So it was time to leave the South Island and head to the capital of Wellington on the North Island. I had already spent 2 days here previous but I intended to stay here a bit longer this time. I like Wellington, it's a city that doesn't really feel like a city if that makes sense. Very artsy, a great buzz around the place and whats there not to like about being beside a Harbour/Waterfront area anyway! There are a few good things to do around Wellington such as the Zoo, Mount Victoria, Botanical Gardens, Parliament Tour, Te Papa museum and just a walk along the waterfront itself is worth it. The weather does get better as you head north of New Zealand although Welly has a habit of being quite blustery at times, which can turn your walk in the park into a fight for survival. The city centre is pretty containable, nestled within a grid of streets (usually parallel to each other!) with the Waterfront area, Cuba street and Courtney place being the go-to tourist places to find your good food and drink fix. Crime is low in Welly apparently and you know what, I can see why, I busked for 5 days here and during that I seen more creatures roaming around this place than you'd see in a series of X-men. There were Homeless, Maoris, Hippies, Trannies, Gays, White Collars and a fashion sense that couldn't be described or categorised into any one genre. Anything goes in Welly and no one will bat an eye lid, no one gives a s**t and everyone just gets on with it, sweet as bru!
The Welly-5-day Busking Challenge
Since I planned on staying here for a little while, I decided to up the busking a bit. Yup, so I decided to busk for 5 days in a row (Mon - Fri) on Cuba Street. Perpendicular to the waterfront, Cuba street is more or less a pedestrian-only zone with all the funky/snazzy restaurants, coffee shops and bars lined up at either side. So it was just me, with my Indian-purchased-electronics-broken-semi-acoustic-guitar-now-with-cheap-coloured-strings, a money hat and of course the trademark technicolour dreamcoat (100% Nepal cotton by the way!). Busking is a big thing around here so I was never gonna be a novelty, I did however have a decent voice that would certainly project naturally more than any other act I'd seen around. I played for about 2 hours each day usually around noon to just catch the lunch crowd on their way for the snack! The first day I found a good spot beside a big window of a department store. It was central, the only thing was It was near the damn water fountain feature on Cuba Street which can be quite noisy at times certainly when coupled with the surrounding ambience. Day two was up at the top end of the street near a tattoo shop, I got another local artist to duet with me this time. She came to me that day and said "Your in my spot", I replied; "Well he took my spot" pointing down the street, "I'm nearly finished here, how about joining me?". She had a sweet voice and a carried a ukelele with her (can't remember her name). Whatever about the music, I thought we looked like a pretty good outfit. The third day I had to move to a different spot, outside a shutdown shop, opposite the background music of an Irish bar. My phone was robbed that morning within the hostel so I was in a bad mood but the show went on none the less, it also didn't help that it was very blustery with a heavy overcast cloud looking like expelling rain at any given moment. Day 4 was back to my original spot with the best income of the week despite the heavy downpour at times. On Day 5 I again went to the same spot to finish off the week of busking. What do ya reckon, on the last day the local Councillor swung by for a visit. At first he took a business card from beside my money hat and I was like, yea he wants to check out the details of this amazing talent. Little did I know really what he was doing was using the name on the card to check if I'd registered with the council for a busking license. Yup, so he arrived back half an hour later, stood beside me looked into my eyes (which I instantly knew what he was looking for) and said "Do you have a license?" ,"Nope I replied" with the usual grin of what harm sure and let me off will ya face! In fairness he didn't really mind and had actually brought the Wellington busking guide and a busking application form for my use. He said it is free to register and when you get a chance please, could you go down to the local council office down the street and get it sorted!
Overall, this was an awesome experience. It was tough doing 5 days in a row, many times you just wouldn't feel like it, but nothing is a challenge if it doesn't contain its fair share of hardship right?! I got to know the regulars on the street, particularly the people who also busk and sell things, we became closely bonded friends for that short time period! People from the hostel always came up for a chat, I guess admiring what they wouldn't dream of doing themselves and all too often holding up my strict 2 hour session. I got a lot of people who sat down in the seats opposite and just chilled out for a few minutes while they loitered about Cuba. A number of people liked my multi-coloured attire and commented before coming up and giving it a quick feel. I remember at one stage a builder walking by all kitted out, high-vis jacket just in a happy not giving a f**k mood who was holding a bag of pick n' mix sweets. With a cheeky smile and a wink of approval he flicked one strawberry starburst type sweet in my hat, the cheek of him! But my oh my it was a delicious sweet that my dried out vocal chords cherished so greatly! Money wise, the whole session was probably.... OK.... compared to other places I've busked. From Monday to Friday respectively (within a dollar or two) it was 36, 24, 27, 44, 38 New Zealand Dollars. My hostel accomodation per night was 22 dollars, so it always covered that and a bit left over for some food. Would this busking lark keep you alive? Well the word "alive" is a pretty loose term, I mean you could survive physically on very little a day. Comfortably alive so you wouldn't feel miserable?? I would say NO, however if you were to do it twice a day then I reckon you would get by nicely, but man you'd wanna have some kind of talent or it just ain't gonna be pretty. I find too that I don't look like a typical busker i.e. kind of grubbily dressed mumbling out indie/rock songs, I kind of dress a little neater, stand a little taller, project my voice more and often play around subtly with people passing by. Another consideration too is that I never really had to care about the money, I think this shows. I was playing the music just to entertain and impress people and I guess the positive and uplifting energy came with that as a result. I'm sure if you were doing this day in and day out and actually looking to buy bread and milk with the income you would not give off the same enthusiasm per se! Check out some of the pictures of the 5-day busk taken below!
Earthquakes Galore - Yikes!!!!
I'd felt my first earthquake a month before in the South Island (Blenheim) while staying with my cousin, but I never expected what I'd feel when in Wellington. On the 16th August at around 2:30pm, I was sitting comfortably on the couches in the common room of Nomad's Central Backpackers. I think I was playing around on my phone with my head down when I heard a slight mumble of "Is that an earthquake?", I suddenly felt a slight tremor but was more drawn to the swinging of the lamp shades on the ceiling, the eerie creaking of the building structures and the rattling of the vending machines. It was then that everyone had made eye contact in the room and started to consider their option of safety. To this day I still laughed at the guy on the couch beside me who obviously never felt or heard an earthquake before. Definitely sure it was an earthquake, he lept up out of the couch like a gazelle, skipping elegantly with high knees over a beanbag and then a laptop charger which was strung a foot off the ground. He was the first to make a move and he had a pair of earphones flapping from his head which were connected to a laptop all contained within his right hand. He was gangly, his expression of fear was priceless and what was funnier was even when he got up and skipped to the door he didn't really know what was a good safety procedure and waited helplessy for leadership. It was one of those moments had his mates recorded it, they would have never let him live without.
Now the earthquake I felt before in Blenheim rocked for 4 to 5 seconds, however this was different and after I had seen the lampshades move and heard the structural creaking the earthquake escalated violently. The toing and froing of the ground beneath increased in magnitude considerably. At this stage I was on my feet and was struggling to stand, it must of lasted for over 15 seconds. I had managed to get to a doorway and hold on to the frame (advice I had heard), only to realise after with my mate who was also there, that it was a dry-lined wall offering minimal protection, Alleluia for that! The earthquake eventually stopped and with it goes that eerie surreal silence while everybody tries to come to terms with what has actually happened. Within half and hour the streets of Wellington were gridlocked, horns and sirens firing from all directions. A quick look outside and I could see the carnage, police and the fire service everywhere and the local security going about cordoning off potential dangerous locations such as the overhang at the Civic Centre.
The damage was minimal in Wellington with really only cosmetics being an issue (plaster, glass etc). This earthquake registered a 6.6 on the Richter with again the source of the earthquake residing near Seddon on the South Island. The thing is there was probably another 10 earthquakes that day almost nearly every half an hour. They were less in severity however they were still highly unnerving. At one stage I went up to the dorm for a quick lie down, I was awoken by a slight movement of the bed, I knew it was a tremor but stayed put thinking it was just a dismissible aftershock. Suddenly all 10 beds in the dorm started swaying and creaking violently, being the only one in the room I was like F**k this I ain't dying here alone and so shakily made my way downstairs to the common room again. The whole phenomenon was quiet an experience and I feel I would be a lot calmer in an earthquake situation now as a result. I also seem to have acquired a very sensitive internal earthquake sensor within my body for that matter too and seem to over-react to any nearby vibrations or tremors whatever it may be! Welly you cheeky little monkey!
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