Our plan since leaving Auckland was to explore the North Island for a few weeks and then head over to Napier in Hawkes Bay to try and find some work. That’s the trouble with traveling really, it costs a fair bit of money. Hawkes Bay has a lovely warm climate (most of the time, anyway) and is a huge fruit producer. Lots of backpackers head to the bay to find some temporary seasonal work to fund their travels. Coming to Napier was also a good chance to meet up with my friend Becks, who I worked with in London when she was on her year (or three) abroad. We don’t know many people in New Zealand, so we thought it would be nice to see a familiar face! We drove from Taupo to Napier, checked in at our seaside hostel and arranged to meet Becks for lunch – who had a tempting proposition for us.
We met Becks and went for lunch in a trendy cafe in the Art Deco style town centre, where we had a good natter and she told us about her good family friends, Allan and Rhondda. Allan and Rhondda have a beautiful house (which Allan designed himself) on a hill on the outskirts of Napier, and grown-up children who have now left home. Becks had spoken on the phone to Rhondda and it had come up in conversation that we were coming to visit Napier. Rhonda’s proposition for Becks, and later for us, was that we could go and stay with her and Allan in return for us helping them in their avocado orchard in their garden. Becks took us up to their house to meet them, and the following week we checked out of our hostel and moved in with them. We have our own rooms, the kitchen has sharp knives (a rare luxury when you’ve been staying in poorly equipped hostels!), we can leave our soap and shampoo in the bathroom without other travellers pilfering it, and above all we get to stay with two lovely people. It’s quite possibly the best thing that could’ve happened.
We’ve now been staying with Allan and Rhondda for about two months (the photo above is the view from their house). They’re both really kind and welcoming, and also hilarious. We’re lucky enough to feel like we have a home away from home for the first time on our 8 month trip. It’s also great to be living with two locals who can recommend places to visit and things to do in Hawkes Bay.
A week before we moved in with Allan and Rhondda, just three days after we arrived in Napier, we found a job apple thinning (picking off some of the apples on a tree when they’re still small so that those left can grow bigger and juicier) on a local orchard. The hours were long, the work was tiring, getting up at 5.30 am was a bit of a pain to say the least, and the weather could be a challenge. But despite all that, it was great to be earning some money for once instead of spending from an ever depleting bank account! It wasn’t hugely fun, but our fitness was improving, we got to work outside in the fresh air and we didn’t have to work over Christmas, which was a bonus.
Kiwi Christmas was a lovely, but strange, experience. Rhondda’s father was Welsh and her mother is Scottish, so Christmas dinner was surprisingly British. That wasn’t the strange part, but having a full roast dinner when it’s 28 degrees outside was a bit weird! The sun was shining and the windows were open, and it was a great day with presents, lots of food and some evening board games. Having Christmas with a family was brilliant, much better than having it in a hostel somewhere where the kitchen isn’t big enough or equipped enough to cook a normal dinner!
It’s been a nice change to unpack our bags and get to know one place for a while. The next few posts will be about what we’ve been up to in the bay: drinking wine (Hawkes Bay is a famous wine region, so it would be rude not to), eating delicious ice cream, visiting beaches and waterfalls, and eating lots of Rhondda and Allan’s avocados!