We are finally in the South Island that everyone give nothing, but positive comments on. We spent a day too many in Picton, a tiny town that can easily be thoroughly explored in a few hours. Initially, we wanted to stay in Picton longer to do the Queen Charlotte Sound track which we later learned would cost almost $100 NZD per person for a water taxi to take us to the start of the track. Instead, we walked around the nearby trails and had good views of Queen Charlotte Sound. The hostel that we stayed at in Picton was the first to give me that social backpacker vibe I experienced in Australia. We interacted with the staff and backpackers staying there, exchanging stories and casual conversations.
We have found another travelmate to explore South Island with, but he was not going to reach South Island until the beginning of December. To take a break from constantly being on the road, we found a host through HelpX to have us work at her farm for a week or so. Her farm is located in Bridgewater, which is a town west of Nelson. Our host picked us up at the Nelson iSite and brought us to her beautiful ranch. We stayed in a separate part of the house where she runs her bed and breakfast- we actually stayed in one of the guest rooms! The place was clean and modern; I was afraid of having to get used to spiders and other critters living in a farm. There were a lot of snails and millipedes in the dirt that took me some time to get used to while weeding.
So typically farm work would consist of 4-5 hours of work in the morning with a tea break around 10AM. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner was provided by the host. For most of our meals, we were served with fresh vegetables grown from her garden, animals they have raised, and freshly laid eggs. Longing to try lamb in New Zealand, we finally had the chance at the farm. It is as fresh as it can get – home grown and slaughtered. The host also likes to experiment with new recipes, especially from the Jamie Oliver cook books. We were well feed throughout the experience – finally after weeks of backpacker food! I would have taken photos of our lovely meals if it was not too weird to. Sometimes we would enjoy episodes of Master Chef with the host’s family as well. Other times, we did our own thing to just relax.
Work wise, we were mainly tasked to do weeding and mulching. At first, it was sort of interesting since we have never weeded before and even identifying which plants to weed was a challenge. Some weeds were easy to pluck and others required a lot more strength and digging to uproot. The tea break in between the work hours was well appreciated. It made the work feel so much more relaxing. We get to enjoy the lovely view with some tea and biscuits. We get to learn more about New Zealand and the agriculture industry through our host during the break. Weeding became dull after the first few days since the task was just repeated. At first, we had a bit more variety in tasks since some of the stuff involved gardening, but then it was just all weeding.
A couple days in, our host had two additional helpers here. They were two lovely girls from Malaysia who quit their jobs to go on a working holiday in New Zealand. We had a great time chatting and laughing together. However, with the size of the farm, they really did not need that many people at once. This is a private farm where our host maintained as a hobby really, and her husband had a business where he worked online. It was interesting to learn how they used to live in Auckland and decided to move to Nelson after hearing that their friends had bought a farm; they thought that they can go for a change.
It was very peaceful there and the weather was beautiful. Apparently, Nelson is known to have excellent weather. I left my job to experience the farming lifestyle and this is just a glimpse of how its like. I am sure the experience would have been very different on a large commercial farm. On our last day, our host brought us to the alpacas and sheep for a feeding and for pictures. Our host told us that alpacas must be raised in pairs because when one sleeps, the other would stay up to ensure there are no predators. If an alpaca was by itself, it would not survive. It was not hard to take a picture with them, but the sheep on the other hand were so aggressive on the food. It was a great goodbye to get to feed and pet the animals before bidding farewell to the farm.