This is insomnia-fueled stream-of-consciousness nonsense. I am not expecting anyone to read this. I am writing this purely out of a need to occupy my mind while I wait for it to get tired.
Jason, who never seems to have this problem, is lying next to me, asleep, happily snoring away. Funnily enough that used to bother me at the beginning of our relationship. Now I find it oddly comforting.
I’ve been having trouble finding things to write about on here. The past few weeks have been our own personal Groundhog Day (I think… I’ve never actually seen that movie. Sad, I know). We’ve been trapped in Auckland and can’t seem to escape. Not that Auckland is really all that bad its just not where we want to be. It is not why we came all the way to New Zealand. What up, South Island? I want to see you so badly!
Why are we trapped here, one, non-existent reader might ask. Well, our initial plan, which in hindsight could have been improved, was to spend the first two weeks in Auckland getting all the “paperwork” situated. I have touched on this in a previous post, but to recap. We are here on a working holiday visa, which means we have 12 months to legally work and/or travel in New Zealand. In order to implement the “working” part of said visa, we have to get a tax ID number. In order to get a tax ID number, we have to have a functioning New Zealand bank account. In order to get a “functioning” bank account, you have to have proof of address. Ok. Hostels readily hand these bad boys out, but as we were staying at an AirBnB the first week, it gets a bit more complicated. We would have needed a letter from our host as well as one of her utility bills, acting as her proof of address. Understandably, our host was a bit wary about handing out this paperwork, so we decided to wait until we were staying in a hostel to set up the account, to try and make things a bit less complicated.
Well, after one week in Auckland, we were already feeling a bit of cabin fever, and opted to rent a campervan for 10 days and tour the Coromandel Peninsula. We had a fantastic time and it only further excited us to get our own camper and get out and see more of this beautiful country. Wait, why did we rent a campervan if we were just going to buy one later? Two reasons. 1) We wanted to give van living a trial run before committing to it for a year and 2) We had tickets to a music festival 2.5 weeks after arriving and had already committed to taking the communal bus from Auckland to the festival site. Not wanting to leave our brand new van in some random (and probably expensive) parking lot over a three day weekend, we opted instead to hold off buying a van till after the event.
Here is where that hindsight comes in. As it turned out, the festival, which I believed to be at a beach WEST of Auckalnd, was, in fact, in a park SOUTHEAST of Auckland. Literally an 8 minute drive from the last campground we slept at the night before returning to Auckland. Clearly, it would have been more practical to have gone ahead and purchased a campervan as soon as we had arrived and had our own transportation to, and more importantly FROM the event.
This is also the point where the weather turned on us. The last night with our rented camper the rains came pouring in. They did not stop for 4 days- the entire duration of the event, which took place over the evacuated lands of a sheep farm. Mud. Lots and lots of mud. All of this mud made it very difficult for the bus drivers to get the buses to the pick up points, hence our bus leaving over an hour after its scheduled departure time. So, yeah, it would have been nice to have our own wheels. No worries, though, we made it back to Auckland, ready to start cracking down.
At the hostel, we got our proof of address. The next problem is that you can’t just walk into a bank and set up an account. First you have to set up an appointment. Lucky for us, this was also just before university first term, so many new overseas students were also trying to set up accounts at the same time. The first appointment wasn’t for 5 days. Even better, the bank branch phone numbers are not publicly available, so the only way to call around and see if any other of the numerous branches have an opening is to ask a bank teller to do it. Poor set-up New Zealand, seriously.
We initially take the appointment, but after stewing for a day and a half, we head back into the ANZ branch and have them start calling around. We manage to find a branch an hour-long bus ride away with an appointment, oh, in just over an hour. Done. We hopped on the bus and made it there just in time. It takes a solid two hours to get everything done and taken care of, but we manage to leave with all the paperwork that we need and debit cards being mailed to the branch in the CBD that we visited first.
The next day or so we are able to apply for our tax ID numbers without really any issues, and they are texted to us a week or so later. At least we didn’t run into any hiccups with that process.
Buying the camper, however, became a bit of a saga. Mainly in that it took us an inordinate amount of time to be able to access our funds in our US bank account in order to purchase the van. We tried wire transfers online, but that wouldn’t work because they would have to confirm it with our phone numbers on file, which were still our US cell numbers, which, of course, are no longer in service.
Over the phone we changed the numbers on file to our new New Zealand numbers, but, it takes 30 days for it to go through. So, online wire transfer was a no go. The next option was to do a wire transfer via fax. Seriously, fax. John Oliver, how is this still a thing? We faxed the documents twice, on two different days. Neither times it went through.
We considered Western Union, but ran into issues with their app and online service, which is the only way to do the transfer with a debit card. So that was out – plus they take waaaaaaaay too much commission. There are other online services that we looked into and one we even spoke to on the phone, but none were viable.
Finally, we were able to talk to our bank and have them up our debit card limit and we were able to take cash out at our NZ bank as a cash advance. Damn. I don’t know what the best way to go about this is, but this is not it.
I remember having similar issues in Australia, and using PayPal somehow to circumvent the red tape. But I’m also pretty sure I still have like $20 AUS in an Australian PayPal account that I can’t access because I no longer have access to the WestPac account that it is attached to. This is my life.
And the fun doesn’t stop there. While we were still in financial limbo, we found a really great campervan that we wanted to jump on. Well, I did. Jason was not in love with Vanessa Fudge, a truly fantastic Ford Econovan Hightop being sold by this nice Australian guy. She was roomy and would be perfect for longterm living, unlike most converted vans we’ve seen on the backpack trail, which are really meant for a max of 2-3 months. One thing I learned from our rental was that I would need a fridge. Buying a bag of ice everyday to keep our food in the “chilly bin,” aka cooler, for 8 months is not an option. She had a fridge, was roomy, and best of all had character. But Tyson, the owner, was motivated, and we didn’t have the cold hard cash. By the time we did, two days later, he had stopped answering his phone. I’m guessing because he was already back in Australia.
We persevered and headed to two different car fairs in Auckland that were supposed to be a good place for backpackers to find vans. It was incredibly slim pickings at both. Frustrated and especially tired of Auckland, we decided to bank on a camper owned by a German mechanic just finishing up his travels. He assured us he would be in Auckland on the 12th of March and we could set up a viewing then.
With this info in mind and getting kicked out of our hostel the next day, we decided to book an AirBnB on Waiheke Island, where we had spent an amazing day drinking wine and tasting lots of yummy food. It would be a nice little break from stressing out about account numbers and campervans.
Well, it sucked. Our AirBnB was fantastic. However, someone in our last dormroom, cough, New York, cough, got us both sick. J had it first and then, per usual, it popped up with me about 36 hours later. Sore throats, phlegm, coughing and achey bodies are just the highlights of a terrible cold that we are both still fighting off. The silver lining, I guess, is that it rained the entire time we were there, so we weren’t missing out on great beach days. And we didn’t feel too guilty about staying in all day and only venturing out to the pharmacy.
The good times continue. On the 11th, the day before we are heading back to Auckland on the 40 minute ferry, the camper owner texts us to let us know he sold it. Thanks, dude. He did feel bad, so he sent us a link to a similar one for sale just North of Auckland. Spoiler alert, we bought that van. A week ago. So why are we still in Auckland? It has some problems. Some we knew about, some we didn’t.
We put in a new vent and a new stereo and speakers. We also got two new tyres. All in all not too bad. Then, the first night we go to sleep in the van… after spending the day cleaning it, buying new sheets and finding a 24 hour laundromat so we can wash all the bedding, we climb in to go to sleep and… it reeks of gasoline. So strongly I’m worried it is going to cause health problems. So at 1 in the morning I start calling all the 24 hour reception hotels Google is showing me, finally I find one with a room, right across from the airport. And of course, there is road construction which, with all of our missed detour turns, made our 30 minute drive into a 50 minute one. But, we were able to check in and sleep without being poisoned by petrol fumes.
First thing in the morning, on Friday (St. Patrick’s Day) we call the mechanic who sold us the tyres. He doesn’t have any availability today, so we set up an appointment for 8am Monday morning. See, somehow, we just can’t leave! We find an adorable instant book AirBnB just North of Auckland and are able to at least check one thing off our to-do list, meet with the couple we’ll be house-sitting for in July. They have a few animals, but one fox terrier who needs a little adjustment period. He’s a sweetheart, though, and I can’t wait to spend a month with him!
Monday morning rolls around and we drop the van off. The mechanic is going to go ahead and take care of the Warrant of Fitness, or WOF. A mandatory check up every car has to have every 6-12 months, ensuring all cars on the road are in good working order and safe to drive. Not a bad regulation. And what about that fuel smell? It is likely a fuel leak, but he can’t find where it is. He flushed it all out and cleaned it up (that is the extent of what my brain retained from actually being told what he did… very little car knowledge here.) Now we are supposed to drive it around for a couple of days and bring it back and he thinks he’ll be able to find it then.
Until then… we continue to be stuck in Auckland. There’s definitely worse places to be, though. So don’t think I’m complaining.