Posts Tagged With: Helpx

Are we winding down?

After leaving Mangamahu, with all the animals still alive, we drove west towards the small town of Stratford. It was a cute, slightly odd little place – all the streets are named after Shakespeare characters, and the centrepiece is New Zealand’s only glockenspiel clock tower. A few times a day, the clock tower puts on a show as wooden puppets emerge and a voiceover reads out some lines from Romeo and Juliet. We were the only audience for the 7pm. Cultural?

Two households, both in the Stratford glockenspiel

Two households, both in the Stratford glockenspiel

Why we were there...

Why we were there…

The reason we were there though was to see Mount Taranaki, an amazing dome shaped volcano that dominates the horizon… When it decides to emerge from the clouds. It shoots up from the flat land all around it and looks amazing, even gracing the cover of our Lonely Planet, but it attracts some wild weather too. We didn’t see it the first couple of days, and instead made do with some tramping around the forest at its base to see some waterfalls. In the afternoon we checked out a nearby nature reserve, a “mainland island” where the area has been cleared of pests to give the bush a chance to thrive. It was a very lush area with a nice loop around a lake, and the Jurassic Park style security gates were cool too.

There should be a mountain in this picture

There should be a mountain in this picture

Dawson's Falls, the Creek is just out of shot

Dawson’s Falls, the Creek is just out of shot

Heading into Isla Nublar?

Heading into Isla Nublar?

On the day we left, it was obviously a glorious sunny day and the mountain was standing out in all it’s snow capped glory, so we took a lot of photos and then headed east. Following some excellent advice from our Wellington helpx hosts, we took a circuitous rather then straight route up to Auckland and headed off on the Forgotten World Highway.

The view on our last morning

The view on our last morning

There he is!

There he is!

Bye bye Taranaki

Bye bye Taranaki

A crazy detour

A crazy detour

Basically, it’s a winding and occasionally unsealed road from Stratford going northeast, through some spectacular farming country and ridges with 360 views from Taranaki to Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. It was an awesome drive, and on the way we stopped in the tiny town of Whangamomona. There was a pub, and whilst we were having a cup of tea a man rode up on his horse, without a saddle, for drink. And in the late 80s, the town declared itself a republic and you can get a passport stamp and t-shirts. Bizarre. Just after the town, you drive through a single lane tunnel of around 100 metres, that looks exactly like it must have done when the pioneers first cut through it with pick axes.

The Republic of Whangamomona

The Republic of Whangamomona

One lane tunnel

One lane tunnel

For our last night of freedom we stayed in the town of Huntly, that reminded us a lot of Kawerau. You can see why some places aren’t really on the tourist trail – however the $6 banquet of fish, sausage, burger and chips wasn’t too bad.

With our last few days on the North Island we spent them helpxing in west Auckland. We lived with Karen and another helpxer, Paul, and worked on the Ranui community garden for a few days. It was a nice and chilled out place to work, with great food too! Karen’s grandson Darius nicknamed me Fireman Sam, so I was pretty pleased with the impression I made! It was also good chatting with Paul, who has only just arrived in New Zealand with a whole year ahead of him. He’s planning to do the Te Arorea Walkway, from the Cape to Bluff which will take about 5 months. Bon chance, froggyhiker! It does make us feel like our time here is winding down though.

Community garden selfie

Community garden selfie

Way back in Wanaka, we booked some tickets to see England play the All-Blacks in Dunedin. This always seemed like months away, but after leaving Karen’s place we said goodbye to the North Island (for now) and flew South to Dunedin. We’d had a wee panic with accommodation (apparently international rugby matches are fairly popular) but fortunately got contacted by a helpx host just north of the city. So, we picked up our final hire car and drove off into the wilds of Otago, to our final helpx with Duncan, Georgie and 16 month old Maggie. These guys bought their farm just a couple of months ago, so there were loads of jobs for us to get into!

Our last helpx cottage

Our last helpx cottage

After a full days work of breaking up a wall and moving rocks, which just felt wrong after the wall I built in Matakana, we had a day off for the rugby. There was a really nice atmosphere in the city, with fans in the black and the white hanging out and drinking together. We had a few beersies in the Octagon and then headed off to the stadium, and were seriously glad of the multiple layers we were wearing. Tis some bleddy cold compared to the north! Not sure how the shirtless England fans with the St George’s Cross body paint survived.

Chilling in the Forsyth Barr Stadium, cold!

Chilling in the Forsyth Barr Stadium, cold!

The Second Test

The Second Test

The game was brilliant, England were so unlucky to only lose by a point but the whole experience was just fantastic. I can’t decide what the highlight was – seeing the Haka, England’s first try going down right in front of us, or seeing a streaker get absolutely smashed by a flying steward. Seriously, search on YouTube for it – they were talking about the tackle on the news for days afterwards.

The Haka

The Haka

The streaker heads home

The streaker heads home

Richie pleased with the score

Richie pleased with the score

Since then we’ve done some more work on the farm, from making apple pie and crumble (Laura), to moving more rocks and gardening (me). But we have been having a really good time here, living it up and watching World Cup highlights and filling out my wall chart in our own cottage (all the games are very early morning here), and exploring the farm and playing with Maggie. I can now list quad bike and truck driving on my CV, but not yet reversing with a trailer. The landscape is amazing, and this has been a great final helpx.

Chilly on the farm

Chilly on the farm

My ride

My ride

Earning our keep

Earning our keep

Less than two months left of the gap yah now, and while it sort of feels like we’re winding down a bit, writing this has made me realise that we are still doing awesome stuff pretty much everyday. New Zealand is sweet as bro, sweet as.

World Cup wall chart!

World Cup wall chart!

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More fun on the farm

After cruising over to the east coast we spent a lovely few days in sunny Napier. We didn’t do too much, other than admire all the Art Deco buildings which the city is famous for. The city was almost completely destroyed in an earthquake in 1931 and were rebuilt in the most popular Art Deco style of the time.

Art Deco in Napier

Art Deco in Napier

Self-guided touring in Hawkes Bay

Self-guided touring in Hawkes Bay

We don’t know much about architecture (being too tight to pay for a guided tour), but they were nice to look at! We also enjoyed a slightly less cultural visit to see the new X-Men movie.

After Napier we headed South via the towns of Hastings and Havelock North, where we did a a pretty cool walk up a really windy Te Mata Peak. We had lovely views over some of Hawkes’s Bay mountains, villages and vineyards and it was worth the 2 hour slog up the steep ridge which Sam had to talk me into!

Redwood trees on the way to Te Mata peak

Redwood trees on the way to Te Mata peak

At the top of Te Mata peak

At the top of Te Mata peak

We then continued South, to a really rural part of the North Island, which we probably never would have visited, apart from the fact that we had organised another helpx job with a farming family, South of Waipukurau. Sam had been a little dubious about this one, because the family had four little children under four years old. Scary!!

But they were so lovely and we had absolutely the most fantastic week! Ru and Fleur run an 1100 acre family farm, raising cattle, sheep and horses. I’m definitely not the best when it comes to animals, but I think our farm experiences here have been some of my favourite weeks of our trip. Ru spent loads of time taking us around the farm, showing us the animals and explaining how the farm works. On one day he taught us to ride his massive motorbike (I was terrible), but Sam managed to ride all over the farm and even mustered a field of cows on it!

Easy rider mustering cattle

Easy rider mustering cattle

We also watched sheep being pregnancy tested and had a go at sheep shearing, which was a bit scary as I was terrified of stabbing the poor thing and creating some sort of sheep blood bath. But he seemed happy, if a bit colder, in the end.

Waiting to be shorn

Waiting to be shorn

Shaun the Sheep

Shaun the Sheep

After all of that, playing with the four kids was easy! They were so cute and I got to play ALOT of princess, crocodile and dragon themed imagination games. Easiest week of work ever!

Us and the flock

Us and the flock

Ono one afternoon went to visit a fairly nondescript hill, which claims to be the longest place name in the world. I thought the Welsh one was the longest (Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch), which we’ve both been to and are proud to be able to pronounce. But at only 58 letters it is beaten hands down by the Maori name Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu” (85 letters). There is absolutely nothing to see apart from a really long sign, and I couldn’t even buy a postcard, but it was probably worth a visit just for a photo.

The longest place name in the world

The longest place name in the world

We also got to eat a serious amount of red meat this week. We had our own cottage to stay in, sit by the open fire and cook for ourselves in and we were given loads of steak, mince and sausages. Ru also cooked us some wild venison that he shot himself. Delicious!

Mmmmm cow

Mmmmm cow

Our farm cottage

Our farm cottage

We then spent a lovely couple of days, back on the kiwifruit farm with Beth and Graham. Beth taught me how to ride a much smaller motorbike around their field, which was a lot of fun and we did some tree pruning – Sam getting to be very manly with a chainsaw.

Getting back on the horse

Getting back on the horse

Sam's journey to manhood

Sam’s journey to manhood

Graham then headed off for a hunting competition (he won $1000 for shooting a ginormous wild pig!) and Beth went to join him, so we fed the dogs, cats and chickens and had a lovely chilled out time farm sitting for a few days.

We’ve had an brilliant few New Zealand farm experiences, and although I’m not completely converted to being an animal lover, the people are awesome.

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South of the North

Cruising out of the Marlborough Sounds, we were a bit sad to be leaving the South Island but really excited to get back to Wellington. We’d had a good time there back in February with Jon, experiencing the sights, wind and the Weta Cave (twice) in just a couple of days, and so were glad to have a sorted out a helpx there.

We had the best week with Tony and Lynnda. As soon as Tony picked us up from the ferry, we hit it off, and were happily chatting on the way back to their place. They live in Johnsonville, a suburb just outside Wellington, in an amazing house. It sits up the side of a hill, and has ceiling to floor windows with spectacular views across the valley, where we were able to see a few good sunsets and some pretty intense wind and rain!

Our lovely Wellington. Helpx hosts Tony and. Lynnda.

Our lovely Wellington Helpx hosts Tony and Lynnda.

Tony and Lynnda made us feel right at home, and we had a lot of great food which we’ll now need to walk off a bit! They made sure that we made the most of our time Wellington, and really emphasised the exchange part of the programme. We did a variety of odd jobs around the house and garden (which is also amazing), hopefully helping out enough to earn our excellent part of the bargain.

On the windy and rainy days they helped us out loads with planning the rest of our time on the North Island, giving us tips and hints on some great free things to do and see. They’ve also travelled extensively on the West Coast of the US, so we did a lot of planning for our time in the States in July and August. On the nicer days, we went out into Welly, walking around the harbours and visiting the museums. We also walked up Mount Kaukau, which we could see from their house, and from where we could see 360 degrees of Wellington, out to sea, across the Cook Strait all the way down to the Kaikoura mountains and north across the hills.

The view from Mount Kaukau over to Wellington city.

The view from Mount Kaukau over to Wellington city.

We got on really well with Tony and Lynnda, and are really thankful they picked us. The trip out in Lynnda’s Hot Rod was a definite highlight, but hanging out and chatting, as well as playing with the grand kids, was just as much fun!

Cruisin' in the Hot. Rod

Cruisin’ in the Hot Rod

After we said our goodbyes and struck out on our own again, the first thing was to pick up our new car. We got a super cheap deal, working out at around $15 per day, and for the first time all honeymoon we got upgraded so this car is actually quite nice. We drove all around the Wellington harbour peninsula, stopping for a quick sightsee up Mount Victoria (Kaukau’s view is better) as well as a third trip to the Weta Cave. Just as awesome as before.

The Wellywood sign

The Wellywood sign

We then left Welly, heading out and the looping South down toward Cape Palliser, the North Island’s most southerly point. Considering we’re so close to the capital, this area has a really wild and rugged feel. On the way, we detoured to Kaitoke Park and hung out where they built the sets for Rivendell. It felt quite geeky wandering around with our LOTR locations book, but it was a really nice and homely spot.

Hunting for Hobbits

Hunting for Hobbits

Rivendell in Kaitoke Park

Rivendell in Kaitoke Park

We stopped for the night at Lake Ferry, which has a real edge of the world feel to it. Whilst the few houses there seemed empty and we were the only people at the campsite, the hotel / pub’s open mic night was surprisingly busy! We left as they started the duelling banjos… The following morning we ventured all the way South, and to another great LOTR location – the Puturangi Pinnacles, which featured as the Dimholt Road. Amazingly weird geological features of rocky spires shooting up the valley along the riverbed.

The Pinnacles aka The Dimholt Road

The Pinnacles aka The Dimholt Road

The way is shut

The way is shut

We also enjoyed Martinborough, Masterton and a really nice walk through the Manawatu Gorge, and then head to another help-x for a few days to look after animals and pick kiwi fruit in Wanganui. Our CVs are getting better all the time!

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Working in Wanaka

For most of April, we lived and worked in the beautiful town of Wanaka. When we drove through in our van we decided to try and find a helpx here, and managed to get a spot at Florence’s Foodstore and Cafe.

Law marketing Florence's

Law marketing Florence’s

We lived with the owner, Sharyn, and David, a 17 year-old German student living in New Zealand for the year. After the nomadic (and compact) life of the camper, staying in a whole house was a nice change! A comfy double bed, our own living room and a nice home cooked meal every night were the rewards for our 28 hours a week.

From Monday to Friday, we worked from 10.30-3.30 in the cafe. While Laura’s Granary training soon kicked in, and she quickly established herself as a key member of the team, running food and using the till, I made do with the more manly tasks of cleaning the toilets and washing up. It wasn’t too bad though, and during a quieter week I spent the whole time working outside on the gardens. The team at Florence’s are all great, and we were made to feel a part of the family – the chef’s lunches and daily barista coffees were also pretty sweet! Over the Easter weekend, when things were insanely busy and we kept up with the pace, Sharyn labeled us both “machines”, which was high praise indeed!

So clean you could drink from it

So clean you could drink from it

Living in the same place for the first time in months, we got into a nice routine in Wanaka. The town sits on the edge of the lake, surrounded by mountains, so our half hour walk to and from work each day was amazingly scenic. After work, we’d stroll down into town and enjoy the beach, and amazingly for New Zealand, free and unlimited wifi. Googling and facetiming at the edge of the lake was the daily ritual. For the first week we’d sunbathe and swim, and after the clocks changed we’d wrap up warm and then enjoy the 5pm happy hour with some $5 drinks.

Google with a view

Google with a view

Autumn is coming

Autumn is coming

In the evenings, we made the most of Sharyn’s Video Ezy membership and rented loads of DVDs, or headed back into the town to the awesome Cinema Paradiso – Captain America for me, freshly baked interval cookies for Law. On days off we explored around the lake, and became true(ish) locals by climbing Mount Iron. Towards the end of our time and as Autumn set in, and the leaves changed to an amazing range of colours and snow began to appear on the mountain tops, we were still there in time for the Warbirds over Wanaka festival. The event runs every two years, and for days we could see and hear aeroplanes from WW1 onwards flying overhead and even saw the biggest crowd we’d ever seen in New Zealand at a lakeside aerial dogfight recreation.

Top of Mount Iron

Top of Mount Iron

Warbirds over Wanaka

Warbirds over Wanaka

This was the longest we’d spent in any place since volunteering, and it felt nice just to chill. Wanaka is such a cool town, and there aren’t many places we’d rather have worked and played for 3 and half weeks. So, thanks Video Ezy, The Trout, The Kai, BoaBoa Burger, Cinema Paradiso and of course Florence’s, we’ll miss you!

Sunset, lake, snow-tipped mountain.  Thanks Wanaka

Sunset, lake, snow-tipped mountain. Thanks Wanaka

Top 5 films watched thanks to Cinema Paradiso / Video Ezy, in no particular order:

The Grand Budapest Hotel – classic Wes Anderson
Argo – tense BAfflek
We Bought a Zoo – Law’s choice
The Road – naked Viggo
Cloud Atlas – sci-fi love story epic

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Kings of the North

After a great two weeks in Matakana, and having spent a month in New Zealand already, we finally broke off on our own and did some travelling. It was a bit difficult saying goodbye to my wall, not too mention all the happy hours, but we’ve had an awesome few days since.

When we were in Thailand, a Kiwi guy we met suggested that we explore the north of the North Island, as not a lot of people make it that far up. Many of the guests we met at the Lodge had gone to the Bay of Islands, and only ventured further on organised tours. We don’t have the time constraints that they faced, so we decided that we’d spend 10 days driving around, exploring and doing a bit more work in Northland.

The Falcon

The Falcon

Thanks to some good researching by Mrs H, we picked up a cheap hire car from Whangarei, a bright red Ford Falcon with almost 300,000km on the clock. Almost instantly, the bags opened and we filled all available space. We then filled up the New Zealand essential item, a chilly bin, with some food and bits and drove off.

Our first stop was the Waipoua Forest, home to some of the largest and oldest trees on earth, Kauri trees. Some are between 1200 and 2000 years old, and are vast – the diameter of the biggest was over 15 metres. We stayed the night at a campground in the forest, and the next morning explored around. Our timing was pretty good, and we avoided all the tour groups. The size and age of the trees was incredible and the quiet made it a pretty magical experience…

Kauri tree

Kauri tree

Laura gets emotional

Laura gets emotional

… Until the last tree we visited, the very famous, largest and most easily accessible Te Matua Ngahere, which was surrounded by tourists. The sign near the tree states that it was alive and growing at the time of Christ.

With avoiding tour buses being the objective, we got up early the following day and drove up to the top of the North Island, Cape Reinga. There is a lighthouse at the end of the headland that you can walk out to, and a handy sign that tells you just how far you are from things. The most amazing aspect was that this is the point where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. We’d read about this, and heard it was supposed to be impressive, but the actual effect was breathtaking. You can actually see them coming together and forming waves, breaking into different directions. The seas are even different colours. Words and pictures really don’t do it justice, and we were glad to be up there with so few people.

The Tasman and Pacific say hello

The Tasman and Pacific say hello

As close as we'll be to home for a while

As close as we’ll be to home for a while

That afternoon, we visited the huge Te Paki sand dunes, and once again avoiding the crowds we climbed up to the top (exhausting), and surrounded by Tatooine / Lawrence of Arabia views, did the natural thing and lay down on boogie boards and zoomed to the bottom. Laura was a lot better than me and I still have sand in my hair. To finish the day off, we drove over to the west coast and went to 90 Mile Beach, which as it sounds is a huge long beach that stretches all the way to Cape (it’s actually only about 65 miles long, buts it’s still pretty darn impressive). It’s possible to drive on it but a lot of tourists have lost vehicles to it over the years, so I parked at the edge, but just standing on it was pretty cool. Nothing but beach as far the eye could see in either direction, and then out of the distance a 4×4 truck appeared, cruising in and out of the surf and flew by us. Damn boy racers…

Cool boarder

Cool boarder

Omar Sharif style on 90 Mile Beach

Omar Sharif style on 90 Mile Beach

The following two days we spent just outside of Mangonui, and Law found us an amazing place to stay. It was an awesome little caravan in a mini orchard, with spectacular views and really friendly owners. They’d stocked the fridge and cupboards, gave us a basket of their fresh fruit and veg, and the some fish fillets that they’d caught for dinner. Amazing.

Classy caravaning

Classy caravaning

Whilst it was tempting to just chill out there, we did venture out to do a walk nearby. We drove out to Totara North and did the Wairakau Stream Track, a 5km walk through forest and alongside a river. We stopped off for swim at one point, and once again were surrounded by amazing views and no people. The highlight was at the end of the track, with an optional 750 metre climb up the side of a mountain and out onto a rock known as the Duke’s Nose, named after Wellington. It was generally okay but steep, until the last section which is a 10 metre abseil straight up using a chain stuck in the cliff face. The panoramic views of Whangoroa harbour were beautiful and decent place for lunch.

It was steeper than it looks

It was steeper than it looks

Top of the Duke's Nose

Top of the Duke’s Nose

After a week of road tripping, it was time to go back to work for a bit. Along with motel running, bed and breakfast-ing and wall building, fruit picking and selling can now go on the CVs. We have just spent a few days living on a farm near Kerikeri, where in exchange for food and accommodation we have to do 4 hours work a day. This being New Zealand, I’m outside in the fields whilst Law has the easy job of looking after the roadside shop. Typical.

Nice melons

Nice melons

We’ve had an awesome time in the Northland, and are really glad we came up here for a few days. Every beach we went too was idyllic (and abandoned), the vistas are amazing and the roads are practically empty. If this is the busier, less spectacular of the two islands, the South Island slideshow could be a long one…

Northland...

Northland…

Is...

Is…

Awesome.

Awesome.

Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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