Friday, 27 November 2009

Tours, part 1

Okay, I know blogs should be fresh and up to date, but I still thought I'd travel back in time a bit and share some things from my travels in November when I did a two part tour from Sydney to Melbourne and Melbourne to Adelaide (or actually Murray Bridge 80 km before Adelaide ...) .
I travelled with a company, together with other people who wanted to see Australia, but did not want to drive themselves or fly. With the help of our small bus we saw all the nice things between the different states and cities and got to know each other, making friends from for example England, Hungary and Denmark.

Here's some tidbits from the first part, Sydney-Melbourne:

We started on November 11th and I was picked up early in the morning. We were only 11 people on the tour, plus two guides, Bones and Nugget, so there was plenty of room in the 24 seater bus.

One of our first proper stops was Canberra, the capital of Australia. We didn't spend more than a few hours in the city but had time for some nice views and a tour of Parliament House which was really fun since Bones knew alot about the place and the people who have worked there during the years.

The House of Representatives. The sessions there are much more entertaining than the Finnish ones ...

My group.

After Canberra we drove up towards the Snowy Mountain. Yes, snow in Australia. And there was still some left despite the very warm weather. On the way up we were close to crashing with a big kangoroo but luckily it escaped with a few centimeters to spare ...
We stayed the night at a ski resort in the alpine town Threbo which was quite deserted since the ski season is over.

The snow looked red because of the sand storm we had earlier this spring (it shows better in another pic).

The morning on day 2 began with a ski lift and a hike up to a outlook point on Australia's highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko. We couldn't go all the way to the top because of too much snow.

We made it! (I blamed my out of breathness on the 2000 meter altitude... hrm.)

I´m home! Although the color is a bit funky ...

Afterwards we took the very windy The Barry Way along Snowy River, stopping in the Kosciuszko national park for a barbeque.

After the food we did a few short stops but the main stop of the evening was the 90 mile beach, a beautiful, 90 mile long beach in Lake Entrance, the town where we also spent the night.

The walk on the beach was realxing after a long ride. But no, we did not walk the entire 90 miles.

I got a bit wet ...

On our third day we drove to Wilsons Promontory National Park. A park with lots of wildlife and beautiful hills and beaches. We saw some wild kangoroos, redback spiders and I held a real blue tounged lizard. We did a nice hike up to a look out point over the ocean and then had a picnic lunch on the cliffs before walking on "Squeaky beach". Yes, it squeaks!

Of course we had to take a picture with a native sign.


No, that's not my hands, but I did hold it!

Stunning views from the look out point. Too bad they never look as good in a photo.

Squeaky beach. I burned my shoulders quite badly cause the sun was so hot.

After the beach we started our final journey towards Melbourne, my stop for 3 days before continuing towards South Australia. But more about that later.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Quarter of a century

So much to tell and show. I get overwhelmed just thinking about it. I might actually begin from the end, my 25th birtday and the 3-day trip to Hunter Valley this week.
(Sorry if some of the pics look a bit weird, my camera partly broke on a pinacle in the Grampians ...)

My partners in crime on the trip.

Me, Eva, Annette and Sebastian rented a car on Monday morning and drove via some of Sydney's northern beaches and a national park up to Hunter Valley, a well known wine district in NSW. We had booked a villa there on a hotel area. Everything was very modern and a bit grey perhaps, but our 3-bedroom accommodation with private living room and kitchen was just great (apart from the fact that there wasn't an oven ... Oh well.)

Yes, Sebastian studies marketing ...

I had the "kids room" in the villa. But who can complain when you have a tv and two beds?! :)

Anywho, the first day we just drove around and made a nice risotto for dinner and played some cards and just relaxed. On Tuesday the others went on a wine tour while I stayed at the hotel and pampered myself with a good sleep in and my first ever massage at the spa. Sooo nice. When the tour was over the sun decided to come out and the four of us had a lovely time in the large outdoor pool and hot whirl pool.

(sorry, no online pics of us in our bathers.)

Wednesday however was the high point for me since it was my birthday. 25 years! The guys were so sweet and made us a yummy birthday breakfast, including presents and a cake. It couldn't have been better.

We were really lucky with the weather as we headed out to Port Stephens and a long beach lined with big sand dunes. One of the nicest beaches I've seen so far. After that we had a late lunch in Nelson Bay and then climbed to the top of a "mountain" for some great views, and what can you do after that but take an extempore swim at the nearby beach? The water was nice and cool after walking in 29 C. We tried not to be too paranoid about potential sharks ...

Driving towards the setting sun we headed back to Sydney. I had my big birthday dinner at a certain fast food restaurant along the way, and a burger and fries have seldom tasted so good.

So, now I'm back in Sydney for a couple of days, 25 years old and all, before doing my last travelling stint to the core of Australia, Alice Springs and Uluru. Will be back soon with more pics and stories. Cheers!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Going away (and then coming back)


Just a small note explaining why I might not write for a while. (Not that I've been terribly active these past few days either, sorry about that.)

Anyway, my studies are now over. Yay. I handed in my final assignment today and tomorrow I'm leaving for a tour of three of Australia's states and territories: Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and South Australia. That basically means Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide with all kinds of sights in between. So excited!

I will try and find a computer now and then but I don't know if there'll be enough time for entries. But who knows, maybe there will be a picture or two along the way. :)

The day after I get back I will head straight for Hunter Valley with a few friends. We're staying there for two nights and since I didn't think a wine tour would be my thing I booked an Aroma-Swedish massage at the resort instead. Haha! My shoulders might need some pampering after months of hunching over desks and days of "climbing" mountains. Besides, it's the day before my 25th birthday so I'm almost licensed to do anything.
Should be a relaxing trip!

After that it's time for some hot days in the center of Oz. I'm flying up to Alice Springs where I will (totally by chance!) meet GEJI & Sockom colleague Johanna from Perth and some of her friends, and take a tour downt to Uluru. We're going to see so many things and do walks in the desert and sleep under the stars, it should be great! (As longs as giant desert spinders (are there giant desert spiders?) attack me in my sleeping bag. (What about scorpions?)

Anywho, after that it's back to Sydney and only a week and a halft left of my stay here. Time will FLY. (And hopefully so will my plane so I get back home in time for christmas. Tipp tapp!)

I'll keep you posted one way or the other!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

From the opera house to Kabul

I sacrificed a few hours of sleep for the performing arts today. Waking up at 5 am I sleep walked my way to the Sydney opera house where I met a group of 8 other early birds for a backstage tour of the iconic opera.

I must admire these oh so perky guides. How do they manage? It almost gets irritating when they are so happy and kind, at 6.45 in the morning!

Anyway, our guide was very nice and knowledgeable and she took us behind the scenes of the different stages and halls, for instance the opera theatre, the concert hall and the drama theatre.

In the concert hall we disturbed the poor piano tuner by going on stage. People work at the opera 24/7.

You were only allowed to take pictures in certain areas for some reason. I didn't really understand why, something about copyright.

It took ten years to complete the organ!

Ballet rehearsal room:

Anyway, it was a really nice and interesting tour that ended with a tasty breakfast in the green room. Didn't see any famous people I'm afraid. Then again, I don't think I would have recognized any Australian "celebrities" even if they were there.

Finishing at 9 am I still had the complete day ahead of me. While the honeymooning American couple went sightseeing I went straight to uni and had my last class ever at UTS. A bit sad really, because this was my favourite subject.

It was an exciting ending though. We had Skype contact with Paul McGeough, a really good Australian journalist, straight from Kabul where he's reporting on the elections at the moment. Cool! It was 4 am there and he was drinking pepsi from a can while telling us all about being a foreign correspondent and writing creative non-fiction.

Now I just have to get this one story filed before next Wednesday and then I'm off to see the world (or at least a bit more of Australia).


Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Hot hot day

Puh, what a day. 38 degrees in the shade! It's not something that happens in Finland too often. It did however feel like walking into a Finnish sauna when you left the well air conditioned uni buildings.

Luckily the weather will cool down the upcoming days, unfortunately a bit too much, also bringing a bit of rain. But as long as we have to work it doesn't really matter. I just hope it will be a nice 25-28 degrees when I start travelling next week.

This was also a special day because of the Melbourne cup. We haven't heard about anything else for an entire week. Horses, fashion, fashion, horses. Bubbly and hats. It's not only in Melbourne people went crazy, dressing up and partying all day long. Sydneysiders were also out and about in their best and no one sat at their desks at 3pm when the race actually started. Over 1 week of speculations and preparations for circa 200 seconds of horses running around a track. People loved it.

I can't say I, as a Finn, really understood the hype, but my heart did pick up a bit as the horses, neck to neck, ran towards the finishing line. Not having bet on any horse (which most people seemed to have done) it didn't really matter who won. The owners of "Shocking" did however seem more than happy over the win, and why wouldn't they with a prize of more than 3 million dollars. I'd cheer about that as well.

Now I just have to keep cool until you can actually lift a finger without breaking a sweat. Have a nice day!