A Newcomer’s Observations

It’s been nearly eight weeks since we arrived in Wellington. Wellington a very multicultural city, and a fun fact if you didn’t know already, it is the world’s windiest city! I don’t doubt it – it can be very fierce! Everywhere we go, the people that we meet tell us this has been the worst summer on record in Wellington. There are certainly some days that remind of a bad winter’s day in Scotland! It encourages best use of the lovely warm sunshine when it arrives! We’re glad we have more than a few weeks of a holiday to explore.

Starting to settle into NZ life, getting used to a new way, we’ve been spending time cat sitting to save money when we’re able to, Air BnB when we can’t. We’ve had the company of Basil, Toby, Jasper and George! We reckon we’ve saved over $1000 in accomodation. Quite pricey, looking at $3-400 for a week’s stay for two people in an Air BnB or hostel, this definitely offers a better alternative and also allows us to explore different suburbs and transport routes. My favourites so far being the suburbs of Petone and Mt Victoria, the train ride into Wellington from Lower Hutt might just have knocked my Harbour Bridge commute off the top spot…! It is an extremely pretty view (on a good day when it’s sunny!) curving its way round the harbour to roll into Wellington Central! 🙂

*apologies for the poor reflection!

A few little observations from a humble newcomer to the city… Messing with my head, here the $1 coins are smaller than $2 coins. This is the opposite to Australia and totally throws me off. Makes logical sense though! Getting better, I still need to check before I hand them over! Loving the $5 penguin adorned notes though!

In Australia, there were Woolworths and Coles supermarkets. Here, the Woolworths logo sits afront a supermarket called Countdown. New World is the other ‘big one’ with Pak n Save offering the ‘low cost’ alternative. (I still find it quite expensive!) Very Costco like, they add tax at the checkout… Confusing. In contrast to Australia though, the supermarkets here sell alcohol in them. In Australia a bottle shop needed to be sourced. Limited to beer, wine and cider in the supermarket here, spirits still require a specialist shop. The UK is spoilt for cheap choice! It is also extremely weird having plastic bags on offer so freely! I had got so used to not having them. Scotland has done well getting rid of them and encouraging reusable bag use. A new New Zealand word, trolleys here are called trundles! But not at every shop just to keep you on your toes!

In food related news:

  • Sweet potatoes are known by their Māori name, ‘kumara’ here. Find out more about the history here.
  • Peppers are, like in Australia, known as capsicums. No zucchinis, here they are courgettes. 
  • There are new vegetables on the supermarket shelf. A starchy root crop, we’ve seen Taro in the supermarket. Not tried it yet though.
  • It is most deliciously nice to be reacquainted with timtams and mint slices. 
  • Irn Bru can be found here! Something always more exciting when you’re not in Scotland. 
  • Here there is a contender for Subway’s crown – Pita Pit. The same but with pita breads. Very tasty! I recommend.

Something that is hard for me to get my head round is the amount of British TV on TV here! There’s even an entire channel dedicated to it…! Take Me Out (albeit a few years old), Graham Norton, Corrie, Emmerdale, Distraction and Taskmaster amongst many, it is hard to avoid it on regular scheduled TV…! I am becoming quite fond of Kirsty and Phil’s ‘Love it or List it’ which I never even watched in the UK!

    Exploring our way round, managing quite a few things here including the Weta Cave – the studio that made Lord of the Rings effects, doing a tour of the NZ parliament, the National War Memorial, Te Papa museum, the Writer’s walk, the cable car ride, catching the view from Mt Victoria, plane spotting from Lyall Bay, Korokoro Dam, Zealandia eco sanctuary, drinking beer at the Garage Project, sunset watching in Porirua and enjoying a nice drive round the Wellington coast today, here are a few pics from the last eight weeks.

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    The Lure of a Place Not Yet Visited…

    I'm moving to Western Australia… Conscious that last year I spent time in Melbourne job hunting and just spending money, with not an overly large sum of Australian dollars left I decided it would be wise to find a job to go to rather than just arriving having left a perfectly good job… My job search so far focusing on Broome, on Saturday I widened my search area to all of north west Australia. Applying for a couple, I got a phonecall Saturday night offering me work in Carnarvon. Here to explore, feeling like I need to move on, it feeling right, I have said yes. Even if it is terrible, I will at least be earning money whilst I look for something else in a location that is significantly nearer to Broome than Sydney…! Having reached Shark Bay last year when I did my tour north, Carnarvon puts me in a pretty good spot for onward exploring round the north west Coast :-). I am very much looking forward to a change… and some sunshine!!

    My last week of work very busy, going far too quickly, enjoying being busy, it nearly made me feel guilty about leaving… Moving on always offering some time for reflection, Sydney has provided yet another interesting experience for me. A change from roadhouse and farmwork, it has been nice to be be back in the 'office banter' environment, feel useful, learn new things and then feel like you know about the things you are talking about… :-). Getting to know the North Shore train line well, I'm sure there are not too many backpackers that can say they know the geography of tennis courts and council buildings within one of Sydney's council areas! Working with a good team, my colleagues very friendly; their banter has been most fun. Of course sharing some Scottishness, some new memories have been added to my Australia scrapbook :-). The banter of Granny Joyce, line dancing, guinea pigs, time capsules, ‘b’ for ‘bottle’ and being asked if we play sport in the rain back home (us hardy Scots often play in the snow!) have all put a smile on my face :-). The best memory though is undoubtedly commuting over harbour bridge. Whether in sunshine or lit up by night, I love that I can say that I did that :-). Amazing!

    Banter held also in non working hours, my Irish roommate, Sinead, has made this last week so memorable for me. With only an Italian roommate for two days and a very nice Hawaiian man for one night, we have had our three share dorm to ourselves. I am really really going to miss our chats. We have laughed. A lot. Her window stuck open, much banter about a raccoon will be remembered with fondness :-). We are going to continue our friendship via viber voice message :-). I can't wait to get her updates :-). With some awesome skyping, receiving gifts from Belgium, a tour of and visit to the opera house to see Pinnochio, chocolate drinking and eating at the Lindt chocolate cafe, a last movie night of ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel‘ and the addition of some new 'Sydney' music to the Australia playlist, it has been an awesome last week. I will certainly be leaving Sydney with a smile on my face looking forward to my new adventure :-).

    Some of the new songs added to my Australia playlist: 🙂

    Cockles and Mussels and in Need of an Umbrella…

    I wake in the morning… I look out the window with some trepidation… The ever familiar sound of raindrops can be heard… My newly bought umbrella has become a staple item in my bag in Sydney!! Whilst still probably a little warmer than home, the relentless rain is certainly reminding of the UK… Making me want to go north pretty soon… I'll wait until I have a little more money to get me there though…

    Spending my weeks working and my weekends exploring, I have settled into somewhat of a routine. Tuesday has become movie day. Cheaper tickets on offer at the cinema, it is my night of escape from the hostel, where I just relax and don't worry about cooking. Helping to also reduce my cost per use of my weekly train ticket, I get treated to the lights on the harbour and harbour bridge on my way home. It still makes me smile when I cross the bridge :-). Saturday has become lie in day… As has Sunday… :-). Then I try to explore and see different things… Last week I managed Glebe market and had an amazing chai white chocolate in Max Brenner. With plans to go west down the river last Sunday, admitting defeat to the rain, I chilled out and finished my book instead. Making Sydney the most readable city so far.

    The Museum of Sydney and Sydney's fish market my exploring choices this weekend, the museum taught of the construction of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge and told how the bridge was catapulted to worldwide fame by a paramilitary horseman beating the labour premiere to cutting the tape…! Hereafter, the bridge became synonymous with visions of 'Australia'. Learning of the aboriginal history of Sydney's land I also spent time wandering through an exhibition called 'Celestial city: Sydney's Chinese story.' Detailing the Chinese Restriction and Regulation Act 1888 and the subsequent 1901 Immigration Restriction Act (wanting to keep Australia 'white'), this Act excluded non Europeans by requiring them to pass a language test given in a European language before they could be admitted to Australia. Funnily enough most non Europeans failed. The Chinese living here were denied citizenship, the vote and the freedom to travel between Australia and China. Many were exiled in Sydney. Eventually phased out after WWII then abolished in 1973, I got back to my hostel feeling even more sympathy for aboriginal and cultural heritage and somewhat surprisingly walked into a conversation with a boy who has been here just a couple of weeks who asked what I thought of the 'British making Australia…?' Wow. I used some of the things I had just learnt in the museum with my reply…

    Wandering my way to Sydney's fish market in Pyrmont, joining the throngs of people with the same idea, I explored one of the world's largest fish markets. Many colours and varieties, having been meaning to try since I got to Sydney, I dived in and tried oysters for the first time and bought a fillet of salmon for $6. Not too bad at all.

    A nice interjection to routine, on Friday I had a reunion with my Western Australia road tripping buddy Sarah :-). With a lot of rain covering Sydney I suggested Govindas, an Indian restaurant with a cinema upstairs; a recommendation on a 'what to do in Sydney if it rains list.' Offering an all you can eat buffet for $19 there was only one problem… We genuinely talked so much catching up on the last six months we each had only one plate… Madness. Therefore not seeming the best value for money, it was entirely my own fault. I should have booked an hour earlier and eaten more!! Never mind I said… Better to have talked and managed only one plate than sat in silence and eaten four plates… 🙂 It was most nice to catch up :-). The movie theatre was awesome. Comfy Chaislongue seats covered in comfy cushions, we relaxed back and enjoyed ‘The Monuments Men‘ :-). The movie cutting out near to the end the whole room started talking about what George Clooney might have had on his bagel and what was going to happen next ;-). Rather than being annoying it just added to the character of the movie theatre. It is a really cool cinema there. I recommend if you're looking for something different :-). Not overly impressed with the restaurant maybe I'll try again with someone I don't have so much to talk about with ;-).

    In other news, a cyclone brewing on the north east Coast as well as a feeling that Cairns will be a money sinkhole has now set in motion a northwest Australia stop next with a view to work back east before flying home in August. For there are weddings and birthdays to be attended to… Informing one of my best friends that it is only approximately 118 days away, this thought is more than a little bit scary!!

    A view of Harbour Bridge by Daily Commute

    The view of Harbour Bridge from the train on a usual Sydney overcast day

    My feet walk. They wait at the traffic lights to cross. Down stairs, through central station's tunnels, joining the herds of feet pounding the ground, the musician of the day's choice of music fills the walls as I walk. I pass through the barriers awaiting my train. The same platform everyday, speeding away from central station, we cross harbour bridge, looking back on its gaze. Sydney harbour the view to my left; the opera house is to my right. Sometimes I forget to look, other times too busy, on others the return journey reminds. Every day I think wow, how cool that I get to cross harbour bridge with my daily commute!

    Central Station's tunnels...

    Yes the word commute. Back in Sydney, it surprised me with several potential job offers… Offered one by a recruitment agency first, starting the next day, not having worked for six months and in need of money I said yes. Providing administrative support to a local council, learning new things and with familiar systems to back home, joining a friendly team, it is very much reminding of my job before I left Scotland. Not wanting to spend too much money or gain too much weight (my trousers are a little tighter than when I bought them in Sydney in January!) I have fallen easily back into the healthyness I had at work before leaving Scotland and with salads, fruits and nuts making up my day, my body is appreciating being healthy again. Office banter of course, learning that toasties are referred to as 'jaffles' here and hence jaffle makers instead of toastie machines, I have been also asked about my Australian travels, about Scotland, Scottish 'soccer' and all about Scottish independence. I gave a very diplomatic, balanced response ;-).

    Back in a hostel (thought it might be nice to be in the company of lots of people), choosing a smaller, quieter place I ended up in the first twin dorm that I've slept in on my travels. Certainly different from a 10 bed mixed dorm, it reminds that they all have their pros and their cons :-). Seemingly not making too bad a choice with this hostel, I am quite enjoying the cosyness and being able to sit on a sofa and watch telly. Meeting an interesting, friendly bunch of people, including an Italian I helped make pizza (!), with a cool atmosphere I ended up extending my initial two day stay to two weeks… Still there as we speak, toying between finding a room in a flat or something else, for sure this hostel is one of the favourites on my travels.

    The pressure of job hunting removed, able to chill out by myself, exploring, venturing to paddington market – most quirky; I found some nice little trinkets. I recommend if you're looking for jewellery and 'something different'. Enjoying Maria Vantsos's pictures, I absolutely loved Vetro e Metallo's copper necklaces :-). So much that I bought a customised one :-). Also spending time people watching in Hyde park and Centennial park, I found a pretty good view of the city.

    Venturing to see Noah on cheap cinema day, hmmm, I’m not too sure about it at all. A missed opportunity with the animals entering the ark for sure, not finding it the happiest of films, it certainly made me look at the parable of Noah in a different light… In books, Dracula finally put to rest, concluding that it would be interesting for him to meet the cast of twilight, true blood or vampire diaries, I found the dice man in the hostel book swap which has been on my list for a while. An interesting book… Not what I expected at all. Finding the first 200 pages whilst filled with some crazy dice options very readable, the next 200, not so much… What a trudge to the end… Why so long? Definitely good to roll the dice for some decisions for sure, for everything just seems a bit stupid… Not one of my favourite reads on my travels…

    Staying here for a couple of weeks to get a feel for working in the city, with somewhat itchy feet as always, conscious it will get cooler here, I'm in the process of making plans for Cairns to be the next stop on the journey. Until then…

    Decisions, Secret Gardens and the World’s Largest Imax

    I sat reading over my last blog post and stared at the screen. The words I had written the night previously illuminated in front of me. Talking to me. I sighed. A good friend txted with her own dilemma. She couldn’t decide whether to stay an extra week in Adelaide or travel to Melbourne. She told me that staying would let her spend more time with a guy she had met. One that I’ve met and knew was a good guy. I told her to stay. That people were more important. I looked at my reply. “Why can I help other people so easily and guide them on their paths but not know the way for myself?” I wondered. I don’t know what happened but in that moment of silence, reflecting on others opinions and the thoughts in my head organised into reasoned, comprehensive sentences in front of me I made a decision… I decided to go… Better to try and fail than not to have tried at all surely…? If it doesn’t work who knows where I might end up..? Jumping in and taking a pretty big leap of faith, I am hoping that this ends well… Decision made, I shared the good news with my road trip buddy. He seemed very happy to hear of my decision ;-).

    Since making this decision, I have been taking it a little bit too easy and have been exploring the city. My feet have walked Manly Beach in the north east of the city, played pool, tried some new beer and explored the North Sydney shoreline at Lavender Bay and Luna Park. They wandered Balmain and the harbourside. They have found much random banter including avenues named after toothpaste, street art, cars called Madam Lampini, padlocks, tongue like dingoes, a very pink building, busts and some interestingly named shops! They found Wendy Whiteley’s secret garden. They relaxed, ate lunch and finished a book at McMahon’s point. Overlooking Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, it reminds that it is not too bad a travelling life sometimes ;-). On my last night I went to see Gravity in Darling Harbour’s imax cinema. The largest in the world apparently. Wow. How to do imax and how to do 3D Gravity. What a visual journey. I was right there with them. It made me think of my own journey. Taking one last look of the harbour on my way home, all aglow in different colours, I said goodbye. I very much hope to return to Sydney. It kind of feels that we have unfinished business. For now though, my feet are getting a little bit itchy… I am most definitely looking forward to finding out what New South Wales holds…

    Welcome to Sydney

    We descend through the clouds… Water is everywhere. Out of my window I see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. A small CBD by air; the city sprawls out around. Touching down, we taxi, passing water by the runway, the first near a runway so far in Australia. Appreciatively collected at the airport, our path through the city winds through many of its suburbs – the most in a city I have encountered so far. We drive North. I see beaches and house lined hills, pass a Spit and reach a beach called Dee Why. Tree lined, it reminds of Busselton as we eat fish and chips while the sun starts to set. The most comprehensive introduction to a city so far, Sydney is not quite how I imagined. I spend the night alone in my friend’s flat and note that it is the first time I have had more than a room to myself since January last year!

    Often walking new cities alone, Sydney is the first that I have been guided by a friend. Harbour Bridge connecting the north and south suburbs, the last stop on the train before Harbour Bridge, Milsons Point, is our exit. Our feet walk the bridge. The left side saved for pedestrians, the Opera house, sailing ships and skyscrapers near water’s edge are our view. Shore bound, we pass the Opera House, walk the botanical gardens then reach Hyde Park. New Year’s Eve banners line the streets. The bustling Paddy’s Market shopping mall seats us for lunch. We eat dumplings, drink jasmine tea and I learn it is bad luck to pour your own tea first. Afterwards, a Chinese Garden draws us in. We follow the road on to Darling Harbour. Buildings, birds and boats, it offers a place to drink cocktails and rest. I end the day exploring alone. My feet take me back to Hyde Park to rest. I meet a friend for a drink at a rooftop bar and eat dinner in Darling Harbour. An interesting introduction, for those that haven’t been, welcome to Sydney! 🙂

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