Woodbridge, Tasmania – An Excellent Learning Experience

We were a bit surprised to find that there were few workaway hosts in Tasmania. Not only that, but the hosts that we did contact either didn’t reply or were unable to take us at that time. So in a last minute ditch attempt, we contacted 4 hosts and once and everyone got back to us straight away! We decided to go with a host that ran a luxury accommodation near Woodbridge in the south section of the island. After our day in Hobart, our site manager, Jason, picked us up in town and brought us to our new home. This was when we realized that driving in Tasmania was like rally racing. The roads were SO narrow and there were countless ups and downs, twists and turns, and to top it off, wildlife dashing across the road dusk, dawn and all through the night. It’s amazing there aren’t more serious car crashes there.

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The view from the lodge, overlooking Bruny Island

The site we would be working on was quite large, with a main lodge that houses around 14 visitors with a full catering kitchen, entertainment room, bathrooms and dining hall. All made of Tasmanian wood and with sweeping views of the hillside and looking down onto Bruny Island. There was also a large indoor heated pool beside the lodge with the same stunning view. Gorgeous!

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The indoor heated pool, with the same gorgeous view. Windows on three sides makes for sweeping views of the coast

There were also four individual cabins that also looked down over the ocean and each of these was a lovely self contained unit with cooking facilities, large jacuzzi tub and king bed with a view. I unfortunately didn’t get any photos since we just had a quick peek before the visitors arrived.

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On the far left is our kitchen, next to it the Toyota Coaster (our room) and the plant nurseries

I knew we wouldn’t be staying in any of the luxury accommodations but I wasn’t really sure what to expect for our sleeping situation. It turned out we were given a choice of two sleeping situations since we were the only workers at the time. The first option was an old ‘coaster’ 5 metre long RV on blocks, with a double bed and that’s about it since the kitchen / toilet is useless without power and water. The second option was a larger unit, actually a shipping container, around 7 metres long with double bunks on each end and a bit of shelving. Since this shipping container had been equipped for use in Antarctica (and had since returned from that purpose), it was very well insulated and lacked windows. Based on these, we decided to go with the RV since we could have it to ourselves.

The unfortunate part was that the bathroom was a separate building around 40 metres away, and thus a dark and cold walk for any midnight bathroom emergencies. The kitchen was a great little self contained building beside both accommodations that was only used by workers so it was a good place to make and eat food as well as just hang out.

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One of the hosts’ dogs, Rusty, a kelpie puppy. In this photo he has found a new toy, unfortunately it’s a dead bird..

The grocery situation was also fantastic, since we were able to make all of our own food using groceries that we picked out and the host paid for. Perfect! We enjoyed the privacy and independence of that situation, but we also really loved the group dinners that we would share with our hosts in the main lodge.

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Weeding was a big ongoing job. Dan is showing off his enormous weed, and he is holding a tool that he learned to weld himself!

The work on site mostly revolved around tending the expansive gardens (mostly rhododendrons) as well as managing the endless wood stacks. All of the buildings, even the heated pool ran on burning firewood which meant that there was always work to be done moving stacks of firewood from one place to another. Always. With the gardens we learned about local weeds, how to dead-head, how to mulch and also did a bit of planting. One of the staff (a long-term wwoofer) was also really keen to teach us any new skill we were interested in learning, which was awesome! I tried my hand at sanding and assisting with assembling wooden window frames. Dan had a chance to do some welding, angle grinding and forging. Together we also assisted with setting up the foundation of a new property and laying down a hardwood floor. It was a great place to learn new skills and we were always encouraged to ask lots of questions which was really appreciated.

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Dan showing off the acetylene torch he used for cutting parts to make his tool

My favourite part about this workaway however was the fact that we were surrounded by amazing people! The owner and his son were hilarious and always so cheerful regardless of how long they had worked or how early it was in the day. They loved to joke and had a great sense of humour which made tasks a lot more bearable! The site managers were a husband wife team originally from the UK who were very fun and loved to tease. They were always checking to make sure we were comfortable and liked to involve everyone in activities. There was another couple who had been doing the wwoof circuit before and decided to anchor themselves at this site for a year or more while the wife was expecting. They were from Victoria on the mainland and were so friendly and helpful, which made our tasks a lot less stressful. I really enjoyed hearing about their travels, they had a lovely sense of humour. Every single person on site had an unbelievable work ethic and went above and beyond what I have seen at any other site we have been to. They are all very welcoming to new comers as well, which, in such a remote site, makes a huge difference as well.

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Our lovely hosts, from left to right: Jason (Mandy is missing from the photo) the site managers from the UK, Gareth and Clair from Victoria, Fintan the owner, Shawn his son (the carpenter) and his Canadian girlfriend Maggie.

When we did have some time off, we were always encouraged to see some new spots and get a feel for the area. We started by exploring the property, and were pleasantly surprised to find an echidna in the forest on our first night!

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Our first wild Echidna! Busy sniffing around the forest floor

We were also invited to join the owner and his son on a quick fishing trip one afternoon where we caught several Flatheads. Shawn also accidentally caught a little octopus, which managed to make it’s way out of the boat and back to the ocean safely. The guys gutted the flatheads and cooked them up for dinner that night – apparently they are quite a tasty fish.

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Fishing for flathead, Fintan with his dog Shep the Kelpie

We were also able to tag along with the ladies on a trip to the local Huon Show, where there were carnival rides, local merchants, horse jumping, dog shows, livestock competitions, a wood splitting contest, live music, and more. It was a pretty exciting outing and a great way to learn more about the community as well.

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One of the old farm equipment displays at the Huon Show

One of our last outings was a drive over to Bruny Island (courtesy of our long-term wwoofer friend). We stopped off at the cheese shoppe for a tasting, walked along the beach looking for shells, explored the coast and a beautiful lighthouse, tramped through the bush to find white wallabies and enjoyed the amazing views. It was a day to remember.

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A Pied Oystercatcher on Bruny Island

After our two weeks we were sad to say goodbye to our new friends, but we were really grateful for what we learned and that we had the opportunity to see and do so much in such a short time! For having stayed in a small section of the state for so long, I can only imagine how amazing the rest of the island is!

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It wasn’t easy to say goodbye to our new friend Gareth, pictured here with Jason’s dog, Reagan

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