Weekend in Queenstown

Queenstown is also known as the activity capital of at least the South, if not whole of New Zealand. This lovely little village in the south-west of the South Island is nested by the lake Wakatipu and offers activities, tours and fun for backpackers as well as travellers with extra cash to spare. You can get your adrenaline fix from skydiving, bungee jumping, zip lining, jet boating, white water rafting and a myriad of other options guaranteed to make a dent in your budget, or if you are more into the scenery and not so keen on getting your heart rate up and pumping, options like wine trails, steam boat cruises, underwater marine observatory or soaking in the sun by a lakefront restaurant might be more your cup of tea.

Lakefront.
Lakefront.
Weird water flying activities.
Weird water flying activities.

I arrived in Queenstown on a Friday evening, not having any plans regarding the weekend (as per usual). On my scouting walk around town I randomly saw a poster in a restaurant window that caught my eye. Kidnap Kid, one of my favourite artists (especially for pre-service prep music), was playing a gig at a bar that same night. What are the odds, for me to randomly arrive in this small town on the other side of the world, the same day that an artist I highly respect, from the UK, is playing in said town – and for me to stumble across the ad? I overcome my doubts and fear of going to a bar alone, let alone sober, and ended up having a solid dance off for 3 hours straight. It was a lovely intimate setting, and I was within touching reach of the dj. After the gig I went to thank him, we had a nice chat and I went to bed happy, sweaty and tired. – Girls only dorm this time, no snoring, winner winner!

Market bustle.
Market bustle.

On Saturday I ventured around town, and went for an impromptu walk along the lake – a walk to Frankton, the village next to Queenstown, that turned out to be 15kms. Had I known I’d be going that far, I would have prepared myself better. After a refreshing shower and sushi lunch (I decided not to cook in Queenstown, since there’s plenty of cooking in limited conditions ahead) I met up with some new friends, an Estonian bus captain and his crew that has shrunk from 4 to just 1, an Italian guy who looks like Jesus. We hung out at the bus that has been converted into a self-contained motor home, cooked and listened to music. Eventually we got around to go to the dump station and supermarket outside of town, where I stocked on dry food for my Franz Josef experience next week. By the time we got back in town it was too late for me to go book a trip to Milford Sound, apparently the 8th wonder of the world, that would have taken the whole Sunday. Bummer. We ended up chilling out with the guys until I was so tired I could barely walk back home, it was a cold night! As soon as the sun sets, the coldness creeps in.

Mobile house.
Mobile house.
Bus cookery: My first bus cooked meal!
Bus cookery: My first bus cooked meal!

On Sunday I felt like the flu I might have caught from the sick people in my room in Christchurch was creeping in, and terrible for not doing the Milford Sound cruise, and I felt like some activity was in place. After wandering and wondering and ruling out options (anything involving heights), I decided to go for a 2.5hr horseback ride in the scenes of Lord of the Rings! It has been a while (read: years and years) since I was last on a horse, but hey, how hard can it be? Apparently so hard that my fellow rider fell off her horse, but that’s a different story. We did ride in some amazing scenery, but let’s be honest: so far all of New Zealand has been equally amazing, whether it appears in a movie or not. We did stop for a picture in front of Isengard, a spot where Taylor Swift also filmed her newest video. After heading back to town, I ate some quinoa sushi by the water, and watched the people and street performers. Later on I met up with a classmate I haven’t seen since…2012! Funny to encounter someone after such a long time, pretty much as far from home as possible. Somehow it was almost midnight before I got to bed, to the lovely snore-free haze of sleep and being awake. I wish I could have had one more day for Milford, but oh well, off to Wanaka in the morning.

Horseback riding in Isengard.
Horseback riding in Isengard.
Traveling in this scenery is surreal every time.
Traveling in this scenery is surreal every time.
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Holiday in Western Australia

It is self evident that I am an advocate of traveling. Having spent over half a year within the borders of Victoria (although there is heaps to see in the state alone), I figured that it would be nice to get around to see Australia a bit more, and most of all take a selfie with the world’s happiest animal, the quokka, who inhabits Rottnest Island just outside of Perth in Western Australia. Not too bad way of spending Christmas!

Quokkas having a sneaky snack.
Quokkas having a sneaky snack.

During my one week long getaway to Western Australia I learned that one should not travel during holiday season, if it is any way possible to be avoided. Somehow I did not think it would be that different, but as it turns out, rental car prices were triple to normal, and the accommodation availability everywhere south of Perth was non-existent. As one could imagine, having to pay extra for things and having a bit of a struggle to organise things doesn’t allow you to relax as you should on holidays. Therefore, from now on if I travel on holiday periods (which is very likely), I will try to book as much as possible in advance, and try not to move around as much. I shall embrace the fact that everything is closed on Christmas Day, and prepare myself to eating only nuts and crackers for a day.

Sunset at the Pinnacles
Sunset at the Pinnacles

The magnificent stone formations in Nambung National Park just a few hours drive North from Perth are rather magical for sunset, sunrise, full moon and any time it is not packed with tourists (go late or early and get the park for yourself!). These limestones that now poke out in the sandy desert were once seashells in the water, which were broken into sand and blown inland, forming oddly dunes. Since the 1960s, these rocks attract over 250 thousand tourists a year. The pinnacles are pretty much in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by ghostly small towns, but if you want to get them at their best, you should sacrifice one night for the trip. On the way to the pinnacles from Perth, Yanchep National Park makes a good pit stop.

Fremantle, or Freo, looks quite like New Orleans.
Fremantle, or Freo, looks quite like New Orleans.

I fell in love with the relaxed seaside small town atmosphere of Fremantle, just twenty minutes outside of Perth. The architecture is beautiful, there are loads of restaurants and small shops, and the weekend market is lovely. When visiting Freo, I would recommend eating seafood at Kailas fish and chips, right by the pier. And of course Rottnest island and aforementioned quokkas are a must!

Like being on a tropical island
Rottnest, like a tropical island
Busselton jetty at dawm, when the tourists are gone and the fishermen are enjoying the peace and quiet.
Busselton jetty at dawm, when the tourists are gone and the fishermen are enjoying the peace and quiet.

When going south of Perth, there are plenty of small towns, beaches, and all kinds of (mostly marine life) activities along the way to Margaret River, the promised land of wine, local delicacies and products. Busselton, with the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere (whoa!), is a nice town to stop and take a stroll 2kms out to the sea and maybe a sneaky plunge in to the water, too.

A jetty so long it has a train.
A jetty so long it has a train.

Margaret River is rather nice, if you like wineries, beaches and such (who doesn’t?), but during the holiday season it is crammed and the atmosphere is very touristic. On another occasion it might show a completely different side, but for now I can say that I am glad I went, and I was glad to be back in Melbourne.

Byron Bay

Before even leaving to Oz, I knew I wanted to set my base in either Melbourne or Byron Bay, the Canggu of Australia where high vibes and high fives are aplenty, organic food abundant and surfers and hippies happy together. I made my way to Byron from Brissie (Brisbane), and am now experiencing the similar unbearable lightness of being that I experienced in Bali a bit over half year ago.

Byron Bay is located north from Sydney, 2 hours south from Brisbane and an hour away from Gold Coast, making it the perfect stop for backpackers traveling the east coast. Since the 1980’s the number of visitors has roamed year after year, and I have to admit that I consider myself lucky visiting during the quietest time of year; there’s still plenty of people around.

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I have not surfed (yet), and to be honest it is a good question to think what the heck have I been doing with my time. I don’t have a good book to read, I have not got my tan on, and the only touristic thing I’ve done was kayaking with dolphins.

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Kayaking in the sea was great itself, but seeing heaps of dolphins playing around made the experience even better. I learned a bit of the history of this region and some mythology of dolphins, and it was good to know we were not disturbing the animals in their home.

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Besides dolphins, I’ve enjoyed the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in a good while. I also saw a pretty damn good sunrise from the easternmost point of Australia.

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Besides great scenery and good food (in theory, I mostly make cheap meals at the hostel), Byron has somewhat of a nightlife scene going on. Still need to explore that beyond bonfires at the beach tho.

Down Under Easter

When I started this blog, one of my first posts was about Easter in Finland. I have come a long way since then (pun intended), and this Easter I spent surprisingly in Down Under, the land of hot cross buns and Easter Egg Hunt a week later than ours. To be honest my Easter was very un-Eastery, although I did organize a bit of a hunt for my housemates, and did nibble on a bit of chocolate as well. No massive feasts (besides Grill’d mushroom burger), sugar comas (caffeine hits don’t count) or that sort of traditional things, and above all: no spring time. The leaves are falling off trees, and when it is +25 and sunny one day, the next it feels like I’m back in Finland. When it’s October.

Apparently there's no Easter without these: Hot cross buns with fruit, chocolate or who knows what else.
Apparently there’s no Easter without these: Hot cross buns with fruit, chocolate or who knows what else.

This past week has been rather good: I managed to fit in 3 (small) road trips! First of them was ex-tempore bathing session in mornington Peninsula Hot Springs. If you ever come to these hoods, I highly recommend taking a good soak. Good Japan memories, though this place had few hundred people, most of them either Brits or Americans. I suggest going towards the closing time during a weekday, so you have more private bathing session.

So called Beach Bush.
So called Beach Bush.

Besides hot springs, we went on a day cruise along the peninsula east of melbourne, all the way to the tip. Lovely small beach towns dot the coast, and despite it being Good Friday, cafes and restaurants seemed to be somewhat open. Later on that night I locked myself into a bathroom and poured a decent amount of sand into the bed, but that’s another story.

On Saturday I had a proper sleep-in for the first time since I came to Australia (!!), brunch in the city and some me-time shopping. Caught up with a friend from Bali who I randomly ran into in H&m (God bless!), and ended up eating ramen in the street waiting for the epic lunar eclipse. I kinda missed the whole red moon part, but it was fun nevertheless!

Feeding Joe. Not scared at all.
Feeding Joe. Not scared at all.

I also ventured to fulfill one of my lifetime goals: to see a koala and penguins. In maru koalapark did I not only see a koala (awake!), but also got to feed kangaroos. It might seem a bit dumb to pay to see kangaroos when apparently they’re everywhere and koalas are not that rare, either, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Now I’ve seen the real-life difference between a kangaroo and a wallaby, and I might enlighten you some day as well. Still to remain to be seen: wombats and pandas (latter not found here, though). The penguins hang out in Philip Island, few hours away from melbourne, but since we were early birds and too impatient to hang around until sunset, we only saw them chilling in their little box houses. Cute lil’ fellas, I must say. Luckily I can go to St. Kilda beach to see penguins, apparently they live there too!

Waves!
Waves!

That’s it for my Easter. It didn’t even really feel like one, though I did Skype with good ol’ grandparents back home (grandpa still thinks it costs millions to call overseas). It was a good long weekend with a special feeling. Hopefully there’s more similar to come, public holidays or not.

Lately

Bakery went to make sand cakes
Bakery went to make sand cakes

Somehow recently I have had other things in mind than posting here.

Coffee and hand-made raw treats in Johan&Nyström
Coffee and hand-made raw treats in Johan&Nyström

I visited Helsinki and spent some quality time with some quality friends

Essence of summer and Finnish design
Essence of summer and Finnish design

Besides Helsinki, I went to Kuopio and to our summer cottage, visited relatives and celebrated my cousin’s confirmation. Other than that, I’ve been pretty happily occupied with sweets.

Raw protein bars with and without chocolate frosting, banana chocolate cake and other raw treats
Raw protein bars with and without chocolate frosting, banana chocolate cake and other raw treats

Succeeding in “baking” and making people smile when they taste my creations is incredibly rewarding! Recently I have also enjoyed exercising (kettlebell, wohoo!) and berry picking. I keep on finding new spots with raspberries, yay! Still no blueberries in the freezer for the winter, though…

In the near future I will be in Helsinki, working in Flow Festival. After that, my future is pretty blank. There is an itch to move, but I am not sure about the destination. Any suggestions?

Smart cider
Smart cider