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This week-long house-sit straddled the start of October 2015 and came to me like manna from heaven. Book-ended by two x six week house-sits, it was an eight day stretch that was potentially going to be tough to fill, and possibly expensive if it meant heading to a youth hostel for the duration.
So when it bobbed up on a house-sitting web-site, I was onto it like a seagull on a chip.
It’s a good example of how sometimes a bit of mutual trust can work out beneficially for all concerned. The home-owners took me sight unseen, as they were flying out of the country the morning I was finishing up north of Newcastle. I used the NSW Transport Plan Your Trip site to plot this transport solution:
And strike me, with eight possible fail points, I arrived at the front door at 15:27!
You have to be a little wary of letting yourself into a strange place with a strange dog at the door, even a pint-sized one. The little Jack Russell took one look at me and seemed to think, ‘Right, well, I’d best be showing you around, then’, and we set off to the backyard to case the joint.
West Wollongong sits at the base of the extensive Illawarra escarpment that runs along part of the New South Wales Pacific coast. The dramatic landscape creates some pretty hairy climactic conditions that have seen some horrendous floods and some incredible winds.
Being so close to it, and not having climbed anything substantial in recent times, I left the hound at home one day and set off to climb up the mighty Mount Keira, accessed via the Mount Keira Ring Track, closed in parts after rock falls about a year ago. You can see the scarring at the top on the left side in the photo below.
At a tick under 500 metres high, I didn’t exactly need a Sherpa or porter, but I felt fairly accomplished. Especially as I sat at the summit, inhaling oxygen, water and sandwiches, as tourists would literally park the car, take a photo or three of the panoramic view, then drive off again.
The little dog I had to mind was an absolute delight to look after. Impeccably behaved, always up for a chase of the ball. Despite his short, stumpy legs, we covered a phenomenal distance in just that week. West Wollongong is not for the faint-hearted or the weak of calf muscles, and the up hills and down dales are a very good workout indeed.
Our piece de resistance was on the day before I left when we spent three hours out and about, strolling the streets, meandering through the university, sitting watching the first cricket match of the season on the village green.
As well as the dog, there were two chickens in a very handy setup at the side of the house. Chickens are a doddle to look after, and even though they needed shepherding back into the chook house every time I went out, on the first attempt I perfected a sure-fire method that had them both safely away within 15 seconds, often less.
I had a rare treat late in the week when a bloke I know from the local folk club saw my picture of Mt Keira on social media, gave me a shout out, and I caught up with him and three other ne’er-do-wells from the folk club, and a couple of others, at Coniston Pub for a few health-giving schooners of Vitamin Coopers Pale Ale. A very welcome and serendipitous diversion.
On Sunday, it was time to head off and unfortunately, just a little ahead of the owners’ return. (They’d misjudged their return time due to the start of daylight saving that morning.)
So I came, I saw, I house-sat — we just didn’t meet! That’s a first.
But they were well-pleased with my services:
Thank you so much for looking after the house and pets for us. Scrumpy obviously had a wonderful time and the chickens have grown. Knowing we had you at home made me able to relax on our holiday.