4th of November, 2015
living room floor
Thorndon, Wellington, NZ
Ahhh the kiwi dream I’ve been wanderlusting since I was young is finally happening. I’ve arrived in Wellington, my new home for the next six months [or maybe more], the sun is shining and the city is alive.
Wellington is the southernmost capital in the world with just short of 450,000 residents in the region. I’ve quickly learned it’s the windiest city in a very windy country and yes it is MUCH windier than sweet home Chicago. Actually it’s over 10km/hr windier than Chicago and it is THE WINDIEST CITY IN THE WORLD. Well shucks there goes any decent hair day. All in all wonderful first impressions, but before I keep bragging about Welly, I want to start from day one of my New Zealand adventure.
After g’byes in Chicago, I flew to Denver to catch some Colorado sunshine with some of my favorite ladies. We rocked a few gorgeous hikes, visited Red Rocks for a hip hop show, and played hours of shithead [a super entertaining card game known to many backpackers].
[this babe picked me up from the airport at 7am and we headed straight for the mountains]
[not a great shot, but the Aspens in Autumn shine like gold in the valleys]
[sunset // lunar eclipse picnic on Sloan Lake]
[day hike to Devil’s Head lookout]
More see ya laters and I off I went to LA to visit my Cali fam and meet my new second cousin. My cousin Tiffany took me to an aerial class where I learned the lyra and silks. It was a crazy challenging class that left me sore for days and wanting more. After a big dinner at my Aunt and Uncle’s I headed back to LAX for my 11:30pm flight to Auckland. 11 hours later I woke up in Nadi, Fiji Tuesday morning. Monday evaporated from my week because of crossing the international border line and I would now be 18!!! hours ahead of sweet home Chicago. I had a short layover in Fiji and part of me wanted to jump out of the transfer line and hop on a bus to some beautiful beach, but instead I sat counting down the minutes to board in a terribly small, dismal terminal.
[attempting the lyra, a metal ring that left bruises in weird places]
A few hours and I touched down in Auckland. I flew through immigration until the last bit where I admitted to bringing in used trekking boots and my bag had to be further inspected. Now I usually pack ‘light’ i.e. my large 60L backpack and a small one for my important stuff, but since I would be moving to this country and getting a job straight away I stuffed a duffel full of clothes and shoes. By the time I got through to Ryan, I was a sweaty, struggling mess as he stood there with roses looking dashing in a vest and tie. Regardless we were overjoyed to see each other again and beyond excited for our next adventure to begin. Instead of checking in to a “cheap” hostel, he surprised me with a hotel room with a view. Our little flat had a gorgeous view looking over the Auckland harbor. The sun was shining and I couldn’t have been happier.
[view from our balcony]
[my new NZ family]
The next few days consisted of exploring Auckland and making plans to journey to our future home city. Most travelers or kiwis not from Auckland recommend to leave the city upon entering. I actually enjoyed it. We were lucky with the weather, but it was a beautiful city among the water full of small neighborhood with cool local spots. The nightlife didn’t seem crazy nor were there many young people, but I’m glad we toured the city for a few days making our own opinions of NZ’s largest city.
[sunset picnic from Mt. Eden in Auckland]
Now we were four en route to Wellington. Pepe, an Italian fruitarian [yes he only eats fruit] who Ryan has known for years from working in Liverpool and I met briefly in Australia and again when I visited Liverpool arrived in Auckland first. Matty, a fiery Irishman who also worked in Liverpool with Ryan and lived in Australia made it to Auckland after FIVE flights. Somehow when booking his travel agent and his itinerary left out a few flights and he flew from Manchester, UK to Amsterdam to Bangkok to Taipei to Sydney and finally to Auckland after almost two days of travel. Too fucking funny. Anyway the four of us rented a Subaru Legacy to drive to Taupo where we could stay at Matty’s Great Aunts for free for a few days then onward to Wellington, our final destination. I would have loved to make the road trip longer and add many more stops but the little cash I saved in my two months home was moving quick out of my bank and into NZ’s economy.
[let the road trip begin!]
While in Taupo, we visited natural hot springs almost everyday, hiked to Huka Falls where you can witness more than 220,000L of water flow per second, and decided to throw ourselves off a ledge. Bungee style. Now if you didn’t know, commercial bungy jumping originated in NZ and has been on my bucket list since I could remember. Our possible last breath would be a 47m (about 150ft) leap of faith into a freezing cold river, NZ’s highest water touch bungy. Ryan volunteered to go first and Matty second, Pepe wanted nothing to do with it and gladly accepted his roll as cameraman. It was a nimbly overcast morning and my body shook with chills [but mostly fear] as the workers strapped us in. “Do you want to get dipped?” We all shouted back “YES!” And off Ryan went to the edge arms up and dove up. He didn’t get near the water but looked as if he enjoyed it. Matty was next and after a few swear words, took his leap of faith. He didn’t touch the water either. I was next and I rambled on, making small talk with the workers as they double checked my gear. “Alright, stand up and walk over to the edge.” I hobbled over as my ankles were attached to each other and felt my heart beating outside my chest. “Just straighten your arms, chin down and let your body fall.” All I could say was fuck, fuck, fuck, as every inch of my body said “no no no, this is not natural.” I gave a peace sign and a smile to the camera as the chick pushed me closer to the edge. Looking down is not a good idea. Every second you add to thinking about what’s going to happen makes you question this foolish idea, but next thing I knew I was screaming with all my might and threw my body off the 150ft ledge. That few second free fall is unlike anything I’ve experienced. Skydiving is an entirely different feel, but bungee jumping gives you seconds to truly feel like you are pummeling to your death. And next thing I knew half my body was submerged in water and I flew back up in the air almost as high as I jumped. I DID NOT expect to hit the water after watching the boys miss it by feet, and I started laughing uncontrollably as my body flung around. With the adrenaline pumping through my veins, I didn’t even notice the frigid temperature of the water and laughed and screamed all the way into the boat. I think I freaked out the guys waiting for me as they continued to ask if I was ok. Nothing is as amazing as that rush. As scared as I get, I can’t deny I live for that adrenaline junkie stuff. With all my energy I ran to Matty and Ryan and I was ready to go again. Then the cold air hit me and my body froze up. I should have thought about wearing white while being dipped in water, but I could care less. We climbed back up to the office and we decided to do the swing. First Ryan and I went. They strap you in a seat-like harness and pull you back. We chose the surprise drop and while we waved at a camera, she released us and down we went screaming like girls. Ryan held the GoPro and I recommend you clicking here to watch our reactions. Matty and Ryan [yes he went again] did it next and I got to laugh with Pepe at their hilarious yells.
[when we bought all the cider in the supermarket because it was on offer….]
[photo credit goes to Ryan on this one]
[Huka Falls // “a phenomenon of natural hydro power” they say the Falls can fill one Olympic sized swimming pool in 11 seconds]
[unforunately my phone ran out of space while Pepe was filming so I got cheeky and videotaped my jump from the agency’s video hence the not so great photo]
[all smiles on the Cliffhanger // extreme swing]
Taupo had been fun and relaxing, but it was time to greet our new home for the next six months or so. The four hour drive was quite beautiful as we passed massive snow-capped mountains and rolling hills that turned in to desert-like stretches and finished by winding along the sea. I happily drove on the wrong side of the road on the wrong side of the car while taking it all in. Pepe drove the last hour and to be frank I’m surprised I’m here to write this post. Italians acknowledge little rules of the road and quite often we yell at him to center himself back in the lane. But somehow our little station wagon pulled in to the city and we all immediately felt right. We parked the car and checked in to Base Hostel, our home until we could sort ourselves out. The four of us barged into our new room where two other english guys sat drinking while playing cards. The six of us would be sharing this tiny space for who knows long and Ryan and I were back to sharing a bottom bunk twin. That night we strolled through our new city pointing out cool spots and grabbing drinks to celebrate. On top of Matty and Pepe, three more of Ryan’s friends from Doncaster were already living and working in Wellington and that weekend we spent too much money getting reckless in the city. Ryan and I immediately started our hunt for our own flat, knowing the hostel life would frustrate us after a few days. We initially booked a week at Base to get the long-term rate [$140/per week], and unfortunately ended up booking a second week when we realized the flat search would take a bit longer than expected. In the meantime we ventured around the city, climbed Mt. Victoria, ran along the beaches, checked out cool areas to live in, found our new vegan spots, and our favorite new hideway; Zealandia. A Karori Wildlife Sanctuary that stretches 225 hectares [560 acres] and includes a massive predator-proof fence enclosing the heavenly restoration project. The plan is to restore New Zealand’s native plants and animals that existed before humans arrived who burnt the woodlands for lumber and brought mice, rats, stoats, cats, and dogs that killed most of the wildlife. It has been open for 16 years, but it will take over 500 years to bring it back to its original state. A group of us visited Zealandia on a beautiful afternoon and took a walking tour with a lovely man named John. John with his tall socks, tightly-strapped backpack, and bucket hat walked us through the sanctuary pointing out Tuataras [a reptile with dinosaurs characteristics], silver fern [the emblem for NZ’s rugby team, the All Blacks], and many gorgeous native birds who have made this land their new home. The entrance fee included two days which Ryan and I could not pass up. We returned the next day to explore more and picnic in the serene eco-attraction and even ventured in to dark caves to snag a peek of wetas, a creepy insect only found in New Zealand.
[this structure points directly towards Antartica and displays stunning images of the aurora australis // southern lights]
[Wellington’s Botanical Gardens where Ryan and I plan to picnic often]
[Ryan’s shot of Zealandia]
[getting lost in Zealandia’s dense forest]
[Tui bird // a noisy Kiwi native that can imitate human speech and funny enough sounds a lot like R2-D2 and mimics Android phone sounds often]
[hard to get a good photo, but here’s the weta. This tiny cave we had to hunch in was completely blacked out and all we could use was one tiny red light to spot the hundreds of wetas that crept around us]
After a few days we decided it was time to find jobs. Looking our best, resumes/CVs printed, I dropped in the best beer bars in town while Ryan hit up the cocktail spots. Two days later we had part-time jobs. Mine at Malthouse, Wellington’s first craft beer bar with 29 rotating taps and hundreds of beers from all over the world in correctly temperature-cooled fridges. Ryan began at Poquito, a small cafe by day, cocktail bar by night which happened to be right around the corner from me, on funny enough Tory Street. Even though we desperately needed full-time hours we both quickly grew to love our gigs. We now had NZ phones, NZ bank accounts, and NZ jobs; all that was left was a flat and just a few days before our second week came to close at the hostel we ended up with two flats and luckily had the chance to choose. At first Ryan yearned for one more expensive, smaller, but closer to town and the beaches, as I pushed for the further away, cheaper, larger, and more private flat and in the end we both agreed upon the latter. For only $130/a week per person [don’t ask they go by a weekly rate in both Australia and NZ] we now have our own home where I’m sitting on the floor with a glass of sauvignon blanc typing this up, next to a heater, while the sun sets and the rain finally settles.
[first meal in our new place, we nicked these crates from the back of the local grocery]
[I’m in love with our bright, tiny kitchen and thanks to the skylight, we get heaps of natural sunlight]
It’s been almost a week in our new home and we have acquired a mattress and bed frame for free from some lovely random Kiwis, yet still lack living room furniture and internet. But we have big plans for this place which include building our own table out of pallets and making this flat into a recyclable paradise. More kiwi adventures to come and as we create our new home, I’ll be sharing our projects, regardless how they turn out with you beautiful people. Oh and did I tell you our backyard is a massive town belt full of woodlands and trails? It’s been a great start to what looks like it could be a great [temporary maybe?] life. Cheers from the second world cup rugby champs country, I miss you all quite terribly as this frigid wind throws me sideways everyday but then I remember summer is near and snow is not.
Sending all my love across too many time zones to count,
[and here’s our new neighborhood kitty we immediately made friends with]