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A Very Aussie Package

Having passed the midpoint of my time in Australia (a very scary thought), I decided to send my family a care package of Aussie things. I stuffed as many things into the package as I could, and each item was connected to Australia in some way.

What are some really Aussie things that I included?

First up? The koala jewelry box that I found at the Townsville market a few weeks ago.

I also included opal pendants for my mom and sister. Most of the opal in the world comes from Australia. The really expensive opal is extremely beautiful, but it can cost hundreds of dollars. The cheaper opals are also really pretty, though.

Tim Tams. Of course. Possibly the greatest sweet that you can buy in Australia. I especially love to do Tim Tam slams. You bite off a bit off the opposite ends of the Tim Tam, dip it in a hot drink (I like to use camomile tea with honey) and use the Tim Tam as a straw to suck up the liquid. The Tim Tam melts because of the tea. Once you can’t hold it anymore, you toss it in your mouth and it falls apart in your mouth. It is THE greatest tasting thing ever. I’m actually not sure what I’m going to do without Tim Tams once I go back to the states….My sister suggests devoting a suitcase to Tim Tams. They finished the box in a day.

More Aussie sweets!

Minties: My Aussie friends love them. Basically, they’re REALLY chewy mint candies.

Milo: Really yummy. You can also buy Milo cereal, candy bars, etc. I sent the drink powder, though. My sister loves it.

Picnic: One of my favorite candy bars..

And Cadbury: I love the many Cadbury bars that can be purchased in Australia. I used to eat a lot of Cadbury in Poland as a kid.

Aboriginal souvenirs! Ideally, I would have bought a didgeridoo at the opal shop at Airlie Beach. Free overseas shipping! Except that they cost hundreds of dollars… As much as I would have liked to have surprised my family with an aboriginal didgeridoo, I decided against it. The various symbols that are often found on the various aboriginal souvenirs often tell a story. I’m a huge fan of aboriginal art, so naturally I sent a few things back home that had the typical pattern on them. I sent a boomerang, kangaroo, and shell.

Pretty self-explanatory: a cleaning cloth with Aussie lingo on it!

Vegemite. It wouldn’t be an Australian care package if it didn’t contain Vegemite. They haven’t tried it yet…I’ve told my family that I need to be on Skype when they first have it because I want to see their reaction.

I included some other things as well, but these were the things that really stood out to me as the truly Aussie things. So next time you’re in Australia, keep these things in mind when looking for presents to send back to the family! 😀 They’ll love it!

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Even though we just had lecture recess, this past weekend we had another (shorter) vacation during which I travelled up to Cairns. We got Good Friday off, and this year Anzac Day happened to fall on the Monday following Easter, so we also got Tuesday off (for Easter Monday). Naturally, I decided that 5 days was more than enough time to go see a new place.

I caught the Greyhound bus with two other American girlsfrom my college, Brittany and Emily,  up to Cairns. Our bus was at 7:15, but there were unfortunate delays so we didn’t leave until 8ish. The drive up is about 6 hours, but we ran into some additional delays along the way. By the time we got to Cairns, we were hungry and exhausted.

We called NJOY, where we were staying in Cairns, and they came and picked us up from where the bus dropped us off. We got to our hostel around 2:30 but check in wasn’t until 4.

We ended up walking to the city center to find food. We had chinese food for lunch, and there was even a bubble tea place! Our hostel was a 15 to 20 minute walk away from the town center, so although the hostel itself was nice, I wouldn’t recommend it solely due to the location. While there is a shuttle that runs from the city to the hostel, the latest one is at 11 so if you want to stay out late, you really need someone to walk back with.

Friday night we got a free dinner (pasta) through our hostel and checked out the night market. There were a ton of various shops there. The market is open from around 5 in the afternoon until 11 in the evening every day, and there is pretty much something for everyone. It’s an especially great place to find souvenirs and presents for people back home.

The next morning, we went on a cruise to the Great Barrier Reef through Ocean Spirit Cruises. A number of other people from JCU happened to also be on that cruise. Instead of paying 28 dollars for 27 disposable camera quality pictures, my friend and I decided to borrow a digital camera for 50 dollars. Not only did we get better quality pictures, but the number of pictures that we took was pretty much unlimited.

It was really relaxing, and we got to spend a few hours snorkeling. I even did an introductory dive! I was terrified of the intro dive, but I had a certified diver with me the whole time. I was so glad that I did it. It was incredible.

I took most of the pictures, as I am the designated photographer, and by the end of the day I had taken nearly 500. Here are some of my favorites:

Found Nemo 🙂

A highlight of my time at the Great Barrier Reef was definitely hanging out with sea turtles.

Here are also some videos that I took while snorkeling and diving!

I’ll be putting up more of the videos from the Great Barrier Reef on the YouTube account eventually. Those three are my favorite, though.

The next day I went with some other friends from JCU up to Kuranda. I hung out with Jigar, Annie P., Annie O. and Danielle. Danielle is originally from Cairns, so they were all staying at Danielle’s for the weekend. On Sunday, when they were driving up to Kuranda, I tagged along while the girls I went to Cairns with went skydiving.

We were in cassowary territory, particularly north of Cairns, so there were many signs alerting drivers to be careful, as they are a protected species. I was hoping to see a wild cassowary while in the area, but that unfortunately didn’t happen.

I did, however, go to Rainforestation in Kuranda where there were many animals that I hadn’t seen up close before, including the cassowary.

If you had asked me on Friday if I would feed my first kangaroo (A TOURISTY MUST DO) that weekend, I would have told you no. And yet, that is exactly what happened. Not only did I see dingos, kangaroos, crocodiles, cassowaries and more at Rainforestation, but I also did an aboriginal dance, threw a boomerang, and rode around a rainforest on an army duck from WWII.

After our army duck tour, we drove into the town to find a place to eat. We went to an internet cafe, where I ordered myself a delicious cheeseburger.

One thing that I have started to do a lot during my time in Australia is eat sandwiches or burgers with slices of pineapple and beets on them. I actually love it, but I probably won’t eat it as often once I return to the states. Here, beets and pineapple are a part of the sandwich bar in our dining hall, meanwhile, back in the US that is not the case.

After lunch, we walked around the market a bit and then got some ice cream. By 4, everything had closed so we decided to head back to Cairns. On the way, we stopped at Barron Falls. To get to the lookout point, we walked through a mid-canopy walk. It was pretty cool, and Danielle spotted some cool bugs that I naturally took a picture of.

We also stopped at another lookout point to take some pictures.

That night, Danielle invited me over to her house to join them and her family for Easter dinner (my first home cooked meal since I left the states!). The five of us hung out for a few more hours at her home before our delicious dinner. After dinner, we went back to the night market. At that point, I went to find the girls that I had travelled with because they were leaving the next morning. Instead of going back early with them, however, I was staying the extra day since we still had the hostel booking. I therefore registered for a day trip up to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation.

The next morning, the bus picked me up from my hostel at 7:15am…bright and early. At a later stop, a very nice woman sat down next to me. I learned that she had come to Cairns with her family because she and her husband were celebrating their 25th anniversary together. They were staying at the same hotel that they had stayed at during their honeymoon. I thought the story was really sweet, and they were all very nice.

The tour took us first to the Daintree Rainforest (the oldest rainforest in the world!). It was incredible. No pictures or videos that I took could do the beauty of that rainforest justice. We climbed to the top of the canopy and were surrounded by rainforest from every side.

View from the canopy lookout!

Daintree is definitely one of those things that has to be seen in person. From there, we went to Cape Tribulation. Thanks to my marine organisms class, I noticed lots of signs of organisms that were living in the sediment. After Cape Trib we then went to our lunch spot. We had steak and salads, as well as a complimentary glass of wine. Our tour guide then took us to an ice cream shop on the way to our river tour.

The cruise was about an hour long. We spent it looking for crocodiles. Apparently, because there were a lot of people around during Easter weekend, the really large crocs were hiding. We did manage to find a young croc, however, and a green tree frog!

Our last stop on the trip was the Mossman Gorge. It was, like everything else I saw that weekend, beautiful! It seems to be a pattern in Australia, at least the northern part of Queensland that I’ve seen so far.

The bus dropped me off back at the hostel. That night I hung out with some friends who were staying at another hostel in Cairns, and the next morning I caught a morning bus back to Townsville. I wish I had had more time to see Cairns. I really loved the city.

As much as I wish I could just travel and take pictures, though, it isn’t why I came to Australia. Now that May is around the corner, the assignments are going to start to pile up. It’s time to start transitioning to hardcore study mode, just in time for finals come June!

Whitsundays

I have always had a tendency to travel spontaneously. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s the best way to travel, but every time that I have done it, it’s been a blast. This past week was a great example of yet another spontaneous trip for me to add to my list.

Since a few friends have been asking me for details about my trip, I’m going to organize this blog as more of a travel blog than most of my blogs usually are. That way, even students who are currently studying in Australia and want to get away for a few days can have an idea of what can be done in such a short amount of time at Airlie.

I’m giving a fair warning: this one’s going to be a long post.

My friend Jigar and I had established that we both didn’t have any plans for lecture recess last Saturday. We therefore decided that it would be fun to go somewhere together. On Sunday, we decided on going to Airlie Beach to check out Whitsundays. On Monday, Jigar’s friend Cody joined in. We spent that night trying to figure out which hostel we should book a room in, but since it was after hours, we couldn’t book that night. I therefore called on Tuesday morning and booked us a private room for four nights at Beaches. Wednesday afternoon, we were off, with Cody driving us the 4 hours or so south to Airlie. On the way, we stopped at a lookout point:

When we got to Airlie, it was already 6 pm. The first night we got a room with only two beds, but they moved us the next day to one with three and gave us a slight discount for the inconvenience. Considering that we were paying for an ensuite room, however, it was a great deal. The rooms were very large and had a fridge as well. Once we checked into our room, we went off to look around a bit.

We went to the beach and ran into two friends from college who had just done a multi-day sailing trip. After talking with them for a bit, we decided to go and find dinner. The three of us ended up going to Mamma’s Boys for dinner, where I bought myself a delicious cheeseburger. The first night was the most expensive meal of the entire trip, at a mere 13 bucks or so. The one thing that was definitely missed was the free dining hall food, three times a day, so from that point out we kept the meals as cheap as possible (MACCAAAAAA’S!!).

After dinner, we went for a walk to Airlie lagoon, which was across the street from our hostel. We then found a bench by the beach and sat down and chilled for a few hours, talking. When we finally went back to Beaches, we went to the Bar & Bistro to see what was happening there. Eventually, we went back to our room and crashed, exhausted from the travelling that day.

The next morning, Jigar and I woke up to go see the sunrise. The mountain blocked most of it, but it was still worth waking up early for it. When we got back to the room we went back to sleep, thinking we’d be okay with getting the included Beaches continental breakfast if we were ready by 9. Well, turns out that the continental breakfast was from served from 7:30 until 8:30. While the guys were getting ready, I went to the check-in lobby and collected a bunch of flyers and information pamphlets about what we could do at Airlie (there was a lot). We then went to Macca’s for some breakfast and to look through all the information and decide what we would be doing during our stay.

Another thing we learned? Most of the stuff that can be done in the area starts early in the morning, around 9 or 10. So if you decide to hit up Airlie Beach and want to start doing stuff from day 1, plan the night before.

After we narrowed down what we wanted to do, we went back to Beaches and spoke with the guy working at the travel desk. He was extremely helpful. He had great advice and helped us figure out which of the things we wanted to do were worth the money. He booked us for our sunset cruise for that night and Ocean Rafting for the next day.

We then got lunch at Subways and went to eat it at the beach. Once we finished lunch, we went over to the lagoon, where Cody and Jigar went for a swim while I relaxed in the sun. We stayed there for a few hours, and then went for some ice cream at New Zealand Natural.

Just another note: While the ice cream was delicious, it was somewhat overpriced. If you’re willing to spend the money on it, then definitely get it. If, however, you are like most college students and want to save the money, I would recommend just getting a 50 cent soft serve cone at Macca’s (which is conveniently right across the street).

We also decided that we all had to get hats that would be worn throughout the trip. Cody had already found his hat earlier that day, and Jigar found his at the store next to the ice cream place. I, however, was very picky and couldn’t decide. I finally went with a plain white, wide-rimmed hat. Not as crazy as the guys’ hats, but it was the one I liked the most.

We then walked over to Abel Point to catch our sunset cruise. Airlie Beach is small, and everything that we did was along the same main road running through the town. The walk to Abel Point from Beaches wasn’t long at all (at most 15 minutes–a safe amount of time to devote to walking anywhere on Airlie Beach, really). You therefore don’t even have to worry about not having a car, because everything is within a walking distance (that we did, at least).

The sunset cruise was through Sundowner Cruises. If you do decide to do the cruise, however, you have to call ahead and reserve a spot. The cruise doesn’t happen every day–just when there is enough interest. The people at the travel desk at Beaches (or whichever hostel you decide to stay at) will help you figure that out, though.

The cruise is definitely worth the money and highly recommended. You get a glass of champagne, some snacks, but most importantly, the beautiful view and fun experience. The cruise lasts two hours, and the people running the cruise are really nice. It also has a bar, if you’d like to buy yourself a drink.

That night, we went to Cactus Jack’s, where we each got a $10 quesadilla for dinner. For dessert, we bought the Super Chocolate Nachos.

We headed back to Beaches, content with our meal.

At Beaches, we checked out the Bar & Bistro and played a few games of pool. Each game of pool costs 3 dollars, and you need to put in dollar coins into the table to get to play, but it was worth it and lots of fun.

The next morning we had to be ready to go by 9 because Ocean Rafting was picking us up at the front of Beaches then, even though the actual rafting didn’t begin until 10. Cody and I went to check out the continental breakfast, only to discover that it is just cereal and toast. We bailed on the breakfast and instead, the three of us went to Macca’s for a cheap and quick meal before our long day of rafting.

Reasons why Ocean Rafting is a must-do while at Airlie:

1. IT IS SO MUCH FUN! The whole time they’re blasting fun, upbeat music as you zoom around between islands.

2. WHITEHAVEN BEACH. Just like the postcards. First, they take you to the lookout point (a 20 minute hike) which is amazing. You go a different route on the way back since apparently Ocean Rafting is the only group that has permission to park on a certain part of the beach.

You walk across this sand, which is pure white and feels like no other sand that I’ve ever experienced under your feet.

Then you get back on the raft and are taken to the part of the beach where everyone is allowed. There, you are given a buffet lunch, which is also really good.

Note: Student discount = lunch included, so bring your student IDs! The student discount also reduces the price of the rafting tour and gets you free stinger suit rentals.

Also keep in mind that there are two different rafting routes that you can choose from. We went with the one that gave us more beach time, but the other rafting tour has more snorkeling time instead. Speaking of which…

3. SNORKELING! You don’t have to have snorkeling experience to snorkel on the Ocean Rafting tour. In fact, it was my first time snorkeling. They took us to a reef off of one of the islands, and we had about an hour to explore. I loved it and saw a ton of awesome fish and corals. The group that had gone to a different part of the reef even got to see sea turtles!

Bottom line? If you want to see Whitehaven Beach (and everyone should see if if they go to Whitsunday!) then Ocean Rafting is the way to go.

We got back around 5pm, so we went and got dinner (gyro for me, Dominos for the guys) and we went to eat at the beach. I also actually tried a green ant. I couldn’t break the abdomin off (mostly because I wasn’t handling the concept of it very well) so Cody did it for me. 

It wasn’t something I would willingly do again, but at least I can cross eating a green ant off the list of things to do in Australia. It also wasn’t as sour as I had expected.

We then laid out our towels, watched the sunset, and relaxed: what a lecture recess should be like.

When we got back to Beaches, we played some pool and went off to check out the other bars and clubs that were on the main street. We were disappointed to find that none of the places had many people, so there wasn’t a dance floor, but we still had a really good time. We ended the night at the Down Under Bar & Grill, just talking.

The next morning, we had to catch a ferry to Daydream Island. I’m pretty sure there was a student discount for the ticket, but even then it wasn’t cheap.

Reserve your spot for the ferry at the travel desk at whichever hostel you are staying at, and then you can pay the rest when you get to the ticket office. We didn’t realize this at first, and the time that it took for us to realize this meant that we didn’t catch the ferry we wanted. While waiting for the next one, though, we got brunch.

Daydream Island: a must see. You could easily spend a few days on Daydream Island. The entire island is actually a resort. The northern end is limited to people staying at the resort, but the southern end of the island is open to the public.

We ended up first playing a game of minigolf and large chess (Cody won both). Afterwards, while the guys lounged on the beach, I went for the rainforest walk.

Because I went on the rainforest walk, I missed the tremor (an earthquake had struck about 120 km south east of Townsville) and the kangaroo that passed right by where the guys were lounging.

I did, however, get to see a mama wallaby and her joey, and I went on a bit of a photography frenzy. I also did see the kangaroo (my first one!) through the trees at the end of the walk before it hopped off, but when I realized that it had been less than a meter away from Jigar, I no longer thought that it was that special of a sighting.

If you have more time on Daydream Island, however, you can also go parasailing (one of the guys that we met there had done it that day and loved it), jet skiing, and more.

We caught the 5:15 ferry back to Airlie Beach and got to watch the sunset on it.

Basically, if you get out to Airlie, GET ON THE WATER AS MUCH AS YOU CAN! I now want to own a boat one day so that I can go out on the water whenever I’d like.

That night we went out again to check out the various clubs. Even though it was a Saturday night, everything was still pretty slow. As long as you’re with friends, though, going out can still be fun! I still had a blast just hanging out with the guys.

The next morning we got brunch before heading back to campus. On the way back, we stopped at Cedar Creek Falls. Our stop lasted about 5 minutes, but it was still worth seeing.

It was sad to come back to campus and the school work that needed to be done after such an amazing few days at Airlie and the Whitsundays.

Anyone that is studying in Australia should definitely try to get out to Airlie. There is plenty of stuff to do…way too much to even fit into a week. There is a ton of stuff that I wish I could have fit in, but it’s impossible to do everything (and expensive!).

It is pretty much guaranteed, however, that whatever it is that you may decide to do at the Whitsundays, you will have the time of your life.

Townsville Town Common

5:30 am. Dressed in long pants, a longer sleeved (and light) shirt, wide-rimmed hat, and sneakers, I was ready for the long day ahead.

Last week was the field trip for my Australian Vertebrate Fauna class. Initially, it was going to be a 4 day trip out to Toomba, but the flooding meant that that trip had to be cancelled. Instead, we went to Townsville Town Common for a day. Since there were many things to do, however, we had to get there early, which meant waking up at 4:30 to get ready.

We had to arrange our own transportation for the field trip, but luckily there was a girl who lived not too far from campus that offered to give a ride. Our car was packed, and on the way we got to see the amazing sunrise.

Once we got there we got split up into two groups. One group went out into the common while the other group went to Pallarenda Beach area. The main point of the field trip was to learn how to survey vertebrates and measure vertebrate biodiversity.

We started the morning off with a walk through the bush, birdwatching. We saw a number of beautiful birds. We were all given a bird guide to use to identify the birds, but most times they were more used to look up the information for a bird IDed by one of the tutors leading our group. It was incredible how many birds they could identify immediately.

After the birdwatching, we went to check the various traps that had been put out the night before for any animals that may have been captured. We checked three types of traps: the Elliot, the funnel, and the cage (in increasing size). Each was more geared towards capturing certain animals. The presence of any sort of trap was marked by a pink ribbon tried in the immediate vicinity to a tree or shrub. In the end, we had checked over 60 different traps, yet out of all that, we only found a frog in one (and it managed to escape).

Once all the traps were checked, we were then each handed a small zipper bag and told to go and capture a vertebrate of some sort.

“Make us proud,”  the tutors said.

Much easier said than done. We had around 30 minutes to catch something, and in that time I managed to see just one tiny lizard pass by me. At one point it stopped, and we both looked at each other, but by the time I could try to catch it, it was gone.

Some people did manage to catch a gecko or frog, but I left the bush without capturing a vertebrate. When we got back to the car, however, we discovered a much larger lizard that one of the tutors captured:

They had managed to find a goanna. We ended up taking it back to our ‘base camp’ for further identification, along with the other various (and much smaller) vertebrates that were captured by the class.

We drove to where we were going to be having lunch, and while waiting for the Pallarenda Beach group to arrive, we began to identify the various animals. The tutors even showed us some cool snakes (one venomous, one not).

Some people got to hold the nonvenemous juvenile python on the far left. Those snakes can actually get up to 10 meters long, although most mature snakes of that species are half that size. I was tempted to hold the snake, but in the end I decided against it.

Once all of the species that we had captured earlier were identified, we ate lunch. We just had sandwiches, and then after lunch our professor talked to us about the report that we have to write based on the trip. Another professor (also from JCU) told us about the various sources that we could use for determining central habitats, etc. found at the Town Common.

After lunch, we went for a quick walk to a lookout point (and ran into another goanna). There were some beautiful views, however.

I actually hadn’t realized there was such a large area of untouched land. The conservation park is actually quite big, and it was a nice change of scenery from the usual city scene.

After our walk, we went back to the Common and met with a man from Wetland Care, who talked to us a bit about what was being done to protect the Common. He discussed the para grass problem a lot in particular, an alien plant that has become a major issue in the bush.

I won’t go into details of what he discussed, but the one thing that I will mention is that he noted how para grass is a major reason for the oxygen depletion of the water. Para grass reduces the wave action so less oxygen can be mixed into the water, and as a result the biodiversity of fish is also decreased. This is just one example of how alien species can affect the native ecosystems that they invade.

Our next task was to determine the ground cover density of a 40 m transect of bush by throwing a quadrat on the ground every 2 meters and determining what percentage was covered by vegetation. We then noted the category that the percentage corresponded with for each quadrat of that transect. Unfortunately, most of the transect fell under category 7, or in other words, very high percent cover.

Yes, the above picture may look like there is some sort of a pathway to walk through the grass, but if anything, it is only there because we made it. The entire area was like the grass on the right and left.

The whole trip reminded me a lot of my childhood, actually, when I used to run around the village my grandmother lived in in Poland. As a kid, I didn’t think twice about walking through tall grass like that, meanwhile during the trip all I could think about was the many snakes and insects that were in that grass.

After we finished collecting data for our transects, we had afternoon tea (which was actually just cookies and water). When the sun started to set, we went for a drive for some more surveying of the area.

It was a bit of a bumpy ride, and the roads were still pretty flooded in certain areas, even though the weather had been gorgeous for days.

Once it was completely dark, we began our search for snakes. We drove around on the road, keeping an eye out for movement on the road. Multiple times we saw a snake slithering across. Whenever we did, we stopped the car and the tutor ran out to try to capture it.

While most of the snakes did manage to get away, the same tutor who caught the goanna earlier in the day captured a water python. Again, some people held the snake. I, however, did not.

Now that I’ve had this opportunity to reflect on my field trip, though, I should probably get started on my report. I can leave that until after a night’s rest, though.

Most of my fellow international friends here had left campus Friday night, going off to their various cool lecture recess spots. I, however, had to remain in Townsville until my field trip on Monday was done. This field trip had initially been a four day trip out to Toomba, but due to weather (thank you, rain) it got moved to Townsville and changed to an intensive one day trip. I spent Saturday hanging out with some friends and just watching movies, but Sunday I decided to go somewhere.

Since I had yet to go to the Cotters Market, which is held every Sunday on Flinders Street (the street with all the nightclubs and the city mall), I decided that this Sunday was the perfect time to go. I caught a late morning bus into town with my friends, Tamika and Nathan.

There were a lot of tents set up; you could find clothes, jewelry, belts made from crocodile skin, souvenirs, indigenous paintings and more! There was even a tent that was selling chickens. Because I was in need of some presents, I decided to do some shopping for just that. I managed to find a few small gifts for my family.

At one point we passed a man playing the didgeridoo. I once tried playing my friend’s didgeridoo and remember failing marvelously, so I was really impressed by the nice melodies the man was playing on it. He invited me to sit down and join him, so I took the clap sticks.  As he played the didgeridoo, I helped keep the beat. My friends eventually sat down as well and we played for a bit more before  moving on to do some more shopping.

After the market, we split up. Tamika and I decided to head over to the beach to relax a bit.

On the way there we saw an Australian White Ibis attempting to drink water. These are the really long beaked birds, and it was interesting to watch it drink from the puddle. It had no choice but to completely turn its head and run it across the puddle to pick up water. The biology major in me thought it was really cool to see…

There was also a sailing thing going on that day at Townsville sailing, which is one of the first things that you reach on the strand when walking there from the market. There were a lot of boats getting set up, though I don’t know what the reason for it all was.

The walk to the part of the strand we were headed to from the market was a few kilometers, so on the way we stopped at Juliette’s to get some cold drinks. I found it very funny that the order number that they gave me was 91 since it is the year I was born, and this happened a few days before my birthday.

After that, we finally reached the part of the strand where we were allowed to swim. It is forbidden to swim along much of the beach because of the stingers that are in the ocean during the summer months, particularly the Box Jellyfish. There are, however, sectioned off areas of the beach where it is safe to swim.

We went swimming for a bit and then decided it was time to head back to campus. On our way back we got some gelato.

It was, clearly, a very healthy day. The important part, though, was that it was a lot of fun. We realized that we didn’t have to go to some far off tourist city to have a nice break.

I also ended up getting a Macca’s burger on our way back that day when we got to our bus stop. Having skipped lunch that day, we were hungry. Since we had 30 minutes to wait before our bus came, we decided to get some food. I can now scratch off of my Australia “to do” list, “Have an Aussie Macca’s burger.” My first McDonald’s burger in yearsss. It was good, too!

I’ll blog about my field trip next week. I’m going away tomorrow to go do some touristy things for the rest of lecture recess.  🙂

 

Paluma Field Trip

This past week was midterms week. It wasn’t the midterms week that I’ve experienced my first three semesters of college, however. As I’ve said before, most classes in Australia only have a final exam. I only had an 8-page argumentative paper due on Monday (there are no elephants in Australia because they evolved after Australia had already separated from the other continents!) and a midterm exam for my marine biology class on Thursday evening.

Since I didn’t have too much this week, I didn’t feel as stressed as I would have had it been midterms week back in the states; there, I would have had an exam for every science class, at least. Other friends at JCU, however, had more stressful midterm weeks, with more exams scattered throughout the week. It therefore does depend on what you study. My friends that are studying medicine, for example, understandably had a lot more work this past week.

Now that midterms week is over and lecture recess has begun, I finally have time to write about my field trip last weekend to Paluma Rainforest for my rainforest ecosystems class. We had already had one field trip to Paluma cancelled two weeks before because of all the rain that Paluma had gotten in March. More than half of their annual average rainfall fell in March alone. The overnight trip, however, was luckily not cancelled.

The purpose of the field trip was to collect data for our research projects. A major part of our final grade for the class is the written report and the poster on our findings. Most of us are working in groups of 4, looking at various characteristics of the rainforest.

A lot of people this year in particular are looking at the affect of Cyclone Yasi. My group, for example, is looking at flowering patterns in rainforest plants following such a large disturbance. We are trying to determine if the plants that we found to be flowering that weekend are known to typically flower at that time of year, or if perhaps the cyclone could have affected their usual flowering pattern. As a result, our project involves a lot of plant identification…not an easy task, as we have discovered.

We stayed at Gumburu, in Paluma, during the trip. The trip went from Saturday morning (buses left campus at 7:30am to get to Paluma around 9am), and we got back to campus around 5:30 on Sunday afternoon. I had actually passed by the entrance to Gumburu the weekend before, on the Hidden Valley tour, not realizing that that would be where I was staying the next week.

It was a cute place. We were split up into three rooms, each with around 12 beds. The boys got one of the rooms, and the girls were in the other two. Each bed only had a mattress, so most people brought a blanket or sleeping bag.

All the meals were served, as well as morning and afternoon teas. The food was really good, especially in comparison to what many of us eat at the dining halls. Our dinner Saturday night was amazing: they made us steak with lots of delicious sides. After a long day of walking through the forest and project planning, we were all starving, which only made everything taste so much better.

Gumburu is situated in the rainforest, so the view from most areas was right into the forest. There was a bird feeder by the dining area, so often there would be birds eating the melon that was left out for them. I managed to snap some pictures of a number of the birds:

After we got to Paluma on Saturday, the class split up into two groups. Each group was taken to walk through a certain part of the rainforest, and then the groups swapped and went to see the other location. For most groups, this time was spent figuring out the specifics of each project. Our group, however, managed to collect a number of samples, which we then spent the afternoon and evening trying to identify.

We found this to be especially difficult, particularly because so many of the species looked so similar, making them nearly impossible to differentiate. We could often narrow it down to a family, but anything more specific resulted in a species that didn’t match our specimen. By the end of the weekend, we had collected over twenty samples, which we brought back to campus for further identification.

It was raining much of the weekend, but then again, we were in a rainforest. As a result, the paths that we were walking on were really muddy. My white sneakers were no longer white upon our return to Townsville (but a toss in the wash fixed that).

It was also a lot cooler at Paluma (my sweatshirt became my best friend). While Townsville weather has been becoming a lot more pleasant (mostly due to the reduced humidity, as it was still pretty hot), Paluma was actually really cold. We were at a much higher altitude, and there was a lot of rain that weekend. I ended up regretting not bringing my pair of sweatpants on the trip…

At one point, my group had been driven to another rainforest location with another group. We managed to finish collecting our samples much faster than the other group, so we spent some time standing around and just talking. Due to the rain, ticks were less of a worry, however, leeches were around.

For the second weekend in a row, I managed to avoid getting a leech on me (probably because I was constantly checking my feet for any sign of one), but at one point a friend found one on his shoe. Out of boredom, we decided to see what the leech would do if we placed our legs around it in a circle. [Keep in mind that we were in the middle of a rainforest, it was raining, and we were very bored.] It was incredibly creepy watching it move towards our feet, but in a strange way, kind of interesting.

In summary though, the trip was fun. I got to meet a number of cool people who were in my class. We got to spend the weekend in a rainforest and away from technology (there was no cell phone service). It was still great to get back, though, and shower.

I still have two more field trips left this semester (for different classes). The one next week was initially supposed to be a four day trip to Toomba, but our professor explained to us last week that the sites that we were initially going to go to are all under water. We are now instead going to have a one day field trip, starting at 6am and ending at 9pm. It will be a memorable trip, for sure, and naturally, I will blog about it when I get back.

That’s all for now!

Fast Food Chains in Oz

“I was sooooooo sad when they shut down the Macca’s on campus!”

The first time I heard Macca’s used in context, I thought it was some upscale restaurant. It was my first night at the Catholic College, and I was going out with some of the fossils (students that have already been at JCU for at least a year). I don’t know how the topic came up, but I remember asking what Macca’s was. Everyone looked at me, shocked that I didn’t know what it was. Then they explained.

Macca’s = McDonald’s in Aussie lingo. And the students, at least, love it here.

The last time I had Macca’s (yes, I’ve started calling it that), before coming to Australia, was probably middle school. Sure, I had had a sundae here or there, but I haven’t had a real meal there in more than 6 years. I just decided that I didn’t want to eat fast food any more, so I stopped going to fast food restaurants.

Since I’ve come here, however, I’ve been to Macca’s at least once a week. I have friends who go multiple times a week because it’s a short 5 minute drive away. Usually, we’ll get coffee or an ice cream. I’ve yet to buy a burger or fries (more Aussie lingo — here fries are called chips, and ketchup is tomato sauce), but eventually I think I’ll buy an actual meal. I figure I can’t leave Australia without a proper Macca’s run. Macca’s isn’t just for food, though! Some friends have gone there for wifi when the internet in our dorm was broken.

McDonald’s also isn’t the only fast food restaurant that is known by a different name in Australia.

Just from looking at the logo, it is probably obvious that Hungry Jack’s is connected to Burger King. It is, in fact, the Australian franchise of BK.

One place that I’m not sure about is Donut King. Initially, I thought that it was connected to Dunkin’ Donuts. After some googling, however, it seems that Donut King is separate from Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s confusing because the font that is used in both logos is very similar. Now I know that that isn’t necessarily an indication that two companies are owned by the same corporation. I had realized that the Donut King offered different things (more decorative donuts, etc.), but I assumed it was just because the Aussie franchise was slightly different. Based off of the Donut King website, however, the two are separate.

The only other fast food restaurant that I’m familiar with and have heard about in Australia so far is KFC, but good ol’ KFC is known as KFC here, too. No confusion there. Nor is there any confusion with Subway.

I haven’t tried most of these places to know if there is a difference in taste, either. The McFlurries tasted the same, though: deeeelicious.

Never thought I’d write a blog post about fast food, but there ya go! Just something I had noticed and found interesting, so I figured I’d share. And now if you ever hear someone say “Macca’s” you’ll know that it’s just McDonald’s they’re referring to!