the final four

I just said goodbye to one of my closest friends here. And it was hard.  Just as hard as it was to leave my friends back home. I guess that’s the downside to study abroad.  You only get a short frame of time to become best friends with the people you meet, but eventually you have to move on, back to reality and your separate lives.  For my last day in Brissy I am going to celebrate a friend’s twenty-third at an endearing little restaurant and head to the city for the final time.  Brisbane has lived up to my high expectations.  The third largest city in Australia, it has slowly been repairing itself from the floods that swept through earlier this year.  As promised, the city has a town-like feel and relaxed atmosphere.  Probably because of its balmy weather, the inhabitants are always smiling – in shorts and dresses, of course.  I have come to miss the city and I hope to return to it someday, maybe for even longer.  I wish I could show you all my favorite nooks and crannies, especially those on campus but those will have to be my own little mental keepsakes.  University of Queensland will always have my heart.  Its campus is untouchable, its standards rigorous, and its student lifestyle wildly proud.  I now have an insight into what life is like in Australia and like a worn old blankie, I’m not ready to let go.  Despite my kiddish instincts, I’m over-the-moon excited to come home to my family and friends. But I’m sure you didn’t come here to read about my ramblings about leaving. So onwards to my final four adventures in the Oz!
ADVENTURE #10: Australia Zoo
Thursday October 27, 2011
Former home to Steve Irwin, the staff loves their animals. As the final field trip, irrelevant to the imminent biology final, I enjoyed a stress free day.  After a quick private tour, we went to the Crocoseum to experience the infamous Croc show.  From elephants wandering to snakes slithering to hundreds of exotic birds flying around the arena, the hour long performance captured my attention.  When the crocodile arrived however, the audience nervously shifted to the edge of their seats, myself included.  Not to worry, no humans were harmed in the making of this production. Yet.  After the show we wandered through the zoo to see some dingoes, cassowaries, camels, elephants, tigers, red pandas, and koalas.  I even got to feed the elephants!  Turns out those guys are some hungry fellas. My favorite place of all, of course, was kangaroo heaven.  I finally snuggled with one making sure to talk in an obnoxious baby voice the whole time.  Those animals are way too cute and cuddly. I just want to take them all home with me and play with them all day long! Can I mommy?! Can I pleaaaaase?!  Kangaroos now rank just below horses as my favorite animals.  Which reminds me to make my public service announcement.  Oi Aussies! Instead of considering them pests, you should realize how cool they are!  If you don’t this American might take them all away from you and create her own little kangaroo haven back in the States.  Obstacle one: customs. Suggestions welcome.
 
pettin’ a roo! dream come true!

 

 

CRIKEY!!

 

 
 ADVENTURE #11: Sydney
Saturday October 29- Monday October 31, 2011
As the proper exchange students we strive to be, six of us (Ali, Dana, Taylor, Tori, Vidiana and I) planned a weekend in Sydney before heading to a three day adventure in Uluru during SWOTVAC (officially known as Studying WithOut Teaching VACation, or more appropriately known as Study Week Or Take VACation) week. After arriving in Sydney and picking up a familiar stray traveler, we trekked it via public transport to our “check in” hostel-turned nightclub.  Upon arrival we were informed that four of us did not in fact have reservations. Lucky for us the young man working at reception, Oli, had our backs.  He told us not to worry and to give him an hour to find accommodation for us. We wandered around for cheap food finally settling for a kebab pizza place. After several close encounters with some pushy taxis we arrived back to harass Oli about our new hostel details. Bad news: everything was booked up in the city so we take to take a solid hour bus ride out of Sydney to get to our beds.  Good news: Oli gave us two private rooms Sunday night in the city for free! Apparently Halloween is a busy time for Sydney.  Speaking of, Sydney what’s up with your obsession with blood infested costumes? Girls, Halloween used to be about being scary.  Now it’s simply an excuse for you to dress slutty.  Less blood, more skin.  You’re welcome my fellow Aussie blokes.  We decided to wander through the city before heading out to see the harbor, bridge, and opera house.  Don’t worry we took full advantage of our current location and made a number of absurd jokes about P. Sherman and his whereabouts.  We also attempted to find a Wallaby Way in Sydney, but the omniscient Google informed us of the fruitlessness of this task.  That makes it Finding Nemo: 0 Australia: 2. At the edge of the harbor sat an overpriced restaurant with a beautiful view of Sydney from a three story observation deck.  Deciding to ignore social norms, we gave in to temptation and snooped around the premises in an attempt of a possible break-in of sorts.  A short while later, we realized the deck was open to the public.  No need to whip out my surreptitious ninja skills just yet.  Of interest this was the site of the first of five (yes, seriously) weddings we crashed.  On the way up we saw a dessert cart tempting us with a precariously placed tray of raspberries.  On the way down we reasoned our need of raspberries outweighed those of the bride and attempted to stealthily sneak a few.  Sadly the dessert cart was whisked away before we got our hands on it.  Life lesson: if life hands you raspberries, take them and run. They might not be there the second time around. Catching the last bus home became another adventure in itself.  Luckily between the five of us, we had enough common sense (traveling takes a lot out of you okay!) to find our bus in the nick of time.  I’m sure we were a sight to see scrambling to catch the bus, backpacks bouncing off our backs and suitcases in tow.  Once we settled down and checked the time we realized we were sitting on the second-to-last bus out of the city. Typical.  While out of the city and one and a half times more expensive, our private room was air conditioned and well-kept.  Another perk of the hostel was the well stocked breakfast we took advantage of the next morning.  Before heading into the city we stopped by Collaroy beach only to realize it was overrun with hundreds of kiddies preparing for some type of swim competition.  Back in the heart of Sydney, we walked through Hyde Park, the botanical gardens, the opera house, and a kitschy weekend market.  After another cost-efficient pizza slice and supermarket-bought dessert cups (complete with forks stolen from the deli section) for dinner, we booked it to the opera house to catch sunset over Darling Harbor.  Taylor whipped out her camera, creativity, and photography knowledge to produce some amazing pictures! After spending lots of time being obnoxious youth with too much time on our hands, we were prompted by the strong winds and dark clouds to a quick return to the safety of our hostel.

first night there!

 

Hyde Park

 

 

the colours of Sydney

 

ADVENTURE #13: Uluru
Monday October 31- Thursday November 3, 2011
Uluru started out, at least for me, very luxuriously.  Despite chaos from the Qantas strike, my seat went from backseat to second row.  That’s right, I was flying business class! [Side note: I ran into someone who grew up in West Lala.  Boiler up!] When the flight attendant informed me both meals and in-flight entertainment were complimentary I couldn’t stop grinning.  I probably resembled a child who was handed five dollars in a lolly shop.  After arriving we were dropped off at the Outback Pioneer Hotel and Lodge at Ayer’s Rock Resort.  Fancy name does not equal fancy living quarters.  Because the resort has a monopoly on the housing situation, we had to use our precious budgets wisely in other ways.  Three breakfasts, three lunches, and three dinners ended up only being AU$15/person.  Impressive.  A side effect of these sacrifices is my new refusal to eat anything peanut butter related for a long, long time (we must ask ourselves, why did we have to finish that last jar?!).  Every last cent we had was spent on two day tours.  The first was a sunrise tour to Ayer’s Rock.  Waking up, once again (it’s become habit at this point), at ungodly hours of the morning we set off to see the most depressing sunrise ever.  Brought me back to that time I woke up early for Angkor Wat.  Either way, we spent the rest of the day on a free cultural tour and a base walk.  With Tori’s exclamations of “I love nature!” to my left and Dana’s “I love rocks!” to my right, I slowly began to forgive Mother Nature for its dreary early morning performance.  Let me just say traveling with six friends is so much better than traveling with your parents (sorry mom and dad!).  We each took a million pictures of this giant rock, without ever capturing the enormity of the (second, but we like to pretend first) largest monolith in the world.  Still we tried in vane and ended up with hundreds of pictures of the giant red rock.  The sun (or peanut butter…) got to us at some point and our pictures went from touristy to goofy.  Regardless a 15km hike and sunrise (attempt) knackered us out!  We arrived back at our hostel to cook an unreasonable amount of pasta, play some cards, and turn in for an early night.  


rainbow time

 

 

Multijulu water hole

 



Our second tour began in the afternoon so that morning we decided to check out the markets held in the main square.  Apparently in the outback “markets” is synonymous for a single table laden with overpriced aboriginal artwork.  Once we had our fill of the town square, we arrived back at the hostel in time for our next adventure: Kata Tjuta.  Lesser known, Kata Tjuta (under the alias ‘the Olgas’) is a half hour drive from Uluru and comprises of thirty six massive rocks for yet another spectacular view.  We had opted earlier for the longer Valley of the Winds trek.  Repeat day one with slightly different scenery and you get day two! Also included in our tour was a sunset viewing of Uluru.  Mother Nature must not have been feeling it once again and presented yet another uninspiring sunset.  No matter, we ran home to refuel with several manly plates of pasta.  The end to the trip came before we knew it and we were flying back to Brisbane via Sydney just in time for finals to begin.

Kata Tjuta

 

 

 

Valley of the Winds
ADVENTURE #14: Fraser Island
Saturday November 5- Sunday November 6, 2011

But before I returned to the reality of exams, I took the weekend away with my Californian friend Vidiana to visit the largest sand island in the world. Yes, this really is my life.  I had some idea of what to expect after hearing stories from Taylor’s mid-semester break adventures with our bio class.  After two stops at Noosa (at last we meet!) and Rainbow Beach, we ferried it over to the island in our faithful four-wheel drive, Bessy.  After a very bumpy ride to the campground, we continued our travels on the beach to the Maheno shipwreck.  Cool story [nerd alert]! The Japanese bought the old cruise ship from the Australian government years ago to reuse the metal parts only to have the ship crash on Fraser where it’s laid ever since as a popular tourist attraction.  Well played, Australian government. Well played.  Our next stop was Eli Creek, which was just plain awesome.  The water is waist deep and you can choose to walk or float down the clear current while simultaneously enjoying the beautiful rainforest qualities along the edges of the water. The last stop of the day was a short hike to Lake Wabby.  It was incredible walking through a rainforest and suddenly be surrounded by giant sand dunes leading to a lake.  Who knew rainforests could thrive on sand?! The rest of the evening was spent showering and preparing our epic feast.  Our tour guides were total bogans which made for an interesting night.  We played guitar and told outrageous tales around a campfire only to head in for an early night in our tents.  Vidi and I begrudgingly woke up at four in the morning in hopes of witnessing a beach sunrise.  I finally got to see my perfect sunrise, and guys it was legend(…wait for it)dary.  Minus the swamp flies, it was another one of those moments where you just stare in amazement at what’s surrounding you and soak it in.  After a quick nap before breakfast, we had a short hike through the woods to Lake McKenzie.  Crystal clear waters and warm sand were a nice distraction before I finally had to face the reality of finals.

the island’s highway

 

the Maheno shipwreck
nemo touched the butt!

 

sand dunes near Lake Wabby

 

beautiful beach sunrise 🙂 life is good

 

Lake McKenzie

 

LOOK! a dingo!!
found this little guy too

Last year I never would have guessed that my Halloween would be spent in Sydney and flying to the outback.  I wouldn’t care if you told me I missed out on the best party in the world.  I got to spend a fun (ridiculously) early night with four amazing girls traveling through a foreign country.  Not many people can say they’ve done that.  I guess that’s the beauty of Australia.  I loved each moment of my adventures and I’m sad to see them come to an end.  I’ll never forget traveling every weekend, and I know they were the shining moments of my study abroad.  It’s fitting my last day in Brisbane is cloudy and overcast, just as when I arrived.  It’s nice to know you’re sad to see me go Brissy. The feeling’s mutual.

Thanks for the memories,
Lena

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