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! ๐Ÿ™‚

*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 Mฤori 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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    Australia I Miss You…

    Australia I miss you…

    Birthday pondering

    It’s been 5 months and 3 days since we last met. A family Christmas and a different country’s new year; exploring near and exploring far you still seem to have quite an effect on me. Without a doubt I think about you everyday.

    I’ve eaten the timtams I brought home. They’re not quite the same when you’re not in Australia ;-). The TV has reminded. ‘Outback Truckers’, ‘Jimmy’s Australian food adventure’, Chris Tarrant’s ‘train journeys’ or ‘Nothing to declare’ all remind of a time that brings a smile to my face. The memories so clear, in my head it’s like I’m still there… Katherine’s stars, snakes and spiders, beautiful outback, driving tractors, ‘no worries’, to the awesomeness of Tasmania; changing hostel room companions; the variety of people, the so many awesome conversations that still make me smile.

    Turns out that being home is really just not the same. Needs must but work is really just not as fun when your time off can’t be spent exploring far flung off lands. Getting used to the climate again the sun doesn’t seem to shine in quite the same way. Missing the warming tones of the sun helping your day as you head on your way. My ‘thongs’ on my feet as I walked to work in Broome, glorious sunshine overhead, music’s headphones in my ears… To wrapping up warm, staring out of the window, imagining far off warmer lands.

    I suppose though perhaps what I miss more is that ‘travelling’ feeling I of course associate with your bounds. That newness of being in a new place. Of finding your own way around. Finding your favourite spot in a city, spending time there and finding your place. The peace that it brings and the contentedness of happiness of where you are or the clarity in how this might be found. The certainty of mind. The interactions with complete strangers, to friendships and connections found and of course of the association of these people with a place.

    It certainly is a difficult thing coming home. They really are world’s apart. Only someone who has done it knows exactly how you feel. I understand why people don’t stay. I’m now not so sure if Edinburgh is even for me. My welcome perhaps overstayed. It certainly feels like the world is waiting for me… Stomping firmly on its feet. Saying hurry things up but yet patiently waiting for just the right time. These feet of mine are becoming ever so itchy. Where next? I suppose the big question, I’m looking forward to answering that soon.

    The Beginning of the End…

    My Georgetown song! ๐Ÿ™‚

    It is now though bye bye Georgetown and hello road trip!!! :-). It is most wonderful to be reacquainted! ๐Ÿ™‚

    My time in Georgetown has been interesting. As has listening to the preconception of the ‘backpacker’ here… Some lessons learnt for sure, I had to battle the itchy feet feeling more than once ;-). A friend’s wise words of ‘follow the money’ echoing, they kept me here and to my plan. Staying in staff accommodation for $80 a week with a pretty comfy bed and air con, having stayed in worse, it wasn’t too bad at all for staff digs. With an external bathroom, bugs roaming around, it has reminded of zucchini picking in Katherine a lot :-). My roommate not liking them at all, they actually don’t bother me unless they are of the cockroach variety… I actually find the geckos presence reassuring. The crickets have become familiar visitors and I’m always perplexed by ants in the sink… Got a death wish on their hands ;-). Or feet ;-). For they get washed away…

    Managing to eat relatively healthily, cheaply and efficiently, it is probably one of my best efforts to save money whilst in Australia. Especially as we are the supermarket and my hard earned money returns to my employer…! You want to try and keep as much of that as possible! Taking a $100 shop with me from Cairns, definitely a good idea, pasta, tuna and rice have featured heavily in the past few months ;-). As have multi portioned meals. Spag Bol in particular ;-). One of the most expensive single things I’ve eaten? A $4.90 cucumber… $4.90 and I only managed half of it… Pretty sure they are about a dollar in the supermarket… Actual madness.

    Some of the Georgetown randomness:

    • I have fallen out of love with timtams… I know Clem, I’m sorry, but I’ve decided mint slices are better… Don’t worry, I will still send you some!
    • I received some very strange advice – “If it moves and it shouldn’t – duct tape. It if should move and it doesn’t – WD40!” I don’t want to know ;-).
    • I was asked if we sell ‘Shoo roo’s.’ A whistling device that can apparently be attached to a vehicle to try and stop kangaroo’s jumping in front of you. Not a product we stock, I told the man he’d have to fashion his own ;-).
    • I was also asked for a saddle. Not for a horse, mind but for a wire ๐Ÿ˜‰
    • A customer looking for a container for bitumen bought five metal containers of milo (a drinkable with milk or water chocolate and malt powder), emptied it, put the milo into plastic containers then left ALL of the milo for us…! Madness
    • People watching, noticing some interesting people, I had to ask if two were just workmates or a couple? ๐Ÿ˜‰ A married couple working together as marriage counsellors was the answer! Wow. I want to know much more about their story now ๐Ÿ˜‰
    • I’ve developed an aversion to cardboard boxes. I actually can’t cope with them! Retail bred through and through, the stock either needs to be on the shelf or out of the box waiting for it to be put on the shelf…!
    • I have watched a lot of the same adverts! A lot of them play EVERY ad break. I’m starting to sing the songs before they play ;-). One has become a Georgetown song ;-). What is most bizarre is the amount of ads for businesses in Alice Springs. Over 2000km away! Granted it is one of the bigger places to the west, but this is the equivalent of advertising Polish or Czech Republic businesses in Scotland as local ads distance wise! It is far away! Not so many adverts for Cairns, they must assume most people travel west through Georgetown…
    • Having to hotspot myself a lot, spending more than I would in a city with free wifi, I received a phonecall from my phone network provider, Telstra. They wanted to help me get a better deal for my money… Nearly two years after I started using them and three weeks before I leave the country ;-). Bit late now Telstra! If only I’d known how long I was staying I would have got myself a contract ๐Ÿ˜‰
    • Rain!! Signalling the end of the dry season, twice with very heavy showers, smelling amazing, you certainly know you are not in Scotland when the locals are excited about it!
    • I was very angry at two boys who took advantage of a girl that wanted to leave the nearby mango farm. Charging her $130 for a lift for the same $26 journey by bus, upset and the next bus to Cairns not leaving for two days, we facilitated a lift for her and tried to give her some food. Not accepting a sandwich or even breakfast the next day for free, she gave us mangoes and wrote a thank you note and left it on the counter. Hoping she has a less stressful journey onward to Cairns, I hope the boys don’t rip anyone else off…
    • I managed to faint and bang my head… Yes silly Jane I know. I blame the heat and no breakfast… Julie taking good care of me, I saw the inside of Georgetown hospital and left all ok except for a very big bump on my head… Given the day off work, it took me six days to feel back to normal. Sporting a black eye as a result, prompting many an interesting conversation, I think I’m going to be remembered as ‘that one who fainted on us!’

    A different kind of roadhouse, perhaps the biggest roadhouse supermarket between Cairns and Karumba, it is very much a retail focus rather than bar and dinner service. With a local pub in town, therefore no bar and closing at 7pm, not so many people hanging around with fewer staff members than the last roadhouse I worked in, it hasn’t been quite as much fun as my time there… There have been many reminders though :-). A few ‘maybe maybe’s’, and a fair few “thank you ma’am’s” have made me smile… Different things important at different times though, I very much have appreciated managing to sleep within ‘normal’ hours, have felt the benefit of being given a break during my shift and have done well in mastering the art of chilling out ;-). I’ve done far more swimming than I ever expected to :-). In a beautiful setting as well.

    Road tripping our way back to Brisbane, where it all began, I can’t quite believe the Australian adventure is coming to an end… Only a few weeks left, one last stretch of Australia to go, I think I’ve done very well traversing the country! Stopping in on Thailand on the way home, stepping onto a different part of Asia, I’m very much looking forward to a change of culture ;-).

    George Explores Esperance

    We awake to a different background than the night previously. Darkness and stars are replaced with blue skies, water and waves. The beach literally just across the road from the hostel, Esperance's coastline stretches on for miles. Following the road east out of Esperance, we reach Cape Le Grande National Park. For an area covered in outback terrain some pretty impressive contrast is apparent. Frenchman's Peak, a 262m steep rocky climb was the first task of the day! Walking boot prepared, I put George in my bag and we begin. A warning of its steepness at the bottom, we were pretty surprised to pass girls wearing thongs! The Australian definition of thongs that is! Definitely burning off the calories from breakfast and stopping a fair few times (pretending to be checking the view of course), the hard slog to the top was definitely worth it :-). I think George got it easy ;-). We see the outback laid out in front of us, the coast surrounding it and roads winding their way through it. The girls in thongs not quite making it to the top, fair play to them for giving it a try! I enjoy a timtam and think of a certain French friend whilst at the top of a Frenchman's peak and do some more yoga ;-). Sarah, a bit more adventurous, climbs on top of a rock! George just enjoys being carried everywhere :-).

    Our morning exercise completed, we drive further into the park and reach Hellfire Bay. It is a pretty windy day but Sarah is determined she's swimming! Her enthusiasm makes me smile but it now takes quite a warm temperature to get me into the water… In the back of my head I have Ray's 37 degree rule and it is definitely not that warm! I try my feet in the water. Freezing, I dare Sarah to get in! Bless her she tries hard bouncing away but it is a bit cold and choppy and unfortunately not going to happen! We move onto Thistle Cove and find another beach, a whistling rock and some good chat :-). My favourite beach is the one we reach next – Lucky Bay. Beautiful turquoise and dark blue waters merge, surrounded by rocks with only four other people enjoying the beach :-). We enjoy a subway lunch then find two kangaroos just waiting around the corner for us! Not too shabby a stop for lunch at all!

    Very much a coastal town, Esperance, of course, has a tourist ocean drive. Similar to Victoria's Great Ocean Road between Melbourne and Adelaide, this one is named the Great Ocean Drive. There are many beaches to find. Too many after so many days landscape sightseeing! It helps to have George and know I will be able to distinguish in years to come! He jumps out at Blue Haven and Twilight Beach (no vampires or werewolves were found…) and we let him see the south west coast being battered by the ocean! A pretty impressive coastline I have to say. We find another western Australian pink lake, though not quite as pink or as nice as the last one I saw and take George to Wiseman St. He is a very wise man you know ;-). Back in the hostel, I sit and chill in the lounge area where some hostel residents are watching Woody Allen's 'Midnight in Paris'. This movie always makes me think of the actual George :-). It being the last night of our road trip we decide to celebrate and take George for dinner. We enjoy a very tasty meal even if it does take a long time to arrive. Stopping in at the pub on the way back, I try a new kind of beer (the legacy of the drinking challenge lives on) and Sarah and I are left in shock with the brazenness of an Irishman talking about girls. The night ends with us formulating an outback bingo game of things to do on the drive back to Perth the next day :-).


    88 Days Later

    88 days… Does it sound long? Or does it sound short? Well the 88 days the Australian government required me to do farmwork in regional Australia is now complete. Five farms later (plus one extra for a couple of days), two in Northern Territory and three in Western Australia have certainly provided quite an experience for me! Some amazing people – Go, Clem, Shoko, Kimi, Jo, Lotti, Melissa, Steph, Ariel, Emma, Lauren, Greet and Peter have made it very fun along the way. Some awesome hosts have made me feel very welcome. Trying lots of new foods and recipes, learning many new things, I have been to some beautiful places (some that I may never have seen otherwise) and made lots of new memories :-).

    Whilst completing these days, my goal was to see different places and practices and to learn as much as possible. To make it part of my journey here. Staying in one place did not appeal to me at all… Others goals and outputs maybe different, for me, I had paid for my wwoof membership, I figured I should make use of it :-). I liked the idea of exchange :-). Learning a lot about Australia and others countries and languages in this time, I hope that I have dispelled some stereotypes and put Scotland on some travel maps :-). Japan is now firmly on mine, as is a lot more of Asia.

    Granted not all plain sailing, it has been one heck of a personal journey. From the low of the worst day of my travels with my last day in Tasmania to being picked back up again with so many laughs and giggles in Batchelor, to finding my way in Katherine, WA has granted me space and time to reflect on the next steps on the journey. Batchelor and Nogerrup's chicken farm sharing the favourite farm accolade; they very much let me be myself :-). Lavender though, will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank god I didn't find work in Melbourne! What a path it has led me on. So much has happened since it began seven months ago.

    Some particular favourite moments:

    • All the amazing dogs i've encountered – Miley, Mishka, Mr T, Ella, Bonnie, Ozzie, Cesar, Lupo, Evan and Lily, you have turned me into a dog person!
    • 'Do you want to die' being yelled by Emma at the chickens when they were swarming round the quad bike
    • Travelling with boys vs travelling with girls discussions whilst grafting grapevines
    • TimTam Cake Pops
    • Walking the rows in Katherine listening to the music of my unplayed list
    • Race Day in Batchelor – filled with 'what's', sore hands, nearly fainting spells, rainbows, missing dogs, pizza, pool, wine and Eurovision. Awesome. All you do need is good company and a pool table
    • Chatting to Markus in Katherine and hearing his hilarious tale about Coober Pedy involving stars, kangaroos and the police
    • Washing eggs with Ariel and Emma. I loved our chats. Some of their questions would make me drop eggs!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚
    • Watching scrubs with Go in Batchelor
    • Friends for a season, reason and lifetime chat on the Lavender farm
    • Laying plastic in Batchelor
    • Stargazing, sunsets and moons in Katherine
    • Priscilla and pizza on the vineyard
    • The day of the lavender salt challenge!

    Learning a lot about doing farmwork in Australia and the visa requirements, I will be carrying this knowledge and sharing it when required with fellow backpackers. My work clothes, now entirely dilapidated, have been thrown away. My work gloves, bought for me by my relatives in Brisbane will be sent home a little worn and tired. My work boots will be put to rest for a little while until required as walking boots. It's amazing how many reminders there are. I miss so many of these people so much. What a journey :-). So much inspiration :-). I have loved putting my experience into words for you. Thank you for sharing it with me :-).

    Fred and Wilma and Tarzan and Jane

    It has been an interesting week… A change in the weather witnessed, the nights are starting to warm up. An unfortunate consequence of this, there is an increased amount of all too friendly mozzies. My body is reflecting this delightful insect's bites! The moon apparently having changed position, it's emanating bright light now makes it hard to see the stars. A bush fire has smouldered in the nearby area. I have watched an orange moon sink towards the horizon. A very noisy cattle truck has passed through momentarily stopping by.

    On the same day two staff members ended up leaving us and moving on. Along with quite a few more Mister eleven’s, I have had my first group eleven :-). I have been told to see the painted desert. Quite a few games of pool have been played. Lots of Irish guesses directed my way; some new ones of Canadian and Swedish have been thrown into the mix…! Played a lot by a chef here, Xavier Rudd has become a new favourite for the Australia soundtrack. A lot of banter has been had :-). Called ma'am by a trucker named Bruce all night, Wilma by a man named Fred and encountering a man named Jye, the name apparently of Tarzan origin, some new favourite customers were found :-).

    Finally finishing the drinking challenge, 38 days after it began, it ended with a very good bottle of moscato and some timtams :-). The last 18 drinks tried, three new favourites have been found – mid strength Pure Blonde, scotch and ginger ale (is it wrong for a Scottish person to call it this?!) and the moscato :-). Post challenge, reverting to ye olde familiar ways, I seem to be bonding with a man named Jim Beam and a woman called Tia Maria ;-).

    On Tuesday, able to sit outside alone after work, this was the first time in 19 days that I hadn't had company. The wind rustling in the trees as I finally achieved the item that had been top of my to do list for quite some time, some space finally freed up in my mind. I had that all familiar backpacker moment… I knew what that meant – “It's time to move on. Lets set the onward journey plan in motion. I think i've learnt the lessons I needed to learn here.” Maybe the result of a change of room, maybe just the connection to my impending birthday in my subconscious or my original plan of having left here by now, planning the next stage of the journey has now climbed a bit higher on my to do list. Lets see how long it takes me ;-).