Sweet as. That’s it. Not “sweet as cotton candy” or “sweet as a tiny girl in a straw hat handing her crying sister a slice of watermelon.” When something is great or cool or understood in New Zealand, it is “sweet as.”

And things in New Zealand are pretty sweet as. Except maybe the weather. I knew that it would be winter here, but I didn’t realise what that meant (and that I should have taken my real winter jacket with me). So I am going around with my hoodie and fleece and rain jacket with two scarves.  And I’m still cold and cursing the wind.  And shaming my country- I’m supposed to be immune to the cold, eh?

Me, in the Wellington botanical gardens, freezing while wearing all the clothing I brought with me. Obviously I need a tuque.

But to be honest, after Los Angeles and all that perfect weather, 8 degrees is a chilled pill to swallow. Maybe it’s payback for taking for granted all my weeks of amazing weather. But sometimes there’s a break in the wind here and the sun comes out and it’s heavenly.

Fern pretending to be oak leaves standing up enjoying some sun.

When I landed in Auckland, I found my way (uphill, unfortunately, but past a reverse bungee jump on the side of the road, weirdly) to my cozy hostel in the hip part of town to start my true backpacking/hostelling/travelling life. And yes, it turns out New Zealand has its hipsters too and I felt a bit like a slob with my running shoes. But Courtney, who is very stylish, mentioned that she liked my shoes, so I must always remember that when I feel less than cool.

It helped that I was approached by 4 guys in a bar while wearing them (and my grubby hoodie), so they can’t be that bad. And it wasn’t any bar- it was a Wellington bar (on trendy Cuba Street, even) in which tattoos are given as prizes and maritime songs are sung while the band is getting set up to blow the roof off the place.

Some guy getting a free tatoo of a skull in a top hat smoking a pipe. In a bar.

I am now comfortable in Wellington, having spent a bit more than two weeks travelling about, and am getting set to sail to the south island tomorrow at the crack of dawn (fine, 8am). So far, New Zealand hasn’t seemed so different from Canada. There’s space, the people are few and friendly, the weather is changeable, and nature is number one.

It’s very similar to Canada except:

Crazy-cool vegetation.

Sheep everywhere. Points for those who find the sheep in this picture.

Hundreds and hundreds of kids taking to the street to protest cuts to affecting crossing guards.

The backpacker lifestyle- creating magical dinners from a cool bag with new friends from all over the world (after having spent hours in the hot tub in the hail).

Among other things.

And they say “sweet as,” which, I must admit, is catching.

I am excited to explore the South Island, which I expect to be as spectacular as everyone keeps saying.