Posts in the category "Tourist of Oz".

My trip to Australia in February 2007 is a fact, as insane as it feels to me (I’m not much of a traveller). I’m going there for roughly three weeks. First my best friend is having a wedding, then they go on a honeyweek and I’ll house-sit and dog-sit. Finally, they’ll show me around Sydney for about a week.
And then I go and do it again in August 2009. A two-week vacation this time.

Culinary firsts again

In addition to the “boring ol'” fish’n chips at a marina and a tuna wrap at Subway I tried something new again!

  • When we were visiting my friend’s friend we had some fruit scones — they were so good! I have to look for a nice recipe.
  • When we were shopping at Macarthur Square in Cambelltown we had lunch at the food court and had Turkish chicken pide at a kebab place. Soooo good even though it had mushrooms in it (and whatever else, I didn’t want to know after I saw a mushroom). I may try to make a variation of it if I can find a promising-looking recipe. Without the mushrooms.
  • When we were visiting the Australian Museum and shopping in the city on a Sunday (an unusual experience for a Finn, our cities seem quite dead on Sundays because pretty much nothing’s open) I had some sushi! I wouldn’t eat any of the raw stuff, so I had a cooked tuna & cucumber roll (I only had one because we had eaten a lot of noodles for the main lunch). It tasted nice and I would try some again.
  • The same Sunday we had Chinese for dinner and I had honey king prawns (now that I read my old posts I realise I had a prawn at the Japanese restaurant last time) and squid. They were alright; I wouldn’t eat prawns or squid regularly cause I’m fussy about texture and they were just, ewww. *shivers*

I also had some lamb — still far from my favourite meat, it’s the texture issue — which I rarely/never do, and some pork on the air plane because the chicken dish would’ve had mushroom sauce (it spreads all over the food). At least I got to eat some rice from the pork dish.


I left with a suitcase of 14 kilos (~31 lb) and came back with a suitcase of 17 kilos (~37.5 lb). 3 kilos of souvenirs then? Wrong. I carried most of them in my backpack on-board because I was worried my suitcase would be over the 20kg limit.

I bought a lot of books and Tim Tams (those are mostly for work). I was planning on a big “post-Australia survival kit” but ended up getting only a big bottle of Ocean Spray’s Ruby Red Grapefruit which I raved about for a long time (and sometimes still do) after my previous visit. We only get the cranberry juices in Finland (as far as I’ve been able to find) which is unfair. (We also only get the subs in Subway so I’d like to see them bringing the wraps into their selection.) I was planning on getting some yummy raisin toast but it’s expiration date was soon (in fact, yesterday) and they gotta have something similar in Finland, right? They have to. My friends had very kindly bought me a package of Tim Tams so I didn’t have to buy them for the kit.

Well then, what else? I bought an anniversary edition of Lord of the Rings. I haven’t read it (I have it in Finnish) so maybe now I will. The book contains nice appendices and footnotes and things. I also bought a couple of cookbooks: Women’s Weekly “Just Four Ingredients” booklet (recipes containing max 4 ingredients. Excellent.) and “The Essential Soup Cookbook”. Also a 500 Casseroles recipe book. In addition to those, I got Bill Bryson’s Neither Here nor There (about his travels in Europe) — I’m starting to have a bit of a collection of these. Oh, and I got Dan Brown’s newest, The Lost Symbol, from Frankfurt airport. Then, music: Prodigy’s “Invaders Must Die” and Fall Out Boy’s “From Under the Cork Tree”. And games: Lego Indiana Jones :) and the newest Prince of Persia. I found Tomb Raider Underworld, too, which was on my list but it was still quite expensive.

Then, to the proper souvenirs: from Taronga Zoo I got a commuter coffee mug (I would’ve gotten a regular mug (although it may not have survived the trip so this was probably better) but I didn’t like the designs or colours), a kangaroo necklace, and a kangaroo clutch pin (I sort of collect pins) and from Featherdale I bought a cute kangaroo bookmark. I could’ve bought soooo much more from those places but decided to hold on to my wallet.

That’s pretty much it. Darn, I had room for 3 kilos more…

Featherdale Wildlife Park (Sept 10)

(You may want to read about Taronga Zoo first, but only because of a comment I make there about kangaroos. No biggie.)

On September 10th we visited Featherdale Wildlife Park in Doonside. In addition to typical enclosures, they have animals strolling around there, among the visitors. Even an emu! I don’t know how that’s not dangerous unless they’ve bred a non-kicking one…

I petted this wallaby who greeted us:

A tame wallaby

And boy were there wallabies.

Lots of wallabies

We spotted a lot of baby wallabies.

Wallabies had babies

And boy were there koalas, too.

Koalas, awake for a change!

I managed to snap a picture of some of the lively ones. This koala climbed down a tree and walked to the next one:

A walking koala

What really surprised me was that they had wombats. Outside. In the sun. I thought they were nocturnal animals!

Wombats - sunbathing!

Here’s an echidna:

An echidna

And guess what? They had kangaroos! (Some of them may’ve been wallabies, I don’t know the difference.)

An alert kangaroo


A kangaroo among visitors

and lots…

They have also lazy kangaroos here

of kangaroos!


They had albinos too!

Albino kangaroos

Of course, they had many many more animals (dingoes, bats, Tasmanian devils (couldn’t get a proper picture), reptiles, and lots of birds).

Taronga Zoo (Sept 6)

It was the Fathers’ Day in Australia when we took off to Taronga Zoo, bright and early. We drove to the city and took a ferry from Circular Quay.

Harbour Bridge

The Opera House (view from ferry)

Of course, there were koalas:

A sleeping koala

Pffft. Old news. :) They seem to like staying in that curled position. Saw countless of koalas like that (koalas here, koalas there, sleeping koalas everywhere).

There were some lovely giraffes:

Giraffes munching away in Taronga
More giraffes

They had had to grow some pretty long necks to get a better view behind those trees there.

There was a baby chimp

Baby chimp

and a baby elephant (Luk Chai)

Baby elephant called Luk Chai

who is a bit of a celebrity.

We were there right on time to catch both the seal and the bird show. It’s amazing how the animals can be trained — especially the seal show was very funny!

OK then, the animal I came all this way (15,000 km/9,400 mi) for: the kangaroo. Did I get to see them this time? Yes. Well, sorta.

Lazy kangaroos

It must’ve been a bit too hot for them to be jumping around. On the way out of the zoo we went by the enclosure one more time:

Buzz of, tourist

Is that kangaroo trying to tell me something…?

Then it was time to head back. This time we took the Sky Safari cable cars down to the wharf.

Sky Safari

Wollongong (Sept 5)

I was invited to come along to a meeting of an old cars club when they went to a restaurant in Wollongong. On the way we stopped at the Sublime Lookout Point, just off Princes Highway in Bulli.

View from Sublime Lookout Point

From there you could see to Stanwell Park which I visited last time.

Then we drove to Wollongong and to a beach/dock there. It was swarming with wedding parties so I had to dodge (with my viewfinder) the wedding couples.


Here’s one party I didn’t manage to dodge:

Pelicans in Wollongong

Then we drove to the restaurant whose name I don’t remember where I had a massive beef hamburger (finished maybe half or three quarters of it) — people said jokingly that I must be really hungry. I didn’t know it would be so huge! I passed dessert grudgingly but I was given a bite of chocolate mousse.

Back from Australia – General itinerary

Pile of mail

I’m back! I didn’t have a good chance to blog in Australia because I didn’t have an Internet connection for my netbook — and I really didn’t want to sit in front of their computer for long since I wasn’t “home alone”.

Now that I’m back home, I’ll post some of the photos I took.

This time I got to experience the Australian winter (or winter-spring transition): brrr, cold! At least for someone who had packed similarly to the summer visit… Whoops. Luckily I had one warm shirt and a short jacket — and my trusty woolly socks. It wasn’t bad outside in the sun but it was a bit chilly inside in the mornings. Towards the end of my stay it got warmer.

I left on Monday, August 31st on a 5.05 PM flight from Helsinki. First I travelled to Frankfurt to catch my connecting flight to Sydney (via Singapore). I sat in an aisle seat in the very last row of the Boeing 747, next to the exit and the cabin crew seat. It was actually very interesting watching them work. For example, I noticed that the sound many people think is the “seatbelt sign turned off” sign (i.e. you can unbuckle your belt) isn’t that, but an intercom ring: After the crew members had armed their doors they got a call on something. Only some time after that was the seatbelt sign really turned off.
In Singapore I, for some reason, had to change my seat. This time I had the middle seat (oh noooo). Luckily it was for the shorter leg of the journey (it was still over 7 hours so I wasn’t happy). I had two very tired guys around me — and I could swear the one on my left talked some weird gibberish in his sleep. That was funny.

We arrived in Frankfurt a little late of schedule (around 7pm instead of the scheduled 6.40pm because we left Helsinki late) which didn’t bother me one bit since I had “some” waiting to do until my next flight which was at 11.55pm. I had to wait to about 10pm before they announced the gate number — no fun because I can never find a nice place to sit (suggestions are welcome). I sat in the check-in hall even though I didn’t have to check in (whoo!) and read Daniel Suarez’s Daemon (good!). An observation: The Germans still think every passenger speaks German. Sigh.

Finally I got on-board and arrived in Sydney at 5.10am on Wednesday, September 2nd after about a 1.5-hour pit stop in Singapore. I had had to tick one box in the arriving passenger card (medicine, drugs and whatnot — sheesh) so I was asked about that (I had pills for headaches) but that was it. Poor Kat (along with the rest of the family) had offered to pick me up. I was out of the queues and check-ups at 6am and they arrived soon after that.

This time I had dressed smart and didn’t get caught in any of the security checks (except once on the way back cause I was wearing my glasses in Frankfurt…). Last time my shoes especially caused grief and in Frankfurt an angry looking lady snapped “Schuhe auf!!” (shoes off) at me and I was so dazed that at first I didn’t understand what she meant (I do know some German).

The flight back (*sob*) left on September 15th at 3.50pm. We almost got stuck in traffic on M5 on the way to the airport but luckily we had left early and I was just on time for the recommended check-in time (2 hours before take-off). This time I got checked-in all the way to Helsinki so I didn’t have to queue at the check-in desk in Frankfurt (instead, I got asked for my ID at boarding unlike last time…). Now I had window seats all the way, and unlike last time we didn’t have to close the windows when we flew over the mountains in India — but it was pitch black outside so I didn’t see a thing. This reminds me, on the way from Frankfurt to Sydney we flew over India in daytime and had to keep all the shutters closed cause it was “bedtime” for us. However, some annoying German girls (I knew they were German because they were trying to take a man’s window seat and I was queuing behind him and had to wait for and listen to them to settle the issue — the man wasn’t German but the girls started speaking in German) kept opening the shutter every time they went to the toilet (which was often) and let me tell you, even a little ray of light is really bright in a dark air plane. I was trying to sleep or at least rest my eyes.

So, on the way back I was in a window seat and all the way from Singapore to Frankfurt the middle seat was empty! What a luxury! In the aisle seat sat an Irish man who had spent a year in Australia and was now heading back home (only for a short stay, I understood). His accent was quite nice to listen to. It was almost incomprehensible. Almost.

On my way to Australia I watched the Watchmen and 3 episodes of IT Crowd that I hadn’t seen before! (They’ve only shown season 1 in Finland so far). On my way back I watched X-Men Origins: Wolverine, an IT Crowd episode I hadn’t had time to watch the first time, a couple of Mythbusters episodes, and some Mr. Bean (while listening to my MP3 player — Mr. Bean doesn’t need sound). The rest of the time I just listened to my MP3 player and rested. And ate. There was this risoni pasta salad that was absolutely wonderful!

I landed in Helsinki at 2.15pm on September 16th. This time the luggage was processed quickly; last time we had to wait for 1.5 hours (!!!) for the bags to start coming down the conveyor belt. I was actually home less than half an hour after landing! (The taxi ride was quick, too.)

Now, on to choosing photos…!

Note to self: Qantas’s Snack on Q pack is OK to be carried through quarantine (needs to be declared). Also, the pack from Frankfurt to Sydney seems to be better than the one from Sydney to Frankfurt… (In my opinion.) Also, it’s ok to take a separate handbag on-board. It’s so much better when I can put the backpack out of the way in the overhead lockers.

More than once in a lifetime

It happened in just over a week: on August 14 my boss suggests that now would be a good time to take my last weeks of summer vacation if I didn’t have any special plans to save them for later, and also reduce all my overtime hours. That’s not going to happen after the extra hours I did this week, though, but I’ll get it closer to zero than it’s been in years. Four weeks in total. I say, “Alright, I’ll think about it.”

Boy, did I think about it. Four weeks is a lot so I need to do something other than just sit inside, watch tv or play games (especially as I didn’t do much on my previous 1+3 weeks of vacation…).

On August 15-16 I see a dream where I plan a trip to Australia and in the morning I actually wake up startled, gasping “where’s my passport” — I really didn’t know where it was. The dream makes me take a peek at the ticket prices — just for fun — and I happen to mention this to a co-worker on our way from work (this was on August 17). He gets all excited that of course I need to go, now’s a really good chance! The enthusiasm gets me excited too and once I get off the subway I call my sister to ask if she’d go (not in a millllllion years but I figured I’d try if she was feeling spontaneous (not her nature)). We decide on a domestic trip instead. For a while I feel less excited and think that maybe it’s too much money and too soon.

Then on Thursday, August 20, the co-worker of mine asks jokingly if I’ve bought the tickets yet. There are other people around so they of course ask what it was about. I say I haven’t yet — and that I didn’t even know where my passport was. The same night I start looking for my passport and find it in almost the place where I thought it was (duh). Friday morning, August 21, I ask Kat, my friend in Australia, if it would be ok for me to come for a visit and it is! That’s it, I’m going. When I arrive at work I go talk to this nice lady, who was appalled when I said I didn’t know where my passport was. In her opinion adults shouldn’t lose things like that. I agree, but there was the move and everything… And I honestly didn’t think I’d ever need the passport again ;) so I didn’t even look for it in earnest. I whispered that I found my passport, so she laughs and says that it probably means I’m going then. I show a serious face and say yes, it does. By the end of the day I’ve already mentioned it to too many people, so now I really have to go.

So, today is August 22, 8 days after I got the idea. Before I left the house this morning I checked if I can apply for an ETA, or actually an eVisitor for European passport holders, without flight details. It was possible so I sent off the application — and it didn’t cost anything, like ETA and not to mention visa does! When I got back, I had received a confirmation on email (took 2 hours on a Saturday. Maybe it’s done by computers? Can it be?). Now it was time to book the tickets: I choose to go via Frankfurt again even though it means I’ll have to wait for 4-5 hours between flights. It’s alright, I rather be very safe than very sorry. After that’s done, I buy some insurances which are printable right there and then. In about 30 minutes after the booking I receive the tickets to my email and I’m done. That’s just crazy. Last time I waited for the tickets for 5 days to arrive in the mail and the insurance papers for 6 days.

I just noticed that I already have a seat reservation for three out of the four flights. That probably means I will have to stand for the 19 hours and 25 minutes between Frankfurt and Sydney. Luckily we stay for 2 hours in Singapore so I can rest my legs there. ;)

Last time I planned this for a year. This time for one week. Maybe next time I’ll find some middle ground.

Now, who wants to scream a little I’m-probably-crazy-for-doing-this scream with me? Well, travelling or meeting friends is never crazy.


The 31 hours of travelling is behind me. I left Sydney at 5 pm on Sunday 25th, waited for my transferring flight in Frankfurt from around 5:30 am (to 10:45 am) on Monday 26th and arrived in Helsinki around 2:30 pm on Monday. Now, twenty past six pm the tiredness suddenly crept up on me but I can’t give up. If I sleep at this time of day, my internal clock will be all messed up. Luckily, there’s nothing on tv today so I can go to bed early and wake up early as I’ve done during the trip.

Busy busy busy…!

This week has been really busy. On Tuesday I went in to the city for the first time when we had dinner at Sydney Tower (Centerpoint Tower).

Sydney Tower

The food was really good; I even tried some kangaroo and camel. The camel meat was really tough but the kangaroo was alright. I wouldn’t eat it regularly though. There also were tiny octopi (octopuses) but I wasn’t feeling quite that adventurous. We saw the fireworks they had arranged for the cruiseships Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2.

On Wednesday we went to Stanwell Park for some nice views

Nice view

and then to Scarborough for some lunch (I had fish and chips — how boring am I?! It was delicious, though). Then we drove down to Wollongong for some more views and choc tops (soft ice with chocolate coating).

On Thursday we went into the city again. We walked through the Rocks (the old part of the city) to the Opera House.

Sydney Opera House

Strolled through the Royal Botanical Gardens to the Library of NSW. There were some nice exhibitions there about old books and escaped convicts. The last stop was the Sydney Aquarium where I saw the platypus! I didn’t know they were so small — only 30 cm (about a foot) long. It was a fast bugger so I couldn’t get a proper picture…

Platypus in motion

We were knackered from all the walking so we decided to leave the Wildlife World for the next day. So, today we went to the Wildlife World where we saw all kinds of insects, reptiles and of course…

the wombat
A wombat

the wallabi
A wallabi

and of course, the koala
A koala

Unfortunately there were no kangaroos, probably because they need so much space to live in.

I had good luck in shopping too: found a book on Stephen King’s unpublished stories (I forget the name and it’s safely wrapped up) and Dreamfall (PC game). I can’t buy much more — I only have 20 something dollars (AUD) left!

Baked dinner

I was invited to dinner Friday night. It was a traditional Australian baked dinner apparently. We had lamb, chicken, sweet potato, potato, corn, broccoli, peas, and I think one dish was pumpkin. It was really good. Baked dinner can contain anything really, I suppose it’s just the cooking that makes it ‘baked’. Later, I got the best coffee I’ve ever had and some carrot peanut cake. Yum!

I was asked what is a traditional Finnish dish. I couldn’t really answer. I did tell them we usually eat beef, fish, pork, chicken, and turkey, and that lamb is perhaps a bit special food (for Easter) — I’ve never had it before. And that we like potatoes, pasta, and rice. But I couldn’t explain a traditional Finnish dish. The only really Finnish thing I can think if is mämmi, Easter pudding. Wikipedia doesn’t offer very much information on Finnish cuisine either… Oh well.