Sunday, December 27, 2009

Where do we start?

First of all, apologies to our families for not contacting anyone over Christmas. We are safe and had a fine, albeit interesting Christmas weekend. The reason for the silence was that we were WWOOFing out in the country where our cell phone didn't work, the Internet was dial-up that was ridiculously slow even for dial-up, and although we could have used the phone (and should have!) we were kind of scared to ask our hosts...let's back up a bit to explain.

We arranged to WWOOF at a pizza cafe and bar in Westport, on the West Coast of the South Island. Little did we know when we signed up that it would be so isolated and that it would be run like an East German compound. Petra and Jack, the German owners were quite stern and even though their English was pretty good they were somewhat uncommunicative and we were often unsure where we stood with what we were doing.

We're pretty sure we would have left much earlier if we'd had our own car. We felt trapped without a car, but even if we'd gotten away we were unsure where'd we go during the Holidays on such short notice. The West Coast is very rural and we knew from looking at the bus schedule before that it ran very infrequently, especially during the holidays.

We were going to title this post "WWOOFing in Hell", but that would only be true if Hell had good food (and beer). Our first in indication of how the place was run was when Jack picked us up at the bus stop (a gas station) and we went immediately to the grocery store to stock up the bar.

I was pushing the above cart around, trying to be polite to the stares. "Yep, just getting ready for Christmas", I told other shoppers. And this was just the grocery store (and the beer cart - Jaimee was pushing the wine cart), we next went to Liquor Land to get even more beer and hard liquor.

Then when we chatted with him about our other WWOOFing experiences and we mentioned "four hours of work a day" he said, "Oh, that is just a recommendation." As it turned out they pretty much expected us to work all day doing outdoor stuff, then help in the kitchen in the evening. But they never really said that so we weren't sure. One day we did only work four hours but got a really chilly reception that evening.

It was a weird place. Not just the East German vibe (they actually had a friend who was doing some carpentry work for them who had spent some time in an East German prison for trying to escape to West Berlin 25 years ago) but also their favortism for this French WWOOFer who was some sort of permanent unpaid employee. She was weird too - she drank tea in the morning out of a soup bowl and could hardly speak English but was the only one allowed to wait on customers (I got lectured once for serving two guys drinks at the bar, even though I charged them and put the money in the till). And don't get us started about the espresso machine (which I was yelled at for trying to use), or calling Jaimee "bloody stupid" for catching a mouse in the dining room during the dinner rush but releasing it instead of stomping on it to kill it (she actually got a round of applause from the dinner patrons for catching it).

Also, the accomodations were quite rustic. Here's Jaimee posing in the outdoor shower:

And, to top it all off, the police came looking for us! We were working in the kitchen and I noticed that a police car drove up. Petra went out to see what he wanted, and then came in to get me. I thought maybe she needed someone who spoke better English, but it turned out he was looking for me and Jaimee! When we hadn't contacted Jaimee's Mom and Aunt over Christmas they got worried, and using our last GPS coordinates from our Spot page they called the Westport police to have them check on us. Luckily we were right where our Spot said we'd be. We then snuck away to call Jaimee's family and told them we'd be more diligent about checking in either with Spot or via e-mail. Our habit had been to check in with Spot only when we changed locations but we'll try and do it more frequently so no one worries...

However, our stay at Jack's wasn't all bad - as mentioned, the food was very, very good. Petra made excellent fresh bread nearly every day, the pizza was yummy, and usually they would offer us beer (except for the day we only worked four hours - No beer for you!) Also, we did meet a lot of interesting local characters, and walked to the beach and chatted with some gold miners we met there:

But, we've moved on now. We got a lift into Westport today (Jack needed to buy more beer), and even though it's "Boxing Day Observed" we were able to rent a car (we had to call them and they opened up especially for us and rented us the last car they had). We're going to explore the West Coast on our own for the next week or so. Prior to going to Jack's we had tentatively lined up another WWOOFing gig for New Year's weekend but we'll have to decide if we want to do it now or not...WWOOFing does save us money (we spent zero dollars during the past week), and when it's good, it can be very good. We got a super nice e-mail from Craig, our last WWOOFing host and it cheered us up to know that we'd made a good friend. But, as we've experienced, when it's bad, it can also be quite bad...

Here are the pictures from our stay:

WWOOFing at Jacks

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, I had a strange experience in Greece from English Ladies.

    I also Wooffed in Israel and that was good.

    I will not stay at a farm if they are not local from the country. Many Expats can be too strange.


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