Am I posing with a gun on that picture? What happened? Have I become a bogan Kiwi? Or have I joined a terrorist group? Am I going to get investigated by the CIA for writing the words “gun” and “terrorist” on the internet? Let’s see! Here’s the story of what happened:
Somewhere on the interwebs I had found an ad for camp leaders at a place called “The Farm”. This was a wwoofing position where you work for accommodation and food. (WWOOF stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms and is generally used for any place or job you do for accommodation and sometimes food in NZ.) So I looked up this farm place and it seemed to be practically a huge playground for all ages really. They have horse riding and dirt biking and kayaking and surfing and fishing and the list of fun goes on and on. I actually thought it would be too good to be true…
I got an answer to my email a day later in the evening that I could come tomorrow if I wanted. Yes I wanted. So I quickly started cleaning up and packing my bag. The next day I bought a bus ticket and I was on my way to a little place in the middle of nowhere called Whangaruru.
I was picked up, finally, and thankfully (I started to think it may have been a bad idea to arrange something so short noticed only by email contact), by the school camp coordinator in Whangarei. First however, we had to do all kinds of shopping at all kinds of shops and pick up all kinds of family members of the farm family. Eventually we made it to The Farm.
The next 4 days were spent with 60 screaming 9 and 10 year olds who were just unbeatable. Up at 6am and they started playing football, rugby, cricket or whatever it was, it sounded like utter mayhem. Outside my window. We taught them how to work with and ride on horses, ride little motorbikes across a track, kayaking, mud racing, raft building, bush walking and all that jazz. In the evenings we played games; inside when it rained, outside in the bush by a full moon when it was dry. On the last evening we had a big bonfire and made burgers, dampers, marshmallows and sang and danced around the fire. A typical summer camp, filled with heaps of fun.
There was actually supposed to be another camp the week after, but it had been cancelled unfortunately. Nevertheless, there’s plenty to do around a farm, so we held somewhat of a spring cleaning, did little repairs around, worked in the garden, taped motorbike magazines from the 70s and 80s back together, etc. Also, they were just working on making a promotional video for backpackers, so we had to go on a horse trek, go fishing, shoot guns at cans and TVs and car doors, and ride around on the little motorbikes so it could be filmed. How AWFUL that was!!! Really, I think this may have been my worst job ever… And when we got bored we practised our ninja skills by hurling some axes at a tree trunk, as you do.
So let me tell you a bit about The Farm. The 1000 acre property is owned by Michael and Ellen Bennet. Mike, a local vet, and Ellen, a rich girl from Washington who moved to NZ with her family (according to the stories her dad was a spy in the Second World War and her mum a Secretary of State… And Ellen herself world champion in women’s jet skiing.). Mike and Ellen met, fell in love and made a bunch of babies. And then they also adopted a bunch. So they have a lot of kids (not all of them live at home) and I still haven’t really figured out the family dynamics. Either way, they’re all absolutely lovely people, somewhat (lightly said) unorganised, but they make it work and anyone who visits just falls for the place. Not only because of the activities, or the Bennets, but also the surroundings. It’s just an absolutely gorgeous place. Some days were sunny and beautiful, others were rainy but always ended in sunshine and misty valleys.
Also, while I was there I bought my very first car! A Nissan Prairie Joy 4WD to be exact. And it’s a piece of crap. As I believe is tradition for one’s first car. Mike helped me by phoning the seller making sure it wasn’t a scam or rip-off, he taught me what and how to check before buying it and I went to pick it up in Paihia. The car was gross; full of dog hair and paint stains because it used to belong to a painter, but I decided to look beyond that. It could be cleaned a bit! Still not 100% sure if it was a good deal, I bought it anyway because I was too excited about getting a car. It turned out I did have to replace some parts but it didn’t get too expensive (so far). The thing to do here in NZ is sleeping in your car, because it means you can legally “free-camp”: practically park up anywhere and sleep there, as long as you clean up after yourself. So as I was at a farm with a whole lot of power tools and scrap wood lying around, I built myself a frame for a bed (with help by one of the woofpackers: the guys that were there to film and they were actually backpacking but also working a bit. Thanks Matt!) After 2 weeks on The Farm I was off, back to Auckland for a family dinner and to pick up Sophia!