So this post is a little late, about a month (oops!), because I have been a bit busy with school work. Now during finals week, a.k.a. swotvac, I figured it was a good time to take a break from studying to share my experiences again through Australia.
For my lecture recess, I went to the artsy city of Melbourne, Victoria. This is probably one of the coolest cities I have ever been to because there is so much street art, graffiti and amazing architecture everywhere. There is a large mixture of old brick buildings and new glass/futuristic looking buildings throughout the city. I went with my friend Andrew for 5 days to explore the city and the surrounding areas.
Before embarking on our journey we planned the trip about a month in advance. A friend from back home had studied abroad in Melbourne a year earlier so I asked her some of the best places to visit and where she suggested I should stay. Luckily, she put me in contact with one of her old housemates who was so kind to let us stay with her for the duration of our visit, and we have never met before! Caitlin went out of her way to pick us up from the airport and set up our own little nook for the week! She suggested a bunch of places to visit and eat and showed us how to take public transportation as well; highly necessary since she lived a half hour outside of the city. After a while, we definitely got the hang of it and it honestly felt like I was actually living in the city.
Our plane arrived late Friday night so we were picked up by Caitlin and her friend from the airport and went back to her house for the night. In the morning, we woke up early to take the train into Melbourne to wander around and basically just get lost. That’s exactly what we did. I had heard about all of the different alleyways with graffiti covering them so we set out on finding some. They were everywhere! We started walking down one of the main streets and then suddenly saw artwork. One alleyway led to another and pretty soon we were at the other end of the city.
Some art was really large and others were tiny but each was very unique. Walking through such ‘sketchy alleyways’ sounds like a bad idea but we went down them during the day and there were always a bunch of people around. We stayed safe!
This same day we walked to the Queen Victoria Markets which are basically one giant flea market where I got a lot of great souvenirs, along with some needed Bubble Tea.
To finish off the day, we watched the AFL grand final in the middle of Federation Square where the Hawthorn Hawks beat the Sydney Swans in an exciting yet confusing game of rugby. It was such an amazing experience to be part of such a big cultural event. After the game, hundreds if not thousands of people left the rugby stadium and the city flooded with yellow and red. Go Hawks!
The next day we went on the Great Ocean Road tour! Everything we saw that day was absolutely stunning. We stopped at several places along the way and even bumped into a floor-mate who happened to be on a tour the same day as us!! There were beautiful beaches and coastlines as well as rolling hills filled with farm animals like sheep and cows. The highlight of the tour was definitely the 12 Apostles! This trip is best described in pictures.
A tour to Phillip Island took up the entire next day and we got to experience the famous Penguin Parade! Every night just after the sun goes down, groups of fairy penguins leave the ocean waters and waddle their way up the beach to make it safely back to their nests where they will rest over night and venture back out before the sun comes up. This is a natural event that has been happening for a very long time! The rangers take good care of these little penguins, the smallest in the world, by banning all use of photography so that a flash isn’t accidentally set off, blinding them in the process, so I don’t have any pictures of them. But here’s some others from the day!
As we headed towards our last full day in Melbourne, we were unsure of what to do. Caitlin recommended the Royal Melbourne Show which was basically a large fair. We decided to go to that to check it out and had a great time. We saw lots of animals and went to a petting zoo, saw a demonstration on how to train a horse, got a show bag filled with lots of goodies, ate amazing food, watched a rodeo and saw a motocross show. The fireworks that ended the night made it such a fun day.
So, Andrew and I had an amazing time in Melbourne and its surrounding areas. We made a new friend in the area and made some great memories too! On the last day, we took Caitlin out to lunch as a little thank you and we said our goodbyes. Andrew went from Melbourne to Perth and I flew back to Townsville.
After I arrived back in Townsville, I realized I had 2 days of nothing to do before my class field trip to Paluma so I decided to spend one day relaxing back at school and another day on Magnetic Island, a.k.a. Maggie. When I was in the hostel in Sydney, there was a girl from Canada who said she went horseback riding on Maggie and got to go swimming in the ocean with the horse. This sounded like a fantastic idea and I had been wanting to go horseback riding for a while so I decided to give it a go. None of my other friends were back on college from break yet so I went over to the island by myself. I had been to Maggie before so I knew how everything worked so it was relatively simple and easy to get there. Once I hopped off the ferry and took the bus to the other side of the island, I relaxed on the beach for a couple of hours before walking over to Horseshoe Bay Ranch to ride horses! I got paired with a horse named Jack and our small group of about 10 people headed down a trail towards the beach. Once we arrived the horses were unsaddled and we rode them bareback into the ocean. It was extremely difficult to stay on the horses because the waves were so rough but I had a blast trying to stay on! After about 20 minutes in the water we rode back onto dry land, saddled up and headed back towards the ranch.
The final weekend of lecture recess I had a field trip to Paluma, a rainforest close to Townsville. Our class started out early in the morning north towards the forest. We stopped at a few locations along the way to observe the different kinds of rainforests that exist in the area. There are a total of 12 different kinds and we made our way from the non-obvious tall open woodland to the classic dense rainforest. Once we arrived at Gumburu Environmental Education Centre at the top of the mountain, we settled into our rooms for the weekend. The center was beautiful and nestled into the rainforest itself. The rooms were basically setup like cabins from summer camp with bunk beds. Later, we went for a walk through the forest where our teacher explained some of the species we saw and the overall makeup of the area. It was actually quite cold in the rainforest, very surprising, and it didn’t rain while we were there (which was only 3 days, but still).Later that night, we got to identify the families of certain plant species our teacher collected throughout the day. We were also able to record data about the rainforest that will be used for a future research project in the class. We recorded things like leaf litter, sprout number and tree girth. It was such a good experience to be able to learn about such an extremely different area than what I have at home and it was also a great way to get to know all of my classmates.
Overall, it was a fantastic week of travelling and learning!