In my last post I promised to tell you what’s been keeping me so busy lately, so here you go!
I’m in New Zealand on a Working Holiday visa, which is a good thing because to spend a year in this super expensive country definitely requires working at some point.
I spent the first few months I was here house sitting and staying in hostels to try to keep things cheap, but sooner or later I knew I’d have to work. It’s easy enough to find seasonal work in the tourism or hospitality industry, but the thing was that I didn’t want to sacrifice my entire New Zealand summer to work, or to have to convince a business owner that I would stay until the end of April and then break that commitment just to be able to enjoy some of the best weather this country has to offer!
The job search began, but I was being rather picky due to these constraints. Finally, I saw an ad in the local advertising paper in Wanaka for a job that would last only two months, over the busiest part of the summer. It sounded perfect. It meant not having to commit myself to anything long term, but also not being on the road during high season and thus not having to worry about pre-booking accommodation and y’know, planning anything in advance.
So I’ve been working at a campground. It’s in a beautiful spot on the shores of Lake Wanaka, surrounded by mountains that were green when I started but have now turned a beautiful shade of golden brown due to the dry climate.
The camp stretches for 1.6km along the lakeshore, but is only about 250m wide, with the lake on one side and the road on the other. There are 463 sites in this space.
When I arrived there were very few people here, and it was lovely and quiet. But then as Christmas approached we got busier, and by Boxing Day the camp was full with about 2000 people, which means the campers were all crammed in right next to each other, with only a few trees breaking up the space.
So while it’s not camping as I think of it, the Kiwis love it. Some of them have been coming here for up to 50 or 60 years, to the same sites, with ever-expanding families and groups of friends who they might only see on their two week camping holiday at Glendhu Bay each year. There is definitely a sense of community about the place.
Kids run free here, riding around on bikes with groups of friends, stopping in the shop to buy an ice cream or scoop of chips on their parents’ account, or practicing their math skills trying to buy as many lollies as possible with the $2 their Dad gave them. Then they hop back into the lake or they fish for any little critters they can find in the stream that runs through the property.
The lake buzzes with boats, waterskiers and ‘biscuiters’ (a tube is called a biscuit here….weird, right?), jetskis, inflatable dinghys, kayaks, and paddleboards, and there is a small pontoon you can swim to. It’s cold, being glacier fed, so many swimmers wear wetsuits and only recently have I been able to get in and stay longer than a few minutes!
My job includes free accommodation, which is great but as different spaces are booked up at different times it means I’ve had to move around a bit. When I first arrived I was spoiled rotten and put in a cabin all by myself, with a small kitchenette but toilets and showers a short walk away.
After a couple of weeks that was booked, so I moved into the bunkhouse with a few other girls, but after two weeks there the army had it booked so we all moved into the comparatively luxurious ‘big house’, complete with in-house bathrooms, a TV and a dishwasher. And I got my own room again.
Then the army left and the big house was booked, so now we’re back in the bunk house! All the moving around is a pain in the butt, but it’s free so I can’t really complain! And the bonus? The army left a TON of food behind!
My co-workers consist mainly of Kiwis. The managers of the place are from the North Island and have been living out of their bus for the past four years, and now have settled here for at least a while. The assistant managers are an English couple, here on a working holiday, like me. And the rest are mainly university students, but also a couple of high schoolers. Surprisingly (and thankfully!) they’re not really the party crowd I kind of expected, but I do still feel like the old lady of the group, mainly because of a vast difference in musical taste.
My time off has been spent on day hikes, or overnight trips to Mt. Cook or Glenorchy, or simply reading on the beach and swimming in the lake.
On one occasion my young co-worker Cameron asked me to go out on his Granddad’s boat and take pictures of him waterskiing, which was a good challenge for me. I think I got some pretty good shots!
But I haven’t had a lot of free time. I’ve been working 6 days a week, on anywhere from a 6 hour to a 12 hour shift in the camp shop, selling basic food items, ice, coffee, milkshakes, ice creams, pies and fish and chips. It’s not difficult work by any means, but gets tedious, and by now I’m definitely looking forward to moving on to my travels again!
The drawbacks? Well first there’s the lack of internet. At first I could connect to the camp network easily but lately it hasn’t worked so well, and as you’ve seen, trying to maintain a blog has been nearly impossible as a result. Even at the library in Wanaka I can only get half an hour at a time!
I also haven’t gotten out to do as much as I thought. While I’ve been working a lot, some of my shifts are half days of 6 hours or so, which makes it difficult to do anything significant either before or after. So in a 6 day work week I still might only work 45 hours. I would prefer fuller days, and fewer of them. But hey, sometimes you just have to take what you get.
But this job has been good in many ways. It was a chance to spend some time in a beautiful place while earning some money. I’ve spent time with actual Kiwis rather than just other travellers, which means I’ve learned more about Kiwi culture, lifestyle, and slang than I would have otherwise. I’ve been told a multitude of Kiwi products that I have to try, and been given samples of things like Pineapple Lumps when I said I hadn’t had them yet! And maybe, just maybe, I’ve inspired one of these young people to go out and discover the world.
What kind of jobs have you done on a Working Holiday visa? Tell me about it in the comments!