March 24 – 26, 2014
By Ian Christie
As we barrel forward through the second and final week of independent travel, we have entered into the stage of frequent commentary on how quickly time has passed. The truth is, of course, that since January we have done so much and have made so many memories that thinking back on our time in Sydney seems impossibly far away and reminds us the time hasn’t disappeared, rather it has been well spent. Still, only three weeks remain. We have finished our final exams for three out of four of our classes. In front of us stands a welcome immersion into the Australian bush and the continuation of our field studies portion of the program. The next three weeks, full of travel and natural splendor, are in large part, what made myself and several others apply to this program in the first place.
We spent last week at Lamington Plateau, being introduced to the scenery and ecology of some of Australia’s most impressive rainforests. So impressed were we that this week myself and several other students took the independent travel week to see more rainforest farther north.
After an early morning flight, we found ourselves in the small, charming seaside town of Cairns, in North Queensland. This is the furthest north we will make it in Australia, and a great opportunity to see a spread of Australian landscapes not before experienced. We encountered the even smaller, even more charming town of Kurunda, made it out west to get a small taste of a more arid Australia, and got soaked in the wet rainforests of the aptly named Misty Mountains south of Cairns, before reuniting in Rockhampton with the rest of the group today.
Already it is apparent that we weren’t the only ones with stories to tell from the independent travel week. From taking in the cultural sites of Melbourne, to roughing it in Tasmania, the rest of the group seems equally happy with their travels. Everyone seems to be feeling mentally rested and eager to get on with the final stretch of the program. Usually I would expect to see homesick faces at this point in such long trip away from home and all that is familiar, as minds tend to turn toward home with the end finally, realistically within site. Yet the anticipation of the experiences we still have before us in Carnarvon Gorge and on Heron Island have kept spirits high. Furthermore, at this point in the trip it’s amazing that we haven’t started tearing each other apart after over two months with only the same thirteen other students for company. Instead, we’ve come out of our week apart eager to see the people we hadn’t been traveling with, to swap stories, and to explore Carnarvon Gorge.