I have been in Barrington Tops, New South Wales, for almost three weeks now, which is longer than most Canadians get in vacation time per year. Though I still have days where I count the days, I’ve gotten more into the groove of life in such an isolated place, but I admit to watching more reality tv than is healthy for anyone at any point in their lives.

The retreat where I live and work, peppered with parrots.

I have taken to walking in the rainforest (and getting ticks and leeches and a bit paranoid about snakes) and swimming in the little swimming pool as much as possible between chores (or after walks in the rainforest). It gets hot here. Unless it rains. Then it’s cold.

New leaves in the rainforest.

Leech! Lesson learned: wear taller socks. Also: leeches hurt in Australia so you know they’ve got you, they’ll land on you from who knows where, and their demise will be bloody and gross. But not as gross as it was for the guest who got a leech on her lip or for my boss who had one in his eye. I like our Canadian leeches who reside predictably in the water.

The other day, my boss drove me and a guest out in his 4 wheel drive to see the property, the river, the stinging trees. We picked bush lemons and limes, which I squeeze into water for a refreshing drink.

Bush lemons.

The lyrebird, with its amazing feathers.

See there? That’s a pademelon! A tiny kangaroo! Cuter than a bush rat, which I found in the laundry. Bush rats are cuter than real rats. But I still screamed like a little girl.

The cleanest river on mainland Australia, the Dilgry River.

My nightly visitor.

On a not-too-busy Sunday, the family who owns the retreat invited me to tag along to Nelson Bay for the day as they looked for a holiday home to rent in December.

I was happy to be in a car (though it smelled like little-kid vomit) and see some country and gorgeous blooming jacarandas. It was nice to be in a town with fish and chips and a beautiful harbour. And the beach. We went to the beach!

By the time I leave Australia, I wonder if I’ll be sick of the smooth sand and blue-blue waves.

My first visit to a real Australian beach. Fine sand, blue water, mesmerising surf.

Rescue crew letting a little girl drag their boat onto the sand.

This week has been pretty quiet, work-wise, but although that means far fewer wages, I’m trying to enjoy this time as much as possible before the Christmas rush hits. I’m also trying not to think about the fact that my Christmas will be far away from family or any approximation of a quebecois reveillon. But surely it won’t be as bad as the Christmas I spent stuck in Detroit airport for 10 hours. Here there will be exotic animals, swimming pools, and organic coffee.