It is amazing to realize we are about to complete the goal of living and experiencing Australia for a whole year as house and pet sitters. Listed below is what we have seen, experienced and learned about living Down Under.
Cairns (QLD): First, it is pronounced ‘Cans,’ as not every letter of the word is spoken like American English. Second, the further north you go here, the warmer the temperatures and climate. In the states it is the opposite! Cairns is a seaside city with a population of 150,000 friendly people with access to the Pacific Ocean and the Great Barrier Reef. We spent almost three months there swimming almost daily at a newly opened community swim complex, visiting weekend farmers markets and roadside stands to purchase fresh mangos, papayas (called paw-paws here) and any other fresh fruit or vegetable in season. We even found a fish market to purchase sashimi grade yellow fin tuna to feed the sushi habit we picked up while staying in Kona, Hawaii. Our sightseeing included visits to the CBD of Cairns, Port Douglas, Palm Cove, the Atherton Tablelands, the Babindi Boulders and the Copperlode Dam and Lake Morris, the freshwater reservoir dam and water source/supply for all of Cairns.
Western Australia: April found us in Perth, returning to house and pet set in Canning Vale, which was our first Australia house sit in 2015. Western Australia is drier and more arid than Queensland and it reminds me of the desert. Still, while taking care of our favorite American Staffordshire terrier, Billy, we also visited weekend farmers markets and drove to Fremantle by the Indian Ocean for their famous fish and chips. We also renewed our acquaintance with the neighbors and friends. Before leaving WA, we drove south to Margaret River, a beautiful fertile valley of vineyards and farms. It is also a busy tourist area and has great driving adventures all the way to the most southern point of Australia through forests of Karri trees along the Caves Road.
For our final week in WA, we visited Madeley to house and pet sit. Madeley is close to Hilarys, a beachside community similar to Fremantle and very close to the Indian Ocean.
Port Macquarie and Lake Cathie (NSW): June is a winter month here and a first for us to live so close to a beautiful beach where morning walks by crashing waves were how to start the day. The dogs looked forward to this daily routine and after awhile, so did we. By the time we arrived most of the swimming pools were closed for the season, so walking was the next best exercise. We actually lived in Lake Cathie (Cat-eye) and would drive to Port Macquarie to go to the movies or shop for items other than groceries. Beautiful beaches follow the coastline here and we were able to drive around and see many of them. We also visited the local koala rescue hospital. Some were sleeping, some had climbed the tall trees above us and some were isolated from human contact as they prepared to be returned to the wild/bush. Other than Sao and Murphy, the dogs and Mabel the cat, our best memories were seeing our own private rainbow in the backyard and having the neighboring kangaroos stop by the fence to watch us play with the dogs.
Victoria Province: Short and sweet are the words to describe our time in Melbourne and Geelong. Still winter and now July, Melbourne was the coldest (in temperature) area we visited in our entire time here. It is however, a great city to experience as we started our first day there by stopping at a tapas restaurant in Queen Victoria’s Market for breakfast and then walked through the buildings to peruse the stalls of everything for sale. Next we took a ride on an old-fashioned trolley car around the city to sight see. Chinatown in Melbourne is the oldest Chinatown in all of Australia and for that reason alone we spent some time sightseeing and having dim sum for lunch. Traveling by train to Geelong, actually Leopold, we spent the next week with three cats and two dogs.
New South Wales: Our next two house sits were in the neighborhoods surrounding Sydney. North Rock Hills is a beautiful suburb with many large multi-level homes on hilly streets. It is also a short drive to the business district of Parrametta, and the closest place to catch a train to the Sydney CBD. The OPAL card removes the need to purchase individual tickets for each excursion to the city or on local buses as well. Our usual activities of daily swimming, seeing newly released movies from the states and two walks per day with the dogs made our time there fly by.
Next, our house sit was in Quakers Hill, a different area of the city where we cared for Flynn, a big furry buddy. Once again our OPAL cards came in handy as we used them to take the bus to the swimming pool for our regular exercise and to take the train to Sydney if we wanted to visit our favorite place, the Sydney Fish Market for a lunch of sushi or grilled barramundi.
Queensland: October found us in Cleveland, a retirement community by the Pacific Ocean where Chip, the dachshund, was in charge of our next house sit. Traveling from NSW to QLD helped the weather gradually warm up as we entered spring in Australia. We would walk Chip often to Oyster Point Park right by the ocean. Cleveland’s Aquatic Center was open and daily swimming resumed as our exercise of choice. A Sunday farmers market brought everyone in town out to shop or gather together for breakfast or a coffee and a chat.
Our next short and sweet stay was a house sit closer to Brisbane in Yeronga for a Burmese cat named Bandit. For just five days, we lived in a lovely Queenslander style home and enjoyed our time as we walked around exploring the neighborhood.
Moving closer into the city, we moved to Red Hill and our next house sit. Max and Charlie, the cats, were our housemates for most of November. Max was friendly, very curious and interacted with us from the beginning. Charlie was a little more reserved and hid from us for the first week and then gradually would let us see her, but we could not get close. As each day passed, she became more curious and friendly. Right before we left she would sit right by us and ask for attention. Every cat has its own personality and each one needs to be respected and learned. Swimming pool access was just 2.5km away and a little sushi restaurant was 1.2km in the opposite direction. This meant double exercise as we would walk for sushi after our swim. Just 4km to the CBD, we were very close to the center of Brisbane anytime we wanted to shop, dine or sightsee.
Our year will be complete on January 6, 2018. By then we will complete a house and pet sit in the Gold Coast area and will be starting the next one in Kedron, which is not far from the Brisbane CBD. Summer will be in full swing. Before we leave, we will also spend time in the Thornlands, south of Cleveland caring for two dogs, and then return to NSW and North Rock Hills for the final house and pet sits of our time in Australia.
Traveling from city to city, one coast to the other, Australia is a country of wonderful and friendly people, miles of sandy coastal beaches, historical sites, amazing architecture, beautiful vineyards and so much more. We have totally enjoyed our time here and hope to see more in the future.