Tag Archives: workaway

Auckland and farewell to NZ

Lou had been working hard to get the car details out and about in the hope of a quick sale of it and all the camping stuff that we had.  Of course, it is never that simple and we had had no bites at all from the posts she had put up.

For our final period in Auckland, she had arranged for us to stay at a workaway in the Mt Eden area. Right up on the hill at the end of the road, the house was at the end of a steep drive. Rented by Kharen, a single mum and Alex, her lovely 12 year old daughter, she had decided that with the hours she worked, the large garden would never be brought under control unless she got help and so her looking for workaways. It was great fun. We lived in an enormous room on the ground floor with probably as much floor space as our flat in Stockbridge. We were able to spread out, clean, wash and repack all the stuff we had acquired in NZ, separating what we would take back to the boat and what would be left behind.

The work on the garden entailed everyone getting involved. I did the noisy stuff and cut down some trees, Lou and the girls weeded and picked out huge numbers of unwanted bulbs and I even managed to do a little carpet laying to the outhouse, converted into a hideaway for Alex. I tried to make a new shelter under the deck area with a large tarp which looked good until the rain came. With not enough angle and too little tension, it failed. I understand that Kharen will try again with more angle and perhaps supports fitted too.

Of course it wasn’t all work. We had some great meals and chats with Kharen. Hannah was particularly appreciative of her time with Alex, someone who shares her love of art and is in this person’s humble opinion, exhibiting a considerable talent already.  There was a visit to the Auckland Zoo where Hannah, near beside herself,  got to see a baby giraffe (for those not in the know, her very, very favourite animal) and even a Kiwi in a special low light environmental area. No photos allowed though, so you get to see the sign.

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We had a good time doing the last real mall shopping we expect to be able to do until we either see Australia or perhaps the UK. Clothes were delivered back to Op shops, more clothes were handed down by Alex and bags were packed. I managed to run around a variety of boat shops and found most of my shopping list – new bearings for the main track, an acid wash for the water generator, West System epoxy, a gel coat repair kit, bulbs and copper strip being the main items.  Lou continued to try and get rid of the car but we still had no luck.  In the end, we took it back to the company that we bought it from, signed it in to their care for sale and left it with them for eventual disposal. It may take a while but we should get some money back in time.

We also managed to run out to see the Hobans for an evening, the Workaway family we stayed with back in November. We yet again had a lovely time with them and I hope that we will see (at least!) the kids on our side of the world when they spread their wings. Lovely people.

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We left NZ with a big smile on our faces. We had had a wonderful time, staying with four great families and meeting many more good people as we travelled around.  We were regularly blown away by the hospitality we encountered and the help and advice we received was excellent. Our thanks to you, the Shafts, Hoban, Sell and Hope families. You were wonderful and we hope that one day we will be able to return your hospitality.

And the sport and the outdoor lifestyle? Just marvellous. You don’t see many smokers (priced out of existence – $25+ a pack and rising at 10% a year) and you rarely see overweight – people are just too busy at either some sport or just out tramping. As someone said to us, there is as much pride shown here for someone that gets even to a district sports team as getting good exam results. The number of small towns we drove through with huge signs up, congratulating pupils getting in to a junior NZ team was great to see.

NZ is still a young country and there remain historic difficulties due to the land grabbing tactics of the original white settlers from the Maori clans. However, the modern acceptance and integration of Maori culture and acceptance of the debt suggests that the country is in a far healthier state than say USA, SA or Aus are with their indigenous minorities. The mania for rugby helps, of course. Don’t think I met a NZ child who didn’t know the haka and wasn’t intensely proud of where it came from!

Although we liked the cosmopolitan nature of Auckland, we both thought that it is getting too big , with an influence that is becoming even more pervasive than London is to the UK.  I’d suggest that if there are to be problems in NZ in the future, it will be because of this seemingly unchecked growth and the hoovering of resource, personal and finance, from the rest of the country. Whilst I enjoyed the warmth of the North, the majesty of the South Island attracts me massively and I’d love to explore that better. What a place. I think, as I have said before, it is Scotland on acid.

Would I go back to NZ? Could I live there?

Yes.

In a heartbeat.

Best thing I can say about a place, really.

NB. Be aware all views stated here in the singular form are solely the views of the author. They may or may not be subscribed to by the long haired Admiral!

PS. We will be returning to the UK on 6 Dec 2017. The flights are booked.

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Workaway – NZ Style

Sometimes, life treats you to a gem. We found one in the shape of the Hoban Family. It was with a little trepidation that we set out from Auckland to Albany where the Hobans live. Who would want travellers just to rock up at their house, having communicated only by email to check our compatibility, not knowing you from Adam? The Hoban’s, apparently.

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New Zealanders are big on showing off their country and even bigger in welcoming visitors. We had been pleased and surprised in Auckland when Lou, in having her eyebrows done at a beauty parlour, had fallen into conversation with a lady and her daughter who were getting their nails done. It turned out she lived up in the direction we were going and “would love for us to camp in her garden” when we reached her area. She handed us her phone number and address and instructions to find the house. We left slightly stunned with the sheer in your face-ness of her friendliness. We have found the same basic characteristic everywhere we have gone.

Both workaway and woofing (working on an organic farm) are a big deal and established practises here. It is a great way for typically poor young backpackers to get around NZ. You live at a farm or a house and work there, earning your bed and board.  We, as a travelling family, are a bit of an oddity but the Hobans read our blog and decided they wanted to meet us.

We arrived and the first word out of our mouth was “wow”. The house is a new build that they completed two years ago. Maurice and Sarah designed it themselves to be as energy efficient and economical as possible. They equipped it with very efficient double glazing and a huge array of solar panels which feeds back to the grid and brings their electricity bill down by a large amount. Maurice reckons that they paid for their installation in 18 months. It is, typical of housing in New Zealand, a  bungalow. Lots of land space and lots of earthquakes have taught them the value of wooden framed houses close to the ground! The design at the back of the house incorporates massive floor to ceiling windows giving the kitchen and main living area fantastic views all around. Throw in a large decked area and sitting in a couple of acres plot, you have a glorious living space. 

Maurice and Sarah had been travellers themselves and having travelled from the UK to NZ, where Maurice was from to settle, they decided to be as accommodating and helpful to folk of the same ilk as they had found themselves treated by strangers on their journey.  They have three kids, Finn, Amalie and Theo who are great and didn’t seem to mind being invaded by us. Our two, of course, threw themselves in to the kids action with wild abandonment. They have been missing kids’ company and 3+2 became a very happy feral mix.

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I did some little projects for them, rebuilding a door frame, clearing the garage up and putting up wire for their climbing plant frames around the back of the house which cost me a squashed finger when I cocked up and tried to swage my finger in with the wire. I felt a right prat. I also had a great time with a petrol strimmer, clearing one of the slopes too steep for a mower over a couple of days. It was so nice to do land based projects with boys toys tools! Lou did work around the house and the kids helped to walk Frodo. We would normally work in the morning and then head out to explore places suggested by Sarah. And what places, all within an hour of the house, both sides of the country. The weather had been wild and the seas at the beaches were spectacular. Lou and the girls visited a gannet colony and beach at the Muriwai Regional Park,  The pathway took you very close to the birds who were not bothered by you at all.

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Amalie guided us to the less well known Lake Wainamua, an inland lake on the W coast which, due to the prevailing winds has huge black volcanic sand dunes, drifting up a valley.  It was closer to powder than sand and you couldn’t help coming away black. There we were introduced to the delight of sand dune boarding. It all went well until Hannah got on, forgot to brake and hit the bottom going way too fast, wiping out spectacularly in true cartoon cartwheel style. There were tears.

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Walking down towards the beach took us past an excellent little mobile cafe. Hot chocolate and a lolly took precedence over another beach view and Lou and I were heartlessly deserted after the wallet had been fleeced.

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Talking about fleecing, we finally found a decent number of sheep on one of our walks. Hannah, of course, needed a photo.

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The NZ philosophy of life includes a need for being busy outside and I’d suggest is far less sedentary than the typical UK lifestyle. There are bike tracks and walks taking you to endless great views everywhere you go . There is a constant reference to sport, boating, hunting, camping, trail walks or just being out and about. And the facilities are there for you to be able to do so. There are huge national and regional parks, well run and looked after, set aside for people to disappear in to and explore.

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And the playparks inside towns? Wonderful places with great toys for the kids to run riot on.

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Eleanor and Hannah both got to go to Amalie’s and Theo’s school for a day too. I think they were both secretly glad that they found themselves easily able to deal with the work they were set. They were pleased and surprised to learn that it is still enshrined in law that NZ kids in the summer months are allowed to come to school in bare feet! There was also the schools swimming pool to play in. You buy a family key for access and it is a great meeting place to cool down in the hot afternoon sun.  Note the inappropriate sides that no-one injures themselves on. Health and Safety morons haven’t really managed to break in to NZ society yet. Long may it last. On another civilised NZ trait – did you know it is not possible to sue over personal injury? You use a facility on your own assessment of its danger to you. You have to think of the consequences of your actions and there is little sympathy if you are a prat. Your fault if you screw up. However, the state will pick up any medical bills to fix you. Same goes for car accidents. Whoever causes the accident simply gets hammered by the courts and the state pays out a reasonable compensation. Whilst some would argue they are not perfect, laws like this would put half the current legal professions of the USA and UK out of work and might change the disastrous blame culture that seems to be prevalent in both countries. An idea to look at, I’d suggest.

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All told, we spent just over a week with the wonderful Hoban family. And we loved it. They are marvellously welcoming and I think they provided us with just about the perfect reintroduction to family living on land. We said our goodbyes and left for the drive up towards Opua and the Bay of Islands where our sailing friends were about to arrive in to after finishing their long Pacific crossing to the safety of NZ waters.

We are hoping we will get the chance to see the Hobans again before we leave. There is a golf game that would be great to get to but may not be possible due to the travel plans to go to but we are hopeful we will see them in the New Year, possibly even down on the S island where they will be camping. Either way, I am hoping that we will be able to reciprocate their hospitality one day. 

For anyone thinking about trying workaway or woofing, there are sites that you can find people interested in hosting you. Expect a bit of too and fro as you nail down what each party want out of the arrangement but if you go in to it with an open mind, you will find yourself well rewarded, having the chance to meet some great people and being able to experience true local culture far better than any package holiday.

Look here at the Workaway website

For woofing in New Zealand only, look HERE or

For international woofing, look HERE instead.

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