New Zealand at Last!

4 12 2009

We arrived in Auckland on Friday 13th, both very tired after our 3am departure from Rarotonga and glad we didn’t have another several hours of flying to our original destination of Fiji!

We spent the weekend re-acquainting ourselves with the city and beginning our search for some wheels. It soon became apparent that we were going to have to spend quite a lot more money than originally intended! Slightly downhearted after seeing how much rusty hunks of junk were in the city we banked on picking something up at the weekly car market out at Ellerslie race course – reputedly less of a rip off than the Backpackers markets in town.

We spent a Sunday morning browsing the offerings by the typically dodgy looking used-car salesmen. Finally we settled on a Toyota people carrier and took it for a spin – all seemed ok and running out of time and options we thought we may as well buy it!

Next came the tortuous debacle of getting the money to pay for it! The friendly, and later we’d discover very patient, Iraqi owner drove us to a mall where we could get the money out of the bank and transfer ownership at the post office. The Latter seemed far too simple – just fill in a form with your name and address (a random hostel address will do) plus the licence plate number of the car you want. Pay your $9 and the car is now legally yours! Not really knowing the procedure I wondered if our friendly Iraqi was pulling a fast one but that really is all there is to it – what’s to stop you just putting down the number plate of something you like the look of in the car park?!

Unfortunately getting our own money out of the bank was much less straight-forward. For well over an hour at the counter every card we owned was declined by the Computer at the other end, all for ‘security reasons’! It’s incredibly frustrating when you realize you are completely at the mercy of some machine and when Computer says No, there’s nothing you can do about it!

So the next morning we found ourselves at Westpac to open a NZ bank account – what a revelation! No forms to complete, within an hour we had an account opened, phone and internet banking completely set-up and ready to use, plus our cards in our pockets! Now how is the UK method of posting you 20 pieces of mail more secure than handing you everything in person?!

Having finally been allowed to withdraw some funds we collected our car and headed into the Northland, an area we omitted on our previous visit. A few hours out of the city we were sitting on an empty white sand beach watching Gannets dive-bombing the ocean and eating a Lamington Log!

We made our way up the coast towards the Bay of Islands for the next few days visiting various small towns, all with the deserted white beaches that had proven surprisingly elusive in the Cook islands!

Here we succeeded in getting our first WWOOF-ing spot! This basically involves working for 4-6 hours a day in return for accommodation and 3 meals a day on Organic veggie or animal farms, hippie communes etc..

Our host was a Brit who was (very slowly) building a house and setting up an organic veggie garden. We spent the next week doing various hard-labour – moving pond weed onto the veggie beds, sometimes by wheelbarrow, sometimes by boat, road-building and various house-building jobs. In our spare time we learnt a little about gardening and permaculture and managed to build ourselves a bed for the back of our car.

It didn’t take long however for us to tire of manual labour and long for a holiday! So after a week we hit the road again, heading further North to 90-mile beach and then down the West coast for a few walks around the forests of huge Kauri Trees and beautiful freshwater lakes.

We’re now back in Auckland to stock up on supplies and to listen to a talk by the Dali Lama! Once we’re fully enlightened we’ll be heading East to Hawkes Bay, where we may even try doing some more work!

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One response

4 12 2009
David Allen

So there you are! Glad you made it OK, and thanks for the picture-message, which was really good quality.
A word of advice/warning about the Toyota, if it’s the mid-engine Previa/Lucida/Estima one. Be very careful about engine water level/leaks. With a mid-engine, remote radiator config. the engine is prone to overheating if all is not just so in the cooling department. The result of overheating is usually a warped cylinder head and blown head gasket, resulting in an expensive re-build/write-off.
I had one for four years and it was absolutely fine, but others I know weren’t so lucky.

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