Archive for April, 2012

Our visit to Cairns

So it’s been a few weeks since I got back from Cairns, but I figured it’s better late than never to catch you up on my time.  When we got into Cairns around 6 am, we had some time before we were able to check in to our hostel.  Even though it was early, Cairns luckily has Sunday morning markets, with massive amounts of fresh produce.  After that, we had breakfast in a delicious little diner, and had the first coffee since coming to Australia that wasn’t instant (ahhhhhh).

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Pete and Paul's Breakfast Diner

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The hostel we stayed in.

When we finished breakfast and checked into our hostel, we were free to explore what Cairns had to offer.  I have to admit, when I saw the countless souvenir shops, my inner 8 year old got the best of me.  We also got chance to see the night markets, filled to the brim with small vendors and plenty of food.

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Nervously trying the baby octopus.

Later that day, we headed out to Palm Cove, one of Cairns’ Northern Beaches.  The weather wasn’t great, but we still enjoyed ourselves.  That night, we settled in early for bed because the next day, we would be snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.

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Looking down the beach at Palm Cove

Early the next morning we headed to the Marina to get on our boat, the Ocean Free.  The Ocean Free is a 30 foot sailboat that gives a more personal touch to the reef experience.  Instead of going on a huge boat with 150 other snorkelers, we had a crew of 3 and 15 passengers.

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Our boat at the marina, looking small compared to the others

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Enjoying the water.

If you combine the amazing service, relaxing sail, and beautiful scenery, you have a recipe for a great day.  Although the weather wasn’t great (super windy and a bit rainy), the captain (and owner) ensured us that, “I can’t do anything about the weather, but I can make you have the best day in it.” If you ever make it to Cairns in your life, I’d highly recommend this company.

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Choppy water and all, sailing was so relaxing.

We sailed about 2 and a half hours out to Green Island, where we explored the island for an hour or so.  After lunch, it was time to snorkel.  The water was a bit choppy which cut down the visibility, but it was still beautiful.  It was definitely something I’ll never forget.

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Looking stylish in our stinger suits (protecting us from irukandji stings)

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On the shores of the coral cay, Green Island

The next day, we visited our second World Heritage Site in two days: the rainforests of North Queensland.  We hiked Mt. Whitfield, a conservation park just outside of Cairns.  Once again it was simply beautiful.  The type of scenery was just so different from anything I’d seen before.

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The rainforest!

Although we were only in Cairns for a short time, it was one of the most memorable three days of my life.

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My Easter Adventure!

In the preparation for leaving for lecture recess, I nearly forgot to catch you all up on my Easter break travels.  After two days of failing to understand the public holiday bus schedule, Jules and I finally decided to jump on the ferry and go to Magnetic Island on Sunday.

The Magnetic Island ferry.

When we arrived, we settled into Foresthaven, a quiet little hostel in one of the less traveled bays.

Foresthaven Hostel

We then hopped on a bus (getting it right this time), to Bungalow Bay Koala Village.  We took a tour of the exhibits, and were able to hold crocodile, feed a cockatoo by letting it take a seed from my mouth, and see a wombat.  The highlight, of course, was seeing and petting a koala.

Petting Matilda the Koala

Holding Barbie the croc!

The night was topped off with a visit to Alma Bay, and a delicious meal at the cafe.

Alma Bay just after sunset.

The next morning, Jules and I woke up early to buy some lunch food at the grocery store (cheese quesadillas since we forgot a cooler for hot dogs) and called a scooter rental company.  After a crash course in scooter driving for Jules, we were off on our scooter adventure.  Along with the spectacular weather, we got to see the beautiful scenery Magnetic Island has to offer: sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and vivid plant life.

A view of Radical Bay

The island has a bunch of forts remaining from WWII, so we got the opportunity to visit some of these.  We also got to see some of the local wildlife, including a wild koala and Rock wallabies.

A little rock wallaby with a joey.

The wild koala we saw on the Forts walk.

The day was ended with a bit of a surprise.  As we were driving to one of the bays, we were pulled through a random DUI checkpoint, in our scooters.  We were all clear of course, but it was an interesting experience.  It must have been the intimidating helmets that tipped off the cops….

Our little moped gang.

Anyway, I’m heading off to Cairns now for lecture recess, where I’ll be hiking in the rainforest and snorkeling the reef.  Until then, g’day.

More of the Australian Experience

Since I’ve arrived in Townsville, I’ve been doing all I can to experience what Townsville, and all of Australia has to offer.  These past two weeks, however, I experienced a part of Australia that I didn’t really try (or want) to experience: healthcare.  About two weeks ago, I came down with a crappy case of pink eye.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, being how accident prone I am, but I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with the health system this fast.  If it had been a common cold, I would have had no problem just not going to the doctors and letting it pass, but I figured I should probably get this checked out.

Since I’m studying abroad, international students are equipped with OSHC, or Overseas Student Health Care. This covers doctors appointments, and other basic services.  When they gave us the card, the University told us that in the nearby hospital, there was a clinic, UniHealth, that accepts the OSHC cards.  Before we walked over, we decided it would probably be best to call to make sure they would accept walk ins.  Much to my dismay, they did not, and the nearest appointment was a week later.

Thankfully, with help from the international office, we found another clinic a bus ride away that would accept the policy.  I got an appointment that day, and the process was really quite fast.  I got antibacterial eye drops that would clear up my eyes in two days or so.  Or so I thought…

As the week went on my eyes got worse, so we went off for another appointment.  Unfortunately, it ended up being viral, so there was no medication that could cure what I had.

The Australian sun, though beautiful, was a little rough on the eyes.

So for a week, I dealt with the quite annoying symptoms, nearly  being blinded with the bright Australian sun.  Although it was an unfortunate happening, it did give me the experience of working with another country’s healthcare system, something I will remember for my whole life.  But there’s no need to worry now, everything has cleared up just in time for spring break.

Just a sneak peek at where I'll be spending my Spring Break.

I’ll be snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, so I’ll be sure to take plenty of pictures and blog when I get back!