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.

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The Man With Five Pianos

As we travel Australia house sitting we have the privilege of living, for a short while, as a local. Even in this short window, we have been able to visit and get to know places that would otherwise be very unlikely to be found on our ‘must-see’ list, yet have been entertaining, surprising and educational.

We took the opportunity to spend a little time in Goulburn some 55 kilometres from home. As the regional ‘capital’ we had some business there in particular matters relating to Julie’s new hip after care.big merino front 65

Driving around Goulburn, it appears a nice enough small country city. The surrounding country is very pleasant, mostly farm land and scenic without being outstanding. It has a reputation for being cold and considering that even the average low temperature in winter is below freezing it’s not hard to see why this should be so. One frosty morning a few years ago, they recorded minus 11. The average maximum in winter is nothing to be too excited about either at a miserly 11 degrees Celsius.

Unfortunately we did not get to visit the rail museum which we heard was worth seeing but it was hard to miss some of its other ‘attractions’ if you consider the word in its full sense. The Big Merino allows no visitor to escape without a nod to its presence and if you are attracted by policing, you will most certainly have been trained in Australia’s largest police training facility. On the other, extreme end of the scale, some will also have been a guest at Australia’s most secure prison.big merino back

Notwithstanding these fascinating facts, take the road north-west to Crookwell and things change quickly.

Within a few kilometres, the country opens out to spectacular views across green open fields to the low mountains in the far distance. The road is excellent, not straight and every bend leads to a gentle climb after which another wonderful view comes up in front of you. The area looks well maintained, the farms are large with a fair smattering of sheep and cattle, half of them grazing, half lying down fully sated apparently.

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Bugger. I Think I Broke My Hip

The small problem of a broken hip. With a thousand kilometres and six interesting days of travelling Australia house sitting and free camping behind us, the short morning drive from Gunning our last camp, to this, our fourth house-sitting assignment was full of promise and just a little excitement. The hills presented the usual challenge for our valiant little Nissan Urvan, working through the gears, struggling up one side and being chased down the other by the trailer, a cross between a cattle dog and a rhino.

We were coming into Crookwell from the south west, the same track taken on departure from our brief introductory visit to the farm back in July. Just before the town, about 5 ks out, we reached the highest altitude of our travels so far, 1017 metres or 3,370 feet, before barrelling down the side of the valley into town.

Gunning to Crookwell 60 percent

We stopped briefly to pick up a few supplies and shortly afterwards we took up the side road north to places no one has ever heard of. It was just like the first time, up the hills ever climbing the last 1,000 feet, over the top then a little run into the valley beyond where the bitumen runs out and that country feeling begins. Just seven kilometres from where the gravel begins, we pulled into the driveway of our home for the next two months.

Ian and Jo were, as always the gracious hosts and although we were a day early, this extra time gave us confidence that whatever challenges lay ahead, we would manage. Ian produced a map of the farm with all the paddocks named and the approximate boundaries inked in. Acting on my request had also compiled a procession of items taken from his comprehensive “to do” list.

I understood some had been on the list for several years and few had been on the list for a long time but he stressed that I should feel no obligation to perform any of the outstanding jobs.

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There’s No Fish in the Murray

It was clean, quiet and sociable as most free camps are and we also had the company of a few resident pelicans. I don’t know what they ate. It can’t be fish as having had a line in the water for hours, I can say with some certainty, there are no fish in the Murray River.
We departed at a reasonable hour, well after those on a schedule had gone and 15 ks later we were in Victoria. An hour after that, we arrived in Mildura and I took the opportunity to buy some fishing tackle and long-life bait. Now I know what you’re thinking, if there’s no fish in the Murray why do I need bait?
As it happens, one of the stops will be on the Murrumbidgee River and I have it on good authority, there are plenty of fish there.

Sliding The Bus Down The Hill

We’d been talking by phone of course and Ian gave such generous directions I almost immediately took the wrong turn driving down a rather intimidatingly steep, wet and slippery dirt road. Naturally the trailer, being the head-strong twerp that it is, wanted to get to the bottom first and applying the brakes was to invite disaster.
Another kilometre further and the few numbers to be seen on property fences were getting smaller, so clearly we were going the wrong way. As the rain continued to fall, it quickly became apparent we needed to turn around our small ‘bus’ with trailer and tackle ‘the hill’ and get back to the turn off.
A few anxious bum-clenching minutes later we had slipped, slid, skidded and spun our wheels to the top and back onto the main road where we were met by our now mystified host in his 4WD, who then led us to our sanctuary for the night.