Cairns Vacation

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September 30th, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

Since Adelaide is quite metropolitan, I sometimes feel like in I’m in another American city instead of Australia. I think that’s one reason why I was slightly disappointed when I arrived, since it wasn’t how I pictured Australia to be. In my mind, when I thought of Australia, especially the coastal areas, I imagined laid-back surfers hanging out at beautiful beaches in the hot sun, greeting everyone with a carefree “G’day mate!” That being said, I’ve adjusted to the hustle and bustle of city life, and I’ve had a blast exploring the city and surrounding areas with all the friends I’ve made. Deep down, I dismissed my picturesque beach image as a fantasy setting promised by Hollywood and tourism ads and focused on enjoying my adventures around the city. However landing in Cairns for my first holiday in Australia was like a dream come true!

My roommate Andrea and I came on this trip together, and since we had no tours the first day we simply explored the area. The town was tourist-y but beautiful, and it was how I had imagined Australia to be. The sea-side views were breath-taking, and much of the town looked like it was taken directly out of a holiday resort brochure. Here’s an example:

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During that first day, Andrea and I visited the harbor shops, walked along the coastline, bought fruit in a local market, and stopped by a cultural festival. However, the craziest part of the night came when we booked spots on a party bus, which was basically a pub crawl to five different venues where food was provided and one free shot was given out at each club. I don’t normally go to parties, but since Andrea was set on going and dinner was included, I agreed to come along. I didn’t order any drinks, pawned many of the free shots off on my roommate, and guzzled tons of water. As a result, I was sober and able to enjoy the ridiculous antics of those who got wasted and made fools of themselves. The games the party bus staff had for us were overwhelming and crazy, so neither Andrea nor I participated. Since it was my first pub crawl type event, I didn’t know what was “normal”. Andrea, who’s 25, has been to plenty of bars and clubs and was also surprised at how insane the games were. According to her, Australians were crazy and she normally didn’t see such over-the-top partying, especially as early as 7:00pm when the pub crawl started. While the experience was exciting and entertaining I definitely know that this type of crazy partying is not for me. I’ll just stick to parkour and rock climbing for the majority of my fun.

The next day, Andrea and I left early for the pier for our first tour. We were going scuba diving and snorkeling! The weather was beautiful, and we couldn’t stop grinning during the boat ride out to the reef with the rest of our tour group. As one of the first sets of people to go diving, we had to forgo snorkeling for a moment and suit up for the dive. Here’s a picture of us and the other two first-timers:

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After giving us an introductory briefing, we dropped into the water with our instructor, demonstrated a few mandatory safety skills, and started to submerge. It was initially very unnerving, and I had to force myself to breathe normally and relax. My parkour and rock climbing experience definitely helped me recognize my fear, overcome the mental obstacle, and calm myself quickly.

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As a result, during the dive I was able to relax and marvel at the beauty of the reef and ocean life. It also allowed my instructor to focus more on helping my roommate relax and clear water from her regulator as we started to sink deeper. During the dive we were able to get really close to the coral, and we even saw a shark, a stingray, and a clownfish! There was also a batfish that followed us around featuring a thin, disc-shaped body. While the dive was mesmerizing, it was over sooner than I wanted.

Stripping off our tanks and other scuba gear, Andrea and I quickly donned snorkel equipment and got right back in the water, eager to see more of the reef. We swam for over an hour, then headed back to the boat to eat lunch as our captain steered our tour group to the next spot. In the new area, Andrea and I followed one of the staff as he led us to some caves where sharks liked to hang out. While the first cave was a bust, the guide found a reef shark hanging out in second one, and many of us dived down for a closer look.

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After ogling the shark for a good twenty minutes, Andrea and I continued to explore the reef until we were called back to prepare for departure. At the end of the day, the trip was amazing and we crashed at our hostel to get some sleep for the rainforest tour the next day.

We were picked up early in the morning in colorful buses, and introduced to the rest of the group and the guide, Cousin Brad. He was a very eccentric person, and kept up a constant stream of humorous narration while bringing us around to various lagoons and waterfalls in the rainforest. The trip was clearly geared toward tourists, but it was a lot of fun to see the rainforest and cool off in the water. The tour was a great way to relieve the stress of school and spend the whole day relaxing. Cousin Brad made it easy to kick back and have a blast due to his laidback personality and carefree attitude. Here’s one of the beautiful lagoons we stopped at:

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The entire Cairns trip was a lot of fun, and it was also a huge learning experience. I had assumed that various parts of Australia would be different from each other, just like how it is in the United States. Cairns hosted people with a much more pronounced Australian accent compared to Adelaide, where locals tend to sound more like the English. The attitude of the locals was also varied. The tourist-y city of Cairns was very laid back and actually matched the Hollywood perception of Australia quite accurately. On the other hand, the metropolitan city of Adelaide was a lot busier and fast-paced due to the large business district. The carefree people in Cairns were also much crazier and more promiscuous than those in Adelaide, based on the experience with the party bus on the first night. All in all, seeing the stark contrast between the two places in Australia really hit home to me how the landscape and environment of a town can have a great impact on the attitude and lifestyle of the people.

Along with the Cairns trip, I also just returned from a tour to the outback, and I leave tomorrow for Melbourne for a national parkour jam. Keep an eye on this blog to hear about the trips, I’ll try to update it soon.

Live life to the fullest!

Michelle

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How to Speak Australian – Initial Post

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September 19th, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

I learned a new slang word this week, and I realized that I’m long overdue for a breakdown of some commonly used expressions and phrases I’ve been hearing in Australia. I won’t list all of them in this post, but I’ll add to my language log throughout my stay here in posts like this one with the heading that includes “How to Speak Australian”. I’ll also be traveling to Cairns, Flinders Ranges, and Melbourne over the next few weeks, so I hope to pick up some additional vocabulary there. My flight for Cairns leaves tomorrow morning! I’m curious to see which expressions are universal throughout Australia, and which are specific to South Australia or Adelaide. I’ll start this language log with a few regional expressions.

Adelaide is heaps good. People in South Australia use the word ‘heaps’ in place of ‘really’, ‘alot’, ‘very’, and other similar descriptive phrases. For example, I’ve heard people say “I have heaps of pasta at home”, “The food is heaps good”, and “You’ll have heaps of fun.” This is probably the most common expression I hear when I’m walking around the city. While other slang can be generational, this colloquial word is used by people of all ages and demographics. I’ve been told that this is mostly a South Australian term, but I’ll still be listening for it when I travel to other parts of Australia.

Another phrase I heard here is the word ‘floater’. This is not referring to any floatation device, and it has nothing to do with water. Rather, it describes an upside-down meat pie covered in split pea soup with a dollop of ketchup (tomato sauce) on top. One of the cafes famous for its floater, among a number of other foods, is Bakery on O’Connell. This is the actual name of the bakery which is *gasp* located on O’Connell street. I know, it’s not a very creative name. Many of the locals just call it the 24-hour bakery. This shop puts out an extremely good floater, and although I don’t like peas, the flavor combination of meat pie and split pea soup was quite unique, in a good way.

Speaking of O’Connell street, two cafes on this road have a rivalry over who has the best AB. This is another food item, and it is primarily an Adelaide regional dish. When I mentioned this meal to one of my teachers, it turned out that he had actually never heard of this food, being from Melbourne instead of Adelaide. The meal is basically chips(fries) smothered in yiros meat, tomato sauce, barbeque sauce, and garlic sauce. The story is that one night drunk university students came into a café on O’Connell street and ordered both yiros and chips, as they were unable to decide between the two. They ended up with chips topped with yiros and three different sauces. The term AB refers to the appearance of the dish and stands for ‘abortion’ or ‘after birth’. There are more polite terms such as ‘Atomic Bomb’ and ‘Absolutely Beautiful’, but locals know it primarily by the more crude names. Whenever an Aussie friend hears me mention the AB, their first question is always “Do you know what it stands for”? They are always ready with a grin on their face to correct me if I use one of the more polite terms instead of ‘abortion’ or ‘after birth’.

The Blue and White Café and the North Adelaide Burger Bar, located three stores apart on O’Connell street, have a long-standing rivalry over who makes the best AB.  Having been told by many locals that this is a must-try dish, my roommate and I plan to get an AB from each shop and compare the two after we return from our spring break trips.

This is actually the only regional terms I can think of at the moment, although I felt like there were more. I’ll update this post if I remember more later on. Many of the other expressions I’ve learned are common throughout all of Australia, not just South Australia. Stay posted for my next few posts, where I’ll share some more Aussie lingo and give you the lowdown on my first trip.

Until next time,

Michelle

Rogaining!

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September 9th, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

 

This past Saturday I got to participate in a very Australian event called rogaining. It started in Melbourne in 1976, and the word is derived from the three of the founders of the sport, Rod Phillips, Gail Davis, and Neil Phillips.

In short, this is a lot like orienteering, where you use map and compass navigation and travel entirely on foot. Teams of two to five members are given a certain amount of time on the course to reach as many checkpoints as possible. Since the checkpoints are in different terrain and are worth varying amounts of points, route planning and as well as efficient navigation skills are a must if you want to maximize your score. The sport seems to be fairly popular in Australia, and I saw quite a few family groups participating.

The team I was a part of consisted of three novice members, Reuben, Anna, and me, as well as one experienced rogainer named John. We arrived on site at the central base camp around ten in the morning for our twelve-hour competition running from 11:00AM-11:00PM. We planned out a route before the start of the event, allowing for changes in length in case we got ahead or behind schedule. Finally, the timer started, and we were off.

The competition was long, being a twelve hour event, so I’ll just cover some highlights. Our journey started out rocky, as it was discovered that the first control point right by the central camp had been stolen. Luckily, many of us were informed by the roving staff to simply mark a triangle on our control card to get credit for the control point. The rest of our trek during the daytime was fairly uneventful, and we found all the controls we were aiming for. Here are a few pictures of what the controls looked like:

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 During our hike, our group ended up taking all the extra detours that we had set aside. While we got a lot of controls as a result, we were also still on “daytime route plan” when the sun started to set. I snapped a couple of pictures of the beautiful landscape during a break at one of the control points:

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We encountered our first problem at control 57, the first point we had to find in the dark. While some of the other points were near a landmark such as a stream or rocky outcrop, the description for this control was “head of the gully” which was not helpful in the dark. At the border of the possible area for the control, John took a bearing and counted his paces in order to estimate a hundred meters (radius of possible area).This was a tough task since the terrain was extremely thick shrub. However, his experience and accuracy got us within twenty meters of the controls, and Reuben was able to spot it before we gave up hope. This control was by far the most difficult to find. As we made our way back to the central base camp, also known as the “hash house”, we got the rest of the controls on our route except for the last one where we missed our turn off. Since we were tired and hungry, and control was one of the lowest point values, we skipped it and headed into camp around nine for food and a much-needed break.

The staff had food ready for teams anytime after five, and it felt amazing to eat a plate of hot food and a bowl of homemade pumpkin soup after the long trek. After forty minutes of refueling we still had an hour and fifteen minutes left, so we made a short loop on the other side of the hash house and picked up four more controls and finished with ten minutes to spare.

At eleven, all the other teams had come in as well and many set up chairs around the fire and socialized until the scores were tallied. The vibe was cheerful and confident, and there was a sense of camaraderie since we understood each others’ exhaustion and struggles, having all been through the same event. Finally the scores were announced, and our team was pleased to find that we got 14th out of 32 teams. Considering how hardcore and conditioned some of the other groups were, we were proud of our success and how much we had learned about navigation.

At the end of the day, the regaining event was challenging and unique, and I would definitely participate again given the chance. To finish off, here is a picture of our course map. The pink highlighted route was our initial planned route and possible detours, and the purple represents the path we actually took.

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All in all, covered approximately 34 kilometers in 12 hours!

 

 Until next time,

 Michelle

Climbing at Morialta

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September 2nd, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

I can’t believe it’s already September! So far, this trip has felt like a long, laid-back vacation with schoolwork every once in a while. Okay, maybe more than once in a while, but the workload is considerably less compared to Mines. Thus, I’ve had a lot of free time to hang out with locals and do sports.

Starting with my first full day in Adelaide, I’ve been doing parkour, rock climbing, soccer, and running. These photos are a bit late, but two weekends ago (the 24th) I went climbing with one of the locals. We went to Morialta Conservation Park, and popular climbing area for the locals. This spot was really nice in that you could set up all the routes for top-rope climbing. In most climbing areas that I’ve visited, the route has to be led (sport climbing) in order to be set-up for top-rope. The section that we climbed in was called Boulder Bridge, named for this geographical feature.

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 My friend Jack and I picked a great day to go.

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The weather was beautiful, and there were a good number of climbers at the crag: a great social setting but not overly crowded. One thing that stood out to me was how generous and friendly everyone was. There was a sizable group of older gentlemen climbing who had set up ropes on five to six routes, and we added one more rope to the mix. After the gear was set up, all the ropes were basically free to use. All we had to do was double-check with the rope’s owner that the line was ready to go and wasn’t going to be pulled up soon. Here’s some of the ropes we had along the cliff face.

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As I mentioned, the local climbers were more generous with the use of their ropes compared to what I’m used to back home. I think part of this was due to area being perfect for top-rope climbing, where the wear on the rope is a lot smaller compared to sport climbing due to the lack of big falls. Other than the rope sharing, the Adelaide community was akin to what I’ve experienced in Colorado. Technique and safety gear is the same as what’s used in the U.S. and the vibe I got from the group made me feel right at home. The differences were minor and related to terminology and grading. The ranking scheme is different from the U.S. system, with routes graded from one to thirty-seven versus the class 5 breakdown. Also, while I’m used to saying “there’s a small foot by your knee” or “there’s good feet out to the left” to describe foot placements, the Aussies referred to all footholds with “footer” or “footers”. Aside from these small distinctions, I felt right at home climbing with the locals. I assumed that this was due to the global spread of rock climbing, compared to other sports that vary regionally (such as futsal or handball).

Meeting local climbers this past month has given me more opportunities to climb outside. This upcoming week, I have plans to go out on Thursday and Friday with climbers I met at the local bouldering gym, both who are around my age.

I’m looking forward to these outdoor excursions, as well as my other adventures in parkour, soccer, and running. Hopefully I’ll post more about my other exploits if I stop jumping on things long enough to take a few pictures.

Cheers,

Michelle