Dog sitting in the Australian bush

My first experience ever with HelpX happened in Western Australia. I needed a break from all the backpacking and hostel life. The problem was I wanted to see what the Australian way of life was like, in hostels you meet European travellers, you rarely meet Australians. A couple was looking for a helper at their home, not so far from Perth. I was in Fremantle, it was a musical and cultural town that I really liked, but I needed more nature. I am not a city person anymore, more than a couple of days and I become irritated. We had a conversation on the phone and the lady who was soon to become my host “mum” totally understood how I felt, we had some sort of connection and we laughed on the phone. They both needed to find an animal lover who would understand their close bond to their dogs, well, they got me!

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A tough life

And there I was in the middle of a national forest, in a wooden house with bay windows all around, surrounded by trees and birds. What amazed me the most were the scents, the acacias and gumtrees, the eucalyptus. I can’t even describe the smells in Australian woods, it’s unbelievable.

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Walks in the bush, a feeling I can’t explain, serenity probably

And breaking the silence of the forest were the birds, cockatoos, parrots, kookaburras, magpies. God, I love Australian magpies, they sound like enchanted flutes. Unbelievable! Sometimes you would run into trees that had burnt in a bushfire, that part of the country gets very dry in the summer. I was there in the winter time and I never knew that the nights could get so cold, but a dry cold, not humid, so in a way: pleasant.

I was very spoiled there, J & G took me to a wine tasting at Lamont’s Winery in Millendon, WA, the owner was delightful and we talked about French wines. I will leave there website right here just so, you know. The wine was good, the food was tasty, the sun shone and we had honey ice cream later on that afternoon. I couldn’t ask for more, it was so peaceful, spending time with these two.

That same day, I saw my first wild kangaroos.

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Of course, I was ecstatic, most people I knew took selfies with captive kangaroos and I have ethical issues with this kind of human/animal interaction. They were wild and they were free, observing us from a distance, then once the possible threat under control, they kept on grazing. The alpha male stood behind the bushes and I realised how impressive and powerful they really were. I found myself thinking they were somewhere between a deer and a rabbit, I had never seen any such creature before.

We went on with our day out, I was treated to a fantastic scenery.

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The Swing

Who knew it was so green in Western Australia? Not me. I had imagined the landscapes as dry and desertic for some reason. In the winter, it is indeed quite lush. And sunny. With incredible flora and fauna. I was won over by those landscapes. There are moments in life you can never forget, I think I had these moments every single day while I was staying there.

She is a yoga teacher, she studied it very thoroughly in Bali and knows so much about nature also. I had fascinating and highly philosophical conversations with my host. Her husband may be a little more pragmatic but has a terrific sense of humour. What am I saying, they both do. We burst out laughing all the time although we have a two decades age difference. See, this is why HelpX is genius, because people from allover the world who are like-minded can meet. I consider them as my Australian family now. And I really needed those moments, at the time, being so far from my own home. It helped me with my homesickness.

Being a bit wild and solitary myself, I appreciated my host’s wisdom, she liked having her own space and occupations, I learnt a lot from her and her life philosophy. They both enjoy permaculture and it has become their lifestyle, not producing any disposable waste, using the principles of self-sufficiency and compost, for instance. I could relate to their need to get away from the city, from society. And I could see that it was possible.

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Planting bamboo trees

This was a great experience with HelpX because I did not have to compromise with who I am. I was a vegetarian back then, so is J, so even though I was cooking for everyone, the meals I prepared were always vegetarian. They really respected me and the fact that G ate meat was not an issue. Sharing meals with them every night was the perfect end to each day, talking while drinking wine and eating great food. We shared recipes and we watched movies about Italian cuisine or Indian food, while having dinner on a plaid, like a picnic by the fireplace. We laughed so much at the dogs being naughty, watching us eat our yummy food and getting away with having some cheese. Those dogs have strong personalities I tell you!

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You can’t refuse Rocky anything

So, apart from cooking and helping in the garden or moving timber logs, I had very little cleaning to do in the house and that was it. I hung out all day with the dogs, being lazy and writing/reading, listening to music, enjoying the sun in the garden and the birds. I got to walk in the forest and meditate, surrounded by trees and wild animals. HelpX has changed my vision of a typical holiday. I would much rather volunteer and have a bed and a meal, rather than spend money on a hotel/hostel that has no meaning to me.

I was very lucky though, my hosts spent their free time with me and showed me around. That is also what HelpX is for, sharing.

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That night she made falafels
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Baking bread
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Strawberries dipped in raw chocolate

Cooking became highly therapeutic for me and I was actually happier to see them taste what I had made, instead of eating it myself. I felt like a chef. It was glorious. I have developped a deeper interest in cooking ever since I lived with them. My host “parents” travel quite a bit and we talked about Moroccan food, Thai food, what they ate in Cuba. I mean we talked all the time, I really enjoyed it. And cooking more means wasting less, less plastic wrapping and so on. How nice to get your own herbs and leaves for a fresh tasty salad and add some nuts on top? And macadamia oil…don’t even mention it. It’s my favourite!

The sound healing

J and I had an instant bond, but I also think that everyone is under her spell because she is magic and highly spiritual. She has this aura of positivity that she carries around and she likes to protect it. I realised she was right about sometimes getting away from negativity, because although you can have all the empathy in the world, sometimes other people’s energy can eat you alive.

She took me to one of the most amazing places I have ever been: The Sound Temple.

I will be eternally grateful for that day. Never in my life had I felt so relaxed and at peace. At the time I was clueless about Sound Healing, but I was curious and little did I know it would be such a powerful experience.

Let me set up the scene for you. In the middle of a forest rises a giant soundproof metallic teepee, all around you can hear the black cockatoos and other West Australian birds. When you enter the cone, you take off your shoes and soon you see the matresses (very comfy) and duvets, in the middle, the instruments. The man who was to perform the sound healing had a very positive energy about him, a very friendly person. He explained the process and told us about what good it does to your body, sometimes with the vibrations you can feel old injuries again. The gongs play a very important role in the Sound Healing. He also had a didgeridoo, a typical Aboriginal instrument and some sort of flutes that you can see on their website. I think he got initiated and had his training in a place like Tibet or Nepal, I cannot recall for certain. So we laid down on the matresses, on the ground with our warm socks and put our duvets on. Needless to say, in such a peaceful environment some people fall asleep (someone did and started snorring haha). Basically what happened was he spoke softly and helped us relax. I remember him asking us to imagine a golden string connecting our body to the center of the earth, I really started experiencing calm at that moment. Then, he played the instruments. I can’t imagine the years he spent learning how to play them in harmony, at the right exact time in order for our bodies to feel all those vibrations. The gong is amazing, I felt circles going from the extremities of my feet and head and come closer to the center of my body. After about 20 or 30 minutes (the session lasts an hour and a half) I realised I was so relaxed that my breathing was very slow, like apnea under water. I was barely breathing because I was so calm, I felt like I left the earth for a while. It is a little hard to describe, but it is a perfect state of serenity. He played the didgeridoo above each of us, along our bodies and the sounds were penetrating and deeply soothing. I always loved the sound of the didgeridoo but it is not an easy instrument to play and at the end of the session I realised how exhausted he looked. It was him giving us all his good vibes through the instruments. I was completely mesmerised and I really needed that kind of calm after several bumps in my travels. If you can look into it and get the opportunity to take part in a Sound Healing experience, do it. It is different than meditation and yoga, it is on another level and in my opinion otherworldly and therapeutic.

So here is the thing, without HelpX, once again, I wouldn’t have discovered this. I would have never heard of it. It was J’s lifestyle and she shared that with me and I am forever grateful.

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Wild kangaroos
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Parrots and a cheeky kangaroo
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Sun coming down

Our walks into the wilderness were a flood of happiness for me, drenched in the sunlight, the scents, the sounds. An oasis for all my senses.

I don’t think I would have had those kind of opportunities and this meaningful experience, had I travelled with other European travellers in their twenties. It just would not be the same. If I had not booked a ticket to Melbourne I would have stayed longer, had I thought for a minute about the chaos of a wide city I would have stayed. So in a way this opened my eyes on the kind of life I want to live, away from the city, close to the forest and the wild untouched places.

Life’s surprises

Life is always full of surprises so I will tell you about a few things that happened and came unexpectedly in my piece of heaven: I thought Daisy, the Jack Russell, had disappeared. She has a habit of snuggling under her parents’s duvet on the bed and she was so tiny I did not see her. I ran in the garden, the forest, asked the neighbours running around like a madman. I was certain I had not left any door open, how did she escape? I was in tears and started thinking it was time to call J & G. In a last glimpse of hope I went back to their bedroom and saw her tiny nose coming out of the blanket. I think the rush of adrenaline came back down instantly and I burst out laughing through my tears. She came out of her den to greet me and I was so happy. Rocky had not been much help but he had observed me looking everywhere from a distance, curiously.

The second thing that happened was while I carried a basket of clean clothes to dry out in the sun, I looked up at the gum tree, trying to find one of those little birds when I suddenly felt all my weight become extremely light. I think I passed out a little and awoke to find my leg had gone through a wooden plank on the deck of the house. I was so stunned I screamed a little and laughed nervously when G came to my rescue. I had the most impressive bruises I had ever had and my muscles/joints were sore for a few weeks. Arnica helped me, I always think of me looking up, my head in the clouds and falling the next second, all I could see was the sky and the gumtree leaves. G called me a space cadet, which I like. I am a space cadet.

The third thing that happened was…coming across a dead goat on the side of the road. I never knew there were groups of wild goats in Australia, but there are. Unfortunately that one must have seen her life ended by a car. The eyes were gone and it was quite a sight to see. J was sorry I had to see this as an animal lover, but I have seen plenty of animals hit by cars on the side of the road in my life. You get kind of used to it (not that I am happy with roadkills!). Of course I have compassion, but what I saw was that an animal I usually see on a farm was actually wild and free and it made me happy in a way. The dead goat was wild and free!

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Animals will never cease to amaze me. They have the power to heal you, to make you forget instantly about all the worries in the world, they have this loyalty, this natural and unconditionnal love for us, they have their own personnality, their own mood swings. We are so much alike. I can only recommend spending time with them, it is highly therapeutic and relaxing. Humans need animals in their lives. You might want to consider staying in places filled with animal love. Dog sitting was so good. I love children but this is another level of company, animals teach US things about life and ourselves. Never underestimate them.

Thank you so much for reading my story.

Julia

PS: My oh so great hosts opened a café with yummy food and drinks, check it out Leaf and Bean

Read about my other HelpX experience HERE.

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