Hi homies !
So much delay in writing .. I’m trying to catch up with this by writing to you regularly but it’s not easy! I thought about what my articles on wwoofing might be, and finally I will just write only one, in a particular format because contrary to what I have done before, it is not a matter of telling you the story of my adventures day after day but rather to share my feelings about this experience. Be ready reader, because you’re going to have some reading for the next 20 minutes and all without having a lot of photos, you will have to wait for the next article if you want to travel a bit with me 🙂
To explain to you what my motivations for this experience are, I think it is necessary to use this little (or not) paragraph for you to know what was happening in my tiny head a year before, when from a desire, a “I wish I could”, this journey became a reality.
It had been almost ten years since I had started in the “active life”, ten years working for small and big companies with all that brought. When I compare these ten years to those spent in my childhood, they represent the period from college to the end of my graduate studies, which for me is really huge. Yet, I have the feeling that I lived much more in my childhood than in the last ten years. This is due to the simple fact that a new notion has taken root in my life: routine. Day after day, getting up, going to work for a company that seems to prefer its shareholders to its employees, spending weekends enjoying free time with, always in mind, a job that I don’t like anymore. Routine is, I think, one of the main causes of the loss of astonishment, and astonishment is what makes us live intensely during the time that passes when we are children. Seeing each day from a different angle, learning each day new things, seeing each day new people, new landscapes.
Stuck in this daily routine, I no longer took the time, unfortunately, to really enjoy the small moments of life and ask myself real questions about what I want, what makes me happy, where I go, what will be my future, what is the purpose of my existence on this little sweetie planet where the miracle of life appeared and that mankind gradually destroys. Like trapped in a mechanical daily routine from which it is difficult to escape being doomed to this fate. Yeah .. I know reader .. I put the philosophy mode on and I may have already lost you, but I don’t care, I know you love me anyway 🙂
I started thinking about New Zealand about five years ago. It was an easy trip, that was possible for us, the French, to obtain a visa allowing you to work and to travel during one year. A nice plan, to let go and leave for the other side of the planet, leaving a country that I no longer liked. I did not leave at that time for several reasons, the first of those being that I wanted to do it to flee, and fleeing never helped to improve things. And, between us, it’s not the best solution when you want to put yourself in danger because, in general, you do it for feeling safe 🙂
And then came these five years in Lyon. I had everything, job, nice colleagues, friends, family and something to entertain me in one of the French cities for which I had this strong feeling about. But this routine feeling was still here. With hindsight, I think it was mainly because of my job, which still remains, with “sleeping”, one of the most practiced activities of the week. It took me a few years for this idea to grow in my mind and finally get in shape in a better way. Not to go sightseeing or to escape but to live a real experience, put myself in danger, learn new things, change this routine and regain that feeling of astonishment that I had when I was a kid.
The first big water drop which fell on this seed was the first overseas stay I had in 2015. Leaving a month for the United States and finishing by the Burning Man was my first real experience of travel .. and to be honest, I think the word is badly chosen because it was more close to tourism. Anyway, this experience was a meaning for me to see that I was able to leave, to speak a language that was not my native one and so, to see something other than France or its surroundings. I imagine the people who read this and who travel since they are a child saying “Hahaha the guy discovers how it is to travel and is happy for this, hell yeah ! This is easy to leave your country ! “… yeah, that’s true … but when you never did it before, it’s like everything, you have to learn.
Then the virus started to grow inside me and six months after this I already had my tickets to go to Cambodia and Laos. This second trip allowed me to test my backpacker skills for the first time. Traveling without knowing where to sleep day by day, manage, meet and live far from its usual comfort, which is sound more like a real travel. This adventure allowed me to meet Lovisa and Sebasthian with whom I spent two weeks out of the four planned trip. Two Swedish people who had just spent a year in New Zealand before leaving for a three-month roadtrip in Asia. They were without doubt the trigger, if they had done it, I could do it too. Not to mention all the people around me who I had the opportunity to discuss with who had lived this kind of experience too (a special for my cousins who travel to Canada for a year).
On my way back from Asia, I had the (bad)luck to blow my ankle, which gave me three months of rest and so much, too much time to think. At that moment I only had one idea in mind, to go to New Zealand for a year, to discover the country, to work, to live like a kiwi. It was no longer a matter of escaping but of living a new experience, of regaining a taste for freedom that only travelers know (and this is for me the real difference between a traveler and a tourist: “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see” – Gilbert Keith Chesterton, a guy I don’t know but who I respect very much, just because his name is Gilbert).
So, after all, I decided to take a Working Holiday Visa and go to Middle-earth, to let myself be carried by the trip, the people I meet and try permaculture which honestly is not going to be an easy doing when you know that I am at the -10 knowledge level for this. To give you an example, I did not even manage to take care of a cactus during my previous life as a city dweller! Fucking cactus, they always ended up dying after a few weeks .. and I do not tell you about my collection of Yukka, those who know me a bit know about what they could look like .. I eat McDs or Burger King, I do my shopping in Pak’n’save, Countdown or New World (funny to translate this in English 🙂 ), I drink Coca all day long, I don’t know the difference between an oak and a beech, I’m not even sure that the good way to write it ! The recycling for me is limited to the yellow trash can and the glass container (that’s not so bad you will say) and … I have no idea how a farm works, I do not even know what a cow looks like when she does not look like Sarah Palin !
And that’s when the Wwoofing join the party, but what’s that exactly ? The term WWOOF means World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. To sum up, it is about working for someone in exchange for food and accommodation. In New Zealand you work 4 hours a day, which is often amenable to, for example, having a day or two free in the week. The perfect plan to discover the country by its inhabitants, saving money and, if you manage well, test a new job ! So I decided to register on a wwoofing website and to seek the term “permaculture” as a priority. This made me land in Tauranga, in a family that will become my adoption family
I – DISCOVERING THE PLACE
I arrive under the rain, a bit sad after leaving Marine and stressed at the idea of returning to the unknown again, I meet Gareth, Kazel, Glady and Elijah, the Cass family, my new host family that will have to support me for the next 4 weeks.
From the beginning it is easy to tell that the family is used to the wwoofers, Kazel asks me a few questions, tells me mainly what my tasks will be and goes with me for a walk around the property. She is full of ideas and desires, very motivated to realize many interesting projects, knowing that the project is the essence of permaculture, a constantly evolving farm where all the elements must be thought and reflected in order to create a harmony requiring a minimum of maintenance. During our tour, she shows me the barn and the stable converted into wood storage (and in reality, there are also furniture or hay). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a real mess ! Their priority when they arrived here, 4 years ago, was to take care of the property, to build the fences, to arrange the different spaces (apple trees, avocado trees, bee keeping, goats, vegetable gardens and so on. very tall property). They have therefore left out the spaces where they can work, store the tools, or sort and order the various items they need to run the farm.
Gareth is an english and philosophy teacher and Kazel teaches permaculture and horticulture. They must therefore take care of the farm outside their respective schedules, which explains the need for wwoofers to move forward. On top of that, they rent 3 homes on their property, which makes this place a small community and therefore requires a lot of time and energy. This place has a name, it is called Woodstock and a website is available for more information if you want (http://kazel.co.nz/wwoofing)
I will also meet Morgan, a kiwi who has lived in the farm for almost 2 years as a permanent woofer. His main tasks are to manage the outdoor work : pruning, maintenance of the fences, mechanics. He also did a first sorting job in the barn and in the stable (I dare not even imagine how it was before ..). Together we will form the small team of wwoofers who will transform in a few weeks these unused places into real workshops where a whole bunch of permaculture projects will be born in the future.
So Kazel is my boss, Gareth my english teacher and Morgan my colleague. But all of this smells too much work and not enough the adventure. Indeed, being far from the city, my outings will be limited to the day which makes the program very different from what I could live the previous weeks. This is when Tui, Kazel’s niece, who also lives in Woodstock, who is my age and who has a passionate love for waterfalls, comes in. She and her daughter Jordan often go outside for some adventures, they will then propose me to accompany them. This will be my only link to the adventure and the discovery of the surroundings in a place where nature is always as resplendent.
The last members of the Woodstock community are Kirsty, Kim and Jen, the tenants of the housing units I mentioned earlier. They will also be part of my daily life as I will meet them every day, each being a part of this little kiwi community.
II – WORK
I understand that I will be free in my activities and that I will not start by gardening, so I propose my builder skills to Kazel, skills that I did not know until then … I use this little paragraph to tell how much I thank to my dear father, alias McNanard, for having given me so many ideas because of his passion for DIY and modeling.
I propose to reorganize the barn and the stable to make a workshop for DIY and woodworking, for the first, and a special mechanics workshop for the second where to maintain chainsaw and other garden tools requiring a bit maintenance. Kazel will become really interested in my ideas and will let me carry out this project which will take me at least two weeks to implement. First step, organize all the mess to free up a little space to build what will be my workshop in the barn and then use this workshop to build shelves and other storage to free up space and have a real work place . Second step, sort, organize and clean.
Here is a point which really interested me during this experience, I came with the idea of gardening, learn to know trees, plants, herbs and others important things for starting in permaculture. Finally I discovered another aspect of this activity which is the place appropriation and building all necessary tools for making this kind of project. Build shelves with waste wood, organize and ensure that each space has a well-defined purpose, discuss with Kazel and understand its needs for planning and organizing in the most optimized way possible. All this was a first revelation for me, my project manager skills acquired in Lyon could be used in a totally different field. And it’s a great achievement to realize just how much, a job that seemed to me useless until then could ultimately be beneficial, I now had the feeling that all this time had really been used for something.
Unfortunately I do not have many before/after pictures, but I still try to select some knowing that the barn job was already started
Two to three weeks passed before the work was finished in the barn and in the stable, but many other tasks still had to be done on the farm. On a sunny day, as I will see a lot of other here, Kazel asks me if I saw the river .. I think right away to the river which is located about ten minutes from the property but this she is obviously not speaking about this one, I then understand that there is a river directly on their ground. She takes me there by asking me the question “do you prefer to go through the bushes or the fields? I confess that I did not have the translation of “bushes” at the time. I chose the fields, and then discovered a part of the property that I had not suspected so far.
She brings me behind the house, passes through a first field, the goats one, here is an unobstructed view of the hills that surround us, then we go down, pass a second barrier, arrive in a second field which is also used for goats.
I hear a bit of a water flow which is becoming more and more noisy as we approach. Finally, she makes me pass over a fence and from here, in a wooded part of the ground, I guess down the famous river. It is rather a big creek but in which it is still easy to bathe. After the March storm, the water level is particularly high, so she can not take me to the other side of the stream in a small clearing that I will discover later. I am completely subjugated by the beauty of this place which is not so far from the house and which I had not yet found despite my few walks in the property. She finally explained to me that it would be interesting to have stairs to go down to the river, and believe me, it did not take me too long to proceed.
So it was my new task and, sincerely, when you spend your time in an office, in a suit (or not), in front of a computer or to do a show for some customers, is this not to this kind of job that you are dreaming ? Anyway, that is my case. I spent the next three days taking measurements, cutting wood, digging, climbing stairs and having breaks beside this tiny river, and even arranged to make a makeshift bridge and go to the other side where I could follow the river and find a small waterfall just beautiful. I admit that I slow a little bit down on this task as the context was crazy.
One of the last major jobs I did took us to Whakatane, a town located 2 hours from Tauranga in which Gareth and Kazel rents another house. The purpose of this job was to prune and we’re going to spend two full days with Gareth and Morgan. This is one more thing that I learned here, cutting trees, and doing it properly so that these grow back as desired later. Without dwelling more on this job, it was really excellent and allowed me to spend more time with Gareth who, most of the time, is at work while I work and come back when I am cloistered in my room in the evening. I laugh again, thinking about Morgan who was left on the house roof while we were going to the dump to empty the trailer .. Yeah.. it was not necessary to remove the ladder before leaving! The poor man had to go down by a tree …
III – LIVING IN WOODSTOCK
Kiwis really have a different rhythm than us. They get up earlier in the morning, often at 6 am, and do not really eat lunch. The lunch is rather toast and sweet, something quite surprising for us frenchies, without a fixed schedule, so we tend to eat separately when hunger is felt. In the evening, everyone to the table at 6pm, and at 8pm a calm settles in the house.. I already have at least a 3h lag with them, so it will adapt.
Days in Woodstock quickly become quite rhythmic. Awake at 8am, I have lunch, then work generally from 9 am to 2 pm, knowing that I adapt according to my desires which makes the routine hardly palpable. The afternoon will be reserved to blog writing, editing photos and lots of entertainment! I will spend a lot of time near the river, place that will become my little meditation paradise where I can read and enjoy the landscape. One other really nice thing here will be the piano and the guitar available, the perfect time to train a bit and try to learn new pieces! Well … I confess that I will content myself with improving the pieces I already know, for fear of burying poor Kazel who works mostly at home.
Evenings are quite different from each other. I spend some evenings with Morgan in the barn to talk about everything, other evenings to write or watch movies and series but my favorite pastime remains to lie on the trampoline and watch the stars. There are not so many good details to tell you except that I really enjoyed all these moments because, contrary to the previous weeks, I did not mean to be astonished by the landscapes but by the calm and tranquility that this place makes you feel.
The more I spend some time in the farm and the more the idea of working in the fields to pick up fruit 8 hours a day to earn a few dollars disgusts me. So I will make the decision to spend most of my time in New Zealand doing wwoofing, and why not here in Tauranga if the family accepts me for longer! I will take advantage of the first two weeks to resell my car to save some money for the South Island roadtrip, which I intend to do also in six weeks without really knowing when. Morgan will help me by bringing me to some of his friends for knowing what repairs I need on the Honda, especially for the auto which is fucked up. In the end, I will see Chloe, a friend from Taupo, who will connect me with her friends, since she also works in Tauranga now, in fruit picking. I will end up selling the car thanks to her, and unlike my two favorite French, a little bit more honest about merchandise.
Finally, when I do not spend my free time with Morgan or in my room, Tui brings me to discover waterfalls in the area. I really like Tui because she really represents this kiwis picture I have in mind, very attached to nature and in a bit hippie trip, she is always in a good mood, likes simple things and always smiles when she speaks to you. She is a real sunshine. I quickly realized that her passionate love for waterfalls was mainly due to the fact that she loved swimming … even when the water is at 5°C … and that’s one thing I will learn at my own on our second trip to one of the most magnificent waterfalls I’ve seen so far. Tui had warned me that the way to get there was “a bit dangerous,” but as she said, “I went there with my daughter.” So I did not really care, and I followed her when she proposed to go there one day with great sun. I quickly realized that the path was, indeed, really dangerous, especially when it was necessary to climb down this cliff, without ropes or material, with just the void behind us. Ladders to go down the hill were all in very poor condition (rust, missing bars, or even completely detached from the wall) but this made the adventure really exciting. And Tui, quite naturally, did it barefoot when I was in hiking shoes .. basic tourist with an experienced kiwi 🙂 But once I arrived, it was awesome, this waterfall was just gorgeous.
Tui did not wait a long time before diving to go to stall in the cavity located behind the waterfall. I followed her without really think about this.. and it was at that moment that I understood for 5°C, the water was just frozen! It took me a good minute to have my breath back and move towards her direction, once the body accustomed to the temperature everything was ok. Just this feeling to be really alive which is hard to describe .. I now understood why she loved it.
She will also bring me to other small pieces of paradise for which you can have look at the few pictures here
IV – AND ? AFTER THIS ?
Here we are, end of April. A friend of mine with whom I went to Asia and with whom I had this New Zealand project is here in Tauranga. She planned to travel with a van. I am really glad to see a closer friend and spend this day with her, this little bit of France coming to the other side of the planet. After seeing her, we exchange quickly and I finally decide to embed me in her roadtrip. Indeed she plans to go to the South Island for three weeks and this is for me the best opportunity to visit this island which is described by everyone like the best. Tui have also to fly to the South Island in early May, the perfect time to drive together to Auckland and having a plane to Nelson, on the north of the South Island. I will join my friend and her van to travel the roads of this beautiful country before the winter begins and does not change the landscape. So a final date is now decided for this wwoofing but with always in mind, the idea of coming back after my roadtrip, so it will only be a goodbye to the Cass family, also the opportunity to leave some stuff, including my computer, to have a lighter bag for the next few weeks.
Now, what should I keep from this experience. Well, everything, like I really mean everything, was simply outstanding. The work I could always do with the music in the ears and the smile on my lips. That feeling, I did really have it since I got my first job, and that gave me absolute confidence, I did not imagine taking as much pleasure in getting up every morning to go to work, opened my eyes to what I really liked. And what a pleasure to lost myself in this property, whether in the woods behind the barn, in the fields where we can cross the goats always happy to see us, near the river so gorgeous or among apple and avocados trees where fruit can be picked up and consumed directly on site under the hard sun of New Zealand.
The welcome, the kindness and the good humor of this family make you feel immediately at home, they will become for me a real family as time passes here. And that is what surprising me the most in New Zealand. In France, the ego culture is omnipresent in large cities, it’s something that we can’t really perceive because we’re too much into it, it’s impregnated. Just think of our reaction when we see homeless people, most of the time we pass by looking away, if we see a person lost in the street, a very few people go to her to help him find his way. People don’t smile, walk fast, jostle, insult each other in public transport or when driving their car. Here things are really different and believe me, it’s really good. The majority of kiwis you will come across will say hello, with a sincere smile. They are ready to help you if you seem lost or needed help, to carry your bags for example. If you walk on a roadside, it is common for a car to stop and offer a detour to drop you off or get closer to your goal. It is a culture of the other, a permanent well-being, a mentality that we should import into France. And the legend tells the truth, no one closes his house here.
I had a really lot of question in mind which has found answers during those few weeks, to discover the local culture, the New Zealanders lifestyle and their personality. These answers brought other questions to which I should also find answers, the main one being: “Do you really want to leave ?”
I would like to thank all those who had the courage to go through with this particular article, I hope that the format will have pleased you and don’t worry, the next will find a classic form with travel log and beautiful photos 🙂 So I make you big kisses and tell you soon, hoping that, for you, everything happens sooooooooo much well in the office!