Jumping 134 meters attached to some rubber bands

So in my last post I promised a more in-depth post about my bungy jump. The verdict: if you ever get a chance to bungy DO IT!

 I signed up to the Nevis Bungy, which is a 134-meter jump from this tiny metal box hanging from ropes in the middle of a canyon. Oh, and it’s also the 3rd tallest in the world. Why did I decide I had to do this? I have no idea.

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Up until I got into said box, I had not even thought about the jump. I was excited and I had been thinking about this for a while. As soon as we got there though, I started to panic. My hands shook and I definitely cried. And laughed. And cried some more.

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IMG_7420 The crew members say that you have to jump as soon as they count you down. However, as my guy guided me to the edge, I thought about how stupid I was to do something and how maybe I should just go back and say I did it because no one would know the difference. He asked if I was ready and I reached back for him but he was too far back. All I heard was “ 3, 2, 1!”

Choosing to jump was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. When you’re little, you are taught not to jump from cliffs. Its just seems like common sense. But as I soared through the air I felt so alive and it was definitely an adrenaline rush. I screamed the entire time. 10 seconds from fear and 2 minutes from pure joy.

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As soon as they pulled me back up, I felt on top of the world and that I could accomplish anything. It’s crazy how much of what you do or don’t do is in your head.

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My 10 days as a Kiwi

After 13 long weeks, Sydney Uni gives students a study week in order to begin preparing for finals. Instead, I used the week off to explore New Zealand. I went with a tour group called Kiwi Experience, which is a hop on/hop off bus system.

Day 1: Christchurch –> Kaikoura

I didn’t really know what to expect when I got on the big KiwiE bus but as I got on, it turned out there were only 8 of us on the bus. We drove a few hours to a town called Kaikoura, which means “to eat crayfish.” It’s on the east coast of New Zealand and the next closest country across the Pacific Ocean is Chile. We stopped the bus at a few different spots. One was the look out point:

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The other was at a seal colony. Here, the seals are protected but you can get really close to them, up to 10 meters! I met a girl from Germany who was keen to explore with me and we ended up on a 11.6 mile hike around the Kaikoura peninsula. By the end, I was exhausted!

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When I got back to the hostel, I met a lot of really nice girls who had been on the tour before me. They told me what activities I definitely had to do, the low down on different tour guides, and the tour gossip. Since it was Halloween and we were all exhausted, we watched a scary movie, Hannibal Lecture (shout out to the Renner family).

Day 2: Kaikoura –> Kaiteriteri

The following day we dropped 2 girls off in Picton where there is a ferry that goes to the North Island. From there, we picked up about 30 people. We stopped in Malborough, which had some really amazing wines. We did a wine tasting and explored the vineyard.

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Later we went on to Kaiteriteri, which means “to eat food quickly.” I met a few girls from the new bus and we went down to the beach to look at shells and dip our toes in the water. The scenery was beautiful.

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Day 3: Kaiteriteri –> Westport

In the morning, I went kayaking. It was my first time ever using a spray skirt, which keeps water from dripping into your seat. We saw different rock formations along the coast and heard different native stories about the formations.

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My kayak buddy was named Jessica and she’s from Canada. She took a year off of uni to figure out what she wanted to do with her life which I’m finding is actually pretty common here and around the world.

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We left in the late morning and went to Nelson Lake. Our bus driver challenged us to try and recreate a photo that KiwiE uses in a lot of it’s promotional material so of course I jumped. I didn’t know anyone on the bus so when I heard a few girls talking about it, we quickly grouped together. This is our version of the picture:

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The water was absolutely freezing and it turns out, the dock we were on had huge eels underneath it. When I was trying to get out of the water. I was freaking out because I definitely kicked one by mistake.

As we continued driving, our bus driver had a few giveaways to hand out. To make it a fair completion, she made a bunch of circles on the passenger side windshield and we all had to put our initials in it. Whoever got the first bug splatter in their circle won. I didn’t win but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the window the whole drive.

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Later when I was picking rooms, I ended up with the girls I jumped with as well as their group of friends. We all got dinner and then just stayed up chatting.

Day 4: Westport –> Franz Joseph

On our way we stopped for the Cape Fowler walk which was supposed to take about 45 minutes and be a beautiful walk. It poured halfway through and we all just about ran to the end. By the time we all reached the bus, we were soaked and miserable.

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We stopped at another place called pancake rock and looked cool. Because of the constant crashing waves. The rocks have all sorts of shapes.
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Franz Joseph is one of 3 glaciers of its kind in the world. It’s the fastest moving glacier moving as much as 5 meters a day. Unfortunately, it poured down rain all night so I didn’t actually get to see the glacier.

Instead, my group from the previous night all hung out and chatted. The hostel we stayed at had a bar and so there were fun games all night like

Day 5: Franz Joseph –> Wanaka

We left Franz Joseph to go to a town called Fox where the Fox Glacier is. I almost saw the entire thing but of course there was a cloud in the way, just my luck! We went to a viewing area on Lake Matheson where the water is filled with tannin in order to keep the water dark to reflect the light and the mountains better.

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On the way to Wanaka we saw two lakes, which at one point were joined: Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Lake Wanaka is the 4th largest lake in the country and has no current so it’s often used for deep-sea training. Lake Hawea is used for irrigation and hydroelectric power. Usually it sits at a higher sea level but it hasn’t rained recently so it’s a little lower than usual.

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Once we got to our hostel, our bus driver told us that to go check out this hike that leads to a 360 degree view of Wanaka. He challenged us to try to beat his best time getting to the top: 17 minutes. The recommended time according to the sign was 45 minutes so I’m calling BS. However, the view was gorgeous!

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Day 6: Wanaka –> Queenstown

Before we left Wanaka, we went to see Puzzle World and before you make fun of me, it was so much fun!!! It had a huge maze that reminded me of a corn maze back at home and even though it might not have been as big, it was hard. You had to make it to all 4 towers in the corner and then to the garden in the middle. But don’t worry we finished.

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Where am I? I don’t know

Then there were a few different illusion rooms.

  1. Hologram Room
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  2. Tilted Room
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  3. Hall of Faces
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  4. Ames Room
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  5. Sculpture Illusions
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As our bus driver warned us, Queenstown was Wanaka on steroids but it was absolutely gorgeous.

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I went jetboating with my firend jade where this boat goes down a river really quickly and does 360 turns really close to rocks. I was sitting in the front and I was absolutely terrified, you should have seen my face. In the gift shop, there’s a wall of famous people who have gone on the same jet boat and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge went did it in April, right before me!

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 Day 7: Queenstown

This is the day that I bungy jumped. This was too awesome of a moment for me to just put at the bottom of a blog post so I will make a separate post soon about my experience!

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When I got back from my adventure, I ran into my friends from earlier in the trip and I was so excited to see them! We went to a pub and just sat around chatting. Since we were from all over, we looked at each other’s passports, which was a really cool experience.

Day 8: Queenstown –> Lake Tekapo

This day was mostly driving. We went to Lake Pukaki which is a manmade lake which is used to create hydroelectric power.

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Day 9: Lake Tekapo –> Christchurch

Today was another big day of driving but we finally made it full circle back to Christchurch. The city was hit by a huge earthquake in 2011 and the city has been absolutely destroyed. Luckily, no one died because there had been a flower festival in an open area so a lot of people took refuge there. In the after shock in February 2011 however, 185 people died.

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Day 10: Christchurch

On my final day in New Zealand, I had the day all to myself to relax. I mapped out what I wanted to see and headed out to see the damage and rebuilding in the city. There are a bunch of painted giraffes around town because it’s a reminder to the people of Christchurch to stand tall and stay strong.

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I explored a few open areas because they were really artsy and cool like the sound garden. Here, debris from around the city was gathered to create instruments.

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Then I went to the cardboard cathedral, which was essentially decorated with tubes of cardboard. My bus driver said that it was hard to build because whenever it rained, all the cardboard would get wet.

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Then I went to re:start which is this really cool economic center made out of storage containers. Stores set up shop in these containers and decorate them and it creates a really cool atmosphere.
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Then I went to the 185 chairs monument. There are 185 chairs painted all painted white but with different styles to represent the different personalities affected by the earthquake. It was a very meaningful.

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I just really loved Christchurch because it was such a metaphor for life. It’s amazing how something so broken can continue to survive. You adapt. You find new solutions to deal with problems. You just figure it out as you go.

Cheers,

Katie

Sculpture by the Sea

Hi friends. It’s been a few weeks since my last post. I’ve been busy working on presentations and final papers but thankfully after 13 long weeks of school, I’m finished with classes and my only final isn’t until November 18th. After a lot of hard work I finally have free time!

There’s this event that goes until November 9 called sculpture by the sea, which is a coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama Beach with sculptures all along the coast. Luckily, my flat mate Kyle and I picked a beautiful day to go. Here are some pictures from our excursion.

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Big ants

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I never thought I’d see a rhino in Australia

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On Thursday, I leave for New Zealand for 10 days. I’ll be traveling around the Southern Island. Get excited because it’s shaping up to be quite an adventure!

Cheers.

Queen of the Desert

I like doing things differently than everyone else. So when mid-semester break rolled around, of course I didn’t go where everyone else was going. Most of my peers went along the coast. I, on the other hand, went inland to the true outback of Australia—the good ol’ Northern Territory in Central Australia. I don’t think I’ve ever been so hot or seen so few clouds.

Uluru

I started my journey at Uluru, which is the traditional name for Ayer’s Rock. Essentially, it’s a big rock in the middle of nowhere, or at least that’s what I thought. Uluru is a really important part in Aboriginal culture because a lot of dreaming stories take place there. It also served as a meeting place for different families. Uluru is the second largest monolith in the world with a height of 348 meter but it also goes 6,000 meters below ground.

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There it is!!

We started out at the Aboriginal Centre where we learned different stories about Uluru. A few photos were covered with paper saying that the image below would be offensive to Aboriginal people. We learned that when an Aboriginal person dies, any pictures of them or paintings by them must be covered. Otherwise, the person’s spirit will be lost.

We walked around the base of Uluru and there are some areas that you are prohibited from photographing because they are considered sensitive parts of the rock. This can be because of initiation practices or stories linked to this particular area.

Uluru was one of those sights that I’ve been dying to see. Being there was a completely different experience. It was so much bigger than I could have ever imagined and was way redder. I probably said it 50 times. My tour guide just kept laughing at me.

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348 meters high. Only a little taller than me 

We got back just in time to get on our bus and go to watch the sunset. It was strange to see a sunset with no clouds but been a while since I really sat down and watched the sunset!

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Uluru at sunset

We went back to our campsite and our tour guide cooked us dinner over a fire. We ate kangaroo bolognaise and he even somehow baked apple crumble in a pan. He said anything you can make at home, you can make in the outback. After watching him cook, I believe it.

By the time everyone started setting up his or her swag and getting ready for bed, I was fast asleep and snoring before everyone had set up his or her swags.

Kata Tjuta

The next morning we woke up at 4:40 AM to eat breakfast before the sunrise. Sidenote: I actually like Vegemite now, which makes me one of about 6 Americans.

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Sunrise from our campsite

We drove to Kata Tjuta, which means many heads. This entire site was considered a male sensitive site but we were allowed to take pictures. We did the full circuit loop, which was 7.4 kilometers.

After our hike we ate lunch at a camel farm. They were really friendly and one even tried to eat my hair.

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Mike Mike Mike guess what day it is

On our way to our next stop, we stopped at the Mount Connor lookout. There’s a salt lake but it has no water in it since it’s so hot. Our guide told us an Aboriginal story about how Mt. Connor came to be.

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Water? No.

That night we slept at a campsite again and this time I was awake a lot longer. Since there are no major cities anywhere near central Australia so the stars were amazing. You could see the Southern Cross, the Milky Way, and multiple shooting stars.

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Our campsite for the night

 

King’s Canyon

The next day we slept in until 5 AM! We started our morning with a 6-kilometer walk at King’s Canyon.

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Don’t worry someone grabbed me just in time…

As we went through, we went through a section called the Garden of Eden. There was actually water and a lot of shade down there. It was probably the coolest I was all trip! My trip leader brought us apples for a snack to eat there…oh the irony.

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Apples in the Garden of Eden

Near the end of the hike, we saw the oldest tree in the canyon. Her name is Queen of the Desert.

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There she is (right)

Someone spotted a lizard so my trip leader picked him up. We found out if you turn a lizard on his back and rub his belly, he’ll fall asleep. Look at him, he’s so cute!

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Tickle, tickle

After a lot of driving, we finally made it to Alice Springs! We stopped as a group at the sign so we could take a photo together. After, we all went out for drinks together and to say goodbye to Sam.

Alice Springs

On this day we had a free day before we had to get back on the road so we had a chance to explore Alice Springs. It’s this little town in the middle of the country. Sam said that half of the population is locals, and half are people who there for work.

A group of us went to the reptile exhibit. When we walked in, there was a goanna just hanging out on the floor. Her name is Ruby and when she was little, her brothers and sisters ate her toes off because they thought they were food.

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Ruby the Goanna

We watched the animal demonstration where we learned about the different snakes and lizards. I found out there is such a thing as a legless lizard. The way you tell them apart from snakes is that they have ears on the side of their heads. We also had a chance to see an Australian snake fang compared to an American snake fang. The Australian fang was a lot smaller which made me feel a lot safer. 18 of 20 deadly snakes live in Australia but as long as you wear proper clothing in the bush, the fangs won’t touch you.

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After the show, we were allowed to hold the bearded lizard and the snake.

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Who are you looking at?

For the rest of the time, we walked around the exhibits.

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I’ve never seen a happier lizard

 

That night, we went to the top of Anzac hill and watched the sunset over Alice Springs and it was the most amazing sunset I’ve ever seen.

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On to Darwin (and Devil’s Marbles)

On our 5th day, we started our 1500-kilometer trek to Darwin at 6 in the morning. It was a long day of driving but luckily we stopped at a place called the Devil’s Marbles. It was really hot but exciting because we were allowed to climb the rocks.

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That night we stopped to camp. It’s crazy how the farther north we went, the more water you found. On our campsite, the owner came out with a green frog. I got to hold him and he liked me so much he started to climb up my arm, onto my shoulder and then all the way up to on my head cause I had just taken a shower and he liked the moisture. Unfortunately while he was up there, he pooped on my head!

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More Driving…

Today was unfortunately a long driving day. We stopped to see the very first international airport. Just as we got there, we watched a plane land. I’m really happy that my plane to Australia didn’t land here!

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After, we went to Daly Waters Pub for lunch and was the first pub in the Northern Territory and even had a pool. Our trip leader made a barbeque while we swam in the pool and I got a cider from the oldest pub in the NT!

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Sidenote: This was the first day that I actually saw a cloud in the Northern Territory!

Later, we went to the Mataranka thermal pools. We all went swimming and I brought my snorkel gear along. I saw a few schools of fish…and luckily no crocodiles!

We ended our night in Katherine, which was only 300 kilometers away from Darwin. After we ate dinner, we were sitting around the campfire and a wallaby hopped up to us. She was so calm and our trip leader said it would be okay to feed her so we fed her lettuce. She even had a joey in her pouch.

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Mama and baby wallaby coming to explore the camp

Katherine

On this day we slept in until 6! We did some driving in the morning and ended up at the Katherine Gorge where we went kayaking for the afternoon. It was nice to get off the bus and get some exercise in. I shared a kayak with my friend Sarah and we enjoyed the beautiful view. We stopped halfway to enjoy the view and have a snack and a swim.

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When we were heading back, Sarah realized that she left her water bottle back at our stop. If we brought back our kayak late, we’d be charged a late fee. I’ve never paddled so hard in my life. We made it back on time, with 5 minutes to spare!

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That night we said goodbye to our tour group. Finally arriving in Darwin was terrifying because I went into not having booked a hostel. Luckily, a few friends I made on the trip had made accommodation plans and encouraged me to follow them. There was room in the hostel and I walked into a 6-person room WITH NO AIR CONDITIONING. Needless to say, those were some long nights just because of the heat.

Exploring Darwin

Excited for the day, my friends and I woke up early to start our big adventure, we walked along the coast. It was the most water that I had seen in a long time, and you couldn’t even swim in it or drink it!

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We walked along the streets and found Darwin’s museum of contemporary art. This collection of burned papers was my favorite because the burns I thought were what gave the pieces character, It made them more beautiful than if it would have just been a painting.

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By noon, it was so hot that we went back to our hostel and sat around the pool for a while. When we had cooled off, we walked to the botanical gardens and so a lot of really interesting plants and trees. We even saw this weird bush that looked like it had a pink pineapple.

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We ended our night by watching the sunset at Mindil Beach. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets that I’ve ever seen. Just look at it!

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Kakadu and driving

Because I was the oldest in our group, I was the only one eligible to rent a car. So a group of us rented a car for the day to drive out to Kakadu. Driving on the left side of the road was scary but once you got the hang of it, it just felt like normal driving (which I haven’t done in 3 months!). The only thing I never seemed to get the hang on was the turn signal. Instead of being on the left side, it was on the right and the windshield wipers were reversed as well.

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Don’t worry friends, the car was stopped and in park!!

We hiked up to the Mirrai lookout. It was only 1.6 kilometers but it was steep and almost 40 degrees Celsius. It was a hard walk but the view was breathtaking.

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Then we hiked up to the Nourlangie Rock Lookout.

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I had such an amazing week in the Outback. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

 

Cheers.

Take me home country roads

Hey guys!

Let’s start off with 7 things I learned in the country last weekend:

  1. Chickens will actually eat their own eggs as well as cooked chicken
  2. Sheep raised for their wool eat more poorly than meat sheep
  3. Not all black cows are angus cows
  4. Solar panels can cut your electric bill in half
  5. Kangaroos can be hurt by barbed wire too
  6. Also, kangaroos can jump over a fence like it’s nothing
  7. At any point in time on the Mount Panorama racetrack, a racecar most likely has one wheel off the ground.

My study abroad program plans a weekend for us to go out into the country and stay with a family in the middle of the semester and it’s the perfect time. I’ve been living in Sydney for 2 months now and I’m almost halfway done with studying abroad.

We arrived in Bathurst, New South Wales and there was a crowd of families waiting for us. I was assigned to Bonybrigg farm with a few of my friends. When we got off the bus, I found the sign first and as soon as I introduced myself, I was greeted with the biggest hug. I could have turned around right there and had a fabulous weekend.

We stayed with Mick and Elaine and they were adorable. Elaine is Scottish and a huge Manly Sea Eagles fan (rugby). Mick is Australian born and raised. He’s a history buff and he’s wicked smart. They have 3 grown kids and 2 (3rd on the way!) grandkids. They are hobby farmers who raise meat sheep and beef cattle.

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What a view! This is from the front porch of Bonybrigg.

Once we arrived on their farm, we settled in and then dinner was served. When you are a college kid making your own food, it’s inevitable that you’re going to eat a lot of pasta. And only pasta. Elaine made this beautiful meal with chicken, multiple side dishes and there was Pepsi on the table. I can’t tell you the last time I had a soft drink!! Any leftovers she feeds to the chickens so of course we had to get seconds.

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Mmmm….food

The weirdest thing about going to bed that night was hearing sheep baa-ing outside my window.

On Saturday, we went to the home of one of Elaine’s friends. Her house is made from an old sheep shearing shed. Half of it has remained as it was originally and the other half was converted into their home and it was beautiful.

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Old part of the sheep shearing shed

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Renovated kitchen. It’s amazing that a lot of the same structures and wood are still there.

We hung out with Eva, who is 11 years old and she showed us around the farm, which animals we could play with, and what the best climbing trees were on the farm. After hanging out with her, I thought a lot about how cool it would be to grow up on a farm.

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This tree was definitely the best climbing tree

Then we went to the Mount Panorama Motor Racing Circuit, which is a race track for V8 cars (which apparently are less crazy NASCARs). Since I went to the Indy 500 this year, it was cool to see how different the racetracks were. It’ll be on TV in a few weeks. I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to watch!

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IMG_9937 Trip had to come too!

On Sunday, we had everyone over at our farm for lunch. Mick and Elaine have a wood fire pizza outside and so every family made their own kind of pizza and it was so good! While the food was being made, we were able to explore the farm. Mick took everyone around the farm to show us his cows and feed them and to see some wild kangaroos.

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Someone’s a little hungry

Mick’s sheep were literally terrified of us. If you took one step towards them and they were 100 meters from you, they would still run away. Mick had to corral a few so that we could see them. I actually got to hold a few animals. I held a dog (Ned, he’s the cutest) a chicken, a lamb, and a shingleback lizard.

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Needless to say, she was not my biggest fan

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Saying goodbye after this weekend was really hard. I felt like I was just really starting to get to know Mick and Elaine. It also was really nice to have someone else take care of me for a little while. I’m so thankful to have been welcomed into such an amazing home.

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Best fam, thanks Mick and Elaine!

 

Cheers.

Give me a home among the gum trees

A few weeks ago, I blogged about how I’m taking a class called Outdoor Education. Our class does two field trips during the semester: our first was to Royal National Park, the second to the Blue Mountains. I wasn’t sure if any trip could top RNP but boy was I wrong. It was even more fun! My assignment post-trip is to blog about my experience. Welcome back to my blog, professor Ian Boyle!

Blogging as a Medium of Reflection:

Once this is posted, I will have written 11 blogs in total. If you guys haven’t noticed I love blogging! It takes a lot of dedication and planning but if you put the effort in, it’s a really fun way to look at what you did weeks or even months later. It provides a snapshot into where you were and how you were feeling at a certain point of time and helps students “contextualize their experience in terms of the relationship to those of their current personal, academic, and future professional life” (Dyement et al., 2011, p. 138). I can let a large audience know what I’m up to instead of individually telling all of my friends and family (which is time I could use studying). In addition, by looking back at previous posts, I can improve my next experience whatever it might be. Not only can I write about my experiences; I can also add media like photos and videos to enhance the viewing experience. Especially for students like me, blogging is a way of “providing students with multiple forms of capturing a moment […which] will most likely appeal to students with a wide variety of learning styles other than those most comfortable with writing” (Dyement et al., 2011, p. 140). However, there are some down sides to blogging. Because this post is going on the World Wide Web, none of this is private. Because I know my peers and educator are going to read this post, the article says I’m more likely to censor my content (Dyement et al., 2011, p. 141). Overall, I think that the technological benefits blogging provides outweighs the negative effects.

Friday:

On the way to the Blue Mountains, I sat with my friend Niki. Here are our thoughts going into the weekend:

The first day was the “easiest” of the 3 days. We hiked down the mountain and then back up behind the Three Sisters. I did a similar hike to this with my study abroad group in July but this was so much more intimate because our group was only about 11-12 students each.

On this day, I was paired with Wayne’s group, which I was happy about because he had been my leader for the RNP trip. Along the way, he would give us little challenges that we could choose to complete or not. The first was “caving” which is crawling through this tight space between rocks. At first I was a little wary about crawling through the dirt but by the time I got through, I was covered head to toe in dirt and I didn’t care.

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I made it….somehow…

On our ascent, Wayne gave us another challenge: walk up the Giant Stairway (900 stairs!) with a mouthful of water. At first I thought the challenge was a joke, it seemed so easy. Spoiler alert: it’s HARD. The person behind me tried to make me laugh the whole time and by the time I got to the top, you couldn’t even call what was in my mouth water. It was warm saliva and Wayne dared me to swallow the saliva concoction. Needless to say it was so gross. Because I was focused on the challenge, it took my mind off of a task that may have seemed mundane and forced me to stay quiet and reflect instead when I might have spoken.

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Wayne’s Friday Group

When we finished our hike, my 5 cabin-mates and I conquered the grocery store and bought food to last us for the next 3 days. When we arrived at our cabin, we found out that we had to make a fire to heat the cabin and start getting dinner ready. I took on dish duty and quickly learned that hot water was limited…while my roommate was taking a shower. I felt awful. From then on, we knew to keep hot water use to a minimum.

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Our heating system for the weekend. At least we know how to make a fire now!

One of the really awesome things about this class is that it is made up of international students from all over the world. When we all sat down to for the campfire, Ian informed us that everyone would sing his or her national anthem. I heard everything from French, Bulgarian, German, and Swedish national anthems. When the Americans sang, it felt really special because we were all remembering September 11th. It was a really touching way to honor our country even from abroad. The rest of the night was spent playing campfire games.

Saturday:

Out of all the days, this day was the hardest and longest hike. On this day, we switched groups and leaders. This time, my leader was Joel. He’s a teacher from Wollongong and came along to help with the huge group numbers. Unlike Wayne, Joel was more of a “hands-off” leader and pushed us to answer our own questions. On this day, we were given a map and a compass and practiced orienteering. Along the trail, Joel would constantly ask us where on the map we were and in what direction we should go next.

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The map may look small, but our hike was anything but short.

As we were walking, Joel told us the next part of our descent was in the middle of a landslide that happened two years prior. It was the scariest part of the hike. There were rocks everywhere and where the trail had been was littered with massive boulders. Any rails or stairs that had been previously installed were bent. Our group constantly made sure that everyone was okay.

 

Along the way, our challenge was to identify different kinds of plants. We saw everything from ferns, to Mountain Devil’s, and narrow leaf geebungs. The most fun however was the Turpentine Tree.

Later in the hike, we stopped at Junction Rock. Like at RNP, we had time to reflect on our experience thus far. I chose to climb up this hill where there was a gorgeous view of the mountains. Here is my video from reflection time:

And of course, I said that I would swim in the Blue Mountains and the leaders made sure I kept to my word…and of course I swam, it was freezing and I even dunked my head underwater. Once I got out, I found out that Sunday was meant to be the group swimming day.

The next part of the day was hands down the hardest part of the entire weekend. In order to complete the hike we had to climb back up the mountain. At that point, most of the journey had been downhill and I was feeling cheery and positive. At this stage though, I was exhausted and had already been hiking at least 5 kilometers. If it hadn’t been for my buddy Kevin, I would have stopped right there and told everyone to go on without me. However, we ended up pushing each other to keep going and when we were near the top, we all watched the sunset together.

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Joel’s Saturday Group

Even though we were exhausted, we ran the last little bit up the stairs to the end. During the hike, you feel like you’re not going very fast or very far but it’s so amazing to stand at the top of a mountain and see how far you’ve come. I’ve never felt more accomplished…or more exhausted.

Sunday:

After Saturday, Sunday felt like an absolute breeze. We had a later wake up and I actually got a chance to enjoy the morning. I had forgotten to look our main window and see where our cabin was. The view was beautiful!

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Good morning blue skies

On Sunday, we once again switched leaders and this time, I went with Ian. It was cool being able to get to see him outside of class but what was really fun was that he brought his 11-year-old daughter on the trip. I’m not just saying this, she is the coolest person ever. We became fast friends and chit chatted and sang almost the entire way. We probably drove our group crazy, but it helped to distract us from the hard climbing.

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My buddy Holly and I

And of course, once again we had the opportunity to swim and I took it. This time it was even colder. If you can imagine jumping into the waters in Antarctica, that’s exactly what it felt like. As if that wasn’t cold enough, before we changed back into our clothes, we ran back in AGAIN.

On this day was when I really noticed how much rubbish had accumulated on the trails. After watching Ian pick up someone’s lunch remains, I decided that I needed to help too, especially since my presentation earlier in the semester had been about Leave No Trace and their 7 principles on how to leave nature better than you found it. What struck me most was watching two men smoking by the waterfall. You’re surrounded by so much vulnerable beauty, why would you compromise that with a cigarette? Bush fires are a real threat in Australia and if ashes aren’t disposed of properly, so much damage can be done.

Once again, being at the top of the hike and looking how far you hiked is such an amazing feeling. By the end of the trip, everyone was hugging each other and I was sad to leave such an amazing community of people.

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Ian’s Sunday Group

 

Parting Thoughts:

Days after our field trip, I’m still reflecting on the entire process. I chose this class because I wanted to do something I couldn’t do back home but mostly because I heard that it ended halfway through the semester which would give me more time for my other units of study.

However, I never realized how different I would feel when everything was said and done. For those of you who know me really well, you know that this year has been near impossible. I’ve been through hell and back and there were times that I doubted things would ever look up. From this class, I learned a lot about how much power I truly have in life. I may not have the power to change events in life but I have the ability to change my attitude towards them. I also have learned how truly therapeutic nature is and how detrimental humans are to the state of nature. We need to do everything we can to protect it and make sure that we leave it better than we found it every time we are engaged in nature.

After this trip, I feel like I could accomplish anything. I learned that not having cellular service or internet is actually very liberating and forgetting to take pictures because you’re so focused on hiking is okay and kind of a relief. Most importantly, I remembered to believe in myself. Each group member had a strength within the group and sometimes I have hard time believing that I have strengths. One of my leaders went out of his way to compliment me on my positive attitude, which I realised is a pretty valuable strength!

This week was our final class meeting and I have so many mixed feelings. How lucky am I that I get to be a part of something so special, that no one besides our group understands. On our last class, I was genuinely sad it was over. When’s the last time you felt that way about a class? When’s the last time you took a class that made you a better person?

Finally, I want to thank the University of Sydney Staff Ian, Wayne, Nicki, Joel, and Ben for taking care of us this weekend. They absolutely made the trip as much fun as it was. In the future, if you decide to come to Australia and go to the University of Sydney, take this course, EDUH4052!!!

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Cheers.

 


Sources:

Dyement, J., O’Connor, T., & Boyle, I. (2011). Intersection of Web 2.0 Technologies and Reflective Journals: An Investigation of Possibilities, Potential and Pitfalls. In Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership (3rd ed., Vol. 3, pp. 137-50).

The best place to hide from the rain is underwater

So as of Sunday, I am now PADI Open Water Scuba Dive certified! This means that I can scuba dive in waters up to 18 meters deep.

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Who’s scuba certified? This girl 🙂

Getting my certification was not easy. Before class on Saturday, I had to do a lot of reading about the science behind diving. I learned about how to descend and ascend properly, air pressure, buoyancy, equalization, and even how to deal with sharks.

On Saturday, I woke up the earliest I have since I got here (6:30 AM!) and took and train and then a bus to the Bondi Dive Centre. From there, we got all of our equipment and headed to Watson’s Bay, which is across from downtown Sydney. You could even see the Sydney Harbour Bridge from where we were. It was absolutely stunning.

After, we set up our gear and headed out to the water. Once we all had our fins and masks on, our instructor told us to head down to the bottom (5 meters). The first descent was scary because all of your weight is on your back with the oxygen tank. It feels like you’re falling backwards and you can’t see where you’re going. For the first few times, I would just go down on my back and then wait until I hit the bottom. After this we practiced a few of our exercises, like taking off your mask underwater and then we went around on our first dive! I had no sense of direction but the view was amazing. It was like swimming around an aquarium. There were a lot of fish swimming around but because we had such a big group, I think we scared them away. After our dive, we stopped for lunch.

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My dive group at Watson’s Bay

 

After lunch we went for a second dive and I felt a lot more comfortable in the water. We went for a second excursion and this time we saw a sea horse, a scuttle fish, and even an octopus hiding under a rock. We learned you have to make sure you don’t scare an octopus out of hiding; otherwise you’ll kill its babies.

 

On Sunday we went to a place called Bare Island. There was a bridge out to the site and we had to walk down stairs and on slippery rocks while wearing a really heavy oxygen tank. The best part of getting to the diving site was always getting into the water, because the floating of the BCD kept the weight off your back. The first dive was uneventful except for the fact that we went underwater 11 meters.

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Bare Island

On our second dive, half of the group was cold and didn’t go so diving was a little bit easier. The visibility wasn’t very good but we were able to explore a little bit and we even saw a shark! It was a Port Jackson, which is about a meter long and harmless.

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With our instructor Jadi at Bare Island

This definitely won’t be my last time diving. I’m loving it and  can always do more advanced dives. Maybe in the future I can take classes for more specified certifications, like an underwater photography course 🙂

 

Cheers.

Underwater for an hour: down under[water] in the land down under

Many of you probably know that I was a swimmer and that I love anything that has to do with the water… except for maybe this rain. It’s been raining for almost 3 weeks now…ugh.

A few weeks ago I got a discount for a scuba diving certification class so I figured why not. I want to go to the Great Barrier Reef anyway, why not dive? For our first day of class, we went to the pool to learn diving basics and practice so we’ll be ready in the ocean. I’ve spent a lot of time in the pool over the years but never wearing:

  • A wetsuit
  • Mask
  • Snorkel
  • Boots
  • Flippers

&

  • A DCB (essentially a floating backpack and an oxygen tank)

The first breath I ever took with an oxygen tank was the scariest thing I have ever done. My instructor taught us the basics but the second I went underwater, I forgot everything she had said. I panicked when I couldn’t breathe and all I could see were bubbles and surfaced almost instantly. Once I calmed down, I went back under the water and figured out how breathing from an oxygen tank works. Even with an oxygen tank, you never feel like you have enough oxygen in your lungs. Even if you take a deep breath or multiple breaths, it’s never as satisfying as a deep breath above water—but that didn’t stop me from staying under!

Once everyone had adjusted, our instructor led us through a few exercises to make us more confident underwater. Because she couldn’t talk to us underwater, she would act out what she wanted us to do, and then swim in front of us and watch us. If we did it right, she would shake our hand. We learned how to take out my regulator (thing the gives you oxygen) and blow out the water in order to start oxygen flow and  get water out of your mask while you’re still underwater. Weird right?

Divers usually move pretty slow in the water so I thought that I would find diving a little boring at times but it’s not at all. It’s exhilarating to be able to stay under for so long but still having so much control under the water. I’m sure the control aspect will be a lot different in the ocean but we’ll see. This weekend I will do 4 ocean dives, which will lead to the conclusion of my scuba certification!

 

Cheers.

Living life in COLOUR

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted. Last week was my 5th week of school and this week I have my first midterm. I guess I have to do some studying; it is study abroad after all.

Two weekends ago, I stayed around Sydney and my friend and I went to the Powerhouse Museum. It had just about everything. We were there for 4 hours and we still didn’t see everything. There were a lot of old planes, trains and automobiles. We even saw an old bike with a big front wheel and we were able to ride on it. I can’t imagine being that far off the ground on only 2 wheels!

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The weirdest thing at the museum was that kangaroos were just a natural part of illustrations. I’ve seen the water cycle a million times but never with a kangaroo!

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Later that night, one of my friends from surf camp came up to Sydney for the weekend and we brought my room back together to hang out. We made burritos and quesadillas. YUM.

Then on Sunday, my study abroad group went to the Color Run. Apparently there were 10 color run events going on all over the world that day and ours was the biggest with 20,000 participants!

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I’ve never done the color run before and I highly recommend it to everyone. A group of 4 of us stuck together and jogged the whole thing. At each kilometer, there was a different color of paint.

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At the end of the race, there was a huge crowd of people. The announcer would count down and everyone would throw their paint into the air.

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It was the most amazing race I’ve ever been to. It was a gorgeous day and I’ve never been happier to be a small part of a huge event.

Cheers.

And we’ll never be royal…Royal [National Park]

This semester I decided to take a class called Learning in Outdoor Education. We’ve been learning about different ways that the outdoors are beneficial not only education but for life in general. But that’s not even the best part. During the semester, we take two field trips: one to Royal National Park and one to the Blue Mountains. At the end of each trip, our homework is to blog about our experience and our professor will grade it. Welcome to my blog Professor Boyle 🙂

According to John Dewey’s Experiential Learning Cycle, we participated in a 3-stage model: experience-reflection-plan. It’s important that experiential learning groups use a good model because it can lead to substantial growth, or create problems (Neill, 2010). Because the steps are simple and continuous, students continue to plan ahead by applying what is learned.

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John Dewey’s 3-Stage Model

Royal National Park is the second oldest national park in the world. We left around 9 on 16 August and went an hour south of Sydney to hike from Bundeena to Watamolla, which is about 6 miles of hiking.

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This is the map we all followed on our 6 mile hike.

On our way into the park, we found a eucalyptus tree and my leader, Wayne, told us to roll up a leaf and stick it up our nose. It turns out that it naturally clears your sinuses and gives you energy.

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It’s not a booger, it’s eucalyptus!

We broke into smaller groups and before we started, we sat for 10 minutes for solo reflection time. Here’s a video I made from my spot:

I volunteered to lead the group part of the way and off we went. Everyone was given a map of the walk so we could all learn to navigate. My group’s instructor, Wayne, used to teach the course but is now on the administrative end. He’s from New Zealand challenged every decision I made on the path. This made me a lot more confident and as the time went on I learned to trust my newfound navigating skills as well as myself.

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We hiked down from that cliff and drank from the water fall on the left.

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Posing near Ice Cream Rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we got to Marley Beach we all took our shoes off to get some good old-fashioned earthing in, which is walking on the earth with no shoes on. The waves were really rough and as we were walking, we had to be careful because there were blue bottles on the beach. Blue bottles are these little jellyfish that get washed up on the beach. Even if they’re dead, they can still sting you and it apparently it really hurts.

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After stopping for lunch on Little Marley Beach, I was in charge of being the photographer (shocker I know) of the group. We had a 16-person thumb war, a running man shot, and a silly shot. Here are some of my favorites.

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On the second half of the hike, someone else had a chance to lead so I lingered back a bit, especially when we got to these beautiful red rocks. It was hard letting go of the responsibility since I started as the leader but I spent a lot more time talking to the other people in my group and just taking in all the scenery.

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Then we made it to this natural pool. We had been told that we would be able to swim if we wanted to but I didn’t bring my suit or towel because it was cold that morning and I told myself that if I didn’t bring my suit, I wouldn’t swim. Well I should have known better because if you know me, you know that there was no way I stayed out of that water. I got jealous of everyone swimming and jumped fully clothed into the pool. It was freezing and all efforts to pretend it was warm failed. I tried challenging the group to a race but no one wanted to get back into the cold water. That’s okay; one girl from my group challenged me to a race when we go to the Blue Mountains. Game on!

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Looks can be deceiving, it was freezing!

By the end of the trip, my group of 16 strangers left as a group of international friends who shared an awesome experience.

It’s amazing to me that you can go just an hour south of Sydney and be somewhere so natural and serene. It makes you realize how small you are and how little your problems matter in the grand scheme of things.

While I’ve been here, I’ve been so involved in the outdoors that I know it’s going to be hard to stop. I’m going to have to make an effort to try and stay just as active as I’ve been here. I’m in love with the mountains and I know that from now on, I’ll have to do whatever I can to be closer to them because I’m addicted.

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Cheers.


 Sources: