Crashing with Strangers: My experiences of surfing couches

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I have had the pleasure and privilege of hosting heaps of people while living in the beautiful far north. Going from the references on my couchsurfing profile, I think I’ve had definitely over 40 different groups of people…. but the number of times I have rocked up to a strangers house to crash, I can count on my left hand. So far. 

I got into the couchsurfing scene back in 2009, while chatting to some of my uni mates who used to host people. I created myself a profile, and although I was flatting and unable to host at the time, I kept my profile on “able to meet for a coffee or drink”. That was pretty cool, didn’t really hear too much from anyone while in Dunedin.
There was that one time I was supposed to meet up with some Italian guys, and I arranged to meet them at the South Bar. Popular because of its sweet atmosphere and a mega deal on pizzas during the week…. Except that week, I got sick and spent the day I was supposed to meet them, quarantined in the ED with suspected swine flu. Luckily the guys were real cool and understanding, and appreciated the tip on the good spot (and I was later diagnosed with Atypical Pneumonia rather than Swine Flu).
So my couch surfing debut was not until December 2009, when I treated myself to seeing Fleetwood Mac in concert, in…… New Plymouth! A fair wee distance from Dunners, that’s for sure. As they had added a second night to their tour, accommodation in “the ‘Naki” was scarce. Optimistic me thought this was a perfect opportunity to try out this new-found feature!

Fleetwood Mac concert
Tahi
My first time was definitely gentle and pleasant. Getting from Dunedin to New Plymouth (via Chch for a night, and Wellington for another night) was a mission in itself. To complete my typical luck, I did manage to leave the ticket itself, at HOME. But that was easily sorted.
First and only time to Taranaki
I opted to stay with an elderly couple, for reasons I can’t really remember.  I think it was just one of those gut instinct things, so I went with it. I helped Nelle with some yardwork during the day, and at night I cooked up some pizzas, as that was my pride and specialty… but there was more for me to learn, as I had never “scored” the dough before.  Nelle’s daughter was home visiting, and she was kind enough to give me a lift into town a few times.

Karen and Colin had a mean place to relax!
Rua
My second surfing experience came as I made my big move from the middle of the South Island, to the top of the North. I had accommodation arranged the whole way, up until I got to Whangarei. This is where Karen and Colin came in. They amazed me with their piece of paradise outside the city, their friendliness, and just how many CSers they saw regularly. We had to get water from the well, which I helped with trudging through the paddocks in gumboots, as I learned that they were in the middle of a draught and reliant on rain water to fill their tanks. Turns out, this would be a foreshadowing of my life to come in Northland!They gave me some great tips about the Far North (namely to take State Highway 10 opposed to 1, as my next destination was Awanui, outside of Kaitaia. All of this meant nothing to me, until later). But I am still ever-so-grateful for this wee tip, as it affirmed my love of the Far North before I even got to Kaitaia. Had I driven through the Mungamuka Gorge (that makes me so sick) and seen Kaitaia first, I might have been put off!

Toru

As I was headed for my future home of Kaitaia, I had no idea what I was to expect. Arranging to stay with Shelley was another sign of fate, that this was a good choice and place to be. On the phone before I arrived, she told me where the spare key was, and to help myself to the meat in the freezer – she was going to be out camping for a few days and to make myself at home.Wait, what?!

I had originally planned to only stay long enough to find my way around this town that didn’t seem to use the internet to advertise anything, and find a proper hostel. Shelley was so kind, she insisted that I stay with her until I found a decent place to live (location needed to be approved by her and her twin sister who used to be a Postie, as she knew all the stay-away spots).  My new best friend (read: only friend, at the time) Amy and I soon found a cute wee spot out on the East Coast in Coopers Beach, and had to wait 2 weeks before we could move in. By the time I moved out, her beautiful Maori grandson was consistently calling me, the stark-white/untanned Canadian foreigner,  “Aunty Cake” which I found adorably hilarious. All up, I couchsurfed with Shelley for ONE MONTH, and still to this day, I am just so grateful for the hospitality and friendship that she showed me.Wha

A year later, with friends from uni visiting and wanting to do a little roadtrip around NZ with them, I introduced Mel and Bradford to couchsurfing. Our trip consisted of leaving Auckland, and going to Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula then to Tauranga, Rotorua onto Hamilton then back Auckland for a night to pick up some more mates before we all headed back up home to Ahipara in the Far North (with a pit stop at Goat Island). Whew – talk about a whirlwind tour!
Just another day of kiwi couchsurfing?

Our surfing was done outside of Tauranga, with a chilled out easy-going dude named Shane. We showed up, chatted, cooked him some burgers for dinner and his band was coming over later to rehearse. Or so I’m told. I had just returned from 10 days in Canada prior to our roady and was severely battling jetlag (and losing too). I piked out pretty early and crashed, leaving Mel and Bradford to jam with the band into the early hours of the morning. I slept the whole night like a log, and didn’t hear a thing of their electric bass, drums, or tambourines. Roadtrip driver was well rested for the next big day of driving! In the morning, we got to hand-feed Shane’s sheep on his lifestyle block.

That’s all, so far! I continue to bank my good karma as I occasionally host people from all over the world, in the hopes that one day, I will cash it all in for others hospitality. My current dream that Thom and I have been working hard to save for, is to fly from Auckland to Vancouver, buy a car there and then drive all the way across Canada till we get to my hometown on the East Coast, stopping at every desirable attraction along the way!

I’d love to couchsurf my way across Canada!

Have you ever stayed with someone couchsurfing? I’d love to hear your experiences!
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