When in New Zealand, One Must Shear Sheep

Wednesday, 10-09-2014: Day 21

Black Sand, White Sheep

The first night in the camper van wasn't the most comfortable night of sleep we'd had on the trip, but it was still better than 16 hours on a bus.

After the previous day's driving adventure, we briefly considered downgrading the camper van from the Explorer to the Voyager, which is van-sized (and therefore easier to maneuver).

Britz Voayger.

Britz Voayger.

But then we saw a Voyager in an adjacent site. It would have been easier to drive, certainly, but we would have been really cramped inside. Our current set-up was plenty cramped enough, especially while cooking meals, so we decided to tough it out and keep the Behemoth.

We ate breakfast, then, because we'd promised Jackie that she could look for shells, headed out for a walk along the beach. There were big waves rolling in, and while the water wasn't as blue as Easter Island (which was the bluest water we'd ever seen), it still looked pretty inviting. A few surfers were out enjoying the waves.

Morning surf at Muriwai Beach.

The tide was a lot higher than it was when we visited the gannet colony the day before. An ocean cave that you could walk into at low tide was now full of water (you can see it just to the left on the cliff in the image above). We hadn't gone down to the beach proper the day before, so we didn't notice that the sand was black.

Black sand.

As Frankie hand-crafted a black sandcastle, Jackie spent some time curating a collection of shells. As she walked down the beach, she circled all the good shells she found with a stick. Then she walked back the way she'd gone, carefully selecting the best shells on the beach.

Jackie's curated shells.

After the beach exploration, we meandered back to the camper and headed out, driving a bit further north to Sheepworld, where we ate lunch of meat pies and sausage rolls at the Sheepworld Cafe (good food there).

Sheepworld puts on a sheep-herding show, and the next one started at 2:00 p.m., so we toured the farm for a little while. In addition to sheep, Sheepworld had goats, alpacas, miniature horses, rabbits, emus, pigs, and a lot of chickens. They also have some brushtail possums, but they weren't in the cages.

When the show started, we were the only group in attendance, so we got a very personal experience from John, a nice fellow who knew a lot about sheep, shepherding, and New Zealand.

We got to see two different herding dogs in action. One was a silent worker, who ran around the sheep to move them where they needed to be. He would herd them to wherever John was standing, and, in addition to voice commands, responded to John's shepherd's whistle. Hearing him make different sounds with the whistle was as impressive as the dog understanding what those different sounds meant. The other dog moved the sheep around with her bark, and she barked a lot. John told us that one dog can do the work of ten humans.

Working dog.

Sorting and Shearing

After the dog show, Samantha and Frankie got to sort sheep into different holding pens. The sheep ran down a chute and had to be sorted according to the markings (pink and blue paint) on their heads. Real sheep folk don't have colored markings to look at, though; rather they have to pay close attention to markings on the ears of the oncoming sheep. It looks to be quite difficult.

Then Frankie and Jackie got to shear a sheep. It looked a lot like this:

A sheep shearer can earn between $1.40 and $2.00 per sheared sheep, and a good shearer will work for nine hours a day and shear between 250 and 300 sheep. The world record for shearing a sheep is just under 40 seconds, and after having seen a sheep being sheared, 40 seconds is an impressive feat that would be something to see.


After shearing, we all got to bottle-feed some lambs.

In all, our tour of Sheepworld lasted two and a half hours. It was a fun afternoon, and Jackie, who we promised could get one stuffed animal on this trip, decided to cash in on that and got herself a stuffed alpaca who goes by the name of Victoria.

Sandspit Holiday Park

We drove up to Sandspit Holiday Park on Kawau Bay. It had a nice frontier town set up, complete with movie house, laundry (under repair), hot showers, toilets, and a shared kitchen.

Sandspit Holiday Park

We bought some supplies from their small kitchen for dinner, then drove along the narrow gravel road to our campsite. We really had to shoehorn the Behemoth into our camping berth.

This was a lot tighter than it looks here.

But once that was over, we were free to explore Sandspit Holiday Park. It's a nice place, and is a great place to visit, especially if you enjoy fishing. We played a life-sized game of snakes & ladders at the game room (Jackie won), then a game of giant chess, then cooked dinner and settled in for our second night sleeping in a camper van.

Notable Statistics

  • Kilometers driven: 80
  • Toll roads traversed: 1
  • Sheep sheared: 1
  • Lambs fed: 8

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

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When in New Zealand, One Must Shear Sheep
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