Nicola Clemmit, 29 from North Yorkshire, tells us why her Work New Zealand experience was so good, that once wasn't enough!
Nervous and excited, on 11th September 2008 I arrived at London Heathrow to embark on my one year working holiday to New Zealand. At 26 I was a little apprehensive about being slightly older than what I thought was the norm for working holidays. Thankfully my group was a range of ages from 18 through to 33. BUNAC sent out a list of email addresses of the other people on my group flight before I left so I could start to get to know the other people in the group. This was great for easing nerves and discussing possible plans.
The group flight was a really great start to the adventure, particularly with the 3 day stopover in Hong Kong. Not only did I get to explore an additional country, adding further exotic and cultural experiences to my journey, it also broke up the huge flight to the other side of the world - and most importantly it gave me a chance to bond with the other people on the trip, through which I made lasting friendships. This really did make me feel more comfortable and at ease when I arrived in New Zealand. A BUNAC Work Australia group were also on our flight and stopover in Hong Kong, which allowed the opportunity to widen my network of friends and make contacts to meet up with in Oz if I decided to take a trip 'across the ditch'!
Once I arrived in New Zealand I was with my new friends and fellow BUNACers in Auckland, staying in a hostel across the road from the IEP office (which helped the group set up a bank account, apply for an IRD number and assist with jobs and travel plans). This eased the pressure of setting up in a new country. The next step was up to me to decide whether to stay in Auckland, venture somewhere new to find work, or hit the road and start backpacking the country straight away. I stayed in Auckland for a week and then went up to the Bay of Islands for a week with a friend from the BUNAC group. This trip remains one of my highlights. I booked it through IEP and had an amazing time visiting Cape Reinga, sand boarding, hugging trees, learning about the Maori culture and seeing dolphins!
I then decided to find work in Auckland and ended up sharing a flat with three other BUNACers. The flat was located just a block up from the sky tower! I stayed there for 4 months working, saving, exploring, making great new friends, spending Christmas on the sunny beach and learning the Kiwi culture. Choice!
After bidding Auckland a fond farewell I booked a hop-on hop-off pass on the Stray bus and explored some of the South Island while it was still summer. My flatmates and I had different itineries and headed off on our own adventures. I met new friends on the Stray bus as well as experiencing many great activities, including swimming with hundreds of dolphins in the ocean in Kaikoura, walking and sailing in the stunning scenery of the Abel Tasman whilst camping on a farm, hiking the Franz Joseph Glacier and sky diving over beautiful Wanaka with views reaching all the way to Queenstown! Awesome!
It was time to earn some cash again so I went to Christchurch, where I decided to look for work and a place to live. This took a while, about 3 weeks to find work and another 2 weeks to find a room to rent. It was all worth it though; I got a great Marketing job at the head office of a leading supermarket chain and found a place to live with some kiwis in a very cold kiwi house. I will never undervalue the Great British central heating system again!
This was a cold but great experience. Christchurch is a great city to live in, in fact it is my favourite place to live in New Zealand. Christchurch has everything; city life with country life literally 15 minutes out of the city. It’s a great location to travel to other places on the south island from, or to fly up to the North Island from. The locals are very friendly and there is plenty of entertainment, bars, clubs and theatres. All in all an amazing place to live!
Akaroa is an hour’s drive from Christchurch and is really beautiful. Mount Cook is further away but well worth a visit as it is simply stunning. There is also a choice of mountains close in winter for you to easily go snow boarding or skiing. Mount Hutt seems to be the most popular. I stayed here 5 months before I went off to finish my travels around the South and North Islands. Again I travelled with the Stray bus for the most part.
There are some places the bus trips don’t go so I went with intercity buses to Dunedin and New Plymouth on my own. I had an amazing 5 weeks travelling, even though it was winter!! There are so many backpackers travelling on their own and with other friends scattered across the country I very rarely felt alone. Highlights of part two of my travels include everything about Queenstown – the Lord of the Rings tour (a must in NZ!), the gondola, the bars – Milford and Doubtful Sounds, Stewart Island, the Cadbury's factory, the wildlife - penguins, seals and sea lions - digging my own hot pool on the hot water beach, surfing in Raglan, the Tongariro crossing and who could forget the stink, thermal activity and Maori culture in Rotorua! Sweet as bro!
I would advise when deciding on how to travel New Zealand to look into all the options before you decide. There are a number of bus trips, the big three being Stray, Kiwi Experience and the Magic bus. Kiwi Experience is generally more for 18-21s, Stray and Magic tend to get more of a mix of younger and older travellers, although it really does depend on which mix of people you get on the day.
The good thing about hop-on hop-off buses is that if you feel you aren’t clicking with the bus group you can wait and catch the next bus! Hiring cars and camper vans is also very popular and you do see advertisements frequently in hostels from people offering rides or looking for travel companions. And then there is the intercity bus, naked bus and other regional buses that are literally bus services from A to B.
I loved New Zealand so much that I wasn’t ready to leave after a year, so I applied for a second visa and stayed an extra year. British Citizens can get two working visas for New Zealand and I felt it would just be plain rude not to take advantage of this! One word of advice though, be careful on your timing when you apply for a second visa; do it too early and you will automatically be on your second visa as soon as it is issued, thereby losing the time you had left on your first visa. Apply too late and it may not get processed in time and you will be asked to leave. If you think you may possibly want to stay longer than a year before you leave the UK, look into the different visa types because one of them you have to be out of the country to apply for it and one you can apply for while you are in New Zealand.
I spent my second year in Christchurch, working and enjoying kiwi life in this amazing city. I loved it and am so grateful to have had 2 whole years in this spectacular country. The people are so friendly, fun, laid back and generous. The scenery is outstandingly breathtaking. There are so many beautiful beaches and, unlike in Europe, most of them are relatively quiet. All in all New Zealand is a must for all aspiring travellers!
Being so close to Australia, I made sure I went over the ditch before returning home. There are many great deals on flights between New Zealand and Australia so make sure you take advantage of them!
I spent a month in Australia on my way home and I really loved it. Australia is inconceivably massive, amazingly diverse in its scenery and experiences, and even though I’ve seen only a third of the country (at most) in a one month time frame I can confidently say there is something for everyone. I got a cheap flight to Brisbane from Christchurch and explored Brisbane and Fraser Island, which was absolutely beautiful. The tour group I was with was amazing (Fraser Experiences).
I then took a flight to Alice Springs, where I did another tour with Adventure Tours down to Melbourne over 10 days. I had the time of my life on this tour. The scenery and experience of natural, pure Australia through the Outback will stay with me for the rest of my life. Again, the tour group I was with was amazing. Backpackers generally are a friendly and fun bunch! I then explored Melbourne and Sydney on my own, meeting people in hostels and on day trips. I personally like the mix of tours and independent travel.
One the home stretch, I stopped over in Singapore on my way back to the UK. It’s relatively cheap to make a stopover and adds another notch to your ever growing ever demanding traveller’s belt, so it is well worth it! Although, one word of advice; be careful what you eat! I ended up with food poisoning and had an unpleasant final 24 hours to end my incredible 2 year adventure. I see it as a blessing in disguise now as I loved New Zealand and Australia so much I was starting to worry I was making a horrible mistake returning home- trust me food poisoning took the edge right off, all I wanted was to go home to my mum!
One final piece of advice – go for it mate, it’s sweet as!