Toodle Pip

That’s one of the more obscure phrases I’ve picked up from Max since being here. I think it basically means goodbye or see ya later. I figured it was a fitting title seeing as the year is coming to an end and I’m on my way to the next wwoofing opportunity (cheese and trains.) I got new tires from mom and dad for christmas so I’ll strap those on and get riding once again. Fortunately or unfortunately the ride is only about 80km from where I am now so it won’t be all that challenging, though I do have to cross the puketoi mountain ranges so that ought to make it an interesting ride.

Tomorrow will be the first day we’ve taken off since I arrived here shortly less than a month ago. We’re going to head out to a place called castle rock (it’s a beach about 2.5 hours down the way that’s a ways outta the way) We’ll picnic and hang out and I’d imagine Alex will try to get some rock climbing in and I’ll go on some hiking. It’ll be a terrific change of pace from hurling trees around. On the topic of tree hurling we didn’t get to finish the whole paddock clean of scrub (probably about 4 days shy of finishing the project) But we gave it a good go of cleaning. I’ve definitely left my mark on Wildside farms and some of Pongaroa. I definitely like the idea of wwoofing after being here and Branden hit the nail on the head with his comment about how the work balances out with life, it makes for leisurely days just about every day and I always feel like i’ve accomplished something. Definitely a positive experience.

Happy new years to all you out there, take care.

I’ll try to post some pictures tomorrow.

Make Yourself at Home

I was thinking recently about that statement and had to count on my fingers how many times I might have heard that in the last 8 months. I think the count comes to about 13 houses that I could consider being home (that’s just places where people opened their homes to me, not including hostels or motels, etc.) I find it to be a somewhat happy thought as I have been able to share in a lot of moments with people I normally wouldn’t have had the opportunity to had I not chosen the path that I have. It’s also a tremendous amount of trust given which is sobering and something I take quite seriously. While it seems somewhat normal for me to make myself at home while being in a wwoofers shoes i’ve come to understand what type of trust is given to me from what is more or less a complete stranger. That there is why I think I like the wwoofing idea so much, if I had just a regular job there would be less interaction between me and the employer where instead i’m treated like a member of a family. In any case, thanks goes out to everyone who sheltered this lost dog and for all the great times.

On a separate note I’ve wanted to write for a while at the complete lack of American travelers here in New Zealand. By far the majority of travelers that i’ve met have been German, Dutch, and Swiss (in that order.) But as things happen I was joined about a week ago by another wwoofer from California by the name of Alex. He’s become our resident artist and at some point he is going to teach me to play backgammon (he created the board already.) He’s also a rock climber who’s on the lookout for boulders. As I was talking to him about rock climbing I told him I met a guy Eddie that worked for Disney that climbs all over the rides and makes sure that they are safe (I met him on my Pacific Coast ride.) As it turns out Alex used to work with Eddie which just goes to show you how small a world we live in.

The plan at the moment is to hang out at this place until the beginning of the year then I’ll be moving on to another wwoofing opportunity where I’ll be learning to make cheese and butter by hand (sounds interesting to me.) The reason I’ll be staying put a while longer is that everyone in New Zealand is on summer break so campgrounds, hostels are all booked up so I’m just going to avoid that rush until the middle of January when they go back to school and I’ll get on the bike in earnest once again.

Also just wanted to say Merry Christmas to all, have a cup of hot cocoa for me and be happy.


I got loaned out to the sheep farmer next door as help was needed there and I wasn’t doing anything particularly exciting. Our job for the day was to separate the lambs from their mums and then to weight the lambs to see which were big enough to go to the freezing-works (sounds a lot better than the slaughter- house.) My job was to basically get them into the race and keep the line moving while the other guy drafted them into different pens (I think his job was easier than mine as lambs aren’t very keen on going where you want them to go since they don’t have their mum any more.) But after we had that all finished we had to put them back out to pasture to fatten up a bit more before the stock truck came to pick up the ready lambs. So that’s where I got to play as shepherd to a flock of sheep. All that was missing was my crooked staff.

More interesting to me while working there was seeing his herding dogs at work. After seeing them in action I can’t imagine another way of rouding up a bunch of sheep. To me it seemed as if he had invisible hands rounding up the sheep as his dogs are lightning quick. He has 5 dogs that mill around the back of his 4-wheeler just waiting for their turn to go to work. Each dog has their set of whistles (12 individual whistles per dog, each with a different timbre and pattern) Once the dog hears his whistle he blasts off and starts rounding them up. All the while Dave is whistling a complicated pattern of whistles (left, right, far right, far left, steady, come, run, bark, etc…) and they love their work it looks like. The dogs look like some mix of collie and greyhound and they sure make his life easier. So I had a lot of fun just listening to him whistle and the dogs instantly do what he wants, far better than making a dog roll over.

The temperature today is a balmy 22 degrees (celcius) so even thinking about christmas is a foreign thing right now. Life at the moment is quite uncomplicated as I don’t even know whats going on in the news apart from Max telling me tidbits of whats going on that he catches in the morning. My typical day has been for the last two weeks to get up around 6 and read for an hour, eat breakfast, work from 8 to half past noon then back up to shower and watch a movie then read a book until about 8 then dinner and then sleep at about 10, rinse a repeat. No worries.

The Farmhand

I’ve learned more about cows in the last week than I ever thought I’d learn in my entire life and it’s been an interesting experience through and through. I know gained a whole new respect for bull riders, not that I’ve been up against a bull but I have felt the strength of a cow now and have a healthy respect for them. When the vet was here to check in on one of the sick cows I was instructed to stand at the head of the cow while it was getting it’s shots. It’s head was in the yards so it was restrained, to an extent. I soon learned that I was a bit too close as it lowered it’s head and lifted me off the ground as it went up again (not something I expected.) It also butted me in the chest a few times, enough to leave a mark. Other than that they all have personalities which makes it interesting to work with sometimes.

Other than sick cows we had a water crisis on the farm where we were running without water for a few days which had me digging holes around the property (somewhat at random) in hopes of diagnosing the leak. And hand carrying water with Max from one trough to another trough so the cows would have water. In the end it ended up being a problem with faulty assumptions that led to the problem.

Random tasks have started popping up to the list of things to do which is kinda nice as scrub cutting would get a little boring. So we’ve taken to fixing fence line, adding water lines, adding troughs, moving stock around (can I add the title of shepherd yet?) We continue to eat well at meals, includes at least 2 bottles of wine each night (aunt Karen would fit right in at the dinner table.) Things move along nicely here, quiet and calm.

I added a few pictures from Napier on south.

Working, Again

It seems I wasn’t all together wrong in saying I’d be working in a forestry field coming here. It’s just that I’m working in the deforestry of a few fields on the farm. I’m working with Max and Jane on their 200 some odd acre farm trying to reclaim a paddock from a particular type of tree. So I’ve been spending the last few days throwing trees over a fence while Max cuts them down, quite the tiring work. It’s weird, having a job after an 8 month break. You should try it.

Theres no television or cell phone here so as you can probably imagine it’s fairly remote. They do have a movie collection that would make dad proud so thats usually what I do to entertain myself after finishing 4 hours of hurling trees. And as a celebratory thing I’ve finally eaten lamb. It took one whole month to get to it and it was well worth the wait. Max is an excellent cook and we’ve had things raised here on the farm to eat, including the salads to the venison (wild deer on the farm), sheep, and beef.

Max and Jane are actually a British couple that moved here 10 years ago to start a equine rehabilitation facility and to do research on horse behavior. They have been great hosts and great to talk to about life here in New Zealand. They have given me tons of book and recommended a lot of movies for me to watch regarding all things New Zealand so I’ve dutifully been going through them. There’s also some tramping to do which i’ll get to soon.

Add this to my life experiences, i’ve learned how to hand milk a cow. Hooray me.

Staying in One Place

Current Location: Pongaroa, Aotearoa

I liked Napier a lot, the wine tasting I did was great. At some of the wineries we got to sample up to nine different wines. After a while I stopped telling the difference between wines and just kept on drinking. The city is also kinda a neat place, lots to do around the city and it certainly has a character to it.

I spent the last two days cycling to get to my first wwoof’ing appointment. And before when I said forestry work I really meant working on at a equine facility. You can understand how I would mix those up. The good thing is I arrived in one piece, it’s started to get hotter and hotter as the days go on. A good sign that summer might finally be here. It’s either that or I’m on the hot side of the island, as this is where a lot of the wine is grown. Yesterday it was abundantly obvious as the area I was cycling through reminded me a lot of the Napa valley region.

It’ll be weird but I might actually have to stick around here for a bit, but the work seems like it could be fun. It sounds like there’s a lot of bush area to be reclaimed for the horses to feed on along with some other garden type of work. Lets hope I can last, though I can’t imagine it being harder than cycling for 10 hours. I’m not sure what kinda internet I’ll be able to use so updates might be a little more infrequent. I’ll post when I can.

Taking Heed

Current Location: Napier, Aotearoa

They call themselves the art-deco capital of the world here, what that means i’m not quite sure of yet but hopefully I can find out tomorrow. This region is also known for it’s wine production, hopefully that’s something I can take advantage of tomorrow on my bicycle. I think the goal is to try wines for as long as I can remain upright on the bike, should be loads of fun. Today’s ride wasn’t bad at all, I started in Wairoa and peddled 118km and arrived into town around half past 5, quite the leisurely day for me on the bike with only 2 major hills, the last one having a 12km downhill section which was a much deserved payoff.

The reason the post is title taking heed is because I tend not to when being told what to do. In my book “Peddlers Paradise” which is the definitive cycling New Zealand book out there it offers a few pieces of advice. Here are a few choice ones which I have learned to follow.

“Sun: In summer use sun block on all exposed skin, forgetting to do so one day may cause severe sunburn…”

Yeah, I didn’t put sunblock a couple days and I was in a world of pain for several days, haven’t forgotten since.

“Sandflies: No dangerous animals such as bears or cats but New Zealand ceartainly makes up for it with sandflies.”

These things are not to be trifled with, I’ve got the wounds all up and down my legs to prove it. I’ve considered bathing in Off as soon as stepping off the cycle. They bite like crazy and it hurts, then it leaves a welt that itches like crazy (I thought I was getting chicken-pox)

“Magpies: They use cyclists as target practice for dive bombing runs and have been known to draw blood”

This one I thought was a joke until today. I was flying down a hill when out of the corner of my eye I saw something big and black take flight. Thinking it was a hawk I turned around to see where it went only to hear something on the other side of me swoop down and squawk at me. Mind you I’m still flying downhill and trying to dodge a damn bird that won’t stop swooping at me. I’m zigging and zagging and nothing will stop this thing from taking pot shots at me. Finally I stop the bike and look back at it, he finally flew away at that point. I think from now should this happen again I’ll just stop the bike and throw rocks at it.

On a seperate note i’m in shooting distance of Wellington which means i’m close to the south island, whoohoo. But I’ve decided to accept a wwoof’ing opportunity for a few weeks so mom and dad can send me my much needed tires (when the arrive.) It’s about 2 days ride from here doing some reforestry work and some other manual labor tasks, i’m looking forward to it.