Adventures in the Rainforest
Our group woke up in Cairns on Sunday morning and hopped on a bus to head north for our two-day adventure in the Daintree Rainforest – the world’s oldest living rainforest and a World Heritage site. Our first stop was at the Tjapukai Cultural Center for an introduction to aboriginal traditions. A group of local aboriginal guides instructed us in the arts of boomerang and spear throwing, bush medicine, and traditional dance. Abe was the champion boomerang thrower, as he was the only one of us who could actually catch the boomerang when it came back to him. Lillie was the most accurate spear thrower, hitting the furthest target twice. After Tjapukai, we headed further north into the enormous Daintree National Park. Our first activity in Daintree was a hike through Mossman Gorge. Roger, our guide, pointed out many different bird, lizard, and plant species endemic to the northern Australian rainforest. Afterwards, Tiffany, Claire, Isabella, and Dan jumped in a nearby river to cool off. We then boarded a river boat and headed down the Daintree River to try and spot one of Australia’s most famous and feared creatures – the saltwater crocodile. We were lucky enough to see three fully grown “salties” basking on the banks, flashing their sharp teeth and staring our boat down as we passed. Carson and Lillie, our crocodile enthusiasts, even spotted a baby croc swimming in a creek. We checked into our beach hostel on the magnificent Cape Tribulation beach and prepared for our final activity of the day – a night hike through the jungle. Juliana and Sadie fearlessly led us through the dark forests (alongside our guide, of course) and Paige spotted a rare Boyd’s Dragon, a beautiful nocturnal lizard. The next morning we returned to the same area to see it from a different angle on a zip lining tour through the trees. We flew through the canopy and got some spectacular views of the jungle below and the ocean in the distance. After a short walk on the beach to the Cape Tribulation overlook, we headed back south towards Cairns. We stopped in Port Douglas on the way and met the Walker brothers, two members of the Kuku Yalanji aboriginal clan. They took us on a walk through the mudflats at low tide to demonstrate traditional aboriginal spearfishing tactics. Everyone who wanted to got a chance to try and spear something to eat. Greg and Sadie each caught mud crabs, while Dan speared a pufferfish in the shallows. The Walker family then treated us to a delicious meal, including some of the fresh crab we had just caught. After a beautiful sunset drive down the Captain Cook highway and dinner in downtown Cairns we went to bed to rest up for our journey to Sydney tomorrow.
Adventures in the City
The penultimate leg of our journey has brought us to Sydney, Australia’s most iconic city. We arrived Tuesday evening and checked in to our hostel, which is right in the heart of downtown and has a rooftop terrace with a beautiful view. Wednesday morning began with a walk to Australia’s most famous landmark and an architectural wonder of the world, the magnificient Sydney Opera House. We then rode the ferry across Sydney Harborto Manly Beach to eat lunch and watch surfers on some of Australia’s most epic waves. After lunch, we split into two groups. One group went shopping with Katie. Dan and Greg were gracious enough to model clothes that Isabella and Carolyn picked out for them. Another group went with Will on a walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge and through the Rocks Neighborhood, Australia’s earliest European settlement. We all met up back at the hostel and cooked a delicious dinner of kangaroo steaks, salad, and Baja burgers (secret WV recipe). On Thursday morning we visited the Taronga Zoo, where everyone took pictures with koalas, kangaroos, and emus. After lunch, we ventured to the Paddington Markets in Chinatown for one last chance to buy souvenirs.
Teary Goodbyes and Happy Memories
Our closing banquet was on a dinner cruise through the Sydney Harbor. We looked out at the lights of the Opera House, Harbor Bridge, and city skyline as we shared memories of life-changing experiences, fun times and good friends. Tomorrow we will return to LA and have to inevitably say goodbye. This may be tough to do, but it will be a little easier with the knowledge that we will be going home with new perspectives, incredible memories, and friendships that will last a lifetime.