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Journals from Deakin University, Australia

2011-06-07 When in Wagga Wagga

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I’ve been to the beautiful beaches of Queensland, the Opera House in Sydney, the Great Ocean Road, and even frolicked with kangaroos and wallabies. There’s still a lot of Australia that I haven’t explored but I feel that I’ve had a well-rounded tour of the Aussie highlights. However, there was one final item that my Dad added to my to-do list. It wasn’t snorkeling or camping in the bush. No, my Dad wanted me to pet a sheep. More broadly he wanted me to experience an Aussie farm, which is exactly what I did this past weekend.

The Well’s family farm is in Uranquinty, New South Wales, which is about a 5hr train ride from Melbourne. I made the trip late Friday evening and arrived in the closest main town, WaggaWagga in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday. Eliza’s lovely father, Gary, was kind enough to fetch me at the train station and take me back to the farm which is 50 kilometers from the main town.

I awoke early on Saturday morning to accompany Gary to collect Eliza from the Wagga Wagga airport. It was by far the smallest airport I’ve ever seen. There is absolutely no security. All you need is a boarding pass to get on the plane. No metal detector, no bag scan, no ID! As soon as Eliza had arrived and picked up her bag we hopped in the car and headed to the middle of nowhere. 80 kilometers from Wagga is Osborne, a town whose only attraction is an Aussie rules football oval and netball court. Over 100 years ago someone had the crazy idea to start a football club away from all civilization and succeeded. Eliza’s little brother Zack is a member of the club so we made the long trek for his match. I was surprised at the number of people who filled the muddy field.

After the Osborne Tigers’ victory the family headed back to the farm. We took a detour through some of the small surrounding towns such as “The Rock.” On one of the back roads Eliza spotted an injured bird. She couldn’t let it become road kill so we turned around for some wildlife rescue. I was astonished when Eliza picked up the bird, wrapped it in a hoodie and held it the entire way home.  When I left the bird was still recovering in a cage at the farm but I’m sure that with the Wells family’s TLC he will be back in the air soon.

Later that afternoon we loaded in the 4x4 for a drive through some of the farm’s paddocks. One paddock includes Coffin Rock. Coffin Rock is more like a collection of bizarre rock formations built on a hill that has breathtaking views of the rolling hills around Wagga Wagga. Eliza’s parents had their wedding ceremony in front of one of the most unique formations and had 180 guests lining the hill above.

In keeping with the outdoor spirit, Eliza and Zack encouraged me to try riding a quad and a dirt bike. I’d driven a quad before but the dirt bike was a whole different animal. It was invigorating once I figured out the clutch/accelerator balance. Unfortunately I had a little incident involving a brand new fence. I was fine, but the poor fence might need some cosmetic touch-ups. After my hit and run I was happy to trade the dirt bike for the quad and retreat to the house for dinner.

Earlier in the day Zack got out a riffle in hopes of unleashing my inner farm girl. We did a little target practice on some rotten fruit and I was pleasantly surprised at my accuracy. After dinner Zack reminded me of how good I was a target practice to convince me to do some “spotlighting” aka rabbit hunting with him. I conceded and before I knew it I was in the back of a pick-up truck in the bitter cold searching for rabbits. I’ve always thought as rabbits as furry cuddly pets, but on a farm they are pests that destroy crops. With this distinction in mind I agreed to try my luck with the rifle. I won’t go into details, but I will say that my new name is Dead Eye Dick.

After the busy Saturday we’d had, we decided to take it easy on Sunday. There were only a few more farm tasks I needed to experience before heading back to the city. Task one was a bonfire. Gary and Zack had already cleared some trees and bushes and piled them in a field. With the help of some newspaper, they lit the biggest fire I’d ever seen. We left the considerable warmth of the fire to have lunch with Lizzy, Eliza’s grandmother. After our filling lunch and a “cuppa” Eliza and I got tractor operation instructions from Gary. I rode in the cab with Eliza as she practiced operating the front loader. The rain set in so we sought shelter in the house for the rest of the day.

Eliza needed to head back to Sydney on Monday, so she departed early that morning. Her sister Tamsin flew home  for her study period just an hour before Eliza left. Gary and Tamsin took it upon themselves to be my tour guides in Eliza’s absence. Until my train departed at 2 they showed me sights of Wagga Wagga. In the aboriginal language, Wagga means crow, so it follows that Wagga Wagga means land of many crows. Luckily the crows are not found in the main town. It was a very sleepy town and the tour of the town’s highlights was quick. We toured the rural uni, the riverfront and the shopping district (which was one street). After a pub lunch it was time for me to say see-ya see-y a to Wagga Wagga and make the journey back to good ol Melbourne.

…And soon I’ll be saying goodbye to Melbourne as well. My time in Australia has just about come to close. It’s now exam time so I have no more exciting excursions planned. I will still enjoy all of my last days here though since I’ll get to spend them in the company of some wonderful new Aussie (and American) friends.

All the best,

Elisabeth

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