A Walk to the Top of Mount Victoria

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Trust me, I came to Wellington prepared for hilly walks and hikes.  J kindly bought me hiking boots last Christmas and although I really love them, I think it's quite early for me to be wearing them. I am saving them for longer and more challenging hikes. And so when we went up Mt Victoria, I was wearing my flip-flops. I know I have the stupid tendency to dress up inappropriately at times, choosing fashion over comfort so forgive me if you come across photos of me like the one below. But don't worry, I have bought a new pair of trainers since and I have been wearing them regularly especially if I know that we will be walking uphill or long distance.

Going back to Mt Victoria, we are fortunate enough to live in this suburb because it is a walking distance to a lot of beautiful places in Wellington including the most talked about Mt Victoria lookout. Although we could have driven or taken the bus (20) to the summit, we chose to go on foot so we could take some photos and explore the area a bit more. Luckily, the weather was very good at that time so we really enjoyed the walk. Some parts of the hill were a little bit steep and slightly rocky, but majority of the trails were good. And don't worry about getting lost as there are road signs everywhere .

Apparently there are several other ways to get to the peak of Mt Victoria- one of which has better scenic views. I'm not quite sure which way this is but I am guessing it is the route from Oriental Bay. We took the Majoribanks Road route up to Hawker street and then  to Moeller Street. From the top of Moeller Street, we turned right to the Lookout Walkway and from there, we found our way to the Lookout. This route may not have given us scenic views, but we walked through the forest amongst beautiful trees.

Before we reached the summit, we came across the Byrd Memorial and a bronze cannon. 

And then finally, the stunning panoramic view of Wellington from the summit:

Yes we saw the amazing 360 view of Wellington but we didn't get to see one other important thing in Mt Victoria - the location of The Lord of the Rings. We were not aware of this at that time, but when I found out about it, I told J and we went back last Sunday to look for it. Not that I am a fan of the trilogy (yet- as I have not seen the films), but I think it is always nice to see movie locations.

Anyhow, so we went back but unfortunately, some blogger and google maps failed us -and yes I am putting the blame on them. We followed a map provided by a blogger but got lost instead. We were not  that  desperate to find the location this time as we live just around the corner and we could just go back  some other time,  but we thought it would be better if we didn't.

So we walked and walked until we found this trail that we hoped could lead us to the famous spot where "the Hobbits hid from the Black Rider" and where "they listened for the Nazgul". Whatever that means. After a few minutes of debating whether or not the tree we saw was actually the Hobbit's hideaway, J decided to climb up a tree while I carried on walking until I saw this weird creature coming towards us. No, it was not one of the Hobbits nor Gollum. It was someone or something with long hair. His hair was all over his face and he was walking like a caveman. I grabbed J's attention and as soon as he saw the creature, he jumped off the tree and we started running. I mean it could have been nothing really. He probably was just one of the hikers who happened to have a long hair (bless him), but believe me it was so scary. I thought he looked like a zombie but J thinks he was more  like an Orc. Whoever or whatever he was, he scared the hell out of us. 

I searched for "unusual person at Mt Vic" on google, but I didn't find anything related to what we saw so perhaps no one has ever had that experience. Or maybe people just don't exaggerate things as much as I do. Or perhaps we ignored the sign: 

So we decided that maybe we should just do the Lord of the Rings tour to avoid getting lost and finding weird creatures. :)

tintin x

Our First Long Distance Drive Outside Wellington - to Cape Palliser Lighthouse, Wairarapa

Friday, 19 February 2016

Last weekend, J and I hit the road and enjoyed the most scenic views to Cape Palliser - the southernmost part of the North island. The whole experience left me in awe as we passed by beautiful landscapes and drove over the picturesque Rimutaka mountain range

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the whole adventure, there was just this 15 minute part of the journey that made me really uneasy and that was the drive over Rimutaka Hill Road. The road although structurally good, was steep and winding. I was so scared that I couldn't even drop my left arm from the grab handle (or others call it the "Oh, sh*t" bar).  I never liked traveling over mountains to be honest. I used to force myself to sleep whenever I went up to Baguio in my university days so that I wouldn't feel the bus going up Marcos Highway. Unfortunately,  I don't sleep in a moving vehicle (that much) anymore. Instead, I have turned into this annoying old lady who constantly tells the driver to be careful, to watch out for sharp turns and to slow down. Not your ideal passenger perhaps but poor J, he doesn't really have much choice, does he?

Anyway, from the Rimutaka Hill, the road ahead  was mostly flat and empty.

Within thirty minutes we reached a small town called Pirinoa.  The first thing that caught my eyes as we entered the town was a very small church - the smallest church that I have ever seen. I didn't expect to see such a quaint church in the middle of farmlands. 
Burnside Church, Pirinoa

As the village looked very small, I was not even sure if they had a local cafe. But lo and behold, they had one and it's apparently the first in the village. I'm glad we found this coffee shop,  otherwise we would have missed out on a good experience. The Land Girl coffee shop  may have looked like an old warehouse to me from afar, but when I walked closer and went inside I was wowed by the beautifully designed little cafe. The ambiance was so welcoming and very cosy. The colours of the furniture were eye-friendly and the stuff that were on sale were really cute. Yes, The Land Girl is not just a coffee shop, it is also a proper shop. You can buy most things from there like clothes, books, jewelries, lotions, arts and crafts and homeware. And before I forget why we went there in the first place, their latte was very good. 
The Land Girl Coffee Shop
Pirinoa Station
Pirinoa 5772
New Zealand

The more or less than half an hour drive through Lake Ferry Road led us to Cape Palliser Road, where we were greeted by one of the most stunning sea-views I have seen in my life so far. 

Further along were backdrops of beautiful mountains. 

And more amazing colours of the sea. 

Majority of the roads to the Lighthouse were paved , however there were a couple of rocky and dusty roads that we had to drive through. Also, the bridges were one way only. Apart from that,  it was a straightforward journey. 

There were more than 250 steps up to the lighthouse (I overheard a boy telling his parents that it's 251 not 253). It was not a bad climb for me, but if you are scared of heights it could be a little bit challenging especially going down. But regardless, you will be rewarded with amazing views.
The unmanned Cape Palliser Lighthouse

From the lighthouse, we headed back to Lake Ferry Road to have lunch at Lake Ferry hotel. People are raving about the hotel's fish and chips being the best in this part of New Zealand, but we were disappointed as they only had snack menu at that time. So J had their chicken sandwich and I had buffalo wings instead which were also good.

The restaurant has the beautiful view of Lake Onoke which is definitely a bonus especially on a glorious day.
Lake Ferry Hotel
2 Lake Ferry Road
New Zealand, 5772

It really sounds like we had a long day but we actually still missed a few things on this trip. Somehow we forgot about the fur seals which were just on the rocks at the bottom of the lighthouse. It would have also been nice to see the Putangirua Pinnacles and the fishing village of Ngawi. 

J mentioned about going back that way to go to Martinborough for wine tasting, but I know that this means going over the Rimutaka range again. I think I will need some time to recondition myself for this trip.

Our day trip to Cape Palliser Lighthouse was indeed enjoyable. I would say you should visit this place if you happen to be in the lower part of the North Island. It's a worthy 2 1/2-hour drive.

tintin x

A Walk Round The Bays in Wellington

Friday, 12 February 2016

Between conquering my phobias (agoraphobia and aquaphobia) and my poor sense of direction was my desire to walk around the beautiful bays and beaches of Wellington. At first I was unsure because from what I noticed, the roads are winding and can be very quiet at times. I really couldn't imagine myself alone on the road next to the water, not knowing which way to go. Just the thought of it made me cringe. But I knew that somehow it's got to be done because otherwise I will be missing out on a very good experience. Everyday when I took J to work, I saw quite a few people running or walking around the bay. Although I was very jealous then,  I knew that I couldn't do it just yet. Until one day I woke up hyper and wanted to challenge myself. So I took Jamie to work as usual and instead of taking the bus, I ran back home. At first I was nervous but eventually I calmed down. I didn't realise how calming the sound of the water and the smell of the sea can be. Pardon my ignorance but my inability to swim and my fear of the water overshadowed my genuine appreciation of the sea. But after that first run I felt that I might have finally overcame my fear. So one day, I brought my camera and walked back home (instead of run).  It was rather hot that day and it was only quarter past nine in the morning, but I didn't care because I was well prepared for this walk. I wore a baseball cap for the first time in a very long time, had my sunglasses on and applied a copious amount of sunscreen lotion. Although I was sun-ready, I wasn't sure if I was camera-ready. 

As I am an amateur photographer, it took me a while to take my first shot as I didn't and still don't know how to use my camera properly. And for someone like me who is stubborn and lazy to read the instruction manual, I think it will take me a long while before I learn how to fully operate my camera and take photos that will fully satisfy me. For now though, I just have to settle with my limited photography skills.

Anyway, as soon as I set foot on the first corner from Miramar Avenue where I could see water, this is what I saw:

Further along is the Evans Bay Marina:
Evans Bay

That time I was a being a proper photographer-wanna-be as I spent some time looking for objects and/or subjects (not sure which one is properly used) to take photographs of. I found it most difficult to look for the best angle though. As I have always said in the past, I don't have the perspective when it comes to photography. But I guess I just need to practice.

If only it wasn't too hot that morning then I could have taken a few more minutes to immerse myself into the amazing view.

Half way through my walk was this lovely beach:
Balaena Bay

And just under two hours later, I could finally see the city. 

Oriental bay is only about less than ten minutes walk down the hill from where we live and it's very close to the city centre. I enjoy running around here because it has a lively atmosphere especially if the weather is good. There are a lot of activities going on all the  time like cycling,skate boarding, walking, running, paddling, surfing, swimming, kayaking and  fishing.  It's a very popular spot for both locals and tourists.
Oriental Bay

On average it takes at least one hour and fifteen minutes to walk form Miramar to Oriental Bay. But because I took photos along the way, it took me twice as long. 

I have never done anything like this before and I felt like a completely different person when I got home. Although I am almost 40, I am not that mature and confident in a lot of things - walking alone around the bays in a different city included. I wouldn't necessarily do anything like this anywhere but because I feel safe in Wellington, I did it. The whole experience was liberating and it gave me a different outlook on (my) life. 

I have done another walk after this without taking photos and it was simply amazing. If you happen to visit Wellington, I suggest you walk around the bays. It is honestly a beautiful experience.

tintin x

Our First Month in Wellington

Monday, 8 February 2016

Where did the time go? I can't believe we have been in Wellington for a month now. It feels like only yesterday when I was at the airport worrying about whether I could even go past immigration or not.  Ha, a lot of good things have happened since. Life remains imperfect of course, but it's good enough for me to enjoy what I have here. The truth is, I already love Wellington (although my hair and my skin don't) and I am very blessed to have been given the chance to live here. It's a ridiculously beautiful city and so laid-back. I have a lot more to say about this amazing place, but it's hard for me to put them into words right now. Maybe next time.

For the meantime, let me tell you what J and I have been up to in the last four weeks.

The first two weeks were all about finding our way around the city. Sure it can be so daunting to be (or live in that matter) in a new city and not know anything about it. To be honest before coming here, I didn't do any research on Wellington. I just didn't do anything. I think packing and unpacking for almost three weeks before  we left London wore me out completely. J did a good job though because he did some reading, so we were okay. The credit also goes to J's company for first of all finding us a good hotel that is convenient to everything  and secondly, for being so considerate in letting J out of work most days so we could sort out basic things like buying sim cards, opening bank account, etc. This actually made our adjustment period less stressful and more fun. If anything, I am more overwhelmed by the number of beautiful places (yes I know now) that we must go to. I'm not sure if a year would be enough to see them all, but I would be equally grateful even if I can only manage to see some.

One of the first places we visited was the Te Papa Museum (national museum of New Zealand). The DreamWorks  animation exhibition was on at that time and it was so cool to see how sketches of our favourite films (like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda) were made into movies. And for NZ$15, it was well worth it.

What I enjoyed the most though was the interactive area where J drew himself. 

Now it's up to you to believe if J really looks like this:

Also I found this and really enjoyed reading the comments:

The biggest surprise of the month I think is the fact that I have not made any friends yet. It's out of character really but I just don't feel the need to have a physical friend right now. I am enjoying my own company and I want to make the most out of it, because I know that as soon as I start working I'll definitely be making friends. I never had this experience before and I am absolutely loving it. But don't get me wrong, I am no "Billy No Mates". I am actually in regular contact with most of my friends from all over the world via messenger, whatsapp and viber. So I'm not totally friendless. I just don't have a physical friend- that is all. I actually know a couple of ladies in New Zealand and I met up with them recently. 

I met up with Gayle during my jetlag days so pardon my appearance on the photo below. Anyway, I used to work with her at St Thomas' (so tempting to put an "S" after the apostrophe) in London and I got the idea of a career break from her. She lives in Hamilton which is about 6 hours drive from Wellington. We have been in touch on and off since she left for New Zealand more or less than a year ago.  I'm glad that I have met up with her because she is going back to London soon.

Manang Mabel on the other hand is my brother's friend and kumare. I haven't seen her in person in a very long time. We only communicated randomly on facebook. As much as I was embarrassed to reach out, I took the courage to send her a message to let her know that I was coming to New Zealand. Without hesitation, she offered to meet up and so here we are.....

It was just so nice to see familiar faces in an unfamiliar place. 

I guess our biggest achievement in the last month is finding a new flat and moving in. If I can be totally honest, this has been the easiest move that I have ever done in my life. Believe me. Until now I keep asking myself how did it happen. I just can't believe that regardless of how big this move was, everything went so smoothly. When we shipped most of our belongings to Wellington, we were worried that they may get delayed for a long time and worse, get lost in transit (based on reviews of the company that we used), but much to our delight none of this happened. We also thought that it would be stressful to find an apartment but with the help of J's company, we were able to find a good one after just a couple of viewings. And now, we have been living in our new home for a couple of weeks and we're loving it!

It's just so surreal on my part that after 15 years of either living in a studio flat or sharing with people, I finally have a place I can call my home. You have no idea how much this means to me. It's because I am a "homemaker" by nature and I love doing household chores. Thanks to J, this is another dream come true.

So let me tell you our journey to making this two bedroom apartment into a cosy home. First of all, we had five big boxes to unpack, two luggage, three weekend bags and two carry-on bags. Secondly, the apartment is quite big and I knew when we brought our boxes  the day before we moved that it hasn't been cleaned. And because we had to move in as soon as possible, I volunteered to clean the whole flat- much to the delight of the land lady (who  by the way is also called Christine). We bonded over my eagerness to clean and I think this is the reason why she keeps telling me that she likes me in the flat.

It took me a day to disinfect the whole flat (to my standard) and then another day for (both of) us to unpack our belongings. I really don't mind doing all the cleaning in any flat that I move into because at the end of the day I am the one living in it. Besides, even if it has been cleaned, I would still clean it anyway. It's the OCD you see. So no matter how tired I become, I don't mind for as long as I know that my house is clean because otherwise I'll have the shivers and goose bumps and I won't settle.

I must admit that although the whole process went easily, there were still some unavoidable minor difficulties. The most difficult part for me was buying bits and pieces for the flat. We thought we won't need much as we're only here temporarily but we ended up buying loads of stuff. I found this challenging only because J was at work most days and I was left on my own to buy the things that we needed. I mean I could have waited for the weekend so we could have done it together but the OCD that I am, I couldn't wait. I wanted to settle straight away. And this is why I went to town on my own everyday. Somehow I think the weather had something to do with my discomfort. It was quite hot those days and walking around town in the heat was too uncomfortable for me. But I shouldn't really complain because despite the little inconvenience, I enjoyed furnishing our flat.

We live in a hilly area called Mount Victoria or Mt Vic (will blog about it later). Although going up the hill is most of the time a struggle, it's worth it because it is a very nice area. It is quiet and it feels safe around here. There is a bus stop a few steps away from our flat, or you can walk to town in just 15 minutes. And the view? I am grateful everyday to be waking up to such an amazing view.

I guess it's safe to say that I am now settled. J, the last time I asked him was quite unsure. But last night when I reminded him that we've been here for a month, he said that it feels longer than that. I don't know what to call that but at least I know that he is slowly settling in somehow. I think generally I just do things in great haste (which according to the Bible makes mistakes). Ha.

So what else have we been up to? J works five days a week while I am sort of a plain "housewife" at the moment. But I don't think this novelty is going to last any longer as it is beginning to take its toll on me. Although I am very capable of finding things to occupy my time and to entertain me (yes, facebook and instagram), I can not be jobless for a long time. And for this reason, I have already applied for jobs (hurray). And no, I am not going to be a nurse here. I am taking this opportunity to take on  a different role. I believe that I have other skills outside nursing that I need to develop, so I decided not to apply for New Zealand registration. And the best news is, I now have a work visa so I'm sure I will find a job sooner than later. Who knows, my dream to work in retail will soon come true. Ha, too bad they don't have Zara here. 

So far we have been spending our weekends driving around the bays in our car Fumptoid and visiting some tourist spots. One thing that I love about Wellington is that everywhere is beautiful. You drive 15 minutes away and you see beautiful bays and beaches. Or if you are not that keen to go anywhere far, you can just stay around the city and be equally satisfied with its beauty. Or in our case, we can just sit in our balcony and enjoy the view of the bay and the city. :)

We have also joined the gym and have started going at least three times a week. I have been running but not as much yet because the weather has been very good lately (meaning it's been really hot) and I can't really run in the heat. Another thing that is frustrating me right now is the fact that I have been running at a slower pace - from 5:25/km to 6:01/km. But hopefully I can run more soon - only if I can convince myself to wake up earlier in the mornings.

I guess I have said enough about our first month in Wellington. We have few months ahead of us and although I am hoping and praying that everything will be as good as the first month, I am also aware that some things  may not work out the way we want them to. But hey, it's all part of the journey and I am ready as ever to join the ride and just enjoy it no matter how bumpy it can get. 

For now, I am just grateful.

tintin x

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