Today was our last day of the program in Australia, and we definitely took full advantage of it. We woke up early and were picked up by the staff of Raging Thunder, the whitewater rafting company that would drive us south to Tully for our day on the river. After a snooze on the bus and a safety briefing, we jumped into two inflatable rafts, along with several other groups of people who were joining us on the river today. The water was a little chilly, but the sun was out to keep us warm, and the light reflecting off the trees and water was beautiful – we were rafting through a world heritage site rainforest, and it was pristine as well as picturesque. We set off and were quickly met with several rapids – listening to our guide’s instructions of “paddle back, paddle forward, hold on, get left, get down” and so on it felt like a game of Simon says, but it worked as none of our boats flipped and no one went swimming (at least not by accident). I especially loved the rapids where we started forwards, then spun around and took the next rapid backward, then spun around again. We went on with the rapids down the river for about two and a half hours before stopping for a lunch of burgers, sausages, and salad by the side of the river, and then going back out for another run. The rapids after lunch were a little more relaxed than some of the class IVs that we had been in during the morning, and we were able to enjoy the scenery and each other’s company in the boats.
Once we finally finished our rafting day we had the bus ride back to Cairns to rest or chat with each other, and then we got together to finish up with some end-of-program reflections. We then headed into town for a final dinner out as a group and took a little time to explore the night markets one last time. Everyone is now back and packing up their things and spending as much time together as they can before we leave in the morning. It will be a long travel day tomorrow with a flight from Cairns to Brisbane and then Brisbane to LA, where the group with them split and head in their own directions. I know everyone is sad for the program to be ending and to leave their friends, but they are also looking forward to returning home and seeing all of their loved ones (you all!) tomorrow.