By Emma Garcia
During the three days that this blog post is about (March 27th-29th), I was mostly in a transition period of travel and adjustment between the independent travel week and the beginning of our week in Carnarvon Gorge. I have decided that instead of recording all the tedious details of my travel habits, I’ll make a list of useful things I learned during these three days, because not a day goes by in Australia that I don’t learn something new about myself, my limits, my environment, or my friends. Here we go.
1. The YHA sets an unfair precedent for all other hostels. As someone who had never stayed in a hostel before coming on this program and whose only hostelling experiences since have been in the YHAs in the Blue Mountains and Brisbane, I believed that most, if not all, hostels were clean, well-organized places with soaps on the pillows at check-in and a free pancake breakfast on Friday mornings. This is not the case. On the first day of our independent travel week, my travel buddies and I stayed in a non-YHA hostel that can only be described as a particularly dirty hovel. By the time we checked into the YHA for our last night in Cairns, I seriously considered kissing the floor of our clean, well-lit, air-conditioned room. In reality all I did was tear up a bit and then raid the free bin, because nothing is more celebratory to me than receiving free, second-hand clothing.
2. Australian airport security checks are easy peasy lemon squeezy. You don’t have to worry about carrying over 3 ounces of liquids, wearing shoes, or learving random items in your pocket. Unless you have an umbrella in your bag, you have to scan that separately. I learned this during both the 7 am flight from Cairns to Brisbane and the 8:30 am flight from Brisbane to Rockhampton on March 28th.
3. Lamingtons are an Australian staple. The ladies of the Country Women’s Association in Blackwater, Queensland, lovingly demonstrated this to us. After our program rendezvoused in Rockhampton and set off for Carnarvon Gorge, we stopped in to visit the local chapter of the Country Women’s Association of Blackwater, a small mining town in central Queensland. I was quite happy with our stop, as it involved a fair amount of sitting, listening to stories, and eating cake, which are some of my absolute favorite activities. Also worth noting is that while Lamington—angel food cake covered in icing and coconut—is an Australian staple, it seems to have become quite popular under other names in different countries. I mean, come on, cake dipped in chocolate covered in coconut bits was bound to catch on.
4. Australian gliders are the cutest things. The night of the 29th, our tutor, Simon, took us on a night walk through the forest of Carnarvon Gorge to spotlight gliders, nocturnal marsupials that glide across the forest canopy. We found a few greater gliders as well as some yellow-bellied gliders, and I swear, when they spread their tiny arm membranes and leapt from the trees, my soul flew with them. Or should I say, glided with them.
5. Except for echidnas, which are actually the cutest. I don’t think this actually needs much explanation; we found two echidnas during our walk, and I fell in love. It really is that simple.