Of mussels and op shops

Green lipped moules mariniere There is a phenomenon in New Zealand (and also Australia), known as op shopping. This is not dissimilar to going to charity shops in the UK and buying your clothing, but where in the UK this is usually a past time reserved for students out looking for that seventies party outfit, down under it appears to be a more acceptable way of finding your look.

Of course, I am slightly biased. When I lived in the UK, I wasn’t a destitute traveller searching for the cheapest way to outfit my vehicle for a year on the road. For whilst Bernie (which appears to be the name we have settled on, for complicated reasons I shall not go into) is a wonderful beast in many ways (she is, for example, the only van of her style with a glorious cream shag pile carpet that I have seen), she was not bought from a traveller, and is therefore missing various items, such as a cooking area, cooking equipment, bedding and so on.

And it was for this reason, therefore, that we headed off into the Auckland suburban landscape, in Bernie, to find her all the things that she would need. It being a weekend, this was not necessarily the easiest task. Whilst the idea of Sunday trading laws are firmly ignored in New Zealand culture, with every major shop open 8am – 9pm regardless of day, it seems that the staff at the op shops like to take a break. So we did spend some time peering in hopefully through dusty windows and marking spots on the map to return to. Still, we were successful in a number of ventures. We managed to acquire, for example, a whole bedding set. And various cooking bits and pieces. And finally, a dual gas hob and bottle – the last two of which we bought from an actual shop on the basis that new stuff was less likely to gas us in our sleep. All in all a fairly successful weekend.

Me doing van DIY... Yep. We also bought ourselves a basic DIY kit, largely consisting of a saw and a hammer. Bernie is, after all, equipped with a bed frame, constructed, from what we can tell, by someone who was incredibly keen on the idea of nails and less keen on the idea of headspace. A fruitful afternoon therefore was spent re-constructing the bed frame so that it was about 15cm lower, meaning that we can actually sit upright on the bed without killing ourselves. Anyone who is aware of my DIY skills will realise that this is a major achievement. Clearly, Vera was responsible for most of it. I just did the sawing. Now all we need is to install some form of storage furniture and set up a kitchen type thing, and we are ready to go. Hurrah.

And this is not all. (Who said travelling wasn’t hard work). We have purchased a map, which not only lists a gigantic range of campsites, from free to not so free, it also wonderfully marks every key Lord of the Rings filming location. A real life atlas, with Mt. Doom marked on it. I know, exciting stuff.

Finally, for now, I am delighted to report that I have discovered two culinary wonderments. The first being peanut butter, of the crunchy variety, available in kilogram jars. This is probably not that exciting to anyone else, but it’s the little things.

The second thing, which is possible more exciting to you, is that I have discovered I can buy fresh, live New Zealand green lipped mussels for $1.99 a kilo, which at today's laughably bad exchange rate, is about £1. I know what I’ll be living off for the next year at least. Until the next time…

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