Travel Journal: Housesitting in Gippsland Lakes

Loch Sport.POST

Loch Sport

When we were on our way to the lighthouse from Maffra, I checked the three housesitting services we’re signed up to as Rich drove. We’ve had some luck with them, but since we’re looking for places to stay along our travel route and within our timeframe, it’s like picking our paint colors. It has to be JUST right, the perfect fit, the right timeframe and within our own requirements (no caged birds and must have wifi), before I will even consider applying. The disadvantage of that is that it limits what we can apply for, but when we do apply, we tend to get our heart set on that housesit. Before we even know whether we got it or not.

I found such a one, somewhere between Maffra and Bombala. In the middle of nowhere of course, which meant sketchy coverage. But I applied anyway and hoped we’d find out quickly, given we were heading to a lighthouse for two nights, where we knew there was no coverage. For miles.

Luckily, our homeowner replied quickly. Miraculously, before we lost coverage completely we had it locked in to look after Sylvester and Kostya for Jenny in two days time. It was right on the back of our Lighthouse stay which seemed fortuitous. Not only that, but it was a five days housesit in the Gippsland Lakes area which seemed perfect. We would have plenty of time to explore before heading into the Victorian Highlands for a week, before we had to be in Canberra for Nat’s birthday.

We met Jenny in Sale at the Centre Bakery for lunch. From there, we planned on following her back to Loch Sport, which was about a 50 minute drive from Sale. Within minutes, we were extending the stay, agreeing when we heard she was driving to Brisbane to close out her house there, rather than flying. I knew from where we were in Australia, it was easily a two day drive. With her her Suzuki, it was more along the lines of a two and a half day drive. We didn’t want out homeowner to be another road statistic, so we delayed our departure and agreed on a ‘no later than’ day for the housesit to end. No problem.

Well, until we discovered there was no internet at the property and that Loch Sport was lucky to give is one bar on our cellular reception,

We’ve been off the grid before but when we do, we plan ahead. We write and schedule posts to publish while we are in no mans land. We weren’t prepared for this and it was due to our own stupidity. I failed to ask because the website was covered for a 5 day stay.

What we discovered, was that we would have to drive into Sale in order to get work done. We knew we had to go through Sale to get anywhere else we wanted to explore anyway and they had a library we could use. No issue.

Except that when we did go into the Sale Library to work, with a list of ‘to dos’ and our computers at the ready, the library lost internet. That was only minutes after the loudest group of mothers and their children decided to hang out for 30 minutes after ‘reading time’, gossiping at the tops of their voices in the library. As I looked up, I could see others, like us, who were trying to work. They were staring the noise makers down, telepathically telling them to shut up or get out. It was distracting and beyond annoying. And when they finally left, it was a shuffle in everyone’s seats to settle in and finally get work done. Until the internet crashed in the entire library. They weren’t sure when it would be back up, as they called the ticket in.

We gave up, went and found lunch and resigned ourselves to try another day. And we did. One another day out, we went further onwards to Bairnsdale and in the three hours I was there, I managed to get one post published – one of four. The internet was that slow. I was starting to really stress out and I was starting to regret agreeing to a longer housesit off the cuff. Lesson learned.

It was if the Universe heard my angst, because Jenny called and said she’d be returning two days earlier than our ‘no later than’ day. That gave us at least 3 days to get to Canberra via the Victorian Highlands. We headed to town the next day with a connection, found a place to stay in Bright with a Wifi connection. We had a plan.

Apart from that, the housesit was lovely. We were in a remote spot with a 90 mile beach on one side, a lake on the other and two gorgeous cats to keep us company. Sylvester was an outdoor cat who enjoyed the privileges of being indoors. He was vocal about when he wanted out and taking note of how my best friend in England managed a similar situation, we left a window open for him to come and go. It resolved the howling and scratching at the back door at 4am when he didn’t get his way.

The ironic part was when he went out, he simply sat on the back verandah, guarding his territory. Kostya on the other had, just came and went when he needed the bathroom, but was perfectly happy to be in front of the fire, in a lap or curled up in his cat bed in the spare room.

Rich fell in love with Kostya. I connected with Sylvester for his love for independence. I was in sync with his spirit there.

During our travels, we’ve found we determine the vibe of a place very quickly. Most times, it’s positive and with an uplifting energy. In Loch Sport, we didn’t find at that all.

Granted, we were there during the offseason, so we didn’t see it in its prime. (Ours travels have generally been in the offseason and when we do travel in the high season, it’s to less popular places.)

Loch Sport had a negative feeling to it. I just didn’t like it. I did like staying at Jenny’s house. It was comfortable, we had everything we needed and we were there to do a job of taking care of her baby boys. But Loch Sport itself just didn’t do it for me. It was like everything was hiding something. The locals looked at you with suspicion. No one waved.

Now, we did some exploring while there and found Golden Beach and Paradise Beach, further along the lake strip, to be upbeat and alive. We found Sale to be delightful and the Centre Bakery to have some of the best sourdough around. We even found our ‘local’ for coffee every time we were through town. We check out many of Jenny’s recommendations and found them all to be great finds, including one of the best burgers I’ve had in a long long time at the Redd Café.

Sale was quaint. We liked it, as we did Bairnsdale.

Traralgon was even better. We spent a day there, getting our tires serviced and found a super fast internet connection to get some work done. Since that went faster than we expected (!), we took a look at the shops.

I found some new flats (shoes) for winter from The Shoe Room, a shop we’d seen advertised on television. I hate shoe shopping. It’s the most horrendous experience for me because I have wide feet and skinny heels. I also have a tendency to get blisters on my heels, so I need to find soft backs on my shoes. When it comes to shoes, I’m super high maintenance and I know it. But it’s strange because when shop for shoes I either have a day where I find none that fit or five that fit perfectly.

When we walked into The Shoe Room, I looked around. It seemed high end and some of the shoes seemed like pieces of art. I was quickly intimidated. There were some boots that looked promising, and when I approached them, I had the loveliest lady ask me if I’d like to try them on, and what size would I need. When I put my foot in the boot, I felt warmth. The boots were lined. While that may work for some, I hate my feet being hot. She asked what I thought and I responded honestly. “Okay, lets get those off you. No sense in being uncomfortable.” There was no judgement, no sales pitch.

For the next 10 minutes – and it was that fast – I tried on other shoes, flats mostly, and when they weren’t quite what I wanted, they were whisked off my feet, and another was presented. As she went to find another size, I looked around and found a pair that looked soft, pliable, and as inhaled the smell of leather, I asked for my size, thinking “my feet are going to look like sausages in these’. That’s how I feel my feet look in shoes. Like fat sausages crammed into a shoe.

I put these on and they were like butter around my feet. Soft leather hugged my feet and made them feel amazing. I walked around, waiting for the ‘catch’. They couldn’t be that great. Could they? I didn’t even want to look at the price tag.

The look on my face must have reflected my delight.  Just as wonderful was when I finally did look at the price tag, they weren’t nearly as much as I feared.  Sold!

We walked out of there, shoes in our bag, raving about what an amazing customer service experience we’d just received.

Then I realised something rather insightful: Victoria was the Australia I knew when I left 20 years before to live in America.  It was a beautiful place, filled with beautiful people. People happy to help anyone in need. Sydney had lost its charm in all of those area.  The only thing saving it is the harbour and how picturesque it is, but even that is losing its charm to the tourist masses.

I also realised that Victoria was on the list as a place not only to return to, but one to consider settling down in, after we had exhausted our Living List.  

While Loch Sport was not the place, nor Gippsland Lakes, Victoria was.

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