The most rewarding kind of travel

By Kylie Piper 7 November 2013
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Two British backpackers that lend a hand to the landscape they’re touring.

AT 19 YEARS OF age James Hulme from Wales looks like your typical backpacker. He wouldn’t appear out of place on the beach at Bondi, Sydney, but James, with his blue eyes sparkling and a cheeky grin, has chosen to take a different tour of Australia.

When I met James and his British travel-buddy Amy Knowlson on the outskirts of the Barmah State Forest, they were part way through a gap year of a unique kind. For 18 weeks the pair will travel around Australia and New Zealand working almost every day with Conservation Volunteers Australia. The keen ‘gappers’ are now experts at donning the yellow vests and gloves and getting stuck in.

But no-one can beat Lois Pickering. At 70 years of age, Lois is a perpetual volunteer with CVA. She tells me that she has been on almost 30 projects with CVA and has seen parts of Australia that most people never get a glimpse of. Lois hopes to get to Kangaroo Island with CVA this year and I have no doubt that she will. Easily outdoing my efforts, Lois is adept at shovelling and preening landscape, and has an amazing skill of holding a conversation when she’s all but buried in weeds.

On our last day of work we head to a remote area of the forest called Brown’s Camp. It’s a local’s paradise — hidden away on a bend of the Murray and guarded by giant red gums. For most of the day we are pulling weeds but on our break we sit beside the river and pass the time. It’s a beautiful day on the Murray; the sun is warm and the water is cold as it rushes past our feet. James rips his boots off and wanders knee deep into the water.

I wonder how many Aussies have seen this part of the world, let alone backpackers from Wales. As we work we experience an amazing part of Australia — and the fact that we are lending a hand in its conservation makes it all the more rewarding.

May 10 – 16 is National Volunteer Week. To volunteer with CVA and experience Australia CLICK HERE.