Posted by: The Travelling Mallorys | February 15, 2011

Back to work with a bang! HelpX in Amberley and Dunedin, New Zealand

When you last heard from us we said

We have just arrived at our first Help Exchange. We will live with the family, work for four hours a day (you know, doing manly things like chopping wood) and get our food and accommodation in return.

I’m looking forward to it, especially seeing Gavin being manly!

Well folks, the wait is over. Here I am with my manly HelpX stance at full pelt.

Cleaning doesn't get more manly than this!

Cleaning doesn't get manlier than this!

My hero!

So we arrived back in Christchurch and met up with the dad of the family hosting us in our first ever foray into the weird and wonderful world of HelpX where global layabouts and international bums like us can do 4 hours work a day in exchange for a place to sleep and all your food.

The night was drawing in as we arrived home and met the family (as well as dad there was mum and their young son and daughter). The kids went to bed as we unpacked and had our tea, then I helped tidy up.

Meanwhile, me and the dad hid out in the lounge. I was really excited because he had a guitar AND a ukulele. I can’t play either very well, but I had been missing twanging out tunes so was looking forward to a quick go on the stringed wonders. The dad had a go first, demonstrating that he was about as good as me on the guitar which removed any fear of looking like a twat when I got my turn, but then to my absolute horror, he started singing! There’s not much in the world more uncomfortable than being in a room of someone you don’t know’s house where you are going to be a guest for a week as they start playing Hallelujah badly and singing out of tune while looking you right in the eye.

Apart from being in the kitchen drying up with his wife and trying to ask ‘where does the cheese grater go?’ as she attempts to harmonise with dad!

An interesting introduction indeed! Anyway, we went to bed in the sleep out which was a sort of garage extension. It was really nice. A bit like a mini holiday villa.

The sleep out

The sleep out

The next day we got down to work for the first time in 7 months. Thank goodness it was just a 4 hour day!

I started by cleaning the bathroom and kitchen while Gavin did the fireplace as seen above. Then we got cracking with the fun stuff – painting the gazebo!

Up ladder with a pot of paint. What could possibly go wrong?

Up ladder with a pot of paint. What could possibly go wrong?

And that was pretty much our mornings for the rest of the week. Cleaning up cornflakes in the morning, painting the gazebo until lunch and then doing the washing up after dinner. One day they got us to wash their cars as well which we thought was taking the mickey a bit, but that’s the life of a HelpXer sometimes apparently.

The best bits of the day (other than painting the gazebo which I was well into) were after lunch when we got out and about. By ‘got out and about’ I obviously mean ‘got out and found some booze’. The nearest place selling alcohol was a sort of nice version of a motorway service station which took 20 minutes to walk to. My preferred location was about 45 minutes walk and was called The Leithfield Hotel.

I hear the pub a calling, I'm rolling round the bend, 'cause I ain't seen a wine glass since...I don't know when

I hear the pub a calling, I'm rolling round the bend, 'cause I ain't seen a wine glass since...I don't know when

The first time we walked in there some old guy said to his mates “Bloody hell Dave, they must have been desperate for a drink – I drove past them all the way back at Pukeko” which I took as a compliment.

I thought it was just plain embarrasing, but as long as you were happy.

I was darling. Very happy.

Anyway, on our last day the family drove us to get our bus to our next destination. That day parts of New Zealand were in the midst of a heatwave. The three hottest places were Christchurch, Timaru and Dunedin. We started in Christchurch, stopped for half an hour in Timaru and finished up in Dunedin! The hottest temperature we felt was in Timaru where it was over 40. It was too hot to be outside and the breeze was like a hairdryer on high heat. Crazy!

By the time we got to Dunedin it had started to rain so we pitched up in a motel for the night and got some kip. The next day we went to the Dunedin Art Gallery which was pretty good. We met our new host family that evening – mum, dad and two grown-up daughters. When we arrived at their house I spotted a guitar in the corner and thought “oh no, not again!” but it’s stayed in the corner the whole time we’ve been here. TG.

The work here has been a bit more varied. The dad is a music composer so Gavin has been working with him on the computer while I’ve been weeding, washing curtains, and cleaning windows.

Gavin literally came in for the photo and then went back to the computer!

Gavin literally came in for the photo and then went back to the computer!

As you can see we have an amazing view and are really close to the beach. The building just above my left elbow in that picture is where Elton John is going to stay when he comes to New Zealand, so we must be in the posh end of town.

Dunedin has a bit more going on than where we were before. Gavin insisted we go on the Speights brewery tour as a priority, and who am I to argue?

Which one shall I have? How about ALL OF THEM!

Which one shall I have? How about ALL OF THEM!

We had half an hour to drink as much as we could.

Actually it was called half an hour to try all six beers.

Well I had to get my value for money! Thing is, none of them were all that nice which was a shame but it’s one of many lessons I have learned on this trip.

I look forward to hearing about all the others another time! That same weekend we drove out to the Otago Peninsula to see the wildlife in it’s natural habitat. I was outraged to find they’ve fenced off access to the main bits and you have to pay for everything, but we still saw a few Royal Albatrosses without paying. Sticking it to the man!

Royal Albatross in flight

Royal Albatross in flight

The main reason people go to the Otago Peninsula is that it’s one of the few places you can see yellow-eyed penguins. These little fellas only live in NZ and there aren’t very many of them so we went to a sanctuary to make sure we saw them in a responsible way and helped their preservation.

Plus we couldn’t find any when we were driving up and down the coast!

Both Gavin and I had to wear anoraks, but it was worth it.

Yellow-eyed penguin

Yellow-eyed penguin

We saw seals too which was lovely.

Another exciting thing we did was go to the Otago Museum where they had a great exhibition called Your Face Was Here. It had all this stuff on the wall about faces and recognition but we, like everyone else, were most interested in playing on the clever interactives that fiddled with your features.

Gav fat and old

Gav fat and old - at least my hair is going to stop falling out!

Pop art Erin

Pop art Erin

Our faces mixed together

Our faces mixed together

There’s plenty more where these came from on Flickr.

Congratulations if you are still reading because we also did something super cool and you are about to hear all about it. We went to Baldwin Street, Dunedin – the steepest street in the world!

Going up Baldwin Street

Going up Baldwin Street

Going up Baldwin Street

Going up Baldwin Street

We even got a certificate to prove we made it to the top!

We have one more week in Dunedin and then we’re back on the road at high speed getting ready to take in mountains, glaciers and another brewery tour.

Happy days are here again!

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