Thursday, May 17, 2012

Enjoying the Sydney latin scene

Sydney is quite a good spot for us latin dancers and I had 10 days to check it out. The city is not known for its zouk scene (Brisbane is the Australian zouk capital) though you’ll find zoukers and some socials & parties there. But for salseros and bachateros there’s a lot of things happening, something every day of the week.

I happened to be in town for the Sydney International Bachata Festival! I didn’t want to tie myself to the festival schedule so I just decided to join a couple of the parties. First it was the pre-party at the Mediterranean restaurant on Oxford Street - cool location. When I walked in a zouk song was playing but only a few couples were on the dance floor. No reason to worry though, soon the floor was packed! They played mostly bachata with a couple salsas and zouks in between. I was happy I found some really good zouk dancers later on in the evening. And obviously tons of amazing bachateros. I had never danced bachata on that level before or Dominican style bachata ever!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cool days in Sydney - my first time in Australia

Australia! The country so big that it's also a continent - though it is the smallest continent. Australia was definitely at the top of my travel list, for one because of the excitement of being that far away from home but also for many of its natural wonders.

My journey in Australia would start in its biggest city, Sydney. I arrived to Sydney on a Monday afternoon, after my couple weeks of stay in New Zealand. I was a bit anxious to see how strict the local customs really were but really weren’t asked too many questions (the same set as in New Zealand - "where have you used those shoes", "are you carrying any fruits") and apparently my visa was in order too since they never asked to see any proof of it. Australia was only country I needed I pre-arranged visa on my entire trip! I took the train from the airport to the city which was really fast & convenient, considering I was staying close to the Central Station (and that was a good place to stay in my opinion). I had even managed to find a hostel with free wifi, amazing (first world problems...)! For the rest of my first day I did a bit of walking around, getting familiarized with my new surroundings and slowly started to feel at home again.

The next morning I had decided to join a free walking tour of the city. It was a similar concept as the tour I did in Valparaiso, Chile – the tour would cover most of downtown and you would tip the tour guide at the end of the walk. You end up getting to know more of the city than you would by walking around a day or two by yourself and they tend to include (or make up.. who knows) lots of small fun stories. The tour starts every day at 10.30 and 14.30 next to the Cathedral. There were around 20-30 people on the tour that day which is quite a lot. This tour guide wasn’t as good or as funny as the one in Valparaiso but I did like the tour and it really helps to get your bearings in the city. BTW, the same tour company offers also evening tours! The weather that was pretty crazy with a tropical storm that completed drenched everybody who was even 10 seconds without a shelter.. and then it was gone after 15 minutes with clear sky and sunshine. But that was the only bad weather I had, for the rest of the week it was mainly sunny - chilly at times but sunny.

Cathedral on George Street - the main avenue of Sydney

Monday, May 14, 2012

Last of New Zealand (this time..)

As a conclusion of my couple weeks in New Zealand I headed back to Auckland for two more - the two last - days. I had tons of planning and organizing to do… Or that was the idea at least. And to go dancing! I still wanted to see a bit more of Auckland so I went out to do some nice walks along Mission Bay and the harbor areas. It was warm and sunny so it was the best way to spend the day. Central Auckland is pretty easy to get by on foot and the circle line buses (1,80 NZ$) will get you anywhere you need. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Windy Wellington

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.

Resting in Nelson and tramping* around Abel Tasman

*) That obviously means trekking in the NZ lingo
After about a week in New Zealand I was making my way towards one of the most popular destinations in the country, the Abel Tasman National Park, located on the North East corner the South Island. To get there I would first go to the town of Nelson, taking another early morning bus from Christchurch. It was one of the most annoying bus rides but I won’t get into that – it might have felt more annoying since I was very very very tired. But it was fun to be a party girl for a change that night before in Christchurch!

I arrived to Nelson later that afternoon, checked into my hostel and went out have a stroll in the city. There are nice cafés, restaurants and shops in the tree lined streets, a cathedral up on top of the hill – it’s all very clean and quaint. You can make some walks in the city, one of the most well-known ones is to the “Centre of New Zealand”, that’s where I went the next day. I was feeling a bit flu-ish but it was a really sunny, beautiful autumn day so I thought a little walking around wouldn’t hurt me. The Centre of New Zealand is supposedly in some way the geographical centre of NZ, surprise surprise. I'm not sure in what way, it seems to be oddly conveniently located on the top of a hill. But it's a nice 20 minute walk up and you can see all around the city from there. You can also stroll in the botanical garden (there seems to be one in every single town) and a river that goes through Nelson has a scenic walkway along it.