Jillaroo

Gill On Being a Jillaroo

Horses at Jillaroo School, Australia
Horses at Jillaroo School, Australia

A few years ago, I started my love affair with foreign lands but at the time I wasn’t sure whether I was brave enough to begin this journey alone, so I researched ways that I could travel but with like-minded people. What I found seemed right up my street. I’ve always had a love of horses, so the Australian Jillaroo/Jackaroo School was the perfect way to spend eleven days doing something different in Australia’s outback.

Horsey Games, Jillaroo School
Me and My Trusty Steed

Day 1
After a quick stop to buy cheap work clothes, hat and boots and the all-important booze for our nights on the ranch, we arrived at Leconfield, 50km east of Tamworth in New South Wales. We were shown our rooms, I was sharing with a woman called Emily, and we were over the moon when we found out we would be sleeping in the, fondly named, Penthouse.  Believe me, even though it was a dark and dingy shed, it was the best room on the farm, most of the others got housed in the sheep shearing shed. The one down side was that it was so cold at night and we wore socks, hats, and hoodies on top of pyjamas to try and keep warm. And getting up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet in the main house didn’t help things either.

The Penthouse at Leconfield
The Penthouse at Leconfield

Day 2
We got given our horses for the eleven days. I got a lovely bay stallion that went by the name of Lightening. Don’t believe everything that the name suggests because he was the slowest horse I have ever ridden. Actually, lazy is the word, no amount of geeing him on was going to make him go any faster.

Jillaroo School, Australia
My Horse, Lightening

Leconfield was a working farm and as such there was a roster of different jobs to do. One of those jobs was to get the calves into their shed at night. There were two calves and their mother and every day they hung out at the top of the field. It took us quite a while to get them down to their shed, arms waving and yelling, trying to make them go in the right direction. Poor things were probably scared to death! At one point, there were three of us racing down the hill after one calf but it decided to double back on us, so we had to chase it back up the hill only to start again. It was as if the cows were laughing at us racing back and forth after them.

Jillaroo School, Australia
Cow Chasing

Day 3
We had to get up at 6am to milk the cows. We had to sit on a small stool at the back end of the cow, not easy when the cow was stamping its feet almost knocking us off. I managed to get a few litres which, being a totally self-sufficient farm, was put in the fridge for use at breakfast.

Cow Milking, Jillaroo School
Cow Milking

In the afternoon, we rode two hours to the top paddock for our first cattle muster. A very hard task to learn, especially when you are on horseback and the cattle seemed to have other ideas. But we managed to herd them into a fenced off area where they were weighed for the owner, Brian. He was 85 years old and still riding horses, and managing his 4,600 acre farm. 4,600 acres seems huge but when you compare it to some of the other farms and sheep stations in Australia, it was actually quite small.

Cattle Muster, Jillaroo School
Cattle Muster

Day 4
Day four was spent in the forest chopping down trees which we had to debark and load onto a truck. No mean feat because we had to clamber up a slope to get the trees and the only way to get them down was to slide them down onto the dirt track. Trees are heavy! Then we had to strip them of their bark and load them onto the truck to take back to the farm.

Tree Fellng, Jillaroo School
Tree Felling

Day 5
We rode to a large field near the farm and practiced trotting and cantering which was great fun, even though it took me three attempts to get my trusty steed to comply. Rather than kicking with our feet, we learned how to control the horses with our knees, a slight squeeze is all that’s required to get your mount to move but I don’t think Lightening understood the concept of move!

Jillaroo School, Leconfield
Jillaroo School, Leconfield

Day 6
A well-deserved day off, so we went to town for more provisions, followed by lunch and a few cool beers at the local pub.

Day 7
Day seven consisted of mustering the sheep back to the farm. We caught three of them, sheared them and watched two of them get slaughtered. It was not a pretty sight but our lesson of the day was that the farm had no choice, the sheep were no more than food and wool. Even the dogs and horses had jobs to do and we were told not to pet them.  The remaining sheep looked naked after its recent shearing and appeared to be watching the massacre in terror, then it speedily retreated to the nearby field, safe for another day.

Day 8
Our second cattle muster, this time we had a go at throwing the calves. They may look very cute and cuddly but when we tried to catch them, attempt to grab their back legs and throw them on the ground, we soon realised how strong they were. We learned how to separate the male and female cows and calves in order to count them, so the farm knew they were all present and correct.

Cattle Muster, Jillaroo School
Cattle Muster

Day 9
With the trees that we had collected on day four we built the fence around the house. It was extremely hard work but thoroughly enjoyable. It was such a sense of achievement when the task was completed, even though I somehow managed to put my finger in between the hammer and the post. Ouch!

Day 10
Today’s lessons were calf branding and ear tagging. These calves were slightly bigger than the ones before, so they were much stronger. The animals were also ear marked, so they could be identified at a later date, which meant ripping a bit of its ear out. It wasn’t over for them yet because they were branded, twice if they were male, and castrated. I felt more than a little sorry for the helpless creatures.

Cow Throwing and Tagging, Jillaroo School
Cow Throwing and Tagging

Day 11
In the morning, we had a horsemanship lesson. We took our unsaddled steeds to the paddock and all stood in a circle. The ranch manager told us how the horse would respond if we gently ran our thumb from under its cheek to its shoulder, it would follow us without reins. We put it to the test by walking slowly back to the stables with the horses duly following. I think the real reason they were following us was that they knew it was feeding time! The afternoon was spent playing horsey games, egg and spoon races and races in and out of poles. It was great fun and I think even the horses enjoyed it.

I didn’t embark on this adventure thinking it was going to be a breeze in the park, it wasn’t but we learned a lot in those 11 days, not just on how to care for our horses but it was necessary to act as a team and to be able to communicate with one another. We were presented with a reference to say that we had basic experience in all the activities that we were involved with, so if I ever wanted to work as a jillaroo again then Brian’s reference was a good one to have. I had an absolutely fantastic time in Leconfield, yes it was hard work but I got to ride over some of Australia’s finest countryside and I had plenty of laughs along the way.

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10 things not to miss in Australia

Quite simply, I love Australia!

I love Australia!

 

I have been there four times to date, each time doing different things and staying in different parts of the country. There is so much more that I need to see but, in the meantime here is my list of ten things not to miss in Australia.

 

 

Adelaide to Alice in 7 days
Embark on a wonderful adventure and see some of Australia at its best with a trip from South Australia’s capital to Australia’s red centre. Walk the paths of Kings Canyon and sleep under the stars near Uluru. Drive through the opal capital of the world, see huge salt lakes, hike in Wilpena Pound and much, much more. Make some more memories with this fantastic tour.

Website: www.adventuretours.com.au for further information of this tour and many more.

Uluru, Australia

Australia Zoo, Queensland
Australia Zoo is located about an hour north of Brisbane, in Beerwah near the Glasshouse mountains. The zoo is 100 acres and there are opportunities to see some fabulous animals, take guided tours, have animal encounters and a lot more. Australia Zoo is a team of passionate people who want to educate others about animal conservation. A vision that Steve and Terri Irwin have made a reality. A fabulous day out.

Address: 1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah, Queensland 4519
Open: Daily, 9.00am-5.00pm
Admission: Adult $59.00; Child (3-14 years old) $35.00; Family 4 (2 adult + 2 child) $172.00; Family 5 (2 adult + 3 child) $189.00; Pension $47.00; Student; $47.00
Website: www.australiazoo.com.au

Australia Zoo, New South Wales

Barossa Valley, Adelaide
The whole of Australia is famous for its wine but the Barossa Valley is a must see in Adelaide. Barossa is home to more than 550 grape growing families, many with the sixth generation still working the same plot of land, supplying quality grapes to more than 170 wine companies.
There are many tour companies offering a variety of Barossa Valley tours; most include three of four tastings at different wineries, lunch and a drive through the beautiful Adelaide Hills with a stop or two at local attractions, such as the Whispering wall and Menglers lookout point.

Website: www.adelaidetours.travel/tours/barossa-valley to get an idea of what’s on offer.

Barossa Valley, SA
Source: www.ytravelblog.com/barossa-valley-food-wine/

Being a Jillaroo, New South Wales
If, like me, you love horses, an Australian Jillaroo or Jackaroo School is a perfect way to spend a few day in the Australian outback. Learn skills such as horse whispering, sheep shearing and cattle mustering. Look after your own horse for the eleven days and get involved with jobs around the farm. Leconfield is a working farm and you are there to help, so if you are willing to put the effort in then this is definitely an adventure worth doing. Rest assured there will be plenty of laughs along the way and you will come away with some fabulous memories.

Address: Leconfield Jackaroo, Jillaroo School ‘Bimboola’ Kootingal, NSW. Australia 2352
Website: www.leconfield.com

Jillaroo, New South Wales

Blue Mountains, New South Wales
If you are in Sydney a trip to the Blue Mountains is a must-do. The mountain range is truly spectacular and covers an area of some 10,000 square kilometres. It was declared a World Heritage Area by UNESCO in 2000.

Get to Echo Point lookout, in Katoomba, for fabulous views over the mountains and, in particular, the “Three Sisters,” a natural rock formation that stands proud over the Jamison Valley. Another highlight in the area is to travel down to the valley on the scenic railway. This is no ordinary railway. It is the steepest funicular railway in the world. Originally part of the Katoomba mining tramways, constructed between 1878 and 1900, it plunges deep into the valley floor. Once on the valley floor, there are many trails that are popular with hikers and nature lovers.

Website: www.bluemts.com.au for visitor information, how to get there and much more.

Blue Mountains, New South Wales
Source: www.australia.com

Circular Quay, Sydney
Circular Quay is a harbour located in the north of Sydney’s central business district. There are walkways, parks and restaurants around the quay and it’s also home to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There are also many bars, cafes and restaurants and it’s a popular place for tourists and locals alike who come to enjoy the jazz bands and musicians that play regularly. Circular quay is also the place to go for ferries, trains and buses.

Website: www.sydney.com/destinations/sydney/sydney-city/circular-quay for attractions, events and much more.

Circular Quay, Sydney

Fraser Island, Queensland
Fraser Island was listed as a World Heritage site in 1992. There are many tours to choose from, so choose wisely because there is so much to see. There is a large diversity of habitats; rainforests, eucalyptus woods, mangrove forests, sand dunes and coastal areas. It also hosts a wide range of fauna, from dingoes, whales and birds to the occasional salt water crocodile. It is the biggest sand island in the world. 80% is covered in plants and trees due to the mycorrhizal fungi which occurs naturally and is present in the sand. Visit 75 mile beach and see the Pinnacles and Eli Creek or enjoy one of the island’s 100 or so lakes.

Website: www.fraserisland.net for further information on Fraser Island.

Fraser Island
Source: www.australia.com

Indian Pacific; A Trip Across the Nullabor
The Indian Pacific train is one of the few true transcontinental trains in the world. The route: Three nights and four days via Broken Hill, Adelaide, Cook and Kalgoorlie, one way, 4,352km. Whether you’re journeying from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific or the other way round, enjoy travelling across the Nullarbor Plain, on the longest stretch of straight railway track in the world. It is definitely a trip worth taking.
Fares available include the Gold Service; Sydney-Perth $2529AUD or $2019AUD if booked in advance (based on a single cabin).

Website: www.greatsouthernrail.com.au/trains/the_indian_pacific for everything you need to know about the Indian Pacific.

Indian Pacific, Australia

Noosa Heads, Queensland
Noosa Heads is small town on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. You’ll find boutiques and restaurants which run parallel to the calm waters of Noosa Main Beach. A great way to spend the day is to explore the hiking trails for the chance of seeing local wildlife and wonderful views of the ocean. Or you can spend time relaxing on any of the beautiful beaches in the area.

Website: www.visitnoosa.com.au

Noosa Heads, Queensland

Walpole, Western Australia
When in western Australia, visit Walpole which is famous for its giant Tingle and Karri trees, and one of the best things to do there is go and see the “Valley of the Giants.” The elevated tree top walk is 40 metres high, making for spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Beneath the canopy walk there is also a pathway around the Tingle trees for walkers. There are also Eco tours and cruises and wildlife parks in the area.

Address: Valley of the Giants Rd, Nornalup WA 6333, Australia
Open: Daily, 9.00am-5.00pm
Website: www.valleyofthegiants.com.au

Valley of the Giants, Walpole, WA

Have you been to Australia? What was your favourite place? Or maybe you have a favourite activity that you did. I would love to hear from you. 🙂

 

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