You may laugh, but travelling is quite tiring! If you’re anything like us then after three weeks on the road day and night you’ll want to press pause for a while. However, you keep at it as after all “This is Australia” and you can’t just pop back again anytime soon. So our schedule has been full of early mornings and overnighters on the Greyhound and we felt entitled to take a break from the road and hole out for a few days. Whilst staying at the wonderful ‘Dreamtime’ hostel in Cairns we were recommended to go south to visit ‘The Sanctuary’ near Mission Beach.

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As an eco-lodge in the tropical forest with a tree-top view of the private beach I can just hear you totting up our expense, but you would all be wrong. In-fact we paid hostel prices here, amazingly! The retreat is based around the ‘Long House’ which was a beautifully sleek, modern, wooden building overlooking the Tasman Sea. There are plenty of things to do here; yoga classes, swimming, guided walks, enjoying the beach and water-based activities too. We however chose to do absolutely nothing here. This was our chance to spend some time (not money!) taking it slowly, writing, reading, painting, sketching and chatting together. In fact we spent three entire days in the Long House and it was bliss.

There was a slow hum of activity here with quite a few people around, a mixture of guests and, as we discovered, many WWOOFers. They worked all over the complex in the kitchen, laundry and huts as chefs, maids, cleaners etc. This gave us a chance to find out the inside track and pitfalls of WWOOFing firsthand. Stories were varied in outcome, but nothing that put us off.

Each evening we all came together (guests and WWOOFers) to the sofas to socialise and play games in the Long House which was fun. We met some lovely people including a friendly couple from Christchurch on their holidays for a couple of weeks. They were both very interested in our creative and technical expertise and we will be catch up with them in New Zealand soon. Renee was a lovely WWOOFer from the UK who has been travelling for sometime on an open-ticket and is searching for her place in the world. A young German girl with a keen interest in, and a good eye, for photography had a go with my 40D.

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The thronging wildlife was very much a highlight! Firstly, this small area of native forest is one of the last areas where cassowaries live in the wild. Cassowaries are truly huge, amazing, but rather dangerous man-sized birds. ‘Brenda’ the affectionately named aging local cassowary paid us a visit one morning by coming to drink just outside the door-less Long House. She was very cool and slightly intimidating to watch as we were aware that they do charge humans if they feel threatened. Sadly the 40D was downloading at the time so I couldn’t get a snapshot. Wildlife of a perceptively smaller variety prevailed everywhere. A frog lived above the kitchen which came out at night in the space between the wall and the ceiling, above the cooker. Perhaps he was a friend of ‘Ratatouille’! Large crickets clambered up the windows. Geckoes stalked seemingly unsuspecting moths that had the upper hand and flew away with only moments to spare. Ants roamed the outer deck, touching each others antenna to communicate their local news. And the ultimate example of ‘tag’ was a snake who had bitten a cane-toad and the cane-toad had poisoned the snake all preserved in a jar on the library shelf!

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But unsurprisingly the hot topic here was spiders. Stories of vast Huntsmen and dangerous Wolf spiders were banded around to scare the guests (our) fragile minds. Apparently a Huntsman had been rescued (not killed) from Room 1 (our room) only the week before. So that night after a port or two J&I ventured slowly into our netted den, torches searching ever inch inside, when SUDDENLY… the largest moth I have ever seen flew frantically around and around the small room searching for an exit. Oh my God, the noises from our tent must have had some guests wondering! We extracted the moth and continued our search, and thankfully nothing was there. We slept.

Morning broke and we had a little lie-in before breakfast when I decided it was time to make a move out of bed. As I got up and turned towards the bed-head I saw a strange spider looking down at both of us from the bed post! It was now time to ‘shake a leg’. Then at breakfast Lee (a Kiwi guest) noticed a spider on J’s T-shirt! James flicked it off, but it landed on his nuts. Oh my god! I’m so glad I was not there. We later confirmed it was a Wolf spider! Look it up on the internet if you dare!

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We left here after three happy days having enjoyed meeting new people and feeling much rejuvenated.

I knew I was properly relaxed as when it started raining, at the local bus stop we had been given a lift to, I suddenly reconnected my brain and realised I had left my Rohan jacket behind! Luckily for me the man at the bus stop had seen James at The Sanctuary a few days before and lent us his mobile which had reception for us to call The Sanctuary. Rob kindly raced down to the bus stop with it and he made it just in time, but in all the confusion the bus driver started to drive off thinking we were not waiting for the bus at all! I ran screaming (like our lives depended on it) down the road after it. The driver heard me (thank you Granny for your booming voice!). Warm and dry again on the bus we laughed with the driver as we recanted the tale and reminded ourselves how lucky we were to have neither lost my coat, missed the Greyhound to Cairns or still been stuck at the local bus stop in the rain. Some things never change!