January 20 – 22, 2014
By Allie Huang
It is our second week in Australia and I must say it has been a blast! After visiting the Jenolan Caves on Sunday, on Monday, we set out early for our final day of adventures in the Blue Mountains.
It was a 45-minute drive from the YHA to the Grand Canyon, where we met our guide, Jeff. He has a wealth of knowledge about the ecology of the Blue Mountains, and he shared his knowledge while leading us on a five-hour bushwalk through the mountains. As we began our descent into the canyon, a gentle breeze brought out the scent of the eucalyptus trees.
|Bushwalking (hiking) deep into the Grand Canyon|
After hiking for two hours, we were close to reaching a nice area where we planned to rest and eat lunch, only to discover that several trees had recently fallen and blocked the path. True to our adventurous Pioneer spirit, we decided to climb over the tree trunks and continue the bushwalk. The process was a bit tricky, and we relied on each other for boosts up and over the trunks. With teamwork, we were able to successfully get everyone through the roadblock!
Gabby and Nicky on the track toward the waterfall
We ate lunch and continued on the steep track to a waterfall. When we arrived, the view was so beautiful that everybody stopped and sat silently enjoying the moment. Then it was time for us to head back up and out of the rainforest. I thought this would be the easiest part of our journey, but I was wrong. Not only did we climb seemingly endless stairs, but the path started to ascend more steeply as we neared the top. This path, as Jeff described, was the “stairway to heaven.” When we finally got to the top, we felt like champions and enjoyed the breathtaking view of the Grand Canyon. All I could say was, “for this moment and this view, the climb was worth it!”
|The rewarding view of the Grand Canyon|
From there we hopped onto the bus and headed back to Arundel House in Sydney feeling exhausted, but sad to leave such a beautiful place.
On Tuesday we had a lecture on the Australian cultural milieu, during which we learned statistics about the Australian population’s age, religious, and ethnic composition. We had an interesting discussion about multiculturalism and same-sex marriage in Australia (Australia is quite multicultural; same-sex marriage is not let legal, even though Australia has been considered to be a "democratic laboratory"). Our second lecturer discussed the impact of European colonization on Aboriginal Australians. We learned about stages of Aboriginal dispossession, marginalization and discrimination, criminalization, and finally, about Indigenous movements for civil rights and land rights. Later that night, we watched the third episode of The First Australians, a documentary on contemporary Australian history told from Indigenous perspectives. We learned about the Wurundjeri people, whose country is where Melbourne is now located.
Wednesday was a free day! A close friend of my mom who lives in Sydney kindly took off work to show me around the area. We went to the fish market and Chinatown to get my first taste of seafood in Australia. I must say, the seafood in Sydney is fresh and delicious! I could spend a whole day just eating seafood here, if only I could afford the bill! After that we went downtown to the Queen Victoria Building. I love downtown Sydney because there are always performances—live music, break dancing and magic acts—on each street corner. It is an energetic city, always full of people. As for the others, some of the group explored the Glebe and Newtown neighborhoods near the University of Sydney. In my opinion, the restaurants, bookstores, shops, and pubs in this part of Sydney are similar to Hawthorne Street in Portland. One short side note: since everything is so expensive in Sydney compared to America, we were excited to find a six dollar Pad Thai on Glebe Point Road!
Australia offers us new things to discover everywhere we go and I am looking forward to learning about and exploring more of this amazing country. My time with you is over, but you are going to hear from me again. Until then, take care!
Photos by Becca Zilk