Volunteering in the Hills

Trip Start Feb 25, 2006
Trip End Feb 25, 2007

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Where I stayed
Adelaide Hills Wilderness Lodge

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Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Hey everyone

Hope you are all well?

I've just finished my week of volunteering in Adelaide Hills so thought I would fill you in!

I spent a day exploring the city of Adelaide before I went up to 'the hills', and I was quite impressed. I have met a lot of people who didn't really like Adelaide, saying it was too small or that there wasn't much going on there, but I quite liked it. There are lovely trees lining the roads adorned with the most amazing lilac coloured blossom. I took a walk down to the Torrens river and Botanical Gardens where everything is in full bloom, being Spring, and it was really pretty. Adelaide was also a lot warmer than I expected, which was welcome after the changeable and chilly Melbourne weather! The city itself is quite compact, but has a nice laid back vibe about it and a great shopping street - Rundle Street Mall - so all in all I was pleasantly surprised. I also took the tram down to Glenelg, which is a small beach town, and it was pleasant enough although they are currently doing some work to the beach, so I only stayed on it for an hour - there were huge trucks rumbling up and down the beach transporting the sand from one end to the other so it didn't make for a very relaxing sunbathing session!

I also called up the Adelaide Hills Wilderness Lodge and was told that they were currently full with volunteers, but they managed to squeeze me in luckily as I only had a week or so and it was what I had come to Adelaide to do after all!

So, the following day (Tuesday) I packed my bags again and got the bus from the city to Aldgate, which is the nearest town to the lodge, and awaited my lift. The sanctuary is very pretty and has only been running a couple of years. In that time Max and Sonia (the married couple who run it) have done an amazing job, with the help of volunteers, to turn it from a sports complex into a wildlife sanctuary and education centre for school kids (who go there either for day trips or two night programmes).

After meeting the other six volunteers (John & Sophie, a couple from the UK, Miriam and Tomas, not a couple but both from Germany, Come (pronounced Com) from France and Barbara from Switzerland) I was soon put to good use in helping John and Sophie move bunk beds into some of the tents in preparation for the 120 school kids who were arriving the following day! There were actually two groups in for two nights, and it was the first time they had run two groups simultaneously - meaning two sittings for each meal and putting some up in the dorms and others in teepees which had only recently been erected. So, you can imagine it was a bit stressful! Sonia had a National Park inspection that morning too, but I got to speak to her in the afternoon and she gave me an attractive green t-shirt (see photo I have uploaded) that all the volunteers wear so they are easily identifiable, as well as a 'Volunteer' badge, so I certainly felt the part! She also told me that I needed to wear jeans and trainers whilst working, even if it was really hot, as there are a lot of snakes about, some venomous, and jeans and closed shoes are the best protection from them!

Back at the house I was introduced to some of the animals - Cabal the Kangaroo Hound, who is a very soppy and very large dog, and Roxy an extremely cute five week old fox cub that had been orphaned at two weeks old when her Mum was shot by a hunter. Foxes are feral and a pest in Australia, but the hunter took pity on the tiny cub and brought her to the sanctuary, and Sonia and Max have been hand rearing her ever since. The size difference between Cabal and Roxy was quite amusing, but by the time I left Roxy had proved who was boss. She got very playful and when Cabal was laying on the floor would go up to him and bite his ears, and he would just put up with it - I think he has a lot more to come, bless him! Roxy also started to recognise people and would run up to us when we came through the door wagging her tail, panting and making a noise that was a cross between a kitten and a puppy, wanting attention and to bite your feet (which she had a bit of a penchant for - a bit painful when I was wearing my flip flops!).

The sanctuary has just over 100 animals including a kangaroo called Fergus who lives in the back garden, Quoll Face - a baby quoll that John and Sophie were tasked with trying to tame so that he could be handled, Smooch - a very friendly red tailed black cockatoo, Cookie - a kookaburra, Stumpy - a 'two headed' lizard, Mooshoo - a frill necked lizard, Jasper - a 3.8m scrub python and Sam - a water python. These were the animals that were usually shown in presentations to the school children, but there were plenty of others including hopping mice, dunnuts, a monitor lizard, possums, diamond pythons and other snakes, a rare leaf tailed lizard, cockatoos, bats, and a currawong. There were also visiting birds in the garden - gallahs, Adelaide rosellas and pigeons, and also bettongs within the wire fencing that had recently been put up around the 13 acre sanctuary. It was great to be surrounded by so many lovely animals in such a natural setting.

Generally the volunteers work from 9.00am to 3.30pm with a one hour break for lunch. We got all our food and our accommodation provided in return for work, which was great as I didn't spend a cent all week. The work varied from day to day - one day I baked around 400 cookies for the school children (and have the burns on my hand to prove it!), another day I spent the whole day preparing meals (breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner) for the kids. I also sat in on some of the talks which were run by the paid workers (Lucy, Jane, Leisa, Bronwyn and Damien) and got to collect the animals from their pens and take them down to the presentations. This included catching the kookaburra and transferring him to a carry box to take down, carrying a squirming and wriggly Roxy in my arms, and also getting Smooch the cockatoo (who loves attention and cuddles, hence his name) onto my shoulder and carrying him down. Lots of hands on experience, which was great! I also walked Cabal a few times, which was more a case of him taking me for a walk as he is so strong! Some days were harder work than others, especially when they had the school children in who needed to be cooked for (the day trip children bring their own food), but it was a very enjoyable week and something that I will never forget doing.

In the evenings as there was no TV, we all chatted and hung out at the house together - the volunteers, Max, Sonia, their 15 year old son Brooke (who is very funny) and an assortment of animals. No TV was a good thing as it meant we all really bonded. The other volunteers were all really friendly and welcoming and we had lots of laughs together.

We also had the majority of the weekend off, just helping out with a few odd jobs that needed doing, but we got time to chill out in the sun and also handle the animals.

If you're interested, the sanctuary had a website - www.adelaidewilderness.com.au, so check it out and see more about where I spent the last week!

After an 11 hour train journey from Adelaide yesterday (which wasn't actually as bad as I thought it was going to be - they put a couple of films on including March of the Penguins which I have wanted to see for ages), I am back in St Kilda, and back at Olembia. I'm just staying for a few nights before hiring a car with Shelina on Sunday to make our way up to Sydney together - road trip!!!!! The following Sunday Michelle arrives to visit for just under 3 weeks (can't wait to see you, Mich!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and we have lots planned for her trip. So, it's on to more adventures. How am I ever going to settle back into working after this trip?!

Hope to hear from you all soon.

Love and an abundance of wildlife
Sharon x
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