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Relaxing in the Australian Outback

Chesleigh Homestead in Sofala, Australia | www.myfoododyssey.com

It feels like the weather for the past few months has been on a timer, changing abruptly from month to month. It rained for the whole of July, then not once in August. September saw rain again, but mixed with warm, sunny days – perfect for sprouting mushrooms. October was crisp and clear with a fascinating array of sunsets as the sun moved lower in the autumn sky. It remained clear until after All Saints’ Day, a very important date in the Lithuania calendar. Then, on November 2nd, the sky became grey and overcast and the air damp and heavy.

I find it very hard to be indoors when the sun is shining outdoors. Thus, all my indoor activities – cooking, reading and writing – get pushed to the rear over the summer months. I am only now getting round to telling you about the wonderful time I had in Australia, and in particular about my birthday treat – a few days at Chesleigh, a homestead in the Australian outback just a few hours west of Sydney.

Going horse riding at Chesleigh Homestead in Sofala, Australia | www.myfoododyssey.com

Chesleigh Homestead in Sofala, Australia | www.myfoododyssey.com

Going horse riding at Chesleigh Homestead in Sofala, Australia | www.myfoododyssey.com

This was my third visit to Chesleigh but my first in winter and, if I’m honest, I think I preferred it. It’s hard to even call it winter, given the clear blue skies and mild temperatures – a sweater and a sleeveless jacket were all you needed to keep cosy. That said, it did get a little chilly after sundown and the nightly bonfire that is a feature of the Chesleigh experience was most welcome.

Chesleigh is a vast homestead located in the old gold-mining village of Sofala. The area is sparsely populated with humans but densely populated with kangaroos, wombats, kookaburras and other wonderful wildlife. The best way to see around the estate is on horseback or on foot. When I took off into the bush with my camera I was advised that I was safe from predators but reminded how quickly the sun sets in winter – finding my way back in the dark would not be fun.

Kangaroos resting at Chesleigh Homestead in Sofala, Australia | www.myfoododyssey.com

There were eight in our party – three adults and five kids. These city kids were completely in their element, running about freely, collecting eggs from the chicken coop, feeding the pigs, petting lamas, chasing kangaroos and generally causing mischief. They went on hour-long pony trek each day and you could see their riding confidence growing each time they climbed into the saddle. I’m not a great rider, a legacy from a back injury in my teens, but I love being in the presence of horses. Their smell and their strength calm me, so I was delighted when I was asked to walk a pony for one of the kids.

We spent a leisurely afternoon panning for gold. A shallow creek runs through the property and small specks of gold dust can be found with a little patience and perseverance. Patience and perseverance are not the preserve of all children, but my niece was rewarded for her tenacity with three tiny flecks of gold. She was given a small vial so that she could bring them home as a souvenir.

Chesleigh Homestead in Sofala, Australia | www.myfoododyssey.com

For me, the real joy was that I had no responsibility whatsoever. No cooking, no cleaning, no digging gardens, no tending veg. Food is provided family style, with everyone (including other parties) eating at the same time around a number of large tables. There is no menu and no choice – you get what you get*. This was sheer bliss for me – I’m not a picky eater and loved the surprise of not knowing what was coming. Jan, who owns Chesleigh with her husband Mike, has a food philosophy much like my own. She makes everything from scratch using simple local ingredients. Perfectly crisp and deeply flavourful meat pies were accompanied by light salads straight from the garden. There is no fuss or pretension here – this is home cooking at its finest.

*Special dietary requirements can be accommodated if advised in advance.

I had brought my laptop with me thinking I might get some writing done while I had some quiet time. I never took it out of the bag. Being outside, enjoying everything that was on offer, was too good to miss. You really get a sense of being cut off from the world and at one with nature. There is no cell phone coverage and no wi-fi – you just have to make do with the people you’re with! And if they start to drive you crazy, there’s always the kangaroos for company.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. My stay at Chesleigh was a birthday gift from my sister. Neither of us are affiliated in any way with Chesleigh Homestead. All opinions are my own.

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Panning for gold at Chesleigh Homestead in Sofala, Australia | www.myfoododyssey.com

Brian, one of our hosts at Chesleigh, demonstrates the basics of gold panning

Panning for gold at Chesleigh Homestead in Sofala, Australia | www.myfoododyssey.com

Panning for gold at Chesleigh Homestead in Sofala, Australia | www.myfoododyssey.com

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. longchaps2 #

    Sign me UP! What a wonderful time. I’ll bring my own ponies, but they can supply the kangaroos, lol. So beautiful. Glad you had a nice time away from it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 23, 2015
    • I think you would LOVE this place, Susan. From some of the images I’ve seen online it looks a little like Tepusquet, only with roos and wombats and stuff! Maybe for your next “big” anniversday! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      December 23, 2015
      • longchaps2 #

        Butler would be packing as soon as you mentioned it to him. It’s me that’s hard to get in the car. I leave drag marks with my shoes all the way down the driveway lol.

        Liked by 1 person

        December 23, 2015
  2. Great story and great photos. I love the photo of little Grace ? panning for gold…so focused and determined…she’ll go a long way!

    Liked by 1 person

    November 9, 2015
    • Yeh, that’s Grace. She was so relaxed but focused, taking her time and swishing the water carefully out of the pan like she was shown. So happy she found something for her efforts!

      Like

      November 9, 2015
  3. Aus is so on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing this story and the amazing photos, June.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 9, 2015
  4. Looks and sounds like a fantastic trip! I love my technology but it’s great to take a break from it and truly enjoy what you are doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 9, 2015
  5. Perfectly captured, sis! I think that was my 8th trip to Sofala and each one if different (this one standing out from the others by having the 3 kids there). I am lucky to live close to Sydney harbour, but any time I have overseas visitors, the highlight of their trip is a visit to Chesleigh and a ride on those beautiful horses through stunning wilderness. Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories and pictures!

    Liked by 2 people

    November 9, 2015
    • Thanks Audie! And thanks for my fabulous birthday gift! Next time I go to Chesleigh I am definitely going horse riding – dodgy back bedamned! x

      Liked by 1 person

      November 9, 2015
  6. OMG, those chilling kangaroos are the best ❤ And horses. That's like I sucker punch right to the gut to leave me speechless, gasping and on ,my knees with jealous – sorry but I really can't help myself but feel envy – beautiful nature, AND horses. Ah, I love horses, but just like you have some back problems and am better off enjoying horses' company from aside rather than horseback. Ok, so now I need to go through my stash of DVDs to watch that ode for Australian outback Snowy River and it's sequel to get some of that jealousy out of my system.

    Liked by 2 people

    November 8, 2015
    • Thanks Asta! It’s no surprise that you love nature and animals – you’re Lithuanian, it’s in your blood! Do put Australia on your list of places to visit – it really does have some stunning scenery and unique wildlife. Expensive for Europeans, but worth the splurge, I reckon.

      Liked by 1 person

      November 9, 2015
  7. sbdagape #

    What wonderful pictures. It sounds like you had a great time. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 8, 2015
    • Thanks Susan! Not sure if Aus is on your list, but if you ever make it to Sydney it’s definitely worth the drive out to Sofala for a few days.

      Like

      November 8, 2015
      • sbdagape #

        My husband and I met there is 2004. We were in Sydney. I also went diving on the GB Reef from Cairns. Absolutely loved Australia, but we haven’t been back. Maybe for our 25th wedding anniversary… It was great seeing you the other day. Your hospitality was above and beyond the call of duty. Enjoy that sunroom!

        Liked by 1 person

        November 8, 2015
      • I’d forgotten you guys met in Aus, Susan. Going back for an anniversary sounds like a good plan. It was lovely to see you last week and meet your family. Pop back any time you fancy – there’s always a bottle of apple wine in the fridge! 😉

        Like

        November 8, 2015
  8. Great post! Sounds fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 8, 2015

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