Written 5:11 PM NZST
Saturday, 25 September, 2010
Posted 6 PM, same day.
I am writing from a Starbucks in the tourist district of Mount Manganui, on the Bay of Plenty! When our bank transfers still hadn’t come through yesterday, and with the deadline for purchasing the van drawing too near, Matt’s mom, ever the lifesaver, wired the needed money directly to Matt via Western Union (from another savings account of his) and we picked up the money, bought the van, and were on our way out of Auckland by 5 PM yesterday! (Naturally, his bank transfer came through today…)
So, we now have our home on wheels for the next 8 months: a Toyota Lucida minivan, tricked out as a campervan, who we have named “Betty.” My photo uploads are not cooperating again, so I'll probably post those at another time. We have to pay for internet everywhere, including in wifi hotspots, so I'm in a time crunch.
We bought her from our Israeli friends at the hostel, Michael and Odet, who had it priced at NZ$4,300 but gave us a discount because of the giant dent that Odet had just put in the side turning into a parking lot, and because we are Americans, and “The Americans helped us Israelis, so we like you!” Betty is lovely, exactly what we were looking for, but with maybe a bit more character than we would like: big dent in the side, jankety sunroof, a veeeery cozy interior, and a passenger door whose handle broke 15 minutes after we bought her, rendering the door useless and meaning that the passenger has to climb in over the driver’s seat. We’ll be getting that fixed pretty soon, I guarantee you. Betty came with “hips of camping gear” (as advertised on the flier) so we already had almost everything we needed- most bedding, cookware, a portable single burner cooker, chilly bin (cooler, Kiwi-style), and loads of maps, battery-operated lights, etc. I met Odet when I was looking through the van postings in the hostel and he came over. “You are looking for a van? I show you which one is best. All those others, they are sheet!”
We were able to buy 3rd-party insurance through the IEP office, $240 for 9 months. Our travel insurance covers theft of anything in the vehicle. As soon as that was done and we had picked up a few necessaries (water container, solar shower, postage stamps…), we took to the road. Matt braved the left-side driving first, and we made it safely out of Auckland, south through Manukau, braved a petrol station (where I once again had to confess I had absolutely no idea how much petrol we needed. How many litres is our gas tank? We have no idea!) We drove through the dark to a free DOC (Dept of Conservation) campsite we had looked up, just south of Paeroa, where we had stopped for provisions. We slept incredibly well in the van, it has a great mattress! The campsite was gorgeous, if muddy- pictures below.
Today we drove to the Pacific Coast/Bay of Plenty at Waihi, then cut off to Sapphire Springs, an incredibly Podunk hot springs (more warm, really), where we paid $5 each for a soak, and $2 for a shower, which was badly needed. We also took advantage of the empty carpark and a clearing in the weather to unpack and repack the van, with everything fitting in nicely. And a lovely feeling of setting up housekeeping J Then around the bay to Tauranga, where we stopped at the charity shops to find a few things for the van (duvet cover, second set of silverware). Then we stopped at a couple surfshops and made our way here.
Finally getting to see the scenery outside of the city is incredibly fulfilling. It’s incredible, and we ooh and ah everywhere we go. We have seen a million takahe, the blue and iridescent pheasants-type birds of New Zealand, everywhere in fields and in the verges, birds of paradise, avocados and lemons for sale in little roadside stands with “honesty boxes” for payment, priced at $2/bag, calla lilies growing wild along the roads (which blows my mind!), and of course greenery and sheep and cows. I keep thinking, this is how gorgeous it is here in early spring, with no leaves on most trees, and under gray and rain (the weather hasn’t let up yet).
Plans for the next two days are not set- we may go to Rotorua tomorrow, or we might stick to the coast and buy surfboards- who knows? We don’t even know where we’ll camp tonight. And I love it!
Since internet is expensive and I don't know when I'll get to it again, I'll be writing my posts and posting them at later dates, so I'll tell you when it was written at the tops of the posts, since they may relay events well after the fact. But we are well, and we have a car- it was amazing how simple the ppw was to buy it and transfer ownership~!
Best to you all-