When the time finally came to move on from Coromandel, we had already lined up our second week. Using a website called HelpX, we booked in to work at a place called Kawerau Thermal Motel. It was on the way to Rotorua, where the Bowers were headed, so they dropped us off there. I drove, and just like the drive earlier in the week the scenery is stunning pretty much everywhere. Through mountains and forests, along the coast or rivers and lakes – it’s basically showing off and this just in a small part of the North Island, South is supposed to be the pretty one.
When we did arrive at the motel though, after seeing a little bit of the town, it was almost reassuring to realise that not everywhere here is spectacularly beautiful! This town, and place, is bit run down by comparison to Tairua, and although our hosts Raewyn and Peter were lovely and friendly and straight away, it was slightly weird coming from the luxury of the previous week.
However, we had a really good week. We have a really nice room and all the food we need, free wifi and SKY TV in exchange for a few hours work each day. The motel hasn’t been busy at all, and it is primarily used as a stop for truck drivers. This means in the morning we make a couple of beds, and the evening we help cook a hearty 3 course dinner, usually of corn on the cob, meat or fish and potatoes and a slice of homemade cake. Nice.
Whilst the town itself isn’t especially nice, with a few boarded up shops and just the one mountain overlooking it (!), it’s actually been really good being here. The work is pretty easy (although I don’t want to have to clean a stainless steel shower ever again), there are no time pressures, and I get to use the 4×4 truck as well. We’ve also done a fair bit of planning, hiring a car for our USA road trip in July and booking a campervan for the South Island in March.
They gave us a whole day off to go to Rotorua (yet another spectacular drive) to spend one last day with the Bowers, where we spent the morning in various free hot springs just outside the town. The novelty of sitting a normal river, that is flowing hot instead of cold is not going to wear off quickly, even though one of the places had some German nudists swimming there…
After another morning of hard(ish) scrubbing, we drove off into the local Tarawera Scenic Reserve. Bouncing along the dirt roads in the 4×4 was awesome, and what the town of Kawerau lacks in beauty this place makes up for. We drove a few KM into the forest, before stopping to walk along the river to the waterfall. One of things we’ve noticed is how quiet and clean everywhere seems to be – there just isn’t litter anywhere. The forest paths and crystal clear river up to the falls were awesome…
… Which was good, because after only a few days of work, the owners went away for the whole weekend leaving us (and the dogs) in charge of the place. It has been quite a surreal experience – good because its been quite quiet, and we’ve been able to cook and eat and drink what we want, but slightly annoying in that we can’t leave the place unattended. Also, when the guard dog barks at nothing in the night, I’m the one who has to go outside and check it out.
The motel survived though, and they were very thankful when they got back. On our last night, we passed the baton on to the next batch of helpx people, and then lay in the thermal spring heated pool. Not too shabby for a truck stop!