We’ve spent the last three months on the South Island of New Zealand. We arrived via one-way flights to visit friends with our bags packed for the wrong season. One thing led to another and we ended up living on a farm birthing spring calves.
One of my favorite comedians, Brian Regan, says: “I hate the phrase, ‘One thing led to another.’ What kind of lazy writing is that? Isn't it your job as a writer to tell me how that made this happen? ‘Adolf Hitler was rejected as a young man in his application to art school. One thing led to another and the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the sovereign nation of Japan.”
I’ll do my best to do my job as a writer and tell you how one thing led to another.
Emily details the first part of our journey in her post: Unexpected Road Trip. Here’s the quick version: While we were house sitting in Hawaii, we realized—because the Southern Hemisphere was heading into winter—it was the cheapest time of year to fly to New Zealand. We bought one-way tickets to Christchurch.
Before we left Hawaii, we knew we’d want to stay a while in New Zealand, but no matter how welcoming our friends were, sharing a three bedroom house with four adults, seven kids and one bathroom could only last for so long. We looked for nearby house sitting gigs online. We found a small farm 13 miles north of our friends. We Skyped with the owners. They liked us a lot and we liked them. We made a virtual handshake. We would look after their two horses, eight sheep, chickens and dog. With plane tickets and place to stay for our first six weeks (two weeks with friends and a four week house sit), we got on a plane.
When we landed, we splurged and stayed in an AirBnb our first night. The next day we shopped for used cars online and found a super cheap used minivan. After a few trips to the ATM we’d withdrawn enough cash to pay for the car. The next morning we drove our new-to-us minivan four hours south to visit our dear friends in Dunedin.
We had an amazing two weeks with the Wards and our other NYC friends, the Herricks, who also flew in to visit at the same time (so that made it 5 adults, 10 kids, 1 bathroom). I wrote all about it in The Pocket Lint Theory and Update from New Zealand.
Yet it was time to move on to our house sit at Tayler Point. We drove up and met the owners in person. They are AirBnb Superhosts but from time to time they visit their children in Europe. They were headed overseas.
We learned how to take care of their beautiful animals and home, and enjoyed our time there immensely. Our kids wanted to stay as long as possible and so did we, so we looked for another house sit. We found a small home an hour south of Dunedin that needed house sitters for a week. This home included one horse (a retired race horse named NASA), a bunch of egg laying chickens, a cat named Pip, and a dog named Bo. Between House Sit 1 and House Sit 2, we would crash with our friends and hopefully do a little camping together. We wanted to see the island and didn’t want to overstay our welcome with them. The South Island is cold and rainy in the winter so we thought an RV would be the best way to camp and see more. Now all we had to do was find an RV. In the meantime, we took some fun day trips.
We also wanted to rock climb. One early morning, between House Sit 1 and 2, Emily and I drove out to a nearby beautiful spot called Long Beach to scout the cliffs. We didn’t bring rock climbing gear with us, but we’d joined the local “Tramping Club” at the nearby university. For the price of membership ($20) and a refundable cash deposit ($50), we could check out climbing gear for free. We had everything we needed to climb except rock climbing shoes. While at the beach, I noticed an older gentleman by himself. He seemed to know what he was doing but he was alone.
“Excuse me,” I said. “We’re here climbing for the first time. Do you need a belayer?”
He didn’t. He was setting up a fixed rope to do some solo climbing. He could not have been nicer so we got to chatting. He offered to set up a top rope for us and show us some of the better routes.
I learned Dave Brash was seventy years old. He rock climbed two to three times per week. I wanted to be him when I grew up.
“By the way,” I said, “we’re hoping to do some road tripping around the island. If you know anyone that owns an RV they might be willing to rent out, we’d be interested.”
He sort of smiled. “I’ve got an RV. I’d need to check with my wife, but I can let you know.” Sweet! Or as kiwis say, “Sweet as...” As we walked back to our cars the sun set. Dave told us could probably help us get some rock climbing shoes. What?!
We planned a road trip to Milford Sound with our friends, the Wards. Turns out Dave lived just around the corner from them. His wife said ‘yes’, he got the thumbs up from his insurance company and we rented their RV (campervan) for a few days.
Milford Sound was stunning. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Home from Milford Sound, we headed to Milton for House Sit 2. It was a small home being renovated by its owners. We built a fire every night to keep warm, collected the eggs and ate them for breakfast and to make cakes. We snuggled down to get some work done. We also needed to figure out our exit strategy back to NYC. SJ wanted to move to New Zealand.
A new kiwi friend, Ange, referred us for another house sit. This one would be more ambitious than either of our previous two house sits. It would involve:
It might be easy to gloss over 12 dogs, but yep, that is twelve dogs, a barking dozen.
We agreed to House Sit 3, a 64-acre farm near the town of Timaru that would go through early September. Between House Sits 2 and 3 we would have a two-week gap. We decided to rent Dave’s RV again and do a longer road trip around the entire South Island. Once again, we thought we’d see some country while giving our friends some space to do all of their we-live-here routines. SJ moved in with them while we road tripped.
We headed north through the port town of Timaru to the thermal pools of Hanmer Springs.
From there we continued to Nelson and Abel Tasman National Park.
We drove up to the north end of the Island: Golden Bay and Farewell Spit.
We continued to Westport where we camped on a beach and went to church the following Sunday Morning. And every now and then you have to empty out the holding tank in the RV. Sunday is a great day to get rid of all the crap in your life ; )
We continued down the west coast to a gathering of small houses known as Charleston. We camped along a river bank and went rock climbing the next day.
We continued down the West Coast and cut back across the New Zealand alps via Haast Pass over to Queenstown where we skied for an afternoon and camped along the shore of Lake Wakatipu.
The following morning we drove back to Dunedin and returned Dave’s RV. We jumped back into our minivan and drove to Timaru where we commenced House Sit 3.
It was a big job. While we there five calves were born. We’ve roved the hills on the ATV checking on the new moms and calves. We had to put down one sick cow. Emily wrote about it in Life, Death and Technology on a Farm.
We fed all the animals everyday except the horses and cows which were out to pasture. It was a stretch for us but extremely satisfying.
We managed to sneak away for an afternoon to get in some climbing at the serene Elephant Rocks.
We arrived in New Zealand the week of the MidWinter Festival and marked the shortest day of the year. We left on the cusp of Spring, with calves and lambs being born everyday, grass pushing up through the soil, the sun arcing higher in the sky and daffodils opening their yellow petals.
To recap: We found some cheap flights to New Zealand. One thing led to another and we ended up living on a farm birthing spring calves. Truth be told, the cows do all of the work. We mostly stand around with our mouths open, taking pictures and giving them some food afterward. Even so, we’ve spent a whole winter in New Zealand. Now we are back in the U.S.
It’s a new season. I’m curious how that will play out. My in-laws picked us up at the airport. One thing led to another and ___________________.
How would you complete this sentence: The first day of autumn arrived. I was reading a blog post and decided to __________________. One thing led to another and __________________________.