Monday, April 7, 2014

From Rainforests to Crags: Australia's Wild Side

March 21 – 23, 2014

By Nicky Wolff

On our last full day at Lamington Plateau we had a free day to roam the beautiful national park. Seven of us decided we wanted to take a longer walk deeper into the park on a loop trail that would take us all day to complete. We started off with packed lunches and plenty of water to sustain us while we roamed the rainforest that, thanks to our professors, we've quickly gotten to know over the past few days. Log runners (small birds) darted past the luscious undergrowth on the dank forest floor as we ventured deeper into the forest.  Overhead nearly all the sunlight was blocked by tall trees caked with epiphytes and heavily draped with lianes. The hike took us along three raging waterfalls each with moss-lined pools underneath. As adventurous college kids, we eagerly took advantage of the plunge pools to cool us down. Anthropods, isopods, arachnids, true bugs, and normal bugs all greeted us from the surrounding rocks. We have adapted to the presence of these crawlers and face them not with fright, but with increased interest. Yet as we continued we soon realized our greatest foes of the day would be leeches. During the thickest part of our trudge through the forest (where we were wishing for a machete) we flicked off at least ten bloodsucking leeches per person. After about 17 kilometers of walking and checking for leeches, we happily scurried back to camp, feeling like we knew what it really is like to be in the rainforest—in order to understand the diverse rainforest and all its birds, plants, bugs, and mammals, we had to lose a little blood from leeches.

The next day we packed up camp and left Lamington Plateau to start our week of independent travel. I went with a buddy to Tasmania for a bit of hiking. As I flew into Hobart, the capital city, I was reminded of other remote towns I've been in. Hobart has the harbor and seafood places of Maine, but the practical layout of Anchorage or Juneau. The rolling hills of the countryside filled with wheat and livestock remind me of my home in Wisconsin. I could tell tourism season has ended, as the town was dead quiet by 8 o'clock. Australians have a phobia of temperatures dropping below the 60s, which they are prone to do in Tasmania, so it didn’t surprise me that the only people visiting seemed to be from places where they put dots over their letters. I can tell it’s my kind of town though; there are more outdoor stores then any other type of store. Tomorrow we will head to Freycinet National Park to camp for two nights. This trip will be short but good, giving us a little relaxation before we push through our final few weeks of the program.


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