Archive | February, 2011

Maggie Island, take 2

27 Feb

Yesterday I went on a guided tour of Townsville and Magnetic Island with a bunch of the other Americans from my program.  I expected it to be kind of boring, especially since I’ve already been into town and over to the island, but it actually turned out to be awesome.  Our guides were these two old guys that have lived on the island for years, so they knew all the cool places to go.  They took us to a lot of the same places that I went on Tuesday, but we also went to some new ones and they told us about some places that only the locals know.  One of them actually gave me his card and told me to call him next time I’m on the island- his wife is a nature photographer and he said that the two of them can take me to this gorgeous hidden creek and go on a “photo safari.”  I met her at the end of the day and she said she would love that, so I’m definitely going to give them a call at some point.  If anyone is interested in seeing some more professional shots of Magnetic Island, her photos can be found online here.

I don’t really remember the names of all the places we went, nor do I feel like typing a lot right now, so I’m just going to put up my favorite photos from the day.  Here’s Townsville and Magnetic Island as seen from Castle Hill, the highest point around:

Some more rock wallabies… the last shot is of a mama wallaby with a joey in her pouch:

This is what we drove around in all day (I want one):

Some miscellaneous shots from throughout the day:

We finished off the tour with cocktails on the beach at sunset while one of our guides played guitar and sang for us.  It was a good end to a great day:

I love Australia.


Magnetic Island

24 Feb

On Tuesday I finished class at 10am, so I spent the rest of the day out on Magnetic Island (or “Maggie” as the locals call it) with some friends.  Magnetic Island is about a 20 minute ferry ride from Townsville and it is absolutely GORGEOUS.  There are beaches all over the island- some are easily accessible but most are not.  A bus runs up and down the east coast of the island but the rest of it is pretty much closed off to cars, so you have to hike in if you want to go climbing or access one of the more remote beaches.  Here it is from the ferry:

Since it was our first time on the island, my friends and I got an all day bus pass and stayed over on the more developed side.  We tried to go swimming at both of the patrolled beaches- Horshoe Bay and Alma Bay- but had no luck.  It’s stinger season in Queensland right now, meaning that potentially deadly box jellyfish and irukandji are just hanging out in the water waiting to ruin my Australia experience/life.  I didn’t really realize how big of a deal stingers are until I actually got here… they are, in fact, a big deal.  Box jellyfish are more widely known, and they can definitely kill you (fun fact: you die not from the venom, but from the pain) but they’re pretty big so you can usually see them coming.  Irukandji are the really scary ones.  They’re only about a centimeter wide and their venom causes something called Irukandji syndrome which has the fun symptoms of severe pain, vomiting, and “an intense feeling of impending doom”.  My friend Nicolette and I (foolishly) ignored the “DO NOT ENTER WATER” sign at Alma Bay and got in up to our knees before a lifeguard ran over and told us to get the hell out.  Apparently the day before we were there, two 13-year old girls were stung by irukandji and ended up in the hospital.  So it’s really not a joke.  If you want to get in the water around here during stinger season (November-May), you either need a stinger suit, or you need to swim in a patrolled enclosure.  Unfortunately for us, Cyclone Yasi ripped out the Horseshoe Bay enclosure so that beach is closed indefinitely, and Alma Bay has been deemed unsafe for the time being.  It was a little bit like torture… we were walking along these incredible beaches with the warmest water you can imagine, but we couldn’t get in the water for fear of death by stinger.  Here’s Horseshoe Bay:

Don’t worry, this story does have a happy ending.  After sulking around for a little while, we asked a woman at one of the backpacker’s hostels where we could go to swim without having to worry about going into cardiac arrest, and she told us about a freshwater swimming hole near a waterfall that we could hike to.  It turned out to be excellent advice.  On the way we visited a colony of rock wallabies, which are completely adorable.  Mimi, if you’re reading, these pictures are for you:

After the wallabies we stopped at the bottle shop, a.k.a. liquor store, and picked up some hard cider to take with us… greatest, most refreshing decision ever.  It took a little while to find the waterfall, but we eventually heard water and found it.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  We spent hours swimming and taking photos and exploring the creek (river?).  Actually, while we were exploring upstream we found yet another swimming hole, which I think was the one we were actually supposed to go to.  I liked the first one better, though.  Here are some waterfall shots:

So that was our day.  We caught the ferry back right around sunset so I got a couple shots of Townsville right as the sun was going down.  They’re all kind of blurry and tilted because the ferry was moving really fast, but I’ll include one anyway.  I’m actually going back to Magnetic Island on Saturday for a tour with some other Americans, and then on Sunday I have my first class field trip, so it should be a pretty exciting weekend.  Check back in a few days for an update.  Thanks for reading. 🙂

First day of classes!

21 Feb

Well, for most people it was the first day of classes- I lucked out and don’t have anything on Monday.  I’d rather have no class on Friday (I have five- it’s my busiest day!) but after having class every day of the week for five semesters at UVA, I’ll take what I can get.  It was a good thing though that I didn’t have anywhere to be today because I’m in recovery mode after partying a little too hard this weekend.  Actually… I guess I’ve been partying a little too hard for the past two weeks straight.  I realized today that I’ve gone out EVERY NIGHT since I got here.  That’s 12 nights.  At home if I go out like three nights in a row I have to sleep for an entire day to be able to function again.  I guess I’ve been so caught up in the excitement of being here that it didn’t really hit me until now.  It definitely has caught up to me, though, so I’ll be calling it an early night tonight, especially since I have an 8am lecture tomorrow.  Which brings me back to classes…

So today I finalized my schedule.  I had to change one class because I had a conflict between two lectures, which is a bummer, but the one I ended up dropping was the one I was least excited about (which isn’t really saying much; I was excited for all of them) so I guess it could have been worse.  These are the titles of the classes I’m enrolled in now:

MB2050 – Functional Biology of Marine Organisms

EV3203 – Conserving Marine Wildlife: Sea Mammals, Birds, Reptiles

EV3406 – Coral Reef Geomorphology

BZ3705 – The Australian Vertebrate Fauna

I’m a little bit worried about the fact that I’m mostly taking third year courses.  Australian uni only lasts for three years, and degrees are much more specialized than they are in the States, so by the time you get to your third year you’re taking only very specific upper level subjects in your course of study.  I, on the other hand, have never taken any marine science related college courses because a. there aren’t many to choose from and b. I’m still working on pre-reqs for the few there are.  So I’m just a little apprehensive that this course-load might be too ambitious.  But I guess we’ll see.  At the very least I know that I’ll be genuinely interested in the material, which I haven’t been able to say for many of the classes I’ve taken so far in college.

I’ll update again later in the week after I’ve actually gone to class.  Until then, here’s a picture I took inside my favorite building here, the Marine and Tropical Biology building.  There’s a big aquarium right inside with coral and tropical fish.  I love it:

Video Posts #2 and #3

18 Feb

So I just went and made a video showing you guys my dorm, and when I went to upload it I found another video from orientation that I forgot about.  It’s from the day we went to the wild animal park and includes some adorable wallabies and kangaroos.  So here’s that one:

And then here’s an exciting tour of my dorm… haha I don’t know why I sound so bored on this video but I really do love living here, even if it doesn’t sound like it:

That’s all for now.  I’m hopefully going into town and then to the beach today, which would give me an opportunity to take more pictures so check back in a few days for those.  Thanks for reading!

Life in Technicolor ii

17 Feb

I was just walking back from the gym listening to this song- Life in Technicolor ii by Coldplay- and I realized how incredibly happy I am here.  The sun was setting behind the mountains so the clouds were all pink and there’s a full moon tonight and it was SO gorgeous.  I wish I could have taken a picture for you guys but I didn’t have a camera on me.  Anyway, I was thinking about how happy I am and then I started thinking about how LUCKY I am to be here.  I’m so lucky to have friends and family that support me and awesome parents who are paying for me to be here.  I’m also lucky that this incredible university is letting me come here and study what I’ve always wanted to.  So, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who played a part in me coming here.  Thanks!

Also, if you’re ever feeling sad or having a bad day, listen to this song.  It never fails to put me in a good mood:

And finally, for those of you who come here to see photos of Australia and not to read about my feelings, all I have for you today is this picture of a hibiscus flower that I took right outside of my dorm.  The whole place is lined with these flowers (my favorite flowers!) and they’re all blooming right now.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get a chance to make a video of my dorm.  Until then…

Sydney Orientation

15 Feb

Orientation was great!  It was a chance for us all to get to know each other and to get over jetlag before heading up for uni orientation.  Plus we got to do all the necessary touristy stuff.  I’m going to break it down by day to give you an overview of what we did.


Wednesday was mostly just logistical stuff.  We got in to the Sydney airport around 8am where a few of our orientation leaders were there to meet us.  They took us to a conference room near our hotel where we could eat lunch and hang out for a while until our hotel rooms were ready.  After we checked in and everything, we came back to the hotel room for a presentation from Russ, the director, and then we were able to get our cell phones that we had ordered.  We all went out to dinner that night to this really good place on Darling Harbor where I ate kangaroo!  (I put my non-meat-eating ways on hold for orientation week… I didn’t want to miss out on anything haha.)  It’s apparently really lean meat, so it’s pretty good for you, and kangaroos are EVERYWHERE so the government is trying to convince people to eat them.  It was delicious.  After dinner most of us went out to the bars around the hotel, which we ended up doing every night we were there.


This was a busy day.  We started off with a walking tour of Sydney.  We walked through some cool places that I can’t really remember right now, but I can tell you that we got meat pies for lunch (which are ok, but I’m not sure why people here love them so much) and at one point I had a wild cockatiel land on my shoulder, which made my day.  Here are some pics from the walk through the city.

It’s hard to see, but that cloudy stuff in the water is thousands of jellyfish:

We eventually ended up at Sydney Harbor where we all proceeded to take cheesy pictures in front of the opera house and harbor bridge.  It had to be done:

So that was the walking tour.  It started raining in the middle of it, which nobody was really prepared for, and immediately after that my nose started bleeding for no reason… BUT it ended up being fun and we got to see a lot of the city that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

Thursday afternoon we kept up our touristy trend and headed to a wildlife park where we saw koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras, wombats, dingoes, etc., etc.  There was even a saltwater crocodile!  We got to feed the kangaroos and wallabies, which was awesome and generated a lot of cute pictures.  Pics:

(Note: emus are scary.)

That night we were on our own for dinner, so a bunch of the girls went out for Thai food.  It was really good but REALLY expensive… things are a little more expensive here in general and Syndey is apparently a very expensive city.


Friday was an exciting day.  We started off by waking up early and climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  That’s right- I stood on top of it.  It’s a new program that Study Australia introduced into orientation this year, and it was really cool.  We changed into these sweet grey jumpsuits and attached ourselves to a safety cable and climbed up to the top of the bridge and back.  The whole thing took about three and a half hours.  It was tiring and hot, but so worth it for the incredible views at the top.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to bring any loose items like cameras.  Our guide took pictures at the top though, and we were able to purchase those.  Here’s the shot of my bridge climb group, followed by one of me and my friends Jenny and Karen:

After the bridge climb we went to the beach!!  We walked along part of the famous coastal walk from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach.  At Bondi, we got a safety talk from this guy Matt who is apparently an Australian celebrity from the show Bondi Rescue, but none of us knew who he was… it was pretty funny.  Then we got to get in the water and hang out for a few hours.  The beach was SO crowded, and apparently it was a slow day.  Matt said that in an average day they perform about 200 rescues- scary!  It’s because the beach is so famous and so crowded all the time.  Luckily, nobody I was with had to be rescued.  Here are a couple of pictures from the beach:

Friday night we all went clubbing and I was finally reunited with my friend Dane who I haven’t seen in over a year.  We worked at Camp Ocean Pines together my first summer and he lives about an hour or two outside of Sydney so he came in with his girlfriend to see me.  It was really great to see him and it was a really fun night.


Saturday was a free day for us up until about 4:30pm.  I went shopping with a few of other girls- we went to the mall and to this place called Paddy’s Market where vendors bring cheap stuff.  It was fun but by the end I was so tired that I came back to the hotel and took a nap.  I think the combination of jetlag and partying finally caught up to me.  We had a final meeting that evening, and then we all went on a dinner cruise around Sydney Harbor.  The city lights were really pretty and dinner was delicious, so all in all a great end to the week.  Here are some final pics of Sydney at night:

So that was orientation!  If we’re facebook friends, aka friends in real life, you can see the rest of my pictures.  Otherwise, check back for another update in a day or two about my dorm and how much I’m in love with JCU.  Right now I need to get ready for tonight’s toga party- the biggest party of the year, I’ve been told.  Thanks for reading!

(Also, fyi: if you ever want to see a larger version of one of my photos, just click on it.)

Video Post #1

13 Feb

I just moved into my dorm and have free internet for the first time in a week!  I LOVE it here, but more on that later.  For now, here’s the video I meant to upload a few days ago showing you the hotel I stayed at in Sydney.  Here’s a fun game: try to count the number of times I say “awesome.”

(Yes, I am aware that when I’m pointing out the link to Sumner’s blog, I’m pointing the wrong way… I blame jetlag.)