Archive | April, 2011

MB2050 field trip

30 Apr

I’m sick.  I hate being sick.  I’m going to make Campbell’s chicken noodle soup for dinner, watch a romantic comedy, and go to bed early… but first I’ll give you all a quick summary of the field trip I went on this morning.

One of the things I really like about JCU is the emphasis on field experience.  I can probably count the number of field trips I’ve been on at UVA on one hand.  In this one semester here at JCU I have five field trips, two of which are overnight.  This one in particular was just an hour or two and was for MB2050 (Functional Biology of Marine Organisms.)  We went to Pallarenda Beach where we used a seine net to catch fish that we will later dissect.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fully participate because using the net involved wading into the water and my teacher forbade me from getting anywhere close to the ocean.  I scraped up my left leg pretty badly at Maggie Island last weekend and it’s still healing; seawater in the tropics is packed full of bacteria and coral mucous that can really screw up the healing process.  My professor also said it might attract crocodiles… I’m really not sure whether or not she was joking.  She actually excused me from the whole field trip altogether, but I wanted to go because the other two field trips for this class were cancelled (and also because I’m a marine bio nerd.)  It actually worked out because while everyone else was wading in the water with the nets, I was free to take photos for this post.  So here they are!

Here are some of the actual fish-catching process:

And here are some of the fish caught today (not all by my group, of course):


So that was the field trip.  I’ll actually be away on field trips for the next two weekend after this, which I’m really excited about.  The first one is for EV2401 (Australian Landform Processes & Evolution) and will involve camping for two nights in the outback.  The second one is for EV3406 (Coral Reef Geomorphology) and I’ll be spending three nights at Orpheus Island on JCU’s Great Barrier Reef research station.  Very exciting.  So check back for posts about those and about whatever else I feel like writing about in the meantime.  Have a great weekend!


Road trip: day 7!

26 Apr

Here it is: the last road trip post.  There’s really not much to say about day 7, but here’s a short video to recap the last day.

(I made another video set to music but Youtube removed the audio due to copyright infringement, so I’m going to upload it to Facebook instead.  If we’re friends in real life you can go there to watch it.  If we’re not friends in real life you’re out of luck, sorry.)

We spent day 7 driving back to Townsville from Cairns.  Jenni and I ended up giving my friend Steve a ride back so he didn’t have to ride the dodgy Greyhound bus and we made a few stops along the way.  We got lunch in Cardwell, a little beach town that was pretty much directly in the path of Cyclone Yasi back in February.  There was a lot of damage still visible when we were there, but the town wasn’t in as terrible a condition as I expected.  Still, it was pretty moving to see the devastation that the cyclone caused.

After Cardwell we continued south and stopped at Frosty Mango for some fresh fruit ice cream.  I was especially excited about that because we meant to stop there on day 1 but got confused and ended up passing it by.  I got a cone with a scoop of mango ice cream and a scoop of pineapple ice cream, and it was awesome.  They grow most of their fruit right there next to the shop so everything is fresh.  If you’re ever in north Queensland, I highly recommend stopping there.

In what seemed like no time at all, we were back in Townsville.  The guy at Europcar was super nice and let me keep the car for an extra day free of charge, so after I dropped off Steve and Jenni I was able to get home and relax, which was nice and much needed.  It was a really great trip.  I’m so, so glad that instead of paying to go on some pre-planned trip, I decided to rent my own car.  It was just really nice to be able to stop wherever we wanted and do whatever we wanted.  That’s something that I’ve really been missing here, since it’s so hard to get around with these unreliable buses.  I guess I’ve just gotten to used to having a car.  It was nice to have that freedom again, even if it was only for a week.

So that’s it!  I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures.  Now it’s back to posting about my food.  Actually, I’m going to try and take some photos of my campus and Townsville city, since it occurred to me the other day that I haven’t really done that yet.  Check back in a few days for a new post about something.  Thanks for reading!

Road trip: day 6!

24 Apr

I think I’m heading over to Maggie Island today to camp for a night or two, so the day 7 post might be a little late.  There’s not really much to say about day 7 anyway though since we just drove back to Townsville, but I’ll put up what I have whenever I get back.  But first, here’s what we did on day 6.

Day 6 was the day that I finally got to see the Great Barrier Reef.  It’s been a dream of mine pretty much forever, so as you can imagine I was quite excited.  We woke up early, checked out of our hostel, and headed to the marina to find our boat.  It was only like 7:30 in the morning, but that place was PACKED.  Cairns is a very popular tourist destination and the docking point for a lot of dive and snorkeling boats.  Day trips out to the reef are especially common, and that’s what we opted for.  We ended up going through Passions of Paradise– it was ok.  I wouldn’t especially recommend it.  There wasn’t anything wrong with it, per se, but I just felt like the staff could’ve been nicer and the food could’ve been better and the boat was more crowded than I would’ve liked.  Maybe I was just expecting too much, I don’t know.  Anyway, the reef was fantastic.  Our first snorkeling destination was called Paradise reef and is exclusively visited by the Passions of Paradise company.  It was in pretty good condition and there were tons of reef fish and hard corals to look at.  It was a little deep, so I spent most of the time diving down to the bottom to get a better look.  Jenni and I were the last people out of the water.  We loved it.  I took a lot of photos, but I’ll warn you: they are not the greatest.  I was holding my breath and constantly fighting positive buoyancy for most of these, but here’s what I managed to get.

After lunch we headed to our second snorkeling site, a sand island called Michaelmas Cay.  We anchored offshore and were given the choice between snorkeling from the boat, swimming to the island, or for the especially lazy people, taking a small dingy over to the island.  The reef there was a lot shallower than at Paradise- in fact, coral was above the water line in some places.  It was beautiful but I really felt that the experience was tarnished by the ridiculous number of other people there.  There were at least two other boats anchored there, and people everywhere.  There were a lot of tourists who didn’t speak English and either didn’t understand or didn’t care that coral reefs are made of of living organisms… people were touching the coral, breaking it off, and in some cases standing on it.  For someone studying marine science with a real interest in the future of coral reefs, this was almost too much to handle.  I was disgusted.  To make matters worse, my camera died about halfway through.  It wasn’t the best part of my day.  That being said, the reef at Michaelmas was different than the one we had seen in the morning (more soft corals, different fish) so that was really cool to see.  And I did manage to get a few photos before my camera died, so it could have been worse.

After that, we headed back to Cairns with the sail raised and the engine turned off.  It was very relaxing and a great way to end the day trip.  They even had Coronas at the bar.  Here are a couple of shots I took on the way back along with one of our catamaran after we docked in the evening.

After we got back, Jenni and I met up with Steve for Mexican food (Jenni had NEVER had it before… how sad is that?) and then Jenni and I headed off to find a campsite for the night.  We ended up staying at this place just outside of the city.  I honestly can’t remember what it was called, but it was nothing special.  Still, we had a great day out on the reef and a good last night.  That just about does it for day 6.  Check back in a day or two for the final road trip post, if you aren’t completely bored by the trip yet.  It’ll be the last one, I swear.

Road trip: day 5!

23 Apr

If you ever feel like reading travel accounts by someone much funnier and more eloquent than me, I suggest checking out some books by Bill Bryson.  I only recently learned of his existence and after one and a half books he’s already my new favorite writer.  He’s very funny and very candid and I just love him.  Right now I’m reading The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America, and I’m really enjoying it.  So check him out.  I mean, if you want to.  Now on to day 5!

We did in fact start of day 5 by watching the sun rise over the ocean at Cape Tribulation.  I expected us to be alone on the beach but there were actually quite a few people there: a guy jogging, a couple sitting down at the other end, and just next to us, two guys who appeared to have slept on the beach that night.  They had sleeping bags and a fire and the most adorable little puppy that immediately ran over and starting playing with us.  Meanwhile, his shirtless owners began fire twirling right there on the beach.  It was so strange.

We had no idea when the sun was actually going to rise, and it ended up taking a while.  It was worth the wait though, because when it did rise it was very, very beautiful and I of course took a ridiculous number of photos.  Here are the best ones.

After the sunrise we headed back, packed up our tent, and hit the road super early, heading south this time.  I snapped a few pictures of the boardwalk between the campsite and beach because I thought it was really cool.

Along the road we stopped a few times to walk down to the beach and look for cassowaries, mostly just because it was so early that we felt like we had the time.  At one stop we found a sign with some info about cassowaries, which I will post a photo of now to reinforce how awesome they are, and also so you know that I wasn’t just making stuff up about them before.

It didn’t take long at all to reach the Daintree River ferry, and once we rode it back across the river it was only about a 15 minute drive to Daintree Village.  If you click that link, you will find a website telling you about the lovely tourist destination that is Daintree- a place with “so much to do!” that is “easy to find but hard to leave.”  This Wikipedia article calls it a “settlement” with a population of 78 people.  I really wish I had checked Wikipedia before I decided to go there.  What we found in Daintree was about three building selling ridiculous crocodile-related souvenirs and advertising river cruises that would allow you to see a genuine saltwater croc in the wild.  We figured there wasn’t anything else to do, so Jenni and I bought tickets and headed out onto the Daintree River.  Well, the cruise turned out to be wonderful.  It was still pretty early in the morning, so the water was calm and it wasn’t too hot out.  The section of the river near Daintree is absolutely beautiful.  It divides the rainforest from ridiculously green cow pastures (about 10 cows get eaten by crocs every year- cool right?) and was just lovely.  I really enjoyed it.  The best part was that we did in fact get to see a genuine saltwater crocodile, though only for a few seconds until the boat scared him off and he dove under the water.  I was videotaping while Jenni took photos and we both only caught a glimpse of him, but here’s the photo she managed to get along with a few others from the morning.

After the river cruise, we decided to head back to the ferry and do the whole thing over again.  The company we went with has another boat there and our tickets enabled us to go on as many river cruises as we wanted at either location until the end of the day.  The second cruise wasn’t quite as scenic, but we did manage to see three more crocodiles (two little ones and one HUGE one) along with some snakes and native birds.

By the time we were done with our second cruise, it was just about lunchtime.  We headed towards Mossman Gorge, a part of the rainforest about which we had heard a lot of good things.  We ended up picking up food along the way and having a picnic there.  We found a portion of the river (maybe a creek?) where there were a TON of people swimming and we ended up staying there for most of the afternoon.  We brought in our inflatable toys and jumped off a waterfall and scared people away with our ridiculous sunburns.  It was a good time and a very pretty place.  I made several videos but only took a couple of photos there.

Mossman marked the end of our time in the rainforest.  We looked around one last time (in vain, sadly) for cassowaries, and I took my last rainforest photos of the road trip, and then we continued south to Cairns.

Right after we got to Cairns I ended up seeing my friend Steve, so we made plans to meet him for drinks later that night.  We found a hostel (The Bellview, which was very nice and the owners even nicer), made dinner, hung out with Steve, and then turned in early in preparation for our big day trip out to the Great Barrier Reef.  And that’s all for day 5… check back tomorrow to see pretty pictures of the reef!

Road trip: day 4!

23 Apr

Sorry this post is a little late.  I was planning to sit around and watch movies all day and have plenty of time to edit the videos and put this together, but instead I went to the river with some friends and then came back and had a Mexican food night.  It reminded me of summer break back home.  But anyway, on to day 4.

I really liked day 4 because we spent most of it on the beach.  We woke up, checked out of our hostel in Port Douglas, and went straight to the beach.  We went in the water for a bit but it was a ridiculously low tide (because of the full moon that night, in case you were wondering) so we ended up laying out in the sun for most of the time.  At this point I feel obligated to include this warning: do not ever, under any circumstances, apply sunscreen to your entire body except for your pasty stomach and then lay in the Australian sun for three hours.  It might seem like a good idea, but I assure you it is not.  You will get a weird and severe sunburn and you will end up looking like you have a skin pigmentation disease.  Trust me.  Moving on…

After the beach, we got fish and chips followed by ice cream cones to wrap up our beach time, then we hit the road and headed north towards the rainforest.  It didn’t take too long to reach the Daintree river ferry.  We got right on since we were there in the late afternoon when most people are coming back from the rainforest instead of up into it.  I only got one photo there and it doesn’t even really show anything, but I’ll put it up anyway.

It was probably about 5pm by the time we finally headed into the rainforest.  The Daintree Rainforest is the largest in Australia and, at around 135 million years old, the oldest on the entire planet.  I was very excited to be there.  I was even more excited about the prospect of seeing a cassowary, as was Jenni.  The cassowary is a giant, flightless bird that lives exclusively in the Daintree rainforest.  It looks absolutely ridiculous (like a dinosaur) and apparently has razor-sharp claws on its feet that it uses to attack by (I shit you not) jumping up and kicking with both feet at once.  So, basically, it’s a huge dinosaur bird that drop-kicks people who mess with it… hopefully you understand why we wanted to see one so bad.  We spent most of the drive up to Cape Tribulation either looking for cassowaries or looking for cassowary crossing signs along the road.  We saw plenty of signs, but unfortunately the only cassowary we saw on this trip was a life-size replica.

I mostly took videos on the drive so there are only a couple of photos, but I’ll include the ones I have.

Just as the sun was starting to set we reached Cape Tribulation, or Cape Trib as it’s known here.  Cape Trib marks the end of the sealed (paved) roads along the Queensland Coast.  There are towns north of it, but in order to get there you must either have 4-wheel drive or take the long way by cutting inland.  I was excited to take a photo of us at the end of the sealed road but to my disappointment there was nothing to mark the spot… no sign or anything, not even a place to pull off the road.  I made a video but I wasn’t able to get any photos.  We doubled back and found a turn off where you could park and walk to the “Cape Tribulation Lookout”, which ended up just being a beach.  It was rather confusing, but the beach was very pretty so I snapped a few shots.

After that we had to find a place to stay for the night.  Open camping is strictly prohibited throughout the rainforest so we found a hostel that had campsites.  It was called PK’s Jungle Village; it was very nice and it happened happened to have a short boardwalk to the beach.  We went to check it out and ended up being there for sunset, which was absolutely beautiful.  Beach sunset photos are my absolute favorite pictures to take, so I took a ton.  Here are a few.

We went to bed even earlier than usual because we were hoping to wake up early and see the sunrise over the beach.  You’ll have to check back tomorrow (technically today) for the day 5 post to see if we managed to do it.  (I know you’re all on the edge of your seats…)  That’s all for today!

Road trip: day 3!

21 Apr

This is only slightly related to the road trip, but I’ve been asked to guest-write an article for Pink Pangea, a website featuring blogs and articles written by “adventurous women traveling abroad.”  I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to write about yet (probably the road trip, though I haven’t decided for sure) but I’m pretty excited about it.  I’ll post a link once the article is posted.

And now onto day 3!

We woke up early and reluctantly said goodbye to Paronella Park.  We had one last look around the park and snapped a final (dark and out of focus) photo to commemorate our time there.  Before heading off, we got coffee and fresh-baked scones with jam and cream and ate on the deck overlooking the rainforest.  It was a good way to start the day.  (Sidenote: if it seems like I keep mentioning this scone/jam/cream combo, it’s because it’s the most delicious thing I have ever consumed.  I can’t get enough of it.)  On our way out the staff gave us free souvenirs, presumably because they could tell how much we loved the park… but maybe they do it for everyone, I don’t know.  We also handed in a ticket for a “free gift” given to us by the lady at the winery, which got us each a piece of the castle wall that was knocked down by Cyclone Larry.  SO COOL.  I know I keep rambling about this, but the people who run the park are so nice and it really is a place worth going to.  But enough about Paronella Park!  Moving on…

We headed north and ended up making a detour to visit a place called Kuranda, which is cleverly marketed as a “rainforest village” but is in fact a well-disquised collection of tourist attractions all packed into one convenient place.  It’s pretty ingenious, actually, and I’m sure it’s very profitable.  This is taken from Wikipedia: “Kuranda is home to a bird park, butterfly sanctuary, a bat rehabilitation centre, snake and venom park and koala sanctuary.  The town receives thousands of tourists each week who arrive on the Kuranda Scenic Railway from Cairns, the Skyrail gondola cableway, or by coach on the Kuranda Range road.”  Our reason for visiting Kuranda was to see the butterfly sanctuary- Jenni has been talking the day before about how she’s always wanted to go to a place like that when I happened to see a flyer for the Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary (Australia’s largest butterfly aviary!) on the wall behind her.  It ended up being pretty cool, though I’m not entirely sure it was worth $16.  We did see heaps of butterflies native to the Australian rainforest and took some cool photos, so I’m glad we checked it out.  It was the afternoon by the time we headed towards Port Douglas.

The highway between Cairns and Port Douglas is pretty spectacular.  At times it follows right along the ocean, providing incredible views of the sea and the rainforest-covered mountains.  There are lots of lookouts, and I made us stop at all of them until it became clear that we were going to get into Port Douglas rather late.  Here are a few shots from the drive.

We finally got to Port Douglas and managed to find a hostel in not too much time.  We stayed at Parrotfish backpacker (because it was the cheapest) and it was great.  It just came under new management and the guy was very nice… he let us pay for a 6-share room but gave us our own 4-share with a private bathroom.  There’s a fully stocked kitchen and free wifi AND they’re eco friendly so they turn the power off during the day, which I appreciated.  I’m sure the new management is relying on word of mouth to get off the ground, so I’m doing my part: I highly recommend staying there.  After we checked in we headed down to the beach for a quick swim (in the stinger enclosure, of course.)  We got there right around sunset, and it ended up being quite lovely.  We made dinner, had some wine, and went to bed early as always to prepare for day 4.

That’s all for today.  Check back tomorrow for the day 4 post!

Road trip: day 2!

20 Apr

I finally finished my paper and put together the day 2 video.  There were a LOT of videos to sort through.  I have a lot that are just scenery, etc. so I’ve decided that at the end I’m going to make a video of miscellaneous footage from the trip and set it to music.  I’ll probably just add it to the day 7 post and maybe also put it up on Facebook.  But for now, here’s the day 2 video!  (In case you don’t feel like wasting 9 and a half minutes of your life watching me talk, I’m going to include a summary of the day’s events along with some photos.  I’ll do this for every post.)

We started off the day by going for a swim at the swimming hole right near our campsite.  It was absolutely beautiful- deep, crystal clear water.  I was so excited that I went and got my snorkel… not that there was much to see, but it did make for some amusing photos.  We brought along these inflatable rafts that we bought.  Mine was unfortunately made for a toddler so it didn’t do me much good, but I was too busy checking out the bottom and making underwater videos to really care.  Jenni, on the other hand, managed to have quite a relaxing morning.

After that we packed up the car and headed north.  We ended up stopping in Tully to see the “Golden Gumboot”, which is exactly what it sounds like… a golden boot.  To be more specific, it’s a giant replica of a boot that was somehow deemed the appropriate symbol to represent the amount of rainfall they get each year.  Fun fact: Tully is the wettest town in Australia.  Anyway, we felt we couldn’t miss it, so we stopped to make a video and take this picture.

Our next unplanned stop was at Murdering Point Winery, where they make wine from tropical Australian fruit.  The woman there was super nice and let us do an informal wine tasting.  We ended up buying a bottle of passionfruit fruit and hit the road again.

Our main destination for the day was a place called Paronella Park.  None of the Australians I know (including Jenni) have ever heard of it, but it was recently voted the #1 thing to do in Queensland so I figured we had better check it out it.  It was SO COOL.  It’s basically a Spanish castle in the middle of the rainforest that this guy built just for fun in like the 1920s.  It’s not completely overgrown and looks even more awesome than I imagine it did when he first built it, and they have a nice little setup.  For $36 you get a day tour, a night tour, and you can stay the night in their campervan park.  We did all three, so it was definitely worth it.  The people at the park are incredibly nice too… it was really just a great experience.  If you’re ever in the area, go check it out!  I was making videos all day so Jenni took control of the camera.  She took most of the following photos.

We ended the day by using the barbeque in the campervan park to throw together the most delicious camping dinner ever.  We made veggie burgers (Jenni’s a vegetarian too!  A real one though…) with avocado, tomato, and delicious melty cheese and finished it off with some fruit wine.  It was basically a perfect day.

That’s all I’ve got for day 2.  Tomorrow I’ll put up the day 3 post, so check back for that!