Pushy Japanese Lady

We made it!

We landed in Auckland at 5:30 am after a relatively uneventful flight. Both of us did manage to get a bit of sleep in a spiffy skycouch, even if it did only allow one person at time to be on their back. That, and inevitably you would let your feet drift out into the aisle and the flight attendants would have to tell you to pull them back in. Overall, I give the skycouch an A- and it is definitely a good choice if you haven’t won powerball lately and can’t afford the 11 grand for Biz class.

The last time we came to N Zed, it took us about 2.5 hours to clear customs, so I was not looking forward to that. As we approached immigration, there was nobody there. Yeah! As usual, because we had camping gear, we got diverted to the inspection line. We were the only ones. Having been here enough times, we knew ahead of time that you had to clean everything from hiking poles to boots, and we had done that before leaving the US.

A cheerful young immigration officer asked us a few questions and opened up our bag of camping gear. We informed her that we knew the drill and everything was squeaky clean. She was pleased! And of course, she inspected our gear anyway. Always good to have the immigration folks happy with you. We buzzed right through and popped out into New Zealand in under 20 minutes. Wow.

I couldn’t find the Enterprise Rental car place. I tried to google it and then call, but nobody answered. Ugh. The internet at the arrival area is terrible. We decided to get a coffee at the spiffy coffee trailer just outside and figure out what to do. After a lovely flat white, I headed upstairs to see if the internet was better. It was. Then I found the directions to the place.

Yeah for coffee!

We got there and it wasn’t open yet. No biggie. It was more comfortable to wait at the car rental office than at the airport. I pinged the used car place and told them I was going to be there ahead of schedule. Not surprisingly, they were more than willing to accommodate a newly arrived American that had money burning a hole in his pocket. I couldn’t remember what kind of car I had rented and was hoping it wasn’t a tiny econobox that wouldn’t hold all our stuff. That would have resulted in a disapproving “hmmmmph” from Susanne and I did not want that. The folks showed up at 8 and in about 20 minutes we were packed into our roomy Mitsubishi SUV and heading toward Mr. Motors Group.

I don’t have much trouble driving on the left, but inevitably when you first start driving you stare out the window to the right (looking for the rear view mirror) and turn on the windshield wipers when you are trying to signal. It is a dead giveaway that the driver is a newly arrived American when you see a car randomly turning on and off the windshield wipers on a sunny day.

We got to Mr. Motors at 9 am just as they were opening. They extracted 2 Nissan X-trail hybrids for us to test drive. They import cars from Japan so all of the text was in Japanese. Bummer. We drove both and liked them, but decided we were too jet-lagged to think about it further that day. We drove the 30 minutes out to Beachlands where our Airbnb was. It’s a nice community, out a ways from Auckland, but with a ferry that can quite easily get you to the CBD.

Our location relative to Auckland

We met Tania, our host, and she was quite nice to let us check in early. The place is very comfy, with a king bed and a nice view out over the ocean. Nothing super fancy, but it was going to work just great for us while we sorted ourselves out in Auckland for the week.

After a shower and some rest and with our brains working a bit better, we decided that one of the Xtrails was going to work for us, so I was going to arrange to have it inspected. I called up Charlie at Mr. Motors and put a deposit down on it and told them Carl would be by tomorrow to do the inspection. Cool beans.

I had been doing a lot of research on cars, how to buy cars and what is required to buy a car in NZ before coming over. They have services that will go to the dealer and do an inspection on it before you commit to the purchase. AA (the NZ equivalent of Triple A in the US) seemed like a likely choice for the inspection. However, after reading a number of reviews which said they were pretty worthless, I continued my research. That’s where I found Carl. What attracted me to Carl was that on his webpage, he had a list of used car dealers that had banned him from doing inspections because he had cost them so many sales due to his ability to spot a POS car. That sounded good to me.

Anyway, I got it sorted with Carl to inspect the car. Getting the car was my biggest concern because we only had a few days to get it done and I didn’t want to come down to the wire and still not have one.

I love ferries!

The next day we had to head into Auckland to meet with some investment advisors and sort out our banking situation. We were going to take the ferry in to town from Pine Harbour. We figured out how to get an AT HOP card so we could ride the ferry and went down to the pier and waited.

We didn’t really know what we were doing, so we were just standing there somewhat close to where you would load. Susanne noticed that a line of people were queuing up behind us. Oops, we were supposed to be closer to the loading spot, but they were all so polite, they just started the line behind us instead of jumping in front of us. Susanne made some comment about being newbies and not knowing what the hell we were doing, and the whole line laughed and told us “no worries mate.” We moved up to where we were supposed to be, and they all calmly followed along behind us. They are quite a polite culture.

The meetings were understandably boring and the bank stuff was boring and stressful. We made poor Nicholas at the bank miss his lunch break. He was great and got us all sorted out. We now have a functional bank account here.

Carl inspected the car and then sent me a 500,000 page report on everything about the car that night. Holy cannoli, batman! This dude knows cars. The good news was the car was in good shape. I called Charlie and told him we would be by the next day to buy. Charlie was happy

Our nice “new” Nissan X-trail Hybrid named Otis

The next day we drove to the dealer to buy the car. They had to get it registered first, so we left Charlie the paperwork and headed to the mall for a bit to figure out the craziness of the cell phone situation and kill some time. After some lunch, Charlie told us it was ready to pick up. Yeah! So we drove back to the dealer, did a wire transfer, and the car was ours. Charlie asked me where in the world did I find Carl. He couldn’t believe how many pictures and tests he ran on the car. Thank you, Carl!

Once we were the proud owners of this car, we had to drive out to the airport and drop off the rental car. This required Susanne to drive our new car through the city. Although she had done a test drive in Beachlands the other day, it did not require much concentration as it is a sleepy little town. Driving through Auckland was entirely another beast. Anyway, outside of a few windshield wiper mishaps, Susanne did great and is now a full-fledged, drive-on-the-left person.

The only downside of the car that we have experienced in our short time owning him is that the radio/nav system is in Japanese and every time we start driving around, a very pushy Japanese lady keeps yelling at me to do something that I don’t know what it is. She is insistent, but that does not improve my ability to understand Japanese. Sigh. Apparently we have to change out the whole system if we want to hear someone bossing us around in English. That can probably wait. In the mean time, we will be boning up on our Japanese.

We decided to name him Otis after the character in “Sex Education.” Not sure why, but it seemed like a good name for him.

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