House Sitting in New Zealand: Borrowing a Kiwi Burrow
A humorous take on house sitting in New Zealand by the wonderful Wanderlusters….
The geographic isolation of New Zealand means that a large proportion of the native flora and fauna can not be found anywhere else in the world. The most iconic on this list of unique species is the curious little kiwi bird. Unlike many of his feathered friends he spends his nights alone, foraging for worms, spiders, bugs, grubs and fruit. Unable to fly he makes his home in a cosy little burrow in the ground. To the distress of all Kiwis their origin has been traced back to the Australian mainland. Long before the separation of the two land masses they were part of a larger super continent Gondwana. As the landscape evolved the kiwi bird made his home on the islands of New Zealand and here he has happily remained for the last seventy million years.
For British badgers such as ourselves the burrow of a curious kiwi bird has an exotic allure. Having spent much of our lives in the damp and overcrowded warrens of the UK we often dreamt of experiencing life in a Kiwi nest. The warm climate, relaxed lifestyle and striking landscape all aid in enticing foreigners half way across the globe, however we were unsure if a British badger would be welcomed into the kiwi bird’s burrow.
Lesson One: Kiwi Behaviour
Prior to our arrival in New Zealand we spent eleven months touring Australia in a motorhome and during our trip had taken the opportunity to gather as much information as we could regarding the curious Kiwi. His friendly neighbour the Wallaby had informed us that we were likely to succeed in our search for an empty burrow as the Kiwi regularly made the trip across the water in search of new opportunities. This was our first insight into the migratory behaviours of the adventurous kiwi bird.
The second came when we spoke to a born and bred Kiwi. During our conversation he divulged that not only did his kind leave their burrow for exploratory trips overseas, they also utilised public holidays to frequent an alternate burrow known as a ‘Bach’ thus escaping from the grind of daily life.
This was most interesting to hear.
Lesson Two: Recognising the Curious Kiwi
The easiest way to discover if there are Kiwis in the area is to listen for them. They are known to talk enthusiastically about outdoor pursuits, extreme adrenaline inducing sports and zorbing. When walking through one of the countries many natural reserves you can spot them running, cycling and generally being far too active for the warm temperature and time of day.
If none of the above character traits are clearly visible you can always spot a Kiwi by initiating conversation and listening intently to the grammatical structure of their reply. If they finish their sentence with an interrogative ‘eh’ you have found yourself a purebred Kiwi.
Lesson Three: Locating a Burrow to Borrow
So now that you understand the Kiwis a little better we can tell you how you can experience life in a Kiwi community.
We are fortunate enough to have been welcomed into communities all over the world but nowhere have we felt quite as at home as here in New Zealand. Despite our jovial portrayal of New Zealanders we have quickly learnt that they are a people proud of their heritage and the rich land they inhabit. The most forgiving of souls they smile as we butcher the Maori names given to many of the towns and cities across the country with our terribly British pronunciation. For this we are most grateful.
If you’ve the urge to leave your own nest and try out another for size, house sitting could provide the opportunity to do just that. Having looked after eleven homes since leaving the UK a little under two years ago house sitting has provided us with the chance to submerse ourselves in a wealth of different cultures during our travels.
Arriving in New Zealand at the beginning of December 2012 we hop footed it up to Tutakaka in Northland for a weekend of scuba diving at the Poor Knights Islands. Just before we left Australia we’d successfully arranged to borrow our first Kiwi burrow and were keen to explore a little before caring for the home over Christmas and New Year.
We’ve both been overwhelmed by the generosity of the Kiwi families we have house sat for. Familiar only with the sound of our voice and the images we’ve attached to our house sitting profile they have all greeted us as they would close family and we were immediately made to feel at home.
Caring for a house in an unfamiliar area gives us the opportunity to explore new environments, cultures and communities. Each assignment is unique however they have all benefited our experience of travel in much the same way.
Living as a local enables you to join in with community life and meet the neighbours and friends of the home owners. You will often find yourself with invites to Thanksgiving, birthdays and festive celebrations, experiencing local life as a resident not a hotel hopping tourist.
Lesson Four: Becoming a House Sitter
Before leaving the UK we signed up with a house sitting service that unites home owners in need of property and pet care with those interested in temporarily living in a new environment.
Signing up online is very simple. Register, create a comprehensive profile and apply for the assignments that appeal to you. We use a brilliant website called TrustedHousesitters.com with whom we’ve secured assignments in Costa Rica, Canada, USA, Australia and here in New Zealand.
House sitting provides us with the opportunity for respite from our nomadic existence, it enables us to keep within our monthly budget and gives us chance to catch up on our freelance projects. However it can be utilised for finding holiday accommodation, hotel alternatives and inspiration for travel to locations off the beaten track.
Our Kiwi adventure has so far taken us to two house sitting assignments and we have just committed to another. Although we’ve only been in the country for a few months we already feel as though we’ve acquired an extended Kiwi family. This just about sums up the nature of the curious little Kiwi bird. He may not be able to fly but he’ll spread his wings and welcome you into his burrow.
In 2010 Charli & Ben made the decision to live a life less ordinary and six months later embarked on an undefined period of travel. Enforcing no restrictions on their itinerary they have chosen to travel at a slow pace and incorporate house sitting assignments in each country they visit. With no time limit on their adventure they are content to continue exploring the world as digital nomads. From backpacking through Central America to road tripping around Australia they embrace each and every opportunity for adventure. They run their own travel website Wanderlusters and you can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.