Homey Country Life and Mid-Semester Break
~Country Life Weekend
Planned and organized by the Butler Australia Study Abroad Programs, Country Life weekend exceeded all my expectations and brought me face to face with the Australian country. On Friday the 19th of September, the Butler Students split ways and were taken into either Lamington National Park or Rosalie Plains, near Towoomba. The 4000 acre Cattle Farm we stayed at in Rosalie Plains was beautiful and all but boring. Each had their own warm quilted bed inside the vast farmhouse which was run by a lively couple, the Reynolds. They cooked delicious country-sized meals for us, even Steak from the farm – I was in heaven! Our first day there, we arrived later in the day, and after dinner, lied under the stars with the dogs Scruffy and Kingy. The night sky was astounding; there were even more stars out than I had seen in the mountains of Colorado or the plains of Arizona. You could see a galaxy mass covering a quarter of the sky, and shooting stars showed up regularly. The next day, we went on a truck ride around the property. We were riding in the truck bed while kangaroos sprinted alongside us – incredible ( I think we all used the words “like Jurassic Park!”). Later we watched how they made cattle feed, and climbed giant stacks of hay bales with the dogs. We also had plenty of free time to play tennis (they had a court – random) and relax. On the final day, we visited the house that won the #1 Country Garden award which was quite amazing. Australians have some pretty amazing potential for home gardens including pineapples, oranges, lemons, avocados! We got to know the Reynolds well over that short time, and I hope to visit again before I go home.
This past week during my study abroad in Australia was our Spring Break equivalent here at UQ. This is the trip I had been waiting for: SCUBA diving in on of the Great Barrier Reef! Just a short flight North of Brisbane, we found ourselves in the surprisingly small city of Cairns. Everything in the city had to do with tourism, diving, sky-diving, or the rain forest – an epicenter of adventure. Our first day we went diving. We had absolutely perfect weather, and the clarity was amazing. There was definitely something amazing and new about the great barrier reef. There is simply more biodiversity there than I had ever seen. Everywhere I turned I could find a new species that I had not yet seen. We did two dives on that trip and our second was unforgettable. We anchored near a tiny sand island – nothing but pure, clean sand. Around this min-island were reef patches, some only a meter below the sea level. The shallowness of these reefs really allowed you to see the intense colors of the creatures beneath without the color spectrum loss of deeper waters. There was so much awe inspiring life under the water that it made the beautiful view above, seem borrish! It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Tropical Rain Forest and Etty Bay
We also went on a private tour through the tropical rain forest near Cairns. Our guide, Dave, was a genuine Croc-Hunter type of guy. It is his life goal to film endangered species around the world. He is also currently on the hunt for the worlds largest snake! The rain forest was amazing, so many plants and insects that you don’t see at first glance. Dave told us all about the trees and organisms that lived there and shared personal experiences with the organisms around us. He pointed out to us the stinger tree, which stings with an extremely intense and lon-lasting pain, “like an electric shock,” he said. We also went on a crocodile search on the river. We couldn’t find any, however got close up with some Tawny Frogmouths, which are like strange owls, and a tree snake. The hills around us were also picturesque to say the least. We later took a swim in a safe rain forest stream and fed flies to a giant spider. It was quite a day, and we had the perfect weather for it.
Next, we headed south, out of Cairns, toward Mission Beach were we stayed in a house by the beach. This was just an ordinary beach to the Aussies, but was absolutely beautiful to us. Aside from our time on the beach, pool, and playing with the owners dog, we went on yet another memorable day trip. Etty Bay was recommended to us by Dave, our guide, and so we took a day trip their a couple of days later. It was, once again, a beautiful spot, and there weren’t very many people there. Expecting to have a normal day on the beach, we found ourselves face to face with an endangered Cassowary and its young. Cassowaries are prehistoric-looking birds that can be around six feet tall. They are beautifully colored, have a horn on their heads, and lay green eggs. And if that isn’t wierd enough, they have a massive raptor-like claw on each foot. Dave had told us about these birds, but finally watching one stroll the beach — we didn’t know what to do. Our day at the beach was all but boring!
Our vacation ended shortly after, with a drive back up to Cairns and a flight back to Brisbane. I have one much needed day before classes start. Its hard to simply go on as usual after such an amazing trip, but its time to get back to work.
I will leave with the feelings of:
Dizziness – all is so busy… extremely fun, and always new, but I’ve got to keep studying
Refreshed! – As much as the next month will be extremely demanding, I think I’m ready