Current Location: Auckland, Aotearoa

Where to begin when it all comes to an end?  The list would be too long to name everyone to thanks who I’ve met and has helped me along the way here in New Zealand, which isn’t to say that I’m not thankful for I truly am to everyone.  The people I’ve met have made this trip for me without doubt.  While New Zealand is naturally quite beautiful the people make it a magical place to be.  I’ve done so much this trip that trying to list it all would be quite the arduous task which I’ll not bore anyone with, suffice to say that it wouldn’t have been possible without the wwoofing hosts.

Someone found this webpage using the search term “is wwoofing a good idea?”  I would have to answer with an emphatic yes.  I have had nothing but good experiences and good times with the people that have opened their houses and lives to me.  I wrote once about making yourself at home in a strangers house, an idea I still find wonderful.  Living the life of a hosteler you are somewhat removed from the true kiwi experience while the life of a wwoofer you are immersed in the kiwi way of life, if you let yourself go.

A sometimes added benefit of wwoofing is getting to really meet other travellers.  I’ve spoken to some people about the transientness of hosteling, always having the same conversation over and over again with each new roommate it sometimes gets tiring.  While wwoofing really allows you a false sense of permanence which allows you to really get to know your fellow wwoofer.  Without wwoofing I would never have met Alex, Anne, Jack, and Elizabeth for which my life would be poorer.

I think I love New Zealand, it wouldn’t take much to get me to move here.  I find it very difficult to say goodbye, more so than when I left Hawai’i.  Probably because I knew that I would return there soon, if the future holds New Zealand for me I can’t say.  I’ve already considered coming back on a tourist visa but only half-heatedly just to soothe my mind.  Doing New Zealand by bicycle was my way of doing this uniquely which is what scares me about SE. Asia which I take on the title of backpacker.  I read an article about backpacking recently about how nothing is unique anymore, it’s like legions of lemmings all armed with their lonely planet guide books all doing the same things, staying in the same places.  Where is the sense of adventure that existed 40 years ago?  I left my lonely planet guide book back in Christchurch in favor of getting lost where possible and the chance to ask random people for advice when I needed it instead of relying on a book.

I’ve done over 8000km in New Zealand.  My bicycle computer broke around Wellington, the second time around, and I couldn’t be bothered to fix it.  I know what my average speed is so I know how long each days cycle ride should be which is good enough for me.  Most people are gobsmacked when I tell them how far I’ve ridden or what I’ve managed to accomplish in New Zealand.  To which I reply that what I’ve done is nothing special and there is no reason they can’t do the same thing.  It’s something I truly believe at this point, it only takes the will to finish something, the body will follow where the mind goes.  I’m not sure anyone believes me when I tell them this but anyone can do this, it’s that simple.

Wwoofing has me thinking a lot about the intersections in life and where the road takes you.  Superman posed the question “2 years ago, did you have any idea you would have been doing something like that right now?”  In all honesty I would have to answer no to that question, I had no clue what my last 18 months would have held for me.  I’ve tried to stick to the philosophy that I take any opportunity that presents itself to me and I think it really has done me well.  I’ve enjoyed staying at wwoofing gigs for an average of 3 weeks each place, it gives us the opportunity to really get to know one another, which is good and bad as it makes leaving all the harder each time.

I leave with a list of random things regarding New Zealand.

Favorite Cities in New Zealand:

  • Big City: Christchurch
  • Mid Size: Rotorua
  • Little: I’ve liked most of the little towns but I’d have to say that Pongaroa was the most charming.  Good people abound in the small towns

Favorite Place: Up until a month ago it was the Coromandel Peninsula but my time in the Bay of Islands was simply amazing.

Favorite Camping: Fantail Bay, Coromandel Peninsula.  Incredible place.

Things I Won’t Miss:

  • Sandflies: good riddance to them
  • Magpies: attacked twice, Damn birds.

Most Unusual Item I’ve Seen a Backpacker Carry: A compound bow, by a hunter crazy canuck.

Favorite Hostel: Purple Cow, Wanaka.  Immaculately run and a great view.

Favorite Stretch to Ride: Caitlins, South Island.

To sum up New Zealand, “Sweet as, bro”

edit: last batch of pictures added for New Zealand.

Empty Alley

City Slicker

It’s been a pretty intense week or so.  As soon as we dropped Jack off at the bus terminal we came back to the farm to move some stock around and check things out.  It being calving season Alex has been sure to check on the heifers on a daily basis to see if any of them are having birthing issues.  As we were riding around on the quad we saw one heifer with two hooves sticking out of her so Alex knew something might be wrong.  We went back to the house to get some gear and to give her a few hours to see if the birthing would happen naturally, but by the time we went back nothing had progressed so he decided to assist the birthing.  We managed to get her in the head bail and at that point it got pretty messy.  It’s not as scientific as I would have thought to assist in the birth, we basically strapped some ropes to the calfs feet and pulled, it took 3 of us to do it but finally he was brought into the world.  He got dubbed Mr. Heavy as Alex tells me he’s a beast of a boy.  We had to nurse him through the first few days because the mum was too stressed out from the birthing.  A week later and the calf is doing perfectly.

The day before that incident we got to dock 140-some-odd lambs.  Docking is the process of cutting off the tails of the lambs to keep them clean on the backside.  The job of Jack and I was to catch each lamb and run them through the procession of things needing to be done ending with the chop.  It was interesting work, something that only happens once a year so I was pretty lucky to get to try it.  We finished up the day with Jack and I wrangling a couple of rams, Alex’s only warning was be careful, they can shatter your knee.  It’s a pretty intense warning as you’re in the pen with them. 

To get the lambs all in one place was fun as well, we got to do it on horse back instead of on a quad or by foot.  Miranda gave me a quick rundown on how to turn and how to stop.  With that we were off into the far reaches of the farm to collect up the lambs and their mums.  We all did pretty well I thought as Jack and I are no experienced riders and managed to get them all rounded up after a few hours of riding.  At one point it was me pushing a whole mob of sheep by myself and I let myself pretend I was a cowboy, pretty awesome.  At the end of the ride there is a particular hill the horses are used to galloping up which was crazy.  We all sat there and the only advice given to me was to hold on, it’s really quite surprising how fast a horse goes from sitting to full blast.  I laughed my head off the entire way up the hill, I realize now I’ve cantered before on a horse, but never galloped.  Try it if you get the chance, it’s amazing.

I’m On a Boat

Current Location:Kerikeri, Aotearoa

After a few days in Kerikeri trying to find a wwoofing gig I was about to give up as every place I called or emailed came back with a reply that things were full which was pretty disheartening.  I actually got to the point where I figured there were too many Germans wwoofing for me to find anything in this area so I was about to hit the road and make it to Whakatane.  Fortunately I got an email the morning I was to leave that a spot had opened up on a farm down the road so that’s where I find myself these next few weeks.

I’m hosted by Alex and Miranda, a kiwi and a dutch (respectively.)  There’s also another wwoofer here from the UK, Jack, who has just arrived in New Zealand.  The first day that I arrived we quickly got to work and finished up the day, for our evening entertainment we went and did some possum control, read hunting possums.  It was a lot of fun, we walked through the bush with our headlamps looking for the possums to stare back at us at which point we take some pot shots at them with the .22 or Alex would give em hell with a shotgun.  We ended the night after putting down a total of 4 and one injured.  Possums here are quite a pest that kill a lot of the native flora and fauna.  Common control methods usually involve 1080, a poison, which New Zealand consumes 80% of the worlds supply of 1080.  It’s a highly contested control method due to second kill effects.  Hopefully at some point the use of it ends or is greatly reduced.

After a few days on the farm we got to go for a cruise and try our hand at fishing on Alexs yacht.  Being in the bay of islands is probably the perfect place to go sailing at this time of year as we have had perfect weather.  We managed to catch only a little bait fish so we ended the day just having a good time cruising around the bay a bit.  We got the boat out of the water now and have spent the last several days sanding it down and getting it cleaned up so we can repaint it.

This would be the first real commercial farm I’ve gotten to work on so it’s an interesting perspective than the other farms that I’ve wwoofed on but the work is nice and hard and the playing is also a lot of fun.  This weekend we get to dock lambs and ride some horses around the farm, should be lots of fun.

Back on the Farm

Time seems to keep passing along as I came, once again, to the realization that my time in New Zealand gets shorter and shorter.  By my reckoning I have a little less than 3 months to finish up everything I’ve got to do in New Zealand.  I’m not really worried about the ride anymore because by my calculations it’s only 2 weeks of riding give or take a few days so as long as the bike holds together for a bit longer then that part of the adventure is just about sealed up.

Being back in Pongaroa has been as relaxing as it was the first time I was here.  I get to read a lot of books and watch heaps of movies (99% of which are non-fiction, as Max says ‘truth is often stranger than fiction.’)  We’ve taken to a lot of fencing projects, some of which Alex and I started the last time we were here along with planting native plants around the farm.  While I’ve been in town there has been a rally race that used Pongaroa as the hub (the most excitement I’ve seen in town square since I’ve been here,) and not a whole lot else to draw much attention to this corner of the world.  The food continues to be excellent and the wine keeps me warm at night.

Speaking of native plants it’s nice to see people who make a conscious effort to promote and ensure that the native flora which to some extent promotes the native fauna.  This is the second place I’ve wwoofed at where promoting native plants takes a priority rather than planting the exotics.  I’m somewhat ashamed to say my knowledge of Hawaiian native plants is somewhat lacking, besides the kukui nut tree and some flowers used for making leis nothing else really comes to my mind which is somewhat embarrassing.

A somewhat funny story popped up in the news about a week ago that boggled me, here it is.

I added a few pictures from Otaki on to Pongaroa.

Beer house

Dug Dig

Current Location:Pongaroa, Aotearoa

I’ve been here a little over a week now, thanks to Max for letting me take over the computer for a while to put back the pieces of humpty-dumpty here.  I cycled over the Puketoi ranges this time making it one big loop to get back here.  I also got to cycle through a few gorges which are always nice to ride through since I know it’s easier to ride through them then over a mountain range.  The only downside to it was that the Manuwatu gorge is the major link between Palmerston North and Woodville which meant quite a bit of traffic.

It’s been a while since I’ve really written anything meaningful here since the site kept going up and down so bear with me as this might go back a while.

The two crazy kids in Wellington insist I only referred to them as the two crazy kids.  So I figure I have to rectify this sooner or later.  Sharon and Ellen (and Wayne who is now in the UK)  I met while doing the Milford Track down on the South island.  Sharon was nice enough to host me whenever I showed up in Wellington.  It sort of got to be like the boy who cried wolf as I kept saying it would be the last time I show up in Wellington but then every weekend rolled around and I’d pop back down to Wellington for the weekend.  So thanks to Sharon and Ellen for the wacky hijinks, the marathon watching, and the coffee drinking it was a lot of fun in Wellington.

As I mentioned in the Apples post I spent a few weeks pruning apple trees in the Totranui Orchard which was kinda neat.  The best part was the apple juice and cider though.  The ad for the place in the wwoof book says the apple juice tastes like it’s from heaven and thats something I’d have to agree with, it was a nice treat to start the morning with a nice glass of homemade apple juice and end the day with 4litres of hard cider (between 2 of us.)  It was good fun there, listeing to the radio news and a movie most nights sitting next to the fire, good stuff. 

It’s nice to be back in Pongaroa, a neat little spot in New Zealand.  The work is hard but that’s a good thing.  Directly after I arrived here Max and Jane told me the plans for me while i’m here.  The main job is putting an extension on the house for which I was responsible for digging the holes where cement is to be poured.  I think I dug around 3 cubic meters of dirt out of the ground for the first 4 days or so.  The plan now is to pour the cement into those holes tomorrow along with the piles that the extension will sit on.  I’ve also been fixing fences and digging around in the garden.

I’m not sure exactly what the plan is from here, I’m thinking I’ll get out of here around the end of the month and just finish up most of the ride, perhaps stay up in northland for a while and wwoof up there.  There is finally enough daylight now to get in a decent ride without having to worry too much about running out of time.