Sunday, May 13, 2007


One of the things I am most proud of from my time in New Zealand is my car. Buying it was unquestionably one of the best decisions I made in the past year.

I named my car AJA because that's what it says on her license plate. Makes sense to me. I'm not much one for naming cars, but when I was travelling alone it was nice to have a companion. AJA and I ended up being good friends. She carried my stuff for me, took me all over the country, and never caused me any trouble. She was quite worldly: she was fluent in Japanese, and even sported a little sticker with a Japanese tori on the door to the fuel tank. True, she could have gotten up hills a little faster, but if someone made me run 13,000 kms in three months, I'd be a little slow too.

Now, I get the feeling that AJA had a bit of a vengeful side, because when it was time to say goodbye, she just wasn't ready to go. I tried numerous outlets to try to sell her, but in the first few days the most interest I got was a few glances at the car market. On Friday morning I met with a friend of a friend who was looking for a car for his friend. After taking it for a test drive, he came back looking grim. "You know there's a lot of things wrong with it, right?" Yikes. No, I didn't know there was anything wrong with it. The only problem I'd ever had was a squeaking sound when I turned it on sometimes, but after I changed the oil it went away. The guy, who works at a car dealership and knows cars, basically told me that with all the work that needed to go into it, he wouldn't recommend to his friend to buy it for more than $1,000 LESS than what I was asking. Great.

I took it back to the car market dejected. I was even thinking of just going home--sitting on a comfy couch in a nice house is much better than sitting around a car yard. I started mentally preparing myself to sell it some dealer for a couple hundred bucks. But then a miracle occured and some guy started really looking at my car. He asked me if it had ever given me any problems. Nope. He took it for a test drive and seemed to enjoy it. He bounced up and down on it (testing the suspension?). I was all prepared for him to get a mechanical check done and I would offer to knock down the price. But instead he just offered to get some cash--for a total that was actually $100 MORE than I paid for it. Sweet.

But he took a long time getting the cash, and when he came back he said there was a problem with his ATM card (because it was connected to a UK bank). We planned to meet the next day after he could get it sorted. Okay, I could wait another day to make this happen.

When I went out to my car on Saturday morning, I noticed that some maps I'd left in the glove box were strewn across the backseat. Odd. Then I opened the door--which was suspiciously unlocked--and saw that the plastic under the steering column had been ripped out. Someone had definitely broken into my car and tried to hotwire it. I was shaking as I turned it on and drove it back to the car market to meet my buyer (at least hopefully he'd still be my buyer). I cannot explain the relief I felt when the plastic on the steering column popped back together and the guys who run the car market assured me that the vandals couldn't have done any damage. Even more relieving was when the buyer handed me a wad of cash and he was handed a piece of paper saying the car is now in his name. Sorry AJA, but I just couldn't take you home with me.

AJA and I had a good ride together. I'll miss her comfy seats, her pretty blue colour, and her clock that worked when it wanted to. I'll miss cheering her on as we went up New Zealand's mountains and thanking her for the anti-lock brakes as we turned the windy roads. At least we still have our memories.

AJA in front of Aoraki, the highest mountain in New Zealand:

AJA among the wilds of the South Island's West Coast

AJA looks remarkable in the Remarkables on the way from Queenstown to Glenorchy

AJA in front of Mt. Taranaki on the North Island

AJA at the Hokianga Harbour walkway in Northland

No comments: