Living in Rural New Zealand

Helensville, New Zealand

As we’ve previously noticed, the lines between rural and urban New Zealand are quite blurred.  Sheep can be found in the middle of their largest city, and when we tell New Zealanders that we lived in Helensville for a few weeks they said,

“Oh, that’s in Auckland”.

Which it’s not.  It’s about an hour drive north of Auckland into the boonies.  Helensville is a small town (by American standards) complete with a large showground for showing off their various equestrian and agricultural skills.  (Ok, we admit that San Francisco has the Cow Palace, but let me tell you it’s not the same thing.)  When you see people riding their horses FROM THEIR FARM and your water supply comes from the rain on your roof, then there’s just no way that you can consider it to be urban.

Auckland = major international city.  Helensville = small town New Zealand.

We spent about 6 weeks living up there, and we quite enjoyed it.  We went for evening walks past cows, sheep and horses, but were still close enough to Auckland for Tiffany to drive in to do some work occasionally with a catering company (hooray for Work Holiday visas!)  We had originally anticipated spending more time working in NZ so we could refill the travel kitty, but like we said that got derailed

There were lots of things in Helensville to keep us entertained.  We stayed in a small apartment attached to the garage of a really great Kiwi couple (the people not the birds).  They were fantastic, and didn’t mind us asking them all sorts of strange questions and explaining Kiwi life to us.  We learned some really interesting things, like:

  • Sheep are a very important source of income for New Zealand.  We’ve already noticed how prolific they are.  What we didn’t know is the extent that the law protects them.  If a dog is found on someone’s property, it can be shot by the landowner.  There doesn’t need to be any proof that the dog is feral or hunting sheep, just its presence on the property means it can be killed.
  • The way Kiwis deal with the cold is to ignore it.  None of that silly American business of insulating houses or central heat.  A stiff upper lip and good cup of tea is all it takes.   Considering how cold it gets there, that alone is testament to the sheer willpower of people of this nation.
  • The King has a following that is alive and well in New Zealand, as can be determined by the names of our temporary landlord’s dogs which join us on our evening walks (Elvis & Priscilla)
  • Like Mexico, there are mutant bugs in New Zealand.
  • And we remembered to tackle the age old question: which way DO the toilets flush in the Southern Hemisphere?

So uh, little help here everyone?  Can someone flush a toilet up there and let us know?


About the authors

Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures.  If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at!

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