Road tripping around North-Western Australia

Buckle your seat belts, kids! And welcome to the craziest 10 days of my life.

It was a dark and stormy night…..

No, Okay. So it all started on Friday morning. A group of 35 of us were about to get piled into 3 buses for 10 days. We were all so excited!

I woke up at 5:45 AM and went to the bus to find my friends. We got on this awesome bus that looked like it was ready for the outback.

The first part of the driving today was just to get out of Perth, so we all napped.

Our first stop was at a pretty beach called Hangover Bay ( the sign has been stolen multiple times.) The water there was an incredible turquoise :

On our walk back to the bus we saw a huge golden orb weaver! They have really strong webs, you can pluck it like a guitar.

Then we drove a little further and stopped at another pretty beach to make lunch! It was called Dynamite Cove.

After lunch we set off for Geraldton, a town on the coast of Western Australia. In Geraldton, we saw a WW2 memorial. Each seagull on the roof of the memorial represents a life lost on the HMAS SYDNEY.

We set off for our home for the night, a farmstay ! We set up our tents and the farmer drove a tractor around and gave us all a ride to see some piglets and some horses. We even saw a kangaroo on the way!  When we got back, we cooked dinner and watched the sunset.

The stars were also incredible, but no picture could capture that!

Bright and early to see the sunrise over the farm the next day!

After putting our tents away, we got in the bus and headed out for Kalbarri national park. You can see so many different landscapes in this park. On one end, you can see the cliffs:

And if you drive for a couple of miles in land , deeper into the park (maybe seeing emus if you’re lucky), you can see incredible red rocks and gorges:

And all of this before lunch !

We drove by this really cool tree :

It’s like this because the wind blows so hard in one direction over this field constantly! Pretty cool !

Then we headed out towards the stromatolites :

A stromatolite is layers upon layers of cyanobacteria that has built up over millions of years. These stromatolites in Hamilton are the oldest and largest in the world. If you stand on just one, you can do hundreds of years of damage! One of the people in our group dropped his hat and ran on them to get it back! Don’t be that person!

When we got to our beach side campsite, it was so windy that most of the tents wouldn’t stay up ! The wind made for a very long night, and everyone was really grumpy the next morning. But all of that was made up for because we were heading to Monkey Mia to see some dolphins!

We got to Monkey Mia at around 7:30am. The dolphins usually swim by that area at 8:15, but come 9am they still hadn’t come! We almost all lost hope. But there were some emus and pelicans around to keep us entertained. SUDDENLY everyone started running towards the beach! The dolphins had arrived!

There were three of them and they all came very close! They are wild dolphins but they come and visit Monkey Mia because they get fed fish.

In Australia, you aren’t allowed to touch dolphins. The oils on are skin can seriously damage them. If you are swimming in Australian waters and one comes up to you, put your hands up so that if anyone sees you, they know that you aren’t trying to pet the dolphin, you could get in serious trouble !

After hanging out with the dolphins for a little bit, we went on a boat ride. We saw a pearl farm that has recently sunk, some dolphins hopping around, some sea turtles, and a dugong ( which is kind of like a manatee!)

While we were following the dugong around to try and catch a better glimpse of it, our captain beached the boat on a sand dune! We all had to go to one corner of the boat to put the weight on that side and he revved it up as hard as he could and we made it off! Phew.

After leaving Monkey Mia, we went to Eagles bluff, with on one side, an incredible view of the Ocean, and on the other, a crazy lookout of the outback.

Then we went to this place called Shell beach… But not a shell in sight!

Just kidding.

The whole beach is made of little tiny cute white shells.

The water was so clear and you could see lots of little fish swimming around your feet.

We went back to the campsite and went in the natural hot pools! Relaxing! Then we went down to the beach and I have never seen such incredible stars! It was crazy! Our guide told us they would be even better later on in the trip, I couldn’t wait.

The next day, we had a 600km drive! Our bus driver was really smart and told us a lot of cool outback tips. If you see large trees, dig near them and you will find water!

On our drive we saw this really long fence. It runs the whole way across the North of Australia. They have this because a lot of non-native animals in the South of Australia (like feral cats) that kill the small native animals, like bilbies! They want to keep them out so they can repopulate the North with all of these awesome creatures.

We also saw some free-range cattle and some goats on the side of the road, and even a thorny devil (a super cool little lizzard)! Then…..

DUN DUN DUNNNNN

We broke down!

Okay we didn’t actually break down, but it was almost just as bad as that! Our AC STOPPED WORKING! It was actually cooler outside than it was inside the bus by the time we stopped, and that’s saying a lot because we were in the Outback. Fortunately, our bus driver used to be a mechanic and fixed it in no time! Off we went!

We drove through Carnavon, which is where most of Western Australia’s fruit is grown. When driving through Carnavon, you are supposed to throw out all of your fruit that you didn’t by there.

We saw one of the largest rivers in the world, the Gascoyne river :

We kept driving and saw some really cool termite mounds. The termites here are basically ants with no pigment, and they build these huge mounds to protect themselves from the sunlight! If these mounds were hit by a truck, it would destroy the truck before destroying them. Depending on the temperature in the mound when the Queen lays her eggs, the roles of the termites will be different. They could be warriors or workers!

We made our way to coral bay and went snorkeling and saw some pretty cool corals and fish.

We went to bed really early that night because we were going snorkeling with whale sharks the next day!

Everyone was so excited to go see whale sharks today! We got to the place and tried on wetsuits and flippers and put them in these little backpacks and went off to the boat!

They send out a little plane to spot whale sharks, and then once they spot one, they let the captain of the boat know so we can go catch up with them! In the mean time we went snorkeling on Ningaloo reef. We saw hundreds of starfish!

After about 2 hours of waiting for the plane to contact us, we had lunch on the boat. At this point, everyone was getting a little sea sick as the waters were really rough. We all laid flat on our backs on the boat because that is supposed to help ! Which I did, but most of us took a nap too. At around 2pm, we were all starting to lose hope. Everyday since the beginning of the season there had been whale shark sightings in the mornings, but none yet for us! We still kept looking. We even saw some dolphins!

At 4pm, the captain came out and told us that it was time for the plane to go home. It was the first time this season that there hadn’t been sightings and he was really apologetic, but they took us for one more snorkel to make up for it. We went to the cleaning zone ( like in shark tales) where the sharks go to get nice and clean! We swam with about 15 whale sharks and even 2 turtles. It was awesome but so tiring because the waves were so high! We went back to our campsite after that, and everyone passed out right after dinner. Long day !

We left coral bay the next morning with a lot of driving to do! We drove on a road that doubles as a plane run way in case of emergencies, seeing as there aren’t many hospitals out here! We finally hit some hilly areas. It had been all flat until now. The legend says that the hills were made by the rainbow snake sliding through the earth. There is only one plate under Australia, so all the hills are just different layers of dirt on top of each other.

We drove down a little dirt road to eat lunch at a rest area. There was a guy there with his dog. His name was Dennis and he has been travelling for the last 3 years because he has cancer and wants to make the most of his life. (pro tip :stop and talk to people !)

We left the rest area and kept driving. Our driver wanted to take us through a shortcut, which turned out to be a crazy bumpy dirt road with kangaroos and emus!

After driving down this road, our bus was filthy!

After hours of driving, we finally got to Karajini National park. The average rainfall for the area is 2 days per year. Make our first day there one of those 2! We were drenched! We set up the tents, but didn’t put any of our stuff in them because we didn’t want it getting wet! Then we went for a hike.

We walked to a place called Dales Gorge, which was beautiful, and we went for a swim and hung out under the waterfall. The rain almost made it even more surreal.

Afterwards, we all trudged back to camp in our soggy clothes. Luckily it had stopped raining in time for dinner! So we grilled some food and all sat around in a circle, but then it started downpouring! Everyone ran for shelter. The rain was not about to end and eventually everyone grumpily made their way to the wet tents for the night.

We woke up the next day and opened our tent door. We were basically in the middle of a giant puddle! It was still raining! This is the most rainfall the park has seen in years, just our luck ! This trip was beginning to show everyone’s true colours. Everyone was grumpy and cold (except me, I thought this was hilarious), and somehow even though our clothes had been in the bus, they were all damp. We were supposed to stay at Karajini national park for 3 days, but there was a cyclone coming down that way, so our driver made the decision to head back, we were going to have to cut the trip a day shorter than planned!

Before we left the park, we went on one more walk and found some aboriginal carvings in the rocks :

When we got back to the bus, we just threw all of wet shoes and sweat shirts on the floor, man that was going to get stinky!

Even though we cut the trip a day short, we still had 2 more days left on the trip because they couldn’t fit all of the driving into one day! I was excited. I was enjoying this, I thought it was really ironic and funny!

We drove through huge floods. Our bus driver told us than in the 17 years of him driving these roads, he has never seen it like this!

We arrived at our next accommodation later that evening. All of the roads were starting to get blocked because they were all cracking from all of the water! The dry ground wasn’t used to it and the dirt was giving out under the roads causing them to crack. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to leave the next day! Our tent got flooded that night and my phone got water damage ( pro tip : don’t put your phone on the floor of a tent when there is practically a monsoon outside!) and stopped working. The rain was basically following us!

We woke up the next day and the roads were open ! We had breakfast and were ready to go ! About 90 % of the people on the trip wanted to be home right now, but I was having the time of my life. I found some rice to put my phone in. There was already another phone in there! Oops! We all jumped on the bus and drove straight to our next bed for the night! The rain finally let up, and it didn’t actually rain again once for the whole trip ! We still had to go home a day early though because the rain was still catching up with us and we didn’t want to risk the roads cracking and not being able to go home. We arrived at the sheep farm in the early afternoon. We were sleeping in the sleep shed! And it was dry ! What a luxury! Luckily most of us had fly nets because there was so many of them, it was crazy!

We all started cooking dinner because everyone wanted a feast for our last night! Everyone was happy again because it wasn’t raining and our clothes weren’t totally drenched anymore. We made curry and had smores and stargazed, then we all went off to our communal shed for the night.

The next morning, we packed up everything and went and said goodbye to the sheep and headed out. We drove past the rabbit proof fence and the school used to teach and house the stolen generations of that area. Rabbit proof fence is a movie about 3 children who were part of the stolen generation. The stolen generation is basically put short, when white people first came to Australia, they took all of the aboriginal children away from their parents at a young age, to rip away all of their ties to their culture because they disagreed with it completely. These 3 girls escaped one of the schools ( seen below) and walked 200 km all the way to this fence they recognized as the rabbit proofing fence near their home, and followed it to their family. I highly recommend reading about this, it’s very interesting and so sad that this actually happened to people. So recently that some of these children are still alive now!

To make up for the fact that the trip had to end a day early, we got taken to a really pretty river walk, and to a chocolate factory ! Yum! I got hokey pokey ice cream while I was there : An Australian favourite!

After leaving the chocolate factory, we drove the 45 minutes back to the university. I was pretty sad to be leaving but most people were relieved.

This was definitely the best 10 days of my life, and probably the most eventful !

 

Fremantle

Fremantle is a small town quite close to Perth. As Australians love to shorten words and add Os to them, it is locally known as Freo.  It is bustling on weekends and in the evenings and has a personality of it’s own. It has an awesome atmosphere, and is the perfect place to sit back and people watch.

Here are some of the awesome things you can do in Fremantle :

You can walk along the beach and see some really cool sculptures during certain times of the year :

You can walk around and see the really quirky stores that range from Victorian era themed clothing, to fairy costumes for people of any ages :

You can do a torchlight tour of the Fremantle Prison. Very spooky, be prepared for jump scares! It is listed as a World Heritage Site, and is said to be haunted…

 

You can go to the Fremantle market on the weekend and get fresh fruit, hear music and see all kinds of art work!

You can have a didgeridoo lesson at Didgeridoo Breath, hosting “The most comprehensive range of Authentic, Hand-made Australian Didgeridoos on the planet.” It is really difficult to play the didgeridoo and it gets you out of breath really fast! I have a whole new respect for people who play the ” Didg!”

You can visit the Fremantle Roundhouse, the town’s center for punishment back in the day! This pillory ( the wooden device below,) unlike the ones in Europe that were just used for holding and humiliating people, is used to torture people. Their feet would be tied to the bottom as they were seated and their ears would be nailed to the back of the board… Not fun!

You can go to the Western Australian Shipwreck Museum! Below, you can see the Batavia, a Dutch ship that unfortunately didn’t make it through Australia’s stubborn reefs back in the 1600s. If you go to the site where she washed up, you can still see the damage to the reef today.

You can go clubbing ! The Newport Hotel on Wednesday nights ( student night) is my personal favourite. Be sure to check the bus schedule and plan your way back before going out, if not you’ll have to pay for a cab!

Fremantle is a great place to just hang out and eat yummy cheap food if you have a free afternoon! They also have a lot of festivals and street performances, so be sure to check the calendar if you plan on visiting!

 

Perth!

I’ve been in Perth for a whole month now. I’ve settled into my apartment and my classes. I’m slowly getting used to hearing squawking parrots everyday and seeing palm trees everywhere! ( Which I thought would never happen.)

Here is a SMALL amount of awesome things you can do while studying in Perth in a month :

SCHOOL WORK! Definitely the funnest thing to do here!

Meet cool animals at Caversham Wildlife park :

Meet cool animals that were brought to your campus for you to meet :

Meet cool animals that just hang out on your campus (bandicoot, not a rat) :

Relax on one of the many beaches ( Cottlesoe beach and Leighton beach) :

Go surfing on one of the many beaches :

Watch the sunset on one of the many beaches (and turn around only to see crazy angry clouds staring right at you after having stared at a very peaceful sunset) :

Go to Adventure World, and go on Australia’s best roller coaster and the world’s tallest, steepest and longest funnel waterslide :

And forget to put sunscreen on ( don’t try this at home kids, it’s a very serious issue, sunscreen is very important!) :

Invest in sunscreen and aloe ( definitely a must do) :

Go see Perth’s basketball team, the Wildcats, at the Perth Arena :

Go to the Perth bell tower and ring the bells :

On your way to the bell tower, see some cool statues and stuff around the harbor :

Go to Kings park and see some cool views, day and night :

Make yourself look like a fairy at one of the local street markets :

Wander through London Court, a cute little medieval themed alley way :

Go to the international food market on Friday nights :

See really cool graffiti all around the city :

Get an acai bowel from Pixels cafe :

Go to an international culture festival and see some really cool dancing :

Give into your cravings and eat every kind of meat you could imagine eating in Australia in one sitting ( Kangaroo, crocodile, emu, buffalo, wild boar, camel.) :

Of course, while studying abroad, the amount of fun you are having should be equal to the amount of studying you are doing! Which is why I am studying a lot… Get it done and you can go have fun!

PS. Eating Australian food definitely counts as a culture lesson, going to the beach definitely counts as an exercise science lesson and hanging out with Australian animals definitely counts as a biology lesson, in case you needed help coming up with excuses for yourself…

 

 

 

What The Sulfur?

              How to remove the odor of sulfur from clothing.

If you’ve ever been to a geothermal area, you know this almost rotten egg-like smell very well. At first it’s absolutely awful, but then you almost get used to it.

Geothermal areas are stunning. It’s almost like something out of a movie. You’re walking around steamy rocks and the mud is boiling so hot that it is bubbling (almost like that scene in The Labyrinth.)

A couple of weeks ago, I spent some time in Rotorua, New Zealand, which is nicknamed “ The Sulfur City” ( GROSS!) There is a park right in the town that has hot pools and mud pools, so you can pretty much smell it throughout the whole place!

During my stay there, I went to a park called Hells Gate. It is Rotorua’s most active thermal area. You can find mud pools, hot pools, steaming cliffs, a cooking pool and even a mini mud volcano that erupts every now and then!

Once you’ve finished your walk around this park, you can then go into the Hellsgate spa where you can relax in a mud bath or a thermal pool. I did both because I figured I would never have the opportunity to do it again! At the entrance to the spa, they have a little area where you can rent a bathing suit and towel if you so wish to. I thought this was just for people that forgot their bathing suits, and I had my perfectly comfy one, so why would I rent one!?

The pools felt incredible, and have amazing health benefits. It is great for your skin and good for muscle pain. I had just done a hike a couple of days before so I needed that. It was almost so much fun that you didn’t even notice the smell of the sulfur !

After my 20 minutes in the mud pool were up, I went to go wash all of the mud off. They warned that the sulfur smell might stay on your skin for a couple of days after, but I thought I had washed it all off, so I put my nice clothes back on, and threw my bathing suit and towel in a plastic bag and went on with my day. When I got back to the hostel I was staying in, I hand washed my bathing suit and towel and hung them out to dry.

 

A couple of days later was laundry day, and also happened to be the eve of the day I left New Zealand, so I figured I would wash all of my clothes so that they would be nice and clean for my trip to Australia. I put all of my clothes in one load, along with my bathing suit and towel.

BIG MISTAKE!

I went to open the door of the washer so I could put all of my clothes in the dryer and the smell of sulfur hit me like a truck. I was horrified! It was all over all of my clothes. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to put my clothes in the dryer anyway… I thought it might help. IT DID NOT! It made it even worse.

After a lot of googling and time spent watching my clothes dry just to see if they smelled okay yet, I figured out how to get the smell out.  Here are some tips on how to avoid this, or how to deal with it if it happens to you.

1.Rent a bathing suit : I know it seems kind of gross, but they do wash them with ammonia, which gets everything out! It is not worth having to either throw your bathing suit away or deal with having to get the smell out of everything you own. If you decide to take your own bathing suit anyway, make sure you don’t wash it in with your clothes until you’re 100% sure all of the sulfur is out of it.

2.Wear old clothes the day of : You’re going to a spa so you want to look nice, I know, but even if you think you have washed the smell off yourself after, it will keep coming out of your pores for the rest of the day, and then your clothes will smell. You want to wear clothes that you don’t mind soaking in ammonia the night of.

3.Don’t put your head under : First of all, it will sting your eyes, and second of all, you don’t want your hair smelling like sulfur for the next couple of days. Make sure that if you have long hair, your hair is back.

IF YOU DO HAPPEN TO GET SULFUR IN OTHER ARTICLES OF CLOTHING BECAUSE YOU WASHED THEM WITH YOUR BATHING SUIT :

  1. Do not put them in the dryer : The heat from the dryer makes it even harder to get the smell out in the long run.
  2. Rinse your clothes under cold water : Warm/ hot water is your worst enemy for the next couple of days, avoid it!
  3. Soak your clothes in baking soda overnight : Put a whole cup ( I know it’s a lot) of baking soda in a bathtub full of COLD water and make sure it is fully dissolved before putting your clothes in. If you don’t have a bathtub (hostels generally don’t have bathtubs,) you can use a recycling box.You might have to do two loads if you have a lot of clothes and are using a recycling box. Leave the clothes in the bath tub with the baking soda overnight.                 
  4. Rinse in cold water (again) : You don’t have to rinse thoroughly, just try and get most of the baking soda out.
  5. Soak in white vinegar : Put 250ml of white vinegar into your bathtub and fill with COLD water, then soak all of your clothes for one hour.
  6. Question your sanity : You could go back to sleep for an hour, but you’re probably too nervous about your clothes to do that, so try and find something fun to do so you don’t question yourself as a person for making such a silly mistake. Word search  is always good!
  7. Rinse your clothes in COLD water : Ok last time, I promise. Just make sure most of the vinegar is gone.
  8. Wash your clothes in a washing machine : I know it seems so technologically advanced now that you’ve been hand washing your clothes, but you can do it! Select a cold cycle and make sure to use scented laundry powder, and even fabric softener if you have some. If you don’t have a washing machine because you’re staying in a hostel or hotel that doesn’t have any, make friends with your local laundromat.
  9. Air dry your clothes : DO NOT put your clothes in the dryer. You are not 100% sure yet if all of the sulfur is out of your clothing. Hang them out to dry, anywhere will do, but in the sunlight is best! If you can’t hang them outside, that’s fine, your room just might look like a clothing bomb exploded!
  10. Smell check all of your clothes when they are dry : Make sure you take breaks to avoid nose blindness! If you think you might have gone nose blind, try sniffing coffee beans like you do when trying on perfume in department stores. If you smell any hint of sulfur on the clothes, throw them in a separate pile, make sure you check the collars of shirts or the waistline of pants, because those areas are thicker.
  11. Repeat all these steps with the clothes that still smell bad : It took me 5 tries to get the smell out of all of my clothing completely, and I still have a very stubborn sweatshirt, but every time you do it, the load will get smaller and the smell will get weaker, I promise!!!
  12. Buy yourself a beer: You’re a trooper, that was ridiculous, you deserve it.

 

Good luck !!  Maddie

       

Cairns

I arrived in Cairns late at night, and man, the humidity hit me when I walked out of the airport. So did the mosquitoes! I got a taxi to my hotel and started to try and figure out how to deal with my sulfur ridden clothes (you can see how this happened in my last post, and read about how to deal with it in my next post!) I finally went to sleep at around 3am, which was fine, because I had arrived a day early for the orientation of my program anyway, and most people wouldn’t be arriving until mid-afternoon, so I was in no rush to be up in the morning!

I woke up at around 10am, really excited and ready to go ! I packed up all of my clothes, and looked outside and it was perfectly sunny, so I wore shorts and flip flops and started to make my way to the hotel where I would be staying for The Education Abroad Network orientation. It was about a 25 minute walk, but that’s okay because it was nice out and I packed lightly. I got about halfway there and it was almost as though I had walked through a portal. One second it was bright and sunny and the next it was like a monsoon ! Apparently it was the end of the wet season in Cairns… Oops! I took refuge in a pie shop. This may have been the worst of best decision. Best because the steak, bacon, and cheese pie I ate was absolutely incredible, and worst because now I’m addicted to them. When the rain settled I went on my way again. By the time I got to the hotel, it was nice and sunny out again. The view from my hotel room was incredible!

Later on in the day, I went to the grocery store to buy some snacks, seeing as the orientation didn’t start until that evening. They had kangaroo in the store!

I spent about an hour in there just wandering around and looking at all of the different new foods that I would eventually get used to seeing everyday!

That night, I had an orientation dinner with a huge group of people from all over the United States (during which we were warned not to swim in the water right off the hotel because there are salt water crocodiles,) and a few of us went for a walk along the harbor afterwards. I saw a pelican for the first time !

All of the trees along the harbor were lit up, and there were huge bats flying in and out of them, they sounded just like what I imagine pterodactyls would sound like!

The next day we woke up nice and early to head out to the wildlife park. I met all sorts of Australian animals!

The kangaroos were so friendly, unlike the stigma going around because of that viral video of the guy punching the kangaroo that wouldn’t let his dog go!

After the wildlife park, we went to the Daintree rain forest to learn about indigenous culture. It was so hot!

Our guide showed us how boomerangs are made, and told us all of these stories, and even showed us how to make body paint out of rocks in the stream!

After that, we went for a swim in the gorge. It was really refreshing after spending this really humid day in the rain forest!

On the way back, we drove a very scenic route with amazing views of the ocean.

The next day was a classroom day. We learned all about Australian culture and some of the words that we might not have heard before. Australians shorten a lot of words and just add Ys or Os to make them easier to say. They also have completely different words to any other English I have heard before. Here are a few examples:

Arvo = Afternoon

Chook = Chicken

Bonzer = Great

Dunny = Outside toilet

Lollies = Candy

Brekkie = Breakfast

Maccas = MacDonalds

Budgie smuggler = Speedo

Fair Dinkum = True

Thongs = Flipflops

Some of them are going to be really confusing but I will hopefully get them eventually !

The next day was reef day. I was so excited.

We woke up really early to get the boat out to the Great Barrier Reef. It was such an incredible day! So incredible that it deserves a blog post entirely dedicated just to this day! So look forward to that in a couple of weeks!

The next day, and my last day in Cairns, was a free day. I decided to go to Fitzroy island, which was a short ferry ride away. Fitzroy island is quite small and home to beautiful beaches and hikes, and even a small resort and a turtle rehab center!

I got there at around 10am and it was a perfect day to be on the beaches!

The first thing I did was go snorkeling. After spending a day scuba diving on the Great barrier reef, I was hooked on looking at the beautiful colourful fish in their natural habitat! …. Haha… ” Hooked!”

There were a lot of jelly fish in this reef, and even though I knew they weren’t deadly they were still quite scary. I came up to clean my goggles and one point, and when I went back under, there was a jellyfish right in front of my face and I completely freaked out! Don’t try this at home kids… I did a twisted back flip underwater trying to get away from it and got stuck on some coral and ripped my stinger suit…. Oops…

After snorkeling all morning, I decided to take a visit to the Turtle Rehab Center.

There were eight turtles there at the time, and I got to meet one that was almost in perfect condition and ready to be released very soon!

One of the common reason these turtles are in these rehab centers is because they will eat absolutely anything. They see a piece of trash laying on the reefs and eventually they get a build up in their stomach that forms air bubbles that cause them to float up to the surface. This means that not only do they not have access to their food sources on the ocean floor, but it also makes them susceptible to predators because their belly is wide open! Please don’t litter!

Later that night was the farewell dinner. When I read the orientation schedule before I left for Australia, I didn’t understand how there could be a farewell dinner. Who would I be saying goodbye to? I’d only be there for 5 days! There were 140 people from all over the United States on this orientation, all going to many different universities across Australia, all new to the country wanting to make friends, and I think I made some of the best friends I have during those 5 days, don’t underestimate it ! I would definitely miss all of these people, but now I have friends to visit all over Australia.

I packed up that night and head out to the airport early the next morning. My boarding pass said boarding at 11:40am, so I figured that meant boarding would start at 11:40am, but that was the final boarding call ! I almost missed my flight. Always be early !

Onwards to Perth!

 

 

 

 

 

Auckland!

I arrived in Auckland in the early evening, and as I was walking to my hostel, seeing as it was the weekend of Chinese new year, there were a lot of celebrations, and I saw some dancing pandas and people on stilts!

I took my bags to the hostel and then walked around to try and find a good restaurant to eat at… I found an interesting pizza place :

The next day, I woke up pretty early and decided to go to Sylvia Park, which is the largest shopping centre (spelled RE and not ER) in New Zealand. There was pretty much everything you could think of ! Including sushi sandwiches, which I would 100% recommend trying.

I then went into a grocery store just to wander around and see what they had that was different to the US. The main thing I noticed was L.O.T.S O.F C.H.O.C.O.L.A.T.E.

I then went back to the hostel because they were hosting a movie night.

Most people think hostels aren’t very clean and aren’t a good environment, but I met so many different people and I am so glad that I didn’t stay in fancy hotels. Everyone in the hostels is so down to earth and willing to hang out with new people. There is a new person to meet from a new country and new fun things to do with them every day!

After watching the movie, I decided to do laundry, because I would be heading out to Australia the next day, and I wanted all of my clothes to be clean when I got there. I put all of my clothes and towel and bathing suit in the same washer, but what I didn’t realize, is that my bathing suit and towel still had sulfur on them from the mud bath I took in Rotorua that I wrote about in my previous blog post. I had hand washed them twice before that already but that was not enough. When I went to remove my clothes from the dryer, they all smelled like rotten eggs! Just like the volcanic areas I had been in the week before. I had no idea what to do because the only clean clothes I had at that point were the clothes I had on and some really fancy dresses that I hadn’t had the occasion to wear yet! I decided I would problem solve in the morning and it was late at this point.

The next day was Waitangi day in New Zealand, which celebrates the signing of New Zealand’s founding document. I walked to the harbor to where all of the festivities were happening and got some ice cream.

There were so many street performers at the harbor, I could have spent all day just watching them !

Then I headed back to the hostel to do some research on my sulfur ridden clothing.

I called the mud bath spa to see if they had any ideas, and they said they were worried that I would not be able to get the smell out because I had put the clothes in the dryer, and the heat from the dryer will make the sulfur set into the clothes. I was horrified!!! He said I could soaking my clothes in ammonia. I wasn’t quite ready to do this though, because I was scared it would discolor my darker clothes, so I went to google for help and learned that baking soda and white vinegar are very helpful in this situation. I only had 3 hours before my flight to Cairns, Australia, but I wanted my clothes to smell good by the time I went to my study abroad program orientation the next day, so I went to the store and decided to buy the vinegar and baking powder in New Zealand, seeing as when it would be late and the stores would be closed by the time I got to Cairns! I then double wrapped my sulfur ridden clothes in trash bags, so that they didn’t “contaminate” my few clean clothes, and stuffed them in my suitcase and headed to the airport! Phew. I guess it wouldn’t be -studying – abroad without a bit of problem solving!

On the way to the airport, I saw the sky tower, which is very well known because you can wear a harness and climb around the top.

Onward to Cairns, Australia!

Rotorua

I got to Rotorua late Wednesday evening, and decided to just hang out at the hostel, because I had so much planned for the next couple of days! One of my roommates was from Boston! Small world.

I woke up really early the next day because I had to go pick up my rental car! A lot of the stuff I had planned around Rotorua weren’t within walking distance, and after deciding I was going to rent a car for 2 days, I booked things a couple of hours away!

The first thing I did, was drive to Hells Gate. Hells Gate is Rotorua’s most active geothermal area. There are lots of mud pools and sulfur lakes, and even a pit that gets up to 144 degrees CELCIUS! That’s crazy hot.

After wandering around the park, I had the option to get into one of the mud pools. Why would I say no to that? It was great, although it made me smell funny.

After leaving the park, I drove to Te Waihou, which is a walkway leading to the blue springs, it was beautiful!

After getting back to my car, I realized that I still had a few hours before the tour I was doing that evening, so I went to a little cafe in a town called Tirau and had a steak pie. Yum!

After that, I headed to my tour at Hobbiton ! I was so excited. I was doing the evening tour, so I got to enjoy a hobbit feast!

It was definitely the highlight of my trip so far. I felt like I was in the movies. After we ate dinner, we walked around Hobbiton again and all of the lanterns were lit on the houses and the chimneys were smoking.

I got back to my rental car at around 11pm, and my GPS wasn’t working, but luckily it was an easy route back, and I made it to the hostel without a map or anything!

The next day, I woke up early again for another Lord of the Rings related tour. I had a 2 and a half hour drive to Waitomo, to go to one of the filming locations that is now called ” Hairy Feet.” When I got there, the owner shook my hand and said : ” You must be Maddie?” And I thought, oh no!! Am I late? But turns out I was just the only person that had signed up for a tour that day, and got my own private one!

Once the tour was over, I started heading back towards the car rental place so I could drop the car off, but I had a few hours to spare, so whenever I saw a scenic walk, I stopped.

First I stopped at Omaru falls :

Then I stopped at a park with a giant tree whose name I can’t remember grows :

Then I dropped the car off and slept a lot ! I was exhausted.

My last day in Rotorua, I went to Te Puia, which is an area where there is thermal activity and a lot of cultural things happening !

I saw the Pohutu geyser erupt. It is the biggest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere.

Then I watched a maori cultural performance and ate traditional hangi, which is a lot of steamed food !

Onwards to Auckland!

Taupo

I arrived in Taupo late in the evening after a 7 hour bus ride. The plan was to sleep on the bus, but there were too many pretty sights! There first hour of the trip was along the West Coast of the North Island, right on the water. The waves were almost crashing on the road! The rest of the way was rolling hills and LOTS of sheep.

When I got to Taupo, it was a lot warmer than Wellington, because there isn’t as much wind! It was great. I made my way to the hostel and it is definitely my favourite by far. There is a little garden in the center of the hostel where everyone hangs out and plays music at night.

I woke up at 4:30 am the next day, to catch my 5am shuttle to the National park to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It’s 19.4km not including the side tracks. I got there at 7am and went on my way ! It was incredible. The last shuttle was scheduled to leave the end of the crossing at 4:30pm, so I had 9 1/2 hours to complete the crossing. It usually takes people 5-6 hours, and the extra side tracks – are supposed to take – (foreshadowing the end of this story) 3 hours. I decided I was going to do one of the side tracks… Mount Doom ! The mountain from Lord of the Rings.

I didn’t realize until about a quarter of the way up that it got harder and harder as you went, and by about halfway up, there was no solid ground, only volcano rocks and dust to grasp onto. It was really difficult.

After 2 hours, I finally made it to the top ! I thought it would be the most rewarding thing ever, but then I looked down, and realized that I had to get to the bottom at some point, and suddenly I was terrified.

I started climbing back down, and slowly realized that climbing was not the way to go! You had to basically slide down on the rocks, almost using your shoes as skis, but making sure you lean back in case you tripped!

About three quarters of the way down I stopped staring at my feet and looked out and realized how incredible the view was, and that’s when I felt super proud of myself!

After about an hour and a half of climbing down, I made it to the bottom. I couldn’t believe I had done it ! But I didn’t have any time to wait around, so I headed out. I was already behind by a half hour.

After about 2 more miles, there was another fantastic view! The red crater :

After the red crater, it was all downhill from there! Phew. At this point, it was about 1pm. I had 3 and a half hours to get back to the bus, and about 4 hours left of walking to do. Hurry!

After walking down the hill and around the corner from the red crater, there was another stunning photo op : the emerald lakes :

From the emerald lakes, you could also see another lake in a different shade of blue :

I had about 2 hours left to walk up and around that lake, and then back down to the other side! At this point I realized I might not make the last bus, but I kept trying!

After you round the corner behind that lake, you can see the end, but it’s very far away! And not a very straight route! There was no way I was going to make it! The bus driver told us when he dropped us off, that if we weren’t going to make the bus, we needed to call them to let them know so that they didn’t call New Zealand Search and Rescue. I reached for my phone but realized I had no reception! Why would I ? I was in the middle of the mountains. I kept going until I ran into another person and I asked if they had reception, but they didn’t ! Oh no!

The clock hit 4:30, and I was only about 10 minutes away ! Man, I was so close.

I made it to the end and when I tried to make the call, my phone wouldn’t turn on! I asked another friendly bus driver if he could call my shuttle, and he so kindly did, he even offered me a ride! I made it !

The next day, my legs hurt A LOT, so I just went on a nice short walk to the nearby waterfall called ” Huka Falls”

On my last day in Taupo, I went sailing on the Great Lake, and saw maori rock carvings.

Onwards to Rotorua!

Wellington

I arrived in Wellington on a late flight. The first thing I did was go to the phone store in the airport and get a really cheap little flip phone because I was going to be doing a lot of hiking in New Zealand and you never know !

I then got a taxi to the hostel, and when I got there it was so windy! Wellington is right on the Cook Strait, which is the body of water between the South and North islands of New Zealand, and the wind is crazy coming off it! When I got to the hostel I went right to bed.

The next day I woke up and went to Zealandia, which is a wildlife sanctuary near Wellington. I saw so many amazing birds and lizards. I even met a Tahake! There are only 260 left in the world :

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After going to Zealandia, I took the Wellington cable car back into town :

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From the cable car, I walked to the New Zealand parliament buildings, one of them commonly referred to as the ” Beehive.”

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I went inside the parliament buildings and took a tour. The inside was incredible and is even built to not collapse with earthquakes! They took us into the basement to show us the “earthquake-proof” pillars.

Later than night I went to the Cuba street night market and ate churros!

I spent the whole of the next day in the Te Papa museum, which is New Zealand’s national museum. At the time, they had an exhibition on the war :

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That is a wax sculpture of Lieutenant colonel Percival Fenwick.  He was one of the first doctors ashore during the war. He saved hundreds of people in the 2 months he was there before he got sick.

The next day was a Lord of the Rings day. I went to the woods behind the Mount Victoria lookout and found a Lord of the Rings film location :

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After that, I went to the Weta Cave. The weta cave is where they made a lot of the props for Lord of the Rings. They also have a bunch of life size sculptures :

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I learned a lot of cool facts when I was there! Here are a few :

  • They made 30,000 arrows for the film, but only got about 5,000 back, which means there are still thousands of them floating around the filming locations of New Zealand!
  • Elves are supposed to be light on their feet, so during the scenes where the fellowship are in the snow, they had Legolas (Orlando Bloom) walk on crates while everyone else dragged their feet in the snow.
  • The actor that plays Boromir (Sean Bean) is so scared of flying that he had to take a boat to New Zealand, and he even had to hike to one of the filming locations and made his makeup artist hike too !

After that, I had a 7 hour bus ride.

Onwards to Taupo!

 

Sydney Adventure

I landed in Sydney early Tuesday morning. I completely skipped Monday which was very confusing. I did not feel jet lagged at all which was great. I headed right to the hostel in central Sydney, where I would be staying for the next 2 nights. I had a six person room but there were only 3 people in it ! Hooray!

I dropped off my bags and started adventuring. I went to Darling Harbor and walked around all of the stores and food courts, trying to see if I could find some cool Australian food place… I found a gelato place that had BBQ flavor… Close enough. I also saw one of these birds that I have never seen before, I later found out that it is an ibis.

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I then went to Bondi Beach, one of the most famous Australian beaches. It was a little windy and about to rain, so it wasn’t very busy, it was great! The water was freezing.

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The next day, I had a day trip planned to the blue mountains. I woke up and it was very foggy so I was quite disappointed, as you can imagine, but it ended up making the landscape look even better, and the mountains even bluer! The tour bus guide, Jason, was hilarious, which made the tour that much better.

Our first stop was Lincoln Rock. The view was absolutely insane, and the fog came and went, making it eerily cool. I guess the fog was too much for some people, because there were cars that had driven off the edge.

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Lincoln Rock is salt rock, and when it gets wet, it becomes slightly malleable. ( VERY very slightly) When it is malleable, you can brush your finger against it and it works as paint. People used to use it as face paint!

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And it took me a while, but I convinced myself to sit on the edge of the rock.

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We then headed deeper into the mountains, and saw the three sisters. The three sisters is a grouping of three rocks in the mountains. There are many stories/myths of how this came about, but this is the one I heard :

There was once a father and his three daughters who lived in the forest. They were always told to be quiet because there was a monster living in the woods ( the name of which I can’t remember,) and he could not be woken, because if not he would attack them.  One day, the father went out hunting, and left the three daughters alone. BUT !!! They made too much noise and woke up the monster! The three sisters ran as fast as they could, and the father tried to chase after them to protect them. He had a bone that could change things into whatever he wanted, so he tried using it on the monster, but it did not work, so instead, he turned the three sisters into stone. The monster began chasing him, so he turned himself into a Lyre bird ( a bird that is very common in the mountains and is known to scratch the ground for food.) As he was running away, he dropped the bone, but he made it to safely. The story is now that he spends his days searching for the bone to turn them back, scratching on the floor of the rain forest, just like the lyre bird!

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( You can sort of make out the Three sisters on the top left !)

My final day in Sydney happened to be Australia day, so I spent it down by the Sydney opera house watching the ceremony and all of the boat races.

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At 12 noon, the whole crown of people around the harbor sang ” Advance Australia Fair.” It was crazy!

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My school orientation doesn’t start until February 7th, so now I am heading to New Zealand for a week and a half!

Onwards to Wellington!