Welcome to WWOOFing and sandboarding!

Trip Start Mar 01, 2009
Trip End Dec 21, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Thursday, March 19, 2009

WWOOFing for those of you unfamiliar with the term and are imagining me sitting back and howling to the moon is a voluntary organisation for organic farmers and has nothing whatsoever to do with dogs. It stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms and after several years of appreciating the less work filled end of the stick I thought it was about time to see things from the other side! (Plus I'm slightly poorer than I was when setting out on this adventure and it is a highly economical way of seeing a country and culture while getting the perks of horses, hot tubs, swimming pools, tennis courts and of course the odd plane. But we'll come to that in more detail when we get to it.)

So week one in WWOOF mode and Gisele's done the organising. Therefore when we get to Kerikeri and there's no sign of anyone looking to collect us and I ask what kind of car the woman is driving or if she knows what shes looking for in terms of us - the answers are no and no. Interesting start! (But to cut Gisele some slack I have done nothing productive in the way of organising anything so its thanks to her I have anywhere to go at all!) A few minutes late and just as Gisele disappears off momentarily distracted possibly by food or perhaps simply her own reflection, a slightly hassled looking woman approaches me and finally our new WWOOF host is found!

Our new host - Nicole was a slightly all over the place mother of 2 teenagers, teacher and looker after of far too many animals mainly of the equine variety. There were at last count 15 horses scattered all over the country side in various paddocks, 1 dog, 3 cats, 1 dragon (not Lord of the Rings style but yes an actual dragon), 1 lizard, a turtle, many fish, 4 chickens, a rabbit, 2 peacocks (on occassion) and 3 extremely naughty goats. All in all it was a mad house.
To our delight there were another couple there already WWOOFing and have since become firm friends. Mark and Isabel - who were very welcoming and friendly and slightly less mad than the rest of the residents of the house!
Georga and Alex who were 17 and 15 were a handful to say the least but with the upside being Alex owned a quad and taught us to drive it and well Georga was at school most of the time!
We had a lovely, easy introduction to working life as our first day involved attending a local show and helping out. Very difficult indeed. All this holding horses and leading them around! It was great to be back around horses again though I must say. The show was a bit of fun and there was an amazing dirt track for quads and trucks with more mud than I've ever seen which was brilliant fun to watch as well as the horses. Once the classes were over and the horses back in the truck Gisele, Mark, Isabel and myself headed off to spend the rest of the day up further north and maybe even doing a little sand boarding!

So we headed on north all along 90mile beach which surprisingly goes on for .........90 miles and eventually got to this little old lady's house who rented sand boards either for an hour or the day. Although we felt a little bad while bargaining down a little old, wheezing, toothless woman for the sake of a few quid we managed to get her down to the price of an hours rent while getting the sand boards for the rest of the day! So sand boards rented and all set to go we drove on up to the dunes and what a sight they were!

It looked like a desert that had some how sprung a mountain range in its midst. I've never seen so much sand in my life and in fact I'm still finding it on my pockets a few weeks on! Our first conquest was a hill called 'Psycho hill!" No messing around on the small stuff for us it was straight to the tallest dune around. After a taxing climb up it we all lost our stomachs a little as we tried to peer over the edge and failed to see the slope. Just a sheer drop from the looks of it and a long one at that. There was nothing to it but to lie down on our boards, hold our breath, close your mouth (a trick I developed at a slightly later stage) and go for it! Over the edge we went, sand flying, adrenalin pumping and it wasn't until the very end that I came flying of my board, rolled down the remainder of the hill and got a mouth full of lovely gritty sand! What a rush!

It was such an exhilarating experience we had to do it again and so off we puffed back to the top of the hill and whizzed down a second time. This time not managing to part company with my board! This massive hill conquered it was time to move on to more challenging things like attempting to snow board on the boards. A particularly difficult objective due to the lack of snowboards or at least straps to hold your feet onto the board. However with an expert snowboarder in our midst - Mark and many bumps and bruises to contend with the following day and a particularly sore bum we all eventually managed it and with the exception of a nasty fly through the air which resulted in landing on her head on Isabel's part it turned into a very successful venture!
We had an amazing afternoon messing around on the giant sandunes and so it was 4 very tired but satisfied WWOOFers who climbed back into the car and headed up to Cape Reinga - the most northerly point in New Zealand to catch the end of the sunset and watch as the Tasman sea and Pacific ocean collide and make waves! Not something I would want to get caught in the middle of!

Unfortunately we were almost back at Nicole's house by the time we realised we had forgotten to return the sand boards to the little old lady and it was far too late and long a drive to turn back around and so we had a rather serious moral debate as to whether to turn around, dump them, keep them, sell them, hand them into the police or ask Nicole what to do with them. We settled on handing them into the police station but that proved rather difficult. Apparently crime doesn't happen in New Zealand out side the hours of 9-5, Mon to Fri and so after trying the police station to no avail we had no choice but to continue on to Nicole's and confess our crime to her in the morning. To cut a long story short the boards ended up being helicoptered back up to Johnnie as the little old lady liked to call herself despite her telling us her name was Irene. All very extravagant for 4 $10 boards but at least they got back and our guilty consciences were relieved!

The rest of the week was far less exciting and crime filled and we spent our time getting Nicole's place back into shape, getting me back into shape on a horse, chasing goats around the place and cycling 15 km to simply check our email! The horses were in pretty shocking state in general with the excepting of the pretty boy Misty who's their prized Arab show pony and so we did what we could with the others and discovered some stunning hacking but there wasn't much we could do with mainly lame horses. Anyway. We had fun but was very relieved to leave when we did! Still it was a good introduction into WWOOFing on the whole and the goats were a laugh a minute!
So thats my tales for today - getting there slowly but surely with the catch up! Anytime soon I might actually be able to write in the present tense again! How exciting!
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pipparush on

mouth full of sand ....
.... was obviously your payback for stealing sandboards from the poor old lady. Great adventures but glad you are no longer working with lame horses and are now somewhere much better. Will keep reading .....mum XXX

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