We’ve Reached Paradise

So since I’ve been here in Oz, I’ve managed to develop some interesting skills. I’ve become a decently avid pool player with the help of my Saudi Arabian, Indian, and Australian pool connoisseurs here at the campus tavern. On a more obscure note, a rather hazardous pastime that has occurred recently is that of knife throwing. Me, in the Australian bush land, throwing hatchets and knifes by the blade into a wooden target. I guess that’s what you get yourself into when you go camping with thirteen+ Aussies.

Which brings me to a recent situation. Over Easter weekend, we went camping to celebrate our friend Jesse’s 21st birthday, hence the knife throwing. Thinking back to seventh grade Lizzy (a terrible thought), those who were there may remember the pleasant three-week period where I was covered head to toe in poison ivy. So that was a phase of bushy blonde bee’s nest hair, braces, glasses, plus an added façade of swollen red contagion covering my arms, legs, and neck. It was mint. Well needless to say, I encountered Australia’s version of the itchy beast, this time contained to the feet and ankles though uncomfortable nonetheless.

I guess I should have anticipated something like this to happen since I basically grew up not wearing any shoes, making me somewhat prone to these situations. I come from a family that would send you straight back outside if you hadn’t acquired an adequate amount of dirt or scrapes from the North Oaks jungle. Here in Australia it’s a common fact that many things are lethal. Those beautiful yellow flowers that are adorning that bush? Yep, definitely don’t touch those. Those cute koalas up in that tree? Those are actually deathly dropbears, so always have an umbrella handy. Moral of the story, I’m lucky I didn’t experience something worse than this red itchy crap. Especially before setting out on my adventure to the backpacker’s oasis: Cairns.

I really don’t want to sound cliché, but Cairns was truly and epically unforgettable. So I guess I’ll go ahead and try my best to relive it through words. This was my first go at backpacking. Picture it: Immersing yourself into an environment where you are bunking with people from all over the world, using hostel dishes in the communal kitchen, and realizing that you don’t care too much about hygiene because you are living out of your backpack and you don’t have much control over who slept here last or who used this first anyways. It’s cheap, cozy, and inevitably leads to hearing some interesting if not extraordinary stories. Everyone is moving in and out, on the go to the next bungee jump, Reef tour, or rainforest escape. And each day, we all get a little tanner and sun kissed to show for it.

Our first day in Cairns (pronounced in the Aussie way CAAAANS), we took the shuttle from the airport to the main street Esplanade that runs along the ocean. We chose the Nomads hostel, which was cheap yet pretty much sanitary (as much as my last description made it sound dodgy) and situated right next to the lagoon. So naturally after dropping off our things, we went straight to the water.

The lovely lovely lagoon

The lovely lovely lagoon

I’ll keep these random excerpts about my family going when I say this: we are not the tropical vacation type of family. We have never been on a glamorous trip to Mexico or the Cayman Islands, and god forbid we go on a cruise. This is what the Narigon family vacation involves: canoes, tents, and some extra strength bug repellent. Add in a map of the boundary waters and you’re good to go.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for these canoe trip camping excursions. But lets just say that Cairns was the tropical vacation that I never had. Hot, humid weather ensured that I was positively dripping at any given moment, and, drum roll please…I became somewhat tan! After a restful and lazy first day, we headed into our hostel for the night. Little did we know that the next day was going to be the start of a four-day rally involving exotic food, rainforest tours, Great Barrier Reef snorkeling, and Gilligan’s nightclub.

I think Dani can support me when I say this: As I go forth in recounting the experience of Uncle Brian’s Rainforest Tour, you may be significantly confused and think that the Australian sun has gotten me delusional. It was a crazy rainforest endeavor in which I am still trying to make sense.

Basically it was this: A safari bus filled with Europeans, Americans, and our guide known as Cousin Matty who drove the bus named Gus on the highway named Bruce. We honked at every road worker and at every person through the friendly town of Babinda, all the way until our first stop: Babinda Boulders.

Here, we learned the Legend of Babinda. This was about an aboriginal girl named Oolana was married but had an affair with the handsome Dyga. To escape capture for their forbidden love, they jumped into the Devil’s pool within the boulders. Males are primarily the ones to fall into the rapids these days, because apparently if men go near the edge of the rocks, Oolana will pull you into the deathly waters and you’ll be screwed.

After swimming through the fresh water there (away from the deathly rapids) and getting a taste of the rainforest, we headed to Josephine Falls to slide down the waterfall rockslide.

Waiting for our turn down the slide. Man do I feel like I'm five again.

Waiting for our turn down the slide. Man do I feel like I’m five again.

Once we hit the road again, we played some pretty interesting games on the bus and colored in the windows with all of our country flags. I met people from all over Europe on the bus, including one young couple from England who had both just quit their jobs to peace out and travel the world. They exemplified that couple you love but secretly hate at the same time, both beautiful enough that you can predict they’ll have gorgeous kids once they are done circumnavigating the globe together. What a life! Of course they were the nicest people too, and they had British accents.

Anyways, we then made it to lunch at a scenic countryside B&B. This is where the other group guide “Cousin Rohan” demonstrated how to flip your hair from the water to make an Herbal Essences-esque photo: a preview of our next stop at the Millaa Millaa Falls.

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Cousin Rohan demonstrating how to whip your air, pre-whipping stage

Dani whipping her hair like a champ!

Dani whipping her hair like a champ! I’m creeping in the back.

They told us to go underneath the falls to get the best back massage from the falling water. I found it difficult to breath/stay above water while getting pelted in the face by a huge waterfall, much less get situated for a back massage.

They said you get the best back massage if you go directly underneath the falls. I mainly found it difficult to breath, see, and stay above water as I was getting pelted in the face while I was under there, much less orient myself for a back massage. Gorgeous to swim behind and to look at though!

Our last stop was Lake Eacham. This lake is formed by a crater, made from the explosion caused by heat and steam build up that surfaced from the earth’s core. Therefore, it has no water flowing in or out of it. The water is maintained by a healthy and balanced diet of earth-soaking action, evaporation, and precipitation. We jumped into this blue abiss from a slippery and unstable tree branch about twenty-five feet above the water. And I thought cliff jumping was badass. Nah, mate, this is Stralia!

Lake Eachum

Entering the tree jump

Entering the tree jump

There seemed to be local children hanging out near the water everywhere we went. They exemplified the epitome of fearlessness as they jumped off of the highest cliff or tree branch towering over the water. As most of us threw ourselves from the one branch, they tightroped along the next branch up, about 30 feet above the lake. They didn’t even think twice, casually walking across the tree top before the weak branch dipped down to launch them into the water, throwing in a flip or two before they splashed.  I am always up for a lengthy jump, but that doesn’t mean my heart isn’t pounding on the way to the top, or that I don’t choke on my scream on the way down. I guess I should start adding some flips into my jumps…

After some chocolate muffins to reward our survival, we piled into Gus to make a quick stop for platypus watching, and then sang/danced our way home (There was no sleeping allowed on this bus).

Phew. That was a very condensed and summarised version of what I call a once in a lifetime experience, to all of you reading this, a very bizarre series of events that I hope you had fun reading about, though I bet you one rock wallaby that you are thoroughly confused as to what I just described.

On to Day Three. To be honest, I won’t even try to put the Great Barrier Reef into words. I honestly felt like I was floating in a dream that whole day. Here is quickly what I floated by, to avoid making this anymore of a yawn vacation story. With our fellow posse of Irishmen who were unfortunately not photographed, we spent the day with the Australian crewmembers, the cast of Finding Nemo (literally), the sun, and plenty of salt water.

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Starting the day out on the nets at the bow of the boat

Ready to snorkel with the fishies! And two enormous sea turtles.

Ready to snorkel with the fishies! And two enormous sea turtles.

Heading back to the harbour

Heading back to the harbour

Trying to get over our salt water hangover with some wine

Trying to get over our salt water hangover with some wine

Friday gave us the chance to go to the local markets and rest from all of our excursions  We mainly spent time eating samples of avocado and mango. We then stopped for some impromptu pedicures, and ate some more good food.

Speaking of delicious food. It’s been weird not having any nutrition classes to study for this semester. To suffice for the absence of textbooks filled with amino acids and pictures of fruit, I’ve been focusing more on eating all of the nutrients that I’m so used to reading about. I do this by spicing up the grocery shopping (to an extent on a budget) and by branching out menu wise when eating out. As I already know a hefty amount of food chemistry, it’s time to press pause on that front and enjoy these foods in real life.

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Cooked chickpeas with tomato basil sauce, egg, spinach and buttered sourdough, with a watermelon and mint leaf smoothie.

This was an excellent end to the week indeed. I’d like to thank Cousin Matty, the restaurants on Esplanade, Nomad’s, Gilligan’s, and the country of Germany for making this quite the experience. All I know is that I will be making another trip to this place before I go back to the U.S., even if it means battling through the Australian wild to get there.

Good old Cousin Matty

Good old Cousin Matty

More on the second week of our fall break soon…

Mangos and nutella,

Lizzy

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