23 March 2014

Rainforest, Great Barrier Reef, Sharks & SkyDiving

It is impossible to look happy with a regulator in your mouth
Last week was Spring Break! Or I guess technically it would be considered fall break here, technicalities. Maggie, Jackie, Abby & I flew up to Cairns on Monday for an awesome week off from classes and interning. Unfortunately for us, the weather wasn't all that great, but we still did and saw a ton of cool things. We arrived around 3 and quickly got ourselves settled in in our hotel and decided to go explore the small city. First we went grocery shopping so that we'd have food to eat all week and then we ended up eating out at Grilled, a fantastic burger place in Australia, it almost feels like home.

Tuesday we planned to head up to the beach on the coast but Mother Nature didn't seem to be happy with us because as soon as we started walking to the bus stop it started raining. So rather than spend our day at the beach we explored Cairns, which was much smaller than we had expected. We got lunch at the RawPrawn, which had the most delicious seafood lunch special every day, it was a fan favorite. After that we looked around some more and shopped a little bit. Later that night we met up with some other people on our trip staying in the area and got dinner at an Italian restaurant and headed to Gilligan's to have a night out. Gilligan's had a really cool atmosphere and cheap drinks, which is always good. We ended up playing pool before heading home, and it's sad how bad we were, especially me since I have a pool table at home, overall, fun night though.

Wednesday was Rainforest Day! Unfortunately we really got the RAIN part of the Australian Rainforest. Jackie, Maggie & I headed out early to ride a cable car up to a town called Kuranda the midst of the rainforest. The view over the tops of the trees was still pretty good considering it was all fogged up and rainy. On the way, we stopped to walk through the trees and view all the peaks and waterfalls throughout it. In Kuranda we explored all the shops and went through an animal park where we held KOALAS!! It was so cute and soft and cuddly, I wish I could have kept her. We got lunch and looked through lots of jewelry shops and more local shops and got really good smoothies before riding the train back through the rainforest on the way down. It was scenic and beautiful and wet, but still a great experience.

Thursday was my favorite day of the entire time I've been here... WE DIVED THE GREAT BARRIER REEF. Yep The Great Barrier Reef that is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, that one! The weather was even on our side, it was a beautiful sunshiney day, Sydne was happy. We got on the boat and headed out to three locations for different views of the reef. Most passengers got seasick on the way, it was really rough on the water. When we got to our first location we prepped and headed into the water with our flippers, goggles and oxygen tanks. I kind of wish I'd gotten certified before coming because I really struggled learning how to do the safety maneuvers. Eventually we started moving down and started to see everything. It was amazing seeing all the marine life under the surface and the complexity of the reef and everything it supported. Stephen may have passed out from excitement had he been there!

At the next site we got to snorkel and we found Nigel! This huge fish that seems to like following the boat throughout its locations. We saw clown fish and an array of other beautiful fish and marine life throughout this reef too. There was a sea turtle but unfortunately we missed him! At the 3rd site we opted to dive again, and I'm so glad that we did because this site had even more than the first one! We brought our underwater camera down and had tons of fun taking pictures and seeing the reef even deeper than before. Unfortunately, we didn't see any sharks, but it was still the best thing I've ever done. Though, diving definitely isn't my preferred method of breathing!

Friday was our last full day there and the weather wasn't on our side again. We got lunch at our favorite place (the RawPrawn) and hung out by the lagoon all day. It ended up clearing up some in the afternoon, making for a good day by the pool, and some tanning. We finally used our groceries on Friday night, before packing to get ready to leave in the morning. We flew back to Sydney midday on Saturday, after a great break seeing some incredible parts of Australia.

Loving my new hat

Saturday night those of us who were home from spring break went out to a bar called Chinese laundry. It ended up being a lot of fun, even though the downstairs looked like the basement of a busy frat. Sunday was a good day to just relax and get ready to rejoin my version of the Australia Real World.

The week passed by relatively normally, with class all day Monday and interning Tuesday. At my internship we ended up having to make a housecall to some Chinese women who needed some help and saw the most beautiful home I have ever seen. I can't imagine how much it must cost to live there. Fixing them up was a bit difficult because there was a huge language barrier with them speaking majority Cantonese and us English. Luckily, one of my coworkers had worked at Tufts and so had learned some of the language from China Town being right near by. It was definitely a learning experience on how to communicate and effectively treat someone who speaks so little of the language I know.

Wednesday, Jackie D and I went Shark Diving in Manly!! We dove with Grey Nurse Sharks who look absolutely terrifying but are actually really docile and considered the "labrador of the sea." They would swim right up to or over us and just hangout while we swam around. There were also some huge rays and some sea turtles! Although I would have loved to have explored their habitat a little more, diving with sharks was such a cool experience.

The rest of the week was normal with a long day interning on Friday. Maggie convinced me to head out Friday night even though I get home at 9:30 but it turned out to be a fun night in King's Cross regardless.

Steering the parachute!

On Saturday, Jackie, Claire & I went SKYDIVING. Jackie had already done it back home so she prepped us. On our way there we thought we weren't going to make it in time because a train on the tracks in front of us had broken down, just our luck. Luckily, it only caused a little delay and we made it in plenty of time to jump out of a plane. I was tandem with a man named "Chopper" and he was a lot of fun and didn't even give me time to get scared. Once we got in the tiny little plane, he hooked us up and told me how to get out. I was last in the plane which gave me the seat right next to the door and the lucky draw to jump first! Before I even knew what was happening I was pulling my goggles over my eyes and hanging my feet over the edge to scoot out of a plane 14,000ft in the air! The free fall was awesome and went by so fast. From the sky we could see coastline and the ocean, the forests, all the surrounding towns and even the opera house! Just kidding, but you really could see the city of Sydney in the distance! Once the parachute deployed, we did some spins and I even got to steer us around for a while before gracefully landing on the field below. We even landed on our feet instead of our butt! NowI feel like I've got the bug and I'm dying to go again sometime soon.

You can see everything up here!

Today my roommate, Annmarie, and I did the walk from Coogee to Bondi. It was a scenic 7km walk (don't ask me miles, I have no idea the conversion) through the coast of the beach suburbs that took us probably about 2 hours. We saw all these small little beaches that we'd never have known about otherwise and some spectacular views of the ocean and the beaches, and even a rugby game! We laid out on the beach at Bondi for the remainder of the afternoon and I didn't even get burned (cool sunglass emoji would go here if I could). I'm going to miss the beaches here in Australia so much, they are so much better than American beaches.

Wow, I'm exhausted from just retelling all of this now! The past two weeks have been such an incredible time in this country; I'm going to be so sad to leave in a month. I can't believe my time here is going to be coming to a close soon, but my bank account will thank me for going home and working!

I love the graffiti at Bondi!

Cheers Mates!!

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