Little did we know when we embarked on this journey, that we would end up in a place as special as this. This tomato farm was situated with the Murray River literally on it’s doorstep.
We were driven there by Francine and told to turn left at the big cactus just before the straw bales and brown post boxes. It was a little way down the hill past a small cottage and sheds filled with machinery and tools. We were met by an excitable puppy called Graham and his pet Jack Russell, Toby. Graham is a man you know you can count on. His humour and kind nature was always at the surface and we immediately warmed to him. His wife, Judith, was not there when we arrived (she was in town waiting for us to arrive – she didn’t know we had arranged a lift).
Graham showed us around the farm which had 3 hot houses for tomatoes and a fourth for veggies. Unfortunately for them, we had brought the European weather with us and there fields were under water, South Australia was suffering the worst floods in decades. This meant that crops had been lost and there was a lot of work needed to plant and prepare a house. We spent the best part of a week poking holes, planting seedlings, tying strings for the vines to grow on and training them – it was immensely satisfying to look back at your work, we ended up doing this to about 6000 plants!
Laura, as usual, spent a lot of time in the kitchen helping out Judith with cakes for smoko” and the occasional dinner. The family ran the tomato farm as a full time business with Graham doing the bulk of the hands on work and Judith handling the office. We really felt as though we were able to comfortably slot into the routine of the house and felt like their children.
We shared beers, good food (thanks Judith, but of course it doesn’t compare to my mother and obviously Laura is the best cook in the world) and warm hospitality which was appreciated but made this a very difficult place to leave. On our final day we were taking on a road trip and stopped at a Winery before returning home to plant a tree to be remembered by.
Graham and Judith were the perfect people to finish our WWOOFing adventure with and will leave such good memories in our hearts. They have been like parents to us for last 2 weeks and will be truly missed.
Now though, the adventure will continue and I sit in Adelaide writing this, waiting to go to the airport where we will travel by air to Perth. The working holiday is officially over and the honeymoon can now begin!
We dropped our car off at the Europecar depot on North Terrace in Adelaide at midday. It was a short walk to the bus station which was to take us to our new host. A quick phone call to confirm was all we needed to do before embarking on our penultimate WWOOFing experience.
We were met at the bus stop in Mt Compass by a Swiss lady called Francine Douglas who was due to look after us for the next few weeks. We pulled into the gates of her cosy cottage and were shown to our accommodation, a beautiful self contained studio outhouse. Francine lived alone with her Meremma dog called Marnie. Both dog and owner had quirky natures, the dog smiled when it met you, it almost looked like it was snarling but we were ensured it was not.
We mowed lawns, fixed shovels, repaired and painted cupboards, built seating areas and even went to build a retaining wall with a friend of Francine’s. An experience to note was that of the market. Francine ran a food stand at 2 of the local farmers markets and on one particular weekend, we were drafted in to run the barbeque. We cooked eggs, bacon and sausages offered on both white and brown bread, toasted or not. The task seems quite simple on the surface but when you have 6 or 7 people standing in front of you asking for eggs a certain way and toast not too brown, the pressure soon begins to mount. We managed quite well and managed to make Francine some decent profit which was really satisfying.
We rewarded with a glass of wine every night and use of her 1970 odd Mazda 323 station wagon, which had no petrol cap, a choke held on with a peg, the light permanently on bright so as not to break the circuit and a steering wheel which didn’t work for the first 3rd of it’s turning circle, not to mention the breaks that need to be on the road before they worked!
It was a lovely experience shared with a warm and kind host. She was vulnerable at first but her trust, once earned, was honest and eternal.
After our very good night sleep we hit the road again, this time towards the Grampians. Grampians is a national park between Adelaide and Melbourne. Arthur and Aukje had been there a week before and really recommended for us to go and see it. Grampians is a big mountain and you can really see it from far away. We decided to drive up there and stop on the way. We were 400 m above sea level, which is higher than Estonian highest point. After an hour of windy roads we decided to have a leg stretch break next to a beautiful lake and we were attacked by some local parrots. That was really funny – trying to have a pee in the bush whilst looking out so the parrots don’t get your bum. We went to see the McKenzie falls which is the biggest fall I have ever seen. I can compare it now! Because it was so low down in the valley we admired it from the edge of the cliff. But I got really upset with fellow Estonians – as we entered the road to walk down, there was a big tree with “With love, from Estonia” on it. I wanted to say that we all not all stupid like this! It would have taken us an hour to get down there and we still had a long way to go. We have a look at the pictures – it really was a beautiful drive. After the Grampians we decided to drive towards Adelaide and maybe find a place to stay the night in. We were thinking to spend the night in the car but then saw a cheap looking motel on the side of the road and decided to go and sleep there. Well we shouldn’t have. It goes to the history as the most horrible place we have ever stayed at. The guy, who was the owner, looked like something out of a horror movie, coming out of his cubicle wearing only a vest and boxer shorts. I think he hoped I was by myself and charged us 70 dollars because it was late in the night. The room stank of cigarettes and something else. I don’t want to know what that something else was. And he asked me if we would like a room with a view. I said yes please, because we are on our honeymoon. Well the room with a view was over a building site with some Adelaide lights in the distance. Great! I didn’t sleep well that night; I thought he might creep into our rooms and steal our passports! Hehhheee! In the morning we saw something what looked like blood in front of the motel. Yuk! We were off to our first host in Adelaide – Francine.
Leaving Melbourne was pretty exciting. We were going to drive on the Great Ocean Road and see all the amazing things in the Lonely Planet guide. The first hour went very slowly. We stopped over and had fish and chips and that was pretty horrible. We decided, with the grease dripping down our chins, that we won’t finish it and fed it to the bins. So on the way again, reading the Lonely Planet guide, I discover that the local golf course have got some wild kangaroos, so we head to see them. And oh my goodness, they were actually there! See, the lonely Planet Guide do not tell lies! The second longest stop was in Lorne where we saw our first waterfall in Australia (and my first waterfall EVER!). That was really beautiful and we did spend some time to admire its glory! Then I found that the oldest lighthouse in Australia is on our way, but I wasn't so interested seeing that, than the koalas what according to the Lonely Planet Guide are hanging around in the trees. Tick! They were there and we spend some time watching them. They didn’t like us as much we liked them so after
they tried to run away from us (looked more like walking in slow motion to me) we got back into the car and on the way towards Adelaide. We decided to spend a night in Warrnambool, only if we can see all the things on the way before. Because how stupid it would be to do the Great Ocean Road and see the Twelve Apostles in the dark! First tourist stop was at the Gibson Steps. We didn’t go down the steps because it was sunset and we really wanted to reach the Apostles. Did took a picture though. Nic didn’t like the fact than they are not original anymore. We enjoyed the Apostles on the sunset. It was a beautiful moment (and very blinding). Then we stopped on couple of other places like the London Bridge (a rock), the Arch (a rock) and Loch and Gorgeis (a cave) and made our way towards our first stop on the way – Warrnambool. Nic was rather tired as I can’t drive so we decided to stay in a Motel for the night to get a good night sleep. We bought some Chinese food and watch telly in bed. Bliss!
After our two days trip from Sydney to Melbourne we dropped off the car and went to look for a phone. We called our hosts that we have arrived and arranged for them to pick us up from the local bus station - Cockatoo. We were picked up by Arthur, our new host. We drove in his big white Toyota to our new home for two weeks - Trickle Hill. Arthur and Aukje have got three girls, 2 horses, 4 ponies, 2 dogs and some chickens and roosters, a snake and a lizard. I think i have named all of them! We were living with an english girl, Laura, in our own little house. There was lots to do on Trickle Hill, weeding, planting, building, scooping poop are just some of the jobs we were asked to do. We worked long hours but ended the day always with a glass of vino or a beer with our hosts. We had a really cool morning with Arthur when he decided to take us for a muddy drive. Well i did almost swear. Anyway we did spend 2,5 good weeks there but it was time for us to move on. So we decided to go and see our new friend Merric in Melbourne, had a crazy night out with him. Slept in his bus and then hit the road towards Adelaide. Here we go!
We haven't been writing for a while. First of all we tryed to catch up with the Japan stuff and then we ended up in a WWOOFing place, where we couldn't use the internet as much we would have like to. Anyway, let's start from the beginning.
We landed in Australia on the 18th of October at 9 o'clock in the morning. I was obviously called into the immigration and the boy with a funny picture in his passport was let through just fine. We were scared that my visa is not working but it all turned up all right at the end. We showed our boots (as we did clean them after watching a lot of Border Controll in England) and took off our jumpers. It is Australia after all and we were ready for the heat - what wasn't there. Whilst shivering on the platform to catch a funny looking double-decker tube to Mary's house, we put on our jumpers and decided it is too cold. We got off the tube in North Sydney and took a bus towards Mary (Mary is a very lovely friend of Frances). Knowing us we did come off the bus too early and had to drag ourselves and our backpacks up the hill. Typical! Mary wasn't at home but left us a letter with some instuctions for the secret place where we found a key and let ourselves into her lovely home. So here we were - in Sydney! Mary and Hamich took us around for the afternoon and then we spend a night in trying to relax and get some sleep.
On Sunday we decided to go and see the Sydney Opera house and the lovely beaches. We took a boat from the opera house and went too far away from everything. There was no point to walk back so we bussed it to the Bondi Beach to see some live surfing. I have never seen that before. I'm not sure if we were too stuck in the moment or what but one moment we were walking on the beach and the other almost swimming in the ocean. Anyways, we took a bus back to Sydney and tryed to find something nice for a presant for Mary. So take a not travelles - in Sydney, non of the nice shops stay open on Sunday after 6!
On monday we said goodbye to Mary and started our drive from Sydney to Melbourne to meet our first WWOOFing host in Australia.
Macky and Yoko are a very friendly Japanese couple who lived with us in Tsuji House. They arrived just before we were on our way to Kyoto for the first time. Macky had a good old laugh about the fact that this is our honeymoon. He said to us constantly that we should go and do some nice things. So after a week of getting to know each other and listening to Macky playing his didgeridoo they asked us to come and join them for a day trip to Kyoto. We were happy to do so, because going to a place like this with Japanese people, who actually know where they're going, would be a great adventure.
We started off with a small temple and headed on to one we went to on our previous trip. Because we were just going to see it quickly last time, we missed out the interior and the magnificent views towards the city. One of the temples was Mackys favourite and i don't blame him. It was called the Ginkakuji Temple and is a part of the World Cultural Heritage Site. It was so peaceful and beautiful inside. The gardens were kept immaculate and we so lots of gardeners not raking the grass bust sweeping it. We walked around there for and hour and after Nic had given some money to the music God, we decided to go and eat something.
The day finished with the Rokuon-Ji Temple (The Golden Pavilion) and that was amazing. It was made out of actual gold and shone beautifully on the sunlight. Because my camera was running out of juice by this point, I only have got one photo of it. But it's a good one.
Our last stop was the oldest bridge in Kyoto. We walked across it and sat on the side to have a quick Fanta Grape (Nic has got a very bad addiction) and then we were on our way again in Mackys car. Tsuji House looked very quiet and we thought that everyone has gone somewhere, but we were wrong. Dinner means a full mouth!
We arrived at Kyoto Station and were immediately shocked at the size of it. You find yourself standing in the middle of a massive Architectural masterpiece (have a look on Google). This is not exactly the image that we had created in our minds, is it true that Kyoto is not a cobble stone ancient city that still lives in the middle ages, I guess not!
Finding the Tourist Information Centre (or TIC as they like to call it in Japan) was easy. We pulled out the name and address for our hostel and asked for directions. We were pleased to see that the guy behind the desk immediately recognized the place and pulled out a map and sent us merrily on our way. Arriving at the hostel about 20 minutes later was satisfying, the place was beautiful and we passed a massive temple on the way that we planned to go back and visit. All is going swimmingly at this point, but there would be a problem. I had booked the hostel online that morning but they didn't seem to have the booking (granted we were there a little before check-in). The young lady behind the counter busied herself behind the desk and disappeared into the back room, the thing about Japan is that their Customer Service is 2nd to none, they always smile and they always help you no matter what the problem. She returned and asked to see the details of the hostel, I complied and was informed that there was actually a hostel of a very similar name on the other side of town, she then gave us directions, apologized, offered to call us a taxi and then sent us packing.
Down a back alley, across the road from a construction site, we arrived at our actual hostel. How could we have been so naive as to think that the previous hostel was correct, this was more like our style. It turns out that this hostel in Kyoto was linked to the hostel in Osaka (Yumi - the Peace House Osaka owner was indeed the owner of this). If we had contacted her first, we would have been able to get a discount, what is it they say, hindsight is a wonderful thing. After all this walking we decided to have a quick dinner around the corner and get an early night so as to be bright and ready for our sightseeing in the morning.
The hostel had a good deal on bikes so we decided to hire a couple and explore the city that way. Shorts on, little jumper in the bag in case it gets cold and a pair of flip flops, Kyoto here we come. We had met a teacher from Brighton in the morning who had given us a list of things to see. At the first temple we were accosted by some school children who wanted to practice their English - we signed their little notebooks and were presented with some origami cranes and a little note to say thanks - maybe accosted was a little strong. Heading on through the small back streets of Kyoto's old town the heavens decided to open, in case you had forgotten, we were not dressed for this. We trooped on and eventually came to a Temple that would prove to potentially be our favorite. A magnificent gateway towered above us, revealing through it's mouth, a stairway to heaven. At the top was a magical village of monks and a Temple that we humbly entered. We sat down to marvel in it's beauty and within minutes were told to leave, we arrived too late and the Temple was closing to the public.
We navigated home and prepared for our dinner with Aidan, Yuriko and family (they were also in Kyoto and had asked us to join them for dinner). Dinner was great accompanied by great people and good beer. Rosemary (Aidan's mum) paid for everyone to have dinner and we were really touched - she lives in Tasmania so maybe we'll return the favor!
Back in bed and off to sleep, tomorrow will be a long day. We walked around on a long round trip to the station, trying to take in as much of this magical place before returning to Sasayama. When we did, we were again rewarded with that great Japanese service when the bus driver dropped us off at the door. We were greeted by Seth and Toby and it was a great sense of returning home. It was hard to leave Kyoto (it may have been easier if we'd known we'd be back there a week later), but good to be back!
So we've been in Sasayama for about 3 weeks now and so far, the experience has been absolutely wonderful! The house is currently occupied by 16 people with at least 1 more arriving in the next few days. We have Australians, American's, Canadians, French and Japanese (and of course South African and Estonian), a great mix of people which makes the experience a neverending rollercoaster of stories and culture clashes.
Where to begin, at the beginning I suppose! On our first day we were put on a bicycle and told to ride for 45 minutes through the surrounding villages and countryside to a school of agriculture. The idea was to help the school with their rice harvest and baically chat and have fun with the kids. I guess your wondering after reading so far, why are there 16 people in a traditional JJapanese WWOOFing host family and why are we at a school playing with children? Well, the place we are staying is more of a community service. Our host, Gen Nishimura, is an early thirties Japanese/American who runs an English school and offers our services to local organic farmers in exchange for rice or veggies or whatever they might want to give us.
Most of our days so far have been spent looking after our own field which we maintain in order to eat. We get deer meat from a local hunter whenever we want it (actually, we get a whole deer which we need to butcher ourselves, including skiining). We do not live with Gen but instead a farm house about a 1 minute cycle from his house, we cycle everywhere.
Some of the highlights so far include the rice harvest mentioned above, a curry lunch at nursery where we practised for sports day with the kids and went into their classrooms and played with them, de-weeding a few rice fields for a crazy lady who gave us beer and ice-cream at 10:30 in the morning and making Onigiri (a rice thing which you can look up on Google). I was lucky enough to drive a tractor today to prepare some new fields for planting (part of the project also allows people from the city to use our landing to plant some stuff and we look after it and they come and visit it on the weekend).
We had originally planned to travel around more but have decided that we will spend the remainder of our trip here with a day trip here and there. This weekend (our weekends are on Wednesday and Thursday) we spent 2 nights in Kyoto, but you'll have to come back another ti,
So the last time you heard from us we were leaving Mt Fuji. We decided to take a bus from there to Osaka. Still weren't abel to find a host, but hey, what can we really do. Satying in Mt Fuji was beautiful, but was getting a bit expensive, plus we felt that sitting on the same spot for too long is not good for us. So after two days of enjoying the beautiful countryside we headed to the bus stop and decided to take a 10 hour bus ride to Osaka. We were really excited to get to Osaka but not looking forward to the 10 hour coach trip. Plus the fact that Laura was exhausted. The lack of sleep from previous night was wearing me out. We had to stay in separate rooms for the final night in Mt Fuji because the hostel was full. So i ended up sharing with 3 girls. At first i thought - great! No snoring guys! The girls were really nice but i ended up sleeping next to the shower room. The wall between was paper thin and i even heard when people were opening their shampoo bottles. So until 1 in the morning the showering was non stop. I was just about falling asleep when i heard some quick footsteps passing our room and then it started. The loudest vomiting I've ever heard. I felt sorry for the guy but felt sorry for myself when he returned.
So anyway. Getting on the bus from Mt Fuji was a long wait. We were sitting there for 4 hours because the last transit from the hostel was just after 4 and our bus was at 9. Playing cards and having some ice cream killed the time very slowley. But the bus arrived. It was one of the most comfortable busses i have ever seen. Only three seats in the row gave us enough legroom to have a solid 6 hour sleep.
It was a shock arriving in Osaka. Half past six and still asleep we stepped off the bus and tryed to find out where we were. We found a tourist information center but that only opened at 8. So we had at least an hour to sit around and watch 1 million Japanese people rushing past us to go to work. After my bum went num the tourist information point opened. Grabbed a map from there and made our way towards the Peace House hostel, where we had booked a room. Coming out from the tube was a shock. It looked like we are in a different world. This part of the town was strange. People were different and the city was different. Everybody gave us a stare and we felt a bit funny. And this bloody hostel was no where to be found. After walking around for an hour we stopped on the streetcorner to think about this situation and a local parm (thouse of you not familiar with this word it means drunkensmellyoldguy) decided to look after us. We showed him the map and he seemed to know exactly where the hostel was. Chatting away in Japanese and smiling his toothless smile he took off and we followed. Well it wasn't our hostel but they were nice enough to give us some directions to get there. Seriously though, that place was like a maze! After getting the directions we managed to find it. The sign on it was about 20cm*20cm! But we were more than happy to get there. They allowed us to have a shower and then we left to see the biggest fish tank, sorry Aquarium, in the world - The Osaka Aquarium. This was the only interesting sight seeing spot on the map. It really was amazing! The massive tank in the middle had all sorts of huge creatures in it., Two of them being whale sharks. We spend more than an hour walking around and enjoying the fantastic fish. Then it was time to start heading back to the hostel. We decided to eat out, as a treat, and went to a local all right looking restaurant. We ordered some rice, chicken and beef we waited hungrily. Mine arrived very quickly and looked nothing like beef. It looked like thin stomach fat thing. Or maybe something from inside the beef- animal. Stomach lining? This didn't go down very well. So i left, hungry and grumpy. Nic said that i will have a laugh about it in the future...well i haven't yet. It still brings a bit of tight feeling in the throat when i think about it. Going back to the hostel we checked our e-mails and there was still nothing. We really need to find a host quickly or we will run out of money. Nic tried to log onto his wwoof profile and we discovered that it was blocked. That might have been one of the reasons why we haven't heard anything back from anyone. Feeling very upset about it we went to bed and tried to forget everything bad what happened today. The stomach lining being on of them.
Woke up at 10 and made a cup of coffee. Decided to leave Osaka whatever happens. We really don't like this city. So i decided to look for some places to stay in Kyoto whilst Nic checks his e-mail. And what a surprise! There has been an acceptance for us to go somewhere near Osaka and do a bit of Wwoofing! "On the scale 1 to 10, how happy are you right now?!" "10!" Looks like our worries are over and we are heading down to Sasayama today! We checked out from the hostel and rushed to the train station. Booked our tickets and we were on our way.