Monday, April 15, 2013

Saturday, April 13 - Home

Back in the USA!  Hooray!
     We had a seven hour layover in LA, and I suppose we could have taken the opportunity to bop over to Hollywood or Disney Land or Rodeo Drive, but decided to take advantage of a little free WiFi and ...
... good ol' McDonald's hamburgers.  We have a policy of not eating at
American fast food joints when traveling overseas, and in 7 1/2 months
Downunder stuck to it.  But as soon as we got our baggage and made
it through customs, I beelined to McD's and bought three hamburgers.
Oh, did it taste good!
We took turns catching a little shut eye on the terminal floor.  Mmm, comfy.
    Our four hour flight from LA to Columbus wasn't on the modern and comfortable 777, but instead the old workhorse 737.  We departed at 11:30 pm pacific time and landed at 6 am eastern time.  It was loud, cramped and wearisome.  Still, we did make it safely back to Ohio soil.  Our friend David Brown picked us up, and our trip was over.
    I hope to write a final posting summing up our trip soon, so you might try checking back occasionally if your interested.  But don't hold your breath.  It's going to take awhile to settle down and get back into the   groove.  Heck, we don't have a phone, internet access, licensed vehicle, or even mail delivery at home.
   But for now, suffice it to say, our Trip Downunder was a marvelous way to celebrate, and begin, our seventh decade on this journey through life.  I've enjoyed sharing a bit with all who've managed to stay on-board.

Friday, April 12 - Last day

Our last breakfast, with Bill, Sarah, and Geoff
   Friday morning we spent sorting everything out, throwing out or giving away the stuff we didn't want to bring home, and packing up the rest.  Then we took showers and said our goodbyes.
We say goodbye to Bill
      At around 3 pm we took a bus into Auckland.  After changing our New Zealand dollars to US, we walked around the harbor.
We've enjoyed walking around the ports in Australia and New Zealand.
Auckland has the largest in NZ, not surprisingly.
There's also a huge pleasure craft marina.  Maybe this is the way we should
do our next trip!
What the heck, at least I've got the beard of an old sailor.  I think it would be
pretty cool sailing around the oceans on this attractive sailboat
Don had offered to take us to the airport.  He drove to the harbor and
joined us for dinner at an outdoor market with food stalls.
     After dinner we strolled around the harbor for awhile, then decided it was time to go.  We thought our plane was leaving at 11:45 pm, and since it was only around 8 thought we had plenty of time.  But when Diana checked our flight info, she announced in a shocked voice that our departure was at 9:30.  Eyow!  We only had an hour and a half, and it was a half hour drive to the airport!
     But Don got us there in time, and after rushing through check-in and security, we made it to the gate with minutes to spare!  Nothing like milking every second of your trip.  I don't recommend it for those with weak hearts or fragile psyches.
     We settled into our seats, leaned back, and had a comfortable flight to LA, with movies and meals generously provided by New Zealand Air.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Thursday, April 11 - Devenport

Kevin hands the key to Peter, as Geoff looks on.  He's getting himself a
 good van. 
Don had the morning off so he drove us over to the town of Devenport
on the headlands across from Auckland.  We walked around the attractive
little town, then had lunch before he headed off to class.
The view of Auckland from North Head
New Zealand worried about invasion from Russia around 1895 and built
this 'disappearing' gun go protect the harbor.  Of course the Russians
never managed to get this far south, but the gun is still there.  And it's
pretty cool.
The view from below
The hill has arteries of tunnels that lead to rooms associated with the
gun batteries, and many of them are open to explore
For our last meal Downunder we invited Don to join us for lamb chops
and butternut squash on the barbie with mashed kumara (Maori sweet

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wednesday, April 10 - Gotta sell today

     The registration on the van would run out at midnight on Wednesday, so after that we'd be taking a risk if we took it out on the road to show it to someone or even take it to a dealer to sell.  We've only been checked twice while driving in NZ, but we didn't want to have to deal with a $200 fine this late in the game, since it follows the car, and would make the sale even more complicated.
      Geoff, one of the permanent residents at the campground, had said that he thought he would be able to get $1500 around to buy the van when we arrived a week earlier.  It looked like that would be the best we could do, so we texted him in the morning and said that if he could get the money together before the end of the day we'd sell him the car.  Otherwise it would be a game of calling the three dealers who had made offers  and see which one would pan out.  'Lucky' had made the best, at $1400, but there was no guarantee that any of them would actually end up paying that much once we had it at their site.
      Geoff called us back about an hour later and said that he couldn't come up with that much money until he was paid for some of the cleaning jobs he'd done.  But, his sort-of business partner Peter was very interested in the van, and he would contact us soon.  We waited out the afternoon to hear from him, then walked over to the shopping center to buy a few things for dinner.
     While there we got a call from Peter and he said that he hadn't known that the registration was up, and that he could only offer us $1400 so that he could use the remaining $100 that he could muster up to buy a few months of rego.  He said he'd go right to the bank and withdraw the cash then if we said yes.  Errgh.  I said we'd call him back in a couple minutes so we could talk it over.
     He texted minutes later and told us that his bank closed in ten minutes and he could get there if he immediately left work.  It was realistically the best we could do with the short amount of time before we could leave, so we said yes.  And as I said before, whatever we cleared on the car was more or less gravy.  At least that's what we told ourselves.  He said he'd be by the campground in an hour with the money, and we finished our shopping and hustled back.
     We weren't really breathing easier yet.  We hadn't even met the guy, and had to hope that he'd show up with the cash.  Once it was in our pockets we'd finally get to exhale the tension of the past five days.
      Back at camp I saw someone drive in and wave.  It was Peter.  He got out of his car and walked over and introduced himself.  He's older than us, seemed very pleasant, and I had an immediately feeling that everything was going to work out.  I showed him the van, we got papers out to sign, and he opened his wallet and pulled out a stack of 14 one hundred dollar bills.  After some small talk in which he offered to drive us to the airport on Friday (we already had plans with Don) he told us he'd be back in the morning to pick up the van, since he was alone and had to drive his car back home.
     What a relief!  We fixed dinner and toasted the 'successful' sale of the van.  Now we could enjoy our last two days in Auckland.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tuesday, April 9 - Back in Auckland

      There's a dealer in town that specializes in selling vans to backpackers.  We had texted him a couple days earlier and asked if he'd be willing to take a look at our van and make us an offer.  He said sure, bring it in.  So on Tuesday we found our way to his place, but he wasn't around at the time and we were told to return later.
     We drove up to the huge Auckland Museum and took a look.
I have to admit to being nearly museumed out.  A couple months ago I could
have spent four hours looking around.  But with the anxiety of selling the van
and the excitement of getting home, I did a mostly cursory walk-through.  These
'steam punk' string instruments did catch my eye, however.
     When we left the building to go to lunch I realized that my cap had fallen out of my pocket somewhere within the cavernous building.  No big deal, really.  Just another episode of Lost and Found.  But some of you know how I feel about my caps, and it did bum me out.  We walked (in the very bright sun) to a fish and chips joint and had a nice lunch.  Then we walked back to the museum to see if anyone had turned in my hat.  Turns out, five minutes after we left it was indeed turned in to the office, and the woman there even remembered me. (There are advantages to having one of the biggest beards in NZ).  So, reunited with my cap, I was  happier, and we headed back to the dealership to see if he was there.
      The guy was there, and came out to take a look and a spin.  The Townace performed well, and after all our scrubbing and polishing, looked pretty good.  But he only offered us $1250.  I certainly understand the reasons, his parking lot is already packed with old cars and vans.  But still, it was disappointing.
     Now, we only had three days until our departure. It was beginning to be crunch time.

Monday, April 8 - Sittin' around

      Not much happened on Monday.  I had posted the van on two online sites, so there wasn't much else to do on that front.  The weather for our last week in NZ remained beautiful and I blogged, we walked to the shopping market nearby, and had a nice dinner of veggies and couscous.
     We did have some fun that evening.  Bill had been telling us about the nearby table tennis facility where he played and mentioned that he'd be in a tournament that evening.  We thought it would be interesting to watch, so after dinner we walked over and took seats in the spectator's balcony.
Bill started playing as a young lad back in the rough council housing he
grew up in in England.  He said he and his brothers found an old piece of
particle board, threw it down on the kitchen table, and played for hours and
hours.  Here he prepares to serve a ball.
     When we arrived he was in the middle of a doubles match.  His team won, then Bill played two matches of singles ping pong.  The first was against a 'younger' man, maybe 55, whom Bill defeated handily.  He came up to visit while waiting for his second match and told us more stories about his early days back in Yorkshire.
     Then he was called down to play his second singles match.  This time it was against a Chinese guy at least 50 years his junior.  I thought Bill certainly had met his match.  Hardly.  It took three sets to win, and the other fellow only scored a couple points in the first two.  The third set went to 13 - 11, but I suspect it was mostly because Bill is a nice guy and wanted to allow his opponent a little bit of self-respect.
     A couple days later Bill walked into the campground and proudly showed us a certificate that pronounced his four man team as the winner of the Division 3 tournament.  There are four divisions in all and Bill expects that his team will soon be promoted to Division 2.  

Sunday, April 7 - Selling the van, day 2

The market on Day 2 was in the parking lot of a big race course.  Lots more
cars, lots more people.
     We'd knocked $300 of the price, but still sat there with very little interest shown in the van.  Oh, a couple people came up, checked the interior and kicked the tires, but with such a large selection it was looking worse and worse as the day wore on.  Near the end of the trading hours I saw the French kids' van driving towards us, and as they passed us saw the same dealer who had tormented them the day before test driving.  The boy saw me and gave a mirthless smile that quite clearly said that La Syndicat had failed in her demands.  Eh bien, c'est la vie.
      We stayed on for an extra hour after the official closing time.  As the vehicles thinned out an Indian guy named Lucky came over, took a look at the van, and told us that if we didn't sell the car before we had to leave to give him a call and he'd give us $1400.  Well, it was something.
      The day before a 40 something Northern California surfer dude had stopped by at the end of the market and expressed some interest in the van and said he'd be back the next day to take a closer look.  He hadn't shown up during the normal hours, no big surprise.  But then as we were ready to give up and continue on with our day I saw him walking up the remaining line of vans.  He saw us and acted happy that we were still there.  He took the van for a spin, seemed to like it a lot, and said it was down to ours and another van that he had looked at.  Promising!
    But when we were back at camp and getting ready to cook dinner he called and said he thought he really needed something with 4WD so he could get out to the harder to reach beaches to surf.  Sorry.  Yeah, sorry.  Oh well, we would start advertising on online car markets that night, plus if all else failed, we always had Lucky.