Small update first: Things have settled down quite a bit now since my last post. I bought a car from Trademe.co.nz for just over $2K. He's a 1996 Toyota Caldina (imported version of Corolla’s in North America), and I’ve named him Berty.  I got hired at  a gravity mountain bike park called 440 just outside of Auckland just as my IRD# came in the mail. I am just working the shop there, doing minor bike repairs and cleaning the rental bikes (bike hires in NZ lingo). It is an easy job but I’m so happy to be in the bike community, working with stoked people, in the forest. There is also a swimming hole across the road and over the barbed wire fence where we can cool off from the hot summer December sun. The best part is, if I get all my cleaning and re-stocking done early, my boss let’s me catch a few shuttles up the hill for free! 

Back in October, while I was in Peru, I arranged to WWOOF* on a farm here in north Auckland. Since I have only been working weekends at the bike park, I was still able to go work on this farm for a week between shifts. It was a wonderful experience and I recommend it to anyone who isn’t afraid of a little hard work and dirt. The property I stayed at belongs to a German couple, Hanna and Bernd, who moved to NZ in the 80s. They have 10 acres, 20 sheep, a small orchard with oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit, apples and plums, and a number of veggie beds. They were very nice and their German accent mixed with NZ slang was fun to listen to. The food was amazing - I would usually have breakfast on my own in the sleep-out (they gave me fruit, cereal and toast), then lunch was an array of toast, cheeses, spreads, and veggies with their home-made orange lemonade, then dinner was always some delicious German meal (except for one night where we had pizza and minestrone - Italian, which was also excellent!).  I got my very own sleep-out all to myself! It’s a large space with a bed, couch, two tables, full bathroom, a small kitchen area and a deck which is so nice to come back to a relax on after a hard days work. Some of my tasks have included weeding, cutting back trees and brush and then hauling it to the burn pile, counting and feeding sheep, blade cutting tall grass into pathways, preparing a veggie bed (turning the soil, pulling roots out, burying sheep wool and manure into it and then compost on top), cleaning the outside and inside of the sleep-out (scrubbing the deck and walls, dusting and de-spider-webbing), cleaning gutters and sanding and staining roof bits. I was constantly covered in sweat and dirt, and my back started hurting doing the veg bed since that was on of my last days, but it was very satisfying work and I’m glad I could help them out with so much. They were very grateful and actually offered that I could come back and stay a few days free of work anytime.

*WWOOF: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Lots of young travellers use this website to meet locals and get a bearing on where they are and advice on what to do in the area. The WWOOFer works a few hours a day for their hosts, in exchange for food and accommodation. Usually they get 2 days off from 5 days of work.

During my time at the farm, I was able to get out for a great mountain bike ride in the River Head Forest, as well as visit a few beach with my hosts. Muriwai beach was definitely a highlight as we witnessed the beauty of the Gannet colonies nesting on the cliffs. Hanna also dropped me off at Long Bay Beach for a few hours during a break where I swam in the ocean and walked along the long, beautiful beach. On my second to last night there, I went back to Muriwai beach, which was only 15 minutes away from their house. They asked me to take their dog, Roxy, with me for a walk. Of course I said yes. As soon as we got there, the tide was out, and the sun was almost hidden behind the waves and horizon, making the water shine like gold. I took off my jandles (flipflops) and Roxy's leash, and we just ran...and ran...and ran; along the waves, through the sand, chasing the sun and the tide. It was utter peace. She ran beside me the whole time, tongue and ears flapping around. Looking back, I could see our foot prints - feet next to paws - slowly disappearing in the wet sand. 

Skye Irwin