Boston's header
Tuesday
04/17/18

When sheep are more important than providing adequate medical care in rural Outback areas. Australia, Part 10.

Posted by bostonki on April 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

It’s a rainy, depressing, post-ice storm Monday morning here in Buffalo, and I’m glad that I designated this as my blog day a.) so I can procrastinate even more and b.) so that I can leave my mind behind and go back to the goodness that was Australia.  I’d really do anything to get my mind away from the here and now.

Here’s a photo I forgot to add in the last post, from our one night in Yungaburra.  The infamous C is in the middle, and he just kind struck this pose so we followed suit and got a pic.  We probably promised not to put it online, but lets just say I’m having temporary amnesia.

From left to right: Austin, Chris, C, me, Sam.

When I left off, we had been spending the night in Yungaburra.  Early next morning (like 6:30), we packed our bags and headed out for our final destination (8+ hours away), Winton.  The bus ride itself was uneventful and to be completely honest with you, I’m not even sure what we did.  I can’t remember.  What was really cool was that we got to see the progression of the Outback from Tablelands to.. dust.

This was first in a series of progression pics I took.  The little mounds?  Those are termite mounds.  C advised us that when inevitably going to the bathroom outside, we should take care to avoid.. ahem.. going on the mounds.  Some nasty story about how the Royal Flying Doctor Service had to come for a rescue.

Next was this photo.  The vegetation became more and more sparse as one pushed on.  Also, notice the dirt roads.  Only roads near towns were paved.  The bus and our luggage were all covered with a nice layer of red dust by the time Winton.

And the trees eventually fell away to this.  Nothing but grasses and blue sky.  And small towns.  We stopped in one called Hughendon for lunch, and we went to a cafe called FJ Holden’s.  I tried the homemade chicken nuggets, which were super delicious.  The whole place was decked out in car decor because of some famous guy from the town and his being the first to do something.

Back on the road for the rest of the afternoon, we arrived in Winton before dark.  We were staying at the North Gregory Hotel at the center of town, and in a lot of ways the place was super cool.  It had a whole pub area (probably the only recreational activity to do out there) with a pool table and darts, every room opened onto a terrace that either had a view of the main street or a view of the courtyard, and the interior was gorgeous.  The rooms were a little weird, but all in all it was a pretty neat place.  And they had chicken races in the courtyard that evening.

That night, a true “Australian bush dinner” (something like that) was held for us behind the hotel.  They had a ridiculously massive fire pit and cooked up some stew and rice for us, finishing up with ice cream.  That was the 4th of July.

The 5th of July was the worst day of the whole trip.  I was sick all day in my hotel room (debating whether it was from the chicken nuggets or the homemade bush stew and I’ll bet my last dollars it was the second one).  Since I was sick and in the middle of the dang Outback, I was anxious and that made it even WORSE.  Luckily one of the moms that accompanied us was a nurse and had some treatments, because by the time I decided to take something it was 5 o’clock and the one pharmacy in town was closed.

I didn’t waste the entire day, luckily.  Most of the group went on a dinosaur tour (apparently Winton’s a big dinosaur history town) or to the local school for an optional tour.  Michelle and I spent the morning walking the town border to border.  Me, frantically fearing a death via hydration, ran into every shop (so like three) looking for a bottled beverage.  We checked out a market with one person inside, Arnot’s wall (just a wall with everyday objects built in), and the worst advertised “musical playground” ever.  We doubled over when we saw this “major” town attraction.

The only person in the world who could enjoy this is a four year old Outback kid who has nothing but the dirt to satiate his appetite for quality play.

It was a pretty quiet place.

To give you a better approximation, here’s a picture of the travel section of the Winton Library (which was already as big as my bedroom).

It was definitely a genuine small-town Outback experience.  That night we all congregated in the pub and I ate more chicken nuggets.

Longreach was our next stop, and we only passed through for the day.  MUCH more interesting than Winton, but still Outback.  It’s the home to a TON of stuff.  The Quantas airline was actually founded there, and there was a huge facility alongside the road where I guess they built some of the earliest models.  The Stockman’s Hall of Fame was pretty neat, and we watched a cattle show and I cried when the sheep were forcibly sheared.  Inside there were awesome displays on Outback life and the Royal Flying Doctor Service that services the area, but I guess sheep was more important than providing rural medical care to C because I left without seeing anything else.

The primary thing we were in Longreach for is to see the Longreach School of Distance Education.  There are a couple of these schools in Outback Queensland, and they service kids who (surprise) live too far away from school to attend.  They all converge in Longreach once a year for some activities with their peers and teachers, and that’s it unless the teacher conducts home visits.  There weren’t more than a couple actual classrooms, but more radio rooms and television rooms that teachers would record themselves live or talk over the radio at their students.  Radio education was the way for the longest time, and now the transition is being made to newer, virtual methods.

One of the “classrooms” at Longreach School of Distance Education.

Oh, and one other really cool thing about Longreach: the Tropic of Capricorn ran through the town.  This was a super big deal to C (and admittedly I was pretty excited) because it separated the tropics and subtropics.  How geeky can you get?

Cash me in the subtropics how bow dah

The day in Longreach culminated with a visit to a real, working ranch.  This woman knows C, and we drove around her ridiculously large ranch for like an hour (while I was probably slowly falling asleep against the window, lol).  Once we got inside her house, she had more tea and “scones” and dinner for us.  I leafed through all her books and explored her house.  She had a massive pool table.  And the outside was done in classic Queensland style (read: ugly).

Architecture majors.. WHY is this a style of house??

This was the culmination of our two week trip around Queensland.  We boarded the bus after petting her doggo for a half an hour, and prepared to make the overnight return trip to Moloolaba, where we remained for one last weekend.

I’m tired.  So next time, NEW ZEALAND.  

 

Monday
04/09/18

A dead cricket and other adventures in small town Australia. Australia, Part 9.

Posted by bostonki on April 9, 2018 in Australia, travel

Here’s a bonus blog for tonight!  Yay!

I really didn’t want to stop writing, so in this post I’m going to talk about what happened after we left Cairns!  I really didn’t want to leave – it had been a busy and wonderful five days!  Visiting the rainforest, some beautiful obscure parks like Paronella, fun night spots like the Markets, rafting, going to the Aboriginal cultural center, and the reef trip, not to mention spending some fun time just chilling at the hostel near the ping pong table.

Our next stop, which would take two days to get to with all of the side trips, was the Outback.  The town of Winton was our destination, about a 10 or 11 bus ride inlands.  Past the atherton tablelands and into the heart of the Queensland outback.  It’s not a part of the red center that people typically think of (it’s probably another 10 hours to reach that, but it’s pretty darn close to the red center’s outskirts.  Keep in mind that Australia is HUGE, the size of the US or potentially bigger.  In fact, I routed from our base town Mooloolaba to a latitudinally (is that a word?) similar town on the West Coast, and Google gave me the quickest route as taking FIFTY SEVEN hours.  So, yeah.

C iterated over and over again that we NEED to stock up on food for the Outback.  Even though we were only going to be in remote areas for a few days, he was concerned that the bus would break down and it’d take more than a day for help to arrive.  So we all went to the grocery store and stocked up on nonperishables.

On our first afternoon out, I was the captain along with Michelle (goody, goody.  At being the captain, not at being with Michelle).  We again made a few pit stops before seriously hitting the road.  We went and stopped at Josephine falls, which was about a twenty minute trek from the visitor’s area.  It was beautiful, one of those natural rock that was smooth enough that people were sliding down it.  In true parental fashion, he told us how he used to do the same thing but he would bar us from doing it.  We also made a trip to Milaa Milaa Falls, which I liked better.  Even though the water was cold and muddy, C held a race to the waterfall and back.  Something I maybe would have done looking back on it.

Milaa Milaa Falls

That day, we also stopped at the Nerada Tea Plantation.  Oh. My. Gosh.  So this place specialized in hosting the hoity-toity afternoon teas (which are a thing in Australia, perhaps not the extent as they are in Britain, but nonetheless).  Their “scones” (sc-AH-ns, according to C) were basically American biscuits, and they served them with decadent creams and jellies.  I ate two and then was in a food coma for pretty much the rest of the day.  The plantation also had a factory where you could see the tea being made, which was neat.  But the sc-AH-ns.

A sc-AH-n.

 

Getting a taste of Australian tea life.

That night we spent the night in Yungaburra, which couldn’t have been an hour from Cairns.  Life in Yungaburra was.. interesting.  It was a super small town, with one motel (which we occupied all twelve rooms of, lol) and one pub in town.  So that’s where we went for dinner.  I was pointed out after my post last week that we didn’t have a Cards Against Humanity love going, but rather a Phase 10 one.  And that’s exactly what we spent the entire night in this town doing.  We hosted it in the room that Sam, Michelle, and I were staying in.  Perhaps, though, the best part was the preparation.  I pushed the beds together to make a larger playing space to discover this huge dang dead cricket under Sam’s bed.  Her face when she emerged from the bathroom to see this cricket was priceless.  Naturally we ran to the guys’ room and dragged in Sean to transport the cricket to the toilet, where it refused to flush until we weighed it down with toilet paper.  Ah, adventures in Yungaburra.

Well this blog post was much shorter than usual but I want to next week talk about our brief lunch stop, Hughendon, and how that resulted in me being trapped in my hotel room for the one whole day we had in the Outback!  By the way, the Outback is an experience to have only once.  But it had it’s own charm.  More next week!

Monday
04/09/18

How to tour the Great Barrier Reef without getting seasick (Hint: you can’t). Australia, Part 8

Posted by bostonki on April 9, 2018 in Australia, travel, Uncategorized

As I promised myself, it’s Monday blog post time!  Today I’m taking you under the sea (lol) to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Great Barrier Reef.  Every bit as beautiful yet depressing as people talk about.  I only spent about 45 minutes under the wonder because I was highly anxious (as you’ll read), but I saw enough.

We were stationed in Cairns the night before and after the reef trip, which is probably the most popular jumping point since the reef is super close to the coast here.  By super close, Aussies mean an hour boat ride out, but whatever, I can overlook it.  😉  We boarded our private little vessel early in the morning and set sail.  I had planned on snorkeling and most of the people had planned on scuba diving and had to listen to safety and equipment usage presentations on the ride, so a few of my snorkel buddies and I hung out on the deck for the first half an hour or so.  I loved the spraying of the water on my face, and the speed of the boat.  The landscape was beautiful too, lush hills and mountains of islands passing us by.

Then it got turbulent.

I swear, the only reason I even entered an anxious state that morning was because of the turbulence.  I heeded to warnings I’d heard through the grapevine about the potential for motion sickness and brought some dramamine for myself and a friend.  And boy do I wish I’d brought it for the whole ship.  People started lining the back deck about 35 minutes in with paper bags in hand, staring at the horizon.

The barf story isn’t over yet – just on hold while we actually reached the reef.  I geared up, and jumped down a few feet into bitter cold water.  I get it, it was winter, but still.  And because it was so turbulent, the water was rough and every two seconds I was coming up to clear saltwater from my tube or my goggles.  I had a panic attack after about 45 minutes of wading in this, and sat out the rest of the day.

In the meantime, though, I did see some pretty spectacular stuff.  The reef was pretty unicolored, an unfortunate side effect of humans.  But you could just snorkel up to a coral shelf and see right there the vivid color, and the finish swimming right alongside you.  They warned us desperately not to touch the coral.  And I didn’t, but I may have snapped off a particularly large chunk with my clown-sized snorkel fins.  #notmyfault #reefruiner #badperson

Once I was pretty over the saltwater in my mouth, I climbed back onboard and got dry.. and simply never resuited.  A few of my friends and I hung out in the captain’s quarters and we talked to him while he worked.  We may also have eaten all of his crackers.  Like, the whole box.  Arnot’s Shapes.  Holy moly.

 

“Look at me. I’m the captain now.”

Once everybody finished scuba diving, we all boarded again, and the captain took us to a sand island.  THIS I regret not stepping off the ship for, but we all have regrets.  It was this giant island, made naturally all of sand, popping up in the middle of the water.  You could swim to it and then wade up on the sand.  It was incredible.  Luckily I got some pictures from the captain’s quarters while eating Shapes with Sam.

View of the sand island from the captain’s deck, probably holding a Shape cracker in my other hand.

Now THIS is where the turbulence got bad, see?  People actually started throwing up (sorry to bring this up if you’re reading this, Anne) and even I started getting a little queasy from the rocking.  And this was WITH two doses of dramamine.  It was like this all the way back, and then the captain decided at the very end of the day to take a last-minute detour to cruise by Fitzroy Island, like we HADN’T just spent the last nine hours getting seasick on a boat.

Fitzroy Island.  LOOK AT THE CLOUDS HANGING OVER.

Luckily for me, I’d brought a book to read.  I mentioned that I was nominated “Bookworm”, right?  Rule of thumb: always carry reading material.  It definitely took away my anxiety.  Sam and I were (and still are probably) pretty emetophobic, so how could that not be a sour experience?

My overall advice for the Great Barrier Reef sightseeing: don’t blow dollars if you blow chunks.

Are Great Barrier Reef helicopter tours a thing?

Monday
04/02/18

Oh look, another sugarcane train. Australia, Part 7!

Posted by bostonki on April 2, 2018 in Uncategorized

Back to Oz we go!  What’s keeping me partially motivated to continue my now months-long trip report is the fact that I just want a record of it to remember.  I lost my copy of the itinerary months ago and only have my location-alphabetized photos left to go by.  The 5 (?) days that we spent in Cairns were by far my favorite of the entire trip.

Once we finally surfaced again in Townsville after three long days of isolation on Magnetic Island (I’m probably the most introverted person you’ll meet and even THAT was a little too remote for my liking), we began the four hour trek up the coast to Cairns.  It turned into a whole day on the bus due to some pretty remote but awesome little stops we made.  Our trip leader informed us that since we were heading up to the Great Barrier Reef, we needed to watch a mandatory video from the Australian government about reef safety and conservation (it was winter, no stinger suits necessary).  He told us all to get out a pen and take notes.. then turned on Finding Nemo.

For lunch, we stopped in Mena Creek, which is a part of the Atherton Tablelands (Australia’s fancy way of saying it’s basically the boundary between civilization and outback).  It was a one-road town (maybe even less than that.. yikes) with a hotel (? pub?) that we ate at.  Perhaps the coolest part was across the street in Paronella Park.  There was this gorgeous waterfall and wooden bridge – think Shrek – and a stunning, never-finished castle built by Jose Paronella for his love, now seeping in moss.

Shrek: Oh, you can’t tell me you’re afraid of heights?
Donkey: No, I’m just uncomfortable about being on a rickety bridge over a boiling lake of lava!

The unfinished castle.

During our drive, we got a really deep look into Australia’s sugarcane, banana, and pineapple industry.  Sam and Austin were our bus captains that day and thus needed to keep us engaged by talking to us over the mic, playing music, whatever.  C wanted them to keep talking, so they eventually just reverted to pointing out every sugarcane train and pineapple tree we saw.  Kudos to them.

Oh, look. Another sugarcane train.  Surprise.

I still can’t get over how awesome Cains was.  It’s this cute, but rough, little city that has its fair share of questionable nightlife and Aussie surf culture.  Our hostel was probably a half an hour walk from the main thoroughfare, but luckily there were shuttles that ran back and forth.  Sam, Michelle, and I shared  a room for six with Chris, Austin, and Sean, and it was here that our legendary Cards Against Humanity nights would develop.

My favorite part of the city was the Cairns Night Markets, which must have had hundreds of stalls worth of food, souvenir, and gift vendors.  I tried bubble tea (it tasted slightly different, probably less Americanized.  Asian food as a whole was more authentic due to the proximity and large wave of immigration), brought my boyfriend back some coffee, and it was here (well, on the main touristy thoroughfare) that I purchased my beloved mother-daughter plush koala bear (later named Chloe and Joey) from a Chinese souvenir shop.  You don’t even know how hard it was to find a reasonably priced yet cute koala bear.  Some of them looked like they’d been through a woodchipper or something.

The entrance to the Cairns Night Markets.

I don’t remember the exact order of how things were done in Cairns.  I think I’ll save an entire post dedicated to the Great Barrier Reef for a later date.  The whole Northeastern Queensland is pretty much blanketed in rain forest, so we did a lot of wet, sticky, humid activities.  One day we went on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which took us up over the trees in gondalas and down the other side to the rainforest village of Kuranda, where we walked the streets and I waited ten minutes for them to bring me a muffin from behind the glass.  Australians pride themselves on relaxation and “taking your time” but come on man, I could’ve gotten that in thirty seconds at Tim Hortons.  The village was beautiful.  On the bus ride down, we got stuck in traffic and after waiting an hour, turned around.  Good thing!  It turns out there was an accident and the wait time was TEN HOURS to get through!

#views from the Kuranda Skyrail. There’s a train as well that weaves in and out of the mountain.

Another day, I went white water rafting on the Tully, which cut right through the rainforest.  According to the group that took us, it was one of the greatest places to go rafting in the world, and it was.. quite an experience.  I’d love to do it again.  And I only fell out once!!!  Rafting is kind of a weird combination of paddling and then all of a sudden you drop to the floor and pull your knees to your chest as you’re sailing over rocks into the next section of the river below, and the water you’ve displaced is crashing over you.  I was soaked!  Also that day, I slid down a rock-formed slide into a sucky spot of the water (like it sucked you and pushed you out) and jumped off a cliff (sorry, mom).  I totally almost backed out and I never want to feel that sensation of my stomach lifting into my throat ever again, but it was all good fun.  The whole trip ended up being twelve hours and I just crashed when I got back to the hostel.

Yet another day, we went to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Center.  I wish I cold have looked around at the art and exhibits, but we were on a group schedule.  We learned about bush foods and medicine, Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, saw performances featuring an actual life sized digeridoo, and the best part, got to learn how to throw both spears and boomerangs!.  I was terrible with the spears (I would have starved if I had to actually catch kangaroo with these things), but if you threw the boomerang and it came back to you, you got to keep it.  My second time, I threw it.. and it came back in a complete circle and hit my arm!! He let me keep it, and to this day it’s one of my FAVORITE souvenirs.  Plus, it didn’t cost a dime 😉  What an awesome feeling!

My friend Mikaela throwing a boomerang.

I was having a terrible, panicky, cancel-all-my-obligations-and-take-a-mental-health-day kind of day but writing this made me so happy.

Next time – the ins and outs of the Great Barrier Reef.  So much barf!  Panic attacks in the water!  But what I did see int he 45 minutes I was under was astounding.