Upon arriving in Tauranga on Thursday we were wary but hopeful that our upcoming six week housesit would work out fine despite the fact that communications had been erratic and strained from the get-go. Most emails contained some form of our hosts asking us to confirm 100% that we were coming and details kept changing.
We called their cell phone on the way to let them know our bus was running a little late, and continued to leave voicemails several more times that evening when they failed show up. Finally defeated around 11:30 PM, we walked around and found the cheapest hostel we could, hoping that everything would be explained the next morning.
Well it wasn’t. Worried that there had somehow been some serious misunderstanding, we started frantically looking for ways that we could afford to stay in New Zealand for six more weeks before our departure date that had three international flights hinging on it. After a very stressful Friday, we finally got an email from them explaining that their previous note meant they were out of town until this coming Sunday not last Sunday, even though they had made no mention of a change in the original pick up plans. And due to the death of a friend, they would now be leaving on Tuesday. They assured us that they would reimburse us for our costs and apologized profusely. We were relieved to say the least! Even though we had to pay for a few more nights in the hostel we would still be accommodation-cost-free for the next 5 weeks!
We had a great time exploring the town and we had a fun hostel that was filled with long term guests working as pickers and pruners in some of the many fruit orchards in the area. With wonderful views of the harbor, we enjoyed the sunny weather and meals out on the deck.
as well as a local farmers market, where we learned that the famous Manuka Honey is called thus because of the Manuka wood that the bees pollinate; it’s supposedly very high in antioxidants and delicious!
When our hosts returned home on Sunday we received another email explaining that they would now not be leaving for their trip on Tuesday, but rather on Thursday. They would thus pick us up on Tuesday night. Ok, fine. We could handle a few more nights in Tauranga.
Well, Tuesday morning comes along and we’re all packed up to leave our hostel when I receive another email stating that they were, “sincerely sorry, but they were going to cancel their trip.” We try to keep this G-rated so let’s just say we were livid, furious and depressed. How ironic after plummeting us with emails asking us to confirm 100%. And worse than that, we were unnecessarily strung along and ended up spending almost $400 waiting for them and the promise of a 5 week housesit.
As you might imagine, we went into panic mode. We had to find a way to coast affordably while we found something to do for the next 5 weeks that was within our ambitious $600/month budget. All within the span of an hour, we booked a bus back to Auckland, a 5 day campervan rental (by far the cheapest way to sleep in NZ), and started researching other housesits and work exchange programs at the library.
“What about free Couchsurfing?” you ask. Couchsurfing is great for a free place to crash, but it’s impossible to get someone to respond to you within a day or two and we needed a solution immediately.
All in all, it was an incredibly disappointing experience and by far the biggest and most expensive blip in our trip so far. In most other countries where we could’ve possibly afforded accommodation it wouldn’t have been quite so painful. Nevertheless, it was a good learning experience, and a reminder to trust your gut. We’re still not sure if their story was all true, but it was certainly the strangest string of correspondence we’ve had in our three years of housesitting.
Now we’re living in van down by the McDonalds’ oasis, visiting the local library with free Internet and putting our resourceful talents to use!