Auckland and Around

My last stop on the epic New Zealand bus tour was Auckland, where my flight was to take off. I decided to skip dolphin swimming in Tauranga and mt. Maunganui due to bad weather (boo!), and left to the lovely suburb of Pukekohe, 30-1.5hrs drive south from central Auckland, to stay with a lovely family of family friends I had never met before. My activities in Pukekohe included reading Dora books to the adorable kids, baking Finnish pulla, and just relaxing.

Little bakers.
Little bakers.

I ventured to Auckland city one day, just so that I could say I have been. Saw the sky tower, walked down Queen Street, went to have some drinks with my friend and his mates, sat in traffic for over an hour. Auckland is “just another big city”, but then again it looked beautiful and had some quirky lanes and they’ve got a waterfront! Sure it is used mostly for containers, but still. Water!

Humongous container for humans to float on water.
Humongous container for humans to float on water.

I could have spent more time in Auckland, but opted for reading Princess stories to the kids instead. The next day was a bit more adventurous, heading off to Matakana farmers’ market at dawn and continuing north to Goat Island marine reserve.

Market vibes
Market vibes
This poodle doesn't mind to be minded
This poodle doesn’t mind to be minded
Find anything you could need for a decent weekend feast
Find anything you could need for a decent weekend feast
Buffalo milk. Yum-mo
Buffalo milk. Yum-mo

In Auckland vicinity, as well as everywhere in Middle Earth New Zealand, one highly benefits from having a vehicle. After checking out the Matakana market, 2nd best market in NZ!, in the wee hours of morning, we continued north to Goat Island, a marine reserve where one can go snorkel, dive, have a wee little trip on a glass bottom boat, or just soak in the sunshine. I just wanted to see the area, and since I had not swam in NZ, I had to tick that off the list, too. As I got used to the water temperature (pleasantly refreshing) and got over the bedazzlement of people wearing wetsuits, I decided to try out snorkelling too. Good times!

Clear waters again!
Clear waters again!

On the way back we stopped to have lunch at a lovely vineyard that was hosting a wedding, and had a nice beach stroll near the city. Not too bad for a last day in New Zealand!

Green pastures and blue skies
Green pastures and blue skies
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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.

Cold

You know the feeling when your 1 day weekend turns into 3 days and you have all the time to do whatever, just as long as it doesn’t involve going outside or any kind of physical activity? And you feel like your head is exploding and nasty secretion is coming from your nose or blocking the way out? The last time I had a flu was winter 2014, when I was living alone in Helsinki. Now it hit me again, and with a force natural remedies cannot cure in the situation where one would just like to do just about anything but spend a long weekend undercovers watching endless amounts of Netflix (I had to get it eventually, just for this occasion). I was glad to get yesterday and today off work, since my eyes were so watery I basically looked like I was crying all the time, and even standing up was a bit of a struggle. Head filled with liquid is a heavy head indeed. Today I felt a bit better (6 day medicine tablets and 2 night tablets later), but just going to the market to buy groceries felt like a sporting effort.

Lessons learned these past few days:

  When sick, eat good food. You might not taste anything, so your if your food at least looks pretty, you might enjoy it more. Put chili to everything: it’s good for you and you can’t taste it. I made a smoothie the other day, with black pepper and turmeric among other immune boosting ingredients, that was actually rather delicious. It didn’t save me from getting sick, but I’d like to think it made some difference at least.

Get home delivery, if you’re too tired to cook. I craved lentil dahl yesterday so I made it since I had all the ingredients in hand, but today’s hopes for curry would definitely go online or via phone.

When you can’t do anything, embrace it. Watery eyes might prevent you from reading, but you can soak in the bath. Or if you don’t have a bath, steam breathe. Or stare at candles. I definitely struggle with just being. Feels like such a waste of time, all this nothingness and piles of tissue paper. What a waste.

I have been extremely frustrated for not being able to do my more or less ‘boring’ everyday stuff like yoga and work, so now I will definitely appreciate them more once I get back on track. When getting sick, I also encourage you to go to a pharmacy to buy proper drugs that someone recommends, and not just crawling to the cornerstore and buying whatever they’ve got. That’ll save you money and shorten your misery. 

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.

Restaurant Day Asian Raw Bar

Good people, good food and good vibes
Good people, good food and good vibes

Approx. 24hrs of work, but totally and beyond worth it: this Restaurant Day most likely blew away many of those who are sceptic towards raw foods, but also was something special to those already dedicated to the subject.

Even Raw Dessert Chef Maria Lönnqvist approved!
Even Raw Dessert Chef Maria Lönnqvist approved!

The mouth-watering super-delicious [insert other phrase words here] menu was the following:

Pad Thai Asian noodle salad with crunchy almonds
Spring rolls with almond dipping sauce
Chinese beetroot dumplings with chili plum sauce

Blueberry crumble pie with fresh coconut vanilla sauce
Blueberry chocolate cheesecake

Blueberry cheesecake pictured just before eating by Markus Karjalainen
Blueberry cheesecake pictured just before eating by Markus Karjalainen

 

I think everyone left the place happy and satisfied. We had time to tour around other places after wrapping up our pop-up restaurant. There was a lot of entrepreneurship going on in different parks in Helsinki, and apparently the offerings were very versatile (437 restaurants!). We were treated to a free shot of tequila and pureed cranberry juice served on a block of wood, and we also popped by a paleo cafe, but unfortunately I was too full to try their cookies or sandwich. I don’t know which is more fun: to organize a restaurant or to visit several places and sample different things. If the menu is as good as ours, I think I prefer to be in the kitchen!
 

Nuff said.
Nuff said.

 
This week I’ll stay in Helsinki for Borisraw food courses, where I’ll be assisting. Despite the pouring rain, this is going to be a good week!