After Christchurch, it was time to head right to the far south of New Zealand, where I had arranged a little Workaway job for a few days.
For anyone not aware of Workaway, it is where you work for a few hours a day in return for free bed and food. The concept is a bit like WWOOFing (willing workers on organic farms) but for all kinds of work rather than just on farms.
I have been trying for a while to get something together on the Workaway site, ever since Argentina more than a year ago. Everyone I contacted last year either didn’t bother to message back, or if they did they already had somebody lined up.
I was beginning to think it was me; I am effectively unemployable even when I’m giving my work for free. So it was quite reassuring to meet a few other Workawayers with the same story to tell. It might not be me after all; it might just be that there are more (potential) volunteers than there are hosts.
Anyway this is how I ended up pretty much as far south as you can get in New Zealand, to an area unimaginatively called Southland, helping a retired teacher to dead-head roses. A week ago I wouldn’t have even known what that meant.
It was an interesting five days. I got to chat with some other volunteers, which made for some inspiring ideas.
As for the work itself, I can’t help thinking that gardening may not be my calling in life. I’ve lived in flats for as long as I can remember; my entire knowledge of gardening consists of a little window box of herbs that I kept briefly in the old flat.
I would certainly try Workaway again but I would be more choosy, instead of taking anything because I was so desperate to be able to say that I’d managed to put something together finally to justify my €25 joining fee.
One of the other Workawayers was able to dazzle her with sheer brawn, mastering the electric hedge cutters and trimming back all her hedges (‘that has saved me $500’ she said). Another was a biologist, able to tell her about her plants, and took to the garden like an expert. I was just the mad hippie who had never had a garden and didn’t appear to have ever had a job either. She didn’t like me very much, but she left me an ok review so whatever. Not everyone has to like me.
The biggest city in Southland is Invercargill. It isn’t the most exciting of places. There is a huge park, which is very nice, and a Tuatarium, home to a couple of Tuataras. What? Yes I’d never heard of them either so here is a tuatara.
And here is a real one. They are a photographers dream really because they don’t move a lot.
Really, there isn’t much else to see in Invercargill, although I heard rumours of a Starbucks (I didn’t see it with my own eyes but somebody told me there was one).
Whilst I was there the international sheep-shearing competition was being held in the city. Yes that’s a real thing. Contestants arrive from all over the world (well the places where sheep-shearing is popular at least: New Zealand and Australia, The Falkland Islands, those kinds of places). It made for a great shortage of accommodation in a place where normally there isn’t that much demand : ‘you’re getting a good deal staying for free this week’ my Workaway host said, as if attending a sheep-shearing contest was, of course, my real reason for being there).
It also led to a bit of a shortage of budget accommodation generally in the area, as all the sheep shearers and their fans took the opportunity to combine the ‘sport’ with a little holiday.
I’d had some plans to go back via the West coast to Greymouth and then scoot back to Christchurch and the airport from there. However things changed abruptly (more on that another time) and after a brief stop at Te Anau I headed back to Brisbane.
I’ll leave you with some photos of Lake Te Anau: