Friday, July 10, 2009

Trip to Australia (ACISP)

Pictures will hopefully appear at Picasa some time soon:)

Day 1: (Arrival)
Arrive at the airport at 23.20. Customs are really strict - they even inspect food items. Wait in front of the airport for CoachTrans Shuttle bus to depart and read the decision theory article I had taken with me. When I arrive at Kookaburra inn, there is a note left to me on the front door. Key is in a flower pot. Find my room and go to bed. Asleep at 3.00

Day 2: (Lone Pine)
Wake up around 9.30. Ask Wendy (the hostess of the Inn) about where the supermarket is and what to do after shopping. She recommends I go to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. First go to the supermarket, then come back. Go wait in the bus stop for nearly an hour.. but when I finally arrive at Lone Pine it is amazing.. the smell of eucalyptus penetrates even my somewhat closed nose. There are a lot of Koalas.. and they also have a wild birds show where you can see predatory birds up close (flying over you about 20 cm from your head sometimes). And free-range kangaroos.. that you could actually pat.. And cattle dog show. All of which were fun.. and of course you could take a picture with a koala.
After Lone Pine I walked the main shopping street where they had a few street bands playing.. I also checked out a few stores and bought a few books at a serious discount price (as there was a closing sale). Went by the supermarket on my way back and bought macaroni and tomato sauce. Got to the hostel and made pasta.

Day 3: (Bridge climb)
Woke up around 6 and contemplated what to do. Looked up a couple of variants, then went up and asked Wendy about them. Then went to look for a sleeping bag (as I wanted to go to a camping tour to the jungle). Also found a rather cheap used camera that I brought as I forgot to bring my charger with me. Also wanted to find WiFi hotspot but failed. Came back to the hostel, moved to a single room (as they only had a double available when I first arrived) and then went back to find the WiFi hotspot. This time I found the McDonalds free wireless area and used that to send some e-mails. Then went back to the hostel and started towards the bridge climb. However, I misinterpreted the directions Wendy had given me and thus ended up taking a long walk to the river and then a very nice ferry ride on it. Arrived at the bridge climb site a few minutes late but it was ok and I still had to wait for the guide to arrive. The guide was a really nice and funny woman named Jodie who seemed to enjoy what she was doing. The walk was a bit too commercial (three places where they took pictures which you could later buy) but was otherwise quite cool... A bit too expensive though, even by Australian standards.
After the bridge I walked around and sat in the park below the bridge which had a very nice view of the river (Brisbane City is really beautiful at night). Took a ferry back over the river and then took the short route (originally suggested but badly misinterpreted the first time around) back to the Hostel. Passed a McDonalds so checked my e-mail. Arrived back, confirmed my bookings for the two following days. Then sat in the TV room and listened to an american, australian and an irishman discussing sports and wrote up what I did today and on the two previous days.

Day 4: (Rainforest tour)
Woke up at 2.30, got back to sleep at about 3, up again at 6 (as it had been the previous two days as well). Worked with the translation of the book Im editing, spoke with people who also had woken up early and then got on the bus to the jungle tour at 8.45. Tourguide was fun. Many one-way streets of Brisbane were closed off so that gave him some trouble. However, once we were out of the city everything went smoothly and I got to see some really nice views of rainforest. The tour ended at around 5. I got off near a 7-11, brought a cup of coffe, drank it and then went to the ferry station. I purchased an all-day ticket, then rode to the other side to see the park there (which was really amazing) and then rode the ferry into one of the end stops and back into the center (which was also REALLY beautiful). Went through the McDonalds to read my email.. and got an ice cream there (which was really cheap compared to everything else). Arrived back at the hostel at around 8. Got another cup of coffe and started with the translation again. Did a bit of that, then sat in the TV room and watched a horror movie called "the Key". Left before the end as it seemed boring. Went out and did Taiji Form. Then turned in for the night.

Day 5: (Morton Island)
Woke up at 6. Bus came to pick me up at 7 and had the same driver as the day before (Dan). He drove us to the ferry and then another guide took over. The ferry was pretty typical of ferries and the ride took about 1h 15min during which we were also given one cup of coffe and a small piece of fruit cake. Then on the island we started by riding the 4 wheel drive bus on the jungle tracks to the sand dunes where we did sandsleding. Then a longer ride to the Lagoon. There I was the first to go swimming but later an american family from California followed me (and everyone else probably thought we were crazy as water was 15 degrees).After that we had our sandwiches and then drove to the lighthouse to see the whales, whom we did not unfortunately see. Then a nice ferry ride back after which Dan drove us back to the hotel. He recommended I go climb a certain mountain in Glasshouse mountains so after I got back I went to check train timetables and then passed through McDonalds to read my mail and Woolworths to buy something to eat. Then sat down in the kitchen (which was literally full of people - 3 americans, 3 germans, an italian and later 2 french people). Made diner from noodles and vegetables which came out a bit worse than I hoped. Then sat down to write all that down. Afterwards we watched "Taken" with 4 americans and an irishman.

By the way - one thing really worth mentioning is that the vast majority of shops and restaurants open at 9 and close at 5 so at 6 the city is a rather boring place to be in.

Day 6: (Glasshouse mountains)
Woke up at 6.40 having slept through the night for the first time. Made breakfast and waited up til 8 for Wendy. Asked her to confirm my booking for the day after. Then went to Woolworths to buy shaving supplies and something to eat on the hike (nuts). Came back to the hostel and shaved, cutting into my neck along the way. Then went to the hiking stores to ask for advice on getting to the mountain. They let me take photoes of a tour guide which gave both instructions and a map. Then went to the train station to wait for a train to glass house mountains. However, the train had some technical difficulties and I therefore missed a bus I had to switch to. However, the next train went through and arrived in about half an hour. When in Glass house mountains, I asked the train station guard about the mountain. He directed me to the tourist information center where they gave me two maps and a brochure. Then walked down Steve Irwing way (and found a hat which I stored in my backpack). Then walked to the mountains (and once I realized what mountain I was going to climb thoughts of accidentally commiting suicide started coming to mind. I reassured myself with the fact that Dan climbed it when he was 12). When I got to the mountain and started going up it, it seemed easy at first, but got progressively harder.. until the first rock climbing bit..
I realized it was mainly a psychological block though and kept on going.. even up some slopes that seemed impossible at first. The climb was long and tiresome. I reached the top and then went over the other side to take a few photoes of myself. Then started going back but first saw two small kids (9 and 11 as they said) and later a young girl (7) and the father of all three. He kindly took a photo of me. I was about to start down when it hit me that their dad mentioned a cliffside where you can look directly down.. so I went there as well.. Did start down after that though. When coming down I meat two guys who had just come up. I told them that the top was a bit further and then started crawling down.

It was different and hard but not worse than going up.. until at some point I was hanging on a vertical cliff with nothing (including steps) below me for 10 m and understood that this was not where I came up from.. mainly because I felt I couldnt really go up it anymore.. but down and sideways werent options either.. and my legs were slowly becoming spaghetti...

Thankfully, the two guys I met before were climbing down the right way and one of them had some experience so suggested I go a bit up and then sideways.. which I did manage to do.. He scloded me a bit for going off the track but we then climbed down togehter. The other guy was also a first time climber thankfully.

I then went for a hike around the mountain as well. It started going dark and i just barely made it around back to the lookout when it got dark. There were a bunch of people there who had just gotten down the mountain.. they offered me a ride but I decided to walk. It was a nice long walk in the warm winter weather. A few cars passed me but it was nice and peaceful most of the time. I finally arrived at a place I saw a sign saying they sell Macademia nuts. The sign was still up so I went thorugh the gate, knocked at the door and asked for that. The guy who came out to give them to me turned out to be of german descent (moved to australia at age 12) and mentioned about 5 people die at that mountain each year. I brought 3 kilos of Macademia nuts.

I then proceeded to the settlement and went to an open store to buy a 2l bottle of Mountain Dew and then went to the railway station. I was out of energy and managed to misread the timetable, thus missing a bus back towards the city.. I did catch the train though.. but then made a completely unneccessary train switch because I had the illusion that the express train would not stop at my station. However, I only lost time as the public transportation here is zone based and has daily tickets. Drank the whole bottle of MD during the waiting and while in the train.

Went to McDonalds to check email. By the way, about third of the people on the streets are asian and about a tenth are indian (sikhs mostly). Went home to the hostel, made dinner (frozen vegetables, mainly peas). Then sat on the couch and watched the comedy channel while typing down this.

Day 7: (Conference day 1)
Woke at 7 to make coffe and clean my room. Left my bread to the eco french guy and gave Wendy and Chris some chocolate and cookies. Then set off to the conference venue at 8.20. Arrived at about 9. Sat through the first session without internet but worked with my photos. Then got wireless and started sending e-mails. Had a rather terrible headache. Didnt really listen to the talks. However got talking with an american professor (who had been to 3 conferences before and had 3 more to go) and a New Zealand researcher. Once the conference was over, I walked to the hotel.. where I had a shower. Then made coffe and watched a Simpsons episode from TV. Then walked to woolworths to get something to eat. On walking back, I noticed there really were a lot more churches than I initally believed. Got back and made noodles for myself while watching a documentary about Michael Jackson (whose death I heared about the second day in australia while in Woolworths).

Day 8: (Conference day 2)
Woke up at 6 to prepare my presentation. Then went to the conference and sat there, sadly not understanding much. Myown presentation went pretty well. Talked with the american lady who was into financial crypto and whose talk was the only one I understood. After the conference was over, I surfed the net and then walked around in the botanic gardens which are right next door to QUT. Then went to conference dinner, stopping by a few souvenir shops. Conference dinner was held in an irish pub and had live music and irish dancers. Met Elizabeth (one of the organizers) and his husband Chris who works for a phone company tracking down phone booth theft cases (being an accountant). Went back to the hotel and went to bed.

Day 9: (Conference day 3)
Woke up around 7, made coffee and breakfast. Went to the botanic gardens and walked around there (They are even more beautiful in the morning). Then went to the conference. This time I could actually understand some of the presentations, which was nice. After the conference ended, I got talking to a Croatian guy who was in information security. After that I used WiFi to book myself a ticket to Sydney and then went back to the hotel to drop my laptop off there. Then headed back to the botanic gardens and over the river to the cliffs there. It turns out that there is a stunning park between the river and the cliffs and that people use these cliffs for rockclimbing practice. Passed by a few shops and got some souvenirs. Got back to my hotel room when it was dark (having checked by McDonalds again to read e-mails). Made dinner (ramen) and then went out again. Found a nice discount bookstore and brought even more books. Went back to the hotel room and went to sleep

Day 10: (Brisbane to Katoomba)
Woke up and made breakfast, then headed out, first to the post office (which was closed) and then to buy a larger backpack (but that store was also closed). Then did a tour of the city photographing the churches next to one of the main streets. When I got back I still had time left so I thought I would go to the park.. which I did. I brought a cup of coffe and then laid on the grass and just relaxed.. until I needed to go back to the hotel to check out. I swung by the travel store again and it was open so I could buy the 95 l bakcpack I had been looking at the day before. Since I was in a hurry, I didnt have time to wait for the clerk (an elderly chinese man) to unpack the filling and I took the bag with it back to the hotel. After checking out I asked for a large garbage bag and after explaining why I needed it, got a box for the paper and a bag for the plastic. Managed to empty out the new bag and fit the old one into it nice and tight, being able to add a few more things to the top. Then left the large bag to the hotel for storage while I went out to the park again. This time I got further and found my way into what seemed to be the other botanic gardens of the city. Walked there for about 2 hrs and then got back to the hotel, took my backpack and set off towards the railway station to go to the airport. Airport train station had free wireless so I used that to check e-mail and then went to check in and wait for my flight. I had an explosive substances test which (of course) was clean. The flight was delayed about half an hour. In Sidney I got to the train station and then headed to central and from there to Katoomba. When there, I rang Linda and she came to pick me up with her husband. They drove me to their place and then led me to the living room where we talked for quite some time. Afterwards they showed me to the shed they used as a library and I went to sleep.

Day 11: (The Tree Sisters)
Woke up around 8 and went into the house. Linda was up already and made me breakfast. I told her I had seen a guitar in the library but that it was out of tune and that I could not tune by ear. It turned out both her and her husband played the guitar, her husband a little better. He tuned it for me and then suggested I go to the Three sisters and hike around there while they go to church. That is pretty much what I did. When I got up with the skyrail and headed to the next looking platform, the batteries of my camera died. However, I walked back to the Echo point lookout (passing by the most marvelous waterfall) only to discover that the phone there wasnt working.. so I walked back to the waterfall because I had also seen a phone there. It turned out that Lindas husband had gone to work and so I needed to find my own way back. I rested for a while and read a bit of the article I had bought with me. Then headed to the town and back to Lindas from there. She made me lunch and we did push hands after that. Then she went to cook pasta and when that was done, I met his son (who is about my age). We played guitar hero for quite a few hours. When we finished, I got back to my shed to write up all this (and headed to sleep soon after).

Day 12: (Katoomba)
Woke up and had coffe with Linda and her Husband. They then drove me to see a really beautiful waterfall after which we visited a bunch of second hand stores. It turned out that Lindas husband has good knowledge about what books are valuable and he uses that to make money on Ebay. We then had lunch and talked some more, after which I went to town. I first visited some shops, then went back to Katoomba falls to take pictures and then did another circle in the center to visit all the interesting stores. Then came back to Lindas and we did some cutting practice with the swords. After that she cooked dinner and then we did push hands and then talked for quite a bit of time. I then went to the shed to write all of these things down and then went to sleep. During the whole day I also tried to play the guitar I had found in my room the previous day. Tried to play without the pick and Im slowly getting the hang of it as well.

Day 13: (Sydney Zoo)
Woke up and went up to the house. As noone was around except the cockatoos outside, I tried feeding them again.. and got some pretty nice shots of them. Eventually Linda came up, but she wasnt feeling well so his husband drove her to the doctor, also giving me a lift to the train station. I brought a ticket to Sydney but as there was time, I went downtown to buy a hat. Got back in time to catch the train and took it to Sidney. When there, I went to see the opera house and then caught a ferry to the Zoo. Zoo initally seemed like a dissapointment but I then went to see the bird show.. and that was amazing. They had an owl that flew less than a meter away from the people.. then a large eagle with about 2 m wingspan who also flew quite close.. And then a parrot who took a golden coin from a spectators hand.. and then delivered it back to him... not to mention an orchestrated movement of birds as an introduction and as the finale. I also found out that the cockatoos live to be a 100 years old... which made me think.. Anyways, after the bird show I also saw a platypus, a roo trying to escape his exhibit, a kookaburra , a tasmanian devil and just before leaving also a panda. Got back to circular key and went to central station where I nearly missed my train to katoomba. When I got back to Lindas, she said she had been sleeping the whole day and planned to continue resting. She showed me where all the food items were and I made myself pasta with beans and peas, which I ate while watching mythbusters with Shaun (their son). I then went to the library shed to write this up and then to go to sleep (as I have had a headache for most of today).

Day 14: (Katoomba)
I woke and went out only to find that it was raining. Made coffe and breakfast and then went to the supermarket to get something for the way back. Then chatted with Linda (who was still feeling a bit unwell). All three of us then went for lunch after which I went home with john to pack my bag. I also bought a new Training sword from Linda and as I had a 50 eur bill instead of 50 aud bill John needed to go and get change for me from the ATM. Linda had her sword training with kids at 4 (which was fun to participate in). One of the mothers gave me a lift to Leurra railway station and I caught a train to Sydney from there. When on the train I slowly started to realize that Im leaving this amazing countryy already. To fend off the coming nervous streak I took out a book and read most of my way to the airport. When there, I checked in my baggage, then sent a few e-mails, visited a souvenir shop (as I had some unspent money) and then a fast food restaurant (because I hadn't had dinner). Then went to the airplane and said my goodbyes to Australia.

About me

My name is Margus Niitsoo. At the moment, I have just finished my first year of PhD studies in Computer Science at the University of Tartu. I decided to start this blog because I do sometimes have things I want to share with many people or that I just want to write down for myself. As such things do not happend all that often, I doubt I will update this blog with any regularity. Only time will tell, however.