October 31, 2013
October 30th marked my last day exploring Auckland and my initiation into Wellington, my current home! There’s a bit of a playful rivalry between those who live in Auckland vs. Wellington: those who hate Auckland LOVE Wellington and those who hate Wellington love Auckland. I happen to be in the first category, although I wouldn’t say I “hate” Auckland… I just don’t think the city vibed well with me (especially after living in LA and working at the Disneyland Resort, which both involve huge swarms of people).
I made the most of my last day in Auckland by walking around the Ponsonby residential neighborhoods (my way of staying out of the busier downtown Auckland scene). The architecture of the homes and steep hills are definitely similar to those in SF. No matter where I walked, I had to go downhill and eventually uphill, though… not a fan of those uphill walks, especially when carrying 14.5 lbs on your back (I only know the weight of the backpack since it had to get weighed at the airport). I attempted to find a good cup of soup, but everything was super pricey ($8NZD for soup? I’ll pass). I did end up trying my first cup of coffee (a flat white) at a tiny cafe with the sweetest owner ever. She had cat items everywhere in the cafe, so she was one of those crazy cat ladies, but at least she was kind. 😉
I lunched at Victoria Park (in honor of my BFF), a beautiful park leading into the hub of Auckland and also home to a little skate park. I quite enjoyed my chicken sandwich from a market nearby, especially since it was plain and not drenched in oil and dressing (as most stuff in America is)… yes, I despise rich food (don’t laugh, Jimmy), so NZ is definitely up my alley.
I also ended up meeting two lovely ladies from Northern California who had been traveling in Australia for two weeks and NZ for 8 days. It was inspiring to hear all about their adventures (sulfur pools in Rotorua, glowworm caves, holding koalas named Tinkerbell and Eeyore, diving the Great Barrier Reef, luging). Mom, take notes– they’re hip and they travel tons, so you could be like them and do the same!
When I checked into my Jetstar flight (the one which brought me to Wellington), I had to pay $135 in excess baggage fees, which is a hard lesson learned for a female traveler who ends up bringing too much clothes. Oops. I was amzed by how small and efficient the domestic gate for Jetstar was in comparison to other gates at general airports (LAX, HNL, OGG, SFO)… probably because the inter-country flights, like Auckland to Wellington, don’t have as many crazy tourists coming and going. The hour-long flight wasn’t as bad as many described (especially since landing in Wellington can be tricky with all the winds)… I was amazed by how picturesque the clouds were when we were flying in the plane. Out of all my times flying, I’ve never seen anything like the clouds we flew through– they looked too fluffy to be real! And within seconds, we headed into a fog of grey followed by some water on our windows, which was like a scene out of “Up” when their balloon house almost gets sucked into a windstorm. There is such a huge difference between Wellington and Auckland… the rural parts of Auckland are definitely more similar, but Wellington overall seems to get more rain and is a lot homier. I loved seeing the waves crashing against the rocks in the ocean from up above, as well as the lights that flickered on in each tiny cottage on the rolling green hills overlooking the sea. I couldn’t help but be excited.
When we touched down, the slogan on one of the airport walls read, “Middle of Middle-earth,” in Lord of the Rings-font, to which the geek inside of me was even more enthralled. I’ve seen countless photos of everything in Wellington but to actually be in the area was another story… very surreal. The airport itself is so small, it’s impossible to get lost (my kind of area!) and it’s beautiful since it’s encased in glass. The main lobby area is home to the giant Gollum model and his fish, which looks even more detailed in person. The baggage claim area had to have been the tiniest area for bags that I have ever seen. It was incredibly easy to retrieve my luggage, at least.
One of my flatmates graciously picked me up from the airport and gave me a quick night tour (since I arrived around 8pm) of Miramar, the area where Weta is based. I was doing my best to contain my excitement upon hearing him point out the soundstages, green screen/studio lot, Park Road Productions and the specific buildings that the bigwig LOTR cast/crew worked at. To any passerbys, the buildings just seem like rundown warehouses without markings (although some are given away by things like a giant troll design over the door or dwarf rendering statues at the base of an entrance gate). My flatmate was so calm and collected when he read off street names like Park Rd. and Stone St., all of which had been mentioned several times in behind-the-scenes documentaries of the LOTR extended edition DVDs. Yes, my heart was content just by getting to see all this stuff from the outside, even if it was at night.
I loved how it was raining when I touched down in Wellington since the city is known for its heavy downpours and cold winds. I was greeted into the three-story house I’m staying at (I’m very, very fortunate… that’s all I can say) with all sorts of horror/Halloween decorations since we’re gearing up for a Halloween party and joint birthday party. My first meal in Wellington was a delicious dinner from Hell’s Pizza: a pizza that looked like the size of a pie, sausages, salad and some divine chicken tenders. The NZ portions are definitely controlled and not as crazy as America’s, which is nice. The leftover pizza box folded into a coffin for the pizza slices, too… how creative can Wellingtonians get?! Instant love. We ended up staying up pretty late putting the final touches on the house (trash bags hanging from the ceiling, fake blood on the walls, cobwebs hung up, sheets draped over big shapes)… it’s awesome. What better way to get welcomed into Wellington than by helping to decorate a haunted house? 😉
Our house is in a beautiful complex/community right next to a rocky beach and tiny park. It’s so quaint and cozy out here. I absolutely loved waking up and looking out of the window at the view of the other homes and high green hills that are similar to that of upper Kula’s. Forestry makes me happy 🙂 We even have a dog park near us, as well as some hiking trails (although I didn’t hike them yet since I didn’t want to blow off the cliff in the rain). Some of the wind and rain can push you sideways, but it’s still doable. I’ve heard that the winters here can be pretty cold, but it’s nothing that hot cocoa and soup can’t fix 🙂 Once my flatmates left for work this morning, I left the house and my pants got drenched– I was at least protected with my boots and raingear, but it gets a little cold when you don’t have rainpants on. 😉 I explored a little town called Kilpirnie and also did some grocery shopping (Pak N’ Save is their version of Costco, but waaay smaller… and yes, mascara does cost $22+ and most food is quite pricier, like $7 for a box of cereal), but once the wind and rain hit harder, I needed to get back and have some ramen and soup. 😛 It’s still difficult to get used to kilometers, kilograms, kJ (no idea how to convert those into calories) being used here, but I guess that comes with time.
Our house is also across the street from the Sheepskin Warehouse, so I stopped by and bought the cutest sheep backpack that doubles as a stuffed animal. Totally unnecessary, but I couldn’t resist. Not like they had any Kiwi bird backpacks, anyway. There was a funny “West Coast Dunny” wooden trap toy on the counter that explodes when you open its door, just to poke fun at the dunnies on the west coast of NZ, apparently… and I learned that dunnies are restrooms out here. Interesting. Quite a few actors have paid a trip to the warehouse, as was seen in photos on the wall, too. Small world.
And I didn’t get lost at all today! It’s pretty hard to, especially when it’s so small in Wellington. If you keep walking, you’ll eventually walk in a roundabout circle. Keep the ocean on your left and you’ll be going toward Miramar; keep the ocean on your right and you’ll be walking toward downtown Wellington. Simple enough, ay? It’s only a 40 min. walk to downtown Wellington, so I’m apt for getting good workouts here.
Wellington is love.