Wheels!

So I once again have a set of 4 wheels and several tons of steel at my disposal.

Not going to win any beauty contests, but I don’t think I did too badly! It’s a 1996 Honda Accord Station wagon. I originally was thinking about getting a normal, small sedan, but after talking to a few people at the hostel, decided to move up to station wagon. The reason being is that sleeping in your wagon is a great way to save money in the summer – and there are some really awesome places to do just that in the south island. Nothing like waking up to the beach outside your car or something similar. Since the costs were pretty much identical (though gas will likely be slightly more), the savings I can make by sleeping in here instead of a hostel are pretty substantial. And it’s not a bad looking car for the money either – $2000NZD got me a Honda with 185,000km.

The interesting thing about the kilometers though – they can’t always be trusted here. The vast majority of cars in NZ are imported, used, from Japan. Apparently it’s pretty normal for the odometer to come looking…a little too good. I got my car at the Ellerslie Car Fair, a MASSIVE market of private sale cars put on every Sunday. There were probably 500+ cars there today, ranging from ~1000NZD to near new cars. The majority were under $5K though. And it was interesting the range. Seeing 1995 cars with under 100,000km is highly, highly suspect, given they might only be asking $4000 for it. Pretty much if it was too good to be true, avoid. I got mine a thorough inspection before, and while the car isn’t perfect (passenger door kinda squeaky with the lock, brakes need replacement soon), it was in pretty good overall shape. Hence, I took it! I hope that it lasts the year, and sees me around both islands. It drives smoothly without funny noises. Plus, has quite a few nice little amenities, like automatic climate control, power windows and locks and a tape deck!

By the way, I totally rocked the parallel parking on the backward streets here, on my first attempt and everything.

Tempting!

But I didn’t succumb to my curiosity to find out what exactly Fried & Spicy Chicken Beer might be. My loss. I know where to find it if the craving ever sets in. There is one thing I have been known to have an insatiable appetite for though:

The fact that they charged *$1.20NZD* (roughly $1CAD) for a single scoop and under $2NZD for 2 scoops of glorious ice cream was beyond awesome. I was in heaven. Now, I know what you are probably thinking, but I’m not entirely obsessed with ice cream – I did not specifically seek this wonderful building out, I simply happened upon it. Honest! I was actually in the North Shore area of Auckland looking at a car just up the road of the heavenly spot of ice cream deliverance. The car turned out to be pretty decent – a 1993 Mitsubishi Galant, ran well, and was in pretty good condition, for around $2000NZD. I’ve put in a bid for it, I’ll find out Sunday if I get it. The only problem with it is the exterior colour – it’s purple. Blech. But, if it gets me from Point A to B and is reliable, I’ll be happy as can be. Much like I was eating ice cream (got ‘Hokey Pokey’) in winter time.

Japanese Pancake

Having never had one of these confectionery items, I was naturally curious to see what it was when I saw one advertised near the central Library. It seemed like a popular place, and at $4NZD, was darn cheap for dinner. After ordering a ‘beef and cheese’ pancake (this should have been my first warning – beef and cheese?), I watch as the workers began preparing my food. After dousing a frying pan with oil, my blobby pancake is tossed into the pan and flattened. It actually looked quite appetizing! I was hungry, so that probably helped. After 5 minutes of cooking, the area smelled great and I received my mysterious food. It looked fairly close to a normal pancake. It was scorching hot when I got it and was simply presented in a couple of napkins, so I started wandering towards my bus stop. Eventually it had cooled enough for me to sample. Crunchy outside, fluffy inside! Pretty tasty. Like a giant pancake really. A few more bites and I was enjoying myself.

And then I hit the ‘beef’. I really don’t think it was beef. It certainly didn’t taste like any beef I’ve had before. I assumed that the first bite of meat was simply one of those odd flavour pockets, the next wouldn’t be too bad….nope. Taste got worse. I think they actually dared to put onions in there as well. THE HORROR. I proceeded to eat the outside edges of the pancake, tossed the middle section in the garbage and went to sleep hungry. Lesson learned. My cereal this morning tasted extra special and non-mysterious.

But I did also manage to get a nice nighttime picture of the Skytower from the University of Auckland (nice place!).

 

Oh, and I plan to jump off said tower (with a harness, don`t worry!) before I leave Auckland. It`s only the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere after all, so why not? When in New Zealand…:)

What’s mine is mine once again

After a very easy 20 minute meeting, I now have a fully accessible New Zealand Bank Account, Visa card and bank card (all in one). This has been such a remarkably simple process – I was able to partially open an account online, from Canada. This gave me an account number, transfer agent to ask questions to, and most importantly, allowed me to do a bank transfer from Canada before I even left. So my money was sitting here waiting for me when I arrived, I just needed to meet with my transfer agent here in New Zealand, provide 2 pieces of ID, sign a few papers and off I went. It still is startling to me how easy New Zealand has made everything to pick up and move here – I imagine havine thousands of kilometers of ocean around you on all sides before any major landmass helps a bit, as the worry of illegal immigration would be pretty low I imagine. While I imagine the problem still exists, it certainly doesn’t seem to be a concern from what I can see. They seem more than pleased to allow me into their country and have made everything so darn easy!

It’s alternating between rain and sunshine again today, so I’m currently hiding out from the showers. This allows me to start looking at my next major hurdle – buying a car. All it has to do is get me from point A to B, so it’s going to be cheaper than anything I’ve had previous. Given my mechanical ineptitude, this could be disatrous. I also seem to be on a bit of a downward slide in terms of the car I have – I thought I was supposed to have nicer cars as I got older?

 

Range of costs

So far I’ve noticed that New Zealand certainly does tend to the upper end of expensiveness, especially compared to Canada. I know we in Canada love to complain how much more expensive things are compared to the States…well, we have it pretty easy it turns out. That being said, there are a few things working in New Zealand’s favour (their dollar is worth less than ours, their minimum wage is higher). Plus, one thing that I really like – they have a sales tax much like Canada, but all their prices shown are tax inclusive! This is one thing I wish Canada would move to, it makes things 100x easier when pricing out.

What I’ve noticed so far:

Transit, Sushi, Mobile Internet and Cell phone plans are much cheaper in NZ than in Canada. I’ve opted for Mobile internet rather than struggling to find cheap/free wifi, and at $25NZD/month for 500MB, it’s fairly reasonable and usable throughout New Zealand. Compare that to what you have to pay in Canada for similar ($30CAD+/month for 500MB, considerably more if using prepaid like me), and it’s a definite bargain. Sushi simply is due to demand and competition – there are a TON of sushi places here. I’m not lacking for my tasty raw fish, and $5-10NZD will easily constitute a relatively decent, filling sushi dinner. $10CAD won’t go very far in Canada when it comes to sushi. As for Cell Phone plans…well, Canada is considered one of the most expensive mobile phone providers, and for good reason. One huge perk here in New Zealand – while I have similar minutes to what I’d get in Canada, incoming calls, regardless of where they come from, are *always* free. Canada and the US are pretty much the only places that charge you for both incoming and outgoing calls. I didn’t know that until just now! On top of that, there is no ‘roaming’ nonsense in NZ – regardless of where I am in New Zealand, my rate is the same.

That being said, there are many things MORE expensive here that I’ve seen. Pretty much universally, food is expensive. Fast food, snacks, milk, cereal, bread, you name it, it’s mostly all more expensive. On the ‘considerably more’ category, I’d put stuff like bathroom stuff – toothpaste, shaving cream, shampoo and the like seem to be obscenely expensive (I’d say twice as much as in Canada). And I was looking at the prices in their supermarkets, corner stores are even more. Luckily, someone had mentioned to bring a bit of extra toiletry supplies, so I’m decently well stocked there. The aforementioned wifi in cafes is also noticeably more expensive, as are tourist activities – I’ve taken a peak at a few things, and many start around $100NZD here in Auckland - for a large group day tour, that seems *expensive* (I’ll just be walking myself anyways). I’ll save up my money for the activities anyways (rafting and the like seem more reasonable for their prices).

Oh, and as for different (and yes, these are the genuine article, not a knockoff).

Baffling!

Death by Transit

I’ve only been honked at once so far (and I don’t think they honked just because I look sexy covered in layers of clothing), but I’m pretty sure the roads here will be the death of me. Not that the traffic or drivers are all that bad (not that I’ve noticed at least), just that there is constant traffic, and they all drive on the wrong side of the road. This is Ponsonby Rd, near my Hostel:

In my little world, this is how I still see traffic:

Doesn’t that look much better? I think so. I know how to avoid getting run over by these cars. The ones here in New Zealand? Seems to be a daunting task so far. Driving my own vehicle soon should be…interesting (read – potentially terrifying for myself and others).

So, rather than learn, I’ve instead taken to public transit as a means of getting around (also to rest my limpy leg). Thankfully, Auckland has an outstanding public transit system. It’s somewhat confusing at first (there seem to be several different metro bus companies or just all use different names? I’m still not 100%), but the buses are frequent and inexpensive ($1.80NZD, or about $1.50 Canadian). They also have a train system similar to GO Transit in the GTA for the longer trips. I took one yesterday out to the suburbs in search of a cheap retail environment (more on that in the next post…).  

Again, very convenient and useful. After finding some groceries and a laundry bag, I took the train back and found dinner. After a tasty sushi dinner, I decided to take the bus back to the hostel – and ended up walking all the way back because I never did find the proper bus stop (turns out I can’t read a map sometimes).

Going Live

Alright, I think I have this web page set up properly now, and with a few pieces of content to boot! Time to send the emails and go live! And then never update the site again. :P

Nah, hopefully I’ll be pretty good about updating regularly, though the limited internet available my hinder that for now. I have found one free source though – the public libraries here in Auckland have wifi, though it’s pretty slow. Likely because the place is packed with people who, like me, just want simple internet access (for free). Now to start downloading movies…(not going to happen – they limit each computer to 100MB/day).

If you’ve got any comments or suggestions about the site or the content, drop me a line!

Arrival

Not too shabby!

So I’ve made it! That’s the view from right beside my hostel, looking towards downtown Auckland. Today’s my first full day here in New Zealand. I arrived yesterday around 6am, but yesterday is still more of a blur than anything. The flight from Los Angeles was uneventful, and I did manage to sleep a bit. Getting in at Auckland, I was curious to see what customs/immigration would be like for me. I had all my papers for my working holiday ready just in case – my passport, working holiday visa letters, proof of funds (the visa stipulates $4200NZD proof of accessible funds), and hostel papers. Upon getting up to the customs agent, he scanned my passport, asked how long I would be staying (1 year), stamped my passport and sent me on my way. I get hassled more coming back into Canada, that was so remarkably simple.

First things first, before leaving the airport I took out some cash. It looks like there won’t be any issue for me to adjust to their cash – multicoloured like Canada, and the $20s are even in a similar shade of green. Once flush with money, I found the city bus to take me downtown. From the nearest stop I could find I walked about 20 minutes to my hostel and checked in.

Finally being free of my large backpack, I felt free and full of energy (this wouldn’t last…). I headed downtown, a 30 minute stroll. It began to rain. It began to sleet and hail. I remember this weather from Canada…the sun came back out shortly after, and I had found shelter in a cafe, with the hopes of checking in online – this was where I made a disturbing discovery. Free wifi in New Zealand is a very foreign concept! Where as we (and really, any other country I’ve been to…including Latin America and Ecuador) enjoy free wifi in many spots (most often coffee shops), nearly EVERYWHERE in Auckland requires you to pay to use the wifi. Evil evil evil!

The rest of my first day was fairly uneventful, hobbling around the downtown core. I managed to injure myself last week hiking in BC, and my leg it seems hasn’t fully healed as I aggravated it again. Argh. I did manage to set up my cell phone with a new number. Yay me! And then I fell asleep at 730pm (thankfully, in my bed at the hostel).