Friday, 31 July 2009

Wwoofing in Australia

Train journeys can be quite enterntaining. Once you have resigned yourself to the long day ahead you can start enjoying the views outside, and, even more interestingly, the views inside the train, the human zoo.

My 13 hour train journey to Menindee proved to be one of these trips.

It was a really early start, leaving at 6.20am, with 12 long hours to look forward to.

Australian trains are fairly comfortable, and not used by the public very much. The expansion of Virgin Blue or Jet Star has killed what was left of it, and now most people fly. However the little town I was heading to didnt have an airport, so the train was the logical solution.

On our way I managed to see some great landscapes, rugged mountains, eucaliptus forests, and the normally dry plains of the Outback, but as it had just rained they were covered in a carpet of lush green.

Inside the train it was even more interesting in terms of people watching. A lot of elderly people seemed to travel on this train, their traveling heavily discounted.

The couple behind me were just plain odd. He was making notes of each time we passed a kilometer sign and a half kilometer sign, so thats lots and lots of notes this being an 850km journey. His intention was to calculate the speed of the train at each time. His friend, this old dear, had the highest pitch voice I have ever come across, sounding more like a 5 year old child than someone near 70, though she clearly had her wits about her.

Obviously Australians being as they are, everyone had to come and enquiry about the gentleman's strange hobby.

There was a group of short haired, larger than average arse, fleece wearing lesbians, that every so often got off the train and started to do stretches on the platforms, as if they were on a long haul flight and were worried about the pressure.

Things went fine til I got to Menindee and found no one was waiting for me...panic was about to strike as I was in the middle of nowhere, and I didn't have my hosts number...

But eventually Barb came to pick me up and we drove the 50K to the farm.

There was a time that the farm, then called Netley Station, extended over 1 million acres, had 100,000 sheep, and cows and horses on top of that...I can't even imagine the size of this.

The farm was then split into several parts, and Bill and Barb bought Bindara in 1980. The drought has meant that they have had to get rid of most of their animals and there are only 25 cattle and 20 sheep or something like that left. They seem to have found a good source of income with eco tourism, as they have people staying in the cottages at the back of the farm, plus caravans and campers.

So far this thing of woofing has been good, I get up early, have some breakfast, work for a few hours in the vegetable garden, lunch, then work for a few more hours and then enjoy the end of the day with a walk.

If Barb and Bill were from Mars we may have had more things in common. They are a deeply Christian, Labour hating family, with a natural misstrust of anything that comes from the Government or the big cities. Nonetheless, as far as it goes I am enjoying my time here. They are extremely welcoming, friendly, and I am learning about a way of life that I am amazed to discover still exists.

Let's see what happens over the next few days.

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