There and Back Again - an Australian Tale

There and Back Again - and Australian Tale

As of Friday, October 1st, 2010 I have officially been accepted to study abroad in Cairns, Australia. This program marks a new page being turned - another new start. I feel like my life is in need of some revamping and by traveling, submitting to my wanderlust, going somewhere new to learn new things in new ways - well, this trip is just billet I've been looking for. Come along and laugh at me, with me, or both as I prepare to tally forth, wander en and return from, the Land of Oz.

Australia's New National Animal

Australia's New National Animal
A Fez ?!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Put a Little Mudd on the Tires


So the moment you have all been waiting for – my newest post! Which is unfortunately out-of-date and in every other sense of the word, old. The stuff I have written about in this post is in regards to the weekend of the 26th and 27th of February, (not this past weekend of the 5th and 6th) and my visit out to Chillagoe and Mungana Caves National Park. But this is a wonderful thing! It is a wonderful thing because it means that I have FINALLY installed a new hard drive which was so wonderfully imaged and shipped out to my technologically-deprived self by my equally wonderful bosses at St. Lawrence’s IT Department (thankyouthankyouthankyou). 

So without any further ado (so help me) … I give you Chillagoe (^_^)


The night before my trip to Chillagoe was James Cook University’s annual toga party. So, to go along with the traditions associated with toga-donning there were (of course), fire-breathers and mechanical bull riding contests. Very Grecian/Roman yes? I thought so too. There was also the misgiving involving the "party theme" and not being allowed to dance in the boathouse without dancing shoes; bare feet = common at toga party but = no go for the  party portion of the party (strange). 

 It was a night full ping pong and pool, unless you also count the drunken versions of the games. We had “Ping Pong for Ding-dongs” … where drunk people swing the paddles like baseball bats with the pretence of making an awesome table-corner shot while the sober kids who want to play at some point, chase the ball down the hill before it falls into the creek. “Pool Stick Limbo/Simon-says” was another favourite, where those of us retaining our wits popped, locked and dropped ourselves trying to avoid the poking/bitch-slapping/walloping that would ensue if we got in the way of alcohol-infused students trying to make the 8 ball in on a 3-wall combo shot into the opposite pocket.

I also recall a mildly creepy incident involving a guy 13 years older than me trying to pick me up at the bar, but all way avoided with a well-placed excuse to leave due to a drunken friend needing an escort (said drunken friend was lent to me by my sober friend Marcus ).

Long story already made … long, the party was fun, but I have digressed.

My oh-so-reasonable self, knowing that I had a 7am wake-up to catch my tour in the morning, skipped out on the bus rides into town where toga’d students were dropped off at the club of their choosing. I left around midnight and I was okay with this decision. Until the part where the heavens decided to open up as I began to walk back. Soaked and bare-foot I arrived at my room after running the ¾ mile between the last walkway with overhead coverage and the student lodge. I hung up my toga/bed sheet on the railing outside to drip, packed my bags, took a hot shower, set my alarm and curled up in my bed.

I swear this all has something to do with going to Chillagoe … it was actually this drunk/damp evening made the next morning all the more hysterical and 150% worth waking up for. I woke up and began to go about preparing to leave when I realized I was the only one awake … and one of my roommates was supposed to be adventuring forth with me. When I opened her door to double check, lo and behold, Nikki was still passed out. I woke her up, and relaxed with my yogurt on the couch as she ran around the suite like a mouse in a maze of dead ends muttering about an alarm not going off and wondering aloud how to pack her soaked/smelly running shoes. The hilarity only continued once we got to the pick-up spot and saw that many of the other students looked dazed and confused as to why they were awake; many of whom admitted to a similar story of sleeping through alarms or having a “late night”. In fact when our tour bus showed up one student was still M.I.A. but after Tony the Tour Guide was wrapping up the lo down on how our trip was going to work out the missing showed up on a city bus (one rotation on the route later than she would have liked). Everyone was then accounted for and together, the hung over/slightly tired pulled themselves onto the bus with the chipper/slightly amused of us and were off!

One of the most exciting part about the ride (for me) is watching the change in landscape and ecosystem changes as we crossed out of the rainforest, across the Tablelands and then into the Outback. Everything changes so quickly (quick as far as landscape change goes) that if you close your eyes for even half an hour you’ve missed something: the soil becomes red, the trees thin out and get shorter, the rain stops and the wildlife changes. For instance – I finally saw my first wild kangaroo! It was actually three of them and they were chilling in a line across the road kind of like the Beatles crossing Abbey road … minus a McCartney-esk kangaroo being weird and looking different to draw attention to himself. And for those of you reading this who may or may not have done a 6th grade project on dingoes (*cough* Cousin Rob *coughcough*) let the record show that I did indeed see a dingo but unfortunately, did not procure a photo.

So from the drive into town and through most of the weekend the trip went as planned – we stopped near Dimbulah at Lappa Junction (an old bush pub for photos) and learned about the importance of halting for cows - because they are killer out in the bush.

We hit the road again so we could get to and unloaded at the Eco Lodge “outside” the town of Chillagoe and drove out to the old copper mine where I stood on the largest pile of slag in Queensland and played with rocks (because I am still a 7 year old at heart). After the hiking/playing in dirt/teaching Tony about the period table of elements and theorizing how to efficiently smelt more elements out of the left over slag using melting point data, we drove out to the Balancing Rock park. Click here to see more and read more about the balancing rocks of the world.

We stopped at a swimming hole before dinner (no crocs!) to cool off and as is usual for most Australian swimming holes (of the 3 I have been to) … there was a waterfall. We ate dinner at a small bar located in the Post Office Inn where a girl named Cristianna and I played an abysmal game of pool and discovered that Australian pool tables have smaller balls and smaller pockets than we were used to (we kept missing each shot by 2 inches). So we got Steve and David, two local Aussies, to show us how it’s done in a team game. It was a great time and the night could have only been made better by being able to climb the town lookout to go star-gazing but the clouds followed us from Cairns and rained. So not only were there no stars to gaze upon but no dry wood to campfire with and therefor, no Tim Tam S’mores to make. So we just called it an early night so we could make it out to the Limestone Caves earlier the next morning. It was such an early night in fact that I went for a run the next morning just to kill time. I guess I just can’t do 9pm nights anymore because I was up by 6am and ready to go. So I went. Minus the very muddy, red clay roads from an evening shower and subsequent mosquito swarms it was a fun run, especially watching the groups of Pretty-face Wallabies eating. Too bad the shower I took before check-out after the run did very little to contribute to my cleanliness by the end of the day; the caves were even more muddy than the roads. Some of the girls who were a little less “adventure-ready” needed me to give them a foot-hold going up some of the slippery climbs – mud became my new favorite accessory but a little dirt never slowed anyone down.

After a quick lunch back at the Post Office Inn we jumped back in the van and headed for home – stopping briefly for gas at a car hobbyist's workshop (he had a 1965 Shelby Mustang!). We hit the Australian Coffee Center in Mareeba with about 45 minutes left in our trip to sample a cup of Aussie Joe and watch Tony aggravate their Sulfur-crested Cockatoo by “speaking bird” (his words, not mine). That was certainly something new I learned – not only are cockatoos a native Australian bird but they respond to dance cues from a crazy tour guide pulling moves from the "Single Ladies" music video. All and all I had a great trip, saw some cool stuff and got to hang out with some friends from the lodge and students from Europe who were studying at Cairns English school. I even got to explain the plot of Moulin Rouge to a French Girl – go figure.

More to Come (and in better time!) But for now It is 2:(somthing or another)am and tired so I am going to bed - until next time!

G’day Mates,
~ Shelby

P.s. -Hey Mom and Dad, seeing as you are made out of money, if you were looking for a small 'Welcome Home' present, that Shelby Mustang is only going for $500,000 AUD ... (^_^)

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