Bushfire Relief Giveback Experiences #EmptyEsky movement

We were lucky to have the opportunity to participate in the first of AAT Kings Bushfire Relief Giveback trips in collaboration with the #EmptyEsky movement.



AAT Kings are running 100% ‘Not for profit’ trips to Bushfire affected regions and have been designed in collaboration with the local community to encourage people to make purchases at local businesses and spend money on local produce, which in turn directly injects funds into the local economies helping small businesses and providing support to farmers.

AAT Kings will transport you and your empty esky on their coach to visit local markets, cafes and stores, where you can fill your esky or reusable bag with your local purchases.

AAT are making these trips extremely pleasant with their air conditioned coaches, fitted with comfortable seats as well as USB ports to recharge your phones and other devices. There is also a bathroom on board. Our driver was Neville, who did an excellent job of getting us around for the day.

The itineraries are well thought out and allow plenty of time to explore the local areas without the hassle of driving ourselves, which is also good for the environment. The departure location was the Mecure Hotel, only a short distance from Central Station.

Whilst on the trip, you will be enriched by meeting locals who will tell stories of recovery and share firsthand how best to help their community. These stories were inspiring.

Our first stop to start filling the Esky is at the Kangaroo Valley. This region was directly affected by the bushfires, many of the local producers losing crops and many animals. The animals were also not reproducing due to the stress of the situation. There were a number of great local pie shops to explore and we can attest for the quality, so why not try a pie, or maybe more.

We also peruse the local boutiques selling art, homewares, leather goods and more. ‘The General’ is a cafe/mixed business – they do a good coffee and sell a range of local produce including breads and condiments.

We also enjoyed the Wood Gallery and were extremely impressed with the craftsmanship on display.

Stop two is at the Nowra Farmers markets, who source much of their produce from the local area, all very fresh and far superior to much of the produce you’ll find in Sydney. The fruit and veg is beautifully displayed and this resulted in our Empty Esky filling up extremely fast.

There are also plenty of small goods on offer, meat, cheese, dairy and much more. A highlight being the super fresh eggs supplied by Kristin from Kangaroo Valley Pastured eggs. We later heard Kristin’s harrowing and emotional story of how the fires have affected both herself and her family, the animals, the business and the local community. Yet, even during such a difficult period, she is determined to deliver fresh eggs and push on through, dealing with so much hardship, she is truly inspiring.

We depart Nowra with full ekies and are on our way to our favourite place on the South Coast, where we headed to visit one of ours and the local areas favourite people. We head to Bangalay Luxury Villas to visit Michelle Bishop, for a lunch at one of our favourite restaurants, Bangalay Dining. Michelle is extremely passionate about the local area, the people and the local produce. She is a champion for the local community and had a huge part in arranging and promoting this visit, including having Senator Andrew Bragg attend.

The food at Bangalay is always a highlight with Chef Brent Strong and his team utilising local ingredients to produce spectacular cuisine. This meal was made extra special as we shared it with the heroes from the local RFS Chapter. They shared their experience in dealing with the bush fires and extreme conditions of the summer. Many of the crew have now been fighting fires for 6 months, starting their efforts helping those on the North Coast of NSW in September and then having to return to the local area to protect the local community. Michelle also addresses the group and explains how reliant the South Coast is on tourism and how the fires and travel ban on the area impacted this tourism, especially with it being the busy time of year, which many operators rely on.Thankfully the South Coast of NSW is again open for business and they need the people to return. People are encouraged to bring an empty esky, to provide support and to inject some funds back into these communities that are doing it tough. Be sure to check out AAT Kings and book an Empty Esky tour to give back or fill up your car, grab some mates or the family and head South. You’ll have a fab time and help people at the same time.

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