Tucked Away on D’Urville Island Part II

You’ve read about the beauty of D’Urville but what did we do there? Good question. The better question is, what didn’t we do? We came here thinking we’d be looking after a 3 year old and helping a family pack up their possession in preparation for their departure form the island. But, not soon after arriving one of those two jobs was no longer needed, and the 3 year old was going nowhere. So, with one of our primary jobs no longer needed what were we left to do? Short answer: Plenty. But before we get to that let me outline the terms of our staying there. Like many other WWOOFing jobs we would put in 5 hours/day 5 days/week for three meals a day and lodging. This was a great deal considering the variety of meals and caliber of the housing. The house we stayed in was called the Villa; a three bedroom home with beautiful natural wood ceilings and floors, double sided fireplace, and fully equipped with antique furniture. The meals were accommodating of our vegetarian life style and in addition to the three meals we were given all the snacks and coffee we could need.

Upon arriving we quickly realized that there was plenty to be done around the home. The family doesn’t spend the entire year on the property so the grounds can become a little wild and the interior can collect dust. We proposed that we spearhead our own projects that we see around the home and in exchange we be get paid a monthly standard income. They decided they could afford $1,000/month based on an average of 7 hours/day 6 days a week. We thought this was perfect, it allowed us to work freely and not have to log hours. I started on the grounds right away. The grass around the home was almost waist high from the persistent rain they had been getting. As I weed whacked and mowed I slowly discovered garden beds located around the home. I weeded the beds as I found them, and turned over the vegetable garden so we could start to grow food. It was a rewarding experience to see the grounds start to take shape. The garden beds I discovered had plants from gardeners past, so I merely cleared a way for them to thrive and be center stage. The vegetable garden was never fully realized, less than 1/4 still needed to be weeded and there was plenty more to be done throughout, but I’m proud of what I was able to do with the time I put in.

David spent most of his time with the 3 year old Dante. Dante was the reason for choosing this job because David wanted to gain experience working with children. Well, he got it, and anyone that has worked with a 3 year old will understand the frustrations and tribulations that come along with it. I think he did incredible though, and it was just as much of a journey learning what Dante needed as it was for David reflecting on his own upbringing. The only real reference we have for raising a child is how we were raised ourselves. Dante wasn’t his only job though, we both got time with the little one over the course of two months and it was a great experience to have. He’s such a bright and curious individual and he never ceased to amaze us with his memory and knowledge. Children truly are sponges.

Once the family saw our potential (and their homes potential) they quickly started to give us jobs throughout where some TLC was needed. We honestly touched every part of that property from cleaning and rearranging the Villa, to renovation projects in the pantry and kitchen, to moving large pieces of furniture from building to building. David and I realized our own potential as well in these projects. Our attention to detail, the way we play to each other’s strengths, and our strong work ethic creates a team to be reconnected with. And because of this family we were able to realize this in ourself and in each other. For this we are truly thankful. Rachel, the mother of the home, offered such personal and thoughtful insight into our personalities that it really added to the experience as well. She is a kind soul and we will miss her effervescence.

The rest of our time was spent socializing and relaxing, with some personal projects here and there. Next I’ll post about the locals that we met and the rest of the time that was spent on the island in my third and final post.

-Ethan Masselli

Tucked Away on D’Urville Island Part I

It’s been a while, eh? I sorely apologize to those of you who check back often, but I must admit our neglect has been intentional. As you may know we accepted a job on D’Urville Island, the largest island outside of the two main lands with a population hovering around 40. So it’s safe to say it’s a bit secluded. Because of this seclusion we wanted to really submerse ourselves in it. We limited our internet use and communication with friends and family to hold true to that. We actually ended up focusing heavily on the family we worked for, but I’ll write more about that later.

I intend to make this a multi-part post for a couple of reasons: First, for you the reader in hopes that it will be easier for you to digest. Second, for myself, I have a lot swirling around in my head and I think it’ll help me compartmentalize it all.

I’d love to start with the scenery. Our time in NZ thus far (6 months at the time of this post, half of our allotted time here) has been marked by breathtaking views. And I’m not just talking about the places you’re told to go, I’m talking about places you just stumble upon. D’Urville Island is marked by (almost nightly) breathtaking sunsets, sprawling forests, and the ocean right at your doorstep. Now, it’s not all “rainbows and sunshine” as the locals would be quick to point out. One local sums it up quite well, “The island always wins.” But for us our luck played out. We may have had some window-rattling, trampoline-blowing, roof-tearing winds in the beginning, but all-in-all it’s been sunny and warm for 2 months straight. We lived in a little bay tucked between mountains on all three sides called Kupe Bay. We ventured out in every direction we could. We kayaked out as far as the wind would let us. We trekked the road that runs the length of the mountains around us (5.5 hours long). And hiked to the tops of mountains for breathtaking views. D’Urville has a wildness to it, the kind of untamed that feels like many have tried and failed.

Living here has been an honor. Mother Nature allowed us to see Her beauty and even some of her wrath. To permanently live here would be a feat. For us this was always temporary, but for many on this island, it’s life. The constant natural beauty woundn’t be enough to make us stay.

Stay tuned for Part II soon! I’ll spend some time talking about what we spent our time doing: our accomplishments and setbacks.

-Ethan Masselli

Last Gig in NZ

After an exhausting journey throughout the South Island we have landed back on the North Island. That’s right, a little over a month and we came back. I have still yet to write about our hardships, I suppose I just don’t want to think about it. But I’ll fill you all in eventually.

Anywho, we are settled and happier then we’ve ever been here in NZ. We are living in a National Park, probably the most well known national park actually. It’s the location of Mt. Ngauruhoe, also known as Mt. Doom from The Lord of the Rings. We work at a holiday park that provides accommodation for hikers and sightseers. Our main duties are housekeeping and reception, but we also do some maintenance jobs as well. The park is mostly comprised of powered camper van sites but we also have space for tents, and a few cabins as well. We also have a lodge with bunkbeds, a lounge, kitchen, and bathrooms as well as an amenities building with kitchens and bathrooms. David and I split the cleaning, he does the amenities and I do the cabins and lodge. I also had to learn how to drive a manual transmission truck in order to take out the trash and recycling. It was rocky for a while, stalling every time I had to take off. But I’ve got the hang of it now!

Every new place we end up we build a family around us. Our personalities are just like that, we love people. Being here has been such a loving experience. Our bosses are like our parents and our coworkers are our siblings. We also have “uncle Chris”, he’s the chef at the local restaurant. We have dinners, we give each other shit, and we’ll miss them all so much when we leave. I find myself reflecting back on our time here often, which just shows we’re almost at the point of having to move on. But before we do, we’ll be making the most of the Whakapapa Holiday Park.

-Ethan Masselli

Our Travels Will Continue

It has been decided, we will not be coming back to the US, we will instead continue on our journey around the world. I think many of you saw this coming before we even did. If you’ve ever traveled outside of the US I’m sure you understand the excitement and thrill you get. You also get this itch to keep going. Once you’re in the thick of it you realize how easy it is to be somewhere foreign. Leading up to your departure it’s of course nerve-racking, but once you’ve been in another country for a few months it becomes comfortable. We’ve been very lucky to find a job that pays well and has many opportunities (more about this job in another post). This job will propel us into our next adventure.

Next we will hop over to Australia and essentially do the same thing we’re doing here in NZ, work and travel. The visa for Australia is a bit different, it costs $500 and has the opportunity of extending for an additional year if you work in agriculture for a short time. The pay is greater as well, so hopefully the money we make there will sustain us for a couple years after that. We hope to head to Japan after Australia, then the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, etc. We’ll end with a Euro-trip before coming home. At this point our endeavors will take us into 2022, and into my 30’s! Eek!

As exciting as this sounds we do miss our friends and family deeply. Not a day goes by where we don’t talk about someone. How something reminds us of a time we spent with friends, or a new acquaintance reminds us of someone back home. If we could afford it we would fly back home in between each new adventure! But unfortunately that is not the case. Stay tuned for more details as we finalize our plans!!

I also want to thank all of you who come by and read our posts. I know who you are, and I love you. I will be renewing the domain and I will continue to write (hopefully more frequently). Who knows, maybe you’ll see some merchandise on here someday. Hehe.

-Ethan Masselli

Tucked Away on D’Urville Island Part III

Though we were on a secluded Island we were not alone. Just to the right of us, very close by, we had a lovely couple Sue and Terry. They are Kiwi’s who had lived not too far from D’Urville most of their life. Hard workers, they had an incredibly expansive garden, fished regularly for food, and helped look after/process the sheep that reside along their property. They are also very much involved in the lives of Rachel and Randy, and others on the Island. They are active members of the committee for D’Urville Island, and are very much invested in the well being of the Island and it’s inhabitants (animal and human). What amazed me about these two was their hospitality and their garden. From the first time we met them they treated us as if we were family. We got a tour of their garden and I was blown away by the work they had done over the years. The land they grow on had once been mostly rock. Year after year they dug up the rocks and amended the ground with rich, nutrient soil. They grow more than they need and give/trade the excess food. Sue and Terry are so knowledgeable of the plants they grow it reminded me of when I was in school and meeting the scholarly individuals in the Horticulture industry. I think one of the most endearing things about these two is how they call each other Sav/Savage. Their last name is Savage and they’ve come to just call each other by their last name. It’s unbelievably cute to listen to them talk and ask,

“Ain’t that right Sav?”

“Yeah, that’s right Savage.”

We feel truly grateful to have met them and we hope our paths will cross again one day.

The couple to the left of our house weren’t as close as the Savage’s. Pip and Jannette lived off the grid in a tiny cabin with their pigs and two dogs. Getting to them wasn’t easy. When the tide was out we were able to get to them easily via the coast. When the tide was high, we had to walk through a mountain trail that had many slips and washouts. But no matter the journey we were always rewarded. We spent much more time with Pip and Jannette than we did with Sue and Terry, mainly because they seemed less busy. Now I don’t want you picturing a shriveling old couple rocking the day away on wooden rocking chairs with old Coon dogs at their feet. These two kept busy in their own way, they just seemed to us, more accessible. The day we met them was at Dante’s birthday party. Pip is a lawn gnome of a person, smaller then I (I’m 5’7″) with a bright and cheery face. Jannette is a fiery individual, unafraid of questions and comments one wound normally shy away from when first meeting someone. Only a couple of minutes into our conversation she asked, “So are you two gay or brothers”? Now, for us this is uncommon, and for others (that are not queer) this may seem rude, but I lit up when she asked us this. It normalized gayness. She put being gay on the same level as something as natural as brothers. This was just the beginning of some incredible, thought provoking conversations we would have with both Pip and Jannette. These are two individuals so concerned with the state of the environment and so aware of their impact that they have never flown to another country. They believe the amount of jet fuel it takes to fly somewhere is too detrimental compared to the pleasure they would get from traveling. Anyone would be lucky to meet this caring, thoughtful couple.

It was heartbreaking to leave our friends and family behind. Neither of us had ever had to say goodbye not knowing when we would see our loved ones again. I remember thinking that once I started traveling it would be easier and I could just focus on my adventures. But I had no idea that I would spend the year in NZ having to say goodbye to people that I made deep connections with. With people that I feel as connected to as I do with my friends back home. I truly hope I see these individuals again. But even if our paths never cross again they will always live on in my heart and mind.

-Ethan Masselli

New Adventures

So begins another exciting trip down south!

We finally finished up our time working in Coromandel, we picked up another job on D’urville Island and have about five days to get there so we booked ourselves a road trip to our new job. Stay tuned for info on the new job.

We will first take a two hour ferry ride to Auckland from Coromandel Town.

In Auckland we will stay at a hostel called Base X. It’s a standard hostel with six beds in a room, a shared bathroom per floor and several other travelers buzzing around common spaces.

The next morning we will pick up our rental car downtown and drive about two hours to Rotorua where we will look for some fun adventures such as hikes, attractions and sightseeing. From Rotorua we will then drive the rest of the way to Whakatane where we booked ourselves an Airbnb. It’s a backyard cottage with a small kitchen, bathroom and queen sized bed! Finally going to get to sleep in a full sized bed (it’s been a while).

The next day we leave Whakatane for Gisborne, a small town with a shopping center and beautiful beaches. From Gisborne we drive four hours to Napier to our next Airbnb. A small shed (love shack) with a bed and access to a working artists’ full home with colorful paintings, kooky lawn ornaments and a well deserved complementary bottle of wine after our long travel.

The next morning in Napier we will travel downtown to an Art Deco town and do some fun hikes along the way. After that we head up another two hours to Turangi and stay at a farm with serval tiny houses all lined up for guest to come and share a communal kitchen, bathroom and living area. With no WiFi or electricity we will hangout with other travelers and relax in our tiny home for the night.

The next morning the real adventure begins with the Tongariro Crossing, also known as the Mt. Doom hike from Lord of the Rings. This hike will take us between 6-8 hours. We’ll track through emerald colored lakes, up active volcanos and past hot thermal land. Ending the day back in the car for a three hour drive to Wellington and another Airbnb.

In Wellington we will stay with a local cheese maker! She’ll have dinner prepped and hopefully some cheese from her goat farm. Ending the night with a well deserved sleep.

The next morning we take off from the Wellington harbor to Picton on a ferry, then hitchhike to Blenheim where we’ll stay at our last Airbnb for the night and prepare to get picked up the next morning by our employer Rachel!

The next day we will purchase a few groceries and head straight to Rachel’s boat where we will take a short trip to D’urville Island where she lives and thus begins the two month adventure on the Island!

So excited to kick these next few days with lots of driving, traveling, sightseeing and exploring the rest of the North Island before starting our travels through the South Island.

Stay tuned for details on our stops along the way and about our new job!

Stay Cheeky Friends

-David Martinez & Ethan Masselli

Hot Water Beach & Cathedral Cove

The most popular attractions here in the Cormandel area are Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. We knew about both when we decided to take this job. After being here just over a month we felt it was time to check it out. The only reason backpackers seem to stay here is to go to both of these destinations, so we were beginning to feel left out.

Two of our coworkers, a couple from the Czech Republic, were moving on in a day so we figured there was no better time. The five of us split the cost of renting the car here at The Anchor Lodge and we were on our way! It was a sunny Friday, perfect for hiking and lounging on the beach. I did the driving, which I prefer, through the winding roads in the hills. Driving here can be sooo dicey. We had to pass through the mountains to get to the opposite coast where the beaches were. The roads are barely wide enough for two cars to fit through, one side walled off by a cliff (“beware of falling rocks”) the other a drop off without a guardrail. We made it to Hot Water Beach just in time for some rain, but showers don’t tend to last long here in NZ. When the rain subsided we were on our way with shovels in hand! What makes Hot Water Beach hot is a hot spring located under the beach. The warm water bubbles up and if you dig a hole on the beach the hole will fill with very hot water. Some spots are warmer than others. We found a spot that was too hot to even touch with your feet. David got cozy in a hole and covered himself in warm sand. The beach was crowded, mostly because the area where the warm water is is somewhat small. I’m sure in the summer it’s almost impossible to find a spot for yourself. After a few of us were all pruney it was time to head to Cathedral Cove.

The two beaches are only 20 minutes apart so it was a quick drive over. In order to get to the cove you have to go on a quick 45 min walk. On our way there we found ourselves in a clearing where a few hundred saplings had been planted for a WWII memorial. Through the opening you can see a cliff that overlooks the ocean with a small semi-worn-out trial. Before we could decide if we would put in the extra mileage David was already sprinting towards the precipice. We all followed suit. The view was rewarding as we stood inches from our demise. We resumed our joinery toward the cove after admiring the view and fighting our fear of heights. The view from the cove is breath taking. It’s almost like an amusement park created by Mother Nature herself. There’s a smooth cut out in the cliff perfect for sitting and watching the waves caress the beach, a small cave occupied by families of crabs, water propelling itself from the cliff above, a large archway welcoming you to the other half of the beach where the Cathedral shaped pillar awaits. Words can’t quite describe the views, so I’ll post as many pictures below as I can.

We had a fantastic day together. It was also nice getting out and seeing new views again, it has prompted us to begin our search for our next location. Also worth noting: we decided that at the end of our year in NZ we’ll continue our journey around the world before we head back to the states. It only makes sense, it’ll be cheaper and our view of the world has changed. We’ve started to feel like the world is something you can conquer. And that’s exactly what we plan to do.

Ethan M.