Hitting the road

The last ten days have passed in a blur of activity and, by securing
a work permit and finding a house to rent whilst we find one to buy,
we have now cleared the last two major obstacles in the first phase
of our move to New Zealand. Just over a week ago, after four days
and 1500 kilometres of house hunting, we have found a great house to
rent in a rural township, 35 kilometres north west of Auckland.
After several days of viewing disappointing and nondescript suburban
properties, we knew that we would find it hard to live in a home that
was wedged in amongst others. Having spent too many years in a small
apartment listening to every neighbourly noise, such places were not
what we had envisaged when we decided to move halfway round the
world. Firm in our resolve to find a place where the kids would have
space to run amok, a community where we could enjoy life and make
friends and yet within commuting distance of my new job, we searched on.

Having been told that rural rentals are rarer than hen’s teeth, we
continued north to a place called Kumeu[1] and popped into a real
estate agent to enquire anyway. It just so happened that one such
‘hen’s tooth’ was back on the market that morning and the description
captured our interest. As the agent couldn’t contact the outgoing
tenant, we drove out of the town and up the hill to view the property
from the road. Whilst the neighbouring Tuscan style villa, nestling
amongst the vineyards on the other side of the road had the edge in
terms of setting, the large house opposite, set back from the road
and with a large garden and patio to the rear was certainly in line
with what we were looking for.

Later that afternoon, we were able to have a look around the house
and it seemed to offer most of what we needed and wanted plus a few
other things like a sunken mosaic bath and a dressing room for the
lady of the house! Although it was a little over the budget we’d
set, we both knew that it was the best place we’d seen all week and
that the township was just the type of place we could see ourselves
settling in. Subsequent enquiries showed that the house was well
placed for access to good schools, local amenities, farm shop and a
reasonable 30 minutes from my office. We have since signed on the
dotted line, paid our bonds and deposits and will hopefully move in
at some point during the coming week.

With six humans, four cats, eighteen bags and cases, two bikes and
numerous boxes of stuff to move up country, not to mention my
upcoming daily commute, it was obvious that even our eight seat
family car would be woefully inadequate. Having driven a long 600
kilometres back to Foxton on Sunday and spent Monday running around
trying to work out what we needed to do first, we headed to
Palmerston North on Tuesday to look for the second car and trailer
we’d need to move north. During a quick lunch break, we got a call
to say that a package was awaiting collection at Palmerston North
Airport’s Courier Post depot. When I drove over to collect it, I
found it contained a letter from NZ Immigration and my passport,
inside which I found my brand new two year work permit. I was
stunned; partly because it had been processed and returned to me in
under two days but also because, after a good few years’ research and
planning and a large leap into the unknown without any guarantees, we
were now in New Zealand, with a home to move to, a job to start and
the permit that holds the key to our future.

I’ll admit to being a little overcome for a moment or two as it all
sunk in and I felt a wave of relief pass over me. It was only then
that I realised just quite how much pressure I had put myself under
to keep focused on getting the job and permit we need to stay in New
Zealand, occasionally at the expense of my family’s feelings, if the
truth be told. I think that it was then that I appreciated just what
we are in the process of accomplishing as a family: for all the
relocation programmes on television, comparatively cheap air travel
and desire for different lives, uprooting a family of six from an
established life in one country and moving them to another far away
is something that is hard to quantify and appreciate until you
experience it for yourself. After sharing the good news with SWMBO
and our dear friends Peter and Rae, we celebrated by buying a second
hand car and returning home to cook a family meal of chicken piri
piri. During this, SWMBO and I drank a toast proposed by our
daughters with a white wine charmingly called ‘Cat Pee On A
Gooseberry Bush’. With a spooky twist of synchronicity, upon reading
the label, we discovered that the wine (which helps raise money for
the SPCA, in case you were wondering) is produced in the valley that
we shall be moving to. Be it fate, destiny, the prayers of friends
or sheer coincidence, it made us smile.

After many calls to shippers and Customs, it seems likely that next
week we will finally be reunited with the shipping container with all
our worldly goods in it next week after living out of 18 cases and
bags for three months. This being the case, we now have just two
days to get ourselves packed (of course, we have bought more stuff
since we arrived) and ready to leave at 0600hrs on Tuesday. It’ll be
an eight to nine hour journey as a convoy to our new place, with
SWMBO driving one car with half the kids and her cats whilst I’ll
take the remainder in mine, along with a load of boxes and bags in
our newly purchased trailer. Having bought the truck secondhand, we
splashed out on a trailer because every Kiwi family seems to own a
four wheel drive ‘ute’ and a galvanised trailer with which they haul
their sheep, cattle, white goods, hunting dogs, old mattresses,
building materials and mother-in-laws, depending on the task at
hand. As we drove back from the vehicle testing station, I turned to
SWMBO and asked her how it was that our lives had come to resemble a
Country & Western lyric – just a man, his gal, his truck ‘n’ his
trailer, driving into the setting sun. We thought it was funny but
you had to be there, I guess.

Joking aside, there’s hardly a day goes by when we don’t pinch
ourselves to check that it isn’t all a dream. In just the last ten
weeks, we have abandoned the Northern autumn, snorkelled in the
Pacific, paddled the Tasman, made new friends, hiked the mountains,
been interviewed many times, swum with dolphins, joined schools,
attended clubs, seen Venus and Mars in the same night sky, drunk
lovely wines and fretted over papers and formalities. Whilst we have
had the odd blue moment and it is very early days yet, each day seems
to confirm the rightness of our decision – days where the girls can
cycle to school with minimal risk, days where one’s word is still
enough to close a deal and days where the local pastor lets folk use
his open wifi connection for free because he’s paid for it anyway.
Leaving the friendly folk of Foxton and Horowhenua in the week to
come, we can only hope that we find their like amongst our new
neighbours in Kumeu.

[1] http://www.kumeudistrict.co.nz/

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One Response to Hitting the road

  1. Brenda says:

    Wow..

    The cats are gonna love Kumeu. All that grass and country mice to chase.

    We’ll try and stop by when we’re in Auckland around new years.

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