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 ?!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Lost Weeks - Part I

Ladies and Gentlemen – it is the post (one of them) that you have all been waiting for!

If you were looking to figure out all the things I have been doing for a month and a half that were so important, I failed to tell you about it … well hopefully I have remembered most of it and can tell you a bit about it here today.


So back in March I wrote to you a few times after I got my shiny new hard drive installed about my life and what had been going on – followed by a brief post on the seismic activity out here on the 15th. That Friday, after telling you all about the three earthquakes out here, I went White Water Rafting on the Tully River which was filled with tasty class 4 rapids. A group of 12 students from the Student Lodge trudged out to the city (after a relatively self-induced, short-lived night on the town for St. Patrick’s day) where a coach bus picked us up and drove us the 2 hours out to Tully – one of two areas (the second being Mission Beach) where Cyclone Yasi had struck the hardest. Let me tell you, the damage was still just as apparent 6 weeks later as it appeared on the news when I was back home: trees were stripped bare of their leaves and bark, buildings and homes were destroyed, cars were still on the side of the road in shambles. While the damage did not get any less once we reached out drop in point to the Tully, the beauty of the river and the geologic landscape was too awe-inspiring in and of itself to detract any awesomeness from the trip.

 Our Group's 2 Rafts on their way down the Tully

We went part way down the Tully until we reached the lunch spot for noon, and then we backtracked half way up the river, re-did some rapids and went a few km further than the lunch spot to make the pick-up point. We had a great time with our raft guide, who encouraged the occasional riffraff: pulling people out of neighboring boats, jumping off rocks in the middle of the river, going for a few swims. Speaking of intentional swimming, there is something that happens quite often as the lead paddle in a raft ... it is called unintentional swims. I went for two of them over the course of the Tully. My friend Erin and I were placed in the front of the boat because we had been rafting before; it really is a great place to raft from as far as seating is concerned, but it can get rough and require a little finesse. While we managed to keep one another in the boat pretty well that day, I did flip backwards out of the raft on one occasion, keeping my feet wedged in the boat so she could help me back in ... but after a minute of hanging there with no success (the water was moving too fast to pull me in) I just let myself fall in and float with the raft till we hit a slow patch. The second swimming event was a little more slapstick. Erin started to fall out of the boat so I grabbed her life-vest by the front buckles to haul her back in but as I did, the boat hit a rapid and tilted left, dumping Erin further backwards and pulling myself in after her. Because this was a fall in the actual rapids the guide went Indiana Jones on us and tossed us a line to haul us back. 

Believe it or not, we fared much better on the section than the other raft of kids from the lodge, whose raft completely tipped over sending people and their paddles all over the place in need of rescue.  I even ended up pulling a younger guy from Papua New Guinea into our boat after a long float/drift of his own from a boat even further back up stream – it involved Erin and John grabbing my ankles while I dove half in and half out for his vest as he flailed and splashed, freaking out about crocodiles or something like that. If it looked half as ridiculous as I felt, I’m sure it was entertainment for the other rafts which seemed to have congregated for the occasion. It was a great, exhausting, long day – but a blast none the less.

From the day after I got back, which was a Saturday, all the way until the following weekend I was forced to do a solid week of school/studies/exams/paper-writing and all that fun stuff in preparation for midterms. Then I took off again.

The weekend of the 26th and 27th came quickly after our post-St. Patrick’s-day rafting trip and a similar group of us was heading up to Cape Tribulation to see the Daintree Rainforest and maybe a cassowary or two. Upon arriving another girl from our group and I went off on an afternoon sea kayaking excursion and it was a blast – I saw some of my first Australian sea turtles, leopard shark, sting rays and jellyfish from the comfort of my little plastic raft. And as we were celebrating the productiveness of the kayaking trip – it began, in usual rainforest fashion, to piss down rain. So there we sat on our kayak, racing for the shore and surfing the waves (I doubt we looked quite as cool as these guys but I sure felt cool) riding into the beach because the combination of wind and driving rain meant that for those of us paddling in nothing but a bathing suit (because their rash guard was donated to someone with 3rd-degree sunburn on their back who couldn’t apply sunscreen), it felt like some 12-year-old was pelting pebbles at my back with a trebuchet.  But we made it and drank/ate a celebratory coconut for our trials and tribulations trying to get back to the boat-house.

That night back at our accommodation was filled with beer/wine drinking, a few solid rounds of men vs. women flip cup (girls rocked the house) and some late night hours of pool-mayhem. It was one of those nights that I will always remember from this trip, regardless of the fact that I was in bed pretty early because on Sunday before the long drive home, I was scheduled to go Jungle Surfing!

As you can see by the video, Shelby + ziplines + rainforest + helmet camera = awesome combination. It was the perfect way to start the day, with some hiking followed by some slower  zips where we could look down the river valley of the mountainous Daintree straight out to the ocean followed by two quick zips for some thrills. The bus ride home was fun, albeit slow, and the views along the way were worth the unhurried ride.


So after the Daintree trip my academic life sped up and my leisurely life slowed down for the two weeks leading up to my flight down to Sydney for ‘Spring Break’ (known here as mid-semester study break). This is because, while I have been enjoying myself and Australia has so much to offer, I am technically still a University student, trying to getting good grades and be productive. So midterms week hit like a ton of bricks but true to fashion even back at St. Lawrence, I had a large paper due, a large project due, an online quiz (do not be fooled by the word ‘quiz’ … this was an evil, long, quiz), two final pieces of art and a photography portfolio.  It was rough busting it out, it involved a few late nights, but I got it done just in time to take off for my adventure down the east coast. This is primarily the reason why I did not write to you for the 4 weeks following the earthquakes – if I wasn’t in class I was working on class work and when I wasn’t working on class work I was off doing crazy things all over Far North Queensland. I know, excuses, excuses but hey, if you were me I bet that you would rather be out playing in the sun than inside writing about how pretty I is.

And here ends part 1 – with more on the way!

With Love from Down Under,
~ S.S.