How To Get Great House Sitting Assignments in 10 Steps.

Our journey was forced upon us by the loss of our 27 year old company after the world financial crisis. At retirement age, stressed to breaking, we needed a long holiday at low or zero cost.
Since then we have been travelling Australia, living in ordinary homes, mansions and farms, driving tractors, riding quads, walking dogs, been given vehicles to drive for sight seeing, discovering impossibly beautiful natural places, living a privileged life really, meeting wonderful people and learning how to live again or maybe for the first time.
This is how we did it here in Australia and I guess it would work the same way in other countries too.

On The Water Front

How could this be true? Crossing Bass Strait for the second time meant six months had just evaporated, barely a thought or two in the lives of others and maybe not that much different in ours but mountains of really great stuff were crammed in there. This story is only a few brief words about … Read moreOn The Water Front

Salty Pandas and Boat Sheds

The bloody wind. With two great days of our Travel Australia adventure camped on the river bank near Marlo behind us, we continued our march westward and stopped for lunch in Lakes Entrance. Our goal is boarding the Spirit of Tasmania Ferry in Port Melbourne this coming Sunday. This is the only point in Victoria where the Princes Highway touches the ocean so unless we leave this highway, that’s the last sea-breeze we will feel for a while.

This is a very attractive town, worth coming back we comment, to visit the waterways of this district but we’re reluctant to move on actually, dawdling over lunch in the park taking in the sights and smells of the water front. Lakes Entrance 02

Lakes Entrance is also the most easterly point of the Eastern Plains, the exposed flat country that stretches westward over 300 kilometres, right to the doorstep of Melbourne itself.

As a matter of curiosity, on the other side of Melbourne, the flat country is called the Victorian Volcanic Plains and they stretch another 300 kilometres west, past Portland and almost to South Australia. They’re not called ‘Volcanic’ for nothing, in fact the whole area is covered in low craters and volcanos considered by many in the field to only being dormant ie a temporary lull,  with the last eruption only 7,000 years ago.

With no more excuses and gritted jaw we turned away from the gentle local sea breeze to engage with the full-on, in-your-face bloody wind that slowed our progress and exhausted our tired little engine.  After another 100 kilometres or so, we’d had enough of the conditions.

Obviously new and inconvenient, several highway roundabouts had just been installed on the ribbon of development that defines the eastern entrance to the unremarkable city of Sale. With no reason to stop, we pushed on against the wind, aiming for Willow Park, a free camping site another 20 kilometres west of the city, just before the attractive little town of Rosedale.

The park has a plaque that informs the visitor that ‘at one time this park was considered the prettiest park on the highway’. We couldn’t see how could have occurred unless it was the only park on the highway. We’re not saying it was ugly, but pretty?

Read moreSalty Pandas and Boat Sheds

Swimming With Seals and Cows

Swimming cows and seals. We had already decided that Genoa was to be one of our stops and it was a mere 62 kilometres from our hilly campsite in Eden so we had no motivation to hurry. We refueled at the top of another very steep hill (in Eden? Who would have guessed?) and headed … Read moreSwimming With Seals and Cows

The Biggest Stingray Ever

The biggest stingray. It was a little sad to leave our new friends Arthur and Olive. The last 5 weeks of our Travel Australia house-sitting had been a lot of fun. We expected to enjoy their company and we were not disappointed. While we may be separated by a generation, we will miss Olive’s cheery if not necessarily musically uplifting singing and Arthur’s friendly “paper boy” when he brings in the papers every morning.

Bruce and Diane were almost recovered from the jet lag and they were there so see us off on another adventure, Bruce champing at the bit to get on the ‘ride-on’ mower and frustrated by the rain. I was pleased too that Bruce was keen to get a Diary of The Universe poster for his grandson who is teenaged and interested in science.

I had managed to complete the research and publish another article (link opens in a new window) … How to Make a Galaxy…but the task is enormous, 300 essays. Fortunately I still have nearly two years to reach my self-imposed and overly optimistic finish line.

The run South East from Bowral, even at this late hour (after 10am) engendered the feeling of excitement that all ‘going-on-holidays’ moments bring, a sense of adventure and joy that I doubt we will ever lose. It had been raining on and off all morning which had become normal over the last few weeks but I’m not sure if that is standard issue for Bowral at this end time of the summer season.

bowral to batesman

Within half an hour we were plunging down the range into Kangaroo Valley. This is not a difficult drive but in the rain with a ton of trailer, as I described it before, a cross between a blue heeler and a rhino, relentlessly trying to pass us like it was a race to the bottom, let’s just say it was ‘interesting’.

Read moreThe Biggest Stingray Ever

Bowral. Wild Ducks and The Piano

This is not our first visit to Bowral. In fact Julie was a resident here somewhat briefly in September 2014 when the doctors gave her a new hip. At the time we were house-sitting, or should that be farm-sitting, a thousand acres near Crookwell as part of our Travel Australia adventure. On our first day Julie was helping me tension-up a fence wire when it snapped. In the resultant stumble and fall, she broke her hip.

We’d already met our hosts Bruce and Diane when we came to visit their magnificent home about two weeks after Julie’s little adventure and she was doing a test run on the new hip. On that occasion we enjoyed Diane’s hot fresh scones for morning tea and we were joined by Bruce’s parents, Arthur and Olive who would be keeping us company while we looked after the house and grounds.

Now we were back to stay for a month and it was like meeting up again with old friends already. I could forget about the bush-fixed tow-bar for now and learn about the workings of the palace.back yard

Quite aside from the beautiful house, the grounds and gardens are a work of art in their own right, designed by Diane who happened to pick up a degree in horticulture to book-end her accountancy degree. There are acres of lawns and a lovely small lake making it feel like one is living in a manicured park. Calling it a palace sounds like I am being disingenuous or ungracious but Diane and Bruce worked hard for their piece of paradise and deserve to be acknowledged for it. My task was mainly to ensure the lawns were maintained as the gardens were largely under irrigation, however the mowing is not something to be underestimated, not least because of the acres of green to be monitored.mowing

Ducks

One can’t skip the ducks or should that be, one can’t skip the ducks’ tracks (careful where you’re walking there mate). The common Australian Wood Duck population seems to have its headquarters in Bowral. Maybe that’s why the ground is so fertile, these ducks are waddling production lines for fertilizer.

Read moreBowral. Wild Ducks and The Piano

How To Snap a Tow Bar

How to snap a tow bar. Its ‘on the road again’ day as Willie Nelson so eloquently put it, the day when we say good-bye to our newest friends here in northern New South Wales and head off on another Travel Australia house-sitting assignment, 750 kilometres south to Bowral, 110 kilometres the other side of Sydney.

We were pretty well organized the day before our departure from Grafton and Julie went through her routine of purifying the house from floor to ceiling. Over previous weeks I’d made a few improvements to the van, installing a carpet off-cut to make the cabin as quiet as practicable and fitting a volt meter and the remote control for our (apparently ‘over-kill’)  battery charger / inverter into the dashboard.

Years of experience with our ex-trawler led me to over estimate the power requirements of a camper-van, embarrassingly so. Our petrol powered generator produced more than a hundred times the power of the solar panels that most caravaners use and the inverter needed that kind of power to drive it’s 9,000 watt needs, which we used to power our domestic bar fridge etc. It was all wrong.

We stopped at Coffs Harbour, an hour from Grafton and about 4 hours from Brisbane. This city of 70,000 people was on the stop list so we could do a tyre upgrade, which was completed while we did some shopping for essentials.

Planning. Not

In planning the trip to Bowral we’d made the ‘decision’ or what passes for a decision anyway, to stay in a National Park camp ground called Mungo Brush.  We could cover the 400 kilometres in one day easily, hopefully stopping about 3pm to enjoy some peace in a quiet camp before moving on the next day.

As if I needed any reinforcement to the notion that planning was a waste of time, our arrival was impeded by missing the first turn off and having to travel an extra 40 kilometres, inducing a little frustration.

To exacerbate our irritation, we discovered that National Parks in New South Wales no longer belong to the nation and have been re-evaluated by the bureaucrats as a commercial enterprise that charges rent to the owners (the people)  should they wish to access their property.

Read moreHow To Snap a Tow Bar

A Beach Lunch To Savor

Remember that lunch at the beach, that lingering moment of happiness? Iluka and Yamba The second ‘Grafton surprise’ we found on this Travel Australia house-sitting assignment is the easy access to beaches. For a city that we think of as being ‘inland’ it seems incongruous that one can get to the beach faster than most … Read moreA Beach Lunch To Savor

The Amazing Grafton Bridge

The Amazing Grafton Bridge.   

We knew before we arrived in Grafton on our Travel Australia adventure we’d like Chike and Bridget. We’d emailed and phoned Chike about the house-sitting a couple of times so it was a great meeting them in person. It was one week to Christmas and they were all but packed up tapping their foot at the door (not really) when we drove up.

We were introduced to the neighbour Lyndon who would help out if we needed anything and met our new furry friends, Leonard a Chihuahua and Norman a Jack Russell.

That afternoon a very determined storm made its way over Grafton, splitting a large tree at the end of the street and generally spreading debris across the area. split treeNorman and Leonard didn’t seem to notice, which was a relief. The last thing we needed was panicked dogs within hours of our arrival.

The house was great, a long timber-themed home with history but it was sitting on a rather small block of land. On the southern side one could literally reach out and close the neighbour’s window, which also meant, there was the smallish problem of having no driveway.house Repairs and maintenance was not going to be easy. I unhitched the trailer and put a chain on the wheel, just because it was parked on the street, not that I expected any trouble. Then I sat down and had a good think, for a week or so.

Read moreThe Amazing Grafton Bridge

The Exploding Clutch

We completed our travel Australia house sitting assignment in Toowoomba on a Thursday morning, a month before Christmas. David and Nancy returned before lunch and were happy to find that after two weeks the dogs still remembered them.

We drove down the range to the family home in Ipswich and for the next week set about some good old fashioned home maintenance. In the afternoon, Brisbane’s worst hail storm in 30 years dropped by for a visit. Fortunately for us, it skittled along the eastern side of Ipswich so we got to see the show from the back steps, without having to pay the admission. Not so lucky for 70,000 others though and there was a lot of damage and some injuries.

The next week was devoted to some home repairs, the most difficult of which was the restoration of a couple of 40 year old concrete house stumps.

stump

Ballina

Hopefully the new clutch kit, organized the week before our trip by son Justin, will be waiting when we get to Ballina. We had a little delay on our departure waiting for a delivery of tent poles we ordered on the internet, but we managed to haul the trailer out of the yard and were on the road quite late in the afternoon. Heading along the Pacific Highway an hour later, it was obvious the clutch was not going to last much longer. By the time we were bypassing the Gold Coast, it was possible to increase the engine revs and have absolutely no impact on the speed. Still we lived in hope we would make it.

Read moreThe Exploding Clutch