After 20hrs, we finally landed in Auckland at about 6am Friday. We were surprisingly well rested, having slept ~8 hrs, as the Air New Zealand flight was quite comfortable with nice reclining seats with foot rests (even in economy!)

Yvonne, a friend we’ve met through my cousin Antony (and fellow Nova Scotian and Xaverian!) greeted us at the airport with a warm welcome. Luckily she had a van that could help transport all our luggage to our hotel downtown Auckland where we managed to get an early check in AND get an upgrade to a 2 bedroom suite!

We were quickly off to run some errands, wanting to take advantage of the last work day before the weekend. By noon we had 2 bank accounts setup and both of our phones up and running on the Vodafone NZ network! Excited to have my BlackBerry connected to the world again! New Zealand appears to really cater to transient people as it was so easy to set these up without a ‘real’ address, a job, or local phone number!

After a failed attempt at taking the bus (apparently you have to flag down the driver to get them to stop), we finally figured out the train system (after missing the first train and almost getting on the wrong one) and were off to car shop, hoping to find a great deal on a Japanese import. New Zealand is able to take advantage of the Japanese culture of ‘throwing’ things out after a couple years. Since they also have right hand steering, importing practically brand new cars at extreme discounts is quite common here.

We knew from the beginning our car had to fit the following, very important, criteria:

– Fuel efficient (as ‘petro’ is ~$2.25/litre here)

– Large cargo capacity (to allow room for all our luggage)

– Seats must fold down perfectly flat (to allow ability to sleep in the car if the rain stifles camping)

– Long enough to fit a surfboard down the middle

– Maintains value for resale

– Fits within our budget (less than $8k NZ)

When we provided this criteria to the dealer, we were initially expecting to purchase a Honda Fit as it is well known in North American to be a very functional car. However, when Jordan performed ‘the sleep test’ – it failed miserably…

We were then introduced to the Toyota FUNCARGO! The world’s ugliest, but most functional car! It was featured in Top Gear’s ‘seriously uncool’ section and claimed it was “for people whose lives are completely empty”, however it fit our criteria so was leading the pack in our car search.

Toyota FunCargo The ‘Sleep Test’ 

At the next dealership though, we found out the FUNCARGO was replaced by the Ractis in 2005 which is a sleeker, more aesthetic looking car with the same great functionality. After weighing the pros and cons of each, the Ractis won us over, despite the name not being nearly as fun to say. The name Ractis was derived from Run, Activity and Space, which pretty much describes what Jordan and I were looking for, so it felt like a good fit.

Toyota Ractis ‘Sleep Test’ and Cargo Test – PASS!! 

When the dealership offered us the opportunity to take it for a test drive, we were amazed that we were not asked for our drivers license or whether we had insurance, let alone whether we had ever driven on the WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD BEFORE! After a few stressful minutes of getting our barrings, it was surprising how quickly you can adjust and feel quite comfortable with the right hand steering.

After some tough negotiations, and ~7hrs waiting at the dealer for the inspection, registration, etc, we had befriended our salesman, Lindsay, who was a sweet elderly Scottish man that took quite a liking to us. After a long day, we were ready to head out with our brand new wheels and fully experience the left side driving!

Our New Toyota Ractis ready for the open road!