Global: Session 1 - Billabong
Posted: Tue, Jul 12, 2016
So Long, Farewell!
Alas, our epic Australian adventure has come to a close! As I write this, all 10 students are in an airplane flying over the Pacific Ocean likely dreaming of meat pies and cuddling with koalas. On this final leg of the journey, our 10 intrepid travellers will breach the time-space continuum, and by some mind-boggling calculations, they will arrive in LAX 4 hours earlier than they departed from Brisbane. We left Cairns at 3am and groggily made our way onboard the flight to Brisbane before parting ways in the airport. It was hard to say goodbye to our newly forged family, but we are all tremendously thankful for the memories we have shared over the last 3 weeks.
Looking back at the amount of fun we’ve crammed into 21 days is truly awe-inspiring. Here’s a quick re-cap of the highlights: we explored Sydney high and low (literally! From scaling the many steps of the Harbor Bridge to wandering the botanical gardens and touring Opera House), and we caught some waves at Manly Beach before bonding over meat pies. We hiked around the Blue Mountains and partook in a spontaneous drum circle/dance party a-la-Meredith & Christy. We attended an Aussie rules footie match – Go GIANTS! We sailed and hiked and snorkeled through the Whitsunday Islands (aka paradise) with Frenchie, Dutchie and Mal aboard Eureka II. We belted out a sublime rendition of Viva la Vida one evening in the cockpit after spending the day keeled over and cruising in the sunshine with the wind in our hair and grins from ear to ear (…errr that’s true for most of us). We had a preposterous amount of fun riding the carnival rides at “The Show” in Townsville. We held koalas and nuzzled with kangaroos at the Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary. We learned how to throw boomerangs Tjapukai, and we tossed the Frisbee around at the Water Hole after mulching like maniacs at the Daintree Rainforest Observatory (still so proud of everyone’s dedicated effort!). We braved SO many spiders on the rainforest night hike, and we saw crocs in the wild! We learned all about the Great Barrier Reef at Reef Teach (it covers a patch of ocean the size of Texas… wow!), and we got to do back-to-back-to-back-to-back dives on the Great Barrier Reef where we swam amongst otherworldly corals, reef sharks, turtles galore and stingrays. We rafted the Tully River, went cliff jumping and competed in raft wars. Not to mention, we did heaps of “mandatory bonding” and owned the Tim Tam Slam 🙂 Most importantly, we immersed ourselves in Australia and we learned so much about one another and ourselves. Thanks for being such a phenomenal group. Nourish your adventurous spirits and keep being the marvelous people you are.
Mom & Dad
(Keeley & Rowan)
Posted: Mon, Jul 11, 2016
White Water Rafting In Tully!
Location: Tully River
After another night at the motel, we woke up bright and early at 5:45am to be picked up for our white water rafting trip on the Tully River. We were given banana yellow thermal tops, life jackets and helmets because, as I said before, our group is prone to hurting ourselves and needs as much protection as possible. Walking down to the water a famous Alexa screech could be heard; yes, she had fallen once again. The group split in two, 6 in each boat. Christy, Joe, Alexa, Keeley, Riley, our tour guide; Darcy, and I started a rivalry against the other raft of ActionQuesters. There was a light drizzle, but we didn’t mind, it was a nice break from the sun. The rapids were amazing, even though Darcy had said he had never seen the river water so low before which meant a lot of ridiculous jumping up and down ( we learned a move called the jig-a-lig) due to lots of exposed rocks. Everyone looked so funny and we couldn’t stop laughing especially when Alexa would joke with Darcy about it being his fault we were stuck. Whenever we would pass the other boat ( Rowan, Jenna, Lily, Daisy, Jeb, Meredith and their guide Fuji) we would splash at each other and claim we were with the better guide. Daisy, Meredith, Lily, Riley and Joe were jumping off the front during the calm parts of the river. At one point, Riley went to stick his head in the water and ended up falling out completely. Another time we attempted to wait for the following rafts behind us. Darcy couldn’t stop us and we almost lost him as we tumbled backwards down the next set of rapids, our boat filling with water to the point where we thought it might sink. We stopped and had lunch at the waters edge; burgers and sausages. Alexa somehow managed to fall again on the slippery rocks. Towards the end of our adventure we jumped off a small 15ft cliff. The water was not on the warm side, but was definitely refreshing. We went under a small waterfall while embracing one another in a group hug as the water’s force pelted down on us. We had to cut the journey short to 10km of river due to the water level being too low to continue after the dam upstream got stopped. After a long bus ride back to Cairns, we took quick showers, and got dressed for our last dinner at Cafe Thailand. We closed the night off with a one last squeeze and packed our bags for the final time. We have to leave for the airport at 3am so the rest of the night will probably be a sleepless one, spent reminiscing on the amazing memories we have made these past three weeks.
p.s. our cameras and phones were stowed away throughout the rafting adventure and today we completely forgot to take photos! Here’s a post-squeeze group selfie with 1/4 of Joe on the end!
Posted: Sun, Jul 10, 2016
Final Dives On The Great Barrier Reef!
Location: Great Barrier Reef
After a pre-dawn wake up to start our last dive day we headed up to the top deck of the live aboard for a quick dive brief. We jumped in the water and descended just as the sun peeked over the horizon. We saw a moray eel, anemone fish, a flatworm and a massive school of humphead wrasse. When we got back from the first dive, we chowed down some breakfast before gearing up for our last two dives. Though we stayed anchored at the same location today, we had three very different dive sites. On our second dive we tried to play underwater Frisbee which didn’t really work out, but was still fun! By midday, our adventures exploring the Great Barrier Reef had come to a close and we hunkered down for the cruise back to Cairns. Totally exhausted from back to back-to-back days of diving and early mornings, we all took naps. Some of us sprawled out on the top deck while others curled up in the saloon. Then we packed our bags, said our goodbyes to the crew and made our way back to the motel for pizza and card night. After everyone finished up his or her cards, we decided to go on last minute dash to the Cairns Night Market before getting ready to go whitewater rafting in Tully tomorrow!
Posted: Sat, Jul 9, 2016
Eat, Sleep, Dive, Repeat!
Location: Great Barrier Reef
This morning took on new meaning to the saying stumbling out of bed. Right as we woke up, the boat starting moving to its new location, and it seemed like the waves had their own way of saying good morning. It may have taken some time to make our way to the main floor, but eventually our legs overcame the rocking and we all made it up to the briefing for our first dive of the day. Half an hour later, we were in the water and exploring the new dive site. With each dive that we do, we all recognize sea creatures that we wouldnt have been able to identify if it hadnt been for the Reef Teach lesson we had the other day. We saw giant clams, turtles and so many other amazing things. After we got out, we were able to have a little snack while some waited for the next dive (I, on the other hand, had to take some sea sickness medicine and passed out for 4 hours, so I cant say much about that trip).After some more dives, the time for a night dive finally came along, and we all excitedly geared up. We were on a search for a 140year-old turtle named Brian, who happens to be a resident at this dive site. Me, Riley and Adam (our guide) were able to find him, and we may or may not have accidentally woken him up. Diving at night is a completely unreal experience; it feels like youre in a dream and all youre doing is floating around in an alien world. While we were still underwater, we were able to spot a few grey reef sharks, bio-luminescent plankton and some more turtles! All in all, it was an amazing day, and tomorrow will be too. Eat, sleep, dive, repeat!
Posted: Fri, Jul 8, 2016
Diving Adventures On The Great Barrier Reef!
Location: Great Barrier Reef
This morning we woke up bright an early to catch a ride to the dive shop. At the dive shop, we checked in and got fitted with our gear before we hopped on to a van because the nice man from the dive shop said he had some candy. Personally, I prefer cookies (there are LOTS of cookies aka biscuits and tea on board). The nice man drove us to the dive boat where we got on and had some breakfast. After breakfast, we had a short safety briefing and began to make our way to the first dive site. The first and second dives were at Petaj Bommie where we saw white tipped reef sharks, turtles and stingrays. Next, we had lunch and then we went to the next location: Whale Bommie. At Whale Bommie, we saw a few turtles and sharks and lots of cool coral. Then we had dinner and got prepped for our night dive. For the night dive, we chose our teams based on glow stick colors. The best, aka team blue glow stick, saw a nice sized sting ray while the yellow team saw a shark. When we got back to the boat we showered up, did Squeeze, and Lily led a blind taste test of Bundaberg sodas. Our flavor selection included Blood Orange, Peach, Sarsaparilla, Traditional Lemonade, Lemon Lime Bitters, Ginger Beer, Pina Colada and Burgundy Creaming Soda. Some people’s faces contorted and lips puckered, while others really enjoyed the explosion of flavors. We all headed off to bed early to rest up for another day chock full of diving!