Auckland and Around

My last stop on the epic New Zealand bus tour was Auckland, where my flight was to take off. I decided to skip dolphin swimming in Tauranga and mt. Maunganui due to bad weather (boo!), and left to the lovely suburb of Pukekohe, 30-1.5hrs drive south from central Auckland, to stay with a lovely family of family friends I had never met before. My activities in Pukekohe included reading Dora books to the adorable kids, baking Finnish pulla, and just relaxing.

Little bakers.
Little bakers.

I ventured to Auckland city one day, just so that I could say I have been. Saw the sky tower, walked down Queen Street, went to have some drinks with my friend and his mates, sat in traffic for over an hour. Auckland is “just another big city”, but then again it looked beautiful and had some quirky lanes and they’ve got a waterfront! Sure it is used mostly for containers, but still. Water!

Humongous container for humans to float on water.
Humongous container for humans to float on water.

I could have spent more time in Auckland, but opted for reading Princess stories to the kids instead. The next day was a bit more adventurous, heading off to Matakana farmers’ market at dawn and continuing north to Goat Island marine reserve.

Market vibes
Market vibes
This poodle doesn't mind to be minded
This poodle doesn’t mind to be minded
Find anything you could need for a decent weekend feast
Find anything you could need for a decent weekend feast
Buffalo milk. Yum-mo
Buffalo milk. Yum-mo

In Auckland vicinity, as well as everywhere in Middle Earth New Zealand, one highly benefits from having a vehicle. After checking out the Matakana market, 2nd best market in NZ!, in the wee hours of morning, we continued north to Goat Island, a marine reserve where one can go snorkel, dive, have a wee little trip on a glass bottom boat, or just soak in the sunshine. I just wanted to see the area, and since I had not swam in NZ, I had to tick that off the list, too. As I got used to the water temperature (pleasantly refreshing) and got over the bedazzlement of people wearing wetsuits, I decided to try out snorkelling too. Good times!

Clear waters again!
Clear waters again!

On the way back we stopped to have lunch at a lovely vineyard that was hosting a wedding, and had a nice beach stroll near the city. Not too bad for a last day in New Zealand!

Green pastures and blue skies
Green pastures and blue skies
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Weekend in Queenstown

Queenstown is also known as the activity capital of at least the South, if not whole of New Zealand. This lovely little village in the south-west of the South Island is nested by the lake Wakatipu and offers activities, tours and fun for backpackers as well as travellers with extra cash to spare. You can get your adrenaline fix from skydiving, bungee jumping, zip lining, jet boating, white water rafting and a myriad of other options guaranteed to make a dent in your budget, or if you are more into the scenery and not so keen on getting your heart rate up and pumping, options like wine trails, steam boat cruises, underwater marine observatory or soaking in the sun by a lakefront restaurant might be more your cup of tea.

Lakefront.
Lakefront.
Weird water flying activities.
Weird water flying activities.

I arrived in Queenstown on a Friday evening, not having any plans regarding the weekend (as per usual). On my scouting walk around town I randomly saw a poster in a restaurant window that caught my eye. Kidnap Kid, one of my favourite artists (especially for pre-service prep music), was playing a gig at a bar that same night. What are the odds, for me to randomly arrive in this small town on the other side of the world, the same day that an artist I highly respect, from the UK, is playing in said town – and for me to stumble across the ad? I overcome my doubts and fear of going to a bar alone, let alone sober, and ended up having a solid dance off for 3 hours straight. It was a lovely intimate setting, and I was within touching reach of the dj. After the gig I went to thank him, we had a nice chat and I went to bed happy, sweaty and tired. – Girls only dorm this time, no snoring, winner winner!

Market bustle.
Market bustle.

On Saturday I ventured around town, and went for an impromptu walk along the lake – a walk to Frankton, the village next to Queenstown, that turned out to be 15kms. Had I known I’d be going that far, I would have prepared myself better. After a refreshing shower and sushi lunch (I decided not to cook in Queenstown, since there’s plenty of cooking in limited conditions ahead) I met up with some new friends, an Estonian bus captain and his crew that has shrunk from 4 to just 1, an Italian guy who looks like Jesus. We hung out at the bus that has been converted into a self-contained motor home, cooked and listened to music. Eventually we got around to go to the dump station and supermarket outside of town, where I stocked on dry food for my Franz Josef experience next week. By the time we got back in town it was too late for me to go book a trip to Milford Sound, apparently the 8th wonder of the world, that would have taken the whole Sunday. Bummer. We ended up chilling out with the guys until I was so tired I could barely walk back home, it was a cold night! As soon as the sun sets, the coldness creeps in.

Mobile house.
Mobile house.
Bus cookery: My first bus cooked meal!
Bus cookery: My first bus cooked meal!

On Sunday I felt like the flu I might have caught from the sick people in my room in Christchurch was creeping in, and terrible for not doing the Milford Sound cruise, and I felt like some activity was in place. After wandering and wondering and ruling out options (anything involving heights), I decided to go for a 2.5hr horseback ride in the scenes of Lord of the Rings! It has been a while (read: years and years) since I was last on a horse, but hey, how hard can it be? Apparently so hard that my fellow rider fell off her horse, but that’s a different story. We did ride in some amazing scenery, but let’s be honest: so far all of New Zealand has been equally amazing, whether it appears in a movie or not. We did stop for a picture in front of Isengard, a spot where Taylor Swift also filmed her newest video. After heading back to town, I ate some quinoa sushi by the water, and watched the people and street performers. Later on I met up with a classmate I haven’t seen since…2012! Funny to encounter someone after such a long time, pretty much as far from home as possible. Somehow it was almost midnight before I got to bed, to the lovely snore-free haze of sleep and being awake. I wish I could have had one more day for Milford, but oh well, off to Wanaka in the morning.

Horseback riding in Isengard.
Horseback riding in Isengard.
Traveling in this scenery is surreal every time.
Traveling in this scenery is surreal every time.

A Week in Melbourne

This week is not by any means like every other week, but it definitely has many similarities to others. It seems like the less I plan things, the more fun I end up having!

Friday
It is a public holiday, since it’s the Grand Final of Aussie rules football (AFL) the following day. Wait, what? So no work on Friday, and everything has weird opening hours. I am lucky enough to have a friend lend me his bike since he bought a new one, so I need to learn how to a) ride a road racer and b) learn how to obey the rules. Luckily enough there are heaps of bike lanes in the city.

I go to South Melbourne market, have a bike ride, and spend the evening with a friend in a huge artists’ market browsing through all the wonderful things that would be cool to have but I cannot afford. It’s about 30 degrees warm during the day, so I can easily walk home at night with just one shirt.

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Saturday
The Big Game Day, and I have no clue what to do. A nice bike ride in the morning sun, Southbank-Albert Park-Saint Kilda-Prahran-South Melbourne-Southbank. I do stop at Prahran market as well as stock up on Questbars in the awesome hidden gem, Prahran convenience. Afterwards I decide to join a friend to a pub in Richmond to “watch the game”, more like observe all the interesting Aussie spectacle sports behavior. During the game we come up with plans for the next steps, and decide to head to a random house party in Fitzroy. We take a pitstop in Little Saigon to fill ourselves for the ride and the night. The party turns out to be in a massive dream house that has a sweet sweet pool, and we leave only when we can’t keep our eyes open anymore at 2am. First bikeride in the dark, empty city feels good, probably because it’s again t-shirt weather.

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Sunday
Picnic day. I spend the morning baking stuff (not smart to keep the oven on in the heat), and head to the Carlton Gardens around 2. All other people are pretty much late, so I get pretty frustrated with all the lying down and not doing anything. All in all I end up spending 5 hours at the park, hanging out with friends and meeting new ones. Afterwards we go to St. Kilda to a funky party with singers walking in the crowd while singing. Decent end for the long weekend. And I didn’t even burn in the sun!

Monday
After work I have a dreaded dentists’ appointment, and they suggest they take my wisdom tooth out. Half an hour later I walk out to the heat with one less tooth that they refused to give back me due to Australian law (wtf), and stitches in my swollen mouth. I have banana ice cream for dinner, and wonder if the numbness wears out by the next day.

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Tuesday
After work I go to a bar to work for a few hours, after which I spend the evening with a friend who always makes me want to improve myself in many ways. I miss my wisdom tooth, physically. It hurts.

Wednesday
Free coffee in the park after work, yay! I feel sluggish after not working out for 3 days, so I decide to go to a TRX class. I love the sneaky burn with no jumping and running around.

Thursday
I work 10 hours and find out my F45 class I was looking forward to is cancelled. I get frustrated, go to pilates instead, and don’t feel like I’ve done anything. I take a “little” detour on my way home and decide to bike trough South Yarra and Prahran to Southbank.

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Friday
I have a PT appointment after work and have to ride on some scary roads and a bridge to get there. Worth it, though! I rush to the city to go the Asian food truck festival in Queen Victoria market. What a summery night – warm, good music, loads of people, food!

 

And this was just the beginning of the weekend! (Ok fair enough I worked on Saturday so weekend was just Sunday for me, but I did manage to have a swim, dinner date, and go to a Japanese festival where I wore a kimono and did tea ceremony. Success.)

Dating Sober

Although alcohol has never been a problem to me, I quit drinking altogether about six weeks ago, mainly for 3 reasons: health, money and dating. In Australia (too) it seems like the word ‘first date’ is synonymous to ‘going out for drinks’. By eliminating the possibility of meeting someone over a frosty, or in my case a glass or two of wine, you can pretty easily cut out the people who are meeting you just in the hopes of getting in your pants as soon as possible. Also, I like doing stuff, and new experiences is a way better way to spend time with someone anyways.

Since quitting, I certainly haven’t stop meeting people and become a hermit. I compiled a list of non-alcoholic dates with a friend, and have done a solid job going through the different possibilities.

Ice skating. There is a proper ice skating hall in melbourne, just under the giant ferris wheel. Rent skates for 26 dollars, and either make a fool of yourself or show off your skills.

Studying American English. Audio classes for proper American pronunciation are a fun way of spending time or driving around.

Brunch. Yumm. Even better if you take two dishes to share. And of course coffee.

meditation. Grounding 20 minutes or however long you want to keep it up.

Night drive to the beach. Take in the stunning views of the city after a nice drive. Night time driving is the best! Unless the driver is too tired and forgets that it’s a left-sided traffic.

Drive-in movies and food truck festival. Your average movie experience upgraded!

Chilling out listening to music. Good if the music listened is not only Drake, interesting if it’s French rap. At best you’ll get some new tunes to your Spotify (like Kavinsky, The Weeknd – Odd Look <3)

I don't know how long I'll continue this experiment of mine, perhaps few more weeks. I do believe wine in moderation is good for you, and I don't think I can endure the upcoming picnic season without it.

(No pictures due to not taking any on any of the dates and because I still have the crappy computer that now manages only the basic. Apologies.)

6 things I’ve learned in Melbourne in 6 months

As it is inevitably already August, I realized I am halfway through my (hopefully not last) year in Australia. I’ve lived mostly in Melbourne for the past months, trying to live somewhat ‘normal’ life, but with a refreshing one month holiday up north. I don’t think my Working Holiday experience has been like most backpackers’, but then again I don’t consider myself as one. Hopefully I’ll get to see more of my surroundings these upcoming months, but who knows. Here follows 6 things I have learned these past 6 months.

 

Got double suprised at work just because.
 People are extremely friendly. Of course this can vary from city to another and the outback is a whole other story, but in general Aussies and travelers alike are a friendly bunch with their “howyagoin” greetings and other funny stuff they say. One rather effective way of meeting people is the ever so popular Tinder-game. Just keep your expectations low and don’t expect to meet the love of your life, and you might end up with a few new friends (Or the awkward situation where you think you’re friends, and the other person has other ideas…)!

 

Keep your eyes open, you mever know what comes along
 Timing is everything. This applies to finding a job, a house, even friends! I met my best friends in H&m and on a tram, and I got my current job by walking past it before they had opened. When it comes to work, be persistent. If you are looking for hospitality jobs, even Instagram can help you (@cafejobs_melb)! I am still trying to figure out the sponsorship possibilities, oh dear, they do not make it easy. Some days I wish I was a radiologist or a brain surgeon, just to feel wanted here.

 

Sippin herbal tea in my yogapants before yin class
 Take advantage of cheap fitness trials. Or in my case, intro yoga/pilates passes. most yoga and pilates schools offer intro deals for about 50$ for (unlimited) 2 weeks. I have so far been to 6 different studios offering either only yoga or a combination of yoga and pilates. Besides the CBD, South Yarra is the mecca for stretching activities. At the moment I am doing a free 2 week trial at F45 Port melbourne, doing intensity interval group training, which is pretty much the complete opposite of yoga. I love it after the first class, but the location is rather inconvenient without a car.

 

All the things you learn by just walking around!
 Stay on top of your city game. There’s too many things to do and events to attend, new restaurants popping up, and don’t get me started on my endless “must go” cafe list. In terms of activities, I keep myself aware of my surroundings with newsletters from The Urban List, Broadsheet and TimeOut. If these three are not enough, Concrete Playground is a good addition.

 

My kind of supermarket
 Shop smart. Take advantage of the markets (Queen Victoria especially), and go there in the afternoon. Cheapest produce you can find, no doubt, and the experience is way nicer than going to Safeways or Aldi. I challenge myself not to drown myself in drink coffee every day, both to stay clear of the addiction as well as to save me some dough (to eat out more than ever before).

 

Brunch outside in the dead of winter, not freezing.
 The winter isn’t that bad (if you come from Northern Europe). I was dreading for Melbourne winter that everyone seemed to regard as being from hell, but seriously it’s not unbearably cold, and even during the chillest days you can always just layer up sipping your coffee.