After a bit over a week on the New Zealand's gorgeous South Island I was moving back up to the North Island. I took a morning bus from Nelson to Picton, basically just over one big hill, straight to the Picton ferry terminal. I could already check my bag in the ferry that would leave in about two hours so I had some time to go explore Picton!
Picton is probably mostly known for the ferry connection but it was a nice little town. It had a bit more modern feel to it, compared to the other South Island towns that I visited. The harbor area is the prettiest part of town with manicured lawns and palm trees, the bay was full of sailboats, motorboats and yachts. There’s some pricey cafés with views to the bay or just can just take a seat in the park.
In the afternoon I was boarding the InterIslander ferry (52 NZ$ for one way) that takes you through the picturesque Sounds from Picton to Wellington in about 3,5 hours. It was a nice change to not take a bus or a plane and the ride reminded me of the ferries that cruise between Helsinki and Stockholm – the ferry was a bit smaller but it had the usual plain cafés and restaurants, a cinema and some play areas for the kids. I was mostly just sitting outside on the top deck which is the best place to be in good weather. When we got out to the Cook Strait the winds got very strong so I bundled myself up and went in to watch a movie on my notebook. It was about 4pm when we arrived to Wellington, picked up my bag and headed downtown to my hostel.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand (despite the fact that Auckland is the biggest city and the most common stopover point for all the international and intercontinental flights). But Wellington is clearly different than the small & quaint South Island towns. There are lots of skyscrapers covered in mirror windows, the CBD (Central Business District) is full of glitzy shops and you’ll see people in suits busily walking from one meeting to another. My hostel was right in the center and it was easy to get everywhere by foot. There were some lovely areas to walk around all around the harbor. The weather can be an issue though – now it was changing every two minutes and it was quite windy. Someone had actually claimed it is the windiest place in NZ!
There’s some nice free things you can enjoy in Wellington. I’d particularly recommend the Te Papa museum. Most of the exhibits there are free, covering the local flora and fauna, the islands’ Maori history and an exhibit of earthquakes and geology with lots of interactive displays. You can easily spend half a day there but even if you don’t have that much time it’s worth to pop in. There and in some parts of the CBD you’ll also find free wifi (it doesn’t always work though). Wednesdays you might get a free drink in some of the bars, me & a South African lady managed to get a free glass of sparkling wine. If you stay at the Nomads Capital hostel you’ll get a free evening meal too (6-7pm in the adjoined Blend bar). For some really nice eats (not free but cheap) you should walk along the Cuba street, there’s tens of them there. For a great view of the city you can go up Mount Victoria, you’ll see the sea on both sides!
Dancing in Wellington
There’s a couple places for us latin dancers to go in Wellington. I was in town for the Salsadrome / Zoukarama / Tango Milonga night which is on every other Friday night at the Whitirea Performance Centre. There are various classes before the party including salsa, bachata, tango and zouk. I arrived at 9pm when the classes should end and the social dancing begin. As is standard on dance events like this the classes were running late and the salsa class was still on and a bachata class would even follow that.
A zouk friend of mine, Hamish, set up some music in another studio so we could start dancing while they were still doing the classes. In the actual party the played mostly salsa that night with some zouks, bachatas and sambas every now and then. I was doing great progress in my salsa and danced a lot that night. I was even asked to join my first salsa rueda and we did a bachata rueda too after that: it was so much fun! I danced pretty much every song that night and the time went really fast – the party wrapped up at about 12.30.
Regular zouk socials and parties
Tuesdays there is a mix of salsa, bachata, zouk etc - at Hooch Bar on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month and at Havana bar on the other Tuesdays.
Every other Friday there is a Salsadrome, Zoukarama and Tango Milonga dance event at the Whitireia Performance Centre (25 Vivian St). There are beginners lessons from 7.30pm and social dancing 9pm til midnight on two dancefloors – salsa/bachata/zouk on the third floor and tango on the second floor. Entry is $10.
Salsa Therapy organizes zouk and salsa parties on some Saturdays at the Crossways Community Centre (6 Roxburgh St.) - cover charge $10. Check their site for dates.
Zouk classes, workshops and events in Wellington
At the moment there are zouk classes on Tuesdays at the Salsa TherapyDance School, both beginners and intermediate classes.
There’s lots of small and big events in town all around the year, the most prominent is probably the NZ Pacific Salsa Congress 1-3 Jun 2012. There will be zouk on all levels in the event.
For more info on the zouk scene happenings you can ask to join the Wellington zoukers’ community on Facebook.