A Journey North

Every journey is unique. Of course it’s good to have high and positive expectations, but that gnarly old trickster life, enters the picture, throwing a bunch of little steel balls on your path causing you to wobble a bit. On reflection its the wobbly bits  though, which make you journey singular and interesting.

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On Tuesday I said goodbye to my family and left Canberra at a businesslike hour. The journey to Sydney was smooth and enjoyable.
While waiting for my flight to Ballina, a lush and beautiful part of the far north coast of New South Wales, I noticed a flustered fellow traveller, who had been confused by the late gate change. Isla took the seat next to me and we naturally started to talk about our respective journeys. Surprisingly, she was also a house sitter, only the second sitter  I had met in my eighteen months of travel. Everyone house sits for different reasons and Isla’s purpose was to relieve the boredom of her life in a retirement village in Hobart. Also unlike me, she did not advertise through a website but had  circle of friends and their friends for whom she occasionally house sat.
Unlike me, Isla charged for her services. When I started this lifestyle, I realised the value of NOT being paid and therefore not  linked with the often hidden contractual expectations and obligations inherent in a job. I wanted to-and I can say for the most part I succeeded- in creating a relationship of mutual benefit and mutual trust with the home owner. Sometimes the home owners became friends, on other occasions, some were very generous with presents of appreciation. But all the home owners have shared their knowledge of the local area , where to go and where not to, and such knowledge is invaluable, saving  you time, money and energy.

Meeting Isla made me aware once again of the conscious choices I had made  on this journey and all that I had learnt.
The beautiful flight along the New South Wales coast was scheduled to take 51 minutes from take-off, though cloudy, you could still see the green coastline and white beaches. As we  turned out to see before descending over the lush subtropical area, the weather worsened but it is an area known for its tempestuous afternoon storms which clear just as quickly as they appeared. Through the clouds I could make out the houses with their adjoining plantations and pools and started thinking about the upcoming house sit. I was coming to Lismore, thirty minutes inland from Ballina to care for two border collies whose owners had a Macadamia plantation. Later, when I was being given a guided tour by Cheryl and Greg, I learnt the history of this popular nut.

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Indigenous to Australia it was known as the bush nut. Enterprising Americans observed that if it grew here, it could be transplanted to places in the US with similar conditions, like Hawaii. Both Lismore and Hawaii are fortunate to have that rich volcanic soil. Lismore gets theirs from the eruption of Mt Warning , which like the Hawaiian volcanoes , erupted millions of years ago, producing lava which spread throughout the area.

It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the humble bush nut returned as the vastly improved Macadamia, to its original habitation. The plantations I was looking at from the plane, had only been in existence for a few decades.

I was brought back to the present by the announcement from the Captain. Our landing had been aborted due to poor visibility around the airport. His upbeat strategy was to check with the meteorologist
In Brisbane for weather advice. When he made another announcement after receiving advice, he was again upbeat. We would circle around out at sea for a further 10 minutes then, pointing out the increasing shafts of sunlight, try for a second landing . If unsuccessful we would fly to Brisbane for refuelling then attempt a later landing.
No doubt he was trying to keep us distracted from our circles over the white-caps of the Pacific, but the next message really didn’t help.

The captain of my little 51 minute flight pointed us in the direction of the stormy seas as they moved further away from the coast saying “The guys and girls searching for MH370 are having to continue searching under similar conditions so you can appreciate how hard it is for them”
What was that? Had I misheard? MH370, that missing flight which had captured the world’s imagination, was being compared to the conditions of my flight-and by the captain no less! You could hear the collective intake of breath from the few passengers on board. I looked around me for a fellow passenger with whom to share the shock but therenwere none beside, opposite or behind me on the flight. No doubt Isla, not a fan of flying and seated somewhere at the back, would have appreciated sharing the experience. After 25 minutes we gave it another go and this time was successful. Applause and relief greeted the landing which had taken almost as long as the flight.
I met the home owner Greg, who gave me a scenic tour of the area and we arrived home where his wife Cheryl had prepared a beautiful meal of barbequed salmon, a salad from their veggie patch and roast veggies sourced from local producers. I enjoyed that glass of crisp white wine in a way I hadn’t done for a while. Tomorrow a new house sitting adventure would begin. Every journey is unique.

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