Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ballina - Shelly Beach

So today we went to Ballina, although the intended destination was Byron Bay (we missed a turn at some point haha).  We left at about noon and got there around 12:30-1:00pm.  We drove down to the beach and man was it packed, what can you expect on a beautiful, sunny day?

We began with a little bit of tossing the ball around on the beach, which eventually lead to keep away.  Then we got a little too warm and hopped into the ocean for a swim.  A few of us were throwing the ball into waves and trying to catch it as the wave brought the ball back, much more difficult than it sounds (trust me).  Before we knew it one of our friends (that can't swim) was being swept out to sea.  Sounds intense right?!  We were lucky that one of our other friends had a surf board and was able to paddle out and grab her before she got too far out, but it was definitely a tense situation.

After that, everyone was a little sketchy about swimming for a while, so we went back onto the beach and played some ball again.  But, eventually we got too warm again and went for another swim.  Our friend with the surf board offered us to use his board, but the waves were breaking to close to shore to learn :(  So hopefully I will be able to go with him sometime this week and get another opportunity.  That pretty much sums up the day though.

Expect another post coming this week, I'm going on a day trip to a waterfall (don't know the name yet, but I will soon) with the outdoor education professor.  Will be getting plenty of pictures and video, keep tuned!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Newcastle/Catherine Hill Bay/Giraween National Park

SO! It's been about a month since the last blog, but I have plenty to tell again.

Starting with my trip to Tamworth, Newcastle and Catherine Hill Bay, I left Lismore on Wednesday, August 17th, and stayed until Sunday, August 21st.  We drove for about five hours until we got to Tamworth on Wednesday night.  When we (my friends Garrett and Sarah) arrived we went to a friend's house where we stayed for the night.  That night we went downtown to go bowling.  The girls, Sarah and Tashana, were talking a big game and decided to make a bet that they would beat Garrett and I.  Of course they didn't, but it was a good time anyways.  After bowling we went to Domino's to get some dinner.  We took the pizza back to Tashana's place and watched a movie before heading to bed.

The next morning we were off to Catherine Hill Bay, did I mention bright and early, and that it was pouring rain? We stopped at Sarah's dad's work to switch cars, and then we stopped at the Golden Guitar in Tamworth.  Tamworth is Australia's Nashville, so it was their main attraction.  We got to Catherine Hill Bay sometime in the afternoon and went straight down to the beach.  After we explored the beach a little we decided to go unpack and get settled into the beach house.  We went downtown and got some groceries for the weekend before it got too late.  That night Sarah's grandma made us a really great dinner and some sticky date pudding for dessert.  While we were at the beach house our days consisted of: Waking up, having breakfast, going to the beach, boogie boarding, exploring, and plenty more.

By the time Sunday rolled around I was pretty sad that it was time to leave, but it was nice to be headed back to Lismore.  I hopped on a train that went to Newcastle, then a bus to Taree, a train to Casino, and a bus to Lismore, which finally got me home at 4:45 a.m. on Monday morning.

Now onto the really awesome stuff!  For my Outdoor Education class we went on a trip to Giraween National Park.  We hopped on a bus September 2nd, at 7:00 a.m. heading off for our weekend of hiking and caving.  We arrived at about 9:30 a.m. and began our hike.  I was in a group of eight, six of us were American, and two were Australian.  Over the course of the trip we hiked around 45 kilometers, climbed five different summits (Bald Rock, South Bald Rock, Mt. Norman, No Name Rock, and West Bald Rock), and explored a bunch of caves.  We saw an underground creek and went swimming in a little pond, which sort of gave us a bath, but we still reeked.  We saw echidna, feral goats, kangaroos, wallabies, poisonous snakes, wild pigs, and other wildlife too.  We got lost a few times during our navigation excursions, and let me tell you, the Australian bush is much different to the woods back in Wisconsin!  On one of the days we saw a few rare plants that were just discovered a few years ago, and we are part of a small group that has ever seen them!  We saw the sun set and rise from a few different summits.  By the time Monday came around we were all excited to get back to Lismore and have a nice shower and real meal.  Until next time!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gold Coast/Surfer's Paradise Weekend

So as I promised, I'm back with plenty of stories from this weekend.  The trip down on Thursday was great, only about an hour and a half or so.  Great view of Byron Bay from the highway, and an even better view of the Gold Coast as we (my friend Matt and I) drove in.  We stayed at his friends Matt, Jenae, and Cadyn's apartment on the 18th floor of the Southport Central Tower 2.  The view from their apartment was crazy amazing.  That night we went out to a club called 'Vanity' because one of our friend won a free drinks voucher.  It was a pretty good time, even though the voucher was a scam haha.  Friday we went fishing, but didn't catch anything.  I ended up slipping and getting cut on a clam shell, which was quite painful might I add.  While we were fishing (we were standing in the ocean) I had a sting ray swim/float, whichever it is, about five feet away from me.  That was the highlight of the fishing trip for sure.  I had kangaroo steak for dinner on Friday and it was delicious, wouldn't mind bringing some back to the States!  Saturday was a pretty relaxing day, Matt and I went to the beach for a while and then we walked around the mall checking out some of the shops.  That night we went out to the club 'Cocktails & Dreams' for our friend Jenae's birthday.  On Sunday we woke up and got some breakfast/lunch at KFC and headed downtown for a round of mini golf.  After that we went back to the apartment and hung out for a while before we came back home to Lismore.  That pretty much sums up the weekend, be ready for the next post!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Catching up...

So, I suppose it has been quite a while since I last posted.  Going to have to change that.. So where should I start? The last thing I wrote about was meeting the neighbors, getting settled in, and all that good stuff, but a lot has happened since then!  I'll start with the trip to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.  We (the group of international students this session) headed off on a bus bright and early to see the great wildlife of Australia.  We spent the day looking at all sorts of animals (kangaroos, wallabies, emus, koalas, wombats, Tasmanian devils, dingoes, and many more).  The best part was probably feeding and petting kangaroos, they were so friendly, and we even got to see some joeys in their pouches.  I took lots of pictures here, so ask and I can show you some.  The next big thing would be my Outdoor Education trip to Meebunn-bia (which means "in the company of an eagle").  We went here from July 4th until the 6th.  Meebunn-bia is a not-for-profit organization that is located about an hour and a half South of Brisbane, on acres upon acres of land (owned by farmers that let Meebunn-bia use it).  The first day we got there we did a couple of ice-breaker activities and began the hike to our campsite.  We did some low-ropes activities and then some more hiking haha, but that pretty much sums up the first day.  The second day we woke up really early for a navigation course, yes with maps and compasses.  Our instructors sent us out into the bush by ourselves and we had to navigate our way to different landmarks and then make our way back to camp.  After that we hiked to our next campsite.  That night we went up to the top of a summit and watched the sunset, which was really awesome (got some really good pictures & videos).  Some of us camped out on top of the summit and got to see the sunrise too (even more amazing pictures & a video of the whole sunrise).  On the third and last day we did some high-ropes activities (alone and with partners), climbed a gigantic tree, and hiked back to the bus.  Meebunn-bia was probably one of the best trips/most memorable things so far.  The last trip I went on was to Coffs Harbour.  This was a really great weekend trip.  We took a bus and a train and arrived there at about 11pm.  The next morning we went up to the lookout and saw the view of the ocean and beaches (got more pictures here).  Then we went out to Muttonbird Island and the beach.  We spent a couple hours down at the beach and went swimming too.  That night we went out to eat at an Indian restaurant.  The next morning we went whale watching.  We ended up seeing quite a few whales and a few dolphins too (got them on video!).  Then we went back to the beach, and that was pretty much the end of the trip.  So, now that I've caught you up on everything, I'll leave you with my plans for this weekend.  I'm going to the Gold Coast and Surfer's Paradise to go fishing and to the beach and all that good stuff.  I'll be posting as soon as I get back, so be ready!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Arrival In Australia

So!  June 6th @ 2:00 p.m. I headed to the airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Once I got there I went through all the fun airport stuff (security and whatever else) and had about an hour to wait around until my flight left.  I spent most of my time listening to my iPod because the wifi in the airport wasn't free.  Once I got onto my plane I was off to Phoenix, Arizona.  The flight took off at 5:55 p.m. Central Time and arrived at 7:15 p.m. Eastern Time.  Even though it looks like it was an hour flight, it was about 3 hours.  In Phoenix I had a 45 minute layover before my flight to LAX, so I didn't have much time to waste.  It was pretty easy finding my gates/terminals because I had a pretty good itinerary and maps of where I needed to go.  My flight from Phoenix took off at 8:15 p.m. and arrived in LAX at about 9:15 p.m.  This was probably the most interesting part of my whole trip over.  An older woman had two dogs on the plane with her, in dog kennel bags, and had bought an extra seat so they could sit next to her.  The flight attendants were trying to get her to put them under the seat in front of her and she wasn't having it.  Eventually they were going to make her leave the plane, but a bunch of people got up and went over to her and helped her out.  It was pretty crazy.  Once my flight landed in LAX and I had about two hours before my flight to Brisbane, Australia was scheduled to leave.  This was the most confusing/difficult part of the trip.  I had to go from the terminal I arrived at, to another terminal down the street, and go through a whole bunch of security again.  Luckily I had a long layover so I could find my way and etc,  because it literally took most of the time I had just to make it to my gate.  At my gate, I met a few people that were from Australia and had been travelling around the U.S.  They had seats a few rows back from me on the plane.  Again, I tried to get internet, but who wants to pay for it when you can only use it for 10 minutes?  Then at about 11:45 p.m. my flight took off for Australia.  This was a 13 hour flight!  It seemed like it took foreverrrrr.  We were served a complimentary dinner (chicken and dumplings) and a breakfast (eggs and toast) on the flight.  I was seated in between a fellow from New Guinea, and a man from Southern Australia.  So, I had a pretty good time talking to them and hearing about all the great places I need to go.  For the first half of the flight the New Guinea guy was sleeping in the chair on my left, and the Southern Australia guy on my right and I were watching movies.  After awhile the New Guinea guy woke up and we chatted for a bit.  By this time they were bringing dinner around and I was starving.  After devouring the meal I pretty much clocked out for a couple hours.  When I woke up we were maybe a third of the way across the ocean, which meant we still had around nine or ten hours to go.  The New Guinea guy told me when I fell asleep I ended up leaning on his shoulder and he had to pick my head up and put it on my seat haha.  He said he woke me up and I just gave him a look like, "What the hell are you touching me for?"  I just apologized and we both laughed about it, both of the guys I sat next to were pretty chill.  So, I guess I can tell you what I could see out of the window, since I was right next to it.  Nothing.  It was pitch black for almost all thirteen hours.  Only for the last hour or so could you even see any light outside.  We landed in Brisbane (pronounced Bris-bin, not Bris-bane), at about 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday June 8th.  I completely skipped over my Tuesday, and they say time travel is impossible, hah just switch time zones idiots.  Once I arrived in Brisbane I had to go through Customs and some more security.  It took about a half hour to wait for my bags to come up from the chute.  Then I was off to the shuttle that would take me to the transit center downtown.  Once I got to the transit center I got a bus ticket that would take me to Lismore, but it was a five hour bus ride.  So I boarded the bus around 9:45 a.m. in Brisbane and was off.  There were only about five or ten people riding the bus, so it was pretty relaxing.  I got to see a lot of the places that I will be visiting once I'm all settled in and what not, so it was pretty nice.  We arrived in Lismore at about 3:00 p.m. at a bus stop around 5-10km away from my college.  The bus that traveled out to the college wasn't scheduled to run until 4:45 p.m.....what a drag.  Luckily, an older woman that had been riding the bus overheard me talking about going to the university offered me a ride.  Her daughter (Amega, sorry if I butchered it, lives a block or two away and goes to school here) was coming to pick her up and she offered me a ride also.  So, this pretty much made my day because I was getting a ride to the campus and she gave me a little tour of the town/college.  I got to the school around 4:30-5:00 p.m. and met Las (I think that's how you spell it), a German foreign exchange student that has been here for four and half years.  He took me right into the International Education Office and that's where I got started with the interesting stuff.  I got my room key and some other stuff, and then Karen took me downtown to go shopping.  Oh, I forgot to mention, everything is way more expensive, a Big Mac and McDonalds is $8 just for an idea.  After I got all my stuff for my room Karen brought me to the apartment.  I opened the door and BAM!  The dirtiest thing I'd ever seen, but luckily nobody was home.  After I moved all my stuff in Karen took off and I went across the walk to my neighbors apartment.  We got to know each other a bit and played some poker.  After that I went back to my room and cashed out for the night.