Let’s make one thing very clear: I am a city girl. I have sworn to always live within five minutes from a grocery store (because I am also that girl who goes grocery shopping for milk and leaves with a full cart minus the milk), twenty minutes from a hospital and an hour from the airport. Yes, I like organic fruit from farmers markets, but I also like someone else making my coffee.
So when I agreed to work for a week on an organic farm, even I was surprised. I’m more mani/pedi than manual labor, and I practically go through withdrawals when I’m out of cell phone range.
But in the mantra of bloggers everywhere, I figured at least it’d be something to write about. And a week of free food and accommodation, just in exchange for getting my nails dirty, would go a long way toward extending my travels in Southeast Asia.
And to my absolute surprise, I fell in love with rural life at Coodlie Park. Probably because instead of being forced to wake up at sunrise to milk the cows or slug through mud in ugly boots or whatever other horrors I pictured as part of life on a farm, the owners of Coodlie Park asked me what I was good at and what I wanted to do–and then crafted up a week that was half gardening until my arms were about to fall off and half reworking a website until my eyes hurt.
Hassie and Jo, the owners of Coodlie Park, are also the owners of Nullarbor Traveller–and three out of four Nullarbor Traveller treks have a stopover at Coodlie Park. Their enormous property boasts a YHA-accredited hostel, private cottages, a bush camp, a private beach and too many kangaroos and wombats to count. It’s also a WWOOFing farm, which means Hassie and Jo open up their home to travelers who want to help.
“Helping” is a term that covers a lot. Hassie and Jo are big on making sure that travelers are enjoying themselves, and that Coodlie Park is utilizing their talents in the best way possible. If you’re an artist, you might paint a mural or make an enormous wire sculpture. If you want to be outside, there’s always gardening to be done. If you’re great on computers, you might be helping update the websites. If you’re a glutton for punishment, there’s a back-breaking stone fence that needs to be finished.
When you stay at Coodlie Park, you really do become part of the family. After the tours leave bright and early on Saturday morning, continuing on to Adelaide or Perth, you’ll gather for “dippers” (buttered and Vegemited bread dipped in soft boiled eggs) before cleaning up the hostel area (stripping beds, wiping down tables, etc.) and tackling your first task of the day. I WWOOFed with an Italian girl, and we volunteered to make dinner a couple of nights (I contributed as I always do, by giving moral support and doing the dishes). I helped Alessandra with her English, she taught me how to make true Italian carbonara, and we laughed pretty much non-stop for a week together as we encountered larger-than-life spiders and millions of snails in the garden.
It was very satisfying to end a day of hard work–whether it was pulling weeds or editing content–and feel like I had contributed something. Plus, having a week of non-travel is refreshing: a week where I ate simply but heartily, where I walked four kilometers in utter silence each night to watch the sun set over the private beach, where I didn’t have to worry about finding a hostel or checking into the coolest cafe or even putting on makeup.
I’m not exactly rushing to rural life just yet, but Coodlie Park was a refreshing peek into life hundreds of miles from the nearest grocery store: I’m pretty sure I’d be triple-checking my grocery list if I ever did succumb to my overwhelming desire to own a private beach.
A fabulous way to break up your Nullarbor Traveller trek from Adelaide to Perth or vice versa, a WWOOFing stint at Coodlie Park is also a brilliant chance to get your second-year visa–it satisfies the rural requirement (boo to America to not allowing visa extensions).
Has anyone else WWOOFed? What was your experience like?