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! πŸ™‚

*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 Beginning of the End…

    My Georgetown song! πŸ™‚

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

    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 πŸ˜‰
    • 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? πŸ˜‰ A married couple working together as marriage counsellors was the answer! Wow. I want to know much more about their story now πŸ˜‰
    • 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 πŸ˜‰
    • 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 ;-).

    Next Stop: Darwin

    My ride to Darwin!

    This is the car that needed relocating from Broome to Darwin for only $5 a day… Not too shabby a ride is it?! Complete with tent, sleeping bags, cooking gear and a handy little fridge, it was ready to go on a roadtrip ;-). Finding travel companions through a facebook group and on my tour of the Kimberley’s, myself and an Italian, a German and an English girl headed east out of Broome. Not going to lie, there is not much to see between Broome and the first town east – Fitzroy Crossing. The landscape changing subtly from trees to shrubs and different contourings, we rolled into Tarunda caravan park as the sun was setting. Met by a fairly rude woman in the site next to us there is honestly nothing more challenging than trying to assemble a 5 man tent you haven’t previously assembled when someone is watching you with their arms crossed uttering not very helpful words of advice under their breath… We made it though. Good effort team. Knackered, I rolled into bed and fell straight to sleep.

    Our beautifuuly assembled tent!

    Day two’s drive held a little more variety… From low to high, green to orange to red, it was a nice drive to Halls Creek, where I learnt the story of Russian Jack. The high point of my day? Discovering cruise control on the car :-). Much better :-). Past many road trains, a few of the flashing, oversized, wide load variety, I was also met by many friendly waves. Taking a diversion down Duncan Rd, we found a China wall, some very big termite mounds and the pretty Palm Springs. The road switching to a northerly direction, we ended the night in Warmun roadhouse caravan park where all three of the staff working behind the till had different ideas of how much to charge us…! ($35 for site which changed to $15 per person and the other ‘just didn’t know’…) Worrying… Please do make up your mind… Aware of some stories from Halls Creek of a man picking up backpackers and leaving them in the middle of nowhere, worried about the car and surrounded by a cold cold night I didn’t have the best night’s sleep…

    The next day, the drive turned to Kununurra. A word that Megan struggled to say! Very funny, one of her guesses was Kunnado :-). Made me laugh. It was a beautiful drive north. I had contemplated driving it in the dark to get to Kununurra a little earlier… I’m very glad I didn’t :-). The car felt very small driving through many high peaks. Feeling like you are merely a visitor passing through its gaze… Awesome scenery. We stopped in at Wyndham. A very good road led to it. A very pretty place, we found a grotto, the 5 rivers lookout and the big crocodile :-). Lunch by the lake in Kununurra, it was nice to relax in the celebrity tree park. I got excited for a second that this might be trees looking like or sculpted into celebrities… It’s not… Just trees planted by celebrities… Not so exciting ;-). Nice lake though and could have easily spent more time relaxing there :-).

    From Kununnura the landscape changed. A dusty red road, quintessentially Australian, you can tell it’s the entrance to Northern Territory. Stopping by the welcoming sign of course, it was nice to be back :-). Happy NT memories were fresh in my mind. Megan chose music on my ipad that just happened to be NT music played picking zucchini’s which made me smile :-). The NT kilometres appearing to be longer than WA’s, the last 5km to Timber Creek caravan park seemed to go on forever… A long day, losing an hour and a half with the state/Territory time difference, absolutely knackered, it was genuinely one of the most amazing showers ever :-).

    The WA/NT border

    The next day, the names of the creeks continue to keep me well entertained… Brandy Bottle Creek, Cheese Tin Creek, Chinaman then Chainman (they just rearranged the letters at the next creek along?!)… It’s actual madness! We stop into the hot springs in Katherine for lunch. Enjoyed previously last year whilst wwoofing there :-).
    Katherine Hot Springs

    Kakadu national park was next. Bukbukluk look out; some pictures of the open road, there were lots of bush worn trees. A nice easy drive, choosing to drive slower than the speed limit to relax, I think it wore off on everybody ;-). Spending the night in Gagudju lodge in Cooinda, joined by an Australian man who apparently genuinely thought Scottish midges were midgets who were going to attack him, with some nice relaxed chat, cider and wine, it was my favourite night of the road trip. Didn’t hurt that I could see the stars through the open tent window either ;-). Awesome.

    The last day of the road trip started with yellow river. Pretty and peaceful, lots of wildlife including birds and a snake were to be found. Anbangbang billabong (I know!) was next. Also very pretty but still no crocodiles to be found… Spending time at the cultural centre and learning of the stories of the people and the land then ending the day at nourlangie rock, viewing aboriginal art on the rocks and appreciating kakadu’s size, I think we had a good balance with only a few hours to spend there. It was then a long long road to Darwin on the Arnhem highway!!

    Reaching Darwin, feeling significantly warmer than Broome, it is much bigger and busier than I remember it from last year… Perhaps I have just spent too much time in small places ;-). It is nice to be back and to remember the Darwin memories of last year… I still can’t quite believe I’m getting on a plane soon though!! The homecoming is starting to become a little bit more real ;-).

    Homeward Bound Ramblings

    Soon after I got to Broome I booked a flight home… Just for a month, to partake in some weddings and my birthday… Not going to lie, I booked the cheapest option available. Couldn’t have told you who I was flying with! I certainly do now…! Events from last week had me checking… Booking my flight from Darwin, wanting to drive up and complete my loop of Western Australia, I have found a relocation car and some travel buddies to reduce fuel costs. We’ll see how we go! The end of camel time coming around very quickly, heading off in the next couple of days, I am very much looking forward to driving rather than getting the bus!

    Heading home for sure a difficult decision, it turns out August has more pulling me from Scotland than Australia and for the first time in a year and seven months I would rather be there than here… I am now really looking forward to going home! For sure when I get home and find it cold ;-), I’ll probably want to get straight back onto a plane but for now Scotland is capturing my heart and creeping into my days… I’ve encountered a man playing the bagpipes, received a postcard adorned with men in kilts, found irn bru and had quite a few conversations with a fair few Scottish people (my favourite held with a lady from Paisley about Santa Claus coming to town!!)

    A reminder if Scotland...

    Now that I know I’m heading back to Scotland, many thoughts have run through my mind. From trivial insignificant things to bigger, important matters…

    • Wondering what the response will be if I ask someone how they are goin? Maybe they’ll ask going where? Perhaps eliciting a response similar to how I feel about the Glaswegian ‘see you after’… πŸ˜‰
    • Whether it will be weird to name things peppers and courgettes and the process of selecting on self serve supermarket tills. They are now most definitely now zucchini’s to me ;-).
    • What might happen if I tell someone to take off their pants and thongs?
    • I’ve been working inside and in the shade and looking a bit paler than when I arrived in Broome… I fear people will never believe I’ve been in Australia a year and a half!
    • I’ve come to quite like Jim Beam… Does that sit on bar shelves back home?! Does Scotland even have a bourbon that isn’t jack Daniels?! Neither me or the Scottish receptionist in my hostel can remember… I didn’t drink it before I got here… I know I’ll definitely have a tasting for it when I get home…
    • Important matters like wondering how many packets of timtams/mint slices to post? πŸ™‚
    • Whether chai can be found in the supermarkets to make chai lattes…
    • From stories you hear on the road wondering what I’ve missed and whether people will still be the same…
    • Looking forward to sharing your own stories but fearing if it will be of interest to everyone…
    • Whether people will understand what a journey you’ve been on…

    The last few a little deep and meaningful, I’ll need to get home to find out… What I am most looking forward to though is:

    • Having a duvet. Yes a duvet. Not even going to call it the Australian doona. The sheet and blanket I’ve had for the last few weeks is driving me nuts! Hopefully also sleeping without a need for earplugs!!
    • Not being asked how long I’ve been in Australia for and hopefully most people being able to tell I’m Scottish!!!
    • Using a kitchen, without having to hire utensils and having many ingredients to hand. Genuinely my mum is not going to know what’s hit her with what I plan to cook to earn my keep
    • Though in saying that, giving my dad time in the kitchen to make his his homemade soup, his curry and a roast beef πŸ™‚
    • Looking forward to seeing the faces of those you remember so fondly. That have helped you from across the miles with some of the harder moments of your travelling journey… Who when you see them again it’s like you’ve never been apart… πŸ™‚

    It’s going to be epic. With just a little bit of adventure left in me yet, another week or so til I get on the plane, WA has totally upturned my notion of starting to feel ‘done’ with Australia. There is still much I want to see… I’ll most definitely be coming back here… Steep point, Karijini National Park, the gibb river road, horizontal falls and Cape Leveque are now on my travelling bucket list for when I next come back to Western Australia. Exploring on :-).

    A New Year Set in Sydney

    Sydney’s New Year fireworks have many vantage points. We choose Milsons Point on the opposite side of the water from the Opera House and near Harbour Bridge. Plans made, I walk the city on the eve of the New Year. I circle the harbour. Early afternoon, it was quieter than I thought it would be. People are eating and drinking but many are still working. I pass through two bag checks, checking for alcohol and glass bottles. No BYO is a major theme in many parts of the city. I walk through the rocks, an area near Harbour Bridge. The viewing point is already closed at 5pm having reached capacity. It is important to me to walk Harbour Bridge on this day. I cross, treading a new path and look back on the Opera House. The city starting to fill, multi coloured dots surround the shoreline. I reach Milsons Point. No alcohol is allowed. I’m sure it could be smuggled but I genuinely can’t be bothered going to the effort! Fanta and snacks suffice instead :). I meet a friend made picking zucchini’s in Katherine. We share stories and tales of our journeys from the last months of 2013.

    The entertainment begins at 6pm. Planes colour the sky. A twisting plane climbs then falls, spiralling through the sky. At 7pm we are treated to mini fireworks. It then begins to rain… At 8.20pm someone starts a chorus of happy birthday. The crowd joins in and starts clapping :). The pillar of the bridge nearest us then lights up. Messages and pictures adorn it. 2014 wishes aplenty, the crowd erupts when one says ‘will you marry me?’, again when one says ‘I’m pregnant!’ There are many languages and many pictures :). We then head for the edge of the water. At 9pm, twelve minutes of mirrored family fireworks begin to our left and right. The sky darkening, boats aglow sail the water; plotting their course for the big moment. I go in search of food and on returning find a couple have taken their seats arguing beside us. Their negativity emanating, I move away. This helps me find a friendly couple behind us :). We have a nice chat. At 10.30pm, more fireworks go off! A helicopter illuminates us at 11.17pm. We relax, we talk, we wait.

    More messages appear on the pillar. A countdown begins! Everyone joins in. At midnight, Sydney’s fireworks explode! On the bridge; over the water and from the Opera House, they surround us in the sky. Many recordings take place. Taking a moment for me, wanting to enjoy the moment for real and not through the lens of a camera I don’t have pictures of all of this for you… I do have some videos though :). The fireworks make me smile. They end with a fountain of light falling from the bridge. It would be different, I’m sure, to watch this from afar, with fireworks bursting over the bridge but being close to them when they lit up the sky was pretty cool :).

    With New Year wishes passed on, a friend’s feet and my own wandered the city. We couldn’t find a bar open but had ice cream instead! Nobody was drunk. We watched a very civilised movement of people to bus and train connections! It is definitely the soberest New Year I have had in over ten years! I don’t think the same would quite happen in Scotland do you?!


    Yesterday I saw Passenger play a gig in Perth. It is the first gig I have seen in another country. He has very much become part of my Australia soundtrack. He has witnessed a lot over the past year and been associated with many emotions. A lot happening, friends gone away and some since broken friendships, I thought I would be sad hearing his words. Instead he made me feel happy. I remembered the happy memories. I learnt the sad ones are not linked to his music.

    Playing some that I knew, some that I didn't, he certainly put on a show. In the introduction to Feather on the Clyde, he spoke of Glasgow. It was amazing to hear him sing words of a song that means so much to me. That makes me think of home. As the soundtrack to my zucchini picking, it evoked happy memories of walking the rows. He sang a song called 'Blind Love' with the support act. You could genuinely feel the comradery. 'Scare away the dark' before the encore with the oh oh oh chorus actually gave me goosebumps. The atmosphere was amazing.

    I would have loved to have been there with someone that the music meant as much as it did for me. Instead his music confirmed that a current relationship is not quite right… Having made plans with this person which now are not going to happen, I am back to somewhat of an indecisive juncture… Sydney? (The lure of a city not seen), give Perth some more time or use it as an impetus to try pastures new? Hmm Australia I am not too sure ;-). What do you reckon?!