Ahh… Te Horo. What a completely bizarre two weeks you presented us with. I can honestly say that I have never had a more unusual experience in my life.
What started so well, ended rather… oddly.
Shannon and I are were super excited to get our butts off exploring. After spending three months feeling like a local rather than a backpacker in Hawkes Bay, I certainly felt it was time to head south and see what else New Zealand had to offer us.
And thus we were brought to Te Horo, on the North Islands west coast. We found Sunnymede farm on the online WWOOF-ing website, and Shannon instantly felt drawn to the farm as they owned and bred a number of horses (a childhood hobby of hers). Upon arrival we were beside ourselves at how luxurious and spacious our accommodation was, and our hosts seemed exceptionally generous and considerate of our welfare. Judith (67) and her daughter Raphaella (27) were extremely welcoming. Judith is a very well spoken mature lady, with long grey hair down her back and the tiniest, but strongest, little frame. Whilst Raphaella had legs like stilts with even longer brown hair of her own. They lived with father and husband, Trevor (84), who had the greatest sense of humour despite his onset of Alzheimer’s. All in all the three made a great first impression. And Gus the cat and Wolf the dog helped too.
Our first full day at the farm was hilarious. We were taught how to use the quad bike, and were put to the task of driving around a paddock with a pooper scooper attached to the back (saving us hours of shoveling!), before pointing us in the direction of a pile of rocks that we were were asked to collect and move to a different pile. All sounds very dull, I know, but the two of us had a ball driving around and working together. After finishing our five hour day we jumped in the shower, got changed into our pajamas and immersed ourselves in hours of Game of Thrones.
Our second day was the day of Tour de Te Horo, as we found ourselves unintentionally undertaking a 30 km bike ride after working for five hours in the sun that morning. We desperately wanted some wine and some chocolate, and Judith had told us that to cycle to the shops would be around 7 km there and another 7 back. She was wrong. The ride left our bums numb, our bodies exhausted and legs sore. But our stomachs were full and we had wine. So it wasn’t all bad. And of course our return home saw us headed straight to bed to cosy up and watch more Game of Thrones.
The next few days followed much the same suit. Work of a morning, lunch’s and dinner’s with the family, afternoons and evenings of Game of Thrones and naps. Splendid.
And our first Friday night was perfect – we drank three bottles of wine (courtesy of the Easthopes, New World and our latest hosts) and sat in the jacuzzi until we were almost too tiddly to get out. We then proceeded to Facetime ALL of the people from back home (including Shannons sister and mum who were in Tesco’s doing their weekly shop – apologies for the rapping ladies!). It was a great week followed by an even greater night.
And then it all went a bit horribly wrong.
The morning after our ‘girls night in’, Raphaella left for Hamilton to finish off her Doctorate, leaving us alone with Judith and Trevor. Almost instantly the atmosphere changed. Trevor no longer ate his meals with us. Judith was no longer happy with the time we started and finished work (despite her reassurances that they weren’t clock watching). And more importantly their attitudes to us as people began to alter. One evening in particular Judith took it upon herself to critique the pair of us, commenting on our immaturity and lack of physical fitness (pardon?). And it was from this evening in particular that our whole experience shifted.
Sure, we made the best of a bad situation. We made the work more fun (when we were painting, we had a little paint fight. When we were digging, we had a little mud fight. When we were washing windows, we had a little water fight) but always always always made sure that we got our jobs finished and to a good standard.
But we didn’t enjoy the jobs we were doing. And after fighting all morning to put a smile on our faces it was then difficult to put a facade on over lunch with our hosts. It had gradually become clear that they didn’t want us there. And so our thoughts turned towards leaving.
As we polished off the remaining episodes of Game of Thrones, we contemplated leaving our hosts early and going straight to Wellington. For days we battled over whether or not we were better off saving our money and sticking our time at Sunnymede out. Shannon and I debated this over and over, across a number of days. Until, on our second Saturday morning, Shannon woke up near to tears at the thought of going through another day of unhappiness.
So we left.
Within an hour of waking up we had our hostel booked and Judith had been notified (she couldn’t even contain her smile, charming).
And looking back I am SO glad we left!!! It wasn’t that we had had a bad time. Our first week was fantastic. It was that the atmosphere had become so toxic it wasn’t worth persevering. And as Judith drove us to the train station she commented on the change of atmosphere since Raphaella left (which we took as an apology) and that she would never have WWOOF-ers come and stay with them when Raphaella isn’t around. So it was a learning curve for us all.
And now I am sitting writing this at our new WWOOF-ing host…The only way is up, right? We certainly hope so.