Bore running. It’s one of the regular jobs in outback Australia and we recently had our first experience. The stations are large (thousands to millions of acres/hectares). There’s a lot of cattle around in good times, fewer in bad, but however many there are, they need water. Given that 90% of the water supply in the Northern Territory comes from groundwater it’s not surprising that there are around 35,000 water bores in the NT.
Stock water comes from these bores and needs to be pumped up into tanks and then into troughs for the cattle to drink from. So the engines or solar panels that run the pumps need to be checked, fuelled and maintained. This has to happen regularly as a reliable water supply is obviously crucial. So a bore runner is the person who constantly checks each bore, tank and trough and travels hundreds to thousands of kilometres along the way depending on the size of the station.
To be a bore runner it helps if you like driving and are comfortable navigating without road signs. You need to be a good driver. Bulldust, bogs, breakdowns, termite mounds, kangaroos and wild cattle running about are a few of the challenges. Oh and it’s hot. On the plus side it’s a peaceful drive in natural surroundings, there’s a definite lack of traffic and the customers don’t complain.
The mid-Northern Territory landscape features red dust (or mud in the wet season), grey-green grasses and short trees, magnificent sunrises and sunsets and endless stars at night. Then there’s the termite mounds, not the huge monoliths of further North, but the landscape is peppered with termite construction, albeit of a smaller scale.
They do remind you of the fact that there are more insects than people in the world.
And unlike humans, the termites don’t care if they build next to (or on) a highway. A barbed wire fence is considered to be merely a useful piece of framework.
There’s lots of interesting facts about the termites but the local lore says:
Don’t run into them with a vehicle or a horse – they are as solid as concrete
They won’t melt in the rain
Not all termite mounds are occupied, some are holiday houses!
There are plenty of other jobs on stations such as caretaking, cooking, gardening, childcare, building and machine maintenance, fencing, stock work and animal care. It’s an awesome experience. See our earlier post on finding farm work in Australia for suggestions on sites should you fancy a job in rural and remote areas.
Since being on the road we have noticed heaps of work offered that involves maintaining and mowing lawns. Possibly because people don’t have enough time, or don’t really enjoy mowing the lawn.
So it’s not too strange that resorting to the help of a living lawn mower or two is becoming quite popular. It’s also considered to be ecologically friendly.
So what’s a living lawn mower? Almost anything that eats grass could be considered, however the most regular choices are animals such as goats, sheep, donkeys, horses, cows, llamas, alpacas, geese and even guinea pigs – depending on the size of your acreage.
Before you dash out to buy your new living lawn mower though there’s a few things to think about.
What kind of animal you employ will depend on a number of things:
How big is the area to be mowed? Will one animal be enough for the area or do you need two, or a herd?
Does the animal eat only grass or will it need supplementary feed? Will it be likely to eat your lawn down to bare earth or snack on plants or trees you don’t want it to eat?
What kind of healthcare and maintenance is involved – worming, shearing, foot trimming?
How will you provide water and shelter for your living lawnmower?
Are there any threats such as feral or native animals that like to eat your brand of lawn mower?
What kind of fencing will be needed (e.g. for goats it needs to be pretty good as they are great at escaping)
What kind of poo does the animal produce and how will it affect your lawn (e.g. cow poo tends to be sloppy, horse poo chunky etc)
What impact will the animal’s hooves/feet/weight have on your grass?
Aside from savings on labour and fuel, depending on which animal/s you decide on, there may be some extra bonuses. For example, free fertiliser, meat, milk, wool, eggs and often just the sheer entertainment value of their presence and antics.
So there you go, consider retiring the mechanical mower and adding a decorative, living lawn mower or two to your landscape.
Whether you prefer to stay at caravan parks or freecamps is a regular topic of conversation between travellers on the road. Briefly, to explain the difference between caravan parks and “freecamps” (and for the purposes of this article I am including low cost camps as “free”) caravan parks usually have a variety of amenities (power, water, rubbish collection, laundry facilities, bbq areas, pools, sporting facilities etc) for their cost whereas freecamps tend to have fewer or no facilities and a lower, or zero, cost.
Complaints are sometimes received from caravan park owners that the freecamps take their business. This may be true to a degree but only if the people who are freecamping would use the caravan park if there was not another option. In very popular tourist areas sometimes it is difficult to get a space at a caravan park should you want to stay in one. Some travellers will simply bypass a town if it has no freecamps.
There are different kinds of travellers
If you are going on your annual holiday you will probably be ready and willing to spend freely for your vacation.
If you live on the road, either through working requirement, retirement, inability to afford a house, extended vacation, to see the country or any other long term reason, most people’s budget will not allow for caravan parks ($20-$45+ for a site) every night.
For example, retirees living on the aged pension currently receive around $600 per week. If they had to pay $200+ per week in a caravan park there is not a lot left for food, fuel, maintenance of vehicles, insurance and all the other costs of living. Similarly if you are a backpacker living in a tent and picking fruit to earn a wage, you probably won’t be able to earn enough to pay living expenses and continue to travel (unless you are a gun picker of course).
Yet there seems to be a wide held opinion that people who stay in freecamps are cheap, even total misers. Some are – yes, we’ve seen you arrive late and leave early to save yourself gulp! $5, $10 or even a gold coin donation – but in the majority of cases it is the travelling market voting with their feet (or wheels) and choosing the option that meets their needs at a price they can afford.
A further consideration is your method of travel. If you only have a tent you will need facilities at some point. If you have a fully ensuited caravan with solar power, then your requirements will be less.
Some travellers will only stay in caravan parks as they are perceived to be more secure than freecamps. Some freecampers will stay in caravan parks some of the time for the facilities and convenience. Some travellers will never stay in a caravan park if they can avoid it.
Overall, there is more than one kind of traveller and they need more than one kind of accommodation.
Local Community Views
There are many freecamps in small communities, either in addition to the local caravan park or because there isn’t one.
In a large number of small towns the council or local groups have set up freecamps or allowed the use of community assets such as sports grounds to be used. Often if a fee is charged the money goes to community groups and /or to the maintenance and improvement of the site. The general view appears to be that travellers are welcome as they contribute money to the local economy (which may only be a general store and/or a pub) that would not otherwise be available. Particularly in drought, flood and fire affected areas, tourists are needed. And there seem to be plenty of places that have one or more of these events happening constantly.
Freecamps are a plus for local businesses as no matter how frugal a traveller you are, you have to buy food and fuel. It can happen that if a town doesn’t have a low cost camping option the traveller’s business will go to the next town that does. Recently we stayed in a town which had both a caravan park and a freecamp. While at the local hairdressers I was interested to hear a discussion about the freecamp. Travellers are asked to put their receipts in a box. Apparently they regularly total @$10K per week. And that would only be from the probably very small percentage of people who remembered to save their receipts and put them in the box.
Another aspect to consider is events of every kind, music, arts, markets etc. Many towns have iconic annual or more regular events where accommodation is at a premium. Freecamps can provide that bit extra accomodation when it’s needed.
Location, Location, Location
Both caravan parks and freecamps can be situated in the middle of town or further out, on the banks of rivers, in beautiful parks and by the beach. One difference that does come up quite often is that freecamps often have that bit more space to spread out your camp and choice on where you park.
Less Facilities, Less Rules
Freecamps often have a broader acceptance of pets and the ability to have campfires. On the other side, there will not always be a caretaker to answer questions and solve problems. Frequently you will need to take your rubbish with you. Some camps will have water, toilets, dump points and power, some will only have a place to park.
So, What’s the Answer?
Broadly, there is room for both caravan parks and freecamps. I’ve seen many towns happily incorporate this. The exceptions have been where the local caravan park either has a bad reputation (you can’t get away from social media, wikicamps etc) or is badly placed, far from the attractions etc. One answer might be to have (as we have seen in several places) caravan parks that offer two tiers of accommodation. You can have all the facilities for a premium price, or simply somewhere to park, water and rubbish collection for a discounted amount, therefore catering to everyone’s needs. Another idea is for caravan parks to offer some extra truly useful attraction, for example the Gundagai Tourist Park installed a weighbridge for their customers and another park we’ve stayed in offers caravan repairs. Brilliant idea.
In 2018 there were 670,000+ registered RVs in Australia and 23,000 new ones were manufactured. They’ve all got to park somewhere when they go on tour. With these numbers plus tents and every other variety of camping options, there really should be business enough for everyone.
Of all the things you think about when going on the road, I must admit that doing the laundry was not the first thing that sprang to mind. That was until the washing piled up. Then a few social and practical issues arose.
Here’s what I’ve noticed.
Anything can be a clothes line. Fences, gates, stray branches. All good.
The State of Your Washing
You might rethink some of your clothes.
Is your underwear fit for public display on the communal washing line or wherever you are hanging it? It can be too disreputable or too lovely! All depends what you’re comfortable with.
Are there some clothes that are possibly past their use-by date? Perhaps items that were alright in private but less than stylish (depending on how in-style you like to travel) worn, or otherwise ungorgeous?
Quick check: will you be at ease hanging out and collecting your washing however public the washing line? You can of course use dryers where available but that’s a fairly expensive option and you won’t always be in a situation where you have an “inside” in which to dry things.
It’s All About Sharing
On the road you will always be using someone else’s laundry (unless you are in a hotel or motel that provides a – usually expensive – washing service). Whether you are using machines in accommodation provided by an employer, with friends, in a caravan park, or using the machines at the local laundromat you’ll be relying on someone else’s equipment.
Some washing machines work well and treat your clothes gently and some will destroy them. Likewise some washing machines will be really clean and some, not so much. It’s worth taking these uncertainties into account when deciding whether to expose your sentimental favourite, expensive or irreplaceable items to life on the road. Yes you can handwash in a sink or bucket but dripping wet clothes can be a challenge, particularly in cold climates.
Sharing facilities also means that you won’t always be able to do your washing when you want to. Other people will want to do their washing too.
I’ve learnt what clothes I really need, what clothes are practical, and pruned accordingly. Some things just haven’t survived. Delicate items that need handwashing can languish in the washing bag for quite a while so I’ve seriously cut down on those as well as clothes that take too long to dry. What’s left of the wardrobe is fit for purpose. And it’s a whole lot lighter and takes up less space.
The availability of washing facilities can be hard to predict. It could be a long way to the next laundry or you could be somewhere that is washing hostile. For example: towns with limited or substandard water, it’s Winter and snowing, there’s red dust blowing everywhere, you get the idea. Keeping an eye on how many clean clothes remain has become bit of a habit for me. Of course you can always keep wearing the same clothes but there comes a point where it really isn’t a great idea.
Soap it Up
Remembering to have some laundry powder or liquid handy – you may or may not be able to find/buy some when you need it. If there’s none to be had you can do without, or substitute a little shampoo.
When doing washing in a laundromat, chances are you’ll need cash, often coins. Depends where you are of course but I have found few laundromats, as yet, that accept card payments. Keep some coins handy for this.
Somewhere, somewhen you’re going to leave some laundry behind.
It’s nice to be clean, however when you’re travelling it’s likely you won’t be washing as often or in the same ways to the same standard as you do at home. Relax. It’s all part of the adventure
Tasmania is a totally intriguing and enchanting place to visit for short stay. A longer stay though allows the traveller to sink softly into the land and culture and discover some of its less obvious charms.
Many appealing features of the island consist of what it lacks (if you find this idea quite puzzling, skip ahead to the last point in this article). While the scenic delights and wild beauty are well illustrated and documented in the many videos, brochures and promotions of the island, some lesser known features add yet more colours to the rainbow that is the apple isle.
Here be some of the friendliest people you’ll come across. In Tasmania people tend greet you and want to have a chat. You get a sense they are proud of their island and genuinely interested in whether you are having a great time on your visit to their backyard. Our experience is that they are keen to offer advice on where to find wildlife, little known attractions and places to eat/drink/get the car repaired. Whatever you might be looking for, they’ll know about it or know someone who does. You might even get invited to go fishing or be gifted with the bounty of someone’s backyard orchard or veggie patch.
Along with some totally charming place names (Promised Land, Snug, Nowhere Else, Paradise and many more) Tasmanians tend to personalise their towns and homes with topiary, murals, woodcarvings, quirky postboxes, scarecrows and whatever else springs to mind. This tendency decorates the landscape with unusual features that are sure to make you smile.
If you love wildlife then Tasmania really is heaven. There is an absolute abundance pretty much everwhere you go. You are very likely to have magical encounters with platypus, echidna, wallabies, black cockies, eagles and possibly even the odd Tassie Devil. Several areas boast wild penguins and seals. You need to drive carefully though as the wildlife mostly has zero road sense.
The Tasmanian Government provides a great guide to Aboriginal cultural heritage and there are multiple tours available to help visitors learn about Aboriginal history and culture.
Everywhere you go beautiful old buildings, bridges and other infrastructure bear witness to the convict and settler days. Maritime history is particularly well represented and you can find out just how far Bass and Flinders travelled and explored in their relatively short lives (Bass died at 32 and Flinders at 40).
Virtually the entire coast of Tasmania is littered with shipwrecks – over one thousand of them. Most are from the early days of discovery and settlement but some are more recent. It’s amazing to think of all those people who set out to cross thousands of kilometres of ocean with unreliable maps and without being able to swim (of course many of them didn’t get to vote on their travel plans).
For those who love tracing their ancestors there are multiple records and sites to explore.
Food & Wine
You really can’t say enough about Tasmania’s food and wine. From crisp apples dripping with juice to artisan cheeses, honey, berries, chocolates, smallgoods, spices, wines, gin, the list goes on. Depending on the time of year you can find a variety of roadside stalls offering the bounty of the season. Seafood is fresh and plentiful. Eating and drinking are serious pleasures in Tasmania and there are myriad cafes, restaurants, hotels, breweries, wineries and picnic spots to explore.
The flora and fauna have their own festival rhythms and you can follow them on Discover Tasmania’s Nature Events.
Otherwise there are multiple festivals and events throughout the year. Film, ferret racing, food, wine, medieval, penny farthings, seafood, yachting, SteamFest, Agfest, all kinds of music, chocolate, art, Dark Mofo. Discover Tasmania has a great list. Take your pick.
While not necessarily applicable to the larger centres due to their greater populations, Tasmania has a notable lack of:
Noise. So much perfect silence, broken only by natural sounds (hello ever-present, excitable turbo chooks, the eerie cries of yellow-tailed black cockatoos and the thump of small wallabies hopping in the night).
Crowds. Aside from the bigger cities and most popular tourist spots there’s plenty of quiet camping places, deserted beaches, mountains, bush tracks and waterfalls.
Graffiti. Very little of this. Lots of murals though.
Traffic Lights. Few of these outside the major centres. There are roundabouts and speed bumps however but I’m not sure you can avoid these anywhere with sealed roads in the known world.
Road Rage. There might be some somewhere but I’ve found Tasmanian drivers on the whole to be pretty calm. There’s certainly less traffic and so less frustration. Definition of annoying traffic from one local was “three cars lined up at the (only) traffic light, time to find an alternate route”.
Parking fees. Some apply in the bigger cities but in general you don’t have to pay to park at every local beach and attraction. It’s a win.
Rules. There are less of them and less of those signposts with an overly-exhausting list of things you can’t do. It is often assumed that you will be a reasonable, courteous and tidy human being. While not everyone may live up to this expectation, it’s a lovely one nonetheless.
So there you are. Some pretty good reasons to visit Tasmania without even covering the hiking, boating, fishing, mountainbiking, diving, caving and four-wheel driving. It’s an overworked phrase but there is something for everyone. And those somethings are really quite special.
When our local library was being rebuilt there was a suggestion that the new version need not contain actual books. This suggestion was howled down by those who prefer their books in a more substantial form than the electronic version and so it came to be that printed books were reinstated. While you’re travelling of course ebooks are the easiest to come by and weigh nothing. If you prefer the solid version however here’s where you can go to resupply.
De Facto Libraries
Usually found in the laundry, bbq or other communal area in caravan parks and other accommodation providers. A great place to unload the books you’ve read and pick up some new ones.
While not yet on every street corner, Street Libraries are proliferating around Australia. Here’s one I found conveniently located at the bus stop in Tunbridge, Tasmania.
Anyone can start a street library and I think it’s a great idea.
Ok so these are not an actual library but I tend to use them as one except of course you need to pay for the book originally. Then I give it back when I’m finished.
I have asked at many libraries along the way while travelling whether I can use my library card from my local library. While there are some libraries that are connected, sadly you cannot run around Australia and borrow and return wherever you like. Tasmania however has a wondrously friendly idea: visitors can apply for a three month membership. Hopefully the rest of Australia will realise just how many people there are working/living/travelling away from home who would love greater access to libraries wherever they may be staying.
National and State Libraries
It’s worth noting that you can join the National Library if you live in Australia and have an Australian residential address. This gives you access to a range of electronic resources in addition to the freely available ones. Similarly each State Library has a membership program which extends the usually available resources and services, see the State Library of Victoria for an example of the advantages of membership.
Finally, there are always ebooks (as long as you have internet access or have already downloaded them)
For the frugal reader there are quite a few free sites for ebooks. Then of course there is Amazon, Google Play, Kobo ebooks, Barnes and Noble, ebooks.com and many more where you can purchase ebooks of all varieties.
A few weeks ago a traveller rolled up with his boat in tow. Yep, that’s his house, he did stay in it overnight and the caravan park owners didn’t raise an eyebrow. It got me thinking about all the different ways there are to live, given that houses and all their costs are climbing beyond the reach of many people. A house in the suburbs definitely isn’t the only option…so here’s a few thoughts on alternative places to hang your hat (or make more use of the place you have).
Favoured by an ever-increasing number of the population is living on the road. Places to pull up include caravan parks, freecamps, national parks, commercial and private properties, by the roadside and of course with friends and relatives and employers with enough space on the property. Fuelled by retirement, redundancy, frustration with suburban life or simply a desire to venture out and see the country, great numbers of Australians, of all hair colours, are trading in their house for a more mobile-friendly (and cheaper) version.
Something That Floats
Also very mobile are yachts, motor yachts and houseboats. While some nautical skills may be needed with this option, places to stay can be almost as wide as the ocean and you can always hire someone to move the boat when you’re tired of the view (or cart it round and sleep in it whilst on a trailer as mentioned above though I’m not sure if there are any actual rules about that).
If you’d like someone else to take responsibility for the boat, long term cruises can be a relatively cheap option depending on your circumstances and given that accommodation, food and entertainment are all covered, plus you get to travel. A wonderful way to change your backyard regularly, particularly if you’re into water views.
Work for Your Board
There are multiple ways to do this. Housesitting (feed the animals, water the plants etc), farmwork where accommodation is included, some nannying/housekeeping jobs include accommodation, as do a lot of caravan park/hotel management and caretaking jobs. Jobs that are in remote locations will also often include accommodation. Agriculture, mining, medical, hospitality and community services are some of the areas likely to offer this benefit.
A Block of Land
OK, practically this one will depend on the locality you choose but with a block of land outside of suburbia you may be able to look at options such as fitted out shipping containers, tiny homes, kit homes, yurts, treehouses or any other type of non-typical dwelling you might desire. You will have to consider the local building and council regulations with this option.
If you are prepared to share your living space then there are quite a few ways to do it that either reduce your living expenses or add to your income. First of all you can share the house you live in with others. This might be through housemates, organisations like airbnb or hosting international students. Another option is co-operative housing which takes wide-ranging forms, this site gives more information on the many ways you can participate in co-operative living.
Want or need to do some farm work? Here we look at options for finding agricultural work for backpackers, travellers, nomads of all ages, working holidaymakers and anyone really who wants to experience life on the land.
We’ve been on the road for a few years now and one of the most common questions we get asked is how we find work along the way. The places we’ve worked have been totally memorable for the experiences, the scenery and the people we’ve met, so there’s far more benefit to working around the country than just the $ – though of course $ are most useful. So here’s a list of some helpful resources. Of course some jobs, and some farms/employers, are better than others. Do your research before you go to make sure you have an awesome experience and not an awesomely bad one.
Note that while the following list covers a wide range of options for farm work, there are some sites/pages/groups that specialise in work particularly for backpackers, some for grey nomads and some who are glad to see any jobseeker who’ll turn up (straight,sober and cheerful) and be capable of and willing to do the work that needs to be done.
So if a job interests you, why not make an enquiry about it? Here’s a few places to start your search.
Extensive listings of fruit picking, harvest and other rural jobs. Need to sign up but there is a free subscription option. Has useful guides on what’s involved when working with various different crops information guides for backpackers. Also on FB.
All kinds of jobs listed here from caretaking to mystery shopping. Many of the jobs are rural/remote – though not all – and you can find some of the most unusual work here. My favourite: “parrot scaring technician”. Some jobs are paid, some are exchange and some a combination of both. Also on FB.
If you haven’t discovered Gumtree, well it is a treat and one of my favourite goto’s for a great many useful things in life. Here you can find listings of all kinds of jobs including a Farming and Veterinary section. I have also seen people put up their own ads in jobs wanted. A lot of employers like Gumtree because it is popular and also free to advertise but you need to be aware there is no verification or review process on the site so use caution when advertising and/or responding to advertisements
Australian Government site providing information for jobseekers about various crops, locations and seasons (the Harvest Trail). You can download the National Harvest Guide from this site and/or call the National Harvest Information Service on 1800 062 332 to find out about harvest trail jobs.
A recruitment agency focussed on rural work with clients mainly in Western Australia. They encourage applications from Australians and overseas visitors, particularly looking for people with skills in driving tractors, trucks, headers, combine harvesters and similar. Also on FB.
On Seek you can search for any kind of job by keyword/classification/location or any combination. So with agricultural work it’s easy to set your search for the type of work and location you want. Also on FB.