Last Tuesday we left Herriot Wines and ventured down the Muirs Highway towards Mt.Barker. We were very nervous about the second WWOOF arrangement because we had enjoyed ourselves so much in Manjimup. Our worries were heightened when, 42kms before Mt Barker, we turned off the highway on to a dirt gravel road and drove up it for 20 kms into nothing but bushland. I like the countryside but this felt very isolated and I was terrified! Deciding that we should at least see the place before we turned round and ran back to civilisation, we bravely continued, following signs to Uralla Wildlife Sanctuary. When we pulled into the long drive, there were kangaroos everywhere! We couldn’t believe our eyes. This must be a place worth sticking around for...we hoped.
We parked our van outside two white cabins and walked through a metal gate. Once inside the house yard, we saw at least 25 baby joeys hopping around and a few being bottle fed by a French couple, Estelle and Damien. They introduced themselves as fellow WWOOFers and showed us around. The living quarters were made up of two basic wooden cabins; one for Mandy and John (the hosts) and one for WWOOFers. The toilet was outside the gate and in a temporary shed...and it was a drop toilet!! The baby roos lived amongst the house and house yard, and then there was a further 5 acres of a ‘pre-release’ area, where around 10 older kangaroos lived. Past the gate (with the toilet) there were heaps and heaps of ‘wild’ kangaroos that had been released back into the bush, but had stuck around for more food and bread. We were overwhelmed by it all and were quickly shocked into a new way of life.
Mandy and John English are a couple in their 50’s living on 150 acres of Australian bushland, surrounded by Government protected parks. Mandy is a nurse and works night shifts so that she can spend the day with her kangaroos, and John works during the day at a vineyard nearby. They have been caring for wildlife for 11 years, and specialise in Kangaroos, wallabies, euro’s, dingoes, emu’s, chickens and rejected ducklings. They have to rely on help from WWOOFers as the kangaroos are fed regularly and need to be toilet trained when they are very young. We had a timetable of feeding sessions, which we soon had memorised; everyone was fed at 7am, the pre-lease at 8am, the babies at 10am, everyone but the babies at 11am, the babies at 2pm, the pre-lease at 3pm, everyone but the babies at 4pm, the babies at 5pm, the babies and toddlers at 6.30pm, bedtime and bread at 7pm....and so it goes on. Needless to say that we were shattered at the end of everyday!
We soon settled into a routine of feeding, changing beds (baskets with two joeys in each one) washing the bottles and re-filling them with milk, cuddling the joeys and raking their poo. For most of the week we worked with Estelle and Damien, and a German girl called Caroline. There was another French guy (Olivier) staying there who we got on with very well. We improved his English and he attempted to teach us French. We were also joined by two further WWOOFers on Monday; a girl from Belguim (Melissa) and an Italian guy (Antonio). Mandy was a great help when she was at home and we learnt so much about kangaroos from her. All the kangaroos had a name and it was vital that we learnt their names quickly so that they had the right bottle at feeding time (different kangaroos had different milk) and could be observed for any problems/illnesses. As you can probably tell, the first few days were a hectic whirlwind!
My favourite kangaroos were the two very little babies (9 months old), Barbara and Shammy. They needed lots of cuddles and attention and even liked to sleep in our beds. There was also a joey with a spinal injury, called Charlie, who I adored because he could only hop a few yards before falling over and rolling around. Mandy and I took him to the chiropractor, who improved the injury a lot. Mandy thinks that his Mum was hit by a car and whilst Charlie survived, he sustained injuries all over his little body. It was very bizarre holding a kangaroo on my lap in the car for an hour! Mandy has promised to send us news of the babies so that we can learn about their progress and daily activities. Phil also became attached to a duckling that he rescued and named Smithy. His mother had rejected him so we took him into our care and Phil fed him and regularly cuddled him. He was even starting to swim when we left yesterday!
There is so much to write about Uralla (which means ‘our home’ in the aboriginal language) that I can’t possibly tell you about it all. We have come away with lots of kangaroo knowledge, stories and interesting tales to tell...and a new appreciation of flushing toilets! We experienced a very 'back to basics lifestyle', lighting a fire to have hot water for our showers and only using water when absolutely necessary. It was a refreshing experience. So we left the sanctuary at 10am yesterday after a fascinating and hugely enjoyable week. Mandy is an absolute diamond and I hope that people continue to donate money to keep the volunteer run sanctuary alive.
We are now in Denmark, which is on the South coast on WA. Yesterday afternoon we hired some surf boards and had a great time playing in the waves. It was Phil’s first time surfing and he was a natural. He was standing up on every wave that he caught and loved it! We are both exhausted today (and battered and bruised) after two very full weeks of WWOOFing and surfing yesterday. Today we are heading to Walpole to walk through the valley of the giants. There is a walkway in the treetops that swings in the wind, so wish us luck! This afternoon we will drive to Albany, which will be the start of our long drive East.
I hope all is well in the UK and that everybody is fine. For any Japanese readers, I hope you are OK and managing. We are thinking of you all the time.
Lots of love to everyone. We will try to write again soon.
Heaps of love and kisses,
Hana and Phil xxx