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Wingham Travel Blog

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Us with host Jen

When we were in America, we did all the usual tourist things, stopped at pretty much every city and in some ways were just on a huge holiday, albeit on the cheap! In Australia however we wanted to see some REAL people, rather than just the drunken idiots hanging around the hostels (and there do seem to be MORE drunken idiots hanging around Aussie hostels).


So when we were still in England we signed up for HelpX, where people who have work they need doing put up a listing, and people who want to travel in a cheaper way find hosts.

The view from our window....
In exchange for about 4 hours work a day, you get free bed and board, and get to see parts of the country that you wouldn't normally. So, with a little trepidation, we got the train from Sydney to Wingham, halfway between Sydney and Brisbane to meet our first host Jen.


I was insanely nervous about this first meeting, neither of us knew what to expect at all, but it was also Jen's first time hosting people which was quite nice. She met us from the station and took us out for a pub lunch which was a good start! During the meal we all relaxed abit and Jen told us a bit about herself. We immediately warmed to her irreverant sense of humour which she later told us was a way of gauging what kind of people we were!


After the meal we drove to her house, 12km from Wingham centre in a small place called Burrell Creek, so small that all it has is a community hall not even a shop! We turned towards a gate and proceeded to drive 500m up a bumpy drive through 'the bush', until we got to her house at the end.

The Gonanna!
I couldn't believe that the whole thing was all her property, 35 acres of 'bush', 500m before you even get to the road! The house had a small flat attached to the side where we were to stay, with our own seperate bathroom, lounge area and kitchen, we were surprised and very pleased! We spent the rest of the day getting settled in, meeting Honey the dog (who 'looks like a dingo but can't be because she doesn't like babies....') and Blue the diabetic cat.


We also went for a walk round the property, Jen pointing out native plants, and warning us about which snakes and spiders to avoid (ummm, ALL of them?!?) At one point the birds were making an awful racket which Jen described as the 'shit there's a snake' call, suddenly there was a huge hissing noise and a 4foot goanna shot up a tree about 10 feet in front of us.

Building our ramp
I had never seem anything like it in my life, such a huge lizard so close to us! Jen was completely calm, informing us that if one runs toards us to lie down straight away as they will think we are a tree and dig their claws in....


Jen used to live in Mudgee and was the 7th female winemaker in Australia with her winery Mudgee wines. When she moved to Wingham, she also moved 1400 bottles of her wine, many of which have no labels as 'the termites ate them'. So here began our introduction to wines as we sampled her collection, including several outstanding 30 year old reds, that shows that you don't need chemical preservatives! Wow, we really were spoiled, every night we got to try a different bottle of wine (sometimes 2!) and were told about what made it taste the way it did.

It turns out that Jen was quite famous for her wines at one stage and it's not hard to see why, we will probably never be able to taste such wonderful wines again. There was even one she had called 'Indian Summer' as when she tasted it initially, it had a slight curry flavour. She found out later that it was caused by the roots of another plant growing nearby, and it was delicious if slightly bizzare. She apparantly had done a roaring trade in it through the local Indian restaurants who practically bought the whole batch as soon as they tasted it!


As we were making dinner each night the local birds dropped by to see if there were any scraps going begging. We were very amused on our first night to see Jen produce a bag of 'roo mince' to feed to them! There were several butcher birds who we became great friends with, they even flew into our flat each day to see if we have left any snacks around, and would fly and take food right out of your hand! In fact he (Bob the butcher bird) developed a slightly more annoying habit of flying into Jen's flat and stealing cat food each day.

We MAY have encouraged that.... There was also a nest of kookaburras although we only ever saw one, as the adult would come up and get food to take back to the babies. The kookaburra was really shy, but by the end of our stay would come right up to the balcony with us. There were also 3 king parrots who were the most amazing vivid colours you can imagine.


We generally worked 8-12 in the morning, then relaxed in the afternoon. Despite being hard work, it was (almost) always fun to do, as we laughed and joked while we worked. A lot of the work involved pruning things which had taken over, lantana trees to pull out and crucifix orchids to remove. In fact removing the orchids turned out to be abit of a never ending task as their roots completely covered the ground like a carpet. One of the great things about visiting Jen was seeing all the things she had done herself to the property, and we were completely inspired by her self engineered bridges! One of the days we suggested building a ramp up to the front deck as there was only a couple of planks.

It was SO much fun building it and we really got a sense of achievement when it was all finished!


Jen was keen to show us the local area which was great not only because we didn't have to work on these days! The (mighty) river Manning winds its way around from the coast and can be seen from many viewpoints. The views were absolutely stunning, we were most amazed by the colour of the river, it was such a vivid blue and just looked, well, clean! I guess we are not used to seeing such clean looking rivers in the UK!


We had said that we were interested in going to the Koala Hospital in Port MacQuarie so Jen organised for us to go.

Me 'n' beaky
We were really disappointed that we had not yet seen kangeroos, but eagle eyed Lisa spotted some just off the main road on the way. Jen turned the car around and we managed to pull off the road and get out a look. It was incredible, just in front of us were about 6 big kangeroos. They knew that we were there and stared right at us before deciding that they didn't want the fuss and hopped off. To continue with the Aussie theme we stopped off for lunch in a pie shop. It's worth a mention I think, not just for the 'Aussie-ness' but for the sheer deliciousness of that steak pie. YUM.


The Koala hospital was a small place, not set up as a tourist attraction, but it did a walk round at 3pm each day. Volunteers run the whole place, and we got to watch as the gorgeous koalas get their daily dose of vitamin juice to supplement the eucalyptus leaves.

Koala medicine!
Contrary to common belief, koalas in the wild while being cute, are not so cuddly, as their claws are razor sharp. Many of the koalas at the hospital are long term residents as their paws have been damaged by bush fires and so they can't climb well. Others have been hit by cars or have caught diseases which can be treated. These koalas are taken back to the area they were found as they are very terratorial animals.


A fantastic Aussie day, especially as we stopped off in the way home for a quick beer!!


Our final trip was slightly controversial in regards to Lisa, but we went fishing! Our host, fisherman Peter was an interesting character, a man of few words, at times we wished even fewer..... We started out by trawling the weeds for bait, I don't really know what we were looking for but we didn't find it.

Part of the 'back garden'
In the end we went back to the dock and he sent me and Lisa up the road to a bait shop to get some prawns, we got the wrong ones but after chopping them up they worked fine anyway. Like the bait, we didn't have any luck for quite some time, not until after we gave up for lunch, when the fish must have decided it was lunchtime too! I was so excited the first catch I got, I'd let a couple of fish steal my bait before I got the hang of it, so when I finally snagged the little bastard I was delighted! WOOHOO! They were only small little things, Garfish which they called 'beakys' as they had a really long nose. Before long I was something of an expert and when it was time to leave we had 22 fish, plus 2 tiddlers for the cat. The fisherman let us have them all, so Jen and I had 2 nights of lovely fresh fish for dinner. I had a small attack of conscience when I was eating, if it wasn't for me then that fish would still be swimming happily, but I got over it...!


We had a fabulous time in Wingham and with Jen, we were so spoiled with the food, wine and of course company and we were quite sad to leave!

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Us with host Jen
Us with host Jen
The view from our window....
The view from our window....
The Gonanna!
The Gonanna!
Building our ramp
Building our ramp
Me n beaky
Me 'n' beaky
Koala medicine!
Koala medicine!
Part of the back garden
Part of the 'back garden'
Wingham
photo by: RachelSpencer