Expat Jobs on the Road Keri Keri New Zealand

Waiting for the Kiwis – months spent in Keri Keri, New Zealand

cycling in keri keri

It was the kiwis that brought us to Keri Keri. Those brown furry fruits with the bright green guts. We laughed at the fact that we were going to be be kiwi pickers in New Zealand, where both the people and the native wingless birds are known as kiwis.

As many a backpacker or Working Holiday Visa carrier will know, seasonal work in Australia and New Zealand is a common way to save some money, and in the case of Australia, extend your stay.

We heard the stories, accounts of grueling hours spent working in the burning sun, being paid by weight and by how fast you can pick. People would talk about what fruits were the easiest, and the most difficult. They spoke about how it was an opportunity to save for further travels. Some said it would be the best fun ever, spending time in the great outdoors, bonding with fellow pickers who shared a love for travel and a need for cash. Then there were the horror stories of farmers not paying wages, of early morning starts and long days, of war wounds as a result of thorns and branches, and of creepy crawlies nestled in branches.

After months living in Auckland, we were finally ready to move on. We were ready to earn some money! We wanted to explore New Zealand, and sadly, working two part-time jobs in Auckland just wouldn’t cut it.

The time had come to head up north, to beat the crowds and claim our new roles as fruit workers.

Keri Keri - waiting for the kiwis

Before we left, we did some research and had arranged accommodation with a place that promised to find us a job. They urged us to get up there as soon as possible.

And so, we packed up our hostel room and took a bus to Keri Keri.

We arrived at a country town that at first glance appeared to be made up of wide open spaces, with few people and very, very quiet. We sat on our backpacks, swotting mozzies and flies as we waited for our ride in the fading light.

Eventually, he came, in a beat up old car that smelled like dog. Two tinnies gathered condensation by the gear stick, and he guzzled one down as we drove outside Keri Keri to our new home.

On a country road surrounded by fields, we turned into our new home. We were shown to newly decorated rooms that looked inviting. We were surprised to find we were the only guests.


Sunset in Keri Keri New Zealand - thetravelouger

Turns out, we were the only ones there for a while. It soon transpired, in drips and drabs, that the urgency communicated to us by the owners to get up in time to snag the good jobs was just a ploy to get our custom.

Eventually, we came to the realisation that we had essentially been duped into coming up to Keri Keri, leaving our Auckland jobs and paid-for accommodation in the hostel to spend what little money we had on rent. Weeks passed, other people came to stay, and more excuses were given about the kiwis. The weather, the crop and the farmers were all offered as varying excuses as to why we had no jobs.

Our accommodation, while appearing inviting on the surface, turned out to be the worst place we had ever stayed, due to the behaviour of the owners. Although the entire experience would make for an entertaining post, I’ll hold off for now, and instead focus on the waiting for the kiwis.

Each time we asked about our promised jobs, we were fobbed off. As I watched my pathetically small savings dwindle on rent, I grew more anxious. When we spoke to owner about our concerns, particularly the fact we had spent 6 weeks on rent without our promised jobs, she pretended to share our frustration, and suggested I ask my parents if they could send me money to cover the next rent installment. No offer for us to hold off on the next month’s rent until we got our jobs, even though we were essentially prisoners in the sticks and had nowhere to go.

Killing time in Keri Keri

cycling in keri keri

In retrospect, the waiting wasn’t all bad. No, really. It gave us a taste of country living, and an exercise in amusing ourselves.

The days were long, and the town of Keri Keri was 6 kms away from our semi-prison.

We busied ourselves with plenty of tea drinking, and in my case, reading absolutely anything I could get my hands on. I had been devastated to discover that the Keri Keri library didn’t allow outsiders to become members.

After weeks of boredom, false promises and rain, we made the effort to fill our time with worthy pursuits. We took up knitting. We were so broke, we bought our wool from charity shops and had to work with lots of little balls of wool that probably belonged to some recently deceased granny who never got to finish that jumper.

We all decided to make scarves, with varying degrees of success. I made some gloves and A made a fine headband!Making a scarf in Keri Keri, New Zealand, waiitng for kiwis

We decided that we should feed our brains too, and so somehow decided to learn all the countries and capitals. I also tried to improve my Spanish and read up on all those things I had been meaning to educate myself about. I had the time to learn about the history of Syria and Tunisia. This mental exercise really came in handy when we finally began working.

My favourite thing to do was to cycle the 6 km into town and hit the Mc Donalds where there were cheap cappuccinos, muffins and wifi.

Another favourite pastime was to raid the many charity shops for very cheap bargains. I found a camera bag for a couple of dollars that I still use.

We did some exploring of the surrounding area, on the rare occasions we were allowed to borrow the car.

keri keri

We hung out by a lake, and cycled around the rolling green hills. Once, we went on a long drive and discovered some stunning beaches.

We became heavily invested in the lives of the characters from New Zealand soap, Shortland Street.

After a while, we got two room mates, from China and Japan. Then came a gang of Germans, and then some South Americans and eventually some Norwegians.

Obviously, the later arrivals hadn’t been duped into arriving weeks before the season started. We had some nights where we had barbecues and drinks.

Killing Time in Keri Keri - bbq oysters


Perhaps the best part of our almost-confinement was spending time with my two travel partners. We were together 24/7. We kept each other company, we cooked together, slept and woke together. We tried to learn the world capitals to spend all of our free time productively.

Eventually, those kiwis did come. We finally got jobs. Somehow, the three of us ended up together, working in a kiwi packing factory as kiwi graders.

Waiting for the kiwis was an endurance test. It taught us stress management, boredom busting skills and not to just believe people without doing our own research.

As is always the way with travel, those long days in Keri Keri now form part of a story, something to tell and something which, now that I am no longer imprisoned in the outskirts of Keri Keri, I can appreciate as being all part of the adventure!

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  • Reply
    February 25, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    I’m so happy you visited up north – so many travellers skip it entirely for the more alluring South Island but it’s a wonderful way to experience New Zealand culture. I grew up in Auckland so spent school holidays camping at the beach between Whangarei and Auckland and loved it. I still love Northland, and reading this made me a little homesick haha. I am sorry to hear you were messed around though that’s a real shame, and I hope not typical of most New Zealand companies. Glad you made the most of it though, and that BBQ looks legit haha! 🙂

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      March 21, 2016 at 2:00 pm

      I love the North Island! Mount Manganui is my favourite spots in NZ, and Auckland of course!
      No its definitiey not typical for NZ, Kiwis are so nice! 🙂

  • Reply
    Travelog with Jem
    February 29, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    According to Barbara Oakley, mistakes are the best teacher. I am in a similar situation but I will hold on for a while before I write about it. Anyway, good job you didn’t waste time but kept yourselves occupied while waiting for those kiwis.

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      March 21, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Oh no, I’m sorry you’re in a similar situation Jem. Good idea, I would have gotten carried away if I wrote about the situation as it was happening! 🙂

  • Reply
    Milosz Zak
    March 1, 2016 at 2:15 am

    As a landlord, I must apologize, it is really unfortunate what you had to experience. It just isn’t fair, and definitely means one has to be on their guard at all times.

  • Reply
    Dan Vineberg
    March 2, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    Fascinating stuff, and glad to hear you can shrug it off as part of the adventure – every traveller has those experiences!

    (Seriously though… who has ever heard of a library not accepting someone looking for a good book?)

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      March 21, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      I know right?! I was shocked, all those books and none for me to read! 😂

  • Reply
    Dom from Flashpacking Duo
    March 4, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    I’m surprised you stayed put for that long without work. You must have better willpower than me :). In some ways though it was a blessing in disguise as you got to explore an area you probably wouldn’t of. I’m heading to New Zealand next year on a working holiday visa, i’ll be definitely keeping my wits about me regarding getting duped into arriving super early.

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      March 21, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      Hey Dom, yeah we were kind of stuck there as we had left our jobs in Auckland. The upside was definitely getting to know Keri Keri. I’m sure you’ll love New Zealand, and I’m happy you can learn from my mistakes! 🙂

  • Reply
    March 7, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Wow, what an experience! It’s unfortunate to feel all that anxiety and going on with false promises. It’s also definitely and endurance and new life changing experience! How nerve wrecking to feel as you started to have less and less money, yet you have so much patience and willpower to keep holding on. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      March 21, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks for your comment Stacey, it was definitely an endurance test!

  • Reply
    Kevin Wagar
    March 7, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Sounds like some lessons learned and I’m seriously impressed at your resilience in the face of adversity!
    Kevin Wagar recently posted…Comment on Why our children won’t be doing the Dolphin Experience by Ajay SoodMy Profile

  • Reply
    March 7, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    that barbecue looks awesome! i’ve never tried putting clams on the grill before but that looks mouthwatering. i hope to see kiwis someday too!


    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      March 21, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      It was my first time eating them cooked on the BBQ and they were delicious!

  • Reply
    Scarlet Wong
    April 30, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    We are in KatiKati and we were duped too, first week there was no job, second week there was 5 hours job. 3rd week we don’t know will we be working until morning, need to wait for the call and working like 2-5 hours a day. Kiwis factories and orchard like to dupe travellers. We have a contract and we don’t have a car, we are going nowhere.

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      May 9, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Hi Scarlet, I’m so sorry to hear you got duped, it’s so annoying! I hope that when the season kicks off fully they’ll need you to work more. Best of luck!

      • Reply
        Scarlet Wong
        May 10, 2016 at 8:26 am

        I quit the picking job and now working in a packhouse for 10 hrs everyday, 7 days in a roll. That’z pretty crazy.

        • Reply
          Christine Maguire
          May 18, 2016 at 1:10 pm

          I worked in a packhouse too! Thanks for the reminder, I’ve just published a post about it that’s been sitting in my drafts for over a year. 🙂

  • Reply
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