Before we came to New Zealand, I`d never

  •  seen so many people walking around barefoot. In the streets, shops, even in class. You do read about Kiwis’ love for jandals (flip-flops), but the barefoot thing was a surprise
  •  talked to strangers as much. From fellow hikers, who say “Good morning’ when you pass them on a trail and even stop for a chat at times, to people stopping and offering you help and directions if they see you standing with a map, looking confused, and fellow passengers on a bus, joining in your conversation or once again offering advice and directions. In Wellington, even as you are walking down a street and catch someone’s eye, they`ll smile at you, or nod, or say hi.
  • had my scalp sunburned. I’d also never put on so much sunscreen. New Zealand’s sun (or rather, the sun in New Zealand) is famously fierce and sunscreen is a must. Even with that, I got sunburn in places it hadn`t happened before – like under my nose, a bit of my underarm, and, of course, my scalp. That’s why I almost always wear a hat here.
  • seen so much wildlife. In just 4 months here, we`d seen seals, a penguin, a possum, lots of hedgehogs, all kinds of birds including kaka, tui, wood pigeon, huge seagulls and white ducks, bunnies, tuatara, gecko –  and that’s not counting visits to the zoo or Karori sanctuary.
  • drunk so much good wine. Enough said.
  • met so many cool people in such a short period of time – from our neighbours, whose party we sneaked into and became friends to all the people we met at Couchsurfing meetings.
  • eaten such delicious lamb. Or beef. Or avocados. Or mussels. Especially mussels.
  • seen such expensive bread and eggs. Living here is quite expensive, but it’s so worth it. And I see the point of paying around 17$ for a 5-pack of rubbish bags (and they are the only ones you can use), since it encourages people to recycle and compost more (incidentally, recycling bags are free). And you get a box for recycling glass.
  • walked up and down hills so much. Good exercise, but quite hard if you have lots of shopping bags or are full of food and drink. Wellington is such a hilly city! It also provides heaps of hiking trails and vantage points.
  • been battered by wind so much. When we went to Red Rocks reserve on the south coast of the North Island, the southerly wind was so strong, it almost bowled us over at times (and neither of us are easy to bowl over). When we lived on top of a hill in Kelburn, I was kept awake by wind hitting the house – you could hear it and feel it, and I thought the house might take off at times.
  • been so cold inside a house in the summer. Lots of Wellington houses are wooden, which is the safest material in an earthquake (and with Wellington being located on two faults, it’s a real concern), and fair enough, but the houses are not well insulated. In New Zealand, as soon as the sun goes down, temperature drops substantially – and I don`t know if it’s because New Zealand is an island, or something to do with the thin ozone layer, but even if it was 25C, you`ll start freezing after sunset, especially if it’s windy. The temperature inside your house plummets as well, and if it’s windy, you might as well wrap yourself in fleece (in fact, when we come back to New Zealand, I`m buying a fleece onsie). With electricity and power in general being so expensive, you`ll think twice before turning your heating up. By the way, most of Wellington’s electricity comes from wind turbines – how cool is that?
  • said Thank you driver when leaving a bus (and hello on embarking)
  • seen such a cool little capital. Wellington is not your typical capital city, with its population of only 400,000. It’s very clean, the air is absolutely clear and you can see for miles and miles  – you can even see the South Island from where we are in Owhiro Bay. The water on the city beach at Oriental Bay is crystal clear  you`d never know you were minutes away from the center of a city
  • IMG_4696
  • seen gorgeous snow-capped mountains. Granted, they can be found elsewhere in the world, I was absolutely stunned into speechlessness when I caught my first glimpse of the Southern Alps.  I also had never seen glaciers, glacial lakes or alpine lakes. IMG_0171
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