It seems quite a strange thing to do, to write, post, and hope that someone, somewhere, reads what you have written. And yes, this is my first ever blog post.
To make matters worse, from where I sit, I really am as far away from anywhere as I could possibly be. Well, perhaps that’s only if you regard New Zealand to be “the plug hole of the pacific”. While I admit that I may previously have held such sentiments, my views may have to change. The place I am in is actually rather more awake than the dosy, quiet, sheep-filled land I had imagined.
In fact, Wellington has far surpassed my imaginings. As the months drew excruciatingly closer to my date of departure from South Africa’s sunny shores, I constructed all sorts of ideas and designs of what it would be: from klein dorpie to a windswept town. However, as the little plane drew in towards the glistening lights outlining the coved-coastline I saw a large, impressive city rise up before me (out of the tiny, slightly smudged window). And there was not the slightest breath of wind. Windy Welly was certainly not living up to my expectations.
It is always rather strange arriving somewhere new in the nighttime. Lights whizz by, and routes and directions blur into one another, until you, quite frankly, have very little idea of where you have ended up. Especially if your inner compass is already out by a few degrees under normal circumstances. We crossed a main road, past some scantly dressed girls and through a tunnel. The harbour was a mirror. Up a hill and down again. Across a bridge (which is evidently constructed over Wellington’s largest fault line). Finally, after a couple more hills, we have arrived at the little clapboard house where I will be spending my first few days. Bed.
Wellington is well known for its weather, in particular the southerlies which rip through the Cook Strait and cause the city to be almost constantly windy. Situated in the “Roaring 40s”, this is no surprise. However, the last few days have been superb, with only the softest of breezes daring to show its face. And the sun has been out. Most people say that I am lucky, which makes me a little bit worried, since I have been sleeping between wintry sheets, a down duvet, and a cosy blanket, and a jersey is my constant companion. Today the wind and drizzle has arrived, and the sky is a dreary grey.
But dreary Wellington certainly is not! The city and its people are hip, edgy, and colourful (despite the fact that most don a classic black look). The first day of walking through the city was full of mixed emotions and tinging hunger (I couldn’t bring myself to buy any food, as it all seemed so extortionately expensive!) – it was exciting and enthralling, but I also felt a bit like a plaas meisie walking about a high end boutique of the fashion concious. However, more exploring has exhibited that there are normal people here too (as well as grunge, emo, and some strange, indescribable fashion faux pas). I am relieved.
The streets of the city are wide, and filled with an assortment of architecture and styles. There are many older Victorian buildings, stone work, and wooden cottages; contrasted by towering contemporary glass structures, modern brick high-rises, and the accentual Beehive. These are filled with offices, vintage clothing gems, cafes, food, politics and boutiques. A well as many art houses, clubs and retro cinemas. I am itching to start actually living here and taking part in the thriving life of this city.
Just up the hill from the CBD is the university – its most iconic building (Hunter) stands out prettily against the green suburbs and tall buildings. Almost everything is “up the hill” in Wellington. I discovered this when I took a little stroll through the Botanical Gardens to find where my new house is. What seemed (from Google maps and the tourist brochure I held in my hand) to be flat and grassy was actually a maze of rises and valleys through lush bush and ferns. It was so steep that I was out of breath in a matter of minutes. And when I arrived at the top, it was only to discover that my house was all the way down again on the other side! But the view it conjured was well worth it, as I gazed over the city rising out of the turquoise-blue waters, and the distant green hills, and the two large passenger ships lazing out in the bay. Para, para, paradise!
And to top it off what could be better than a cool, delicious feijoa ice-cream from Kaffee Eis to be enjoyed on the rocks along the promenade, soaking up the mild sun, dipping my tired feet in the water, and shrieking as a large sting-ray drifted past. Sweet as.
Its quite different, being a lonesome tourist. When you see something point-out-able, you quickly realise that there is in fact no one to point out to. There is no argument of where to go next, or how long to spend at the museum. There is also no one to talk to. So, the feeling is quite liberating, but also desperate and lonely. At first it is shocking, and I admit that there were a coupe of moments that first day where I had to strangle a sob and remind myself that I was actually slightly cool. But then I began to enjoy the feeling – taking a slow wander around the bay along the promenade with myself; sniggering at the people trying to catch a tan on the minimalistically sunny beach at Oriental Bay; and spending hours trawling Te Papa, the museum of New Zealand. The museum is a work of art – beautifully architectured and designed, and filled with treasures and information. It tells New Zealand’s story, from how it formed through shaking earthquakes and glowing lava to how people have inhabited and domesticated the land through the ages, as well as oodles of cultural heritage, Maori art, artifacts and interactive displays.
And so, after these first few days, I feel like maybe I can fit into this distant place. And perhaps its not so distant after all. I can even Skype my beloveds as much as I like. The internet is super fast.