Two months in Auckland
Having spent two months in Auckland we’ve found that month two has been quite different than our first month. We both have new, much better jobs, we’ve seen a bit more of the area, and we’ve made some good progress increasing our savings. Our view of the city has changed from it being an odd place without much natural beauty and pretty high prices for most things to a relatively relaxed city that has tons of natural beauty only a short drive away.
Finding Better Jobs
When we arrived we learned that it isn’t easy getting jobs by applying directly through the company offering the job. Beyond that, many employers were reluctant to hire someone on a working holiday visa, since that typically means that person will be leaving the country within a year. While I was able to get a job working as a telefundraiser for Greenpeace, it wasn’t something I could have done for long as the hours were from just after noon until just before 9pm each day. The work was rough as well, essentially cold calling (they claim it’s warm calling but I disagree) people all day, trying to get them to donate to the cause. While I do think the organization has great intentions, I didn’t find calling people who had filled out an online survey to attempt to win a product (free iPad, vacation, etc.) and talking about climate change with them to be very fulfilling.
Sissy and I signed up with some recruiters and found jobs through them relatively quickly. What we’ve found is that once you have some sort of connection with a company, getting permanent employment through them seems much easier than if you’re some random person applying for jobs or dropping off your resume. Timing and a bit of luck seem to be just as important for landing a temporary role as skill or your resume are. We’re both working full time office jobs now, making better wages than we expected when we showed up, and recruiters were the ones that made that happen. Sissy was filling in for a sick receptionist for a week that her recruiter sent her to when she was told that an administration role in that company was open, and she was in the role the next week! For my job I received a call from my recruiter asking if I could start in my role without an interview two days from then. The weeks of sending resumes and searching for jobs ended up being entirely unnecessary!
Natural Beauty in and around Auckland
While Bethells Beach and Karekare Falls that we saw in our first month in town were nice, we’ve found since then that there are lots of other nicer places nearby. Rangitoto Island was probably the first place in and around Auckland that I really thought was amazing. It may be my love for volcanoes, it may be my love for caves, or it may just be that there weren’t lots of people and it felt a bit wild. Whatever the reason, Rangitoto started to change my perception of Auckland. The volcano was the last one to erupt in the Auckland region and has lava caves you can walk through, a mountain to hike up, and places to hop into the ocean to cool off from the intense New Zealand sun. Speaking of that, if you didn’t know, the sun here is some of the most intense in the world due to the “hole” in the ozone layer nearby. Skin cancer concerns aside, I really began to like the area.
Heading west for an hour or so from the CBD brings you to the west coast. Not too far from Karekare and Bethells is Piha Beach, with a beautiful huge cliff sticking up out of the sand, splitting the beach in two. The cliff is named Lion Rock and a short hike up it gives stunning views of the beach to either side.
Not far from the parking area at Piha is the start of a short hike to Kitekite (pronounced more like Ketekete) Falls. The waterfall is about 40 meters from top to bottom and drops down three major tiers. You can swim in the pool at the bottom and as we started the short hike to the top, a local Maori man was performing a haka at the base of the falls.
We still have put off getting a car, so on our four day weekend over Easter (the first time I had a paid four day weekend ever) we took an Intercity Bus to Hamilton, a nearby town, to meet some friends I had made on my first trip to Africa a few years ago. They showed us around the abandoned gold mine in the Karangahake Gorge, which was a cool combination of a kilometer long straight tunnel through a mountain, long, snaking mine shafts, and a beautiful gorge.
The next day we stopped by Bridal Veil Falls, which is a really beautiful waterfall that drops 55 meters from a basalt cliff with small basalt columns all over it to a pool below. We skipped swimming in the water as it’s discouraged due to eels in the water and the water quality being deemed too low to swim in, if I had to guess it’d be due to the high amount of agriculture in the area.
Nearby Raglan is a nice beach town where you can chill out, swim in the huge inlet from the nearby ocean, and eat some really good and reasonably priced fish and chips, a favorite Kiwi dish held over from the time of British rule in the country.
Keeping Auckland Affordable
We’ve taken a few steps to keep our living affordable here since it can be quite expensive if you aren’t careful. As we mentioned in our first month in Auckland post, we’re sharing an apartment with two other couples just out of the city center to keep rent costs down. Sissy has been cooking virtually every day since we arrived and while you can find some deals like kebabs for $5 NZD or small pizzas for $4 in happy hour, for the most part eating out is pretty pricey. Countdown is the biggest grocery store chain in the country, however shopping at Asian grocery stores tends to cost about half as much for meat, vegetables, and fruits and they have a similar selection.
There is no Amazon.com in Australia or New Zealand, so if you want something you’d normally buy there you’re likely to find yourself in The Warehouse, a store that reminds me of Walmart 20 years ago, or K-Mart, which is still common here. The other option for things like basic furniture is something I never would have considered at home, but seems perfectly normal here. When people want to get rid of their inorganics (old furniture typically), they tend to put them outside with a free sign or leave them near the trash in apartments. We have taken in more free furniture as an apartment then I had ever thought possible.
Op shops, or thrift stores, are another way we’ve built up our savings accounts. I needed dress pants one day and bought them at an outlet for $60 NZD. A week later I needed another pair of dress pants and bought the same brand, style, and size in a different color for $16. Sissy skipped the $100 blazers she had seen in the outlets and got an almost identical one for $10 at an op shop.
When we have rented a car, instead of using the car rental companies that tend to cost $50 – $90 for their base model for a day, we’ve used a ride sharing site and rented people’s old cars for around $40. There are loads of cheap used cars here, however with the amount of traffic between Sissy’s work and where we live, the bus ends up being faster for her. I walk to and from work, so our only use for a car would be to get away on the weekends. There is a chance we’ll buy a car in the future, but it would only be for weekend trips.
Overall Feelings About Auckland
Overall after having lived for two months in Auckland we really enjoy it. It may have odd clothing styles, quite a few tranny prostitutes roaming on K road, and a prime minister of the country that likes to pull on girls ponytails, but despite all of that it’s really a nice place. A short drive from the city reveals landscapes that look virtually identical to many parts of Hawaii, volcanic islands that look like they’re from another world, and beaches that rival any we’ve seen. Over the next few months we hope to see even more around the north island and fall more in love with New Zealand.