Tag Archives: working holiday

New Zealand Photo Journal

We separated our New Zealand experience into three different categories to make navigation a little easier. We look forward to any comments you have about our photos or travels!

Click on any of the thumbnails below to go to a full gallery.

WWOOFing and Working in New Zealand

Walking down to catch the water taxi back to Punga. Possibly my favorite picture of Lindsay and I
Walking down to catch the water taxi back to Punga. Possibly my favorite picture of Lindsay and I


North Island Adventuring

We met some cops at the put-in point. I promise they were cool with the whole thing and we weren't getting arrested.
We met some cops at the put-in point. I promise they were cool with the whole thing and we weren’t getting arrested.

South Island Adventuring

Sunset at the Morekai Rocks
Sunset at the Morekai Rocks

Back on the road after Punga Cove

With our work experience officially over, we went back to the world of backpackers! If you’re trying to follow our travel plans, they went something like this;

Feb 1st – Leave Punga Cove, travel North Island
Feb 8th – Fly from Auckland to Calgary for Breanna’s (Lindsay’s sister) wedding
Feb 21st – Leave Canada and return to Christchurch and the South Island to see the South Island as tourists
Mar 20th – Leave New Zealand for good, head to Maine and start prepping for Appalachian Trail
(Yes, we are still posting stories about 6 weeks behind where we currently are. Over the next couple weeks we will be putting up posts regarding our South Island tourist experience and AT preparations.

Continue reading Back on the road after Punga Cove

Closing Thoughts on Punga Cove

When we decided that employment would be needed to help us through our New Zealand trip we didn’t think that we would find a resort in the Queen Charlotte Sounds to work at. When Punga Cove decided to pay us for driving the tractor, hanging out at the cafe and eating their food we didn’t think it would be nearly as life altering as it ended up being, either. Continue reading Closing Thoughts on Punga Cove

Crazy Punga

Crazy Punga, the employee’s nickname for Punga Cove Resort and rightfully so. I had never worked a day in the hospitality industry so stepping into two months of it at the peak season in one of the busiest tourisism areas of New Zealand became, for lack of a better term, an eye opener. When you combine a staff of 20, in which 15 live on the property working 60+ hours a week and that property is a 2 hour drive from civilization and a break from work you get a pressure cooker for crazy scenarios. Combine all that with 50 new guests every night and sometimes an equal number of wealthy boaties who, like the QCT walkers, are out to spend money and have a good time you are sure to end up with a couple good stories. Sure there may be stories about everything from night hunting possums with crossbows, getting sick from “bad fish” and our boss running himself over with his own tractor, we can’t dish all the dirt.

The Weka is a New Zealand bird that tourists love taking photos of and locals want to hunt to extinction. They are flightless birds about the size of a big seagull but with long legs and pointy beak. They also get into anything left unattended, be it a backpack, trash can or an open door to your house… Leaving the house one morning in a hurry and trying not to wake the roomates, I ducked out the back door and must not have shut it all the way. We know I did this because one of the aforementioned roomates came home in the afternoon to a trash can knocked over and the contents strewn around the house, food scraps and paper thrown about, the bathroom in a mess and a big weka shit in the middle of the kitchen. Karma had the last laugh on me though, because not only was I the person that left the door open but I’m also the one whose tooth paste had been pecked and EATEN by the weka. Not a problem when you can go to the store and get more but it turns into one when you are 2 hours from town and your next day off is in a week. The weka had clean poop for the kitchen floor at least and it’s lucky for that weka they are a protected species.

So, when you live where you work and you work as much as we did you don’t get many breaks from your job, the environment or your coworkers. People normally did one of two things when not working; take a car, bike, kayak or hiking boots and get away from the resort or “get on the piss” and get hammered on booze you brought in from town. Since those working in hospitality don’t often get days off during the holidays to celebrate, our bosses decided to throw an impromptu Christmas party on Christmas Eve at the bar after the guests had left for the night. Having to work Christmas morning didn’t deter some of the staff and after a few too many hours of drinking and a few dance-offs had happened some of the crew decided to jump in the hot tub. Lindsay and I headed off at this point and woke the next morning hearing through the employee grapevine something about being loud, nude and a merman. It took all day to figure out what happened the previous night but evidently after the hot tub finished doing its job as the alcohol catalyst one of our beloved coworkers stumbled to a guest’s chalet in nothing but a towel banging on the door and saying that he was a merman who swam in from ocean. Not having any luck at getting in, he allegedly stumbled off into the night leaving nothing behind but a towel… And a debit card with his name on it. I guess there is drunk and then walking around your place of work naked and telling people you are a merman drunk.

Oh yeah, and then there is the time on Christmas morning when I went up to feed the chickens and burn the trash and found a dead chicken, feathers and all in the burn barrel… Probably the strangest Christmas morning I’ve ever had.


Punga Cove – How we spent 8 weeks

One of the best stories of our time working at Punga Cove Resort starts before we even began our employment there. We knew that the Christmas and New Year timeframe would be the busiest and most expensive to be a tourist, and so we figured that if we could get a job then it would give us a chance to offset some of our travel costs and avoid the busy season. Well, of course most of the choicer jobs had already been claimed by people that planned on a full four or five month employment term. Since we were only looking for four weeks, at the MOST, we put ourselves behind the curve already. After seeing an endless stream of vineyard grunt work and mussel shell opening jobs on the job boards we came across Punga Cove. This beautiful little resort in the Queen Charlotte Sounds of the southern island had a job posting out for a kitchen hand and a housekeeper. Well, Lindsay worked 6 months at a hotel in Anchorage and I figured that if I could handle a year in combat I could manage to chop vegetables and take out the trash.

The Boatshed Bar and Cafe, where Clay spent most of his time working (or drinking coffee)

The kicker on the whole thing; we had to find a job in a week because at the end of that week we had a ferry ticket booked for the South Island, and when we arrived we needed a job! I emailed our standard application and luckily followed it up with a call where I managed to expand on both of our job experiences and had a very promising “let me talk to my husband and we’ll call you back”. Well, after a few days we hadn’t heard anything, and as the situation started to look more dire I called back a few times over the next couple days talking to Bev (owner) every time regardless of the time of day, and sent a CV written for a 6-figure Haliburton position rather than a kitchen boy, minimum wage job. I had pretty much written a job at Punga Cove off the list of possibilities, but when I called back the day before we left the North Island I went all in and told her “Bev, it’s 8pm, you’ve answered the phones for 12 hours daily and haven’t talked to your husband in 4 days. You need help and we can be there in two days to start.” Her response? “Make sure you have black pants, the water taxi leaves from Picton and tell them you are an employee to get a discounted rate.” Two days later we sat on the top deck of the Cougar Line water taxi on our way to Punga, not knowing if we were supposed to bring our own food or what we would be doing… But we had a job!

We ended up staying 8 weeks there, working an average of 65hrs/week and while not LOVING every minute of the job, we had good coworkers (for the most part), enjoyed what we were doing (for the most part), enjoyed who we were working for and perhaps most importantly paid for our New Zealand trip one hour at a time.

Lindsay’s daily view from the restaurant

Lindsay had the specialized skills of the two of us; she had past waitressing experience and also waitress/bartended at one of the more upscale restaurants in the Anchorage area while I had my time in Afghanistan. Since she could competently step in at a fairly upscale resort restaurant and function much better than the bearded guy could, that’s where she spent the majority of her time; opening for breakfast at 7am and closing from I dinner at 1130pm. Eventually after a few weeks she became the head server and started managing the front of house which she continued to do until we left. In all of her free time Linds spent a couple hours each week helping with morning housekeeping duties, generally on days when she didn’t work in the restaurant… That or tanning on the beach!

Lindsay’s last breakfast at Punga!

I (Clay) became a jack-of-all-trades at Punga, working every position there except for housekeeping despite my complete lack of any hospitality experience. I spent the majority of my time working in the waterfront cafe/bar at which I took a managerial position in by the end of it, partially because of seniority and partially because of my background. The other half of my time was spent doing maintenance (If I ever see kids put shampoo in a spa tub again I’m going to beat the parents to death with a garden hose) and foreshore duties. The position of foreshore is just a fancy term for the tractor driver and since they built the resort on the side of a hill and the freight came in by water taxi at the dock and the restaurant was the highest building on the property, the tractor became a necessity. 6 water taxis came in each day to bring people, luggage, fresh, frozen or refrigerated food, beer, wine, propane tanks, laundry and everything else a 25 room resort needs to function. The foreshore person unloaded the water taxi and delivered everything to where it needed go… So basically I spent 8 weeks driving a tractor up and down the hill and drinking coffee in the cafe waiting for the next water taxi. Don’t let me kid you, it’s hard to really call it “work”.

Clay’s office, talk about a wolf watching the sheep…

It didn’t end up being all work an no play though, we had a few days off in our time there (normally about 10 on and 2 off) and we tried to enjoy the Queen Charlotte Sounds as much as we could in those days. Whether it was kayaking in the Endeavor Inlet, hiking or biking the Queen Charlotte Track or heading into town for a shopping and wine tasting trip, we did our best to take advantage of living in paradise… knowing it wouldn’t last forever!