Juz would usually help to clear the table and wash up, as her way to contribute to the household duties.

 

On a few occasions, we cooked dinner.  One night we did a huge feast of Dave’s special schnitzels with bacon potato salad, while on our last night, Juz wanted to cook some Hungarian favourites – lángos and chicken paprika.

 

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Thank You

Our time with Nigel and Sophia and their kids was great, and we appreciate that they took us in at such short notice.  They were so welcoming and made us feel like part of the family.

 

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Zazen

Helpx : Working on a Biodynamic Farm

Zazen

 

It was our last day in Cooktown and as we strolled through the botanic gardens, Dave’s phone rang.  It was a Helpx host asking if we were available to stay for around a week or so and work on their property located 20km outside of town.  It wasn’t part of our plan but we agreed to meet later that day.

 

Peter is the owner of Zazen – which translates to “the source” – a biodynamic permaculture farm that grows a large variety of herbs, fruit and vegetables and is also home to pigs, ducks, chickens, turkeys, peacocks, Lulu the cow, Buddy the dog, and Thom the cat.  Only a quarter of the 40 acre block has been cleared for farming, and the rest is natural rainforest.  Peter lives there with his wife Saeng and daughter Bo.

 

On arrival, we were welcomed with a big hug from Saeng and it wasn’t long before we felt right at home.  Our accommodation was a bamboo bungalow hidden away in the rainforest and meals were eaten at the house.  During our time at Zazen, we met many great people, including another farmer from Yungaburra, and Pat and Meg from Daylesford in Victoria, who were cycling around the east coast of Australia with their dog Zero and 2 year old son Woody.  They are Artist As Family – check out their blog. 

 

Zazen

 

The Farm

The farm is managed by both biodynamic and permaculture principles.  Biodynamic farming is very basically described as holistic agriculture that incorporates spirituality and mysticism.  Permaculture is “permanent agriculture”, which uses sustainable and self-sufficient farming methods based on natural ecosystems.

 

Produce grown on the farm include Cavendish bananas, paw paw, hot chillies, cherry tomatoes, various herbs, snake beans, avocado, taro and sweet potato, pineapple and eggplant.  There were also chickens and ducks that produced magnificent eggs, while pigs and cows provided meat.

 

 

Peter also owns a small milling machine and cuts timber that he has fallen from his property.  He built the dwelling on the property and is currently in the process of building another house using the timber that he has milled.

 

The Duties

Juz’s duties included waking up at the crack of dawn to let the birds out of their coop.  She would also collect the chicken and duck eggs and sprinkle some feed in the enclosures morning and night.  The pigs were fed a bucket of scraps morning and night as well.

 

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Once the animals were tended to, she would water the seedlings and pot plants, do some weeding and harvest chillies, eggplants or tomatoes until the sun got too hot.  Then she would clean the kitchen, pickle tomatoes or pack produce into bags for the Saturday morning markets.  In the afternoon, she would do some more weeding after it had cooled down.  Once every two days, she would set up the sprinklers in the main garden.  In the evening, she would help Saeng with dinner.

 

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Dave’s duties were to help Peter out with his maintenance job.  He also installed and extended sprinkler systems, re-staked crops, laid mulch, helped to cut down trees, and harvested veggies.

 

Peter and Saeng went on a brief holiday while we were there, and they asked us to man their stall at the Saturday morning markets.  This was a great experience for us – collecting herbs and fruit, bundling them up with Saeng’s delicious cordials and sauces and then setting up the stall with Peter’s custom made shade.  We were at the markets for around 2.5 hours and made over $200!

 

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The Memories

We will never forget sleeping in that bamboo bungalow in the rainforest – it was like living on a deserted island. We had the luxury of a fridge, sink and couch, electricity, and two single beds pushed together underneath a mozzie net.  The first night was cut short by roosters that started crowing way too early, but after a while, we got used to the noises.  The outdoor shower and toilet were also a novelty.

 

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Also, the food was incredible!  Duck eggs make the perfect omelette and those biodynamic bananas tasted like joygasms.  Saeng was also a fabulous cook who made yummy curries, stews and noodle dishes, and her award-winning dragonfruit chilli sauce was a staple at the dinner table.

 

While installing some brackets for a sprinkler, Dave managed to hit his thumb with a hammer.  Even though he iced it for the rest of the day, it was still really swollen and sore when we went to bed.  After a sleepless night of throbbing pain, the pressure had to be released.  In the morning, Peter said “You’re gonna have to heat up a pin until it’s red-hot, then burn a hole through the nail.”  It took about half an hour for Dave to nervously, gently and very carefully get the glowing pin through the nail.  Filming the whole process, Juz let out a little shriek as the blood finally splurted out.  The relief was instant and the pain quickly subsided.

 

WARNING: This video is a bit gross – watch at your own risk…

Needle Nail from Our Naked Australia on Vimeo.

 

We really enjoyed our time at Zazen – the place, the people, the food, animals.  It was a great place for us to start getting some hands on experience with sustainable farming.  We look forward to visiting similar places as we make our way down the east coat.

 

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Thanks to Peter, Saeng and Bo for hosting us and sharing your amazing life with us.

 

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WWW

Useful Websites for Travellers

Google Maps

During the planning stage of our trip, any place that we wanted to visit was marked with a star on Google Maps.  Juz’s Google account saved all the stars.  It’s also a handy tool for measuring distances – simply type your starting point and destination and it will work it out for you (e.g. from Adelaide to Port Augusta)

https://maps.google.com.au/

 

Tripadvisor

Probably the biggest travel website on the interwebs.  Search for accommodation, attractions and restaurants and check out the reviews.

http://tripadvisor.com.au/

 

4X4WORLD.com.au

If you’re travelling around in a Toyota Landcruiser or Hilux, then bookmark this site.  Spare parts are ordered online and delivered to most places in Australia overnight!

http://www.4x4world.com.au/

 

National Park Websites

Each state has its own parks website that provides information to visitors.  Many have fact sheets and maps of the parks, with information about wildlife, geology and walking tracks.

 

NThttp://www.parksandwildlife.nt.gov.au/

VIChttp://parkweb.vic.gov.au/

SAhttp://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/home

WAhttp://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/

QLDhttp://parks.nprsr.qld.gov.au/

TAShttp://www.parks.tas.gov.au/

ACThttp://www.tams.act.gov.au/parks-recreation

NSWhttp://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/

 

Tides 4 Fishing

A great website for the new dangler or experienced angler, Tides 4 Fishing will give you a tide table, solunar chart and the time of sunrise and sunset of a particular location.  It has a really high accuracy rate, and since we have been using the website, there has only been one instance that wasn’t successful.

http://www.tides4fishing.com/au

 

YHA Australia

Check your destination for budget accommodation with the YHA Australia website.  They have over 80 hostels around Australia and provide various options for accommodation, including shared rooms, private rooms and deluxe rooms.

http://www.yha.com.au/

 

HelpX

As you travel, you may want to work for accommodation.  If you’re heading to a destination that doesn’t have any hostels looking for people to work for accommodation, then you may want to check out HelpX.

 

HelpX is an online listing of hosts who create ads that invite volunteers to stay at their farm, homestead, home, range, hostel or lodge, and work for around 4 hours a day for meals and a bed.  We have used it several times and each experience has been amazing.

http://www.helpx.net/

 

Travel Outback Australia

If you’re heading to the Aussie outback, you can’t get any better than some local advice.  Gary and Amanda live in Alice Springs and are passionate about the outback.  They cover topics such as Aboriginal culture, national parks and breaking down in the middle of nowhere.

http://traveloutbackaustralia.com/

 

Gumtree

If you want to sell something online to local buyers, or buy something at a bargain price, Gumtree is a great place to start.  It’s free to place an ad and depending on what you’re selling, the response can be fairly quick.  There’s an app for it too.

http://www.gumtree.com.au/

 

Urbanspoon

Thrifty eating!  You’ve only got $20 in your pocket and you want to spend it on something good. Use the Urbanspoon app or website to find cheap food outlets with good reviews near you.

http://www.urbanspoon.com/

 

Pinterest

Need inspiration? Pinterest is a treasure trove of good ideas, handy tips and pretty pictures.  Collect recipes, travel destinations and clever camping hacks and pin them in one place. There is also a Pinterest app so you can access your interests from anywhere!  Check out our Pinterest page here.

http://www.pinterest.com/

 

Dropbox

Keep all your documents in one place where you can’t lose them and you can share them with friends and family.  Dropbox is one of those storage places in the clouds.  Organise your photos and documents in your Dropbox and access them from any computer with an internet connection, or from your phone via the app.

http://www.dropbox.com

 

Our Naked Australia

Duh… this website is super useful.  Use the search bar at the top to find out stuff about your next destination.

http://www.ournakedaustralia.com.au

 

What website can you not live without while travelling?

 

 

 

Helpex Alice Springs

Helpx : Housekeeping and the steelyard

Helpex Alice Springs

 

After four days of landscaping for a family, our second Helpex assignment was hanging out with Derren, his housemate Brad and their two dogs, Buddy and Buster.  Derren is probably the most active couchsurfing host in Alice Springs and told us stories about having up to 15 guests at one time!

 

Staying with Derren and Co. was easy.  In exchange for accommodation, food and facilities, Dave worked at their steel yard for about three hours a day during the week, which involved deliveries, putting away stock, fabricating metal and even brushing up on his forklift skills.  He also trimmed the grass at home.  On the other hand, Juz busied herself by cooking and cleaning at home and entertaining the dogs, but also did some filing in the office at the steel yard.

 

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We were definitely spoilt.  We had our own room with a comfortable bed, full use of the kitchen and whatever was stocked on the shelves and in the fridge, including the Nespresso coffee machine, as well as all the video clips, documentaries and movies we wanted, thanks to Foxtel.  Our stay in Alice Springs was perfectly timed with the World Cup so Dave was pretty happy about having a big screen TV to watch the games on, and we even let off fireworks in the garden for Territory Day.

 

Helpex Alice Springs

 

Derren and Brad were great company, and we had many stimulating conversations.  They also accompanied us on nights out in town and entertained us on nights in – dancing to music videos, singing and carrying on well into the early morning.  We know that we have friends in Alice Springs.

 

After some car troubles while we were in the West Macs, we came back to Alice and stayed with Derren and Brad again until we had everything fixed.  Thanks again guys!

 

Helpex Alice Springs

 

 

Helpex

Helpx : Landscaping in Alice Springs

Our first Helpex assignment in Alice Springs was to do some landscaping for a family of four.  We stayed with them for four days and worked around 4-6 hours a day in exchange for accommodation and meals.  Conveniently, they had a vacant granny flat at the back of their property so we were given spacious accommodation with a bed, fridge, cooking facilities, wifi and an en suite bathroom.

 

Helpex

 

On the first day, Dave did a tonne of weeding (so many weeds!) and also dug a shallow trench around the in-ground trampoline, while Juz dragged the vacuum through the house and mopped the floors.  That night, our hosts treated us to some yummy salmon pasta bake.

 

Over the next few days, Dave and Juz worked together to spread sand and mulch around the garden and line the beds with rocks.  We ended up making their garden look awesome, and we were a little sad to pack up the granny flat and move on.

 

 

Dinner time!

Travel Jobs : Helpx – Helping out a family

We found out about Helpex before leaving for our adventure and promised ourselves that if we have the opportunity, we would give it a go.  The first opportunity arose before we left Perth when we answered an ad to help out a family of four over the school holidays.  With the dad working long and irregular hours and the mum away for two weeks in Perth for university, the five year old girl and seven year old boy needed entertaining and the house needed to be maintained.

 

Week  1

We spent the weekend with the house to ourselves while the family went to Perth to watch a footy match.  This gave us an opportunity to settle in to our room and get to know Geraldton before we got busy Helpexing.  The house was in a prime location about 3km from town with a fantastic view of Champion Bay.

 

Fishing at the Batavia Marina

The first week was a challenge.  We didn’t know the kids very well – their routine, what they liked to eat, how to keep them occupied.  We were lucky that they were great kids and easily found things to do like drawing, jumping on the trampoline and playing with toys.  They were so well behaved, listened to instructions and spent more time learning to read and write than worrying about what was on TV.  As they were so well behaved, by the Tuesday we were confident enough to head down to the marina with them to do some fishing.

 

Taking care of the house was easy.  Wipe surfaces, sweep and mop the floors, clean the bathroom, load the dishwasher then put the dishes away, load the washing machine then hang out laundry and fold when dry.

 

The mum returned over the weekend and it was a great opportunity for us to reflect on the week that had past and what we could do better.  We decided to make a plan for the week first thing on Monday.

 

Week 2

The second week was much more organised and the kids were happier for it.  They had play dates with other kids at the park and we took them to the movies and the museum, as well as to Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park.  We even got to tuck them in a few times and read them bedtime stories, and when they got a bump or a scratch, we knew what to do or say to make them feel better.

 

 

On the days when we took the kids out in the morning, they were allowed to relax a bit in the afternoon with a DVD.  The boy usually chose a nature documentary while the girl chose the same thing every time – Disney’s Robin Hood. We must’ve seen it five or six times in the two weeks we were there!

 

Juz was more confident at lunch and dinner time.  Instead of experimenting with the kids’ palate, she just asked them what they wanted and noticed a pattern.  They liked ham, cheese, honey on toast, chicken skewers and steamed vegetables in their original form, not pureed into an indistinguishable mash.

 

 

Dave helped out around the house – he repaired door knobs, fixed salt grinders, installed gutters and helped with the gardening, walking Henry the Labrador and feeding the chickens.

 

A Geraldton sunset...

 

PROs

  • We got to stay at a beautiful house that was clean and spacious with a beautiful view of the ocean
  • We got to meet Jeremy – a young Frenchie who is also travelling around Australia.  He was supposed to leave for a farm job when we arrived, but after a few days, he returned and we ended up being great pals.  He helped with dinner, cleaning and other outdoor jobs and in the evenings we’d watch a movie or go on a pub crawl.
  • Conversation was stimulating – our hosts were great conversationalists and we learnt a lot about farming, the environment, fishing, politics and raising kids.  We felt comfortable with each other and weren’t afraid to get colloquial.

 

CONs

  • We had to work around their schedule, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because kids thrive on routine, but we had to ditch plans to go to the Camping and Caravan Show in town because we needed to prepare a roast lunch for the family.
  • Taking care of kids can be stressful – particularly when you’re tired or you want alone time.  They can be fussy and it can be hard to not be offended when they reject the food you’ve cooked, and when it comes to discipline, you just don’t know how far to go.

 

 

As we drove away from Geraldton, we looked at each other and smiled.  The two weeks we spent with our Helpex family taught us so much about living in a regional city, about living next to the ocean, about taking care of kids and a lot about ourselves and what we’re capable of.