“We’ve died and gone to Kingbilli,” I said to Kelly, as we gazed in awe at the place we are to call home for the next six to ten months while we volunteer in trade for free accommodation.
This post was originally published in 2008. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
The Drive to Kingbilli Country Estate
Passing by mountains and national parks on all sides was like seeing the promised land…Cathedral Ranges National Park is just a five minute walk from our front door. And then seeing it all as a whole and learning of the area’s popularity with weekenders in turn reminded us of Cottage Country (an outdoor playground two hours north of Toronto). This utopia screamed of paradise to us. All this and we hadn’t even entered through the gates to Kingbilli Country Estates yet.
First Impressions of Kingbilli
We were settling in as the sun was setting on this cool day. We looked out from our driveway onto fields and hills of green, with mountains (albeit little ones, not quite the Rockies) an alluring five minute walk away. In the foreground, horses, angora goats, llamas, and donkeys were grazing happily, occasionally giving us a look or a snort to placidly acknowledge our existence.
We looked back to our cottage…our little stone and cedar (or whatever the Australian equivalent of cedar wood is) cottage. It was equipped with a fireplace, piano, BBQ, satellite television, outdoor jacuzzi, and everything we need to live in exquisite comfort. We didn’t really believe the pictures when we were researching our new digs-to-be, and really – the pictures don’t even do the place justice. It’s shockingly beautiful.
Which is why guests who stay here in the other two of the three cottages pay upwards of $250/night. And it is here we stay – for free. Well, not exactly for free…we will each be working for 14 hours per week for the privilege of calling Kingbilli “home”.
Our tasks include cleaning the other two cottages as guests check out, landscaping, cutting firewood (a key source of warmth in the winters), and general property improvement projects. All of this is a walk in the park for us…and a pleasure to do given the high standards of care this 200 acre property is kept to.
We also look forward to meeting the llamas more formally, as we’ll be using them to take guests on guided eco-treks once spring rolls around…another pleasure for us. Combine that with the wedding photography I’ll be doing for the relatively frequent couples that tend to elope here, and the picture of working life at Kingbilli is complete.
While exploring the property on our first evening, we noticed we were being followed. Strange – why should we be watched so closely? Were we doing something wrong? Walking in a place we shouldn’t be? Either way, this four-foot kangaroo wasn’t leaving us alone. Having pet wild kangaroos in Warrumbungle National Park, we figured that this fellow was also rescued, and may be looking for some human companionship. (By the way – Kingbilli also serves as an animal sanctuary…it keeps getting better)! But not being familiar with kangaroo-body-language, we had trouble interpreting his scratching at the ground, peeing all over the place, and other gestures that smacked of a territorial claim. So we gave our grey furry friend a wide berth and continued on.
Later in the evening after we had settled in for the night, the same kangaroo was on our front door. He would lean on the glass door with his front paws and balance on his tail, lifting his giant feet off the ground, making like he might smash the glass. He continued to pee everywhere, and even started to upset our wood pile. Knowing a kangaroo’s strength, we understood that he could punch through the window easily enough if he wanted to, and we were increasingly weary of this unfamiliar body language.
So we called Ginny & Mike (who live at the homestead, and are the charming parents of Georgina – the owner) on the intercom.
“Not to alarm you, but we have a furry friend – a male kangaroo – who is insistently hanging around our front door, and peeing on everything. Should we be concerned?” we asked.
“Oh that’s Bracken! I guess we should have told you about him,” Ginny chimed back, and we could tell she was smiling as she replied. “Pay him no mind. He was released a few years ago, but he comes back for a visit now and then. Everything you’ve described are actually signs of love…he’s feeling amorous!” she said.
Being filled in later by Georgina (who is the brainchild behind the wildlife sanctuary and rescue division), she too smiled when we told our story.
“Yes, Bracken loves everybody. He loves female kangaroos of course, as well as bicycles, humans, trees, and just about anything he sees,” she said. And we knew she wasn’t joking either. Bracken’s a regular old lover-boy.
In the fullness of time, Bracken fell head-over-heels in love with me and followed me EVERYWHERE. Seriously. Watch this video if you don’t believe me.
And he’s just one of the many creatures we live with here at Kingbilli who we are getting to know. The family of King Parrots who live outside our door are also full of personality, along with the wombats, platypus, possums, gliders, and 200 species of Australian birds we have yet to meet. As long as we don’t meet the poisonous spiders or snakes that also love life in this massive wildlife sanctuary, we expect that our time here will be incredibly satisfying!