Sorry I have not posted in such a long time, particularly when I have done so much travelling in the last few months. Since I’ve done most of the major assignments, and I’m wasting the day, recuperating from my birthday celebrations, I figured I would use this time to recap all that’s happened.
In July, I flew out to Brisbane for the weekend, right after I did my initial presentation for my research project. I purposely planned it this way but it did cause me a bit of stress, everything worked out in the end though. I met up with my friend Nathan, whom I had met travelling through Europe. He basically drove me around everywhere for the weekend, along with his girlfriend (now fiancee) Anne and her son Samuel. We went down to the Gold Coast, well known for its beaches and theme parks (and strip clubs). Then we headed north, going up the Coast, looking at the Glass House Mountains, and the reason I went to Queensland, the Big Pineapple. Sadly, it wasn’t as big as I would have liked it. I should point out that Aus has this odd obsession with Big Things http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia%27s_big_things They did however, have a delicious ice cream bar, and I had a pineapple parfait. They also had something called the nutmobile, but we did not ride that.
Visited with another friend in Bris, Bec, who I had met in NZ. Unfortunately, she was starting school again, while mine was still out for another week. We made the best of it, using the morning before my flight to walk around the city, and even went up the clock tower at city hall. Brisbane is not as flat as my beloved Melbourne, so I had the same huff’n’puff problem as NZ.
I couldn’t leave Aus without seeing its two greatest natural icons, Uluru (Ayers Rock- the white man’s name) and the Great Barrier Reef. In September, I flew out to Uluru (via Alice Springs) to meet up with Lena, another Canadian from Toronto. Proof that it’s a small world? Lena met my friend Andrea in the TO airport on their way to Aus for school (Lena goes to Macquarie, in the Sydney suburbs), then I met Andrea here in Melb via the Victorian Consortium for Public Health. Then I discovered Lena was on the UofT fencing team with Alison, my high school best friend. Anyways, we stayed at the Outback Pioneer Lodge in Yulara, the closest town to Uluru. The very annoying thing about Uluru is that there is only player in town when it comes to accommodation; all 5 types of accommodation are owned by the same group and as a result, they are incredibly expensive. The OPL was the cheapest, it’s partnered with the YHA (the chain of hostels that I usually stay with) but the rates are still above average for a hostel. Particularly when it was advertised as a 4 person room and turned out to be a 20-person dorm with “dividing walls”. Unfortunately, that was our only option as we wanted to do the Anangu Aboriginal tours to watch the sunrise at Uluru. It’s a tour company run by Aboriginals, and provides a unique experience (hopefully that little promo will help to assuage my social conscience). It really was a cool experience, the tour itself was only 2km and was given in Pitjantjara (one of the dialects in the area), then translated into English. Alwyn, our tour guide, explained all of the plants and their uses. He also disturbed a fire ant nest (i think it was fire ant- if you get stung, the initial pain hurts like hell and doesn’t stop for a couple of days) as a demonstration…We got to try a spear throw, and a fly flew into my mouth.
There was also an afternoon walk at Kata Tjuta (“many heads”) but that was run by AATKings, one of the major tour operators (seriously, at the OPL pickup area, almost all the buses were AATKings, including the airport shuttle). While interesting in itself, it definitely wasn’t the intimate experience of that morning’s walk. It did however, take us to watch the sunset back at Uluru, where people watch the rock change colour. I would have preferred to see the sunset from the other side, I do like a good dramatic silhouette of the setting sun. It turns out it actually does rain in the Outback, and our Night Sky Show to see the stars was cancelled due to cloud cover.
After Uluru, I travelled onto Cairns by myself. I spent a day out on the reef, via a pontoon. Now, some of you may remember that for awhile, I wanted to be a marine biologist, mainly to hang out with Flipper. It’s a good thing I chose a different path. I did a morning snorkel with the marine biologist, Amanda, just in the roped off lagoon area (it was meant to be for beginners) and loved it. So I ended up signing up for an afternoon snorkel that went further out on the reef in hopes of seeing a sea turtle…or a shark. However, I didn’t quite anticipate how tired I was, and may have freaked out a little upon hearing the other kids on the snorkel say that we had to make our own way back to the dock. It didn’t help that my mask was continually filling up with water, thanks to my oddly-shaped head. Amanda had a lifesaving ring with her if people got tired, and guess who was the dork who was hanging on the entire time. I felt really inadequate when one of the kids was able to hold his breath and dive down to swim through the reef. But the trip was still fun, even though I was alone and surrounded by Contiki kids (yes, even though the 2 friends I stayed with in Bris I met through Contiki, I feel too old for that tour company now).
The next day was out into the rainforest (not the Daintree but nobody told me the specific name) via cable car into a little town called Kuranda. From Kuranda, it was to the RainForeStation for a wildlife park (even though I’ve now been through 4 of them), an Army Duck tour and an Aboriginal dance and dreamtime walk. Then it was two more flights and I was home. One last note, Cairns Airport = not helpful.