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Logistics - part 2

by Pamela Blalock and John Bayley


Moving furniture

As things were getting close, I needed to find a moving company. I contacted several who handled international moves, and got two estimates. Because of issues with customs, and various restricted items, we actually needed to have the moving company pack for us. And everything had to be labelled, so MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry) could figure out what to open and inspect. For years, folks brought anything and everything into New Zealand (gorse - because they missed their yellow flowers, deer, possums and stoats for hunting, etc.), and as a result have gone a long way toward destroying the native flora and fauna. Fortunately, after a while, it was recognised that this was not good, and now an effort is made to minimise man's negative impact on the environment. MAF has a large part of the responsibility for this. The whole issue with bringing the cats into the country is that NZ is rabies free and they want to keep it that way. They also want to make sure that we don't accidentally or on purpose bring in stuff we shouldn't. Given all we had going on in August, it was a relief at least not to have to pack! We ended up going with Allied International. There estimate was slightly higher than the other, but like the Realtor, I felt their estimate was a bit more accurate and detailed.

I had a busy summer. We put the house on the market in late May and accepted a good offer in a couple of weeks. We arranged for closing at the end of August to give us time to get everything done. I was to be crewing for RAAM in June, and we planned a two week holiday to Switzerland in late July - early August. In between all this, I was doing brevets to qualify for BMB. We would get back from Switzerland a week before BMB, and I had to get all the last minute stuff done before the packers arrived the day after BMB! They would pack and load over the next three days. I would do the final cleanup and then we were to be out of the house. With such a big move, we needed to sort through stuff and get rid of things we didn't really need to cart around the world, as well as stuff that wouldn't work, like TVs and other electrical things, as well as plants. When trying to figure out when I could have a garage sale in between all the travel and bike rides, it was tough! I found one free weekend in the entire summer! Fortunately the folks buying the house also bought the fridge, washer and dryer, and air conditioners, so we would have use of those until the end. It was a bummer getting rid of the washer and dryer. They were only a year old, and were really good. We had lots of offers from friends to buy them.

The packers in the US were great. They were very efficient and professional. They packed the entire house in two days, and came back on the third to load. We had them keep the container locally for a few weeks while we waited to get a few more things to go in. Then we sent it the slowest possible way, so we wouldn't have to pay for too much storage in New Zealand. The timing worked out quite well. We were in the new house a few weeks without furniture, but this gave us time to get the floors sanded and polished! The movers who brought the stuff here were a stark contrast to the ones in the states. In the states, they loaded directly into the shipping container, but somehow that container didn't make it all the way to Nelson. I know that stuff was unloaded for MAF to inspect, but at some stage, things were taken out of the container and put on a smaller truck, so it actually took two loads to get stuff from Christchurch to Nelson. When we booked the move, we had been thinking of living in Christchurch. If we'd aimed for Nelson initially, we could have saved a bit of money and hassle! Anyway, once in Nelson, they had to get stuff up our street. Well our street has a hairpin turn at each end of a very steep hill, and is basically one lane wide in front of our house. So they had to use an even smaller truck to get stuff up here. After all this unloading and loading, we ended up with some damage. It wasn't that much, but one of my teak pieces was badly scratched and two others had lesser scratches. Oh well, at least it was all insured, although it is taking forever to process the claim!

Including insurance, the move cost $15,000. This was basically for a three bedroom house (less some electronics), but including 13 bikes and spare wheels and parts and such. The insurance accounted for about a third of the total cost.

Yard sale, transformers, light bulbs

We also had TVs, VCR, DVD player, radios, all sorts of power tools, and a couple of computers. We had decided to take a few electronics with us, and either have them rewired or use transformers. We planned to take our stereo and espresso machine, as well as a few smaller things. I learned an awful lot about transformers and wattage's after getting here. It would have been better to have learned some before coming!

The big issue is that in the states, we have 110 V, 60 h, and here (and most of the rest of the world) the power is 220V, 50h. TV and radio frequencies and standards are also different. One of the first things I did was to order a laptop computer. Laptops are perfect for this sort of thing. They come with external power supplies and convert to DC. These adapters tend to be quite portable and handle a range of current. Laptops are also are compact, so toting one around isn't a big deal. I got the new computer just before we left for Switzerland and spent way too much time playing with it, instead of packing for the trip. It has worked out quite nicely, although I have had a serious hassle with international warranty coverage. I bought a port replicator, to try and make life easier for using the unit at home with printers and scanners, and easily being able to take it with me (as a laptop is intended.) Well I got a defective port replicator, and of course didn't discover this until we got all our stuff delivered in New Zealand, well after the 30 day return. Despite asking lots of questions about international warranty coverage ahead of time, Dell has made it impossible to get this unit replaced or repaired here. I can ship it to the US, but they won't ship it back to me here - it has to go to someone in the US, who will send it here! It isn't worth the postage to do it, so I have a dud port replicator.

The Running Away from Home book had suggested the laptop, but said printers would not travel. So I sold both my inkjet and laser printers. It actually turns out I could have brought one of them, since it had an external power supply. The new inkjet printer I bought here came with a similar power supply to the laptop that works on both 110 and 220. I brought the slide scanner and it works fine on a transformer (read more about transformers below.)

I spoke with Bose about our stereo. This was a real bummer, because when we bought it, the manual implied it was dual voltage. It turns out there is a dual voltage model available ... maybe ... if you are US military and special order it, and the manual talks about it, but standard models purchased from stores are local current only. We did get an external power supply (in local current) for the CD changer, but needed to use a transformer for the amp. Bose in New Zealand said they could change out the power supply on the amp, but the cost was pretty high. We found a transformer locally capable of handling the 350 watts it draws. It was a bit of a shock to see prices on transformers here. Bose had of course suggested using a transformer, but it just didn't occur to me that one might cost several hundred dollars! The good news is the radio can be changed to handle the different frequencies here, and the transformer does not interfere with the radio remote control. And I can use the transformer with my vacuum cleaner! (Yes, I brought the vacuum - it was also fairly new, and I just had a hard time selling so much stuff off at bargain prices.)

I also spoke with Capresso, the manufacturer of our espresso machine, about replacing the power supply. They could do it, and it wasn't that expensive, but I ran out of time. I figured I should be able to have it done here! We talked to folks in Christchurch who thought it was possible, but once we settled in Nelson and I actually tried to find someone to do it, it became a real hassle. I then started looking for transformers powerful enough to do the job! The machine draws 1250 watts. Now this is the important part. Transformers are rated on wattage, and you need to get one big enough to handle the proper wattage. In fact it is recommended to get something that handles 50% higher to account for surges when the appliance is first turned on and other such things. I couldn't find anything here remotely in that capacity, and those that were close were outrageously expensive! Eventually I found a website of a company in the US, World Imports, that had not only transformers, but all sorts of other things for the international mover, like TVs and VCRs and such. Even with shipping, it was cheaper to order the 2000 watt transformer from them than have something built here! The only problem was they used FedEx for shipping, who apparently charge flat rate customs handling fees regardless of value of item, or so the World Imports claimed after the fact - it would have been nice to get this info up front! I got a charge from FedEx for an amount almost equal to the cost of the transformer. I already had a charge from World Imports for the transformer and shipping. I contacted FedEx, who claimed the charge was for shipping. World Imports said it was this customs charge. Eventually FedEx refunded the charge, but it was a real hassle. So while World Imports had some handy stuff, I'd only cautiously recommend them. Use US postal shipping, and try to get what you need before you leave the states! The handy thing about getting the 2000 Watt transformer is that we can also use our separate frother at the same time, so this has worked out quite well.

I sold off most of our lamps, but brought a few along, planning to have them rewired. Well lamps are the easiest thing. Bulbs here are threaded the same as in the states. You can also get UK-style bayonet type bulbs. You simply need to get 220 bulbs and a simple plug converter! So I could have brought all our lamps.

I also brought the cat water fountain. This one took a fairly low wattage transformer, so has worked out well.

Our friends did quite well with our massive sell off, getting TVs, radios, power tools, and even our van at bargain prices. I must say that if you have any pack rat tendencies, a big move like this will help you get rid of some stuff, and demonstrate for you exactly how much excess stuff you have. Even after the giant sell off of stuff, when we unpacked here in, we were just amazed how much useless stuff we had brought with us, and how much extra stuff we had. The bike workshop has box after box of bike parts and lights that we may someday use, and I have enough coffee cups and brewing devices to start a coffee shop!

Flying the Cats and us

The cats got their microchips and first rabies test. The next step was to start figuring out how to get them to New Zealand. I started looking into flights. For getting to Los Angeles, we could each have one cat as a carry on, but there were two of us and three cats, and at most two cats can go on one plane, so that wouldn't work. Then there was the issue of getting from LA to New Zealand. Before leaving the country, they would need to be seen by a USDA vet, and their carriers sealed. Once sealed, the carriers could only be opened in New Zealand by authorities there. The folks at quarantine had recommended a few pet travel agencies in LA to handle all the paperwork and such there. I checked with Air New Zealand about flights and was told I'd have to use one of these agencies due to new regulations put in place since September 11. But I still needed to get them to LA. When I contacted American airlines about getting them to LA, they told me they could get them all the way to NZ for quite a reasonable rate, but I couldn't seem to get any info on where they'd get the USDA vet check and seal, and how all this would happen. So in the end, we used American to get them to LA, then paid an outrageous fee to this agency in LA to pick them up, take them to the USDA vet, and put them on the flight to NZ. They were supposed to co-ordinate everything with the quarantine folks in NZ, but despite telling me they would and charging me a fortune, they did not. The airline called the quarantine folks after the cats had been waiting an hour to be picked up, and that was the only notification the quarantine folks received, other than our telling them the dates. I never did chase this up to try and get some of a refund, but should have.

Of course, before they could fly, they had a few more vet visits. They had another rabies test a month before departure, and a few other unpleasant things, like deworming, and de-fleaing (not that they had either). The day before they left, they had a final check and all the remaining paperwork filled out. They spent the required month in quarantine, and then an extra week while we got everything ready in their new home. By the time we paid vet fees, flights and quarantine, we had probably spent about $7000.00 US dollars for the three of them! Ouch!

There is only one quarantine facility on the south island, but I must say how impressed we were with it and the folks running it. The room for the cats was actually quite spacious. After looking at boarding facilities in the states that were the size of a kitchen cupboard, it was a relief to find this place had a good size room where the cats could run around. When visiting John and I were able to go in and sit down and play with the cats. The folks running the place also really took a personal interest in the cats and really looked after them. This was one of our best experiences here!

Our flights were slightly easier. Because we had residency, we could get a one way flight and save a bit of money. I booked everything through Air New Zealand directly. To get frequent flier miles, we needed to be NZ residents, with an address. So once we got our PO Box, we applied for the frequent flier program and got our points. So for those coming to visit, you'll want to get partner frequent flier points, rather than ANZ.

Cars and Driving

Legally one can drive here for a year on a valid foreign driver's license. Insurance is not required, but given how I've seen folks drive here - it should be. To get the best rates on insurance, I needed a letter from my old insurance company indicating my record was good. Here, they go back many fewer years than in Massachusetts looking for accidents and such, and auto insurance here is substantially cheaper than in the states. Part of the reason for this is that medical expenses are covered through a government program, rather than car insurance, so the car insurance is for repairing or replacing the car, as opposed to the person.

My Massachusetts driver's license expires in May, so I'll be getting a kiwi one soon! I've been reading through the road code book and have found some humorous parts (although I don't believe it is their intention). The obvious difference is driving on the left, but the give way rules are at times a bit counterintuitive. There is this unique to New Zealand right turn rule that catches out the tourists and the locals to such a degree that they plan to do away with it next year. The basic idea is that you yield to anyone coming from the right. If you are turning left (the easy turn not across traffic), you must yield to someone coming toward you who is making a right turn! But what's amazing is that when I rented cars, no one even bothered to tell me about it! They recognise that it is different from the rest of the world, and give this as a reason for requiring folks to get a driver's license within a year, but they don't seem to make much of an effort to educate the tourists! When reading the road code, I also stumbled upon another odd right - yield situation. If I am travelling along a main road, and want to make a right turn into a parking lot, I must yield to a car making a right turn out of the parking lot! I can't tell you how counterintuitive all this is!

The other bizarre thing to catch out the tourists is courtesy crossings. Pedestrian crossings are zebra crossings painted in the road. Cars are supposed to stop for pedestrians in these crossings. But then there are these raised brick crossings, that to tourists certainly look like pedestrian crossings, but guess what - they are only courtesy crossings, and cars are not required to stop at these! I think it is totally irresponsible in a place that is so tourist oriented to have a structure that appears to be a pedestrian crossing that has no legal meaning to the locals. It is open season on the tourists! Oh well, enough of my ranting about kiwi maniac drivers!

Restocking the House

We sold off a lot of stuff before the move, and have had to do some restocking, but we've found we can live quite well without a few things. The first things we bought after getting the house were a fridge and washing machine. We have yet to buy a clothes dryer. Kiwis are very good about hanging stuff out to dry. A large part of our deck is dedicated to clothes drying. It is conveniently covered, so when it rains, the clothes don't get wet. It's amazing how quickly things dry. We have found lint to be a problem at times. With three cats, we have lots of fur on things, and occasionally it would be nice to have a dryer to de-fur stuff.

We then bought a rice-cooker. This has been one of our best purchases ever - and I can't believe we lived so long without one in the states! Thank you Lee Evans for turning us on to this method of cooking rice! We have survived so far without a toaster or microwave, but occasionally I am tempted. We've also managed without a blender or food processor. I bake cookies regularly and have found that mixing stuff up by hand actually works better!

We are also TV-free. We have no TV, VCR or DVD player. We get all our news from the Internet, and try to go see films in town regularly. We are occasionally tempted to get a TV so we can watch videos, but so far I haven't missed it much at all - and considering how much time I used to waste on TV that is saying something.

We have bought a few power tools, a drill, a heat gun and a sander. We needed the drill to put together our storage shed that had 3000 rivets, and 3000 holes to drill. The heat gun and sander are for removing layers of linoleum from the floors and paint from the windows.

We have also bought a dehumidifier and a small space heater (that looks like a wood stove). Unlike New England, humidity is a problem hear in the winter. I think once we have heat it should be less of an issue, but we have found rising damp in one of the rooms to be a problem. We are still waiting to have the roof installed. Building is booming here, and it can take a while to get a contractor to do work. The stove installation is also waiting on the roof, since it will vent through the roof. So in the mean time, we've been using a space heater to take the chill off in the mornings. We found this unit that looks like a wood stove with a pretty good flame effect, but really is just an electric space heater. It was more expensive than the basic electric space heater, but it looks so nice that I just had to get it.

In my paranoia about dirt and what MAF would allow in, I left cleaning stuff like brooms and mops, and all outdoor things, like rakes and shovels, so we needed to replace these. We also got a lawn mower. Our garden is pretty small, but does have a few patches of grass that grow in the spring and autumn (but not at all this summer). We found a nice electric hovering type mower which works well for a small garden. We visited the local hardware store daily for the first few weeks, as we bought powerstrips, extension cords, hoses and such. Fortunately, it didn't take long to get all we needed.

We had hoped to be car free. We bought a house right in the city, and do all our grocery shopping and such on foot, but have found the car nice for getting farther afield for cycling adventures. This is similar to how we used the car back in the states.

Some Other resources

NZStuff - links to newspapers and lots of other useful stuff about New Zealand