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A not-so-great wwoof experience

Townsville, Australia

From Mission Beach we moved on, excited to meet our next wwoof host in Townsville. The book entry for the host (who is going to remain nameless because... well, read on) described a country acreage set up for horses, goats, with work including weeding and whatever needed doing. It sounded pretty good, particularly the horse part!

Unfortunately from the day we arrived we realised we'd probably made a mistake! But due to various factors - lack of money for a hostel stay in an area we weren't particularly interested, no other wwoof hosts organised - we ended up sticking it out for two generally tense two weeks.

It was our host who was the problem, being generally an arrogant, money-obsessed person who seemed to see his wwoof-ers as free labour rather than volunteers on an exchange. This was demonstrated in the fact that 85% of our time was spent weeding, and that we worked 8 days without a day off, before awarding ourselves with a relaxing day when he went away for the weekend. Our host even boasted to a friend, within earshot of us, "Guess how much my workers cost? Nothing!" Charming he was not.

But enough of the negatives, despite the fact that it was, erm, mostly negatives!
There were positives, obviously. We got our own rooms, the house was nice, the wwoofers had their own bathroom and computer with internet. We had free rein with some things in the kitchen and could cook as long as we cleaned up (using our host's patented teatowel method), and were even allowed to compile our own shopping lists for food when our host went off working at the weekends. And once we all warmed up to each other, the other wwoofers there were ace - a French girl who was stuck at the house for two month as part of her international business degree language internship, and an Israeli guy.

And aside from the dullness of the almost-constant weeding, the lack of days off and the, erm, difficult to live with host, the property was pretty ace in itself. With 32 horses paddock’d and stabled there, often with two in the paddock that doubled as the front garden of the house, I was in my element. Often the horses – many of them gorgeous thoroughbreds - would wander over as we weeded, hungrily and curiously sniffing at us, the clippings, the secatuers, sledgehammer and our 3 litre water bottle. And there were chooks, eleven of them, with four young, friendly ones who would follow you about and even run after you if you ran. They would also try all manner of tricks to escape from their run, and occasionally leap flapping onto your back as you fed them or topped up their water. And there was a goat. Or should I say, The goat. He became my nemesis, from the moment I discovered him, his chain wrapped around the fence, his water empty. From then on I took it as my responsibility to top us his water and make sure he wasn’t tangled; he in turn liked to reward me by rearing at me in an attempted headbutt, or by pawing the ground and charging head-first at his just-filled bucket of water. A charming animal, but I could see where the rage was coming from – being chained up all day alone couldn’t have been good for him,

And there were kookaburras aplenty, cackling away in the trees, hawks circling low overhead on the thermals, blue skies and tall, white eucalyptus trees; mountains with low cloud in the distance, kangaroos and wallabies to be seen grazing and drinking from the pool formed by the dam at dusk. We took a walk along the creek that bordered the property on our ‘day off’. We clambered through the grasses and bushes, stamping and clapping (well, I was the only one clapping actually…) to scare away snakes, led by the intrepid Israeli guy with his bouncing afro. It felt free, and adventurous, though we were hardly a K/m from the property, because of the way we had to bash our own pathway, and the ever-constant threat of snakes hidden in the undergrowth.

So there were good times, but mostly only when our host was away. The fantastic and enlightening conversations with the other wwoofers, communally made dinners, watching films together, drinking cold beers in the front paddock under the mid-afternoon sunshine, our creek-walk…. If there hadn’t been other wwoofers, though, the place would have been kind of a nightmare! Suffice to say 'sticking it out' won't be a mistake we make again, but here's hoping one bad host is enough for one trip!

And then we left, in a cab... and headed off to the blissful peace and weeding-free Magnetic Island...

permalink written by  LizIsHere on July 15, 2010 from Townsville, Australia
from the travel blog: New Zealand & Australia 2010
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