Friday, January 11, 2013

Australia Part 1: The Farm

My apologies for getting these posts up so late. We returned to the U.S. late Saturday night, I co-hosted a pizza party at the synagogue on Sunday and we all returned to work and school on Monday. Between severe jet-lag, book club, roller derby and the girls' activities, there wasn't a moment to spare.

We left for Australia right after school let out on Friday, December 21st. I'd taken the day off work, and in the morning we attended Zoe's elementary school holiday sing. We got to the airport around 4pm for our 6pm flight and sailed through security.

Then our flight was delayed and our gate changed. And changed again. I was anxious about making our connection to Sydney as we only had a one hour layover at LAX. It was tight, but we made it.

Our luggage didn't. But kudos to QANTAS, which not only boasts the nicest, newest jumbo jets ever (complete with free wine and liquor, decent food, nice flight attendants and more TV and movies than we could ever watch!), but a luggage service that cheerfully coordinated the delivery of our two checked bags to a farm four hours south of Sydney 24 hours after we did.

My sister and her family share a weekend farm with her mother-in-law Sally and her brother and sister-in-law (who, incidentally, also live downstairs from them in the city). It's near a popular vacation area halfway between Sydney and Melbourne, so Eleanor was anxious for us to hit the road ahead of the Christmas traffic. Even though we left Chicago on December 21st, it was the morning of the 23rd when we arrived, so we split into two cars (they have a Volvo station wagon and a 4-door Toyota pickup truck) and hit the road right away.

It was cool and raining lightly when we arrived, but the farm still wowed me. So pretty and pastoral with its trees, paddocks, pond and creek. They keep a flock of sheep, a small herd of cows and two alpacas (whose job it is to keep the sheep safe from predators). In addition to the farm animals, we saw plenty of wild wallabies, a snake and a couple of wombats. And lots of poop. Cow patties, sheep pellets and wombat poo everywhere. The farm is off the grid, with solar power providing the electricity (although there is a generator for running the dishwasher on cloudy days) and a rainwater collection system for the taps. The pond near the house is man made and there in case of bush fire (although the animals seemed to enjoy drinking from it).

Trimming the "tree"
We've never celebrated Christmas with the girls, but they quickly got into the spirit, helping decorate a tree my brother in law Simon felled and oohing and ahhing over the items "Santa" left for them in their stockings. Even Zoe, who is fairly certain Santa Claus isn't real, let herself get swept up in her cousin Eliza's fantasy, saying "How can Santa be our parents? You and Eleanor would never buy us Coco-Pops cereal!"

My favorite part of any celebration is the food, and the Aussies didn't disappoint. We had two Christmas meals, Sally's giant glazed ham for lunch and Eleanor's roast turkey for dinner.

While in the Milton/Ulladulla area, we visited a number of beaches, ate more than a few fish and chips (balking at the $2 surcharge for ketchup, which they call "tomato sauce"), and had a cookout and picnic in one of the farm's paddocks (complete with a swing that Simon jerry-rigged for the kids).

No booster seats or seat belts back here!
But the highlight of our trip was probably the day that--after clearing the road of some trees Simon had cut down--the 9 of us piled into the truck and drove on the most hair-raisingly steep and bumpy dirt track. All Kleins were in the back of the pickup, hanging on for dear life as two wet dogs and a chain saw slid back and forth against our feet and legs. We also got to climb through a crystal clear stream, which my kids fjorded naked except for their Keens. If travel is about getting away from your regular life, I think we were successful.
Picnicking in the paddock
I tried paddle boarding

Up next: Sydney!
Not another soul on this beach