On our first full day in New Zealand, we woke up bright and early to manage some administrative tasks. Specifically, we needed to finalize a plan for accommodation, transportation, and bicycles. When we set off from San Diego in February, we knew we didn't want to sail around the Pacific during Cyclone Season. New Zealand is famous for its beautiful countryside, camping, backpacking and mountain biking. So, we planned to stay in New Zealand for a while and tour around by Land-Wagon.
We woke up bright and early to tour various used car dealerships, backpacker outlets, and bike shops. We stopped in at a used bike shop, where we are proudly presented with two bikes circa 1997, with dubious manufacturing and apparent history with an Aussie Drop Bear. Suffice it to say, they were not in top condition. We changed course and headed to a regular bike shop with designs on finding a cheap but acceptable hard tail. We wheeled our potential new bikes around on the sidewalk outside the shop and dreamed of a day next week in which we would make them ours. We ate lunch at "One of Auckland's Best Five Sushi Restaurants," then headed on to find more vans.
We hike a nearby volcano. The City of Auckland has a tendency to poke up out of the horizon in a picturesque fashion from everywhere I look. Here it is again from the top of Mount Eden. We weigh options and makes plans as we walk. It's the high camping season, and it seems to be a seller's market for vehicles right now. I have bought a total of one vehicle in the course of my life with my own money. It feels irresponsible to contemplate the purchase of a vehicle in the span of 48 hours, but we only have 90 days here, so....the clock is a'tickin.
The next morning, I enjoy a leisurely "moving meditation" i.e. stretch out on the back patio. We pour ourselves two cups of coffee and break out our 2016 financial spreadsheets. We need to insert our spending from the last week of December and contemplate our total burn rate for the year. Andrew reads off credit card and debit card expenditures as I type them in. His monotone drone just keeps going and going: "12/27 Amazon prime $110.27; 12/27 ITunes Store $8.08; 12/28 Amazon Prime $54.18.00; 12/30 Leisure Pro $68.02....." This month is a nail biter.
We load up a new template and prepare 2017's tracking spreadsheet. We put in all our spending for the first few days of January, then leaned back in our chairs. The verdict is in.
For September through December, we are averaging a whopping $1,500 over our intended average. I blame the SCUBA diving and the flights back to the US. If you divide up the "entertainment" category on a month to month basis for these four months, you can see it is exactly $1,503 per month. Ugh. When we did our monthly calculations for this trip, we based those calculations off of another traveler's budget who did not scuba dive. Because we had not done much scuba diving before we left, we made the error of (1) not realizing how much we like diving; (2) not buying/installing our own air compressor; (3) not buying our own gear; and (4) not knowing how much it costs to pay for guided scuba diving as often as we want to dive. This is what happens when you add an entirely new hobby to your life, people. No new hobbies!
When you look at the overall average for 2016, it isn't as shocking as our last four months. Our total spend for 2016 turned out to be $47,908.00, giving us a monthly average of ($4,790.80) or $790.80 over budget each month. We do not expect this situation to improve much in the first quarter of 2017 given that we will be in more expensive New Zealand, but hopefully ground will be made up in some of the cheaper parts of the world we are going to from April through December.
Nothing like being over budget to put you in the mood to go buy a car.
We slink away from our spreadsheets and head to the spot where we found our best van option the day before. "Kick the tires, light the fires, Boss! If it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there." We test drive it, and I utter my first "I don't want to die today!" of New Zealand. Andrew attempted to pull off a U-Turn from left to left in a soccer-mom-minivan with the turning radius of a hippopotamus. It was the sound of the City Bus screeching to a halt that made me skittish. We return to the dealership, take a deep breath and fork over a deposit for purchase. We will be the proud owners of a 2000 Toyota Estima, with 110,000KM and velvety seatbelt covers for our comfort.
But no iPod jack! Do you realize there were no iPods when they made this van in the year 2000? Now we must find a bluetooth speaker or a car tape adapter. Times, they are a'changin'.
We spent the afternoon walking through Devonport, our own little suburb of Auckland. This place defines the terms quaint and tidy. Yards are landscaped, little houses are painted white, and everyone has a cute picket fence or sculpted hedge lining their walkway. They even leave water out, specifically for the ducks.
We walk along Chettlenham Beach and through Battletunnels built into yet another dormant volcano. I spend a good 45 minutes trying to chase down a good picture of some very colorful birds. To no avail. That's ok, now that I know they are here, I will catch them one day.
We popped by the grocery store on our way back to the Lufi Lodge and picked up ingredients for dinner. We cooked up a meal of lamb chops with honey and mint, crisp fresh greens and seared carrots. Paired with a single vineyard, New Zealand Sauvingnon Blanc it was rather tasty. The lamb here does not have that skanky flavor I do not enjoy in my lamb back home. I wonder what the difference is.
P.S. We finished preparing our 2017 Plan, have you? We will circulate it amongst those who made a bet on themselves and signed up for trans-ocean pep talks. Want to be in the cool-kid crowd? Sign up! Last chance at the $50 rate.