A short hop to Kangaroo Valley turns into a white-knuckle ride for Zoe Naylor, but once there she harnesses nature instead of fighting it.
In a period when the carbon tax is on everyone’s lips in Australia and the state of the environment is a growing concern, my boyfriend Aaron and I decide to taste a more eco-friendly way of living. It’s an excellent excuse for a romantic weekend away.
We choose picturesque Kangaroo Valley in the NSW Southern Highlands as our destination and, through a local bookings agent, track down a little wood cabin nestled in the hills. Restdown is an original 1800s settlers’ cottage that was relocated from the NSW Riverina district and rebuilt log by log. The cute cypress pine cabin looks almost identical to the original building.
And so the adventure begins. I’ve been harbouring a Pitt-Jolie-esque fantasy of jumping on motorcycles and cruising into the sunset for quite some time, so we squeeze our essentials into a shared backpack and hit the M5 out of Sydney on our Ducatis. But far from enjoying a relaxing sunset ride, we’re soon facing a severe weather front that whips through with 100km/h winds. Oh my God!
I am still a novice rider, so it feels like I am fighting for my life against a giant beast. My helmet is flung around and I struggle to keep the bike in my lane. I should be able to meet the 110km/h speed limit on the freeway, but I can barely handle 40km/h. The cold rips through my leathers with such ferocity that I soon can’t feel my hands.
As our run on the M5 comes to an end, I am in tears and petrified. Aaron suggests I pillion with him and leave my bike at a garage in Bowral. We do just that.
The road beyond is an obstacle course, strewn with trees, and the wind howls like a pack of wolves. A trip that should take us two hours takes five. To be honest, all I crave when I get off the bike is a hot shower and ready-cooked meal. In that moment, the eco-lodge loses its appeal.
But we keep to our plan. We’d grabbed a few packets of chips and nuts from the pub –closed due to a blackout – but by this stage we no longer care that it’s all we have for dinner. Exhaustion kicks in and we head straight to bed.
Next morning we wake to the dulcet tones of local wildlife and an astonishing view. Having arrived in pitch darkness, we had no idea how private and pretty the location is. With renewed vigour, we cruise into town to stock up on supplies, then get our groove going chopping wood and making soup. It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep can do!
The cabin has a rustic, homely feel with all the things you might want – though I would suggest to the owner to add a new peeler, a can-opener and some big pots to help cater to large appetites. Antique country-style furniture is perfectly at home against the natural log walls from the original pioneer cottage. The bathroom has been redone and I love the mix of corrugated iron sheets and timber. Both the bath and washstand are antique.
The power supply, however, is anything but old-fashioned. A micro-hydro turbine located in a small shed nearby generates our electricity. Water is tapped from a creek in the nearby rainforest and drops about 250m vertically through a small pipe to the turbine. Once it’s travelled through the turbine, the water enters a pond and eventually flows back into the same creek.
The technology is pollution-free and generates 300 watts, which is enough to power mod cons such as lighting, toasters and iPods in Restdown and another small cottage. The power is then supplemented by a solar hot-water system.
I can’t believe it! Why aren’t more of us doing this? And the best part is that the technology is 100% Australian-designed.
Imagine having no electricity bill and no water bill, and doing no harm to the environment. Without wanting to sound like a beauty-pageant contestant, I do believe that if we all embraced a more eco-friendly life the world would be a better place.
THE AT VERDICT:
Zoe Naylor, who paid her own way and visited anonymously, says:
“We had a wonderful long weekend at Restdown and thoroughly recommend it to anyone wanting to unwind and get a taste of the magic of eco-living. To get the most out of this experience, you should stay more than one night. It takes a day or so to get into the swing of things, let go of the smartphone and truly unwind. As it happens, we were forced to extend our stay as the roads in and out of the valley were closed. What a shame!”
Where Restdown, Barrengarry Mountain, Kangaroo Valley, NSW.
Notes Zoe paid $250 per night low season. Two-night stays usually cost $300 per night; or $600 per weekend. Sleeps six.