Wwoofing at Kaitorete Cottage

Trip Start Oct 18, 2010
Trip End Jan 18, 2011

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Where I stayed
Otaio Gorge DOC Campsite

Flag of New Zealand  , Canterbury,
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday 5th - Wednesday 12th January 2011
So the wwoofing week began and the type of work that Kathryn had in store for us was eagerly anticipated.  We awoke and went for a run to the beach, not too far but far enough to challenge us, we thought that it was a perfect start to the morning and that we would be doing it everyday.  After breakfast  we got a tour round, we were shown the chickens , the goats, the cats , the hydrophonics shed (self watering and feeding huge greenhouse) growing a huge variety of salad leaves and herbs, the grass cutting equiptement and the tools.  The first days work consisted of setting up a shade net for the plants in the shed, we worked hard and were rewarded that evening to a Polish feast.  Kathryn had live in Poland for a while and once she heard of Ania's heritage she soon found a knowledgable someone to test her cooking out on.  With this in mind our first meal was a Polish fare with Pierogi, which are small ravioli type shapes and in this case the filling was potatoes cheese and onion, we also had clear beetroot soup known as Borsch and it was all rather good.  We chatted and soon got talking about each others backgrounds and lives thus far.  It wasn't late though before our first half day of work started to catch up on us and we soon retired to our flat to bed.

The next day we had a full introduction as to the grass cutting machinery. There was a dead sit on lawn mower, which was a shame as it looked fun, there was a small tractor with a topper attached (mower basically) a scrubberer (a strimmer with a blade on) and a bog standard push lawn mower.  Gentelman and woman start your engines please.......we each got instructions as to the areas to mow, and we were shown where the water pipes were and we set to, thus began the full mowing eduction that transformed Ania from a non mower to a multi mower, happy to be on the tractor or on the scrubberer and everything in between.  We went up and down, round and round we pull started, push started, key started, shouted at people with ear phones on, gave hand signals, filled up fuel tanks and mixed up two stroke.  This was our weeks task, although we weren't sure how long it would take us we just did some more each day.  After the first morning introduction of mowing we decided to take a jaunt to nearby Akaroa, which is nearby except the road goes up hills down hills and round hills.  Before you get there you pass Barry's Bay, where we had been told by our host that there is a good cheese shop, more specifically there is a cheese shop in Barry's Bay and that's about it.  It is a good cheese shop apparently, so we stopped to have a sniff and I as usual ate some samples Ania trying to avoid my offers for her to try too finally we settled on one we could both eat.  After seeing Barry's Bay there is a short scenic drive until you arrive at the trying to be french town of Akaroa, it was one of the first towns to be inhabited by the french europeans and is happy to show its history off in the form of names for roads, cafe's and restaurants, rue de this petite that, unfortunately Ania was not having any of it, suggesting it was a bit faux, I thought it did have some Parisian charm but not grande amount! Thing is though was that it was rather pretty and we strolled about, we grabbed some leaflets on swimming with dolphins in the area before grabbing an ice cream, which was amazing- gingernut flavour, having a quick dip and heading to back to our new home.  We arrived back to a supper of freshly picked and prepared stuffed vine leaves with a variety of salads, all very lovely too, we ate chatted and then retired to bed. 

We awoke on Friday morning and decided that we needn't go running for we had many a mowing to be getting on with.  Firstly we moved some wood that needed to be burned, then we mowed witht the tractor and the push mower.  We took it in turns and soon Ania was off on the tractor mowing like a professional, making all her lines straight and everything.  The morning blitzed by and we soon found ourselves planning dinner,it was our turn, and pizza's had been requested.  We started to cook, but before we ate, we all went for a swim at tumble down bay not to far from the house, it was a lovely beach and the sea was warm, the weather was cold, but we ran in and gave it our all.  Refreshed and scenic pictured out we returned home, cooked some pizza's and snuck off to bed to dream of mowing.

Saturday, we hit mowing hard this morning, I had managed to fix the sit on lawn mower, because there were some mowing jobs that were too small for the tractor and too big for the pusher.  As the Cheeta 700 mean green machine reved up i could see Ania eyeing it up from the garage.  She was soon aboard, mowing like her lifer depended on it, whilst I tractored on up and down in a paddock behind the house.  The afternoon came drifting in and we decided that we would go to the beach, with instructions from Katryne we went to the beautiful Okains Bay where we sat on the beach, went for a quick swim and then headed back home again, we were presented with a homely meal beans suasages, potatoes and an egg it was great and we retired to our house to do a bit of TV watching and sleeping.

The next few days took the same form as the first few, mowing then reading or going to the beach for the afternoon, we were treated to BBQ's and steak dinners, and took ourselves off in serch of river swimming and walks.  By the weeked we had booked our swimming with dolphins experience and we looked forward to tuesday morning with a touch of anticipation.  It was our last day at the house and we left early as arrival time at dock was 8.15am.  We arrived on time and we were soon all squeezing into wet suits and being given masks.  The group was split off into two, one on a big boat and us, the small group on the smaller boat.  There were a couple of french girls, two aussie girls a gay couple, the skipper stu and our guide jannene,. it made for an interesting experience.  Janine and Stu, both gave speeches on the dolphins and how they can be playful but also reserved, and that they feed for 10 hours a day.  We were going to see some, but they may not be interested in us.  If the dolphins show a negative reaction as you drive to them, we drive off and leave them be, if they show a positive reaction then we all jump in.   We have been told to make ourselves more interesting than the food they would be normally catching, we are told to sing down our snorkels, and tap the snorkel and mask together making a clicking sound to try and attract them.  Some other rules are not to get too close together so we come off as a big sea monster, and not too far apart so we are not very interesting, all in all a lot to think about really, especially as we ease ourselves into the water for the first time.  They said the water was cold and they were right, but they did give us really really thick wet suits, which meant in short that we floated alarmingly so, you had to sort of keep in a standing position, if you let your legs come up then they would be bent over your back before you could say 'look, there's flipper' but you wouldn't see anything as the buoyancy of the suit would be pushing your head under and the water was so called 'milky' which is apparently how the hector dolphins like it.  So after mastering the standting position, we were quickly whipped out of the water as the dolphins had swam off, i'd swim off if i saw me and a load others arsing about in the water trying not to do a superman pose in the freezing waters of the pacific too.  We trundled around some more, one of the engines broke, then mended itself so that was some drama, in fact everyone was sort of getting a bit hysterical, the cold, the enginless boat and the lack of dolphins.  Then we saw some, we all jumped in, before we did i was given two small stones to hit against each other or more specifically to make little taps.  Ania was now calling me 'stoner', as once again seven singing tapping bobbing bods went plunging into the ocean looking for hector dolphins, who were probably actively avoiding us,  However for what ever reason, maybe it was one of the gay guys singing Celine Dion down into the water, these amazing creatures started enjoying our company.  Myself and Ania were very lucky as it seemed as though the stones were doing the trick and they were literally centimeters away from us doing dives and wee jumps and skits and swim byes, probably laughing at us, but we were loving it.  The guides had been right, make yourselves as interesting as possible and I had the trump card the stones, we swapped and they moved to Ania dancing around and generally enjoying all of the attention.  They are amazing creatures, we were all stoked and buzzing when we got back on the boat.  We went a little way back to calmer waters then stopped had a hot coco, and Stu and Jannen chatted to us some more regarding the hector dolphins.  Firstly they are way up there on the endangered species list, seven thousand are known to be in existence, all of them being in New Zealand, they put that in perspective by listing the other endangered species with similar numbers left on the planet, the giant panda being the most effective at highlighting the thing that we had just done, we had just swam with these little dolphins in their natural habitat, and a comparable thing to have done would have been to sat in trees with 13 giant panda's knocking about around you, in there natural habitat.  Sat there you sort of got that feeling that you get when the end of a David Attenborough program, the summing up, when David is telling the audience how important it is that we save whatever animal that the program has been covering, that same feeling was apparent after swimming with these hector dolphins.  Anyhow, we soon were back at base, showered changed and raring to do some interneting.The next few hours were taken up by internet tasks and by the time we were home it was time to clean the flat ready for our departure the following morning.  We worked had and once again were rewarded with a feast this time a Chinese one, with spring rolls, rice and lots of other homemade treats.  Bed was hit early after all of the excitement of the day and we slept soundly.

Our final morning at Kaitorete Cottage flew by as we pottered around tidying both cottage and truck. Unfortunately it was raining on and off so shuttle runs to the truck and back became a damp affair, arms laden with stuff in order to minimise trips. We waved goodbye to Kathryn and were on the road just before midday. We had a bit of driving to do today but we didn't mind so much as the weather was pretty miserable so we weren't missing much. We stopped in Ashburton to pay tax on the truck and to do our last big supermarket shop (hopefully). We had a quick sandwich for lunch then swapped driving responsibilities for the rest of the journey. Am not sure why but whenever Ania gets behind the wheel, the road conditions tend to be a bit more demanding. This time the rain had set in and a thick fog had descended onto the highway. She carefully worked her way through it though and we safely arrived at our campsite for the evening, Otaio Gorge, west of St. Arthurs. It was nice to be back in a DOC again. This campsite was in a large open space sunk down into a hilly valley with a rive running alongside it. It was in the middle of nowhere so we were a little surprised to find another set of campers there. Always nice to have a bit of company though. We wormed our way into our waterproofs before getting out of the truck to set up. I erected another successful tarp and Ania cooked a dinner of pasta with a tomato, vegetable and bean ragout. We read our books a little before it got seriously cold so we retreated up to bed with extra layers and sleeping bags in tow.

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