Last week we sold, gave away and packed up the last of our belongings, then handed over the house keys to the Agent who would finalise it’s sale in Adelaide. We stuffed what was left in to our car and started our road trip east toward our first ever housesit in New South Wales, Australia. A couple of months earlier, through a website, Aussie Housesitters we’d replied to an advertisement to care for a house in the Bega Valley region of southern New South Wales. The owners of the home were going away for three months, and were looking to someone to housesit their eco friendly home on 100 acres of bushland. The ad sounded like a wonderful opportunity for our family to have a uniquely Australian experience, with lots of down-time to prepare ourselves for the travel ahead.
A 100 acre bushland property and an eco friendly mudbrick house is probably the complete opposite to our house in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, but that’s just what made it so appealing. We had always planned to take a month or two off in Australia before heading overseas. Simon had to work right up to a week before we could leave our house, and we always new that those last few weeks of ridding ourselves of all our belongings would be frantic and stressful. The children and I had already fallen into a lovely routine of homeschooling, and it was important to us that Simon had some time with us, both to relax, and become a part of that routine as well. The housesit that we applied for was a bit longer than we expected (3 1/2 months) but it’s location in Australia was exactly where we wanted to be. Of all the times we’d made our way up and down the east coast, somehow we always seemed to miss the famously beautiful pocket of southern New South Wales. 3 1/2 months close to nature and native Australian wildlife in the Bega Valley sounded perfect, and we were so grateful that the home’s generous owners would entrust this little bit of heaven to us.
After a couple of days drive across the bottom eastern corner of Australia, we arrived in the beautiful Bega Valley. We then followed the instructions given to us via email. These lead us off of the Google map, along a winding dirt road, down, down, deeper and deeper into the bushland, right to the bottom of a very deep, cool valley. As we made our way along the drive, the trees opened up to a clearing, and we recognised the house that we’d previously seen in photographs. Together, with the kids, we fell out of the car and straight into welcome hugs from the two beaming owners of the property. Immediately, we felt at ease, like old friends reuniting, and the property… wow! Everything was going to be fine, in fact, everything was going to be great!
Mr. and Mrs. R. invited us in, and showed us around the house which is a stone and mudbrick home built with tree trunks as pillars and natural timber beams. It has 5 rooms: The living / kitchen area, dining room, a study, bedroom and bathroom. The house is full of character, and every surface displays a collection of interesting trinkets collected from years of travel that the owners themselves have done. Then we went outside to see the outdoor composting toilet. It uses no water for flushing, instead waste falls into a pit below where it composts for the garden. The outdoor toilet doesn’t smell at all, but it is a bit chilly out there on a winter’s day, there are only 3 walls! It is a ‘Loo with a View’, the missing wall faces away from the house, but straight out to the bushland. It takes a bit of getting used to, but often Wallabys and other wildlife can be seen hopping about.
In the cleared area around the house there is a huge vegetable patch full of winter greens and fruit trees, and a beautiful clear stream that provides water for the home. In just a few days, we’ve already seen Wombats, Wallabys, Kangaroos, parrots and birds, Bandicoots and Antechinus (tiny mouse sized marsupials). Unfortunately, the Antechinus were seen in the kitchen! They are not a rodent, like mice however, and Simon and the children have enjoyed catching them in harmless traps to be released into the wild again, and have already reduced their visits to just one cheeky one who is squeaking about. I have to admit, I’ll be happy if they are all moved outside again as quickly as possible, marsupials or not, they still give me the heeby jeebies!
Our responsibilities whilst here are to tend to the vegetable patch and garden and keep the house. It’s not a lot at all, and we feel ever so privileged to have been given this uniquely Australian bush experience for so little in return. With that in mind we hope, to the best of our ability, to leave a very positive mark on the property during our 3 month stay; to treat our surroundings, the wildlife, and the environment with respect. In just short of one week we are already settling in and establishing routines around feeding chickens, harvesting fruit and veges, homeschooling and exercising daily with a walk up the very steep drive. As we sit outside enjoying a morning tea break, tiny birds flutter and land all around us, taking a nibble from the apple we hold out to them. Right now it’s hard to feel like we’re anywhere but heaven… well the Australian version of it anyway, complete with an ‘outback dunny’ 😉