I learned a long time ago that if the years seem to be passing too quickly, it’s time to try something different. A year ago we spent Christmas in La Paz, Mexico after sailing down the entire coast of the continental United States and Baja California. That was different enough from a normal Christmas then, but now even that seems so long ago and far away.
With Julie’s brother and nephew being joined here by his wife and other son, we ended up with a completely different experience than even what we were already having. The extra help, knowledge and moral support, meant we could tackle a few things I might’ve been reluctant to try myself. As a result, our non-functioning oven is now functioning again. The starter motor, which has been acting up at times, including on the crossing from Tonga, was removed, disassembled, inspected, contacts cleaned and, hopefully, will be more reliable now. We have a new alternator, and will carry the old one as a spare. We have new binoculars to replace the ones that fell apart in Bora Bora, a new goose neck pin for the main boom, and a lot of input and feedback on several other projects. Combined with a new tablet computer to fill in for the laptop that failed in the Marquesas, and our own car, it was almost like Christmas. I say “almost like” because we find it hard to feel like Christmas when it’s summer and the sun is still up well into the evening. Holiday decorations just don’t look right in the sunshine. Maybe that’s why we seem to have seen so few.
This is prime vacation time for New Zealanders. Everything is crowded, including the marina and the marina parking lot. Normally we wouldn’t care about a parking lot except that now we find ourselves worrying about finding a place to park our car. We lost a hubcap already, and likely need a brake job. Gas is terribly expensive, and our credit cards don’t work at unattended gas stations. Mobility is nice, but owning a car can be a hassle.
Having family here meant we actually went out and acted like tourists. We explored the far north end of New Zealand, took a miles-long bus ride on a beach, saw huge sand dunes, took a ferry ride to the historic town of Russell, visited a limestone cave with a ceiling covered by bio-luminescent glow-worms, and even went to the top of the Sky Tower in Auckland.
As nice as the Opua marina is, we do need to get around. A van offers trips a few days a week to Paihia for grocery runs at the supermarket, and cars can be rented easily with a phone call. We took advantage of both the van and the rental cars more than once. We drove to Whangarei to check out a boatyard and see if there was a better place to keep the boat near there. On another trip we drove all the way to Auckland to pick up Julie’s brother and nephew at the airport. On both trips we spent the night at backpacker hostels. On the return trip from Auckland we stopped at Avis to pick up a rental car for Julie’s brother, and the battery in our rent-a-dent died. Fortunately, Avis had a jump starter.
For real mobility, and to save us from going broke on rental car charges, we decided we needed our own car. So we bought one.
Shopping for and buying a car in a foreign country—with left-side driving, no less—was never on my bucket list (or any to-do list), but it became something of a priority once we got here, considering our ambitious plans for the next few months. Of course, once it rose to the top priority, used cars for sale seemed to mysteriously become scarce. We searched internet postings, used car lots, message boards and car auction sites all the way to Auckland. The cars we were willing to gamble on always seemed to get sold just before we could get to them. Finally, we just happened to see an ad for this car posted on the laundry room board. We jumped on it.
After we called the seller, he offered to drive it over to the marina so we could have a look. As soon as we met him, people seemed to come out of nowhere to ask if the car was for sale. They opened doors, walked around looking at the tires, asking questions. Only after we said (loudly) that we’d take it and started filling out a transfer of ownership form, did they concede and go back to whatever they had been doing before.
The next morning we went to two ATMs in Paihia with three different bankcards in order to withdraw enough cash, then we met the seller again and completed the deal. The post office handled the registration transfer. For licensing and insurance purposes, the marina address is now our “permament residence” in New Zealand. The woman at the post office knew exactly what address we wanted to use, as she had done “a few” before.
It ended up being an easy process. Next up is a trip to town to see Star Wars.