Once upon a time in Osaka...

Once upon a time in Osaka...

After a week of being totally amazed by Tokyo I was exited to go see another Japanese city, Osaka!

Ōsaka, or 大阪, is a part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area of close to 20 million people. I'm starting to wonder how many of the world's biggest cities are located in Japan....!?!

It was easy to decide how to get from Tokyo to Osaka: with the Shinkansen train (the bullet train), yay! I had popped by the Tokyo train station before my departure day to check out the place so I would know how to get to 1) the right station and 2) the right platform. There are soooo many stations, terminals, platforms, entrances, escalators and underground passages that it's quite easy to get lost! But I made it! Just a little problem with my tickets at the automatic gates but no worries since there's always lots of helpful staff around! 

Read More

Zouk in Japan - the surprising latin & Brazilian dance hub

Zouk in Japan - the surprising latin & Brazilian dance hub

Believe it or not, you can do lots of latin dancing in Japan, even zouk! And not just in Tokyo but in various locations in the country. I was excited to visit some other cities beyond Tokyo in my quest to find out how is Japanese zouk and extended my time in Japan a couple days just for that :) Tokyo dance scene information follows right below, scroll down for Osaka and Kyoto!

Read More

Great Barrier Reef - paradise lies below the surface

Great Barrier Reef - paradise lies below the surface

After getting soaked for three days in the rainforests north of Cairns I returned to the city to change gear, check mails and sleep. Next morning I had to wake up early, yet again, for my last Australian adventure on this trip! I had managed to switch off my alarm in the morning but luckily I didn’t miss my boat, pfew!

And so I was off to a 2 day sailing trip on the Great Barrier Reef - excited to say the least! In stead of taking one of the big boats with 30 or 50 other tourists I had booked a trip on a sailboat... Less people and more time. We were a group of 11 people (Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, German, French and Canadian) with a crew of 3 on the fantastic Coral Sea Dreaming.

Read More

"It rains in the rain forest"

"It rains in the rain forest"

It was my last (and very busy) week in Australia and I was spending it around the Far North Queensland. The week was only halfway and after the trips around the waterfalls close to Cairns I headed up the coast! The plan was to make a loop around the rainforest covered area north of Cairns and the town of Port Douglas.

It was a warm winter morning when I hopped on the bus in Cairns. First I would head to a river to cruise down along the mangrove shores and spot some saltwater crocodiles. I was curious whether we would actually see any but sure enough, as if they were planted there, we spotted a couple big ones.

Read More

Cairns - from one cascade to another!

Cairns - from one cascade to another!

It was the end of May and one of those mornings again: an unreasonably early wake-up and off to catch a morning flight from Darwin to Cairns. I felt I had barely fallen asleep the whole night, thanks to the Darwin party people keeping everybody awake (well it was Saturday night so what could I expect). I was counting the days 'til I would be home again, in my own bed, enjoying the peace & quiet…

From one small city to another, I was making my way through the northern parts of Australia. Cairns is the biggest city on the northeast coast, in the middle of tropical nature and the Great Barrier Reef. The city doesn't really have a beach (very strange) but a nice promenade by the sea. This is the centre of most of what's happening in Cairns with big lawn areas, spaces & equipment for the sports enthusiasts and BBQ spots as well as a 4800m2 saltwater swimming lagoon. And a lovely place to go see the sunset!

Read More

Darwin - the outback capital

Darwin - the outback capital

When I was planning my RTW trip I had been very curious about the Northern Australia and the outback so I had decided to add Darwin to my Australian itenerary. I arrived there after very exciting 10 days of dancing in Brisbane and the Gold Coast... feeling very tired. The hot & humid air of Darwin was a nice change after the chilly nights of Queensland - where I had actually managed to develop a cold. So the first couple days in Darwin I just kicked back, enjoyed the heat and did pretty much nothing. By the third day I was feeling better, happily doing some sightseeingand tanning by the pool. Not bad!

Read More

Brisbane - zouk capital of Australia (part 2)

Brisbane - zouk capital of Australia (part 2)

If you want to dance zouk in Australia Brisbane is the place to go. During my week in Brisbane I had lots of time to go check out the latin dance scene - obviously I focused on the zouk socials and classes since this was the zouk capital of this side of the world! There's something going on every night, either classes or parties; or both. If you're more interested in parties it's best to be in town for the weekend. There are also great latin and zouk congresses in Brisbane and the area - scroll to the bottom of the post (after the full listing of the weekly zouk classes & socials) for more info on the events!

Read More

Bribane and the Sunshine Coast - beach and city life in Australia (part 1)

Bribane and the Sunshine Coast - beach and city life in Australia (part 1)

I got to Brisbane after three chilled out days in Byron Bay. I had planned to stay a whole week in Brisbane to check out all the zouk dancing spots in town – it is the zouk capital of Australia after all! A dance friend of mine had offered me even a place to stay so I was all set for my dance week! But more about dancing in Brisbane in the next post :)

Brisbane is bit of less known big city in Australia – Sydney and Melbourne seem to get most tourists, as well as Perth on the west coast lately. But Brisbane is quite well located with lots of fast connections to the popular islands such as the Australian reef destinations Fraser Island and Whitsundays as well as Fiji, among others. It’s also in the pretty much half way on the travelers’ famous east coast route from Melbourne or Sydney to Cairns. I immediately liked the city when I strolled from the bus terminal to the river and boarded the City Cat ferry. The river snakes through the city, passing the skyscraper filled down town (Riverside terminal) and you get a good sense of how the place looks like.

Read More

Chilling out in Byron Bay

Chilling out in Byron Bay

My plan after Sydney and Ayers Rock was to see some of the east coast of Australia between Sydney and Brisbane. But since I had spent some extra time dancing in Sydney and wanted spend some more time dancing in Brisbane as well there wasn’t a whole lot left. So it happened that Byron Bay was my one and only stop between the two big cities. I had asked around for the best places to visit on the coast and Byron kept coming up – frankly people had a hard time finding anything else to recommend which made my planning easier.

Read More

The big red rocks

The big red rocks

The iconic image of Australia: Ayers Rock! I had booked flights to Ayers Rock already last November when I booked my RTW-ticket so I didn’t have to think about whether to include a visit to the rocks on my trip. It was one of the highlights of this trip that I had been waiting for.

Let's get straight to business... There’s a couple different sites there: firstly there's Uluru or Ayers Rock and secondly Kata Tjuta - these are two separate sites, two massive rock formations. They are both located in the same National Park area and they're both an easy 20-40 min drive from the small town of Yulara where most visitors are based (or I might say all since there are no other places to stay there). Both Uluru and Kata Tjuta were formed in the same time period and are the same colour but they have different geology - read more about that at the bottom of the post.

Read More

Enjoying the Sydney latin scene (part 2)

Enjoying the Sydney latin scene (part 2)

Sydney is quite a good spot for us latin dancers and I had 10 days to check it out. The city is not known for its zouk scene (Brisbane is the Australian zouk capital) though you’ll find zoukers and some socials & parties there. But for salseros and bachateros there’s a lot of things happening, something every day of the week.

I happened to be in town for the Sydney International Bachata Festival! As I was busy being a tourist I didn’t want to tie myself to the festival schedule so I just decided to join a couple of the parties. First it was the pre-party at the Mediterranean restaurant on Oxford Street - cool location. When I walked in a zouk song was playing but only a few couples were on the dance floor. No reason to worry though, soon the floor was packed! They played mostly bachata with a couple salsas and zouks in between. I was happy I found some really good zouk dancers later on in the evening. And obviously tons of amazing bachateros. I had never danced bachata on that level before or Dominican style bachata ever!

Read More

Cool days in Sydney (part 1)

Cool days in Sydney (part 1)

Australia! The country so big that it's also a continent - though it is the smallest continent. Australia was definitely at the top of my travel list, for one because of the excitement of being that far away from home but also for many of its natural wonders.

My journey in Australia would start in its biggest city, Sydney. I arrived to Sydney on a Monday afternoon, after my couple weeks of stay in New Zealand. I was a bit anxious to see how strict the local customs really were but really weren’t asked too many questions (the same set as in New Zealand - "where have you used those shoes", "are you carrying any fruits") and apparently my visa was in order too since they never asked to see any proof of it. Australia was only country in my RTW trip I needed I pre-arranged visa on my entire trip - none of the South American countries required one from me.

Read More

Windy Wellington

Windy Wellington

After a bit over a week on the New Zealand's gorgeous South Island I was moving back up to the North Island. I took a morning bus from Nelson to Picton, basically just over one big hill, straight to the Picton ferry terminal. I could already check my bag in the ferry that would leave in about two hours so I had some time to go explore Picton!

Picton is probably mostly known for the ferry connection but it was a nice little town. It had a bit more modern feel to it, compared to the other South Island towns that I visited. The harbor area is the prettiest part of town with manicured lawns and palm trees, the bay was full of sailboats, motorboats and yachts. There’s some pricey cafés with views to the bay or just can just take a seat in the park.

Read More

Resting in Nelson and tramping* around Abel Tasman

After about a week in New Zealand I was making my way towards one of the most popular destinations in the country, the Abel Tasman National Park, located on the North East corner the South Island. To get there I would first go to the town of Nelson, taking another early morning bus from Christchurch. It was one of the most annoying bus rides but I won’t get into that – it might have felt more annoying since I was very very very tired. But it was fun to be a party girl for a change that night before in Christchurch!

I arrived to Nelson later that afternoon, checked into my hostel and went out have a stroll in the city. There are nice cafés, restaurants and shops in the tree lined streets, a cathedral up on top of the hill – it’s all very clean and quaint. You can make some walks in the city, one of the most well-known ones is to the “Centre of New Zealand”, that’s where I went the next day.

Read More

Feel the earth move in Christchurch

Feel the earth move in Christchurch

It was another early morning (after one late evening…) and I was getting on a bus from Queenstown to Christchurch. I had planned to go to Christchurch that day simply because I knew there was going to be some zouk that night and I certainly wasn’t going to miss that! But I had no idea what an interesting town I had added to my travel plan...

Read More

Autumn days in Queenstown

Autumn days in Queenstown

So my plan was to - in stead doing the traditional camper van tour of NZ since I was by myself and had only 2,5 weeks - fly from Auckland to Queenstown, to the adrenaline capital of New Zealand. Queenstown lies in the middle of the South Island. I was going to bus up and around the South Island, cross the Cook Strait to Wellington and fly back to Auckland. It wasn't a very detailed or well thought out plan but I wanted to see a bit of the cool NZ nature and go dancing in some of the cities and that seemed to cover those.

I had a morning flight from Auckland to Queenstown, right after the Easter holidays. I was really tired that morning after an early wake up but it was one of those ‘wow’ moments (Ushuaia déjà vu) when the plane descended through the clouds: the place looked stunning!

Read More

New horizons, New Zealand: Zouk & adventures in Auckland

New horizons, New Zealand: Zouk & adventures in Auckland

It was one of those long nights. But one I had been waiting for a while: my flight from Santiago to Auckland. I had come to the end of my four months in Latin America.

Four months... it had passed so fast. As I packed my bags once again I was feeling quite happy since I had grown a bit tired of the cold, damp & dirty gringo trail through Bolivia, Peru and Chile. In any case it was a big milestone for me, leaving South America in one piece after all the adventures that I braved all by myself. I had so many fond memories and made so many fantastic friends, and I knew that I'd be coming back for sure... But now, it was time to move on!

Read More

Santiago - End of my South American road

Santiago - End of my South American road

I am writing this post about Santiago in SANTIAGO! Wow, for the first time on my trip around the world I'm up to date with the blog. Better open a bottle of wine (wait, it's already open..)! It has helped a lot that I haven't done anything really exciting in the past week so easy to catch up on some writing. Also I know that I will be veeery busy and the internet is expensive in my next destination (New Zealand) so it's now or never...

I got to Santiago from Valparaíso, just an hour and a half's bus ride away. I got off the bus on a metro station Pajaritos, hoping I could find my way to my hostel from there - and I did! Small victories in life :) It was Sunday and the town was full of people (all the hostels were booked, barely got a bed for me) with the Lollapalooza music festival and the Santiago marathon packing the city with rock & running tourists. Although by the looks of it in downtown Santiago you could imagine that about 200 people live in the city: it was basically empty. Strangely empty. But I guess everybody was having fun somewhere else than the commercial district, almost all the shops were closed anyway.

Read More

The rough Valparaíso - bohemian "paradise valley" is no paradise

The rough Valparaíso - bohemian "paradise valley" is no paradise

So after one night and two relaxing (boring) days in La Serena I was already ready to move on. I anyway needed to get a bit more south, towards Santiago. 7 hours south of La Serena was the Unesco Heritage site Valparaíso, just an hour and a half from Santiago, on the coast. I thought I might find more things to do there. I left La Serena on the last evening bus that was supposed to leave at 0.30am - but lucky us, our bus didn’t get to the bus terminal until 1.10am. I got settled in my seat and passed out within an instance. At around 7am I was already awake, worried that I’d miss my stop – though this time it was actually the final stop of the bus. At about 8am we were in Valparaíso.

Read More