What it’s Like to Live Under a Rock
An underground house in the middle of nowhere
People often ask me, albeit rhetorically, "Do you live under a rock?". Of course, none of them have ever expected the guileless "Yes" which I respond with. I can’t really blame them though. How are they supposed to know I live in a house that looks like it’s been taken directly from the set of The Hobbit? I grew up in an underground house located in the lush rainforests of Queensland, Australia. It’s a place called Finch Hatton Gorge.
There is no traffic here. No stray sirens or noise pollution. No neighbours whose late-night arguments keep you awake. It’s quiet. Rocky streams weave through the rainforest, and palm trees amass around the banks like curious onlookers drawn to a commotion.
It really is a tropical paradise. As a kid, there was avid opportunity for summer swimming activities, something I will always remember fondly.
The house itself was made from scratch by my parents. Originally, it started off as a single level, half buried in the mountain, but over the years it was extended into a 3-storey building, topped by a rooftop garden you can walk into from ground level thanks to the mountain it’s built into. Built from stone, clay and concrete, the house is basically a bomb shelter.
They didn’t stop there though. In addition to the house, they also built an entire tourism business about 50 metres away on the same block of land. It’s a zipline tour called Forest Flying which takes tourists through the rainforest canopy. An exceptional business concept which meant my parents never even had to leave home to go to work.
Unfortunately, it also meant that the occasional tourist would wind up at our house, curiously peeping through the windows. Not at all something you want to experience when you’re sitting in your underwear eating cereal from the box on a Saturday morning.
I think one of the other unfortunate downfalls is that the place is so detached from the rest of the world. Despite the large amount of tourist attractions, there is no mobile phone reception here, and internet is so limited that sometimes it feels faster to mail letters by hand than to wait for the email browser to load.
What’s worse is that there is no mains electricity. All of the power for the house comes from a single water wheel and a set of solar panels – that’s it. I once caused a power outage by using the blender for a few extra seconds.
Of course, one may argue whether these are in fact downfalls at all. Sure, there isn’t any mains electricity, but that also means no power bills. Plus, when you grow up with an electricity budget, you get used to the concept of energy efficiency. As for the lack of connection with mobile reception – it just means no one can bother you with pesky phone calls or messages while you’re here. I think the only real issue is the constant battle with mould. In the rainforest, 90% humidity is the norm, so if you stand still for too long, even the people start going mouldy (I wish I was joking).
In case the name of the gorge wasn’t already a giveaway, the closest town to this isolated hobbit hole is Finch Hatton. There’s not much there – a school with about 50 students, a post office, a pub and a service station. That’s about all. It is quirky in its own way though. There’s a very strong rustic disposition to the town which screams ‘rural Australia’.
When I was 17, I escaped my hometown and moved to the bustling city, Brisbane. I’m glad I did it, I needed to in order to attend University, but your hometown always pulls you back. It’s almost as though it has a sense of gravity to it. In the city, there’s no space to breath, but at home, there’s so much tranquillity and fresh air. I think it definitely meant I had a very unique childhood, void of mainstream television and social media. Of course, that’s very different now that I’ve had to leave, but I definitely think it’s the reason I am who I am today.
Even though I only visit now for a few weeks every year, it’s still my home, and it always will be. So yes, I do live under a rock, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.