Living in a Marsupial World
Ben eats a citrus ant - Aboriginal bush tucker, tastes tangy
After the Whitsundays adventure, Ben and I parted ways with the Jambros who were heading back to Brisbane to meet their folks. The two of us had planned to use these weeks on our own to do our first WWOOF/Help Exchange stay (for those unaware these are hosts, usually organic farmers, who offer free room and board in exchange for labor).  We had been in touch with Susanna Wilkerson, a Canadian expat host who owns an industrial hemp farm and is in the midst of building a schoolhouse out of sustainable materials near Ravenshoe, Queensland’s highest town in the Atherton Tablelands. 

At Murray Falls
Ben eats a sugar banana fresh off the tree!
We made our way up the green, tropical coast and finally arrived at her property in the tablelands, bordering a gorge in the national park.  Suzie, her partner Cal, her dog Carlos, and their friends Lynn and Clyde greeted us and, after settling into our room (a room with a REAL bed – it’s the little things really) in the up-and-coming 9-bedroom schoolhouse, we offered our services and got right to work on some small projects before dinner. Meals were all around fabulous at Susie’s as most contained at least a few organic fruits and vegetables straight from her beautiful garden. The mornings often started with fresh fruit salad (sugar bananas, passion fruit, paw paws, papaya, strawberries) topped with coconut cream. For many meals, hemp oil or hemp protein powder from her stock was added, and every meal was accompanied by a pot of tea. We were incredibly well fed.

 At mealtimes, Susanna would regale us with incredible stories from her past experiences, as well as fascinating tidbits of her philosophy and knowledge of various conspiracy theories. As a sampler, did you know that most politicians are in fact lizard people hiding behind human facades, that toothpaste is an illusory capitalist ploy of the dental industry, and that mer-people exist? I didn't think so.

Carlos impressively sniffs his own butt
Rows of hemp and lime trees on Susanna's property
Side View of the Schoolhouse
Work-wise, we were originally supposed to assist Susanna with the mud/straw compound walls she was constructing at the base of the schoolhouse. Unfortunately, our delayed arrival and the subsequent rainy weather for the first half of the week prevented us from helping with that project. Instead, she gave us indoor painting projects, sanding, wood sorting, banana plant pruning, and some hemp product work. This being our first WWOOFing type experience, Ben and I worked a couple 8-hour days on our own volition, much to the surprise of Suzie who was used to helpers checking off their mandatory 4-5 hours and calling it quits. We did scale it back on the work hours after that, as she insisted we take time during the day to enjoy the property. 

Just below the schoolhouse, the national park and Misty Mountains held many creeks, waterfalls, and swimming holes. We were told that the swimming hole next to Suzie's property was home to a platypus, but once again the little creature eluded us during our entire week's stay. 

Overall, our first WWOOFing experience was a success and we hope to do more in the coming weeks. It was, more than anything, a learning experience regarding work management and communication, as well as the barter/trade work exchange lifestyle. I think our experiences with Couchsurfing helped prepare us for sharing living spaces and routines with new people, though having a host as your boss and negotiating their moods and expectations is a whole different level of challenging. Suzie and Cal were incredibly generous and gracious hosts, and we hope her school of consciousness gets up and running on schedule.

From left to right - Suzie, Carlos and Lynn
Mar in front of the pink dome made out of hemp 'biocrete'. The building next to it is where Suzie is living before the schoolhouse is finished...
The Gorge behind the Schoolhouse in Millstream National Park

Ben looks like survivor!


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