From Bel­gium to the bush

Tourists get a taste of coun­try life

Central and North Burnett Times - - NEWS - Macken­zie Co­la­han Macken­zie.Co­la­han@cnbtimes.com.au

MONTO race­course was host to a cou­ple of un­likely guests for the 90th an­nual race day at the week­end.

Si­mon Houwen and An­nelies Claeys hail from the small town of Roe­se­lare, in north­west Bel­gium, a world away from the North Bur­nett.

Mr Houwen, 28, an en­gi­neer, and Ms Claeys, 29, a school teacher, are back­pack­ing around Aus­tralia in an old Toy­ota Hiace Hi-Top, and re­cently landed jobs as farmhands on a cat­tle prop­erty out­side Monto.

Only in town a few weeks, they had no idea what to ex­pect.

It was the per­fect bush ini­ti­a­tion and, although slightly un­der-dressed, the two said they were hav­ing a ball soaking up the “spe­cial at­mos­phere” at their first coun­try race meet­ing.

“It’s so Aussie,” Ms Claeys said.

“It feels very au­then­tic, these are the coun­try’s roots.

“Ev­ery­one here knows each other and it’s lovely to see they are pas­sion­ate about their com­mu­nity.”

On their first trip to Aus­tralia, the cou­ple said it was un­like any­thing they had ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore.

“It’s an amaz­ing coun­try, we love it – the an­i­mals, the na­ture and the weather,” Mr Houwen said. “The peo­ple are very nice, and help­ful.

“Monto is like a town out of a West­ern movie.”

The pair’s Aussie ad­ven­ture has been a shock to the sys­tem in more ways than one.

Not least of which is get­ting ac­cus­tomed to the 45-minute jour­ney into town.

“For us in Bel­gium, if you say you ‘live in the mid­dle of nowhere,’ you might have to drive 20 min­utes to the clos­est city,” Ms Claeys said.

“Back home, 45 min­utes in the car and you would be in a dif­fer­ent coun­try.”

The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment of­fers for­eign­ers 12-month ex­ten­sions to their Work­ing Hol­i­day Visa for com­plet­ing 88 days of work in a re­gional area. Out­back Queens­land is a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for back­pack­ers seek­ing sea­sonal work.

While part-time farm labour doesn’t pay as well as their trained pro­fes­sions, the cou­ple said it was all part of the “en­rich­ing” ex­pe­ri­ence and al­lowed them to spend more time trav­el­ling.

PHOTO: MACKEN­ZIE CO­LA­HAN

CUL­TURE SHOCK: Bel­gian cou­ple Si­mon Houwen and An­nelies Claeys at the Monto races.

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