Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rock Tour Day 3: Uluru Base Walk (May 15th, 2014)

For our last day camping out in Central Australia, we went to Uluru to do the base walk. But first, we woke up pretty early again, but this time to go and see the sunrise at Uluru. We had breakfast at the sunrise viewing location, and when it finally began, it was a pretty amazing sight. With the moon behind us, and the place we were watching at, we had a good sighting of the sunrise. We caught a small glimpse of the rock changing color because of the sunlight and the direction the sun was heading, but it was still great to watch happen.

After sunrise hit, we headed out to the Cultural Center for a bathroom break, and then drove to the base of Uluru. When up close, you get to see just how massive the rock really is. It took around two hours for us to complete most of the walk, as we started a little past where we were for the Mala Walk the day before. Throughout the walk, you could see many different formations on the rock itself. Apparently, in recent years, the walk was altered so that it went around the smaller rock by Uluru. The Aboriginals have obtained more control over the walk, which is why this occurred. They were upset that so many people were climbing this rock, as it is a culturally sensitive area for them. So this was done to keep people away from it. It does hurt the walk a little, as you don't get to see as much from a distance. It really gets interesting when you get to the other side though. You get to see much more detail and can try to interpret the meanings of some of these formations after some time. Along the way, I got to look at some cave paintings, but I did not really understand what was happening.

When we made it back to the start of the Mala Walk, we noticed that there were several people trying to climb up Uluru. There were also others that arrived on a bus, and immediately started to climb it. The lack of hesitation from these people really surprised me. And after everything I learned throughout the tour, I feel like they were being disrespectful and only treating Uluru as a challenge instead of a cultural site. I do hope one day that nobody tries to climb Uluru, but it seems like that will only happen after a long time.

So after the walk, we had another bathroom break at the Cultural Center, and started heading back to Alice Springs. Along the way, we dropped someone off at the airport, and then had lunch at the roadhouse we went to the first day heading toward King's Canyon. After a few hours, we returned, and for dinner, we went to the Rock Bar near the Todd Mall. It was a great meal to have after the time we spent out for the past few days.

And this marked the second to last fully planned day of our trip in Alice Springs. It's near the end of our trip at this point, so I hope the rest of the time here is a fun conclusion to this month-long trip.

Free day in Cairns

Saturday 10 May 2014 we were in the beautiful city of Cairns, and it was our free day. For our free day we decided to have a leisurely walk along the Esplanade looking out into the ocean. It was a great day to interact with other tourist as well as with other Australians. While relaxing along the water I witnessed a couple of pick up rugby games. While in Cairns I noticed that like the rest of Australia everything is very expensive. However, there are bargains to be had if you look carefully.

In Cairns I noticed that the mountains across the water looked very similar to the famous Blue Mountains that we saw outside of Sydney. My favorite part of Cairns was most certainly having the opportunity to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef. While scuba diving I was able to spot out a sea turtle. This, along with seeing "Nemo", a clown fish, were two spectacular sites I'm extremely grateful I was able to see. It was one of my most memorable parts of this trip. One new term I learned on my free day was "Big Smoke", this mean city and I heard our tour guide mention it.  

I have thoroughly enjoyed tho trip and am sad that it's coming to an end.



Monday, May 19, 2014

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 Alice to Sydney

Sunday, May 18th, 2014
Travel Day/Return to Sydney

The weather today was bright and sunny while in Alice Springs, as it should be because it is a desert, but cloudy when we landed in Sydney sadly. Now that the course is coming to a close I am looking over all the gifts I have collected over these 4 weeks, many boomerangs will be calling America their new home. I decided in Cairns that I wanted to get my family boomerangs because that is one of the first things that people from America think of when you say Australia.

Looking back in my journal I noticed that the question regarding "what did you notice today that no one else did" was the hardest to answer; because I don't know if someone noticed the same thing that I did, and you can't ask because then you have away what you were going to write.
I think a better question would be "what did you enjoy most today?" That is much easier to answer and you can then see what the students actually like and to make sure that part of the course is done again in future years. Now to answer the question " what I noticed today that no one else did". Before getting on the bus to the Alice Springs airport I saw 3 birds chasing each other around some trees, they were all dashing in and out trying to catch each other it seemed to me.

My Australian word of the day is Ace! I heard someone at the front desk say it to someone and when I turned around they had a smile on their face. From that smile I'm assuming that Ace! Is something that is good, excellent or okay.

This is my last blog for my first, and maybe only, third term trip while I am at Elmira, and I am so happy I picked Australia as my destination.
Hello America, I'm coming home.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sounds of Starlight. Saturday May 17th, 2014

The weather on Saturday May 17th, 2014 was warm but cloudy. This was prefect for a nice day of just hanging out by the pool catching up on some work and reading.

After being in Australia for almost a month I have heard many Australians talk about First Australians or Aboriginals a lot. Most people I have talked to did not have anything nice to say about them. They called them uneducated, dumb, lazy, and useless.  But after after spending 3 days in the Outback and learning about they're way of life I tend to disagree with what most of those people say. I've learned that they just have a different way of life compared to ours and just because it is different doesn't mean that it is wrong.

I think the most difficult  part of life in Central Australia would be the amount of flys that they have in the summer. Being here in the down season, fall and winter, when it isn't that bad makes me wonder how people do it in the summer when it's really bad. I also don't think I could get used to how unfriendly and private everyone not in the tourist industry are.

The Sounds of Starlight show we went to see that night was absolutely amazing. I loved the way he took the traditional instrument of the didgeridoo and made it more contemporary. I also like how he pulled people on stage and got them involved in the show. It was great seeing Maegan and Justin up there playing the didgeridoo. Then I even got to go up there with Maegan, Abbey, and Mark and play on the bongo. It was great fun. The lights during the show were also amazing as well as the power points, they were both a nice touch.

I noticed in Alice Springs that they put interesting things on their burgers. At first I thought it was just the restaurant that we went to, but then after the second and third restaurants did that same thing I realized that it must have been Alice Springs. They have the normal cheese, tomato, and lettuces, but they also put ham, egg, pineapple, and beet root. Very interesting.

A new Australian word I learned today was "big smoke". It means city. I heard it when we were walking around the Todd Mall.

Friday, May 16, 2014

West MacDonnells Range

Howdy again everyone,

Today was our last big scheduled event, and it certainly was an awesome tour.  We took a tour of the West MacDonnells Range.  This range was also created by the Alice Springs Orogeny, which I talked a lot about in my previous post.  This range contained a number of awesome geological formations and hosts some older plants in different areas of the range.

However, before getting to that, let's start off with our first stop on the range.  We arrived at the Stanley Chasm first.  This chasm was used back in 1925 by Ida Stanley to hide Aboriginal children from two warring Aboriginal nations.  The chasm has two different walls of rock.  One side of the rock is smoother than the other, and this is due to the type of rock that exists in the chasm.  In this particular area of the range, quartz and red quartzite are present in the walls.  One side of the chasm is more eroded than the other, which is actually similar to the erosion that occurred at King's Canyon.  The chasm is colored different shades of red, white, and yellow.  The color is determined by the amount of oxidation of iron that is also present with the rock.

Within the chasm, a prehistoric plant thrives within the range.  This plant is called a cycad.   This plant actually thrives better in rainforests like the Daintree, however, because of the cover in the chasm, the plant can survive in the conditions of the outback.  The presence of this plant also gives evidence that a rainforest existed in the Macdonnell Range millions of years ago.  The cycad is not a flowering plant.  In order for it to reproduce, the cycad reproduces by releasing seeds.  These seeds, however, are poisonous, and are avoided by animals.  Therefore, the plant needs to grow near potential water sources or rivers in order to reproduce.  The seeds travel down river and grow in other areas of the land.  Aboriginals use this plant's seeds as a food source, by clearing the seed of their poison and then eating them.

We also stopped at the Ochre Pit.  Ochre is a rock that is similar to chalk.  Aboriginals use ochre for a variety of things.  The different color ochre had different uses.  For example, red ochre is used as a medicine to cure stomach aches and it can be used for painting.

We then moved to the Ormiston Gorge and then the Mount Sonder lookout.  The lookout provided an excellent view of a large portion of the range.  The best part of this lookout was that we could see the Finke River.  This river runs throughout the Western Macdonnell range and is thought to be the oldest, uninterrupted river in the world.  Aboriginals in this area believe that the range was created by large processional caterpillars, which moved through the range to create the various gorges and land formations.

To finish the day, we stopped at Glen Hellen Gorge, Ellery Big Hole, and finally Simpson's Gorge.  My favorite stop had to be Ellery Big Hole, which is a giant watering hole connected to the Finke River.  The water had to be at least 12 degrees Celsius, however, it felt pretty good since it was a pretty warm day today.

Thanks guys, 4 more days in Aussieland, and I am pretty sad to leave.  Back to Sydney in a few days!



Kata Tjuta and second night of camping

Howdy, everyone!

Hope you have been enjoying the final days in Australia.  I know I do not want to ever leave.  On May 14, 2014 we visited Kata Tjuta in the Australian outback.  Kata Tjuta in the Anangu language literally means "many heads," and just by taking one look at the geological formations, you can understand why it is called this.  Unfortunately, I have yet to upload the photos that I took with my camera, as we only just returned from our three day camping trip in the Outback.  However, I will try to add some photos to this post once I have had the chance to download the photos as you really need to see these formations in order to understand what I am talking about.  Kata Tjuta is a sacred ceremonial place to the Anangu people.  However, not much information about these ceremonies is know by those who are not part of the Anangu people, because they are considered to be part of the male tjukapa.  You are probably wondering what tjukapa is.  Tjukapa is the way of life that the Aboriginals live by.  It is their law, religion, and way of life.  To compare it, what our faith in religion is, this is what their belief in Tjukapa is.  Anyway, the reason that people who are not part of the Anangu tribe cannot know the male ceremonies is because it is consider to be man business.  Those who are not part of the tribe and are not male are considered to be children because they have not gone through the tradition of becoming a man. 

What is interesting, however, is that Kata Tjuta is geologically related to Uluru.  They are related by a great geological event called the Alice Springs Orogeny.  What happened was that two tectonic plates collided beneath the Australian outback millions of years ago.  This collision caused the formation of a giant mountain range called the Peterman Range.  This range was 14 kilometers high and spanned across the majority of central Australia.  However, this event occurred too quickly in terms of geological events.  It only took a couple millions of years for the range to form as opposed to hundreds of millions of years.  The result of this was soft rock making up the range.  This combined with a lack of foliage forming on the mountain to hold the rock together meant that the entire mountain would erode eventually.  The land surrounding the range contained a number of depressions in the land that were formed from inland oceans and uneven land as a result of plate movement.  As the range eroded, these depressions would collect the rock and eventually when the depressions were filled with rock, only things like sand and silt could fill the openings in the depressions.  Australia also faced a series of rising and falling ocean waters, which then turned the weak rock and sand in the depression into sand stone.  Once the oceans had completely receded, the lands of Australia faced erosion from heavy winds, rain, etc.  This led to the uncovering of the geological sites of Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and the Macdonnell Range.  I will discuss the Macdonnell Range more in my next blog entry. 

Aside from visiting Kata Tjuta today, we also camped out at the Yulara Campground.  This campground is located just outside the national park.  While there, we slept in swags.  Swags are basically a tent in sleeping bag form.  They are thermal, so they can hold heat.  Therefore, when sleeping in this, it is smart to wear as little clothing as possible, as clothing can act as an insulator of heat and prevent heat from entering the swag.  Therefore, it will be colder the more clothes that you wear.  While camping we camped with a number of people from around the world (mostly from Europe).  It was interesting to learn about the different cultures that they came from, as well as learn a couple of foreign words in the process.  One of the most memorable parts of this camping trip was waking up at 4 in the morning because of a pack of dingos that were howling at the moon.  It was certainly a memorable event as well as just great to listen to.

Thanks guys, it has been a fun month.



Watarrka, Curtain Springs Campground. Tuesday, 13 May, 2014

The weather on Tuesday May 13th, 2014 was very warm with a dry heat.  It was actually cold in the morning when we started our day, but the more the day went on the warmer it got. The worst was when we did the hike at Watarrka up "heart attack hill".

The geological relationship linking many of the geological features of Central Australia was formed from the Alice Springs Orogeny. It started 550 million years ago when two tectonic plates pushed together and formed the Peterman Range. Then from erosion the Peterman Range began to degrade. The Alice Springs Orogeny then happened 250 million years ago when formations like Uluru and Kata Tjuta were exposed. Uluru was rotated 88 degrees.

One of the unusual plants that I saw was the Finish Tree. It was unusual because of how many uses the Aboriginal people used it for. They would use it to treat warts, melanomas, and much more. They would stick the pin from the tree into the warts and continue to do it for about a week or until the wart would fall off. This happens because the pin bad a small amount of poison in it.

Our stops at the roadhouses were very much appreciated, especially with all the traveling that we've been doing. They were just like rest stops that we have in America. Although these roadhouses had extra things that we don't have in the States. They would have places to park campers, picnic tables, a place to cook food, showers, and even a place to fix your car.

I noticed that the desert was much greener than I expected. I pictured the Outback as a flat red sand desert with nothing else around. To the contrary there was a lot of grass and trees around with mountain ranges.

A new Australian word I learned was Eski. It means cooler. Our tour guide Pip told us that our lunch was in the blue Eski or cooler.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Desert Park, RFDS, Reptile Center, School of the Air, Telegraph Station, ANZAC Memorial Hill, & Rock Wallabies

We began our day at Desert Park which sits right next to the MacDonnell Range. First we watched a short film about the creation of the mountain range and how the Desert Park came to be. It began as a waterfall and large body of water. Many animals struggled to survive and after several millions of years, the land reclaimed the sea; green planes began to grow by the mountains. Then a comet hit the earth and made it dark. When there was light again there were large freshwater lakes, flowers, trees, bees, wasps, birds, and mammals. This is when central Australia entered a dryer, hotter phase. Despite the harsh weather, the Aboriginal people took advantage of the climate in order to survive. They hunted animals and gathered plants and berries that grow in the heat.

While at the Desert Park, we also went to a presentation about how Aboriginal people survive in the desert. A few interesting facts that I learned while at this presentation was that there were over 270 Aboriginal languages; however only half of them have survived until today. She told us how Aboriginal people did, and still do, rely on hunting and gathering techniques in order to sustain themselves. She also touched on the roles of men, women, and elders in Aboriginal tribes. For example, men had the duty of setting up the campsite, make fire, punish criminals, and hunt. Women were responsible for gathering food, raising children, and maintaining the fire. Elders, on the other hand, were tasked with teaching their knowledge to the children, caring for the entire tribe, and making decisions.

The next presentation we attended at Desert Park was the Bird Show. This was pretty short, but we were able to see some unique birds. We saw the Brown Falcon which was a great hunter, the Barn Owl which has a silent flight in order to catch prey, and a Frogmouth who is able to easily blend in with his surroundings in order to avoid his predators.

After Desert Park, we went to the Royal Flying Doctor's Service. We had a nice lunch here then did a short tour of the museum. We then watched a short film about what the RFDS actually does and how much they help so many Australians. A few of the major duties of this company includes: 1) air ambulance service, 2) transfer between hospitals, and 3) an outback clinic. This service is 24/7/365 and provides life saving medical attention to individuals that would otherwise not have survived their accident.

The next stop on our tour today was The Reptile Center. Here we had the opportunity to hold a Blue-Tongued Lizard, a Bearded Dragon, and an Olive Python. Then we toured the rest of the exhibits. We were only here for a short time, but we were able to see many different types of lizards and snakes. We were even able to see the most dangerous a snake on the planet, the Inland Taipan.

After we finished our tour at The Reptile Center, we went to the Telegraph Center. A few interesting facts about this facility was that it was not only the first settlement in Central Australia, but also the first building ever built in Central Australia. We were also see the site for which the city of Alice Springs is named. It is a small watering hole that the first settlers believed to be a spring. In reality, water seeps up from the upside down river that is underground. We also learned that the buildings on the grounds were used as a bungalow for children taken during the Stolen Generation. These children were schooled in European customs and traditions. These buildings were also used to house soldiers during World War II.

Then we went to School of the Air to learn about the services they offer children across the country. This is a type of online school offered to children that are too far away from any other school to attend them. We watched a short film about the history of this operation. A few fascinating facts that I learned during the film was that School of the Air covers 1.3 million square kilometers of land, there are 16 different School of the Air facilities, and the students only come to class in their designated areas four times a year. This is a unique business because the students are able to have real-time conversations with their teachers and communicate with each other as though they are in the same room.

We finished our day at ANZAC Memorial Hill and the Rock Wallabies Natural Environment. The ANZAC Memorial Hill gave a nice view of the entire city of Alice Springs and contained a monument commemorating all war events that Australia has been involved in. At the Rock Wallabies Natural Environment we had the opportunity to feed wallabies. This was really cool to get so close these cute creatures.

Finally, something I noticed today was the gift shop in Desert Park. This was seemed to be set up a little different than more traditional gift shops. It had more high-ticket items than most gift shops. A new word that I learned today was heads. Our driver mentioned this word when he was referring to cattle.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

May 11, 2014 - Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day here is Australia, also know as "Mum's Day".  Our journey took us from Cairns to the outback city of Alice Springs. While leaving the beautiful city of Cairns there was on and off rainfall. We arrived at the airport to take off around 9:30am.  After the short two hour plane ride we made it to our destination, Alice Springs.
My first impression was that it was very unique compared to the other cities we've been to. For example, I noticed in particular that there were dirt roads around the city.  This was not something I have seen yet thus far. I was surprised to see a lot of green grass and bushes here in the desert. Along with this, there was not a lot of buildings and I noticed the skyline was very low.
As we were driving to Toddys Backpackers I saw a lot of solar panels which reminded me how environmently cautious Australians are.  When Dr. Jacobson gave us a tour to the local mall I spotted many fences surrounding buildings, houses, parking lots and so on.  It was explained to us that these fences provide a sense of direction. They show you were you do and don't belong. To mind your own business is a key part to the community here in Alice Springs.
The atmosphere is much different than that of Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, or Cairns. Unlike these very active cities, that seem to never sleep, Alice Springs is much more quiet and reserved. Along with this it's the most humid spot we've been to.
I learned the word "dag", this means a person who is very funny and a goof. I heard this in the  bar area as I was playing pool after dinner. A young man called his friend this.
Alice Springs is a very interesting place and I'm excited to learn more about the area. Also, Uluru, formally known as Ayers Rock, is something I've been looking forward to seeing from the start and cant wait to get there and see its beauty.
Daintree River Cruise:

Today's weather was perfect for a boat ride along the river, sunny with a slight breeze. I saw a crocodile for the first time. Crocodiles are very lazy creatures and are mainly active at night when they hunt for food.

After the cruise we went for a short walk through the rainforest. I noticed while on the walk that when we saw the rainforest from the sky rail people can not get a good idea of what the rainforest is actually like. Walking through the rainforest I got to see many different plants and trees that I've never seen before.

While on the safari I learned a bit more about how troublesome the wild pigs are to Australians. The pigs have created lots of erosions in the Daintree rainforest. The pigs also eat the eggs of the endangered species the cassowary. This creates a problem for Australians because they are working to save this endangered species. Australians are continuing to work on lessening the pig population.

While on the drive I noticed that Queensland is very deserted. It mainly is populated with crops like sugar cane and other farms.

Word of the day: Stiggy- roam around; I learned this from the tour guide.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

May 8th: Passions of Paradise Reef Cruise

Today, we went on the Passions of Paradise reef cruise. We were able to snorkel and/or scuba five at two different locations on the reef. These two locations were very different. One location had smaller fish and some smaller coral, while the second location had larger fish and also some larger coral. Both locations had many different types of coral and wildlife, and full of many different colors. Both spots that we were able to explore were amazing and able to show us a good majority of life that lives in the reef.

While on this adventure, I was able to go scuba diving at the first location with Christine and Shannon. While on the dive we got to see not only the coral up close but also the wildlife. We saw a blue spotted stingray laying on the sea floor and moving the sand. We were also able to see a family of anemone fish, nemo, brushing themselves in an anemone so that they are coated an will not get stung by the anemone. Along with seeing giant clams that were larger than myself.  Being able to experience scuba diving and snorkeling made my one on the reef more fun and interesting because I was able to see different perspectives of the reef. Other students that are on the trip even had the chance to see a sea turtle while snorkeling on the reef.

Although being able to see the reef for yourself and experience all the amazing things it has to offer, humans are the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Due to some many people going to see it there are a lot of harm occurring. Also, people that go and touch the reef not only can harm themselves but they harm the reef. Another large threat to the reef is events that happen in nature such as cyclones. These events harm the reef and even kill part of the reef.

The Great Barrier Reef is an absolutely astonishing place in nature that needs to be protected. The more people are educated properly about the reef the better we will be able to protect it, and the longer it will be around for more people to see it's amazing features.