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.

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.

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No Brakes – No Problem

I doubt that most house sitters travelling Australia have an aversion to highways and freeways, but we were happy to plot a course north that kept us on the Great Dividing Range for as long as possible.

We could of course, stay on the Range for the entire 1,000 kilometres, all the way to Toowoomba (itself on the GDRange about a hundred ks west of Brisbane) but I was keen to stop off in Ballina to catch up with family and to take advantage of some free time to do some badly needed maintenance on the camper.Paul Carol Julie 65

We fueled up before leaving Crookwell so our next stop was in Oberon a few hours later, then Muswellbrook, not far short of Scone which was our target for the first long day.

Driving along any section of the world’s third longest mountain range (on land anyway) stretching the full length of Australia, is a very pleasant exercise. The Great Dividing Range begins off shore in the Torres Strait, just off the tip of Queensland and finishes in Victoria.GDR It’s between 150 and 300 kilometres wide and 3,500 kilometres long but in height probably only averaging 500-750 metres, although Mt Kosciuszko gets up to 2228 metres a fairly modest mountain in international terms.

Everest for example is 4 times higher, but then it has India pushing from behind making it taller all the time. Kosi on the other hand has had a couple of hundred million years of erosion to wear it down so it’s probably not a fair comparison.

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Country Mud Crab. What?

Few house sitters would have cause to ponder farm fence maintenance, unless like us, they’ve branched out into farm-sitting or they are absolutely crazy. Or both.

Aside from cattle and sheep, the most common rural fence problem comes from kangaroos but hidden away in all that, is the inexorable march of Mother Nature out to reclaim her own. Yes, I’m talking about trees. When we’re thinking ‘farm,’ getting plenty of practice with the chainsaw is guaranteed. Aside from doing the little things, like avoiding direct contact with the sharp, moving chain and dropping branches onto your head, to do the job properly, there is a lot of walking involved. After lopping overhanging branches, one must then pile up the debris for later burning or as they do in most cases, leave it to return to the soil. Cutting back the branches is not difficult if you keep your wits about you, but dragging the branches to a central spot is not the best fun you’ll have today.

Near the end of our stay I was especially conscious of the risks attached to being in the paddock with a chain saw but still managed to clear a kilometre or so of fence line, mainly in the area closest to the homestead, making piles of branches as I went. Actually it went without incident if we skip that part about the log that jumped onto my toes when I wasn’t looking and reminded me that I was supposed to be wearing steel caps not sneakers.

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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.

Tearing Out The Tow Bar

Everywhere in Australia is a long way from everywhere else, so we generally try to get at least a week in between assignments for ‘free-camping’. In this case we had to get ourselves 1,000 kilometres (600 miles on the old scale) in two days, which by Australian standards is nothing much but with our dodgy old camper and a heavy trailer, there is an element of risk involved.
On our wanderings on some roads that could more easily be described as bituminized tracks rather than roads we came across a few places, well a lot actually, where they forgot to put up the ‘dip’ sign. You must know them, you are driving along ‘dumb fat and happy’ well I was anyway, when the front of the vehicle takes a short sharp dive, followed by an upward surge as your seat tries to swallow your bum and your lower jaw seeks out engagement with your navel.

The Bridge That Doesn’t Meet in the Middle

The bridge that doesn’t meet in the middle. One of the big benefits of our plan to Travel Australia house sitting is being able to spend time exploring areas that we might otherwise just pass through. Beechworth was one little town we wanted to see to experience the ‘time capsule’ effect that seems to be associated with the town. From our base in the village of Ned Kelly’s ‘end of the road son’ nightmare, Glenrowan, Beechworth is only a half day excursion so we only set out at lunch time and it seemed no time we were there. Beechworth panorama

Beechworth panorama” by Taken byfir0002

It’s only 40 ks or so from the ‘capital’ of the area, Wangaratta and the first surprise was the presence of a lake in the middle of town.

For some reason this apparently insignificant detail was absent from the information I gathered before we set out. Lake Sambell came as a bit of surprise and although it is clearly a distinguishing feature and a little hard to miss. From what we read, it was a pit where gold was mined and later filled or allowed to fill in the 1920’s. It’s not like it’s something new that has just been overlooked and there’s a nice little caravan park too as one would expect. Beechworth S1The town was interesting enough and there’s a fair bit to see around the area but we were really only there to give it the ‘once-over’.

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Glenrowan and Snow On The Mountain

Our previous and first Australian house sitting experience in Armidale did us a favour in our acclimatization to cold weather which was a jolly good thing because if we expected it to be cold in Victoria in winter, we were not to be surprised. It takes at least a couple of hours after dawn for the sun to warm the house through the big East-facing windows and when the snow on the distant mountains reveal their true white brilliance, you know it is safe to venture out into the garden.

Glenrowan sunrise SNot that we had to wait for the sun to warm the house as the reverse cycle air conditioner did the job very well.

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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.