Ahoy! Its been a while since we've written a blog (as ever) but this time is because we've been introduced into the wonderful world of Wwoofing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) Basically we go stay with a family for usually around a week and help them out for about 4/5 hours a day on there farm. Its usually things that people dont want to do or never get round to doing. For this we get free accomodation and all our meals included. Meaning we dont have to spend any money! Its also a brilliant way for us to get away from other tourists and only seeing hostels, to seeing the real New Zealand.
When we last wrote we were still buzzing from our amazing SkyDive. After havnig trouble sleeping that night because we couldn't belive what we had done, we had to get up early to catch our Stray bus to get to the Tongariro crossing. So we got there at like 7:15am and it was supposed to come at 7:30. When 8 o'clock rolled round we started to get a little worried. We find out that the bus driver decided to leave an hour early but didnt tell anyone who wasn't staying in his hostel. Brilliant. We get hold of Stray and they tell us they'll send a bus to pick us up at about 1:30pm, meaning we're stuck with all our luggage and no where to go all day long!
When it finally turns up after what seems like an eternity, we meet 3 others who were also left behind. This however is where we met one German girl who introduced us to the wonderful world of wwoofing, so every cloud and all that. As the trek across the Tongariro crossing is like 7 hours long, by the time we get to our hostel we're obviously too late to do it on that day. This is particularly annoying as that was a day of beautiful clear blue skies and blazing sunshine! Of course when we ask about doing it the next day, theres a storm coming. Excellent. Not much of a surprise as New Zealands weather is so random you can go through all 4 seasons in one day. We have to wait until 8pm the night before to get the last idea of whether the crossing would be on and whether it would be worth getting up at like 6:30 for or not. Good news is that it was on! They thought we could get up there just before the wind and snow hit. When we get up in the morning everyones still a little edgy about the whole thing but we promise them that we'll turn round if it gets bad in the first hour. We start hiking at about 7:30/8ish and get going. Other than the sudden cold, the weather seems fine really and we get ahead of a bunch of school kids who are doing it too. The beggining of the hike was lovely, you follow a stream up the mountain, and it begins relativly flat. Theres an actual path on a lot of it so it was quite different from the old Lares Trek. The first hour goes past fine without a spot of wind so we think there making a mountain out of a mole hill and happily plod on. Annoyingly theres actualy STAIRS for some of it, so much worse than just hill, but when we got to the top it was worth it for the beautiful view. Or not. We couldn't see anything but thick white long cloud. As we get higher we notice a bit of wind and what looks like some people turning back, but decided to keep going with some others anyway. It was only when we got to some eeiree flat part of the volcanoes that we got attacked by a sand storm as the wind REALLY started to pick up!
I knew Turl was getting panicky as he kept telling me to hurry up so we could "stay close to other people." When we got to the end of this strip and to our next steep clim Turl would say things like "Only got the next bit then we're at the very top" Which was infuriating as we could see where the top was and whenever we got to Turlough's "top" and through the cloud there was always a hidden mountain behind. Things got really risky on this final climb as the wind got dangerously stonf and we had to crawl on our hands and knees to get through it. The wind was blowing sand in our eyes as well so we couldnt see. Turl and I were really worried about this elderly coupld in front of us who kept falling down so we kept our hands out behind them. At the worst point we found a group of people sheltering behind a big rock and joined them for a break. it was reallly hard work trying to battle with the elements especially when we got higher up and the ground was like loose sand, when you really needed your balance.
We finally made it too the top and were once again amazed by the wonderful view of pure cloud. It was probably a much more fun hike than if the weather had been perfect as we had to battle the wind. Once past the main wind tunnel and on the other side of the mountain the ground was still really loose and we had to sort of glide down, it was much safer than trying to keep still. This was where we still manged to see the volcanic rock pools and had a huge downhill part to go! On the whole of this downhill part all Turlough and I thought about was Christmas dinner and left over turkeys sandwiches, literally the only thing. We just repeated what we'd put in our sandwhich over and over again wishing mum would come over here and cook us a roast. This made our cheese and onion sandwiches we had for lunch a little measly in comparison. However i did have Burger rings which are amazing crisps that they get over here. (Turlough overdosed on them the other night so hates the sight of them now)
The rest of the trek meant we could actually see the view on the other side thankgod and ended up taking us through bush. This was nice as we then followed a stream to a waterfall like the beginning. We did it in about 5 and half hours now that we're proper trekkers, annoyingly had to sit in the rain for our bus to pick us up.
The next day we got back on our bus to head to Wellington. On the way down we stopped of in a place we can't remember, where they hold an annual welly (they call them gum boots) throwing compition. We had our own run throwing by the official rules and Turlough won out of the boys but was too scared to take on the driver! This won us some free pints later on that day. when we got to Wellington we checked into the hostel with most of the people on our bus and had a wonder round town with them. You can't belive that it is the capital city when you walk around as it is SO small and quiet! The complete opposite to London. That night as part of the hostel we could get a $7 large pizza from Dominos and went to the hostel bar to meet up with the rest of the people off the bus.
On Friday when most people got the ferry down to the south island we checked out of the Base hostel in search of a better one, not realising that it was Easter weekend so alot of places were full up! We manged to get a place in Wellywood hostel though, and stayed there, while we sorted out our first places to Wwoof. We booked for the next 3 weeks with three different families. The first one was due to start next wednesday so we spent the rest of the week in Wellington. Luckily there was an international film festival going on so got a bulk pass to see that. We first saw "Rachel getting married" then a great british film called "Boy A" about a boy realised from prison after commiting child murder, and then a really strange sweedish thriller called "Not another love story." We also went to see The Boat that rocked, which is brilliant and you should go see it if you haven't already! We also went to Wellington zoo and to the brilliant national museum Te Papa. This is a free musuem and its really good too! (definately reccomend)
On the Wednesday we caught a train to Paraparaumu to meet our first wwoofer hosts Joan and Brent. The journey took about 50mins and only cost us $7.50! We were met at the staion by Joan and her yappy little dog Lily. Luckily i got to sit in the back with Lily and experience her loving 'headbutt.' When we got there we couldn't belive our eyes, their home was so beautiful and we got to stay in one of the B&B rooms with our own bathroom! We met Brent and he gave us a tour of their farm. First we went to feed the chickens which are free range as there is no foxes over here. Then we mucked out and fed the alapcas which we would do every morning. It was here that we saw the week old baby Alpaca! Check out the pictures it was sooo cute. They were lovely inquisitive animals, they bred them and sold their wool. We also got to meet their other animals, sheep, llamas, tigger the cat, and Pip the poodle. Another dog that had just had puppies at the weekend and was usually guarding them. We did manage to sneak in a couple of times to see them though! (check out the pictures)
We would usually wake up around 7:30/8ish and have some amazing breakfast (museli that tasted of flapjack with a million types of fruit) then feed the chickens and alpacas. After this we would spend the morning gardening usually weeding or clearing until lunchtime at about 12:30/1ish (stopping for morning tea halfway through) Then we had the rest of the day free to explore. One morning Joan took us around to a couple of Farmers markets where we met some locals and tried homemade goods! At one of them Joan bought us both a truely amazing ice cream in this cheese shop (dad you would have LOVED it) and then found a british stall at the market. Turl and I got a Curly Wurly and some apple tango from this stall and some garlic and balsamic vinegar mayo from another! Amazing! We then did a bit of potting in the afternoon! On another day we were taken to the beach for a swim (or paddle in my case) where we found some kind of shell fish (tuatuas?) we went home and Brent made them in to fritters, which were actually really nice!
One evening we walked up the hill behind their property to watch the sunset. It was amazing from that spot there was nothing all the way until Australia so you could see a huge stretch of sky. We also went to the local cinema to see Changeling. This cinema was amazing it only had about 20 seats and they were huge like sofas with cushions. You could even take in food, tea and coffee. On another day Joan and Brent had visitors from the local OAP home to see the alapcas. This was great as firstly Joan baked some seriously good muffins to give them and obviously as we got to chat to some more true locals! On our last night we were treated to some fish and chips from Brent and Joan and we made a disatrous victoria sponge (Viv would have been devastated) We blame the fact that we didnt use proper flour as Joan was gluten intollerant but i think it was just our guess work really.
For two of the nights during the week we had to go and sleep in the caravan as they had B&B guests! Have a look at the picture that shows how big it was! It was contrary to popular belief really comfy and warm! After a week we had to leave Joan and Brent but we really wanted to stay as they were such kind warm people (I was trying to convince them to do a house swap with us for a week or two so mum and dad could see New Zealand.) The food was proper home cooking and alot of it from their garden! They even took us to the train station and waved us off, Lily too!
However when we left it was going to Daryl and Natalies' who were also two wonderful hosts. They lived in Lower Hutt with their two great kids Finlay (4) and Falk (18 months) We had great accomodation here too, a room in their garage with our own toilet! This was a little different as it was a micro mini farm, they had transformed their back garden! They really showed us what you can do even with little space! There is no excuse!! They had two free range rabbits, two guinea pigs, three chickens, two fish, a worm farm and a cat. They grew most of their own veg were hoping to become self sufficient in the next year. This was a similar routine as before working in the morning and free day after lunch. The food here was really good and Natalie often baked her own bread fresh!!
On the first day we had to catch the free range rabbits as they hadn't come home in a while! They had been across the road in the neighbours veg garden! we cleared some weeds for them too and did some mulching with it! This was Finlays favourite thing so he helped us out too. In fact with most of our jobs we had two little helpers following us about, it was great. We also spent a couple of days building a guinea pig hutch which made Turlough loose his mind. We were helped along by Finlays comments like "Erm, its a little be ugly." But we made it in the end and the guineas got out of the house and into the fresh air! (We think now they've probably set it alight and built one themselves).
In our afternoons off we went into Petone to check out charity and boutique shops down there. We also went to their independant cinema to see the Reader. We couldn't believe how nice it was like the previous one! On our day off we went to check out Lower Hutt and we found a shop called Cool Britannia. This was amazing. Selling loads of English food!! I couldn't believe my eyes when i looked in and saw walkers crisps! I got some Steak and Onion and Turl got some Watsits. Then, the icing on the cake, Scampi fries. I also got an easter egg which i had been waiting two weeks for! What a find.
We were really lucky on the tuesday night as Daryl and Natalie took us to 'tight arse tuesday" at their local pub where it was 241 meals. Turlough embarrassed me by ordering the most expensive meal on the menu (steak obviously) but they pretended to be ok about it. We couldn't believe how lucky we were, a pub dinner!
Whilst we were there we had an email from our next Wwoofing hosts cancelling due to the "flu emergency" what a load of rubbish. They must have thought we were dirty travellers carrying all sorts of diseases. In a way though this turned out for the better as we got to meet the wonderful Flo (from South America) earlier than we thought! We went back to Wellington and met her with her new Chrissie replacement Maggi and booked into their hostel. That night we all went out with a girl called Laura to the base bar and a great boozy night. Drinking Jager bombs with Flo forgetting how much of a light weight she is. We stumbled back at about three waking up the scottish guy in our room (who we thought was a nice guy) who thought this would be a ticket into Flos bed! Another awkward night for Flo telling him where to go! (I hope you're reading this!!)
The next day we checked out late (obiovusly) and all caught the ferry to the South Island. This took about 3hrs 20mins and took us to Picton. It was noticable how much quieter the South Island is immediatley (especially as it was winter) and we checked into a hostel called 'The Villa' This was a nice hostel and we got a room to the four of us but checking in was really painful. There was a guy behind the counter who didnt speak english and had no idea what he was doing. It seriously took about 15minutes to check us all in. We got dinner with Flo and Maggi as they were leaving the next day (they only had another 2weeks here) and we stayed in Picton for a couple of days. We got the bus to Motueka to meet our next Wwoofing hosts Jim and Terri.
We were met by Terri in the town who informed us that things were 'very basic' where she lived and that we dont have to go if we didnt want to. Turl and I thought that this sounded like an adventure so went along anyway not really understanding just how basic it really was. We found this out the second we arrived. We were shown to our 'accomodation' which was an old shipping container. Then shown around the farm and into their 'house' This was a large barn with a couple of rooms cornered off with Mdf. They had just got their first window the other day (3 years after moving in) and only had one tap indoors and one tap outdoors. There was no heating at alll apart from a wood fire in the evenings. There was one bath that we never got to use for the whole week as you had to light the fire to heat it and this wasn't working. They only ever bathed once a week all four of them sharing the same bath water!! The toilet was a drop loo outside (thats a hole in the ground with a seat if you're like mum and don't know what one is!) In the evenings they used a potty so that they didn't have to go outside!
It wasn't all bad though, their animals were all lovely! I fell in love with their pet pig named Schnitzel who liked to harrass anything or anyone for food. A typical day would be to run up the farm to the drop loo as it was far away from our container, then too get some breakfast (usually marmite and cheese on toast as it didn't involve liquid) We didnt like using the liquid as they got it from the river and it was full of grit. Turlough would then wash up last nights dishes (you couldn;t do it the night before as there was only one light in the whole place) and i would feed the animals! There was 3 goats including Willie who liked to attack you too! Two little deer, two baby pigs, Molly the Mule and Russel the horse and all the free ranging ducks and chickens. There was also How Now the brown cow who we got to milk everyday, and her friend Penny. Milking How Now was great fun but also very challenging. One of us would have to milk while the other guarded her from all the other animals particularly the relentless Schnitzel! At one point Turl and I decided to swap over from milking and she managed (like a bullet) in that split second to get her fat head in the bucket of milk! Its impossible to move her when she gets her fat head in a bucket! There was also all the chickens ducks and wille the goat to guard from aswell!
We would then have some kind of 'project' to complete until the others returned. We re wired the horse feeder with the worst wire cutters known to man as Jim didnt like wwoofers using his real tools. This lead to Turloughs most serious mental breakdown, smashing the wire cutters against the feeder. We also made the dove cage larger so they could fly around more. Pete one the kids got us one of his good wire cutters this time and all hell broke loose. Our worst job was to clean out the "greatest investment of all time" an old food caravan initially purchased for EIGHT GRAND for their "Petting farm." This was one of their many "pipe dreams" we're now referring too as Rocky**** (the name of the "petting farm") dreams. This was a horrific cleaning job as it had been left for many years with bits of food everywhere and a serious infestation of flies. We found two fly nests which were happily feeding some gigantic spiders. We boiled the kettle to get some hot water and disenfectant but really that place just needed some petrol and a match. Complete waste of money. They're now trying to sell it again as they're on to a new fad. I wouldn't pay a tenner.
Most evenings we spent freezing in their filthy poo smelling lounge sat infront of the fire watching sky. Yep thats right, no heating, hot water or toilet but they had SKY!! This was until about 8 o'clockish where we made our excuses and went to bed with a much needed hot water bottle.
One of the evenings however i was taken out by Terri to a girls evening at the local country shop. There was free drinks and a table of food, so i dinned on brownies, chips, dip and cakes while Turlough sat shivering in the shipping container wondering where his life had gone wrong. This was great as I got to chat to the locals aswell, lots of them were from England too where they had run away from. On our last night (we stayed 6 not 7 because it got seriously too much) it all went wrong when Turlough dripped candle wax all over his face and the hot water bottle burst. We were so thankful to get out the next morning when we saw a heavy frost had settled.
We were taken back to Motueka and promptly checked into a hostel paying extra for a room with an ensuite as we needed a shower so badly, it had been a week!!! On the way though we stopped off to buy scrubbers and loofers. So now here we are retelling the story of our horrific time we just survived. Later today we head of for Abel Tasman the nation park and down the west coast. We will be checking the accomodation of the Wwoofers from now on.
Hope you are all ok back home and are enjoying your real houses! The cold has come now we're in the south island but its still sunny days! Thanks for still reading! Missing you all!
Love Fran and Turlough xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx