Welcome to Rantan
I hate saying goodbye! Normally I say â€˜arrivederciâ€™ in Italian, which means â€˜weâ€™ll meet again,â€™ but itâ€™s a sad true fact, and all backpackers know it, that you will most probably never see again those people you meet travelling. Having said that, the wonders of the internet have provided us with many sites to keep in touch and a new phrase is rapidly replacing the tearful salutation, see you on Facebook!
I left Lars and Else with a promise to keep in touch, on Facebook of course, and I shot off to my next adventure in Coramba. Needless to say, it was a beautiful sunny afternoon and Bella was cursing with the wind. At one point, I overtook a huge truck and held my breath waiting to hear the loud blast caused by breaking the sound barrier, or maybe the exhaust falling off!
I reached Coramba, then followed Stephanâ€™s directions to the farm house.
I drove on a long winding dirt road through a forest, past an elaborate wooden construction and up a hill. I was exited to meet the sculptor I had read about in my wwoof book and when I reached the house, there he was, standing proud at the entrance of his castle. He shook my hand and said with a foreign accent â€˜so whatâ€™s your story Roberto?â€™ I loved that introduction, I felt like replying with a profound statement such as â€˜Iâ€™m living my dreamsâ€™ or â€˜Iâ€™m on a mystical journey in search of my soul,â€™ but I couldnâ€™t possibly come out with something that cheesy so instead I regurgitated the usual boring monolog describing my trip. He showed me around, first his workshop, full of every possible and imaginable tool, then the studio, with many of his kinetic sculptures, and finally we walked around the house he built with his wife Margaret. I was totally hooked! I have never before felt such a strong connection with anyone in such a small space of time, in a strange way it was like talking to an older version of me! I will always remember his words when I went out to get my backpack, he said â€˜Roberto, I have a good feeling, you are welcomeâ€™.
Morning view from my bedroom
Tina (austrian wwoofer) 'pushing a 300kg tank'
I was only going to stay one week but I ended up staying three because I had such a good time. In fact, I could stretch this statement and say that Iâ€™ve had the best three weeks of my trip so far.
During my stay, I was involved in various projects. The first few days, me, Stephan and Tina (an Austrian wwoofer) shifted a 300 kg water tank in position and finished connecting the down pipes for rain water collection, completing the build of a stable house for four horses.
Tina is a great worker! She does what sheâ€™s told to do and sheâ€™s not afraid of getting her hands dirty; she has a great bum too :-) We had a very comical moment when fixing the drains. She was holding a 6 metres pipe between her legs whilst trying to push fit an elbow join at one end. The pipe was slipping back so she asked me to hold it for her. Now picture this scene: Iâ€™m kneeling down, staring at Tinaâ€™s bum while Iâ€™m holding this long length of pipe which ends between her legs, and Iâ€™m shouting â€˜is it in yet?â€™ to which she replies in her German accent â€˜NO! Push harder!â€™ That would have made a great photo.
Stephan securing the tank on a wooden subframe
I enjoyed Tinaâ€™s company, sheâ€™s a good laugh.
On Tuesday night we got a lift into Coffs Harbour with Marg and Steph, who went to see a ballet performance. Tina and I hit the pubs, and we discovered to have a common love for beer. It was a funny night, Iâ€™m not sure if Marg and Steph realises how pissed we were when they picked us up, well I guess they know now! She left on Thursday for another wwoofing experience, but I hope we keep in touch, on Facebookâ€¦
Moving the tank in place
With the stables almost completed, me and Stephan tackled the next big project of building an arena, so Alexandra, or Lec as mum and dad like to call her, could start teaching kid how to ride a horse.
This was a big job, we had 34 heavy posts to fit in place. We dug out deep holes and positioned the posts with a chain tied to the fork of the tractor, then we had to fill around the post with earth and stones, compacting the soil with a heavy crowbar. Marg said that the trick is to lift the bar and let it drop under gravity, but Steph had a different thecnique. He was brutally ramming those stones as if he were impaling vampires! We were sweating like pigs under the baking sun, it was bloody heard work. To complete the job, we laid two strips of white plastic fence all around the arena, and fitted slanted posts to support the corner uprights. I think it took us 4-5 days to complete, and it was very satisfying to see it through. Also, I got to drive the tractor!!
I thoroughly enjoyed working with Stephan during the days, heâ€™s a man of many stories and has a great sense of humour.
The best part of everyday though was dinner. Margaretâ€™s cooking was simply fantastic, I donâ€™t know how she found the energy to cook those great meals after a hard dayâ€™s work, and in three weeks she didnâ€™t repeat one single recipe! Energy is definitely the key word in this family, and Lec proves me right by juggling a part time job, full time studies, looking after her tutorâ€™s horses and training hers daily for dressage competitions. Sometimes she would get up at 3 in the morning to finish off a uni project, such commitment and dedication and sheâ€™s only 20 years old. It must be something in the water they drink, because even I had the energy to drag my carcass out of bed every morning to start work at 9â€¦ hey now, thatâ€™s really early for me!
Some of the other wwoofing duties involved splitting wood logs with the hydraulic splitter of the tractor; sweeping the roofs after a heavy storm; fit a star picket fence and remove an old one with the tractor; and my all time favourite, shovelling horse poo in the back of the trailer.
You should have seen the steam coming out of that pile of crap, apparently you can cook a chicken under that heat, but you might want to wrap it up in foil first.
In my spare time, I enjoyed long walks along the creek at the bottom of the farm; fishing in Coffs Harbour; exploring a gold mine with Marcus, a german wwoofer who joined Rantan a few days before my departure; reading parts of some interesting books suggested by Stephan; playing those few songs I know on the piano; catching up with my blog; and even had time to design and make a Macademia nut cracker in Stephanâ€™s wood workshop, which was nice to look at but as useful as a rubber crowbar!
The time spent at Rantan showed me a very different lifestyle to what I have been used to.
Back in Wales, I would go to work and come home at 6ish tired and tense. To relax I would cook a fat comfort meal and drink a few glasses of wine, then watch tv till late night. Everyday was pretty much the same, and weekends were spent catching up jobs for a few houses I was renting out. I canâ€™t complain because financially I was doing well, but socially and emotionally I wasnâ€™t content, so I bought my RTW ticket to have a break. At least a third of the travellers I meet have a similar story, and we have all turned to Australia like a medical prescription. I wasnâ€™t sure this would work but now that I have seen more that the usual tourist sites, backpackers hostels and costal towns I am really enjoy my journey and I am starting to see the perfect picture for my frame. Now I recommend wwoffing to everyone I meet, but please donâ€™t you all be knocking on Steph and Margâ€™s castle, or theyâ€™ll get pissed off with me and Iâ€™ll have to remove this blog!
Tina, splashing around