After a good nights sleep, it was now off up a gondola on the side of a mountain for our first “extreme” activity of the trip - Bungy jumping!!! Our lodge was only a short walk away from the gondola and we headed up pretty early in the morning.
On the way up, I got my first look at the platform I would be hurling myself off of.
It was raining for a good portion of the morning, but thankfully stopped before it was my turn to jump. I watched multiple people jump and survive before me. But, not many people did anything impressive. Most bungys are attached at the feet. This one on the other hand attaches you by harness and allows for a freestyle jump, as opposed to just jumping off. While I knew I wasn’t going to be doing a flip like one guy in our group did, I also didn’t want to look like a flailing idiot falling straight down. I wanted to look and feel like I was flying.
Eventually, I was next in line. I got my harness on and was hooked onto the cord. The instructor asked me, “How do you want to do this?” I just said I would run off. Then, he asked if I was ready. I replied with yes and in 3 seconds he counted down 3.2.1. and I was off. There wasn’t even time for me to stop or second guess the fact that I was about to jump into empty space and fall 155 feet. I was off the platform and in what felt like forever I eventually realized I was hurdling towards the ground and screamed. Here is a bit what it looked like:
Pure happiness after.
We had also be scheduled to do 3 luge runs, but the chair lift which also brought up the luges broke down the second we got in line. We waited and at lunch to see if it would be fixed, but it didn’t. We went back to the lodge and took a nap and then it was time to go out to dinner and a pub crawl! Because of my bronchitis, I was unable to drink. So instead of paying to do the pubcrawl I was allowed to follow for free! I only went to 2 of the bars and then left because it just wasn’t the funniest thing in the world for me and my bunk bed was calling my name.
There are times when I am walking on the beach by myself or sitting in a cafe drinking a coffee watching the people go by where I have an “Ah ha” moment: time where I come to the realization I am living in Australia. It is one of those things you put in the back of your mind with a sort of set-it-and-forget-it mentality where only special moments bring it back to the front.
New Zealand, on the other hand, makes you recognize that you are in New Zealand every waking second. Mountains are the backdrop to everything you see and do and the brisk weather was (surprisingly) welcomed from the average temperature of 80 and sunshine back on the Gold Coast.
My trip started off by landing in Christchurch and then a 7 hour drive through no civilization to Fox Glacier Township. When I say no civilization, I mean it. Gas stations were few and restrooms even fewer.
Ok I take it back. This was the one time you couldn’t see mountains in the distance!
Eventually though, we got to our home for the night. It was one of the coziest places I have ever stayed, with wood stoves going, toasty rooms, and cute common areas straight out of a movie. Between that and the fact I was rooming with a bunch of guys telling Helen Keller and baby jokes into the wee hours, I almost wish we had stayed there another night. The next morning it was an early start as we were going to be hiking Fox Glacier! This activity, mostly unknown to most people as an activity, was on my bucket list and was one of the reasons I actually booked this trip!
We got our special gear and suited up. Aka, wool socks, hiking boots, cramp-ons, and a wind breaker. We drove up as close as we could and started our hike. This part was actually the hardest, hiking onto the rocks to be able to get onto the actual glacier itself. Once we were about to hit ice, we got walking poles, attached our cramp-ons to our boots, and put on our second layer of jackets.
Others in the distance working on the Glacier
It was onto the ice now! It wasn’t that slippery, as the sun continually melts the glacier making the top a bit crunchier and easier to stay on. If it ever got slippery, a harder step ment the cramp-ons helped a bunch. I never felt as though i was going to slip off. We often even had steps to walk on, as crews go up each morning to rebuild the steps as they continue to melt while the tours are over. Our guide also carried a pick axe to fix stairs as necessary too.
We saw Kia’s, which are the only type of glacial parrots in the world. We also got to enter a moulin, which is basically a well-like formation in the middle of a flat section of ice which takes melt water. After entering, I gladly filled up my water bottle with the literally ice-cold melt water. It was delicious and tasted as if I was drinking snow!
Filling up my water bottle inside the moulin.
We eventually got to the tallest part we would reach. The view both up towards the jagged top of the glacier and down towards the mountains were both amazing.
Eventually, the group of us had to climb back down though. I was so glad I got to check this off my bucket list though, and had a great time doing it!
It was then time for a quick break of sandwiches and then another 5 hour drive to Queenstown. Luckily, there was a bit more civlization and we were able to stop to pee during normal intervals. We even stopped at a water fall just a few yards in from the side of the road. Behind the trees, you would have never known such an amazing getaway was so close by!
Ever since scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, I have been itching to go again. When my dive friend Jack brought up that he had been in contact with a company fairly close by and we could go again, I signed up right away.
This dive was to be right across the border in New South Wales in Coolangatta off of Cook Island. Found by Captain Cook, it’s original name was Turtle Island. I could not wait to catch a glimpse of a sea turtle!! Talking to the dive instructors, they said turtle sitings were always 100% guaranteed. We rode out in a small dive boat, the kind that is inflatable all around the sides. I had SO much fun sitting on the sides going airborn in the open ocean on our way to the island, making sure my foot was in the foot strap should the seas get rough and I get close to being thrown out. We got to the calmer south side of the island and got suited up. It is the most badass feeling in the world to have your airtank, fins, and regulator on, holding on to your mask and vest and falling backwards off the boat into the water. It was like I was James Bond for 5 seconds.
Because I had already done a PADI introductory dive, I didn’t have to redo my basic tests on clearing my goggles and replacing my regulator under the water. Instead, Jack taught us how to read the bars on our air tanks and communicate how much air we had left while underwater.
We took hold of the anchor line and pulled ourselves down, equalizing constantly. Turns out a few of us didn’t have enough weights and we slowly floated up against our will. I got another weight added to my weight belt and headed back down.
This dive was totally different from my dive in Cairns. While the coral was not as bright, I saw diverse sea life instead of mostly just colorful fish. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Even the plants were so different. I wish I had my own camera to capture everything I saw. Sting rays and wobbegong sharks rested on the bottom, while some huge starfish - each leg around a foot long - held on to rocks. Clownfish poked their heads out of anenomes and looked just like a scene from finding nemo and sea slugs and sea cucumbers slowly crawled. It is amazing how once you get down there you never want to leave. I could honestly sit on the bottom of the ocean floor and watch fish the entire day.
One of my favorites. This starfish was so beautiful!
A Wobbegong shark. Known as carpet feeders, they stay at the bottom but can leave a pretty nasty bite if provoked.
After about 40 minutes underwater I resurfaced and tried unsuccessfully to pull myself back onto the boat. With a little help from my friends, I got up and absolutely stuffed myself with snacks. We had “lollies” aka gummies, cheese and crackers, chocolate chip cookies, watermelon, and a mug of hot chocolate. I ate too much too quickly and felt sick sitting on the boat. I could not wait to get back in the water. We headed to the North side of the island where waters were much choppier and had somewhat of a current. One girl felt so sick she sat out of the dive. I figured if I had to throw up under water, I’d do it through the regulator. If this side was anything like the other side I did not want to miss out.
I got down again, and this side was much deeper, about 12 meters/36 feet. Of course because it was about 15 feet deeper than the other side, more water pressure pushed me down. The extra weight I had added on the other side made me unable to move and I had to inflate my vest some to balance out. Here I saw most of the same things as the other side but hey, that never gets old. We rode the current down towards the boat and resurfaced a bit later, my air getting fairly low. Hopefully I someday scuba enough that I know how to conserve air. Sometimes I watch the instructors bubbles and can’t comprehend how he can breath so slowly!
Including the spikes, these sea urchins were the size of soccer balls. The ones I find in Rhode Island are only the size of a clementine.
Getting to the boat, I was bummed I had only caught a glimpse of a sea turtle. I sat with one of the intructors on the boat as we waited for the more advanced divers to run out of air, scanning the surface for a turtle coming up for air.
I will never forget the moment I saw one of the biggest turtles I have even seen in my life surface. It was so surreal that this amazingly beautiful animal was so close and I could not believe its massive size. One look at the dive instructor and he knew by my face how awestruck I was. He just smiled and said, “go back in.” I hurriedly shoved my fins and mask back on, fell backwards into the water (no snorkel or air) but sea through the rough seas to the animal, one other friend in tow. It was so massive! It was larger than me and I can’t imagine how much it weighed. As I followed, I saw another smaller sea turtle! Another scene from Finding Nemo came to mind as I just watched Crush and Squirt swim away and disappear into the blue water.
That last siting was just the icing on the cake, and even though one of my ears hadn’t equalized properly and was hurting a bit, I could not have asked for a better day and experience.
P.S. All of these pictures were taken by my friends Jack and Cody. They don’t do justice to everything I got to see, but they give you an idea.
The Facebook posts of friends back home leaving school to spend quality time with their families for Thanksgiving made me a little homesick, I am not going to lie. I swear for the past 3 weeks I have been trying to set up a Skype call with Missy and my Dad to no avail.
That aside, this Thanksgiving has been one of the most memorable ones I have ever had. The day started off with coffee and cake through my program. Nothing says good morning like a thick slice of chocolate mud cake at 10am. After stuffing ourselves with sweets, it was time to make our way to the beach! How strange is it to think I was at a beach this Thanksgiving!? I immediately went into the water with my friend Kaylie and stayed there for at least 30 minutes. It was the perfect temperature and the waves weren’t too intense. Eventually, everyone made their way into the water and we all had fun diving through the waves and floating around.
I went back around 3, stopping at the grocery store to pick up sweet potatoes to make for the dinner we would be having later that night! We decided that every room would supplie their own meat but was responsible for bringing side dishes or desserts.
Somehow our room is the gather-all for everyone so we ended up having a large food preparation party, peeling potatoes and apples, chopping, and making stuffing! It is the most involved I have ever been in a preparation for a holiday and I had a lot of fun! Mom, I’ll be helping with Christmas dinner this year!
Eventually 7pm rolled around and we all headed downstairs to the lobby with our dishes. We told one of the workers we would be going down to use the tables outside for our dinner. We later found out he had been telling people they couldn’t sit outside because a storm was coming! We pulled all the tables together and gathered more from near the pool. The food was put on a ledge - we had so much! It had all crossed our minds that this wasn’t going to be pulled off correctly and we would all be starving, but the exact opposite happened and we all left stuffed!
Cameron, the hotel worker, told us later that someone asked him if the Meriton had a buffet for guests!
Almost all of us, including Cameron!
It was a great day of delicious food and wonderful company and I am glad I got to spend it how I did!
At the beginning of my trip abroad, I was fortunate enough to form a team for the amazing race in Sydney with complete strangers who have now become some of my closest friends. After all the team work (mostly my team waiting for my slow, barefoot, hyperventilating self) that went into the race, we prevailed and were named the victors. This resulted in us each getting $70 to spend on a restaurant out once we arrived in the Gold Coast. It took us so long to decide on a place since Broad Beach is foodie central, but eventually we chose Bazaar, a gourmet buffet restaurant on the recommendation from our housing director. I could never imagine paying $70 for one person at a meal, even if it was buffet. But, after eating at Bazaar I would have consider going back if I had the extra money!!
We all dressed up and arrived at our reservation time - opening time - 6pm. This meant the restaurant was fairly empty and all of the food was piping hot and ready for eating once we got seated. The restaurant is set up like a market, with “stalls” of meats, cheeses, salads, etc. We got a quick explanation of how the restaurant worked. Almost all of the dishes were already out and displayed but the catch is none of the dishes were labeled. Instead, you were encouraged to chat with the chefs who were behind the counters to explain the dish and the ingredients used in it.
The meat locker as you walk into the restaurant
While most of it was a buffet, there were some things that could be ordered, like steaks and dumplings. We decided to just get right to the point and dig in. My first plate had red snapper (served as the whole fish on the platter, you had to pull pieces off), leg of lamb, a salad with turkey, apples, and cranberries, a salad with peppers, pineapple, olives, and a salad with some type of couscous with nuts and pomegranates in it, and I also ordered a steak.
The salads section, the cooler in the back was full to the brim with fresh fruits and vegetables
After I downed all of that, I got a chicken leg, cheese and crackers, a stew/casserole hybrid dish, then tried out the raw seafood. I had scallops still attached to the shell, half of a crab, and my first raw oyster!! They were already shucked and just had to be thrown back. They were so fresh it literally tasted like I was eating the sea - so salty!!! I didn’t really enjoy the sliminess/taste so I don’t think I’ll be eating them again soon.
This is where a lot of the meats were, were you ordered the steaks, and where the pizzas were made. I am sure a pizza would have been amazing but I didn’t want to waste room in my stomach on a slice of pizza!!
It was time to move onto the asian wok station and I had my first real dumplings (prawn) served in those little wooden boxes. At this point I was feeling so full though, I only had two and some fried rice.
It was finally time to move on to the final stage of the meal. Dessert. On the opposite side of the main dishes was a wall of cubbies filled with desserts. All of them were bite size, making it easy to try every single one.
I had: Macaroons (my first real, pretty colored ones. SO GOOD), apple crisp, meringue tart, some other baked apple thing, homemade oreos, freestanding vanilla pudding, tiramisu, fruit tart, the best fresh strawberries and cream, chocolate chip cookies, sugared donut bites, lemon pie, red velvet cake, and some type of weird freeze dried type dollop of chocolate whipped creme. The desserts itself took 3 more plates to eat. Why do they have to have such small plates?! We would each get something and say if it was good or not. If it wasn’t, it was chucked into a pile and deemed not worthy of the stomach space.
I can honestly say I thought I was going to vomit at one point. It instantly hit me while I was chewing something that if I swallowed one more bite it wouldn’t fit and would come right back up. I finally had to put up the white flag and claim a very happy defeat by my dinner.
If you are interested in better pictures, check out the website of the restaurant and click view gallery. The dim mood lighting made picture quality not capture how delicious and spectacular the restaurant looks.
For some reason, we have all been cursed lately. The week days have been filled with sunshine and clear skies but every weekend the clouds roll in and puddles form as it rains on and off. It is already hard enough to go to class, but knowing that the weekends are filled with storms makes it even harder!
This wednesday, I headed to the beach at 4:30 am with a group of friends to catch the sunrise. It was already getting hot out, but we brought our comforters to use on the beach and the cool sand made me glad I had a blanket.
The sun rose just as we got to the beach, making for beautiful pictures and views.
The beach was almost completely empty at this time and made it quite peaceful, resutling in me curled up in my blanket falling asleep to the sound of the waves.
At around 6:20 I woke up again as more of our friends started arriving on the beach to catch the eclipse that would be happening, it’s peak at 6:55. Sadly, we only had a partial view so only about half of the sun was blocked out. It was still so bright the eclipse was hardly noticeable when looking directly at the sun. Instead, we had to look quick and away again over and over to see that a portion of the sun was covered. Outside though it looked a bit like it was cloudy even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. If I was in Cairns this weekend it would have been a full eclipse instead of partial. It was still cool to see a little bit of it, but I hope someday I can see a full one.
I have been so behind on my postings! It seems as though as my time gets shorter here my schedule gets busier - and the amount of fun I am having is exponentially growing.
Last week, I skipped my lectures on Wednesday and headed on a rainforest tour with 3 other friends. We first stopped at what is called the natural bridge and did a short walk through that park. The caves there had bats and at night have glow worms but the prettiest part was the water fall view from inside the cave. Our guides name was Nev and he was extremely knowledgeable about not only the area we were exploring, but all plants and animals as well. I always volunteered to try different foods off the ground/plants!
Our next stop was the private property of a famous artist here in Australia (the name escapes me at the moment). The artist finds a particular interest in glow worms and was one of the first to find out that if glow worms are put into complete darkness 24/7, they will glow 24/7 after a couple days of exposure only to darkness. We got to walk through a grotto and see the glow worms which were much smaller than I originally thought. They looked like little blue stars all along the wall. Before we went into the cave we were shown a short clip on the glow worms and at the end the film said we would be put into “semi-darkness” We soon found out that this meant scarily pitch black with no lights and only a handrail to show you were going the correct way! No lights can be brought in as it will make the worms stop glowing.
On the same property, we also got to feed parrots known as crimson rosellas. It is crazy that all of these birds are wild here and are quite common to see, even cockatoos! Its strange to see them in the wild considering I used to sell these birds back at Dave’s Soda and Pet Food City! Anyways, we would hold our hands out full of sunflower seeds and these wild birds would fly out from the trees and hop into our hands and pig out. It was my favorite part of the day, I could have stayed there for hours!
After the birds, we headed into our van and went on to our next location - Springbrook National Park. We first had a delicious lunch of sandwiches, chips, melon, and sweet rolls. We were often sharing with the wild turkey who loved to follow us around, getting actually uncomfortable close watching me stuff my face.
We started our hike with amazing views of the rain forest and in the far off distance I could see the coast and the skyscrapers. They were hard to see though, and I finally realized how far we had actually traveled to get to this forest.
We continued on heading down the mountain. Again, we were given the option to try something out - drinking from the stream! I was the only one who opted for a fresh drink of water. Hey, if the guide can do it, why can’t I!?
More hiking brought us to some waterfalls and steep rock faces. Standing next to this great wall made you feel so small!
We got to our final destination of the hike - a large water hole with a waterfall coming down into it. The entire group, around 20 people, had the option to go for a dip. Continuing on with the trend, I was the only one who wanted to take advantage to swim! The guide warned the water would be cold, but I found it warmer than Maine’s beach water. I headed next to the waterfall for a picture when all of a sudden a surge of water came and got me much wetter than I anticipated. (I was already wet but wanted to keep my hair dry) It was still great! Just stinks that more people didn’t want to take advantage of it!
Last Saturday I headed into Surfer’s Paradise with a couple of friends to check out the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium. I have wanted to visit one of these museums for some time now so I am glad I waited until I was in Australia (and found an awesome groupon deal) to go!
Another perk of waiting was that the lizard man was making a guest appearance! Sadly, he didn’t do a show but instead stood outside Ripley’s for two hours signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. It is cool to say I met him! At one point in the museum there was a theater that showed clips from the Believe It or Not show and we happened to catch one of the lizard man himself before he had fully completed his transformation!
We took our time going through the museum and spent about an hour and a half in it. Each room had its own theme and each room usually had some type of interactive exhibit. One of my friends Scott stood next to a statue of the worlds tallest man sitting in a chair. He practically screamed when the man stood up!
One part of the museum had mirrors that you could watch a video of someone twisting their arms in inhumanly ways or someone rolling their tongue into a knot and then look in the mirror and try it out for yourself. Later on in the museum, we came across the room where we could watch the mirrors from the other side! We had no idea anyone was watching us do these things earlier but stayed for quite some time watching others make fools of themselves, later to realize everyone was watching.
After the museum, we went for a walk around Surfer’s Paradise. We stopped at McDonald’s and got a .30 cent ice cream cone (the only cheap thing in Australia). Enjoying our ice creams, we walked down the board walk and noticed some commotion in the ocean! We went to have a closer look and saw that it was the Navy’s Surf Rowing League Premiership! We sat and watched some races. It has to be difficult rowing the boat out through the waves, but it must be so nice on the way back to shore if your boat happens to catch a wave to ride in! This just goes to show you that you can be anywhere in the Gold Coast and always find some type of event thats going on!