Posts Tagged ‘Waiheke’

After each of our stays we’ll break down our experience into three simple categories to help everyone at home assess the trip. This segment was inspired by the only column ever worth reading in the Hamilton newspaper: Thumbs up, Thumbs down, Who Cares. It has been properly renamed.

Rain = defined by bad, poor, or lesser qualities

  • Our Football Skills: As if being cut from JV soccer wasn’t embarrassing enough? At least back then I was younger than everyone. This time we got schooled by 11 and 8 year old boys.
  • Shoveling Rocks: Enough said.
  • The Weather: We never left home without our matching raincoats
  • The Hills: Of death. So much elevation on Waiheke.

To walk or not to walk? That is the question

Shine = the highlights and triumphs

  • Our Hosts: Dave, Sue, Zion, and Ky Mani were fantastic hosts. It’s like we became a part of the family.
  • The Wine: Bursting delicious reds, notes of sarcasm, and a hint of vintners pretention. The perfect bottle(s).
  • The Beer: Homemade brews packed with flavor and just the right price. We heard they recently added extra hops?
  • Matching raincoats!
  • The Food: 14 days of fresh burgers and home-cooked meals- would you dare to complain?
  • The Work: Not too hard, not too gross, but a good dose of humility and some life skills to boot.
  • The Scenery: Breathtaking views if you could make it to a hilltop…

Find your beach, Corona

Overcast = mehh, who cares

  • Our Social Lives: We didn’t meet anyone else our age, leading to a lot of Eliott and Meg time, and that’s just is too boring for words.
  • I lost a sock. It was smart wool. Only time can heal some wounds.

Don’t we make you want to throw up sometimes?

So as you can sense, it was a great trip. We’re taking with us some good life skills- cleaning, cooking, brewing, and Bokashi Composting. Best of all we got to experience life under a philosophy that’s different from today’s norm. Rather than “keeping up with the Kardashians” and constantly working more in order to buy more, our hosts worked comfortably with what they had. They didn’t overexert their business and they focused on saving, reusing, and recycling their existing property (think composting).

As a result they’ve ended up with a beautiful home, two grounded and fun-loving sons, and best of all the time to appreciate it. Sue put it best when we marveled at the low prices in the burger cart. She said, “I’m trying to make a living, not a fortune, love!” 


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Last Saturday we attended our first New Zealand party. Ever the gracious host, Sue invited us to join her for a house-warming party at her friend Eileen’s newly renovated home. Eileen’s house is doubling as an osteo-clinic, where Eileen will care for patients with osteoporosis and other bone-related health conditions. It’s a beautiful home overlooking the harbor. With high ceilings and open rooms it’s the perfect venue for a party. And a perfect spot for a clinic. We left the camera in our lodge because we didn’t want to be the creepy foreigners sniping candids of everyone, but it was a great house. Trust us.

following Frodo’s footsteps to the party

We met a range of interesting people, the majority of whom are not originally from New Zealand. Piri, from the vampire grounds of Transylvania, is a petit woman in her mid-forties who has jumped out of a plane over 800 times. She’s worked all over the world as a parachute-packer and videographer. If any of you have ever gone sky-diving and had someone film the experience, it was someone like Piri. After her son was born she gave up diving, but encouraged us to give it a try. Meg is staunchly opposed. I’ll try anything once, but hate the idea of doing it alone. So does anyone want to visit and give it a whirl?

Then we met Sue’s acupuncturist. Paul is a white-haired buddhist in his early sixties. He’s apparently known for putting people on the spot with his razor sharp tongue. The music was loud and Meg started raising her voice to talk over it, so Paul said, “Why are you shouting?” Meg kept a straight face and retorted, “Because I want to make sure you can hear me, grandpa.” According to Sue she’s never seen anyone make Paul blush the way Meg did. So we’re all waiting to see how Sue’s next acupuncture appointment goes…

We also befriended Nan, the sweetest grandmotherly woman you could ever meet. She brought a tray of mini egg salad sandwiches, with the crust meticulously cut off of each slice. After complimenting her on the snack we ended up talking for quite a while. At the end of the night Nan gave us a slip of paper with her address and invited us over for drinks the next day. She lives in a beautiful home on Onetangi beach and we spent the following afternoon there drinking lime sodas and swapping stories.

made a wrong turn en route to Nan’s but we figured it out eventually

When we returned to the EcoLodge Dave and Sue invited us to have a night cap on their deck. Dave brews his own beer and keeps it fresh on tap.

wouldn’t it be nice to have this on your back porch?

One beer turned into a few too many to count. Dave and his oldest son, Zion, are passionate Chelsea football fans and invited us to stay up late and watch Chelsea take on Arsenal. We’ve watched a handful of soccer games in America, but nothing compares to this experience. Dave and Zion hung up banners and jerseys all over the living room, transforming it into a blue dome. By the time Dave’s friend Paul (a big-time Arsenal fan) arrived, it was clear he would be watching behind enemy lines. (Paul–not the acupuncturist–is another interesting guy. The son of a diplomat, he’s lived all over the states and went to Skidmore, where he met his wife, so he was quite familiar with Hamilton).

At halftime Dave served homemade pizzas and topped off our pint glasses. The match ended with a 2-1 Chelsea victory just before 3am. Meg and I made good on our promise to wake up and get to work by 9, albeit with our first New Zealand hangover. Cheers.

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After graduation my friends and I began a little tradition of sending out pictures on our first days of work. I truly enjoyed this tradition (maybe because I sent out so many “first day” pics?) and we’re going to continue it here. We’ll be posting about our first day of work at each venue that employ us so you can get a feel for our alternative livelihoods, in case you’re in the market as well. However, we imagine the pictures will be a little different…

Our first work/stay position is at the Crescent Valley EcoLodge on Waiheke.

A view of Crescent Valley from the gardens below

Each day Eliott and I switch responsibilities; one of us does gardening and maintenance around the lodge while the other works in the food cart that the owners keep in town. Around the lodge the jobs vary by the minute. We keep busy with trimming, sweeping, chopping, and shoveling. Our hosts are also caterers so there is some food prep as well. We’re pleased to report at this point that all limbs are intact and no food poisoning has been reported. Knock on wood and please say a few prayers—there is chain-sawing to be done next week.

Hard at work or hardly working?

Down in the truck, The Flamin’ Burger Food Cart, we are one of the island’s finest purveyors of organic, farm-raised meats complimented by locally grown vegetables and homemade buns. It’s spectacular kiwi fare, with daily lamb specials, venison, “American” hotdogs, and the colossal kiwi burger, which includes bacon, cheese, and a fried egg. Dave or Sue, our gracious hosts, handle the cooking while we prep sandwiches, manage the cash flow, and entertain the locales with our cheery accents.

Definitely ask for the special sauce

Learning about the NZ cuisine is one of my goals during this trip. So it’s great to see the cart in action. Two lessons I’ve learned so far: 1.)  A layer of mayo is standard on almost every sandwich, slightly upsetting for me- Hold that Mayo, yo.  2.) Kiwis order from the menu and they don’t expect special treatment. This second lesson is one we could definitely learn back in the states. Let’s face it people, none of us are really that special, but these burgers sure are…

Suck on that Guy Fieri

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Welcome to Waiheke

(The Other) Palm Beach, Waiheke Island

With 7,500 year-round inhabitants, Waiheke is New Zealand’s most densely populated island. (Yes, there are more than just two islands). Roughly 36 square miles with 83 miles of coastline, the island is about four times larger than Block Island and has a population comparable to Nantucket. Waiheke, which translates to “descending waters,” is a 35 minute ferry ride to downtown Auckland.

There is a noticeable division in the residents here. Roughly 40% are suits who commute daily to Auckland’s central business district. The remaining 60% form a tight-knit community woven together through local government, mom and pop commerce, and recreational sports.

Waiheke is often referred to as a resort island. It’s currently spring but  even now a trip to Oneroa Beach or Palm Beach makes it easy to see why kiwis from all over the country flock here for their summer holiday. In some ways it feels like a tropical island: Turquoise water, electric-colored flora and fauna, tight winding roads with low homes nestled in bush or overlooking valleys. In other ways it’s a bit different. The spring climate is mild (temperature floats between 55-65F) and the weather is often volatile. (We’ve been lucky so far, but word on the street is that a 3-day rainstorm is closing in).

Goldie Vineyard, The first of many on Waiheke.

Waiheke is best known for it’s wine, which can be found across the country as well as in the U.S. We’ve sampled quite a few vintages already and can attest to the island’s superior grapes. Goldie Vineyard, opened by Mr. and Mrs. Goldwater back in 1974, was the island’s first. Over a dozen vineyards have sprung up since and each has enjoyed a sustained period of success. New Zealand has also experienced a prolonged recession, but everyone knows wine is recession proof (at least cheap wine is).

So this is just a basic overview of our current location. We hope to post similar articles for all the different destinations we visit during the trip. We’ll be sure to follow up with specific posts about the eco lodge where we’re staying and the type of work we’re doing to earn our room and board. I’ll give you a hint, we get to cross “work in a food cart” off our bucket list.

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