Monday, 9 November 2015

Setting up a new life in New Zealand!

Our flight from Singapore to Sydney was a late night flight (2am), so we at least were able to sleep a little bit, however our first problem we encountered was at the airport check in, when we were told we couldn't transit through Australia without a visa. I should have known this really but it escaped us and so because we couldn't check-in without one we had to pay for the airport staff to apply for one for us...a free Visa turned into $50 each for the help!

Landing in Sydney there was high traffic so we had to circle in some awful turbulence, the poor girl next to us was sick and Pierrick was pretty ill too. Our turn around in Sydney was 3 hours, pretty painless, we got told the laws in New Zealand had changed and instead of being able to take 250g of tabacco in, it was only 50g per person which made Pierrick sad as tabacco here and Australia is SUPER expensive ($38 per 30g pouch). We flew Air New Zealand, a pretty decent airline and after 2 hours of more turbulence we landed in Auckland at 9pm. Customs was pretty strict, you get scanned coming in as they don't want any bio products, food, plants etc brought into the country. We also had to declare the extra two packets of cigarettes Pierrick had on him but they allowed us in with them without having to pay the duty...woo!

Half hour later we were in the free airport shuttle to our airport hotel and then it was bedtime...after almost 24hours with very little sleep! We awoke the next day and caught the local bus into town, checked into Attic Backpackers in the CBD in front of the Sky Tower, our home for the next two weeks, and then went for a walk to Ponsonby district as we were advised it was better to go out of the city centre for opening bank accounts due to it being so busy with people arriving on their working holiday visas. It was a good 3 day wait to get an appointment, but we checked at ANZ in Ponsonby and it was 1.5 weeks wait list there! No luck! So we found lunch and then managed to phone for an appointment at an Albany branch further out for the next day. So we basically just chilled the rest of the day and mingled with people at the hostel.

Getting to Albany was a disaster, we couldn't find the bus stop and so missed the bus and had to get a taxi to make our appointment at the bank, which was $60, instead of $6 on the bus. Idiots! Setting up our accounts was easy, we just needed our passport and proof of address in NZ and it was a painless hour with the accountants setting up two bank accounts and a joint savings account. We managed to get an Eftpos card straight away (can use it at shops and ATM's) but we are having to wait around in Auckland until our Visa debit card is posted out to us before we can set off. Nadia and William (Pierrick's sister and husband), managed to get good rates on our money as they work in banking so we transferred our first $13,000 over (the exchange rate is amazing - 2.2 dollar to the £!) which we hoped would last us the next two months of travel before we have to start work, but we will probably have to top up along the way by doing some odd work here and there before finding proper jobs. We have been told Wellington or Queenstown are good places to work so we are thinking of trying those places as our stopovers for refuelling the dollars and then perhaps settle in Christchurch for longterm work as we heard its the highest wages as it's on an earthquake fault-line. To help with saving the money, we've decided the places we stay longer in or want to explore more to help travel for longer, we'll do something called Couchsurfing (people let you stay for free in their spare room, blowup bed or couches), or WWOOFing (you stay in a rural farm or retreat or something, and do a few hours of work a day in return for free accomodation and sometimes free food), your spare time you can go exploring. There's also options of doing some cleaning in hostels for free or discounted accomodation so we have a few ways to save our money a little bit and help it stretch longer. We do have more ££ in the savings but we don't want to dip into it unless we have to, as if we go to the South Pacific, French Polynesia or Hawaii etc, the £ goes way further than changing it into dollar!

The next few days were organising more things, like applying for our IRD (Tax number) so we can start working whenever we want. Transferring Pierrick's money from his Australian bank account (it was the tax he got back at the end of our stay there, so a good $1400), but there were issues with this, as he had to change his number to do the internet banking, but he gave the wrong number, and then it locks for 48hrs so we couldn't change it again until today, which was a pain but we should at least have it for when we leave on our travels Friday. We also have our tax from the UK due back so that will help the funds a bit more...its amazing how quickly it will all go! We did some shopping for food at a great supermarket called Pack and Save (a bit like a cash and carry) so we got super cheap food like a whole salmon steak for £7 that did us two meals, you can get a kilo of mussels for $3.50, a kilo of mince for £4.50 etc, its an amazing store and the pound goes sooooo far out here! We also went to our favourite Australian discount store, K-Mart (like a Primark), for some necessities.

At the hostel we were quickly beginning to realise that the 3 top nationalities in NZ at the moment are English, French and German, so Pierrick is happy as he has a group of frenchies to hang with sometimes for his man time lol. We have met a really nice girl from the UK called Stef who we have been hanging with the last few days, and some really nice Americans, Canadians and Germans. Everyone seems to be heading the same route if they are travelling first before working, so even though some are busing around like us but on different buses or taking a car around, we should meet most along the way at some point.

We went into Peter Pans travel agency on Friday to start looking into our travel plans. It's a travel agency that don't work on commission so they can tailor your trip based on your needs and wants with no pushy sales for expensive trips and tours to up their pay, which is why I love them so much! They based in Australia, New Zealand and Thailand and are such a fun, informative travel agency - we used them in Australia for our east coast trip with Bex and Andrew, they just make everything so much easier and they can really do a custom-made trip for you. They are also such a renowned agency (they just won the backpacker awards 2nd year in a row), that all the companies can give them discounted early-bird rates with open dates (everything you book is valid for up to a year and you just book it as and when you want to do it), and then they allow Peter Pans (the only agency allowed) to discount them even further, so much so that no other agency can match their prices! I would LOVE to work for them, you get so many educational paid trips as perks. But anyhow, we met the Auckland manager, Ben, from Bedford, who was an absolute star and talked with us for over 2 hours on the type of transport we could take.

We were originally going to take the Intercity bus - much cheaper and it's hop-on-hop-off, however it's just a bus that goes from A-B without stopping in between and doesn't go to many unique places, plus you won't meet that many people. And after the 2 hours chatting about options (car, campervan, KiwiExperience bus, were all thrown out the window as they were too expensive etc), we eventually after a bit of panic over the price, opted for the Stray Backpacker Bus. It's the maximum route they do which you can see the entire country with and experience the east coast which no other buses take you to, you get unique locations to stay at (you can stay inside national parks, exclusive accommodation only to Stray), and it also stops off along each bus journey to show you other things like waterfalls, lakes - things you won't see on other buses. It's hop-on-hop-off so we can tour at our own pace, you get informative drivers, it's valid for one year, and you can do the route however many times you want. They also offer exclusive discounts on accommodation and tours, which are cheaper booked through Peter Pans. It was $1300 each, which actually only works out as roughly £650 which isn't bad. As its was such an intense decision he said that we should go away and come back Monday to book the next part - activities and tours - as it would give us time to start deciding what our must-dos are.

Friday evening we went for drinks with Michael and his girlfriend (two Kentucky-ians who worked at the hostel and were leaving soon. Saturday we decided to finally venture out to see a bit of Auckland with our friend Stef, so as it was amazing weather - it was pretty chilly all week (15 degrees) but the weather supposedly gets better everyday now until Autumn, and that day it reached 23 degrees, woo! We decided to do the Coast to Coast walk, which was 16km across the city, taking in Mt Eden and One Tree Hill (two extinct volcanoes you can climb for amazing views across the whole of Auckland.) We set off at 12pm and finished at 7pm, with a stop for lunch at a Belgian Beer Cafe where we had THE most amazing Moules Frites (mussels and chips) I've ever had - Green Back New Zealand mussels - HUGE. One kilo for £12 between me and Pierrick. It was an awesome day but our legs were killing us by the time we got the bus back into town, hiking two huge volcanoes in one day plus walking at least 10km had taken its toll. So we ended up having an early night.

Sunday we went we Stef again on a trip to Mission Bay - a popular beach just 15mins bus ride down the coast, with stunning views over Rongitoto and Waiheke Islands. We did a little sunbathing and chilling, and me and Pierrick chose our activities we wanted to do. Sunday evening we went on a night out with some Canadians, Americans and Stef. We went to Brittomart Country Club where it's hospitality night on a Sunday - half price on cocktail pitchers for people who work in hospitality. We went to the bar to order a $35 pitcher, and we got the change back - we'd only been charged $17 between the 3 of us, so we qeuried it and the bartender was like, you work in hospitality right? Yes, of course we do! Me and Stef both didn't understand how it was so easy to get away with, but a massive pitcher for only $17 was fine by us. We then went onto a mexican bar down at the Harbour and then to an Irish bar, where me and Pierrick had an arguement (basically getting drunk together is lethal, we always end up arguing over something lol)

We made up in the morning, all was fine, and today we booked the last of our trip, all the activities and tours. It was another huge chunk of money - $2,420 in total. But it included a skydive, caving and abseiling, black water rafting, visiting the sulphur pools and geysers in Rotorua, Moari culture evenings, a canyon swing (like a bungee but better apparently), Hobbiton (lord of the rings movie set), Tongariro Alpine crossing trek, a boat trip through Milford Sound, a helicopter flight and ice trek across the Franz Joseph Glacier, plus much more. I am SO excited! We have booked our first bus out, up to the northlands (Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga) for Friday morning, so our trip officially starts then! Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Bring it on!

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