Traveling to a foreign country can be nerve racking, exciting, sad, and downright HARD. After a full 24 hours in flight, I FINALLY landed in Cairns, Australia (pronounced ‘cans’). As part of the GlobaLinks Learning Abroad program, my fellow interns and I all spent three days in the beautiful tropical city of Cairns. A group of about 10 of us arrived at Gilligan’s, a hostel type accommodation for backpackers. Arriving exhausted but beyond excited about being on the ground, I couldn’t wait to experience the adventures ahead of me.
I roomed with five other girls during my stay in Cairns. Yes, our room had 3 sets of bunk beds and very few electrical outlets. You can imagine how that turned out! Despite the rainy and cold day, the view from our room was quite beautiful. We had a lovely pool and a nightclub (that stayed open ’til 5am!) attached to our hostel.
Our first afternoon in Cairns was spent getting to know each other with a few ice breakers, getting to know our GlobaLinks director, Ross and meeting a local Aussie who spoke to us about Australian history and culture. I’ll talk more about what I learned in my next post! To top the evening off, we went to an ocean view restaurant and had a 3-course meal! Ross made us stay up until at least eight to recover from our jet lag faster.
Day two was Rainforestation Nature Park day! This was one of the BEST days of my life. We took a bus up a mountain about 45 minutes from our hostel. I felt like throwing up as we twisted and turned up the mountainside but I made it just fine. When we arrived we took a Duck tour through the rainforest and our tour guide pointed out all the native plants and animals. Then we feasted on a buffet lunch and I even tried Vegemite (fermented yeast!). Not so sure how I feel about it.
Next, we walked through the wildlife park and got to pet kangaroos, take pictures with them and feed them. We also saw wallabies, crocodiles, koalas and dingoes! We each got to hold a python snake and snap a photo with it. We painted our own version of aboriginal art and watched an aboriginal dance performance. We watched aborigines throw spears. We tried to play the didgeridoo and tried to throw a boomerang. I was the only lefty and I got a special lefty boomerang! It kinda, sorta came back to me…
Finally and most importantly, we got to take a picture with a cute koala in our arms! It was one of the best five seconds of my life. That concluded our adventurous day at Rainforestation. We returned to Cairns and finished the evening with our last bridging cultures session. We learned more about our internship, housing and how to use public transportation.
Day three, our final day in Cairns was spent out on the Pacific or more specifically, out on the Great Barrier Reef. We woke up at 6am for a continental breakfast at our hostel. We had to be at the boat at 8am. It took us two+ hours to venture out to the reef. Let me tell ya, it was a LONG two hours. I had never seen waves so big! Several people on board got seasick and I took a motion sickness pill before leaving and felt very nauseous the whole time. On the way to the reef, a group of us learned the basics of scuba diving. I had never scuba dove before so I felt very nervous. Especially because I don’t know how to swim. Okay, I can swim but let’s just say I’m not a very strong swimmer. When we finally made it to the reef, the water was turquoise blue. So beautiful! I was in the first group to scuba so I geared up in my fins, my oxygen tank, my wet suit and my respirator. We had to perform a series of tests before we could actually go down and scuba. I had a bad feeling about everything when I first got in the water. It was cold and I wasn’t picking up on the whole breathing underwater very well.
Even though I had a mini panic attack at first, I decided to venture down into the ocean and explore the Great Barrier Reef. Fortunately, our scuba instructor let us hold onto his arms almost the whole time. We saw a sea turtle, beautiful corals and we found NEMO! The dive lasted 30 minutes and when I exited the water I was shivering from head to toe! The scenery was beautiful but it was hard for me to fully enjoy the reef when all I could focus on was how cold I was. I sound like the most ungrateful person alive but snorkeling and scuba diving don’t seem to be my favorite adventurous activities. I think I take after my mom on that one! Overall, the trip was once in a lifetime and I experienced some of the world’s most beautiful scenery. For that, I’m forever blessed and grateful.
The Bridging Cultures program in Cairns was educational, exciting, fun and adventurous. The next day, I woke up at 445am to board my flight to Sydney. What a whirlwind couple of days!
Hope you enjoyed this rather long post. So much happened in a span of three days!
Next up: What I’ve learned so far about Australia (I didn’t have room in this post!)