As you may know, we’ve thrown off the shackles of our former life for a simpler existence trading work for room and board in New Zealand. Sounds nice, right? But what does that mean, practically? How do we spend the hours between sunrise and sunset? If you’re wondering how we go about our daily lives as WWOOFers, this is the post for you. I present a new series here, called “A Day in the Life.” As we move from place to place – roughly every two weeks for up to two years – we’ll document an average day to give you a better idea of what it’s like to do this. First, a bit about our surroundings.
Waiheke Island is a 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland, which is the most populous city in New Zealand and main entry/exit for international travelers. Locals tell me the island was settled by farmers seeking a self-sustaining, utopian ideal. Some of the crunchy flavor still exists, but is increasingly being pushed out by the rich. Satellite images show opulent homes with helicopter pads adjacent to old farmhouses. On summer weekends, the island fills with tourists from the city seeking refuge. Imagine Martha’s Vineyard in a jungle, and you’ve got Waiheke.
We’re working for Sue and Dave, the owners and operators of the Crescent Valley Eco-Lodge. The Eco-Lodge is a small, secluded bed and breakfast in a less-traveled part of the island that offers guests rest and relaxation in an earth-friendly environment. They compost extensively, use a rainwater collection system, and grow a lot of their own food. As a personal testament to their methods, in a week here we’ve produced about ten small pieces of actual trash – far less than a full bag – and nearly all empty Tim-Tam wrappers. Yes, in one week we’ve developed a crippling chocolate biscuit addiction. I’m not ashamed.
In exchange for a few hours of work per day Dave and Sue provide us with a simple cabin, breakfast, and lunch. A average day goes something like this:
We wake up between 7:30 and 8:30am; no alarm is necessary because our small outbuilding doesn’t have a toilet. I like to think of it as getting up “naturally.” The mornings are a bit chilly here, so we get bundled up in our fleece and long-underwear and walk a few feet down the hill to the lodge, where Sue has already set out our breakfast. It varies day-to-day (awesomely), so one day may be muesli and yogurt and the next eggs and bacon. I love the surprise. We eat a leisurely breakfast in the dining room of the lodge while reading, writing blog posts, editing photos or wasting time on the web. It’s just like home!
A surprising benefit of the time zone difference is the flow of email. Because the US workday ends at 9am our time, I can check (and usually delete most of) my email in the morning and I’m free from the slow trickle of messages throughout the day. Usually when I check again at in the evening there’s nothing new. This is ideal.
At 10am we split up to do our daily tasks. Sue and Dave also run a catering company that operates a food truck, so one of us is usually assigned cashier/sous chef duty on the truck. The other stays at the homestead and does prep work, landscaping, or cleaning around the lodge. Landscaping can be as easy as pulling weeds or as hard as hauling buckets of rocks a few hundred feet up the hill. Prep work has been: cutting a bucket of onions (oh, the tears!), making dozens of burgers, or similarly monotonous tasks. We both prefer the truck. Sue and Dave seem to know everyone on the island, so it’s cool to meet all the locals that stop by for lunch. I’d argue that the landscaping work is more rewarding though; it’s nice to see immediate results.
At two o’clock the prep/landscaper person rides (coasts, really) one of the rickety bikes that are available for our use down the hill to the truck for lunch. We serve delicious burgers (chicken, venison, or beef), sausages (boar or venison), and other very meaty things. So far, the venison burger is my favorite, but I haven’t worked my way through the entire menu just yet. I learned just yesterday that venison has less than half the fat of beef, which makes eating it every day a bit less disgusting. A bit.
After lunch we’re free to explore the island or relax for a few hours. We’ve become fond of the wine, the beaches, and the general beauty of Waiheke, so even sitting back at the lodge and enjoying the day is often enough. We’re constrained to a smallish portion of the island by the aforementioned rickety-bike-transportation-situation, but still, we’ve found plenty to do and plenty of joy in not doing a whole lot.
Dinners, as Stina mentioned in a previous post, consist of lots of fresh veggies from the market and a few ingredients from the garden. Every few days she’ll ask me to go pick some lemons or rocket or rosemary, a task that I find immensely pleasurable. I’ll always be amazed that a tiny seed can sprout into something delicious and nutritious with a little water, sun, and soil. It’s magical. So I’m happy to gather what we need for dinner; knowing it came from the ground a few steps away makes the food taste better.
The sun sets around 5:30pm and we eat dinner soon after – it feels right to eat just after dark. By nine we’re usually yawning and crawling under a heap of blankets in our humble little cabin up the hill, with a book that we’ll try to read for a few minutes before nodding off reluctantly.
It’s a simple life, but one to which we’ve adapted easily. The crowds of the city seem galaxies away. Now we take pleasure in providing food for ourselves and others; the most basic and fundamental of joys.