Sunday, October 3, 2010

To Uluru and Back

1 week in 2 vans with 8 friends, 0 showers, no communication with the outside world, 100 hours driving, and 6000 km later...and we are back safely in Cairns after a roadtrip to Ayers Rock (Uluru) and back for our spring break. In summary, the "outback" is vast, breathtaking, and surprisingly full of life...but since every picture is worth a thousand words...without further adieu...
More pictures below...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cape Tribulation

 Graeme picked me up at 8am this morning to head north - to Cape Tribulation. The 3.5-hour trip up was hands-down, the most beautiful drive I've ever experienced. The Great Dividing Range of rainforest-covered mountains on the left, a canopy of tree ferns and fan palms teeming with cockatoos and eagles above, and white sandy beaches and blue-green ocean on the right, with the distinct coloration of coral reef not far off shore. At Cape Kimberly, in the Daintree National Rainforest, we stopped for cappacinnos on the beach, where we could see the low-lying Snapper island on the horizon. Once we reached Port Douglas, a narrow railway followed the highway, where harvested cane was shipped to the port for export or processing. A variety of other crops could be seen along this stretch through the Mossman area, including bananas and tea. At the Daintree River, we crossed on a ferry - the only access to Cape Tribulation. Graeme explained the derivation of the cape's name - when Cpt. Cook was commisioned to map the east coast of Australia, he struck the Great Barrier Reef for the first time just off Cape Tribulation, resulting in significant damage to the ship. From that point on, it was only tribulation for himself and the crew - repairing the damage during harsh Pacific storms.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Absolutely Gorges

Within the last week, I've made it up to the spectacular Barron Gorge three times. It takes about a 40 minute bike ride over unforgiving hills just to get to the base of the gorge. The first time, Peter, Niko, Nina and I took the Douglas Track up to Glacier Rock, a terrific overlook of exposed granite. The hike up started as rainforest, turned into steep, grassy hillside shrouded in clouds, and then into eucalyptus forest. The second time, Peter and I started at the base of the gorge and followed the Barron River for about 3km, rock-hopping, wading, and climbing up the side of waterfalls to reach a small lake near the base of the giant Barron falls. On the way up, we passed about ten different waterfalls, each unique and with its own private swimming hole. By the time we reached the top, the Barron falls was just around the corner of a large rock-face, but we had to turn around and head back due to the quickly diminishing sunlight. On the way back, we slid through some thick vegetation to avoid a slippery rock face and both ended up with multiple patches of intense pain from the Stinging Tree, which we clearly failed to recognize. After a painful return trip, we used a combination of hot candles, wax strips, and benadryl in an attempt to alleviate the pain and remove some of the microscopic hairs (and our own hair, unfortunately). Despite this slight set-back, we returned to the gorge once again, addicted to the beauty. This time, we wore long pants, long sleeves, and shoes (we were barefoot last time), even though we vowed not to touch anything green. We reached the top around dusk again, but this time we built ourselves a fire out of the abundant drift-wood, and slept under the stars on a protected rock shelf, using our backpacks as pillows. 

[Click on any image to view full-size!]

Monday, August 9, 2010

Exploring the Wet Tropics

Within biking distance of the lodge lies a plethora of possibilities for adventure and recreation in the wet tropics. Just behind the campus, you can hack your way through dense rainforest to achieve a stunning view of the landscape below - from the uni all the way to Cairns and Yarrabah, the aboriginal land just south of the city. Or, you can explore the botanical gardens just north of Cairns, and hike to the top of Mt. Whitfield, overlooking the city and Cairns international airport. If you've got a friend with a car, you can take a 3km winding drive up the side of the tree-fern-covered mountains in the Dinden national park to arrive at a quiet cafe overlooking Lake Morris, created by the Copperlode dam. Still bored? Ride your bike to the Cattanna wetlands - eat a picnic lunch, sit in the bird hide with your binoculars and a field guide, walk on a boardwalk through the rainforest and come out wrapped in spider silk, or jog around the wetlands, watching your step for hungry crocs. Better yet, buy a $15 tent at Kmart and spend the night there, with naught but a box of cereal to eat the next morning as you watch the sun rise over the mountains. If you're not the bushwacker-type, and you'd rather collect shells or read a book on the beach, you can ride your bike or take the bus to Yorkie's beach, Trinity beach, Palm Cove, or Clifton beach. Take time to hack open a coconut - drink the milk, eat the fruit, and make a boat out of the husk. With no classes on Wednesday, Peter, Niko, and I have designated "Adventure Wednesdays" for just such explorations. Even with an entire semester to go, we'll not come near exhausting all the terrific locations within biking distance.

 Botanical Gardens  [click on any image to view full-size!]

Monday, July 19, 2010

Oh Yeah, it's called STUDY Abroad

After a week of fun and recreation, it's time to shift gears (somewhat) as we jump into the semester. Today we attended a few orientation sessions at the university, and I finalized my enrollment. Tropical entomology, venomous species of Australia, biodiversity of tropical Australia, and effective photography - not your typical course selection! The campus is small and cozy, similar in size to Rhode Island College, but nestled in the mountainous tropical rainforest, wallabies hopping around the car-park. There are about 4000 students total, and about 400 international students.