Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Our First Work Exchange

Dave and I did our first work exchange at a place called Tongariro Holiday Park. We worked two hours a day, seven days a week in exchange for accommodation for most of the month of October 2013.  Holiday parks are something we have never encountered until we came to New Zealand. They are a sort of campground and hostel all bundled up into one.

These holiday parks are everywhere in NZ and Australia and offer different types of accommodation to people. This includes camping (in a tent), car camping (in an RV, van, campervan etc.), rooms with or without an ensuite bathroom or a self-contained unit (kitchen, bathroom and bedroom all in one place!). If you are not in a self-contained unit, you use a communal kitchen and bathrooms.

Just outside our room

The cabins...and forest!


Kitchen building

Most places have that something extra too like pools, trampolines, playgrounds, thermal pools and giant pillows.  Dave and I have stayed in a few already in NZ, and they are a pretty unique place to stay, in our opinion.  

Our hosts, Greg and Donna and their two sons have been here for about eight years. They have been super nice (most Kiwis are) and have shared a lot about Kiwi culture and the area we are in. They even put us in charge of this place and left for the beach within a week of meeting us!

Inside the kitchen


Inside the kitchen


They also have a commercial grade espresso machine in the kitchen for their own personal use... I don't know what Dave and I are going to do for coffee when we go back to Canada... but I'll save that for another day...

Our days consisted of waking up around 8:30 am, having breakfast, then cleaning for around two hours.  We would clean the bathrooms and showers, then move onto the kitchen. Sometimes we would need to clean a few rooms, and make some beds.  

Our cabin. Bit of a tight space, but we were thankful to have it!


Greg and Donna put a lot of effort into making their rooms look great.  Trying to copy their work was extremely frustrating for me. I obviously know how to make a bed, but to make a bed look as nice as Greg and Donna's bed was tedious and a total pain in my ass!  I would spend way too much time adjusting the sheets and tugging on ends, trying to get all the wrinkles out. Then comes the pillows... They had to be propped up just right, otherwise they would look sad and lumpy.

Being here for a month gave us time to do this!  View of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing from Mount Nguaruhoe. 


After cleaning, if the weather was good, Dave and I would go hiking in Tongariro National Park. In our first week here, we hiked around 50 km of trails.   We had time to get on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing three times. We only did the whole thing once, but we also attempted to summit Mount Nguaruhoe. Dave succeeded but I did not.

During the rest of our time here, the weather wasn't as nice as the first week. It rained quite a bit and got quite windy.  There were a few days here where it was hovering around 4 degrees.  You would think as a Canadian, this wouldn't feel so cold to us, but when it's damp AND cold outside, it feels way colder. Definitely wish I had my down jacket here for those days. Thankfully summer is coming, and we (hopefully) won't be needing a ton of warm clothes for much longer.

Dave says, when it rains it feels like Soviet Russia. This is mainly because we are about a 25 minute drive from the nearest town and when the weather is poor nobody comes to the holiday park. The nearby town, Tarangi, also has very little in the form of entertainment and is not really worth the drive if you're bored.  It was also the closest place to get groceries. Prices were generally more expensive than other grocery stores, but the other grocery stores were an hour drive away in Taupo.  We did find a delicious fish and chips place in Tarangi called the Grand Central Fry. We could both eat well for $11, which is cheap by NZ standards! 

We also found an SPCA fundraiser book sale in Tarangi where Dave and I were able to buy four books for about eight dollars.  New books here are even more expensive than they are in Canada unfortunately, so this was like a gold mine! 

Overall, it was a pretty good experience. It was a great break from driving around for a month, and now we are ready to hit the road again.