“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien ~ Exciting Explorations and Minor Mishaps Abroad!
A lifetime can be defined as the time that the life of someone or something continues. I feel like I am living a lifetime in Australia. I believe that the person I am here will in a sense always remain here in a perfect stitch of time. And, yet, I know I will go back to the US a completely changed person (all grown up in a sense).
The weekends leading up to spring break, my friends and I have decided to wander and explore. A lot. And get out there and see things. The first weekend of September, we found ourselves on a kayaking tour at Palm Cove out to Scout (Haycock) Island and Double Island. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. The waters were electrifyingly blue. We set off on our adventure a little past eight in the morning and made our way out to Haycock Island. It was a long, long paddle stretch. But, we made it! It was a small island, but the view of the coast was incredible. Plus, the island had purely dead coral beaches, which was really awesome to see.
Next, we set off to Double Island. We saw a few turtles skimming the surface on the way, and then once we were on one of the beaches, we spotted a few stingrays in the water among the mangroves. We went to one beach on the front of the island, and then paddled to the back of the island to another beach where we had some food and rested. Our guide also had us lick green ants, which tasted sour haha (kind of like Sour Patch Kids). Then, we started to go around the island. During this part of the trip, we got a chance to paddle in and out of a cave in the island, which was a little tricky but really cool to see! After that, we saw the resort on the island, which costs $33,000 a night to stay on. Also, the movie Fool’s Gold was filmed on Double Island, which os pretty neat. From this point, we started to paddle back to shore, which took an incredibly long amount of time because the water was really rough. But, eventually, we did it! After a 5 hour kayaking tour, the whole group was exhausted. After eating at a local restarant, we ended up crashing on the beach for about an hour. We must have been a sight, especially since we ended up being uncomfortably close to a wedding that was occurring on the beach when we woke up. Pretty sure we’re in the background of a lot of the pictures haha.
School started to pick up the next week. My friends and I found ourselves busy with essays, projects, presentations, and quizzes. It’s funny, because all of the work here doesn’t really pick up until the second half of the semester, so you really have to brace yourself. It’s not that the work here is impossible by any means, it’s just a lot of it takes research and can be very time consuming that way. And, lets be honest, it’s very difficult to get a lot of work done when you’re living in a kind of paradise.
The next weekend, a few friends and I went on a day tour to the Atherton Tablelands. JCU Cairns can book awesome walk about tours for you to go on. Tony (the guy who does the tours) operates his own tours by himself and he does a superb job! We were up early in the morning, and took an hour and a half ride from Cairns up to the Tablelands. During the ride, we had to drive up a mountain that had 97 turns, which was kind of crazy. During the day, we stopped at Lake Eacham National Park, the Curtain Fig Tree (which was inspiration for the movie Avatar), Malanda Pub (for lunch), Hypipamee Volcanic Crater, Dinner Falls, Millaa Millaa Lookout, Millaa Millaa Waterfall (where they shoot the Herbal Essence commercials), and, finally, Josephine Falls (which had an AWESOME natural rock waterslide). Overall, the Atherton Tablelands were absolutely gorgeous, and the rolling hills, large amounts of open land, and farms all reminded me of home. I am still so amazed how in Australia driving such a short distance can bring you to an entirely different landscape.
And then, it was a week full of school again. Only this week, our awesome IFSA advisor Lalena was up on Thursday and Friday to see us! Also, this was the week of the Moonlight Gorge Gallop at Barron Gorge. Basically, jam-packed. School flew by, and Thursday night we were scheduled to lawn bowl with our advisor. Well, it didn’t work out very well, because someone from our group said he knew where we were to lawn bowl and it was near Palm Cove. The bus driver looked super confused as to where he had to drop us off. We were dropped off in the middle of a highway haha. Eventually, we went down a few hills and found a lawn bowling place. We felt pretty accomplished since we were right on time. The people there didn’t know anything about lawn bowling reservation made by IFSA-Butler, but we just figured that we had to wait for our advisor to get there to get everything squared away. While we were looking at the wallabies in a field, we got a call from our advisor asking where we were because she was in the parking lot. We tell her that we’re looking at the wallabies and she just goes “What? Wallabies? There’s no wallabies here.” That’s when we discovered that there were, in fact, many many different lawn bowling places in Cairns. Whoops. We went in the total opposite direction- a full hour away where we were supposed to be. We called the maxi taxi company at least three times, and finally were able to secure a taxi after over an hour of waiting (I mean we were kind of in the middle of nowhere). So, two hours later, we were finally at the correct lawn bowling place for lawn bowling and dinner. An embarrassing mishap on our part, but definitely a funny night to look back on.
So, basically this wasn’t our week. And it was about to get slightly more complicated. We had dinner with our advisor in town (which had to be shifted since a number of us were running a race that night) and then caught a bus into the Tablelands and toward Barron Gorge. We are literally riding the bus forever and are convinced that we missed our stop. We kept asking the driver to tell us when to get off, and he never actually did. Eventually, we were the only group of people left on the bus. We went to ask the driver and third time and he semi freaked out and said that he didn’t want to deal with this because he’s been up since three am and he doesn’t care and wants us to get off here. So, here we are in the middle of nowhere and the bus drives away. The race starts at 7pm (it’s already getting dark) and it is currently 6:45pm. Thank goodness someone had internet on their phone and we were able to look at a map. After some time, we made it to the race route but couldn’t find the start of the race. It wasn’t until 7:20pm that we actually found the start of the race. The people that organized the race were awesome though and waited for us to arrive. We all got suited up with glow sticks, and the race began! It was amazing- the sky was so clear and dark you could actually clearly see the Milky Way. At the end of the race, we got pizza and then sprinted (literally) to catch our bus. Overall, it was a great night!
The next day, myself and three other friends were up bright and early to go camping on Fitzroy Island! It was an absolutely gorgeous day and the water was incredibly blue and spectacular! The island wasn’t what I expected. I half expected it to be super touristy (like Green Island), but it really wasn’t packed at all. We got off the boat and checked in at the resort campground, then started putting up the tent. Thank goodness I knew how to set up a tent because no one else really new how (funny thing is, I didn’t learn until this past summer and I didn’t dream it would come in handy here). After setting up camp, we headed to the beach! The beach was COVERED in dead coral (not the best place to hang out for the day) so we ended up sunbathing on a large rock (which was kind of cool). We could even see parts of the reef right in the water (barely three feet from shore). After a full day at the beach, we played some ping pong, ate dinner at the resort, and headed to bed. Bed (the tent, a few very unsupportive foam pads, and sleeping bags) was not comfortable in the slightest. And, to top it all off, the bats would not stop shrieking all night and the bush turkeys kept coming super closer to our tent and rustling around in the leaves. Then, in the middle of the night, it got super windy and started raining. Naturally, we had the tent with broken zippers, so we kind of got slightly rained on for a good 20 minutes or so. Lets just say it really wasn’t the most restful night hahaha.
The next day, we all decided to hike! On our first trek, we found Nudey Beach (which we were convinced we were at the previous day haha, but the island was slightly larger than we made it out to be). The beach was stunning! Then, we decided to hike to the summit in Fitzroy Island National Park. First, we hiked to the lighthouse, which really reminded me of the lighthouse in the movie Shutter Island and it was super creepy. Also, the land around the summit was completely burned from the planned burning that was occurring on the island. It kind of reminded all of us of the elephant graveyard in the Lion King (I know, too many movie references hahaha). Next, we started hiking up the summit, which was a pretty good trek. We went a little higher than the marked summit and climbed up onto some rocks, so we got amazing panoramic views of the entire island.
After hiking, we spent some time at the resort pool….well, until it started torrentially down pouring. It was about 3ish when we decided that the rain wasn’t going to stop and we had to go pack up a soaking wet tent. Joy. Unfortunately, the tent filled slightly with water and some of our things were pretty soaked. But, eventually, we got everything packed up and were ready to catch our 4:30 ferry back to Cairns.
The beginning of the following week was jam-packed with homework and spring break planning. We had booked our flights weeks ago, but had neglected to find hostels to accommodate all nine of us. We lucked out in the fact that we were able to find nice places to stay (but I would strongly suggest to anyone else to really do their research and plan in advance because it was a bit of a hassle). But, we did it! Tomorrow morning at 4am, I am off the Brisbane, then Hervey Bay, then Fraser Island, and finally the Gold Coast! We are going to be doing A LOT of traveling over the next 10 days, including one ten hour bus ride (that should be reallllyyyyy interesting). Spring break here we come!!!!