So, we’d had the fun, relaxed, extended holiday part of the trip where, in a nutshell, we walked around with backpacks behaving like we were about to climb Everest before heading to the 4-star hotel we’d booked on Expedia a good six months earlier. Hardly seasoned travellers. But the next part, the working holiday visa in New Zealand part, I knew was going to be much less luxurious. Mostly because New Zealand is a lot more expensive than South East Asia and having gone a little OTT on the old excursions and excessive eating and drinking, we were going to have to be V careful with money until we found a job. In addition, in my head New Zealand was also where I was more comfortable with the idea of doing traveller type things like staying in dorm room, cooking as opposed to eating out and the most dreaded of all.. social interaction! And not just any kind of social interaction, social interaction with people our own age, having fun whilst wearing beachwear! Oh god, the thought made me want to die. Man, I hate young people socialising in beachwear! Of course, I would go on to overcome my fear but for now I was relieved to be out of the danger zone of South East Asia and on to New Zealand where people like to go walking, spot wildlife and socialise fully clothed. Because of this picture I’d painted in my head, I was ready and fully prepared to launch straight into backpacking life as soon as we touched down in Auckland.
Our first week in New Zealand was like those confusing four days between Christmas and New Year when you’ve no idea what you’re doing and so you just end up eating a lot of cheese and napping. Were we on holiday? Were we not? Do we get a job here and now or do we travel around for a bit first? Where do we want to get a job? What do we do for a job? What is a job?… It was all very distressing. As it turns out the decision on what to do with ourselves was made for us, as I woke up in our private (I was easing myself in) hostel room not being able to move having been consumed by what I think was the Flu. I couldn’t work my own limbs and so pretty sure doing work, sightseeing, drinking or otherwise was out of the question. Needless to say I was less than good company for the entire first week.
I may have, on occasion, sometimes shown teeny tiny traits of a functioning hypochondriac, but I promise this was the real deal! My Mum thought I had malaria – classic Mum! Because of this, our days consisted of Tom getting irritable and so going out to get food. He’d then try and tempt me out of bed with said food, hoping it was all one big attention seeking escapade and being extremely disappointed when even Auckland’s finest Domino’s pizza made no difference. Around the 1pm/2pm mark he’d give up and go for an afternoon nap. He’d then wake up wanting to go out for a few drinks and more food but would end up going out alone having failed for the second time of the day to drag me out of bed. This continued for about 5 days. It was not the most trilling start for super backpacking time like I’d planned.
Towards the end of the week as I started to feel better, we begun to plan our next move. It was always the plan to buy a car to travel around in as well as potentially sleep. However, I feel our bizarre start to this leg meant that we rushed into it. Tom had nothing else to do and so looking for cars was a good pastime. After about 5 minutes he found one that we liked the look of and was very close by. Like Tinder for cars. As with Tinder looks and proximity are not things you should solely rely on for a perfect match. So, with me still feeling sorry for myself we both went to go and see it one evening before committing to anything long term.
There’s two things that, when I look back, I realise should have been big indicators into this not being indeed a perfect match. One – who buys a car in a capital city they’ve been living in for two seconds? If you wanted to buy a car in the UK, you wouldn’t buy it from central London, would you? That’s just stupid. Even if you lived in London you wouldn’t buy it from central London! You shouldn’t even buy steak in central London! Two – Tom and I had never made a major purchase in our lives until this point and so had no idea what we were doing or looking for and we knew absolutely bugger all about cars. It was never going to go well.
I stood disinterested and shivering on the side of the road while Tom got stuck in pretending to know what he was doing. He walked around the car stopping at key points for a more intense look and to make some approving noises, almost like he was ticking off a mental check list. ‘Uh huh, it’s got wheels, good start. Check!’. Once he’d done this for a considerable amount of time he turned to the guy and said, ‘Yeah looks good, we’ll have it’. The man paused and looked at us like we were a little mental and said ‘Urm.. don’t you want to drive it first?’ Duh!! We are a little mental. We laughed awkwardly knowing that if he wasn’t going to try and do us over in the first place he probably would do now.
They went off and Tom drove it up the road. When they came back his answer was the same as it was before. Of course, it was, we were going to buy it even without proof the thing actually moved so of course, we were going to pay when we found out not only that it had wheels, (check!) but that they did in fact turn! We’re so savvy! We’d agreed to give him the $1,200 cash the next day. Having made no useful contribution at the time, in the way of either helping to purchase or even helping to not purchase, I was suddenly very worried about the whole thing, convinced it was a mistake. Well obviously, I could have told you two paragraphs back that it was a mistake! However, past me had promised a fellow traveller money and felt it impolite to withdrawal that. That was moronic!
The exchange went ahead as planned and we parked our newly owned and seemingly well loved, Mitsubishi RVR in a nearby car park, pride of place. We came back in the morning ready to embark on an adventure with our new travel companion to find a big puddle sat underneath it! Oh gawd! I know nothing about cars, but even I know a puddle on the floor in a covered car park is not a good sign. So instead of listening to Imagine Dragons on our way to the secluded beaches of the Northland, we had to find someone to fix the bledy thing. Turns out it was a leak from where the coolant is kept, I hear this is kind of important, so we had to pay for a new coolant holder thing from some other random bloke. To be honest I think the clearly mechanically inept foreigners were swindled again on this one but I really can’t blame them.
I’d had such high expectations for our arrival in New Zealand. It was to be the time when I jumped in head first to the backpacking life and left my inhibitions behind. But instead of jumping, I was bed-ridden and the only thing left behind was our common sense. Nonetheless it was a week of firsts and a learning curve at best and I was becoming less tense with every mile that car completed on its way to the Northland. As long as it got us there I didn’t care. It did indeed get us to the Northland, but not much further than that…