Thursday, November 15, 2007

November 15, 2007 - Whangarei

Our new neighborhood . . .
is a bit dusty.
We can't actually see the river from the boat,
unless you happen to be at the top of the mast.
Mr. Whippy's visit is often the highlight of a day in the boat yard.

We had been motivated to work on our boat projects this past week by the anticipated reward of being able to travel around a bit before we fly home on Monday. But between dental bills, yard bills and my Massachusetts Bar renewal, we've hemorrhaged about 3 grand this week. We just don't feel like we can justify paying a big one-way surcharge on a rental car now, when we are planning to buy a car upon our return from the States.

Last weekend, we went to the Turners Car Auction to scope it out. They went through about 30 vehicles. None of the cars were sold outright via the auction process. Maybe 1/5 of the cars attracted bids but none even got close to the reserve price (which is not actually published). Instead they flash up on an LED screen "getting close". When the reserve is not met, they send a salesman over to try to make a deal with the interested party. And truly, you could make an offer on any of the 150-200 vehicles on the lot. So when it comes down to it, we think the auction is more of a gimmick to get people into the showroom than a way to actually move the vehicles.

We've been checking out the notice boards to try to find a car from a backpacker who is headed home and ready to sell. Unfortunately, we're coming into New Zealand's prime tourist season and so demand is high and the supply is thin. Hopefully when we return in January we'll have better luck at an auction or car fair.

Life without a car has been a bit of a drudge. We walk everywhere, constantly reminding ourselves that the exercise is good for us. This pep talk is less effective when we get caught in the rain, 20 minutes from anywhere. The other day we got stuck at the grocery for an hour, waiting for the rain to pass. We hadn't had lunch, so after a while I headed back into the store to grab something for us. Passing the bakery case, the wisdom of Homer Simpson rang through my head - "mmmm . . . donuts." The donuts here don't appear to be fried. It is more like a sweet hot dog bun with a squirt of fresh cream in the middle. Not bad, but not Krispy Kreme either.
Books are ludicrously expensive here (for example: $50 for a Harry Potter soft cover, $45 for a New Zealand travel guide, $35 for a soft cover book published in New Zealand - all prices NZD) so we joined the local library. These guys have a very cool mission statement - "Creating the Ultimate Living Environment." There is a cafe right in the library, with magazine racks and newspapers situated close to it. It feels a bit like a Barnes and Noble. The signs in the library, and many other places around town, are in both Maori and English, a manifestation of New Zealand's commitment to biculturalism. The library's operating costs are subsidized by charging $4 to borrow a recently published bestseller, $2 for one that has been out a bit longer, $4 for DVD's, $2 for CD's, and $2 for recent issues of magazines. But almost everything else is free. I checked out a pile of books on the local wine industry, and we both picked up a novel. Unfortunately, we had the best latte of our lives at the cafe, so all the money we save by not buying books may be negated by our nascent $5 latte habit.
A Maori carving in front of the library.

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