This is the toughest road trip ever, 18 days on the road from Shanghai, to Hong Kong, to Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, back to Hamilton then finally to Palmerston North. Michael said he set up and disassemble the GoCribs 10 times. Now we are at the Studio Homes near Massey University called the Mews, it’s about 40 minute walk to city center. We rented two so we could have some space, one of them we baby proof it as much as we can. The other one is great for night time we put both boys in the GoCribs so Michael and I could have some time before we hit the bed, cleaning up and organizing.
I will write a separate post about the road trip since it was filled with sleepless night, switching hotels, sick babies and tiring. But it’s all worthwhile when we visited the Wai-O-tapu wonderland. Only few places in the world one can see such magnificent views, and Wai-O-tapu is among one of the most active volcanic areas in the world, along with the Yellowstone, Arenal that I visited.
Palmerston North is the only city in Manawatu but it’s like a melting pot, it is apparent from the variety of the restaurants we saw. Real estate prices are good. The city is not big, Mews is just on the other side of the river that divides the city center with the rest. With a population just under 80,000, we were really surprised to find everything we want – department store, boutique shop, organic shop, lots of supermarkets, etc. Although just like Takapuna in Auckland, when the clock hits 5:30pm, the city is dead, which is such a big contrast from Hong Kong!
Boys are adjusting to their new routine, the time difference is 4 hours ahead of China. And they got a cold again, so they’ve been sick for a month now, one thing about Palmerston North is that it’s so windy here, no wonder the biggest wind farm in the southern hemisphere is just a short drive outside of the city center. There seem to be a lot of walking trails as well, and plenty of parks for the kids to play. I found out today that Lollipop Playland is also here so once we get a car we can take the boys there. Right now it’s too difficult to live in a hotel, with limited stuff, no car. Michael and I hauled our groceries in thef stroller last night and walked for 40 minutes to home since we didn’t want to wait for the bus, it was then we decided that we have to have a car right away, the bus schedule is just not frequent enough and it’s not easy enough to get to where we want to go. Also the stroller is a problem on some of the buses as well, we couldn’t fit it in.
At the first glance, the rental should not be a problem, tenants pay rent weekly from 150 to 500 NZD, which is really cheap they do look different and some are real modern and interesting. However, for the most part, the daily living isn’t that much different from that in the US so it shouldn’t be too difficult of a transition once we have the house and car picked out. I can’t wait to move in a real house, watching the boys is a very draining task, and they can’t make a long walk so Michael went out today to take care of the cell phone plan and applying for the credit card. In general, the process of getting set up isn’t difficult at all. For example, for domestic flight, there’s no security check, so as long as we arrive at the airport 15 minutes before the departure it will be fine; for driver’s license, since we have a current valid license, all we need to do to get a New Zealand driver’s license is to fill out a form; and the CD rate is around 4.5% which is surprisingly high.
On the downside, things are more expensive, maybe at one point it wasn’t but now the USD is depreciating so it makes everything so much more expensive. Usually a drink (coffee, water, juice) costs about 4 NZD, (3.2 USD), however coffee is very good here, with many fancy varieties, and the restaurant prices include the GST (tax) and tip is not customary. We found produce prices are higher and cars are a lot more expensive, maybe that’s why we don’t see expensive cars here at all, most people drive second-hand Japanese cars. The brand new ones are way too expensive. Thankfully New Zealand is currently GE (genetic engineering) free, so anything that’s grown in New Zealand at least is not GMO, the imports we have to read the label, it’s good that by law they have to label that. We were told there are 40 million cows and 35 million sheep in New Zealand, that’s about 10 times of the Kiwi population, and we see cows grazing everywhere, so the New Zealand beef and lamb are all safe to eat. However, chicken and pork is different, we found a shop in Terrace End called Free Range Butchery that sells organic meats. Too bad we are not big meat eaters since the beef prices are really good here.
The biggest disappointment though is internet, New Zealand is one of the few countries that impose a cap on usage of internet, so there’s no unlimited usage, telecom, which is the only company that controls the network made it this way so every single plan through different internet service providers prices their plans with how much MB you can get. It’s fairly expensive, the best plan we found is for 5MB per second, it is $130 for 100G usage.
For the most part, Palmerston North seems like a good gateway city for eventual home, and a good place to raise boys at their age, we have access to everything we want, air is clean, water is probably the best in the world and a lot of good public facilities to use. I just can’t wait for our container to arrive!