The Good Life with the Goodworths

Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Helpx roles are something of a gamble, you only have other peoples reviews and the profile of the host to rely on when you pick where to apply. We stumbled upon Cassandra and Graeme Goodworth's profile when we were perusing and we were blown away by the amount of positive reviews.  Initially we got in touch and they already had helpxers, but by some fluke they had a cancellation and agreed to let us stay for just 2 nights on our way down the coast.

We usually go for the helpx roles that ask for 2 hours a day for free accommodation, this role was 4 hours a day but included food and accommodation so we decided to spread our wings and give it a go.

We rolled up in La Toya after two brief stops to get pictures of big things (Big Prawn – which strangely was in the car park of Bunnings Hardware store and the Big Banana) and found Graeme pottering on the balcony and we introduced ourselves and were initially a little concerned that we had got the wrong the house, as he seemed rather bemused to have two random pommes on his doorstep.  It turns out that as far as helpx hosts go, Cassandra and Graeme really are quiet special.  We are the first helpxers to ever turn up on our own, usually they are picking people up from the airport and bus station and ferrying them around during their stay.

Before we knew it we were sat around the kitchen table with tea and cake chatting to Cassandra and Graeme like we have known them forever.  Their lovely daughter Skye was there to introduce us to the other members of the family consisting mainly of very talkative birds of every size and colour.

Given that Helpx is still such an unknown creature we were intrigued to find out how and why they had got involved.  It turns out that one of their children had discovered it and had started to host travellers and they decided to give it a go to offer travellers a real taste of Australia.  They absolutely use helpx for the purpose that it is there for, which is to give and receive a cultural exchange.  They usually host Chinese tourists who have to travel to learn English as part of their studies, I can only hope that these students know how lucky they are to land on this doorstep.  The reason that Cassandra and Graeme have embraced helpx so fully is because 14 years ago Graeme was working in the mines and suffered an injury to his back in an accident.  He had to teach himself to walk again and whilst he is now mobile he is continually in pain and cannot travel as a result, so Helpx brings the world to them. 

Looking back now, it is hard to believe that we only spent 2 days with Cassandra and Graeme as we genuinely felt like part of their family and had an amazing experience with them.  One problem that we did encounter was that it was near on impossible for us to do our 4 hours work per day in between the day trips, hikes, kitchen table chats and eating the home cooked meals that were prepared for us.

Cassandra is an incredible cook and has even expanded her own repertoire to include Chinese cookery so as to give her guests a taste of home when they arrive.  The main shopping is obtained fresh from the garden with veggies, fruit and eggs all available.  The gardens are just beautiful and with chucks, ducks, rabbits, talking cockatoos and parrots this is a perfect little menagerie.

Our first day we pretty much chatted, ate and the closest we came to doing any work was feeding poor Shaker a little bird that Cassandra had found in the garden and rescued and was hand feeding. 

Cassandra has a bit of a ritual that she does with all her Helpxers, to see the sun rise in Dorrigo National Park followed by a rainforest walk and breakfast.  There is one small downside to this amazing experience, it requires a 4am start!  Determined not to join the ranks of the one and only helpexer that was too unfit to manage the walk we agreed, donned our pj’s and set the alarm for 4am.

What felt like about 10 minutes later the alarm was going off, after a quick cup of coffee to numb the pain we were packed and off.  After a good hour and a half drive, going up and up and up we made it just as we could see a hint of daylight appearing.  We headed over to the sky bridge and waited for the sun to appear.  Here we experienced something that we hadn’t for a long time, cold!  We would literally have to sneak to the viewpoint to see if the sun was coming, before we knew it our teeth would be chattering and we would running back to seek refuge.  But after a few looks suddenly we were rewarded with the most amazing warm orange glow as the sun rose through the clouds over the mountains.  With not a single other person around this was a truly special experience and one well worth a 4am start and we even got to see a little Pademelon (a forest wallaby) having breakfast .  Next up a rainforest walk covering around 5 kilometers and due to take about 2 and half hours; however with Tim and his arthritic knees we were all a little concerned as to how long it would take.  Seemingly there was nothing to worry about as Tim sped off ahead leaving Cassandra and I playing catch up the whole time.  After a few stops for photos in the amazing huge trees and at the stunning waterfalls and to spot a sneaky wallaby we managed to finish the walk in bang on 2 and a half hours.  The temperature had risen to what we were used to and we got to enjoy one of the best breakfasts we had had in a long time.  An almost full English cooked on one of the free hot plates, delish!!

We thought that we were headed home ready for some gardening, but our morning tour had just begun.  Next we went to the stunning Danger falls, then walked the length of the 1 kilometer Urunga  Boardwalk from the river entrance to the sea, it overlooked the most beautiful blue waters and every so often we would see a ray break the top of the water, on our way back we were so lucky to find a huge ray just resting in the shallows for us to see.  We stopped off at the local honey farm for some honey tastings and a fizzy drink and even en route home Cassandra took a diversion to take us to a spot where she knew some kangaroos would be relaxing.

After yet another delicious home cooked lunch it was finally time for us to do what we were here to do, HELP!!

In the garden a chook pen had been taken over by Wisteria and Choko Vine so we set to with sheers and clippers to find the original pen.  We salvaged as many roots of the Wisteria as we could in the hope that it could be replanted in a more apt place and after a couple of hours we finally found the original fence.  After a while, the early start and the rainforest trek took its toll on Tim and yet again Cassandra was looking after him, parking him on the sofa with her magic Palm Mag machine that realigns auras.  I did my best to make up for Tim’s absence, wheel barrowing rocks to plant new fence posts and clearing up the chook pen as best I could.  Although before long I was playing with rabbits and baby chicks and shirking all responsibility.

We had a lovely last evening with Cassandra and Graeme, back around the dinner table feasting on all sorts of freshly cooked veggies from the garden and sharing the highs and lows of our travels.  We definitely managed to do our bit at sharing some of the world with our horror stories from the Gobi Desert which left everyone with sore ribs from laughing and no desire to ever go to Mongolia.

Our last morning with Cassandra and Graeme before we set off on our next adventure and we were up early ready to do some work, however once again Cassandra had other ideas.  Wanting to make sure that we had seen as much as possible in the area she took us off on another day trip.  We headed to the coast and saw various viewpoints including the Bonville Lookout which gave views over to Mutton bird Island.  We had to return to the Big Banana as we had missed out on the sweet making when we went on our own.  Little did we know that the tiny little sweet shop is actually a sweet factory where they make their own hard candies.  Like proper old fashioned rock they make sweets with names through the middle, but for our demonstration, ironically they were making Big Bananas!  The sweet makers were just like magicians, throwing the hot sugar around just enough to make it cool enough to mould and then adding different colours to form the little bananas.  We were even treated to a few samples at the end, yum!  We had one last stop before we had to call it a day and where better than the beautiful new Sky Pier giving the most beautiful views over Coffs harbour and beyond.

Given that we didn’t have too far to travel to Port Macquarie we just had time to help with one more task, it was the birds bath day!!  We wheeled their cages out into the garden and with the hose on a light spray showered their cages whilst they flapped and manoeuvred themselves under the water.  One more skill to add to the CV, bathing birds, I never thought I would say that.

As with all helpx roles there is always one last job, usually it is a guest book to sign, but here it is a shipping container.  We left our mark and it was sadly time to move on.

Thank you so much Cassandra, Graeme and family for having us, we so hope to see you all again!!!

Cassandra keeps a blog of her garden, her recipes, her helpxers and also has a very useful Aussie/English dictionary, check it out here:

Next stop, Port Macquarie….

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