Monday, May 28, 2007

North Queensland

This past weekend, Hayley, Chris, and I flew to Cairns (pronounced 'cans') in tropical north Queensland to take take a look at the Great Barrier Reef and check out some other sights of the Australian tropics. The weather was a little shaky, but we managed to dodge the rain for most of our outdoor activities. On Friday, we took a boat out of the Cairns harbour to the main section of the GBR. The sky was pretty cloudy, which apparently keeps the reefs bright colors at bay, but we managed to see some incredible fish and coral species, and Chris even spotted a small shark.

Cool fish on the reef

This is probably my favorite pic from the reef...4 cool looking fish

More fish

On Saturday, I decided to go whitewater rafting on the Tully River, about 1.5 hrs south of Cairns. Haley and Chris didn't want to go, but I hadn't seen any whitewater in about 5 months and I was about to go crazy, so I decided to go by myself. The Tully was a great river, and reminded me a lot of the Chattooga where I guided last summer. I had an awesome guide and boat, and we had a great time. We got rained on a good bit, but we were already wet from rafting, so it worked out alright.

Great view of the Tully Gorge

On Sunday, we took an Adventure Tour out of Cairns to see Cape Tribulation, Daintree Rainforest, and an animal sanctuary. I was thinking that this was going to be one of the more boring days in Cairns, but we had a great time with our tour guide Joe, and learned a ton about the rainforest and tropical Queensland.

Saltwater Crocodile

Freshwater Crocodile

Momma kangaroo with her Joey

Koala bear

I can't remember the name of this tropical fruit, but it looked really crazy and the inside part tasted great.

Cape Tribulation

The crew at Cape Tribulation

This is a 'choking gum tree' in the Daintree Rainforest. The trunk forms a web design because smaller gums grow on the existing trunk and choke the original plant, forming a network of new trees.

Fan palms in the rainforest

HUGE croc on the daintree river

Awesome view from a lookout on the way back to Cairns. One of the few times we got sunshine throughout the weekend.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Wow, I just realized how long its been since I've posted on here. May has been fairly uneventful, but I've definitely got a couple things to update everyone on.

Unfortunately, when I came back from Fiji, my stomach problems didn't react to the first antibiotic that the doctors game me, so I was pretty sick until mid-May, which wasn't too much fun. Thankfully the second medicine got rid of the bug, and I've been feeling MUCH better since then.

Newcastle is coming into full fledged winter weather, which means that the highs are around 70 degrees. Its not too wintry from what I'm used to, but it kinda stinks that its too cold to hit the beach and go surfing.

One of my roomates, Hayley, turned 21 last week, and we had a great time going to dinner and out on the town for her birthday. Also, one of our Australian friends, Lulu, had a going away party because she is moving to Thredbo in about a week, so that was fun as well.

Andrew Ferguson, one of my pledge brothers, arrived in Newcastle this past Saturday and will be here until Thursday. He is visiting family in Brisbane for about 6 weeks, and came down to Newcastle to hang out for about a week. We spent a day in Sydney on Saturday, and have been seeing the 'sights' of Newcastle for the past couple days. I believe a Hunter Valley wine tour is in the works...we'll see.

This weekend, a few of us are heading up to Cairns, where the great barrier reef is. Cairns is in the tropical north of Australia, and should be pretty warm. We are planning to go snorkel the reef, take a rainforest tour, and go whitewater rafting, so I'll keep you posted.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Byron Bay

This weekend, a group of 6 of us (Julia, Dan, David, Chris, Sean, and I) rented an SUV and drove up the East Coast for about 8 hours to Byron Bay. The drive was pretty long, but it was well worth it. Byron Bay is an awesome little surfing town, and is aparently THE place to surf in the winter because its the most northern (warmest) spot where the surf isn't blocked by the Great Barrier Reef. The surf was pretty flat while we were there, but supposedly the swell was down everywhere...oh well. Thursday night, we went to the Northern Hotel for a beer and were pleasantly surprised to find a pretty good live band. The band finished up around midnight and everyone pretty much crashed after the long car ride.

The crew at the Northern

These parrots were swarming all over Byron Bay, I felt like I was in a zoo.

Friday was very relaxing and we pretty much just spent the day on the beach hangin' out. We ate dinner at a great sushi place that actually had a little sushi train like they have in Japan. That night we went out to a bar called Cheeky Monkey and had a great time. This was the first Australian bar I have been to that did not insist on playing only techno music, and I was very relieved to hear some normal music that wasn't created with synthesizers by some no name dj. Cheeky Monkey was sort of the backpacker hangout, and I got to meet some other Americans, some English, and some Australians.

Great sunset Friday afternoon.

Some awesome sushi, the dragon roll actually looks like a dragon!

Saturday morning, we slept in until we had to leave the motel at 10. We found some brekkie and walked around Byron Bay to the lighthouse and other beaches. We eventually hit the road south to find somewhere to stay on the way home, but we ended up driving all the way back to Newcastle, because the car had to back by 11 the next morning. We did stop in a cool little fishing town called Coff's Harbour for some fish and chips on the way home.

Byron Bay Beach

Byron Bay lighthouse

View from the lighthouse

The most easterly point of the Australian Mainland

Byron Bay was a great trip and the atmosphere of the area is very unique. The culture is a mix of surfing style, artsy/hippy people, and a tourist town and you kinda feel like you should be in a surfing movie or something.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Cultural Experiences

Over the past several days, I have had quite a few "cultural experiences" here in Newcastle. I still haven't been feeling up to par due to my bout with what I like to call "Fijian Water Disease", but I've felt good enough to tag along to a couple of fun nights.

On Saturday night, a large group of us decided to go to the widely advertised Monster Truck Rally in Maitland (a small suburb of Newcastle). Now, I've never been to one of these shows before, but I was expecting the Australian equivalent of a Nascar Race. We were a little disappointed when it was more of a family event, and our cooler of beer earned us glances of negativity from Moms and Dads. We still had a great time, and honestly, how many people can say they have seen a jet powered van before? Now I have!

Then on Monday night, the Newcastle Knights (our local Rugby League team) had a home game against a team from Sydney called the Sharks. The rugby game was a great time, and the atmosphere reminded me of a high school football game at home. Rugby is extremely popular in Australia and I've had fun trying to learn all the rules. It took me about 3 months of confusion to realize that there are three different sets of rules: Australian, League, and Union. All with their own devout following. At the game we sat in front of some older Australian fans and we were entertained by there chants and taunting of the refs. They love their football as much as we love our football! The game is actually very entertaining and moves much faster than American football, but there's still no comparison to a good Clemson (or USC) football game.