A Little Bit Western


Land Down Under

Jan 26, 2017

I enjoy traveling. The whole idea of going to a faraway place, where the surroundings and customs are unfamiliar to you is exciting. Traveling pushes me out of my Type A comfort zone and into a place of adventure and fun. As a self-confessed organizer, going on a trip is one of my best reminders that some of the best experiences come from flying by the seat of my pants. In the past few years, our expanding herd of humans and bovines has made travel a bit trickier from a logistical standpoint. One might not necessarily realize my wanderlust because I typically keep my travel to within a radius of three rural municipalities, or so, but I know that will change too someday.

Ten years ago this month, my Other Half and I embarked on a better-late-than-never honeymoon to Australia for three weeks. This was before the era of smart phones or readily available internet access. I had to book our plane tickets using dial up, and while I did make quite a few travel arrangements via email, there was no Google Maps or iPhone to rely on, and no text messaging.  We boarded our flights with a little Australian cash, a list of phone numbers for people we might know and hope to run into, and a Lonely Planet guide book.

Being interested in agriculture, we planned to mix in visits to different cattle and stud stations with tours to vineyards, beaches, and cities. As we hopped off our long flight into the humid, Australian air on Boxing Day, we were excited to start our ambitious agenda. We holed up in those quaint little spots known as “phone booths” (millennials, please ask a grown-up what that is), and started calling friends, acquaintances, and even strangers before we hopped on trains, planes and buses on our whirlwind excursion.

It was as much fun as we had hoped. We bartered for an already cheap suitcase at China Town in Sydney. We enjoyed beverages in small town pubs, large downtown nightclubs, and small, medium and large family-owned vineyards. We navigated roundabouts and dodged kangaroos in our rental car. We toured the Great Ocean Road in a backpackers’ bus named “Pigeon” along with a Brazilian sugar cane famer, German fashionistas, wandering souls from Romania, ag journalists from Switzerland, and a pair of (very) avid photographers from Hong Kong, among others. I had a rather long conversation about spicy Asian food with a well-meaning tour guide before I realized she thought I said I was from Szechuan, not Saskatchewan. An unwelcome emu ate my sandwich right out of my hand. We unintentionally stumbled across Kent Saddlery, a renowned tack and saddle-building outfit that had an impressive shop and an even more impressive mobile following. We ate schnitzels the size of steering wheels, met up with good friends, and made new ones.

We toured eleven ranches in four different states, ranging from small mom-and-pop operations right up to some of the top purebred studs on the continent. We caught up with farm friends that we had hosted in Canada and have been fortunate to host many others since in return. We spent New Year’s Eve with a delightful Canadian/Australian farm family that treated us as their own, and spent the next day at another top notch farm that was most welcoming. Along the way we got to view one of the best, and dare I say, most efficient, mobile embryo transplant laboratories in action.

When I think back on the trip, the people were phenomenal. Everyone was friendly, welcoming, and totally stopped what they were doing to show us around during a busy time of year. The people you meet are what makes traveling so valuable to me. And while I can’t argue that it’s nice to enjoy a trip to a warm climate during a Saskatchewan winter, we’ve met some pretty great people on quick jaunts to Medicine Hat, AB, or Outlook, SK, or Havre, MT. And those trips don’t usually involve retrieving a suitcase thoroughly soaked in Bundaberg rum from an airport …

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