We have left Auckland on Monday the 11th of September towards the Northland Region of New Zealand. On Tuesday we arrived at the primary school of Kaeo, the workplace of our WWOOF-host for the next two weeks. From there on she brought us to her home near Taipa. But what is a WWOOF-host exactly?
WWOOF stands for ‘Willing Workers on Organic Farms’ and basically means that you work for food and accomodation. However, at 4-6 hours a day, the working days are a lot shorter than with a regular paying job. This means that you have a lot of spare time to either go out exploring or to just hang out and relax.
This type of work is especially beneficial for those who want to immerse themselves in the local culture while learning about organic and sustainable ways of living trough hands on work. At each WWOOFing-host you can expect different tasks as every house or business has different needs. Our WWOOF-host lives in a very rural house between two paddocks. These are the home to four lovely alpaca’s: Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin!
Gorse… so much gorse…
Our main task has been to cut gorse and pile it up. Gorse has been introduced to New Zealand by the first European settlers. They thought it would be a good plant to function as a fence and windbreaker as this was their function in Europe. However in the old continent, gorse wouldn’t survive winter as it would die because of the frost. Therefore the spiky plant always remained rather small and controlable. In New Zealand on the other hand gorse doesn’t have any natural enemies which allows it to keep on growing and spreading extremely fast. It is currently considered an invasive plant and the country has to spend millions to keep it under control. It covers a total of 5% of the land area of New Zealand when excluding existing indigenous forest and alpine areas!
Gorse-cutting was our main activity the past two weeks, however we had some other jobs as well. We helped around the house by cooking and cleaning some of the days. Our host asked us to cook a typical Belgian meal one night: we decided on ‘stoemp’ with sausages. Belgians will understand. 😉
… But also exploring!
We weren’t around gorse 24/7, we were also able to participate as monitors during a field trip in the local primary school! Our first field trip took us to the Lonsdale Park for a “Confidence Course”, where the kids enjoyed some adventurous activities. We also went to the beaches in the area to clean them up, as a form of contribution to the community. Most of the kids were part of the Maori culture, which has a very close bond to the ocean and the beaches in that area, which was heartwarming to see. The children were just lovely.
Nature was not the only focus of the Kaeo Primary School, they also asked us to help out on a history trip. Here the children (and ourselves) were able to see the oldest European house in New Zealand, called the Kemp House, which dates back from 1821. Since we are both Western Europeans, we are used to having a lot older buildings around. However, it was still interesting to see the building and how the kids reacted to it. Of course we must not forget that New Zealand has a large Maori history which dates back from a lot longer ago. Together with the kids we went to explore the Rewa’s Village, a replica of a Maori fishing village. We ended our day by hiking part of the Rainbow Falls trail, which was a stunning walk through New Zealand’s gorgeous nature!
Our host showed us around the region as well. She took us to St. Paul’s Rock for a hike to the summit. It rewarded us with a gorgeous 360° view of the Whangaroa region. This was a really fun trip and one of the highlights of our stay here. Afterwards our host introduced us to an amazing Fish & Chips shop. We each got the catch of the day along with homemade fries and paired with a New Zealand pint of beer. Hmmmmm… delicious! She also brought us along on a bit of a culinary trip, which we -being foodies- very much liked! We went to a cosy market in Kerikeri at the Old Packhouse where you could find all kinds of delicious, organic and local food. Afterwards we went wine tasting at the Marsden Estate, a vineyard near Kerikeri with great wines! It is not only us who say this after having tasted them, their wall was filled with all kinds of awards!
All in all, our first WWOOFing was an interesting experience and a great way to get to know the local culture and be completely immersed in the day-to-day life of a real New Zealander. If you are traveling to a country for a longer period of time, we definitely recommend to do some WWOOFing along the way! 🙂 Now we go back to Paihia where we will now stay a couple of days and truly explore the region!