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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

My First Car With the Steering Wheel on the Right

I finally gave in and bought myself a car over here. I was tired of all the complexities of getting from point A to B. I was tired of the bus fares, the unestimable time frame with hitching, and the feeling like one is stuck. I have a natural affinity towards indepedence and freedom. It was time to purchase my own set of wheels.

Everything added up to this decision. The moment I bought a car, I wouldn't have to worry about hauling luggage around, about bus schedules, or convenience for hitchhiking. I could possibly use my car as a bed also and not have to cough up that $25 for one noisy night in a hostel. If I am to be a nomad over here...let me become completely mobile...let me have 4 pillars of rubber be my foundation. Besides, cars come cheaper over here. About the only thing that is.

So the search was underway. And outside a hostel in Mt. Maunganui, I saw this nice looking wagon for 2,200 NZD. Now, a few days later it is my car. I bought it for 2,000...which in American is about 1,600. It's a silver 95 Subaru with sunroof and leather interior. A CD player that I can't seem to get to working, though with the neat radio station in this town, I am not complaining. I tested the wagon out, seeing when I folded the backseat down, if I could stretch out my over 6 foot body out. And I barely fit. But it works. All in all, it looks a bit nicer than the average backpacker's vehicle in these parts. Know that...in New Zealand backpackers come in droves from different countries and buy cheap cars and vans. Live in them for maybe a year and then sell them or try before they return home. You can get a car from $800 to a big van for $3,000 fairly easy..most of these older models with tons of mileage or "kilometerage" I guess you would say, on them, but pretty reliable nonetheless.

One of the things that you have to understand is that the cars over here have the steering wheel on the right side. I don't know how many times while approaching, I instinctively go to the left side with my key in hand. Then slap my forehead, and walk around to the other side. Fortunately when driving on the left-side of the road I don't get mixed up so easily. I keep telling myself, "keep left,keep left,keep left." when behind the wheel. And it is becoming quite the natural thing now.

Except for the occasional turning signal blunder of clicking my wind shield wipers on instead of signalling left or right for these are reversed as well. Then there are the infamous roundabouts that are foreign to the US. But once you've gotten used to them, they actually seem more practical than tons of traffic lighted intersections. And much funner than waiting for the color green. And here it is doubly important to remember that around the circle you always MUST go left, go clockwise; to go counterclockwise spells catastrophe.

Traffic in New Zealand is not so bad. There is less congestion and less rush. So a speed demon like myself feels good going at a moderate level of pace. Large highways with 5 lanes would be a novelty here. Most of the time it is a single lane, even the main highways across the nation.

However, one thing that is perplexing is the cost of fuel over here. I shake my head everytime I hear people in the states complaining now about gas prices. Over here...petrol is very dear. I paid 60 dollars to fill up this Subaru to only the 3/4 mark. And just in my driving around the Tauranga yesterday and today, I must've burned about 15 dollars worth. So driving just for the fun of it...is ruled out over here. Of course, money is getting tight. I mean, I'm still making payments for a car back in the states...that is until I can sell it. So I guess this marks the first time that I can call 2 cars mine at the same time. If anyone's interested in a Honda Accord 2003..let me know.


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