After getting married in September 2010 we decided to do the opposite of settling down; so we packed up our life, stuffed it in our parent's attic and hit the road for what is essentially an extended honeymoon! We started our trip on 29th December 2010 spending 4 months travelling overland through Europe, Russia and Mongolia to China. After many a train and bus journey we caved-in and flew from Western China to Malaysia, and worked our way north to Thailand and Cambodia. The time came for us to replenish our bank accounts, so we headed to Western Australia for work in July 2011 and lived in Fremantle until February 2012. After a couple of months back home seeing our families and friends, we headed back down-under. This time we headed for New Zealand and we are currently living in Wellington. Our blog started as part of an elaborate wedding present from two of our very good friends. The idea was that on our trip we should blog from every country we visit, detailing the sights, sounds and smells and most importantly, the beer. We have certainly had fun writing it - but moreso, living it!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Wellington - June & July 2012

View over Evans Bay from Mt Victoria
We came to the inevitable conclusion that if we wanted to get 'proper' jobs and be able to save a bit of money rather than living day-to-day, a move to the city was in order.  So with heavy hearts we bid a fond farewell to Akaroa and headed back into Christchurch for an overnight stop before our trip up to the North Island.  We stayed at Jailhouse Hostel, a large and quirky hostel converted from, you guessed it, an old jail.  A little cold, a little odd, but pretty cool all the same.  We then caught the fabulous Coastal Pacific train first thing in the morning, enjoying an on-board breakfast and watching the countryside roll by from the open viewing carriage at the back of the train.  We just had time for a coffee in the blazing sunshine on the lovely foreshore of Picton before catching the ferry to across the Cook Strait.  The trip took around 4 hours and started with the ferry sailing through the Tory Channel of the Marlborough and Queen Charlotte Sounds, framed by lush rolling hills.  We used the BlueBridge ferry service (a few dollars cheaper than the more touristy Inter-Islander service) and were treated to a birds eye view of cattle being transported on the lower deck, quite an eye opener and made us (again!) vow to only eat small quantities of locally sourced meat.  By the time we reached Wellington harbour it was dark and drizzly, a bit of a damp 'Welcome to the North Island!' to say the least.

The first few weeks consisted mainly of job interviews, flitting between various hostels, and looking for somewhere longer-term to stay.  Happily, we managed to get jobs within a week or two of arriving; I got a job as a Community Support Worker with adults with severe and enduring mental health problems, and after a few induction shifts at some of the other houses was settled into working at a house in Maupuia, a house up on a hillside with great views over the water.  Liam secured a an out-of-hours position at the Open Polytechnic on the IT Helpdesk.

For the first few weeks we moved between WorldWide, Base and Wellywood backpackers' hostels, making the most of various deals and trying and find a hostel that suited us (ie. wasn't full of 18 year old gap yahs).  Luckily within a few weeks we found a room in a house-share in Mt Victoria.  The guy who lived in one of the rooms was moving out for 4 months to start off his new career in the Police, at a training college further north.  A rather lovely villa-style house, hammock in the garden, large kitchen, fully-furnished room, 10 minutes walk from the centre of town, views over the city from the balcony and friendly flatmates; of course we decided immediately that we wanted it!  We got moved in at the beginning of July (and when I say we, I mean Liam hiked our backpacks up the hill, I was very conveniently at work!) and stuck out the winter in this lovely spot.

In terms of our free time, we enjoyed wandering around the very accessible city centre and exploring our new home town.  Wellington apparently has more food and drink outlets per capita than New York, so needless to say we sampled lots of beer, coffee and culinary delights.  We checked out the colossal giant squid at Te Papa - New Zealand's brilliant National Museum, learned about the city's Maritime history at the Museum of City and Sea, and the Cable Car Museum.  The cable car transports you from the city centre up to the top of the Botanical Gardens in Kelburn, and is a fun yet practical way of getting up the very steep hill.  The Museum also featured a video about Wellington residents who own their own personal cable car in order to access their houses as the landscape is just so damn hilly.  We checked out a few galleries, the highlight probably being an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.  'All Woman' was a photograph exhibition of Kiwi Women, from the famous to the unknown, the extraordinary to the plain ordinary, and included a good chunk of fascinating information about each woman featured.

Living in the city means we are treated to lots of live music and theatre, two things we most keenly miss when not available.  It seemed rude to be in Wellington and turn down the opportunity of seeing Flight of the Conchords live, and so had a hilarious evening watching them perform to a 'home crowd'.  A few days before we had seen Jemaine at one of our favourite eateries, and had then nearly hyperventilated when our flatmate informed us he lives diagonally opposite to us (cue plenty of spying from the balcony - and disappointingly only seeing him once).  Wellington seems to be resident to a lot of extremely talented musicians; including Adam Page, an Australian baritone saxophonist who we enjoyed seeing perform at one of our favourite bars in Wellington, Hashigo Zake, as well as perform as part of the Richter City Rebels, a New Orleans style 'second line' band.  They certainly knew how to get the party started, and further inflamed our desire to experience New Orleans (after recently watching the brilliant TV series, Treme)  A further musical highlight of the winter months was a trip to Bodega to check out Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.  They are eight brothers from Chicago, all playing various brass instruments along with drummer.  They play a bombastic mix of jazz and hip-hop, building up layers of groovy brass with occasional vocals.  A fantastic live band, and a brilliant mix of sheer musicianship and rocking party band.  

My first theatrical experience was at Circa Theatre as I went along to see All My Sons one night while Liam was working.  I have always been a huge Miller fan (predictable I know, but the man was a genius), and this production was fabulous, with strong actors and a beautiful set.  Despite being one of the main theatres in Wellington, Circa is still small enough to feel pretty intimate, making the ending seem even more shocking.  We also went to see a production at Bats Theatre called Standstill, by Anders Falsti-Jenson, featuring three actors playing a variety of characters whilst walking on treadmills for an hour.  A clever and quirky commentary on the rat race that is life.  Another time at Bats theatre but this time in the tiny bar area, we also had the pleasure of seeing a few scenes of Puppet Fiction.  Seriously... scenes from Pulp Fiction performed by puppets!  Snortingly hilarious, and well suited to the informal atmosphere.  July also gave us our first experience of National Theatre Live, which my parents had been imploring us to go to for probably over a year.  Anyway, odd timings and astronomical pricing had meant we never quite got round to it in Australia, so we were really excited to have booked tickets to see replays of both Frankenstein and One Man Two Guvnors.  They were both absolutely astounding, fantastic pieces of theatre.  Frankenstein especially was perhaps one of the best things I have ever seen, and I don't make claims like that lightly.  The two productions was flawless and so well executed.  And of course there is something quite incredible about being able to watch a British theatre production on the other side of the planet.  If you haven't caught any yet, you have to!  We also found out that cinemas over here are lovely; comfy, quirky, individual and often independent; quite a different experience to the vast majority of cinemas back home.  

Believe it or not we didn't spend all of our time indoors, and did manage a trip out to Zealandia.  Zealandia is a 225 hectare valley a stone's throw away from the city centre (in fact, just about walkable from the city centre, although the cable car is a far more pleasant way to make your way up the hill to Kelburn) where they are dedicated to recreating the landscape as it would have been before the first human settlers arrived 700 years ago.  Before the arrival of humans, the land was completely devoid of mammalian life (apart from bats), and was a thriving paradise for numerous unique species of birds and reptiles.  In order to attempt to recreate this environment, a huge Jurrasic Park style fence (well not quite, it's not electrified) has been erected surrounding the entire area, and the park has been (as far as possible) purged of mammals, with ongoing efforts to catch the ones that do get in.  Bags are checked on the way in for small rodents, cats, possums, monkeys(!) and other sneaky stowaways.  The day that we visited was fairly drizzly but if anything this added to the atmosphere; it is a fairly large site so it often feels pretty isolated while wandering round the native bushland, listening to the bird song and keeping an eye out for Weta and Kaka.  The landscape has been so vastly altered by the arrival of humans that the project is being carried out on an impressively epic scale and time-frame; they aim to have achieved their goal of a pre-human habitat in 500 years time!  Many native birds were actually on the verge of extinction and Zealandia has played a vital part in the halt of their decline, and it has had the knock-on effect of re-introducing some rare birdlife to the wider Wellington area. A very interesting place indeed!

We quickly settled into life in Wellington, and enjoyed watching the Olympic coverage with our sporty flatmates and had a ping-pong table erected for the occasion.  One of my colleagues hosted an International Food Night (in reflection of the cultural diversity of the employees; Chilean, Polish, Indian, Irish, American, French, Chinese, Indonesian, Samoan and of course Kiwi and British!) which was great fun.  We took along Cornish Pasties (pronounced 'PAY-sties' here weirdly enough, as in "you're looking a bit pasty!") and a Bakewell Tart which went down a treat.  My favourite dish of the night was an Indian curry made with semolina.  Sounds gross but was honestly very tasty!  There was also some good Sushi and South American cheese pastries.  I joined Wellington Community Choir and a book club.  Our first book to review was The Kite Runner, handy seeing as I'd read it before, and it was a great opportunity for meeting new people.

As you can see, we've been keeping ourselves busy, and are getting ourselves into a routine as well as still enjoying exploring and experiencing our temporary home town.  The clocks have now gone forward and summer is finally showing it's face on occasion. Hopefully we'll get a bit more up-to-date on the blog in the comings weeks!


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