I spent 9 weeks in the volunteer project in New Zealand, of which I was working for 7 weeks in Wellington. Afterwards I travelled on my own for two weeks and was working for two more weeks in Auckland for the same project. Three exciting months full of new experiences. Even though it did not go all as it was planned, I had a wonderful time and I learned a lot.
After a 24 hour-flight and a couple of days in Wellington I arrived at 11 AM at the accommodation „Truby King House”. At first, they showed me and another girl from Ireland the accommodation and the explained us more about the project. Then we went out for lunch together and at around 2 PM the other volunteers returned from work.
There is always one team stationed in Wellington. It consists of 4 to 10 volunteers from all over the world (around half of them were German speaking). Each Friday the helpers shift, which means new people come and old ones leave. On Mondays, a team leader joins the group, who is usually living in the region and picks up the team from the accommodation to get to the project location. There is also a “House mum” who is living at Truby Kings House most of the time and is taking care of the volunteers.
Right from the beginning the team fully adapted me. On my first weekend, we went for a bike ride together and they showed me the town. Different than expected I was told that I would spent the whole seven weeks in Wellington. At first, I was disappointed because I thought that I would spent every week at a different location and I wanted to see more than just Wellington. But soon I realized that this was also a chance. It is just a matter of your personal opinion if you are going to have a great time or not. I went to the local visitor center and got information on what to do in the area. In the following weeks, I did a lot of walking, explored the city, played table tennis, and watched Netflix. After I got to know the city I started showing Wellington to the new flat mates and explained the most important things to know about the city to them, just as others did for me when I arrived.
Also, my first day of work did not go as I thought. I expected 7 hours of work each day at every weather condition (this depends on the team leader and location – you can have a look at the chapter “Auckland”). A usual work day starts at 8:30 and end depending upon the weather between 13:30 and 16:00 (working hours per day vary between 1 and 5 hours). During this time, different types of work can be done like cutting trees, weeding, collecting invasive plants, constructing drainages, taking care of hiking trails and so on. Not to forget the tea break in the morning and lunch. On the way back our team leader Dave showed us different sightseeing attractions and beautiful spots around Wellington. From time to time he told us stories about the places or gave us a private guided tour at the national museum “Te Papa” in Wellington. Most of the work was done at parks in the city. Once a week we were working at Zealandia, a park where local animals and plants are breed and once a week we were located at Mt. Victoria. The rest of the days we were helping the locals with different types of work in the parks in and around Wellington. After work, it was up to the volunteers what to do the rest of the day. I often went to the city or to Mt. Alberg, played table tennis at the house or watched a movie with the others.
After a two-week break travelling around New Zealnd’s North Island (my highlight: Tongariro Alpine Crossing) I started at another project in Auckland. We met at 11 AM at the office and after a short introduction we were split up into teams of 5 to 10 volunteers. My team stayed for a week in a suburb of Auckland, so I had the possibility to explore the city on the weekend. On Sunday, I had a look around the area around our accommodation. The house in Titirangi is a lot smaller than the one in Wellington, but that did not matter, as we were only a team of 5 volunteers from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
At Titirangi we started working on Monday already at 8 AM. We started cleaning and organizing the tools and house as the Christmas holidays were not over yet. On Wednesday, we helped a local ranger at a nearby park and made repairs along the trails in the park. Thursday and Friday, we worked with Simon, another park ranger, to reconstruct a hiking trail which was not walkable anymore. In the afternoon, we were collecting invasive plants. At 3 PM we finished working and on the way back we did some sightseeing. On Friday, we drove back to the office in Auckland and our groups were mixed again. My group was going to Atiu Creek.
Every other week the volunteers spend some time at a regional park about 100 km north of Auckland. After showing us the house we had the rest of the weekend off. The house is located in the middle of the park and totally isolated. So, on Saturday I went for a long hike with the new volunteers to discover the area. On Monday, we started working and took care of hiking trails, collected tree seeds, helped to construct bridges over fences and so on. In the evening we cooked together, watched a movie, or played card games. Time flew by fast and suddenly the week was over and I had to say goodbye to all the people I had an amazing time with.
Although the project was not exactly what I had expected, I must say that it was a great opportunity to get to know something new. I improved my English skills, learned to get along in a new environment and got to know many amazing and super friendly people from all over the world. In the end, I accepted my situation, which is also part of a trip abroad, and had an amazing time with many highlights (wonderful nature, local animals, an earthquake with 7.9….) in New Zealand.
A bit sad, but also excited about the new adventure to come we went out for a last dinner in Auckland. Now I am off to Adelaide to explore Australia!
I also would like to mention that I always had a good contact to NATUCATE during my preparation and my time in New Zealand and that the team took their time to help me and answer all my questions. I could call them any time or send them a WhatsApp message about what was happening. The local staff was super friendly as well and helped me out whenever I had a question. They often had insider information about what to do and where to go, when in New Zealand.