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After a night spent at a campsite called “Goldsborough”, Eamonn and I headed towards Ross: the home of our next WWOOF host. Ross was originally founded, like most West Coast towns, as a gold town. The heaviest pure gold nugget was found in Ross in 1909. It was called “Honourable Roddy”, weighing in at nearly 3 kilograms! At some point New Zealand gifted this national treasure to the King of England as a coronation present. The gold boom stopped for sometime and then, unlike most places formed during a rush, the gold mines reopened.

Anyway I digress, we knew only a little about this next host. We knew that it was a young family that ran an ecorafting company and that the husband trapped possums during the winter (kind of like our former housemate, but on a MUCH larger scale- 100’s of traps). We had arranged to arrive at our hosts house at 10:30 in the morning. Pulling into the gravel road on which they lived, we were greeted by a shirtless, bearded, barefooted, caveman of a man. That was Josh. He was the half Kiwi, half Canadian man who guided the rafting trips, hunting expeditions, and went possum trapping. He gave us a thumbs up and we entered their lovely home.

Their home is beautiful. It has a cabiny- rustic feel too it, but has large windows, huge wrap around deck and is two storied- giving it a more modern feel. Kristen, a Canadian woman and Josh’s wife, came out to meet us. It was a whirlwind of information and introductions. We were shown our cozy room attached to the large storage shed, introduced to her son Charlie (4) and his friend Zoey (also 4) and were shown the batch of nearly three week old puppies (adorable). Kristen excused the mess and chaos (she has kids and the house wasn’t really that bad) and then asked if either Eamonn or I were comfortable driving two hours for the rafting tour that Josh was about to take people on. I voted that Eamonn do that. He is more comfortable driving on this side of the road and just more comfortable driving new cars. Turns out it was a good thing Eamonn drove, the vehicle was not only a beast of a van, but it was manual and the driving was up unpaved, windy roads that crossed over stream beds. I would have panicked. Maybe twenty minutes after she asked, Eamonn set off with Josh to pick up the rafters and drop them off at the top of the river.

Meanwhile, I was shown the garden and told that I could weed, pick beans or chop down some type of ginger. I opted for the weeding. It was pleasant and I managed to finish a good portion of the garden by the time Eamonn returned with his stories. It sounds like it was an interesting drive, to say the least.

That afternoon I spent playing with Charlie and Zoey. They were very excited to tell me, many times, that on Saturday they were both turning 5! For a while, I assumed that Zoey was pretending to also have a birthday on Saturday, so that she felt included and special too. Turns out, they were having a joint event, because sure enough, they were both turning five. Turning five in Ross is a big deal. Five is the age that one goes from being a carefree and footloose child, to being a school goer. Yes, once a Ross child has turned five, they start school. No matter the season or how far into the school year they are, they start school. Children are also supposed to know the basics of reading and writing before starting school. What? Isn’t that the teacher’s job? I would have thought so. But anyway, while I was playing with these two adorable and fun children, I found out they were having a big party on Saturday.

The rest of our first day we wandered to the beach, met Jack (the 7 year old who when asked how was school would answer “it was excellent”, really intelligent kid), supped on a delicious stir-fry, played with two black kittens, and then enjoyed the soft comforts of a bed. The next morning we woke early, to start our usual WWOOF routine of four hours in the morning, afternoon off. This here wasn’t a single woman living alone scenario. This was an active, young family. Things don’t necessarily get done when they are scheduled to . Our “routine” flew out the window. That was fine with us. Kristen had to run into Hokitika to do a big shop for the upcoming two day, twelve person heli-rafting trip that Josh was leading (heli-rafting means dropped off at the top of the river by a helicopter). We were left with Josh in charge.

With not much direction, we were recruited to start dry walling the boys new room. Unfortunately, we didn’t have all the necessary equipment and the drill battery hadn’t been charged. We got a piece and a half installed. Not great, but what can you do. We awaited further instructions. The instant Kristen got back, Josh grabbed Eamonn to go pick up driftwood to be brought back and chopped as firewood (they were more like whole tree trunks he had to unload). Kristen quickly unpacked the groceries and then had to head off to drive the school bus (the usual driver was sick). I wanted to help, so I chopped a million onions and other vegetables for the dinners that would be frozen and eaten on the rafting trip the next two nights. I also got to look after Charlie and Zoey. Charlie had a bit of a fever, so he was kept entertained by TV shows on the laptop. Jack was at a friends house. Easy peezy lemon squeezy.

After driving a bunch of angsty teenagers home from school, Kristen and I made a delicious bologense sauce, that we then had for our own dinner as well, and a really tasty curry. Neither of us were sure exactly how coconut milk would freeze and then defrost- oh well, it was for twelve men who were more than likely going to be very drunk once they started eating dinner. They probably wouldn’t notice any consistency issues.

Saturday was the birthday and since we had worked more than the regulated hours (not that we really cared), we took the day off to disappear. Josh left early that morning to guide the rafting trip and Kristen was left with a party of about 20 children. We asked if she wanted help, but she shooed us away and told us to have fun. We had a rather random day of a few hikes, a few drives and a heavy lunch and divine fudge in Hokitika. It was already early evening by the time we got back, and the party was still in full swing. We hid in our room for the night (after feasting on kit-kat encrusted cake and rice crispy treats).

The next day was our last day. Kristen had asked if we wouldn’t mind helping again with the dry wall. So we did, more than happy to in fact. A day spent doing manual labor or completing a task feels good when WWOOFing (you don’t feel like a freeloader).

The three of us managed to do complete the installation! With no actual dry wall experience between the three of us:). It was a rewarding feeling finishing the walls and to see the difference we made. It was really fun to have to problem solve, use power tools,  and Kristen was great to work with. That night we were all weary and we all (the boys too) sat down for a feed of fish and chips.

Monday we were back on the road continuing our journey south. It was sad to say goodbye to an open, fun, and welcoming family. We had some new experiences, have some new stories to tell and met wonderful people. I will miss playing hide and seek with Charlie and Zoey and having Jack tell us about dinosaurs (why do all kids go through a dinosaur phase?) I left feeling like I had made friends, rather than met a host. Thanks for that Kristen, Josh, Jack and Charlie (and pets)!