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Taree, Australia

From Grafton we moved on to Taree, another nowhere town on the backpacker map of the east cost, but the location from where our next host - based out in the countryside near the town of Wingham, got best pick us up. Our hosts, Mary and Roger, lived out in Mooral Creek valley on 100 acres, in their self-built home with some goats, extremely vocal geese, six beautiful white rare-breed chooks and some cattle. There was also sometimes a visiting platypus in their dam, but not on our visit, alas. They described their land as 'mostly for looking at', but they most definitely doers, not observers! They were keen to clear rampant weeds from their property, and regenerate the native forest which had once grown there, using only a few (self-) fenced paddocks for grazing their cattle. From South Africa originally, they had moved to Aus about twelve years ago and were now citizens, Mary working as a primary teacher, and Roger working as a machinery designer from home.

The setting of their house was stunning, about halfway up the slopes of the valley, their solar-biased house faced a breathtaking view of mountains and forest. They had a small veggie garden, which we would help extend, and orchard. They were fun people, very energetic and driven, quick with jokes and laughs, and with an extreme fondness for card games at morning tea and.... well, at any oppotunity! It was by no means a bad place to WWOOF, and as most of their WWOOFers are first timers, coming up from Sydney, they must think they've come to heaven with the beautiful scenery, tasty food, good company, comfortable, private accomodation and the free use of phone and internet! But it wasn't one of the most interesting places we've stayed - and some of the work was up there with the most exhaustingly physical we've done on this trip! During our time there the mattock and shovel became our close companions - for digging pipe-trenches, weeding the new no-dig (ha?!) garden, and digging a frankly gigantic (our fault, we took Mary's estimate of 75cm/75cm/75cm literally!) tree for a fruit tree, going through soil to shale to clay to rock in our quest for a good home for our fruit tree. I say 'our' - their orchard had a fruit tree planted by every one or each pair of their WWOOFers, and each was marked by a WWOOFer painted stone recording their names and the date of planting. "Our WWOOFer graveyard" Mary called it. We planted a quince, and Mary's promised us updates on it's progress.

We also pulled out bagfuls and bagfuls of the dreaded fireweed, a rampant yellow-flowered weed, bashed thistles with (thankfully blunt) machetes, collected and shelled runner beans, and baked and baked and baked - South African 'crunchies', flapjacks, biscuits. It was a welcome relief to go inside to shell beans or bake when the sun, which seemed to have finally realised it's true role in life after a month's sabbatical, became too much.

Mary and Roger also took us out to the cinema one night, to watch Skin, a film about a black girl born to white parents in apartheid Africa. It was interesting to discuss it with people who lived there through that period, and the through the lifting of it, but I was full of more questions which could have possibly caused some tension, and since my journalistic hat wasn't on and I had to live with them for another week, I kept most of them to myself!

We had a nice time, but we were excited to leave, despite the peace of countryside, to get to Sydney... and to leave the mattock behind us!

permalink written by  LizIsHere on October 24, 2010 from Taree, Australia
from the travel blog: New Zealand & Australia 2010
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