Friday, October 29, 2010
G’day mates! Greetings from down under, I hope life is treating you all well. Here is a recap of an amazing farm getaway spent with good friends:
My American buddies Kelly and Andrew, as well as my basketball playin mate Blake and two of his best friends, all headed out for a relaxing weekend on his farm. The bustling city quickly faded as we sped out of Fremantle and the landscape continually changed until it seemed that we were coasting through vast, endless rolling hills; it was interesting watching the scenery undergo such radical transformations. By the time we reached the farm, we had completely abandoned all resemblances to civilization and we did not see any signs of human activity for miles and miles. The first thing we did once we arrived was drive around Blake’s ENORMOUS property, checking out his sheep (including several tiny, adorable little lambs that had been born only several days earlier),
having our first run in with the dangerous Australian wildlife (I’ll explain more later), and admiring the infinite emptiness that stretched for as far as the eye can see. It is hard to properly convey the feeling of sitting out in the middle of that vast property and closing my eyes and experiencing complete, utter, beautiful silence. Not a sound. Extraordinarily peaceful. Once I opened my eyes, I could spin in a circle, see hundreds of miles in each direction, towards the endless gorgeous green hills spotted with trees, and not spot a single other sign of human existence. A powerful feeling to say the least. The complete removal from all other humanity was easily my highlight of the trip, it felt so strange yet wonderful to be so far away from everything I know and simply live fully and completely in the present moment. Let me assure you that is absolutely impossible to not feel completely at peace and not feel utterly relaxed when you are surrounded by such a pristine, gorgeous, empty, and peaceful environment. The way Blake talked about how much meaning this place had for him definitely reminded me of my sanctuary back home, Priest Lake. Although the two locations are entirely different, they both have a profound effect on you as soon as you close your eyes and listen; once you open your eyes and survey your surroundings you feel like you’re in heaven. For anyone who has experienced the wonders of Priest Lake, you can surely relate to the magical atmosphere and resulting feelings that I just described. Both locations invoke deep personal introspection and are profoundly thought provoking and reflective to say the least.
Enough of the mushy gushy stuff, because in addition to the fun activities, drunken festivities, and our amazing surroundings, another incredible aspect of the trip was the friendships that were formed and strengthened. I cannot begin to tell you how many inside jokes arose from this trip, nor would I expect anyone else to think that they were at all funny if they were heard out of context, but we spent the entire weekend laughing our butts off and enjoying each others company. One of the first inside jokes came from our dear friend Kelly, a New York city boy who prior to this trip had never been camping in his entire life. When we first arrived and he learned that using the indoor bathroom is a seldom available option, he was confused and befuddled. Blake then proceeded to clarify the situation by taking his arms and motioning towards the vast emptiness in reference to excellent locations to urinate. This seemed to click for Kelly and he understood, but he looked at us with a puzzled look and said, “wait… you mean we can pee ANYWHERE????” At the time, it had us all rolling on the ground laughing hysterically. Another inside joke came at the expense of us Americans as well. Apparently, we made the mistake several times of saying “cheers, thanks” as a method of declaring appreciation. However, Australians consider this redundant as cheers and thanks can mean the exact same thing! Good to know for future reference, I can only imagine how many times I’ve looked like a blundering boulderbrain to local Aussies when trying to express my gratitude. Whoops.
Anyways, on to some of the highlights of the weekend. Blake had a primitive gas grill that worked beautifully for our meals (I warmed up many a delicious pre-made francake on it!) and we spent our mealtimes sitting outside, enjoying the peace, quiet, and company. As the day turned into evening, following yet another spectacular sunset, friendly card games and copious drinking commenced. We began bonding the moment the trip began and I believe that although the alcohol provided some entertaining stories and laughter, it was not the reason why we became so close.
Anyhoo, after several hours of friendly gentleman chatter, we made our way to the middle of Blake’s paddock to observe the full moon and beautiful night sky full of stars. Blake then instructed us to partake in a fun activity that is a longstanding tradition of his; screaming the most vulgar obscenities at the top of our lungs. We just stood there, howling at the moon, perfectly content knowing that not another soul could hear our shouts, for what seemed like hours. Once our voices had been throttled into submission and we were all completely hoarse, we sat in silence and let the magical wildlife play the glorious musical soundtrack of the great outdoors.
We awoke the next morning to a fantastic sunrise and the mouth-watering smell of eggs and bacon. After filling up our tanks, we set out for a different farm about 30 minutes away, anxious and excited for the fun, new task that awaited us: shearing sheep! While at the new farm, we were taught the intricacies of sheep farming, including the ins and outs of herding, sheering, and caring for sheep, which are the dumbest creatures on earth. The farmers also demonstrated the use of Australian Kelpies, hands down the coolest dogs in the world. The Kelpies are in charge of rounding up the sheep and herding them into the pen. Granted, sheep are mind-bogglingly dumb creatures and are quite frankly hilariously stupid, but the Kelpies are able to completely control these animals with ease and precision. The dogs we witnessed were internationally trained, meaning that instead of responding to verbal commands from their master, they acted based on a series of different whistles. One type of whistle from their master would send the sheep to the right, while a different tuned whistle (not a physical whistle like a referee uses, but simply the mouth of the trainer) would cause the dogs to herd them to the left and so on. These dogs not only had brains, but incredible athleticism; they effortlessly jumped clear over 5 foot fences and ran like Ussain Bolt on all fours. Following their rounding up of the idiotic little sheepies, they would actually jump on top of the giant mounds of fluff and “surf” their way out of the pack. Watching a dog leap on top of a sheep and ride it like a skateboard was not only hilarious, but quite impressive. Once the sheep were crammed into a tight pen, it was our job to go inside and grab them one at a time for sheering. What sheep lack in brain-power they make up for with size; trying to wrangle up the large tubs of lard is like attempting to haul a sack full of bricks through mud. The trick to fooling the dim-witted animals was to bend their fuzzy head one way to distract them, then immediately take out their legs with your other hand. We quickly learned that as soon as sheep are thrown off balance or are not in complete control of their bodies (i.e. standing on their feet), they become completely helpless, limp, and submissive, just one of many examples of their incredible stupidity. After I wrestled up my first sheep, I hauled his fat butt over to the shearing station where I plopped him on the ground and learned how to best position him in order to obtain the most of his precious wool. Although the sheep sometimes struggle if they can find footing, a good shearer knows how to constantly keep them off balance so they can crank out one sheep’s wool every couple minutes. I was not quite as speedy, but I was able to catch on and figure out how to cut the hair without harming the animal, as well as cutting off the maximum amount of hair. One peculiar aspect of sheep is that once they lose their thick coat, they produce a gooey oil that keeps them warm and insulates their body. By the time I had finished shearing my brainless sheep, my hands were coated in this bizarre oil! Needless to say, at the end of the day I did NOT smell like a bed of roses. Once I had finished, I allowed the sheep to get his feet on the ground, where he quickly scrambled (slash waddled as fast as a sheep can) out of the shed. Whew! One sheep had me sweating buckets, it was hard work! Most farmers shear dozens, even hundreds per day, which made me appreciate the extremely laborious, tedious work that they must do day in and day out. We spent the day meeting various farmers, dealing with hundreds of fuzzy, idiotic sheep, and learning new things about farming. It was a fantastic day and quite the experience indeed! I can say for sure I could never spend my life caring for such brainless creatures but it was definitely fun shearing just for a day.
We got back to Blake’s farm only to realize that we had run out of gas for the grill and that the generator that operated the one light within his small house had stopped working. Thankfully, we were able to improvise, cooking dinner over the fire we made and utilising candles to light up the inside of the house. The night was another fantastic evening full of drunken hilarity and good fun had by all!
While exploring the wilderness, we ran into some of the legendary poisonous critters that inhabit the outback. For starters, we found a spider with a red back that apparently has the power to kill you in less than a couple hours. Our second run-in was with a mammoth, hairy, spectacular spider that was the size of my hand and disgustingly hairy. We also came across several large, slimy lizards in our daily wanderings.
Other firsts of the weekend included my induction into the lumberjack hall of fame: I chopped wood for the first time! While not exactly a miraculous event or achievement, I had fun preparing for the fire and chopping wood for the first time was a blast. Unfortunately, I did not escape my wood chopping experience without injury… I actually splintered the wood with such tremendous force (kidding) that a slice of timber exploded off and nailed me right in the foot. It was only later in the evening that I realized that this piece of wood had actually taken a chunk out of my toenail!
Our last day at the farm included a shooting competition. I was able to walk away victorious after I hit 7 straight targets using only 6 shots (one bullet miraculously took out two of the targets). I’m most definitely going to chalk up my win to beginners luck, and I don’t see hunting as a part of my future (although shooting was flippin’ FUN!). After we had had our fill of shooting, we travelled to a beautiful nearby lake and spent the afternoon relaxing and swimming in the gorgeous area. As many of you know, I have a HUGE soft spot in my heart for all things lake related, so my first expedition into fresh water (as opposed to the ocean) in quite some time felt spectacular and I fully embraced the wonderful afternoon at the lake. The weekend at the farm was an amazing experience, full of male bonding, new things, and awe-inspiring natural beauty that motivated complete peace and relaxation.
Anyhoo, here are a few other random tidbits about Australia:
-There are cars here that feature snorkels attached to the sides so that they can take a dip in the ocean and ramble across rushing rivers. No joke. Cars with flippin snorkels to allow for them to go for a swim and not trash the engine. Only in Australia.
-Someone pointed out to me the other day how energy efficient Australia is and I’ve begun to notice it in everyday life. The toilets here feature two buttons, one for regular flushability and one for a mini flush which saves water. The outlets also have on/off switches to conserve energy while not in use. Random, I know, but interesting in my opinion.
-As the weather has continued to improve and the temperature has persistently increased, I have made visiting and exploring the various surrounding beaches a regular excursion. Bathers Beach, South Beach, Dog Beach, and Cottesloe Beach are all beautiful nearby options that are ideal spots for lounging, relaxing, and swimming on a hot Australian day.
-I was able to be a part of the canonization of Australia’s first saint, Mary Mackillop. This was a huge deal in WA (Western Australia) and people flocked from all over the country to be a part of the big event. Luckily for us, the festivities took place literally directly outside of the P and O’s front doors, so we were in the thick of all the celebrations. Although I do not know a great deal about his Mary character, she must have been a pretty cool cat to become canonized, and witnessing the live music, hundreds of booth dedicated to her honor, and thousands of excited people cheering for her definitely made me appreciate what a special event it was.
-My excruciatingly tedious philosophy class, epistemology, had a rare occurrence last week. The class usually consists of around 25 students, but when I hurried into class 10 minutes late, I was only the second student in attendance. After several minutes and only a few more individuals trickling in, our teacher decided we would take a jaunt across the street and hold class at Moore and Moore’s, a cozy neighbourhood coffee shop. Now, many of you know that my hatred for coffee and all things caffeine related runs deep in my veins, but as soon as I entered this homely building I felt warmth and comfort flow through my body. The first thing that hit me was the sound of smooth jazz wafting over the delicious aroma of tarts and scones. A guitarist and a saxaphone player were casually plucking out some relaxing blues jams as I made my way through the building, which was half art gallery and half coffee shop. Our class plopped down amidst the relaxing, laid-back atmosphere and proceeded to carry on with our normal discussion. Now, I must admit, class still sucked, but discovering this amazing new local spot definitely made it more bearable. If the weather ever decides to stop being so awesome and I am for some reason unable to study/read/play guitar on the P and O’s awesome Veranda, a nearby beach, or the Esplanade Park, then I definitely found my new hangout spot!
Alas, I must leave you, as I am embarking on an epic journey early tomorrow morning. Myself and 4 of my dear friends are renting a car and going on an 8 day road trip up north, visiting Exmouth, Ningaloo, Kalbarri, the Pinnacles, several national parks, coral bay, shark bay, and anywhere else our hearts desire. This is truly my type of vacation, we have no set schedule or plan, plenty of hiking and outdoor adventuring will be had by all, shinanigans are sure to abound, and we will be simply following our instincts into the great Australian wilderness, camping and staying in local hostels along the way! Should make for an unbelievable experience!
Much Love from down under,
P.S. I received this email in my Notre Dame inbox the other day. Seriously.
On Tuesday 5 October 2010, at approximately 1:00pm, a CAT Forklift was stolen from the Fremantle Port Authority, driven down Cliff Street into Phillimore Street and parked and abandoned on Mouat Street in Fremantle. The police would appreciate the assistance of any of our staff or students who witnessed the incident.
If you saw the incident or have any other information, would you please contact Constable Wesley Hibbitt at the Fremantle Police Station on 08 9430 1222 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Immediately after arriving home from Broome, drained from our amazing experience in the outback, we grabbed our suitcases and headed out to the Perth airport for our flight to Thailand! We arrived in the bustling city of Bangkok at the crack of dawn after taking an overnight flight which I (thankfully) snoozed through. Feeling refreshed and energized, we took a shuttle into the heart of the city and watched warily as our bus slowly rumbled up and lurched to a halt next to the most gigantic building I have ever seen, fully equipped with massive, extravagant golden pillars, hundreds of security guards pacing and protecting the sacred insides, and a grandiose sign declaring the towering structure as “Prince Palace.” We hesitantly exited the bus, uncertain if this was the correct destination, only to be reassured seconds later that this would be our luxurious sanctuary for the next 5 days. Before I move on and tell you about all the incredible events and activities we took part in all week, let me first reinforce the ludicrous, extravagant, elaborate fanciness of this palace; it contained multiple swimming pools (inside and outdoor of course), a pool bar, several fully equipped workout facilities, numerous fancy restaurants, literally thousands of employees stationed every 10 feet or so whose jobs consisted of warmly greeting the hotel guests and making sure we never had to open the doors ourselves (seriously, that was all they did and they were EVERYWHERE), a spa, over 35 floors, and the best view of Bangkok in the city. Oh and also, every single thing in the entire building was coated in gold. Everything. Without a doubt the nicest hotel I have ever seen, been inside, or stayed at by a million miles, and it cost us 60 dollars per person for the entire week. Unbelievable.
But anyways, onto bigger and better things. The first order of business was to check out our surroundings, which included the nearby markets. It was slightly depressing to witness the slum-like streets surrounding our magnificent hotel, but everyone greeted us warmly as we poked around the various shops. Seeing as I was starving (as usual), I decided to invest 30 baht (roughly 1 dollar) for a steamy plate of the best pad thai I have ever eaten. DELICIOUS! Throughout the week, I routinely stuffed myself to the gills with some of the most amazing food in the world, with the most expensive items usually setting me back a devastating 2 dollars. I gorged myself on mountains of pad thai, papaya salad, sushi, spring rolls, curries, fried rice with assorted veggies and succulent meats, fried crepes smothered with chocolate containing banana and nutella inside, and many different items of food that looked quite intimidating. Some of these dishes turned out to be surprisingly delicious, while others were not quite as nice, including several that tore my poor, wimpy American mouth and stomach to shreds due to insane, fire-hot , volcanolicious spiciness. Our spectacular 5 star hotel also treated us to an all you can eat buffet breakfast every morning, which, needless to say, I took full advantage of. Since the baht has such an abysmal exchange rate, everything was absurdly cheap and we were able to bargain our way down to paying practically nothing for the food and items we bought at the shops. We ended up checking out 3 different sets of markets, which were enormous mazes of interesting shops that were a never-ending source of entertainment and contained aromas that ranged from mouth-watering to vomit inducing, every type of food you can imagine, clothing of all kinds, and thousands of interesting Thailand trinkets. After a long day of exploring Bangkok, we kicked back and relaxed by receiving a full body massage at our hotel/palace. Despite my laughter due to crazy ticklish-ness I was able to enjoy the massage and appreciate the spa treatment; despite chuckling throughout the whole massage I did indeed have a grand time. We wound down with a swim and a night on the town to round out a fantastic first day.
The next day, we decided to take a day trip off the beaten path to check out some of the less seen areas in Thailand. The long ride out of Bangkok gave us a chance to see the scenic landscapes of Thailand outside of the crowded city. The green hillsides were beautiful from the passing car and I really enjoyed our mountainous scenery, but I would be lying if I said that I vigilantly observed our surroundings for the whole ride…zzzz…zzzz… Thankfully, upon arriving at our first destination, a war memorial and museum, I quickly sprang back to life and enjoyed exploring the sites.
Soon after, we made our way into the lush jungle only to be met by ELEPHANTS!!!! I eagerly hopped on my massive elephant and began my journey through the unique landscape. The rocky ride was made even more fun by the fact that my elephant seemed to have a mind of its own, a very stubborn mind mind you, and I routinely found that we were off the suggested path. It seemed as though my elephant was calling the shots and I was just along for the ride, but my flow of adrenaline was drowned out by the vast, magical splendor that surrounded me. Riding an elephant through the through the Thailand jungle was eerily similar to a scene from jurassic park. The thousands of dragonflies that buzzed fervently around our heads were the size of portly birds and emitted a sound like a furious helicopter. We lurched down several steep hills, several of which I thought for sure the elephant was going to tumble over, and waded into a river where the elephant stopped for some much needed hydration. Following our amazing elephant rides, we took a unique bamboo river rafting trip that allowed us to get an even closer look at the natural beauty surrounding us. We finished our day out by gorging ourselves at an all you can eat lunch buffet paid in full by the elephant/rafting company. Just another day in my poor, tough, miserable life!
Another fun day excursion was when we visited the grand palace, an area that reminded me a little bit of the gigantic museums and extravagant churches that sprinkle all of Europe. The only difference was that the majority of the buildings inside the grand palace were made completely out gold. The pictures don’t do justice to the luxurious splendor of the palaces, but rest assured it was one of the most impressive man-made spectacles I have ever witnessed. Inside one of the golden buildings was the largest “statue” of Buddha (or statue period for that matter) I have ever seen. This Buddha was not big. Not enormous. Not even massively colossal. Those are all understatements. This Buddha was literally half the size of a football field in length and I had to crane my neck to see the top. Not to mention that the Buddha was made completely out of solid gold (as seems to be the custom in Thailand. If it isn’t made out of solid gold, then it just isn’t cool).
As I am beginning to realize, if I tell every amazing event of my trip in depth this stupid blog entry will go on for an eternity, so here are abbreviated versions of some of the other small events that I thought were unique and fun experiences:
-petting and playing with a tiger and a leopard. Small, cuddly, but still fierce as the two adorable animals engaged in several brutal scuffles with each other that had the audience gasping.
-having a massive python draped around my shoulders. I could feel its powerful muscles contract around my neck immediately but thankfully it decided against strangling me to death.
-putting my legs into a large tank full of thousands of fish that immediately swarmed around me and began suctioning off my feet. It felt as if thousands of mini vacuum cleaners were running in between my toes and after awhile my feet grew numb to the pleasant, gentle vibrating sensation. However, prior to my numbness, I was howling from laughter due to how ridiculously ticklish I am, and people in the shop were giving me strange looks, unsure if I was in excruciating agony, laughing hysterically, or if I had just lost my marbles altogether. Apparently having your feet cleansed by these fish is supposed to be a magical exfoliating experience.
-experiencing the constant language barrier was an interesting, frustrating, yet invigorating way to travel and it’s sometimes good to be reminded that not everyone speaks English and how much more difficult day to day activities can be without the ability to communicate to people.
-every night right after dinner, the Thailand sun would set while the clouds and sky simultaneously turned a mixture of marmalade, violet, and a menacing black. Out of nowhere, it would begin downpouring rain while ear-splitting thunderstorms provided an incredible spectacle. I’ve always been a sucker for thunderstorms so I looked forward to this nightly treat (the weather throughout the day was stiflingly hot but after the storm it cooled down to a pleasant and balmy warm.)
-we went out to explore the nightlife while we were there and came across some sensational live music; two guitarists and a drummer who absolutely rocked the house. The cram packed bar full of young drunken young adults were all belting out the songs at the top of their lungs.
These were just a few of the many spectacular, unique, interesting, amazing encounters of Thailand and it is does absolutely no justice to the time I spent there, but rest assured it was without a doubt one of the most amazing vacations I have ever experienced in my life and I had a SPECTACULAR time!
Another fun event that I partook in a week later was the group camping trip to Margaret River:
-I went surfing for the first time, and it. Was. AWESOME! I had a blast hangin 5 and rippin up the waves/shreddin the gnar. The waves were pretty gnarlytastic but I was able to catch on pretty quickly thanks to my typical bro surf instructor, who was rocking some frosted tips and called everyone “brah.” I will most definitely be making surfing a habit of mine while I’m here.
-We were lucky enough to witness a large group of whales frolicking off the coast, literally exploding out of the water planet earth style. It was pretty special to see such massive and beautiful creatures in such a unique setting.
-We also visited a winery, a chocolate factory, and went cave spelunking, where we descended hundreds of steps into the belly of a gaping abyss. The cave was not very large but what it lacked in size it made up for with amazing cave formations. The chocolate factory featured unlimited free samples of their delicious milk chocolate, white chocolate, and dark chocolate morsels. These delectable treats helped ward off any persistent hangovers while simultaneously knocking several of us out cold for the 3 hour ride home.
-Last Friday, our dear friend and group leader for our Broome trip Tom invited us all over to his house for a nice outdoor barbeque. This Bbq was a feast of epic proportions, full of delicious food washed down with some nice beers, great music, a phenomenal sunset, and stellar company. Great stinkin night.
-We had our inaugural fantasy basketball draft last night which as an excellent nights with the fellas, full of smack-talk, all things basketball, and bagged wine. Delicious. My friend Blake informed me that they have fantasy “footy” in Australia, with the rating system consisting of handballs, tackles, marks (catches), and scores. I found this hilarious.
Anyways, speaking of Blake, I’m taking off in a few minutes to join him on an expedition down south to explore his farm and make some mischief. Two other American gentleman are joining me, as well as a few of Blake’s mates, so it should make for an excellent weekend! My apologies for the scattered randomness of this blog, I must admit I wrote it in a hurry and did not do any of these events justice at all. Whoops. Hope all is well!
P.S. Exciting news!!! I officially have all of my flights booked for November 18th until January 5th: Cairns, Airlee Beach, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Sydney, Tasmania, Melbourne, Fiji, and New Zealand!!!!!!!!
Sunday, October 10, 2010
My apologies for my lack of updates recently, I have been out and about taking part in various trips and life at uni is beginning to increase in difficulty as the semesters end looms nearer. Here is a brief recap of an amazing week in Broome, another post will come soon to recount my adventures in Thailand and Margaret River.
Our adventure began at 4:45 AM (yaaaaaawn) on Thursday morning. After a nap-filled bus ride and plane trip, we arrived in the blood-red land known as Broome. Since we had gotten into Broome a tad late, we decided to wait until the next day to make the treacherous 4 hour drive to the Kimberley. We stayed at a nice hostel near the Notre Dame campus of Broome. The hostel itself was integrated into a jungle like landscape, and even included an open space in the center of the common room with several trees and vines. At one point, a wild possum poked its head out of this area, and even came down and ate apples right out of our hands. After getting the chance to explore some of the local shops and check out the main part of town, we headed out to a rocky canyon to see some of the spectacular Australian scenery. Before getting out of the van, our driver warned us not to do too much poking and prodding around because deadly stonefish, snakes, scorpions, blue ringed octopus, and many other nasty, poisonous creatures dwell in the jagged cliffs and shallow whirlpools surrounding our destination.
The landscape was stunning; the maroon soil melted away into thousands of multicolored rocks and bizarre stone formations, all overlooking the purest blue ocean I’ve ever seen. This site provided us with our first inside look at the unique natural beauty of the outback and for many of us, we had never witnessed anything like it before.
As the temperature continued climbing and the sun began torturing us with it’s harsh and unforgiving rays, our leader Tom decided we should drive to a local beach to cool off (we made this excursion a daily habit to escape the scorching heat). After splashing about to our hearts content, we wandered down the pristine beach to find a not-so little surprise waiting for us, CAMELS!
We were each given a camel to share, and we were given the unbelievable opportunity to take a bumpy yet relaxing ride across the endless beach. To make matters even better, nature decided to surprise us once again with a truly breathtaking sunset. The calm, crystalline waters reflected the golden setting sun in a truly spectacular fashion, and we all soaked up the immense beauty from our perch atop our friendly camels. Absolutely a one of a kind experience where everyone in our group was truly present in the moment.
After our fantastic camel rides we drove back to the hostel only to find a massive feast awaiting our aching bellies. I am very proud to say that our group of 27 individuals successfully devoured 24 pizzas and 12 loaves of garlic bread. Following our disgusting display of neandrathal-esque feasting, we were all hit by a colossal tidal wave of food fade and drifted into a peaceful coma.
The following day we arose early to head out to our outback destination.
The drive was a rough (literally) introduction into the fierce wildnerness and untamed nature of the outback. The 4 hour jolty journey was marked by a narrow red, dusty road and a jostling, bumpy ride. Thankfully, we arrived safe and sound and prepared ourselves for a one of a kind experience with an aboriginal community in the Kimberley. It’s impossible to describe our daily routines as it varied so much from day to day and we were restricted from wearing watches (which turned out to be a fantastic situation as no one stressed out about a schedule and hustle and bustle was eliminated, contributing to everyone simply focusing on the present and living in the moment, something that the Aboriginals refer to as “Broome Time.” As they say, there’s never any rush in the Kimberley!). Anyways, here are a few highlights of our unique experience:
-Every morning we awoke to a spectacular sunrise while our aboriginal friends played their favorite alarm clock wake up song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow by IZ. Let me assure, it is impossible to wake up in a foul mood when the first thing you hear is that gorgeous song and the first thing you see is the suns first rays sparkling on the oceans surface. Siiiiiiiiiiiiigh ☺
-Every evening before dinner, we would gather around a fire and engage in the “college of knowledge,” where we would go around the group and answer several questions. The questions ranged from topics regarding our experience in the outback, our overall time studying abroad, our personality, and sometimes simply silly questions to make us all chuckle. These fire talks helped me personally reflect on the amazing trip, as well as how unbelievably fortunate I am to have the opportunity to experience all of the incredibly unique things Australia has to offer. The reflections also helped bring the group closer and allowed us to get to know each other on a deeper level, as well as helped break down some of the cliques in our group, giving everyone the chance to mingle with new people.
- Each night Maria (our “mom” for the week) treated us to delicious stews, curries, and other mouthwatering dishes, with the highlight being the steak feast, which was the first real steak I’ve had since I’ve been hear and let me tell you it was worth the wait.
-The Kimberley has the best night sky I’ve ever seen. After devouring multiple servings of Maria’s phenomenal cooking, I would always find time to wander off by myself, plop down on the ground, and get lost in the endless night sky glimmering with an infinite number of stars. Several hours later, we would get to watch as the full moon appeared to emerge out of the sea and we were fortunate enough to experience a full moon every night of our outback trip, meaning that even at the wee hours of morning, we were able to see our surroundings.
-Every trip to the restroom was an adventure as snakes have been known to lurk in the watery depths of the porcelain basin. Shoes are also an ideal hiding spot for scorpions, making the simple tasks of slipping on your kicks an adrenaline rush! We were also told that during our many trips to the ocean to be wary of the deadly box jellyfish, sharks, blue ring octopus, and the stonefish, all of which can kill you almost instantly. FUN! Thankfully, we survived our trips unscathed.
-Collin, a giant man whose size was only surpassed by his tremendous and outrageous personality, sat us down each day to answer our questions and tell us about his life and aboriginal culture. We learned about Aboriginal culture and customs, the Stolen Generations, hunting, gathering, marriage, and the overall outlook and way of life of Aboriginal people. I found his talks to be slightly longwinded, but extremely enlightening nonetheless, illuminating many stereotypes and unfair perspectives that Aboriginals are faced with.
-As part of our initiation into the Aboriginal hunter and gatherer lifestyle, we were instructed on how to make and throw our own spears. The spear making process had several stages. First, we picked out long, straight branches and brought them back to camp. We then shaved off the bark, whittled down any bumps, and sharpened the end until it had reached a pointy tip. We then buried the spear into a pile of glowing embers in order to soften the wood, then transformed the supple branch into a perfectly straight spear. The last step involved firmly pressing a red-hot steel pole into the end of the spear and tying it to the wood with a fine string in order to reinforce the sharp end. Once we had all completed the spears, we had a few lessons on how to properly toss the death sticks, as well as an authentic aboriginal boomerang. The javelin-esque throw took a little getting used to, but I was able to eventually get the hang of it and I successfully nailed our target several times. However, this process made me appreciate the difficulties of hunting and gathering: I was able to luckily hit the stationary target a few times, but if these people wanted to survive, they needed to be able to hit moving targets from over twice the distance as me! Quite a difficult task to say the least.
-We went to check out a local fish hatchery that had dozens of tanks that housed barramundi (enormous sea monsters that are ferocious eaters), sea turtles, lion fish, sea cucumbers, star fish, and spindly pencil fish just to name a few. We were given the opportunity to feed these fearsome fish, with the result being impressive but also hilarious in some cases due to piercing shrieking from the unsuspecting feeders. We were also given lessons on polishing and sanding giant conch shells.
-Another fun excursion we took was to go witness the natural fish traps the aboriginal people had created. By creating dams made out of rocks and utilizing the tide, they were able to create small whirlpools where fish would get trapped and could be easily speared or caught. Sure enough, upon coming across our first fish trap, we noticed something lurking in the shallow water. However, to everyone’s surprise (and horror), this “fish” turned out to be a shark! We were fortunate enough to witness multiple sharks of considerable size in the clear ocean waters throughout the week.
-As the Kimberley sun reached its peak in the sky every day, performing even the simplest of tasks became an unbearable chore as the unrelenting heat suffocated our unnaclimated bodies. In order to boost morale and escape from the scorching heat, everyday we would drive to warm pristine beaches to swim and play.
One of our aboriginal guides, Unja, would always stand on an elevated ledge nearby to scan our surroundings and make sure that we were safe from sharks. During our various swimming sessions, we witnessed dolphins playing nearby, and Unja told us that although we were unaware, a giant sea turtle passed by our group closer than ten meters away.
-One of the many natural wonders that occurred every day in the outback was the unbelievable changes in the ocean that we were lucky enough to be able to watch from our campsite. Each day, the tide went out, unveiling miles of empty sand with thousands beyond thousands of small tide pools. One morning, we went out at low tide to explore the vast emptiness. We were equipped with spears and hooks in case we ran into any crabs along the way. We casually strolled along the beautiful ocean floor, prodding tide pools along the way. All of a sudden, our aboriginal hunting guide halted in her tracks and quickly motioned for everyone to quietly gather around. Once we had formed a circle around her and what appeared to be an empty tide pool, she pointed at apparent nothingness and told us all to watch carefully. Many of us looked around, quite confused, because the tide pool appeared identical to the thousands of others we had already investigated. However, as lifeless as the small pool looked to our untrained eyes, as soon as she jabbed the tiny mound with her spear, a MOUNSTROUS claw erupted from the sand and a gigantic crab burst from underneath the sand. The crab was clearly not pleased with the rude awakening and it began ferociously battling the spear, a sight that was quite impressive but also slightly terrifying considering the substantial size of the crustacean creature. Eventually, our guide was able to avoid the massive pincers and snatch the crab by its hind legs, effectively catching dinner! It was amazing that our guide could not only calmly defeat the impressively sized crab, but spot it in the first place. As I mentioned, even once we knew that there was something in the tide pool, most of us has no stinkin’ idea what was lurking within it. We spotted and caught numerous other crabs during the rest of our hunt, but we decided to throw all back into the wilderness (with the exception of the first one) because they were too small.
Although these are just a few of the plethora of fantastic experiences we were lucky to be a part of, it’ll have to do as a brief summary of our trip. However, this trip was so much more than these words and pictures could ever suggest, an amazingly unique experience. My experience in Broome and the Kimberley helped me change my perspectives on Aboriginal culture, gave me the opportunity to see a completely untouched landscape that I will most likely never encounter once again, and allowed me to witness some of the most spectacular natural beauty I have ever seen.
Anyhoo, I have to run because we just returned from road trippin down south to the beautiful Margaret for a weekend of shinanigans, surfing, relaxing, and fun in the sun and I need to reorganize myself and get to work! Miss all of you wonderous family and friends.
P.S. I had my first surfing session over the weekend and it was freakin phenomenal!