Journalism student at Charles Sturt University, follow me on twitter @AlenDelic
Published February 19th 2012
Let's face it - the rural life isn't for everyone.
I'd love to imagine that I'd be able to live as a rugged outdoorsman, working the land and all that. But I can't. I'm a city dweller at heart, but I like to pretend otherwise, and this tour is the perfect way to experience the "tree change", but only for a day.
There are a number of different tours you can take, each led by the lovely tour guide and all-round champion, Nyla Thomas.
They vary according to the time of the year and what's available, but with Ms Thomas at the helm, an amazing time is guaranteed.
The day began when we were picked up at Penrith train station, but alternative pickup can also be arranged depending on where is convenient.
We headed towards Picton and the Wollondilly area, which is very often overlooked in favour of other rural areas around Sydney, but every bit as beautiful.
It was barely fifteen minutes since leaving Penrith, and we were already surrounded by the countryside of Luddenham, and with it, our first stop at the Honey Shed.
The Honey Shed has an amazing range of exotic flavoured honeys, from the odd but beautiful chilli honey, to the mildly flavoured vanilla honey.
As well as this, it contained jams, herbs, pickled onions and an arsenal of exotic, locally produced goods, that would never be found on the shelf of your local Woolies.
From here, the magic TCP bus headed further south west, travelling along unsealed roads and handling the curves and slopes with the grace of a Porsche in Corsica.
Next on the agenda was an olive grove, owned by a Maltese couple, specialising in oil, skin care, and yes, olives.
In true Southern European hospitality, we were welcomed in, given a tour of the facilities, and fed with samples the size of a baby's fist. All this, while being surrounded by serene olive groves in the rolling hills of Wollondilly.
The next stop was morning tea at a quiet little bed and breakfast further down the road. $5 was all it cost for coffee, mud cake and the most beautiful coconut slice I have ever tasted.
After a solid half hour of chatting to the owner and resting up, we were back on the road to Picton.
An apple grove was up next, but unfortunately it was not the season for picking or shipping the apples, so we were only given a tour of the packing facility, and picked up some apples from an honesty booth by the roadside.
For those of you who are wondering what an honesty booth is, it's a relic of the times when you weren't worried about your neighbour going all Thomas Hobbes on you, and instead you left money unguarded and took your goods.
After an adventurous morning, it was time for lunch in Picton. It was a half hour drive between these stops, but the time flew while talking to tour guide Nyla.
After hearing all the secrets of Nyla's local area in the mountains, we arrived at the King George's Inn. The King George's Inn is a true country pub. It was built as an old army barracks, and in fact there are still old cavalry stables out the back.
Anyway, back to the pub. The pub grub was well above average. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the chicken schnitzel was actually an entire de-boned and flattened chicken.
To the best part of the pub, the homebrewed local beer on tap. I've tried a lot of local, microbrewed beer. I'll be honest, the majority of them are pretty poor, but this was something special. At $5 per pint, it isn't harsh on the wallet, and the lager has a beautiful, light and fruity flavour.
After lunch, the tour took an interesting turn.
The next stop on the itinerary was a local bakery run by commune and global Christian sect, "The Twelve Tribes".
Regardless of their religious influence and political ideologies, the food is delicious. They use locally grown ingredients and make some of the best sour dough I have ever tasted.
From there, we went on a tour of the actual commune, and for the foodie, this is something special.
The commune has 9 hectares, and much of it is their personal farmland. They grow almost anything you could imagine, and the facilities are top notch.
If you block your ears to the attempted recruitment to the commune, they're actually genuinely nice people with an avid interest in farming.
This part of the tour actually allows you to experience rural living, to go out and pick your own fruit and vegetables in their field, and they're more than happy to have visitors.
It is also very educational, as you are guided around this developing farm and learn all the tricks of the trade.
By the time this part of the tour is finished, it's time to go home. And it's also around 5pm, but you wouldn't notice that the entire day has gone past.
It is an amazing day, and I cannot recommend it enough.
If you're a city dwelling technophile like myself, call Nyla for a tour, and then leave the phone at home, take a break for a day and get back to nature.
TCP Farmgate tours run on Fridays, but other times can be negotiated with Nyla.