After taking care of our immediate need for warmer clothes and groceries, we started to focus on plans for our future in New Zealand. It’s strange to be in a place with no real plan and seemingly unlimited options. Do we start looking for jobs? What kind of work do we want to do? Do we buy a car, a camper van, hitchhike or rent? Which city do we want to live in? I could fill up an entire post with questions like these, but I won’t bore anyone and I’m tired of thinking about them myself. Options are great, but let me tell you it can be a bit overwhelming. Not that I’m complaining because it’s WAY better than being at home and knowing that I’m going to work in the morning. It’s just interesting to note how different it feels.
In the past few days we have managed to answer a few questions or at least make a couple of decisions. Next week we will be heading to the South Island for a month or so of touring before we come back to Auckland, where we intend to live, to look for jobs. I will have to find a “real” job if I am to get a visa that will allow me to stay longer than 6-9 months. With that in mind, we decided it’s best to travel a bit now before work gets in the way of our mobility.
Saturday was a beautiful day in Auckland, so we headed out to see some more of the city. We ended up down by the docks and decided to see if we could find any locals that could fill us in on the local sailboat racing scene. We spotted a couple of America’s Cup yachts (NZL 40 & 41) with crew on board cleaning up from the day’s sail. We headed down to take a closer look and see if anyone knew about local racing. After a short chat with one of the crew, we were directed to Eric, the skipper, who owns a racing yacht of his own. Eric filled us in and told us how to get hooked up with a team. Then he invited us to come out the next day for a sail on NZL 41. I have to admit I was giddy with excitement over the prospect of going sailing on one of these yachts, especially considering it usually costs $150 per person for a two-hour sail.
Our America’s Cup sail wasn’t until 2:00 p.m. Sunday, so we decided to spend the morning looking for a car at the Ellerslie Car Fair, which happens every weekend from 8-12. The fair consists of hundreds of owners and their cars parked in sections divided by price range.
Getting to Ellerslie was supposed to be a 40-minute trip via two buses. It turned out to be a bit more of an adventure. Our first bus was supposed to be at 8:38 a.m. just outside our hostel. We made it to the bus stop with a few minutes to spare. While we waited, we were studying the bus map inside the bus stop, when the bus we were supposed to be on zoomed by. It turns out that just standing in the bus stop does not signal a bus to stop. If you don’t walk out to the curb and make eye contact with the driver, they may just cruise on by. We ended up catching the next bus, but we missed our connecting bus and had to wait an hour for the next bus to Ellerslie. Once we made it to the car fair, we only had an hour to look around before we needed to catch a bus back to make our sail.
We started looking through the cars in the $5000 or less section and came across a 1997 Mazda Capella hatchback. It’s not a model that’s available in the US, but it’s basically a small station wagon. Yes, I said station wagon. We wanted something smaller than a camper van since we were ultimately planning to live in the city, but we also wanted to be able to camp in the car while we travel for the next month. The car has low mileage for a 13-year-old car, doesn’t smell like smoke, and hasn’t been owned by any backpackers. We took the car for a test drive and put it through its paces. The seller told us the car belongs to his grandparents, who should no longer be driving thanks to poor eyesight. It seemed to be what we were looking for, but instead of buying, we took the owner’s number and headed back to Auckland for our sail.
The weather changes quickly in Auckland, and by the time we got to the docks, it was raining lightly. Some squalls had come into the area, but they eventually passed and we headed out. After we cleared the harbor and set sails, the wind was only 5 knots, but we were managing 7.5 knots of boat speed. Amazing boats! For the next two hours we sailed around in the Hauraki Gulf with huge smiles on our faces. Eric was letting passengers take turns at the helm, and I got to drive for about 10 minutes. Towards the end of the trip, he got a message that another squall was coming, so we sailed into a position where we could sail downwind when it hit us. It was a good move because the squall brought wind above 30 knots with it. As planned, we eased the sails and headed downwind. The carbon fiber boat creaked and groaned under the stress, but with the smallest jib and main up, we quickly accelerated to over 14 knots! The only thing I can say is WOW.
After our sail, Eric invited Lara and I to go with the crew to a local bar for a beer. One beer turned into a few, and we ended up hanging out for several hours and meeting the crews from the other boats owned by Sail NZ. In addition to the America’s Cup boats, they have several cruising sailboats and a whale and dolphin watching boat. There’s a good chance Lara and I can get work with Sail NZ in October when the tourists season really gets going.
We are really starting to feel like we are finding our way and getting the hang of things here in New Zealand. I think we are over the shock of the cooler climate and on to the excitement of all NZed has to offer.