Pandemic forces Two Young Nomads to put adventure on hold

Newlyweds Meg and Ollie Clothier knew they couldn't make it rain for drought-stricken farmers across Australia, but what they could do was give them a chance to get away for a few days.

So they made the decision to head off on a "year-long honeymoon" volunteering to caretake these dry and dusty properties.

When they outlined the idea on their Two Young Nomads Facebook page in December they received many requests.

Three months since leaving their lives as an occupational therapist and boilermaker in Broken Hill, NSW, they have covered 14,500 kilometres across Qld, NSW and SA.

Both grew up on the land in South Australia; Ollie at Lucindale and Meg at Orroroo.

Feeding out. Photo: Meg Clothier

Feeding out. Photo: Meg Clothier

A big motivator in their project was seeing Meg's parents, who are on a station east of Packsaddle in western NSW, struggle with a run of "shocking seasons".

In 2019 their annual rainfall was less than 50 millimetres, and they received even less the year before.

"A lot of people have been feeding constantly for years so had no time for a holiday - they have no balance in their lives, they are buggered," she said.

They have had 10 stops so far, averaging about 10 days at each location.

The first was a property near Longreach, Qld, which had destocked to just a few hundred sheep left.

From there they have worked through northern and central NSW, and out west to Milparinka and Packsaddle in Far West NSW, as well as Cockburn.

Meg says their days have included water runs, cleaning troughs, checking windmills, fencing and looking after the family pets.

FEEDING TIME: The volunteer caretakers have had many jobs, including feeding sheep at their stops in Qld, NSW and pastoral SA. Photo: MEG CLOTHIER

FEEDING TIME: The volunteer caretakers have had many jobs, including feeding sheep at their stops in Qld, NSW and pastoral SA. Photo: MEG CLOTHIER

"We have taken over from where they finished up - if they were feeding every second day we would feed every second day," she said.

All they ask for in return is a place to stay and a full tank of fuel to reach their next destination.

Meg says their greatest joy has been seeing the difference a few days away makes to the farmers.

"Everyone is really grateful and appreciative but it has been interesting to see them when they come back, they are fresh faced and ready to go again," she said.

"Luckily it has rained at many of the places while we have been there until we reached Far West NSW, where it stopped.

"When we have been sent photos, some places that we have been are not even recognisable now with green."

It's not over- we still have a lot of people to get to.

Meg Clothier

Last week the couple were forced to put their plans to head to Tilpa and Wilcannia in western NSW on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

"A couple of the farmers said they were staying home so that made us think - we needed to look after ourselves and our families too," she said.

"We knew the SA border was locking down and we didn't want to be stuck in NSW with nowhere to go."

The Clothiers are now self isolating at Ollie's family's property in the South East but are determined to resume their adventures when it is safe to do so.

"It is not over - we still have a lot of people to get to," she said. "This will give us some time to come up with a really good plan to get to as many people as possible.

This story COVID-19 puts Two Young Nomads drought help on hold first appeared on Stock Journal.