The little forgotten and unimportant blot on the planet called Rock Valley is about an hour and a half inland from Byron Bay. As a tourist, there’s very little reason to go here. Unless, of course, you’re the typical Aussie backpacker WWOOFing.
Since arriving at my destination a week ago, I haven’t actually left the confines of the extensive farm block, and so I can only tell you about my limited surroundings.
But limited is an entirely inefficient word, for who can call undulating hills decorated with generous scatterings of gumtrees and a vast stretch of the heavens above, sometimes moodily cloudy, other times the richest blue, and again at other times adorned with unimaginable variety of stars and planets and swirling celestial mists limiting in any way?
Even just walking to the caravan in which this computer and internet access is available I discovered that Australia has its very own version of fireflies which guided my way on the dark and rocky path.
I am here on a work-for-board scheme I found through the website HelpX (A cheaper, broader but more amateur version of Wwoof).
My mornings are greeted with wallabies intent on penetrating the owner’s vegetable garden, hidden joeys wriggling in their pockets. I have encountered a snake or two on a wander or during work. I’ve been bitten by bull ants and moths and scratched a thousand times over by a number of different kinds of farm machinery and paraphernalia. My skin has been sucked of all moisture as I play all day in mud and dirt to create an earthen house for the owners.
As a result I have finally had to confront the practical side of me I have so long denied, wielding an electronic sander with a sense of power and accomplishment only someone who lives solely in their headspace can really appreciate.
It’s a business exchange here – my extremely limited construction experience and a willingness to learn in return for a rough-built bed and wholly natural vegetarian food (MEAT, I NEED MEAT!!). And I’m surprisingly content. I haven’t entered a shop in a week, haven’t handed over a bank note, haven’t engaged in any television-watching (for want of a television).
My farm family consists of the owners (a highly spiritual couple who meditate for an hour before dinner and want to live off the earth to become completely self-sufficient in the event of economic collapse) and another helper (a French musician who bursts into operatic singing whilst he works with saws and sanders).
For a while, we had another visitor. My first glimpse of him was driving up in a banged-up combie rattling along the dirt driveway. After the car was parked and he got out, I was met with a tall man with a Jesus beard and dressed entirely in orange robes; a monk of the spiritual path the owners follow. He approached, stuck out his hand and introduced himself in a guttural Kiwi voice. And from that point on I decided monks can be a hell of a lot more fun than one would first imagine.
The other night my hosts held a dinner for all their neighbours and friends on this spiritual community land they share. In the absence of a television and a supermarket close at hand to buy Doritos and chocolate, our dinner consisted of hand-picked vegetables from their garden and home-made bread, and the entertainment revolved entirely around discussion and communal and individual musical performances. It involved human connection in its purest and rawest form. And it was damned bliss I tell ya.
Wwoofing not your thing? Check out some of my other antipodean adventures to find something that suits you: