Saturday, February 25, 2012

The First Week

The first week here at Malden seems to have flown by. The kids and I got stuck into some pretty difficult (as in, near impossible!) writing tasks for English in the schoolroom, as well as some learning about Aboriginal painting...Maddy seemed to interpret the task a little differently by getting more paint on her skin than on the paper. Results were a messy schoolroom - still trying to find systems/places etc. that will work best for me, Kristy and the kids to work together. Having fun though!

I'll try to answer some questions we are getting from friends and family back home. The country here is fairly flat, scrubby - you can see in the photos below of Matt and I driving home from first day of work. I'll try and get Matt to take some more photos whilst out and about, I pretty much haven't explored much further than the drive from the donga to the house! The weather has been humid in the afternoons before rain most evenings. Here are the rain clouds rolling in, view from the donga...

Good news was that on Friday morning the creek was low enough to get Luxy across, and Carrie on the back with all our worldy possessions. We'd packed it all up a bit damp early in the morning at Injune so Matt was itching to get it set up to dry out. The fridges were fairly feral also - Saturday afternoon was the lovely job of scrubbing mould. Yum. 

Saturday night was the Alpha 'Bullrama' Rodeo - quite the social highlight. We all went into town together (Kristy and Alex's car is on the other side of the creek, they got it out before the creek came up). We met lots of locals, good to put faces to names I've heard all about! Loads of kids and a good family night. Again, Matt and I surprised at the size of Alpha, I think if you have low expectations you can be pleasantly surprised?! General rodeo activities of bull riding, some kids having a go on some poddy's, barrel races and the usual fare, much like rodeos back home, just bigger hats! Sorry my photos are so terrible, I only brought in Matt's little point and shoot or my iphone...

Back home to Malden last night and across the creek on the motorbikes in the dark. Matt finding it oh-so-strange to have not much to do on a weekend. As usual, he would probably prefer to work seven days a week. His pacing around the donga yesterday was driving me mental! This is definitely the first time ever we haven't had a million things to do on a weekend like house or garden projects at Brindabella or community events at Yea or travelling to see people - you all live too far away now! It's nice, but strange. We did manage to clean out the fridges in the camper like I said, go through the donga kitchen and sort out everything, put some wedding photos up to make the donga a home, write a list of things we need to get still. Oh and hang a hammock!

My sister Louise got us this hammock for Christmas and Matt proudly hung it on the front deck of the donga this afternoon. Pretty resort-esque, no?! Kristy, the kids and I are off to Longreach tomorrow until the end of the week for Home Tutor Workshop and the school swimming carnival (go Boree!) I'm looking forward to checking out the school, Longreach in general (I went there once as a kid about fifteen years ago) and put more faces to more names. Alex and Matt are fending for themselves. Should be interesting?!

For the meantime though, if you need me I'll be in the hammock with a Sunday evening beverage and a book...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Honeymoon Suite

Here at Malden we are living in The Donga (a portable building, used on mine sites and stations etc. for staff quarters). The donga is about 3km from the main house, just near the creek crossing which is currently still too high to cross. 

Part of the appeal of this job was definitely the good accommodation. We were fully expecting basic shearers quarters or to mainly live out of our camper (which would also be fine, Carrie is very luxurious!) But the donga is fancy-schmancy. It has a new little basic kitchenette and bathroom and two bedrooms.

The best bit though is that it's air-conditioned! Yeah, like I said - fancy. The bedroom I like to call the Malden Hilton...

Matt loves the front deck and outdoor area, which I agree is appealing...except when you're me and every bug under the sun seems to want to eat you! Hopefully we'll have some barbies out there though. Poor Luxy is still on the other side of the creek so I have been using Alex's Landcruiser to get to work, in case you were wondering why we had a new ute!

The frogs in the toilet have been freaking me out a little bit, we haven't had it quite so bad over the past few days but I have poured some rock salt in the cistern to try and deter them anyway. If anyone has any other ideas please let me know! Green tree frogs are everywhere here, the other night in the rain there was over 10 of them all on our glass sliding door. As long as they stay out of my toilet I'm definitely a happy camper.

So that's home sweet home for us for now! Very comfortable, very cosy, we like it. Oh yeah, and for anyone that knows Matt personally...turns out no matter where the clean-freak lives he has to have the shoes lined up just so by the back door...weirdo.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Arrival at Malden!

So some of you might be wondering - where on earth are we actually headed?! Good question. Glad you asked...

Well, last year when we decided to go on this crazy outback honeymoon adventure you might remember I put it out there on my old blog, Cinderella at Brindabella, our plans to get some work as a jackaroo/governess team. Within 24 hours I had almost ten emails in my inbox offering us work all over Australia. To say we were blown away was an understatement! One particular email stood out to us: a couple in central Queensland (between Emerald and Longreach) with twins, a cattle property (which suited Matt down to the ground) and the mum was one half of the brains behind popular madeit business AnK Bowtique (which suited me down to the ground). After much emailing backwards and forwards as to job descriptions, logistics, accommodation etc. we committed ourselves to signing on as jackaroo and governess at Malden, near Alpha, starting in February 2012 after our six weeks at Boort and making our way up to Queensland. 

The drive between Injune and Emerald
After leaving Injune at 6.30am we hit Emerald by late morning, travelling through some beautiful varying country again. We shopped up a storm at Woolies in Emerald - I have always hated, I mean hated, grocery shopping with Matt, as he always tries to fill the trolley with about fifteen times the amount of food we would ever need. You could always hear me telling him to put things back, stop touching, we don't need that! Yes, like a child. Now it was pay day for shopoholic Matt - despite the fact we had literally no room in the camper for all of this food! It took some 'creative' packing methods...

If packing were and Olympic sport, my husband would win gold!

On the road again from Emerald, due west for two hours to Alpha - much more substantial than what we were expecting. There is a little supermarket, post office, newsagents, bank, butcher, two servos, all you need really. Continued out of Alpha north for 60km to reach our destination, 'Malden'. 


The floods in the past few weeks had put Alpha under water, and the Native Companion Creek which you have to cross into Malden was at one point up to 10 metres. The day we arrived it was at just under 2 metres, not low enough to drive through. Luckily there is a little footbridge which can accommodate four wheelers to ferry our food and a few possessions across. 

We met our hosts and new employers Alex, Kristy and the kids Tom and Maddy at the creek, crossed across with all our stuff on the bikes and made it safely to our new home sweet home - the donga. Perfect basic accommodation for us newlyweds. It has a great front porch area and car port, two bedrooms, a dining/living/kitchen area and bathroom. We settled in the first night after dinner up at the house with Alex, Kristy and the kids (a few kilometres from the donga). I'll put up some photos of the donga soon, haven't got around to that yet.

We both started work straight away, Matt in the yards as well as out mustering and me in the schoolroom supervising and (I hope?!) teaching the twins something of use in their lessons with the Longreach School of Distance Education. 

So far, so good. Despite it being about 40 degrees we haven't found it too hot - well it's hot but what are you going to do?! The kids are (so far) delightful in the lessons I have taught, if not a little unmotivated at times so I might have to get a bit creative there! Matt is enjoying working with cattle again after his year stint with sheep and potatoes. What I am not enjoying are the resident frogs living in my toilet! I am insisting on Matt doing 'froggy patrol' before going to the toilet. Speaking of be off!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Northern Rivers and Beyond...

We headed up the New England highway, a big day of driving but not many tourist sights to see other than beautiful farmland, which was pretty exciting for the likes of us. We hit Tenterfield and I literally saw a saddler's shop and couldn't stop singing... "Time is a traveller...Tenterfield saddler!" Too bad for Matt they were the only words I knew...

Getting a bit delirious on the road!
Winding our way from Tenterfield to Lismore (we didn't really realise there were a few massive hills and valleys in our way!) My childhood holidays were spent in the NSW northern rivers region visiting our cousins in Murwillumbah - as soon as the country opened up to sugarcane, macadamia trees, those big wide rivers and warm coastal air it was familiar. After stocking up on fancy cheese and some alcohol to bring to dinner at Gus and Hayley's...we realised Hayley is a non-drinking vegan. Faux paus much?! Oh well, it was great to see them again - we really haven't caught up since we finished uni in Melbourne four years ago. Hayley is originally from the Northern Rivers and completed her uni study there, Gus followed after he finished Ag Science with Matt, and now works as an agronomist in the area. For a boy of a dry and dusty sheep farm in Naracoorte, humid sub-tropical Lismore has been a culture shock! Matt enjoyed chewing his ear off about all things 'agro' in the area and even things back home in Naracoorte. Hayley is an artist - mainly working in printmaking and linocuts so us creatives skimmed over the farm talk.

Our great friends who we used to live over the hill from (and I nannied for) back in our Ythanbrae days had friends in Warialda who were keen to have me take some family happy snaps, as well as show Matt around their Angus stud. We jumped at the chance and drove the four and a half hours due west the next day from Lismore.

Wendy and Ben Mayne's at Warialda
The Mayne family were beautifully welcoming and warm. Despite it being young Will's birthday, the family heading off on holidays the next day and the kids swimming carnival being that day - Wendy still made us dinner and shared a wine with me whilst Ben gave Matt a farm tour and (again) talked all things agro.

Rosie and Will
Drinks on the deck with the Mayne family
We pitched our camper on the lawn in their beautiful gardens. Warialda was green and undulating - we would've liked to stay! The cattle were happy, the grass abundant.

Cattle at Texas Angus, Warialda
But the Mayne family were off to the beach, and we had another appointment with another beautiful family in Goondiwindi. Between Warialda and Goondiwindi we came across a lot of cropping country - sorghum as far as the eye could see! Also a lot of cotton. 

Sorghum coming into Goondiwindi from Warialda
Our friends Nic and Amy, who I recently took family photos for back in Gippsland, used to live in Gundy, and had some friends who had seen their photos and wanted some of their own. Tracey, Richard and their three were so much fun to work with and again another warm and welcoming family.

The Stewart children: Lachlan, Izzy and Elsie
But again we were due to hit the road, headed north out of Goondiwindi to Roma and then beyond to Injune. We pulled into the Injune Caravan Park to find we were sharing it with a few hundred miners, only one other 'tourist' couple (grey nomads in their caravan) so I figured I was one of only two females there!

Up early again the next morning and on the road again heading north...

Until next time, The Happy Campers xxx

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Jenolan Caves and the Blue Mountains

We headed towards Jenolan from Abercrombie National Park - cutting across through pine forests and logging tracks, then heading down, down, down a massively steep and winding road to reveal the Jenolan Caves precinct. We were expecting to find a blip on the map type locality, perhaps a few caves to poke around in, somewhat like the Buchan Caves back home in Gippsland. How wrong we were...

There was a massive hotel and function centre for weddings and conferences, a tourism centre and the whole thing seemed to be fairly privately run - with cave tours going on the hour for up to $45 per person. The cave system was also a big surprise, they aren't just a few holes in a mountain, they were a series of caves through what millions of years ago was a great sea, now the coral and sand had become limestone. The caves have over 360 entry points, that they know of (some are still being discovered).

We walked through the Grand Arch which was impressive, with a road going through the mountain. We walked up into the Devils Coach House cave and then did a short walk around the Blue Lake. 

After umming and aahing over whether we would do a cave tour or not, if it was worth it, we decided to lash out and do the Lucas Cave tour. And we are so glad we did! It was fantastic, very impressive. We climbed up and up concrete stairways and through tunnels to reach a series of open spaces and a huge 'cathedral' complete with lighting and sound effects.

Matt couldn't get over the infrastructure inside the caves, perfect concrete walkways, steps and bridges throughout and stainless steel handrails the whole way. Not to mention the lighting, there were lights everywhere highlighting special areas of interest and lighting your way. Matt was pretty busy checking out all the conduit rather than the stalagmites!

From Jenolan we headed to Blackheath - but after how long we took at the caves, which we hadn't intended on, the day was getting away. We pulled into a visitor centre to enquire about some camping spots, having roughly decided where we would stay we went to Govett's Leap lookout. Wow!

Right at this point my camera decided to have a melt down (and thus me have a melt down) - still not sure what is wrong with it, something to do with my wide angle lens. Anyway, we walked down to Bridal Veil Falls which was stunning yet scary! The cliff edges had me wanting to hightail it out of there, but the views were amazing.

We made our way back to Blackheath and down along the Megalong Valley, through pretty gullies and  found a great campsite by a creek, nobody else around, no rain and we had a fire. And we had mobile reception! With a plentiful supply of water we had hot showers in the morning as well as a cooked breakfast before heading down to Katoomba. A thick fog and misty rain rolled in. Bloody Blue Mountains. There was no hope of seeing the Three Sisters in the fog!!! After a quick trip to the supermarket, Kmart and a treat for me - a coffee in a cafe! Oh la la. We waited for the fog to lift and it finally did at about lunchtime (when we wanted to be leaving Katoomba). We headed down to Echo Point again, along with every other tourist it seemed. We could see the Three Sisters and the valley below now...

We walked down to the base of the first sister, very steep stairs. The full walk down further was closed due to a landslide. We headed back towards Blackheath and went to check out Pulpit Rock. I was feeling quite ill with a strange stomach cramp/ache, not very well at all. No matter, did the short walk down to Pulpit Rock and so glad I did! Best view yet with amazing platforms out on the edge of the cliffs. Can't imagine how they built them there, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!

Back on the road and getting late again (3.30pm) so weren't sure how far we would get. We were hoping to get to Scone today but fog delayed us. Drove through Lithgow and headed towards Mudgee - decided we could stay at Goulburn River National Park but it would be a bit of a drive. Finally pulled up at fairly isolated campsite just before dark. 

Today we have a big day of driving as we are headed for Lismore to see a friend who Matt went to uni with, Gus, and his girlfriend Hayley. We were up at 5.45 and on the road by dawn. Currently driving along the New England highway, almost at Tamworth. We have 650km to do today, our most yet but not much to see through here other than farmland and nice old towns. Matt has been getting pretty excited about good cattle country, giant wool sheds and enormous centre pivots so far - I thought about driving up a few of these driveways to see if they needed a manager!! The Bylong Valley and Liverpools Plains are beyond amazing for farm-heads like us - you can almost see the food jumping out of the ground, the ground looks so productive. It was also a bit sobering and saddening through driving through this absolute wonderland for farming and knowing that it is at such risk from coal seam gas mining.

So, in Lismore tonight with Gus and Hayley before heading west to Goondiwindi where I might be taking some photos for a few families which would be fun!

P.S. This was actually written a few days ago now - I've only just got to hit publish as we have reception! I will hopefully update again soon :)